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sin and uncleanness. Every believer in Christ is deeply convinced that there is no merit but in Him; that there is no merit in any of his own works; not in uttering the prayer, or searching the Scripture, or hearing the Word of God, or eating of that bread and drinking of that cup. So that if no more be intended by the expression some have used, “Christ is the only means of grace,' than this, that He is the only meritorious cause of it, it cannot be gainsaid by any who know the grace of God.
5. Yet once morc: We allow, though it is a melancholy truth, that a large proportion of those who are called Christians, do to this day abuse the means of grace to the destruction of their souls. This is doubtless the case with all those who rest content in the form of godliness, without the power. Either they fondly presume they are Christians already, because they do thus and thus,-although Christ was never yet revealed in their hearts, nor the love of God shed abroad therein :-or else they suppose they shall infallibly be so, barely because they use these means ; idly dreaming, (though perhaps hardly conscious thercof, either that there is some kind of power therein, whereby, sooner or later, (they know not when,) they shall certaiuly be made holy; or that there is a sort of merit in using them, which will surely move God to give them holiness, or accept them without it.
6. So little do they understand that great foundation of the whole Christian building, “ By grace are ye saved :” Ye are saved from your sins, from the guilt and power thereof, ye are restored to the favour and image of God, not for any works, merits, or deservings of yours, but by the free grace, the mere mercy of God, through the merits of his well-beloved Son : Ye are thus saved, not by any power, wisdom, or strength, which is in you, or in any other crcature; but merely through the grace or power of the Holy Ghost, which worketh all in all,
7. But the main question remains: We know this salvation is the gift and the work of God; but how (may one say who is convinced he hath it not) may I attain thereto ? If you say, Believe, and thou shalt be saved; he answers, True; but how shall I believe? You reply, Wait upon God. Well; but how am I to wait? In the means of grace, or out of them ? Am I to wait for the grace of God which bringeth salvation, by using these means, or by laying them aside ?
8. It cannot possibly be conceived, that the word of God should give no direction in so important a point; or, that the Son of God, who came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation, should have left us undetermined with regard to a question wherein our salvation is so nearly concerned.
And, in fact, he hath not left us undetermined ; he hath shown us the way wherein we should go. We have only to consult the Oracles of God; to inquire what is written there; and, if we simply abide by their decision, there can no possible doubt remain.
III, 1. According to this, according to the decision of Holy Writ, all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the means which he hath ordained; in using, not in laying them aside.
And, first, all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the way of Prayer. This is the express direction of our Lord himself. In his Sermon upon the Mount, after explaining at large wherein religion consists, and describing the main branches of it, he adds, “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketb findeth ; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” (Matt. vii. 7, 8.) Here we are in the plainest manner directed to ask, in order to, or as a means of, receiving; to seek, in order to find, the grace of God, the pearl of great price; and to knock, to continue asking and seeking, if we would enter into his kingdom.
2. That no doubt might remain, our Lord labours this point in a more peculiar manner. He appeals to every man's own heart. “What man is there of you, wbo, if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone ? Or, if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent ? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven,” the Father of angels and men, the Father of the spirits of all flesh, “ give good things to them that ask him ? " (Ver. 9-11.) Or, as he expresses himself on another occasion, including all good things in one, “ How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?" (Luke xi. 13.) It should be particularly observed here, that the persons directed to ask had not then received the Holy Spirit: nevertheless our Lord directs them to use this means, and promises that it should be effectual; that upon asking they
should receive the Holy Spirit, from him whosc merey is over all his works.
3. The absolute necessity of using this mcans, if we would receive any gift from God, yet farther appears from that remarkable passage which immediately precedes these words : “And he said unto them,” whom he had just been teaching how to pray, “Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto bim at midnight, and shall say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves : and he from within shall answer, Trouble me not; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, though he will not vise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of bis importunity, he will risc, and give him as many as he nccdeth. And I say unto you, Ask and it shall be given you.” (Luke xi. 5, 7, 8, 9.) “ Though he will not give him, because he is his friend, yet, because of his importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he necdeth." How could our blessed Lord more plainly declare, that we may receive of God, by this means, by importunately asking, what otherwise we should not receive at all :
4. “ He spake also another parable, to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint,” till through this means they should receive of God whatsoever petition they asked of him. “There was in a city a Judge which feared not God, neither regarded man. And there was a widow in that city, and she came into him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a while ; but afterwards he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest, by her continual coming, she weary mc.” (Luke xviii. 1-5.) The application of this our Lord himself hath made : “Hear what the
injust judge saith!” Because she continues to ask, because she will take no denial, therefore I will avenge her. “And shall not God avenge his own elect which cry day and night upto him ? I tell you he will avenge them speedily,” if they pray and faint not.
5. A direction, equally full and express, to wait for the blessings of God in Private Prayer, together with a positive promise, that, by this means, we shall obtain the request of our lips, he hath given us in those well-known words: “Enter into thy closet ; and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy father which is in sccrct; and thy Falber, which seeth in secret, ball reward ucc openly." (Matt. vi. 6.)
6. If it be possible for any direction to be more clear, it is that which God hath given us by the Apostle, with regard to prayer of every kind, public or private, and the blessing annexed thereto. “ If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally,” (if they ask; otherwise “ye have not, because ye ask not,” Jam. iv. 2,) “ and upbraideth not; and it shall be given bim.” (Chap. i.5.)
If it be objected, But this is no direction to unbelievers ; to them who know not the pardoning grace of God : for the Apostle adds, “ Bụt let him ask in faith ;” otherwise, “ let him not think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord." I answer, The meaning of the word faith, in this place, is fixed by the Apostle himself, as if it were on purpose to obviate this objection, in the words immediately following:“Let bim askin faith, nothing wavering,” nothing doubting, undev dixxpivojlevos; not doubting but God heareth his prayer, and will fulfil the desire of his heart,
The gross, blasphemous absurdity of supposing faith in this place to be taken in the full Christian meaning, appears hence: It is supposing the Holy Ghost to direct a man who knows he has not this faith, (which is here termed wisdom,) to ask it of God, with a positive promise that “it shall be given him ;” and then immediately to subjoin, that it shall not be given him, unless he have it before he asks for it! But who can bear such a supposition ? From this scripture, therefore, as well as those cited above, we must infer, that all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the way of prayer.
7. Secondly, All who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in Searching the Scriptures. .
Our Lord's direction, with regard to the use of this means, is likewise plain and clear. “ Search the Scriptures,” saith he to the unbelieving Jews, “ for they testify of me.” (John v. 39.) And for this very end did he direct them to search the Scriptures, that they might believe in him,
The objection, “That this is not a command, but only an assertion, that they did search the Scriptures,' is shamelessly false. I desire those who urge it, to let us know how a command can be more clearly expressed, than in those terms, Epeuvate tas ypapas ? It is as peremptory as so many words can make it.
And what a blessing from God attends the use of this means, appears from what is recorded concerning the Bereans; who, after hearing St. Paul, “ searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so? Therefore, many of them believed ;”
found the grace of God, in the way which he had ordained. (Acts xvii. 11, 12.)
It is probable, indeed, that in some of those who had “received the word with all readiness of mind,” “faith came” (as the same Apostle speaks) “by hearing,” and was only confirmed by reading the Scriptures : but it was observed above, that under the general term of searching the Scriptures, both hearing, reading, and meditating, are contained.
8. And that this is a means whereby God not only gives, but also confirms and increases, truc wisdom, we learn from the words of St. Paul to Timothy: “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. iii. 15.) The same truth (namely, that this is the great means God has ordained for conveying his manifold grace to man) is delivered, in the fullest manner that can be conceived, in the words wbich immediately follow : “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God;” consequently, all Scripture is infallibly true; “and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;” to the end “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (Ver. 16, 17.)
9. It should be observed, that this is spoken primarily and directly of the Scriptures which Timothy had known from a child; which must have been those of the Old Testament, for the New was not then wrote. How far then was St. Paul (though he was “not a wbit behind the very chief of the Apostles," nor, therefore, I presume, behind any man now upon carth) from making light of the Old Testament ! Behold this, lest ye one day “wonder and perish,” ye who make so small account of one half of the Oracles of God! Yea, and that half of which the Holy Ghost expressly declares, that it is “ profitable,” as a means ordained of God, for this very thing, “ for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;” to the end“ the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
10. Nor is this profitable only for the men of God, for those who walk already in the light of his countenance ; but also for those who are yet in darkness, seeking him whom they know not. Thus St. Peter, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy :” literally, “and we have the prophetic word more surc;" kao EX212=v €: 6219TEÇOU TON TFODYTIXOV 2079u; confirmed by our being “qye-ritnesses of his Majesty," and