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This is a reasonable command. 1. Because it requires man to use his powers in a reasonable manner. If it is right for God to require men obey, then it is right he should require them to purpose it. 2. Because man actually have the control of their mental and moral powers. 3. Because they are constantly in the habit of controlling their powers, and of changing their purposes and designs every day. And it is strange, that when the motives for a change are infinite, they should have no power to make it. 4. Because it is as easy to purpose right, as to purpose wrong; and one would think, infinitely more so. How comes it then, that men cannot purpose right? The fact is, it would be infinitely impossible not to do it, if men did not resist all the infinite motives to purpose right. 5. Because it is indispensable to their good; it is only, in other words, commanding them to be happy.
REMARKS. 1. As Adam did, so have all sinners made themselves wicked hearts, without the concurrence of a divine influence. Children, when they begin to act, make their hearts wicked, by setting out with a purpose of selfgratification.
Seeking their own happiness, they soon violate the commands of God and become sinful. 2. The idea of a sinner’s being passive in regeneration, is calculated to destroy souls. It involves the absurdity of his having a passive volition. 3. Every impenitent sinner is infinitely guilty, for not making himself a new heart; for not going the whole length of performing the work himself. 4. To say “I can’t love God and repent,” is to plead one sin for the commission of another. 5. This view illustrates the nature of the sinner’s dependence on the Spirit of God. The only necessity for his aid or influence, lies in the sinner’s pertinacious obstinacy; and when he converts the sinner, he only overcomes that obstinacy. 6. The Spirit uses means in producing conversion. He does not come and take right hold of the heart and perform an operation upon it; but he presents motives by means of the truth; he persuades, and the sinner yields to his persuasion. Many have supposed that he moves, by a direct and immediate act, either upon the motive to give it efficiency, or upon the mind to make it willing. But there is no mystery about it. Every Christian knows how he was induced to change his governing purpose or his heart.
He was convinced and persuaded, and freely gave his own heart to God without compulsion. And I know not which is the greater infidel, he that denies the agency of the Spirit in conversion; or he that believes God has provided means which are not adapted to the end for which they are employed. 7. There is a sense in which a sinner does make a new heart. There is also a sense in which God does it; another, in which a preacher does it; and another, in which the truth or the word of God does it. The bible employs expressions regarding conversion, in these four different ways. It is ascribed to the subject, the sinner himself; he changes his own heart. It is ascribed to the instrument, or the preacher; he converts sinners and saves souls from death. It is ascribed to the means, or the word; men are begotten by the word of truth. It is ascribed to God, or the Spirit; they are born again by the Spirit. A person is walking near Niagara Falls, and sees a man approaching from the opposite direction towards the precipice, who seems to be lost in a reverie. He is advancing directly to the verge of the precipice, unconscious of danger, and heedless of his footsteps. He has just raised his foot to step off, when the other spies his danger and cries out, Stop! He is roused, turns at the critical moment and is saved. People gather round, and the rescued man in great agitation relates the occurrence. “That man,” says he, “has saved my life.” “But how?” “O he called to me at the very moment I was stepping off, and that word, stop, snatched me from destruction. O if I had not turned that instant, I should have been dashed to pieces. O it was the mercy of God that kept me from a horrid death.” This illustrates the use of those four kinds of expression in the bible, in reference to the conversion of a sinner, with one exception. In the case supposed, there was only the voice of the man who gave the alarm; but in conversion, there is both the voice of the preacher, and the voice of the Spirit; the preacher cries, “Stop,” and the Spirit cries, “Stop,” also. 8. If sinners will not yield to truth, they will inevitably be lost. 9. We see the consistency of using means for the conversion of sinners. 10. It is more probable that sinners will be converted under the voice of the living minister, than afterwards. Some have supposed it will hardly do to urge sinners to repent right on the spot, lest they should some how get a false hope. Better to exhibit the truth, and let them go home to reflect and pray, and there give their hearts to God more deliberately. But how does, the lawyer do, when he resolves to change the hearts of the jury and gain his cause? Does he say, I will make a speech of half an hour or three quarters, state the law, and the facts, and the arguments and dismiss them to their room for calm deliberation? No; he plies all his efforts to change their hearts while he is speaking; and so should ministers, when pleading with sinners. 11. When ministers do not understand this subject, they use means for the conversion of sinners to little or no purpose. 12. If you are expecting any other agency, than that which accompanies the means, you will wait in vain. 13. As you are able to change your own hearts, the great point of responsibility lies right there. To change your own hearts will save you; nothing else can; and on that point is suspended your eternal destiny.