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“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me and ye shall live. Seek the Lord and ye shall live, lest he break forth like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel; ye who turn judgment into wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, seek him that maketh the seven stars ånd Orion. selves from this untoward generation,” Jer. iv. 3. Amos v. 18, 19. Hos. X. 12. xiv, l, -3. Acts ii. 40.
We know it is our duty to believe in Christ, will persons say under a deep concern about their salvation. We have, under a pressing sense of our duty and necessity, endeavored to comply with the gracious commandment of the Lord, but without success. We find not power accompanying our endeavors. Fears and corruptions prevail against us. We are undone, if God do not reveal his arm for our help; but we cannot pretend to have any right to expect his help, any more than others of our perishing race.
What shall we do, or what can we do? When we would believe, unbelief prevails against us.
We cry out, “Lord, help our unbelief.” But, , alas! we cannot say
believe. These words may perhaps bethe complaints of a trembling believer; for there may be real
faith where there is but little strength or comfort. “They shall tremble after the Lord from the west,” says the prophet.
If we follow Christ with trembling hearts, "he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoaking flax; he will bring forth judgment unto victory."
But if it be really the case, that the Lord has not yet wrought in you to will and to do, the following cautions or directions may be
useful to you.
1. It is highly proper that
should still remember what your duty is, though conscious of inability to perform it. It is your duty to believe on Christ, for God hath commanded you to believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. Your duty is not to be estimated by your powers, but by the revealed will of God. The nature of sin lies not in doing what you had power to refrain from doing, but in transgressing the law. The law requires all men to be chaste and sober. Yet there are some men who have
full of a. dultery, and who connot cease from sin; or such a craving for the pernicious draught, that they must swallow it down if it should cost them both their lives and their souls. Are they not sinners before God, because they want power to restrain their inordinate lusts? Are
you not sinning against God, when you do not obey the command of believing on the name of his Son, because you cannot believe? The reason that you cannot, is because you will not. “How can ye believe,” said Christ, that receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" In this reproof, our Lord does not extenuate the crime of those who did not believe. The fault was in themselves. There was something which they preferred in their hearts to Christ. There is something, too, which you prefer to him, when the evil heart of unbeliet makes you to depart from him.
But to what purpose is it to torment ourselves with an impressive sense of duties which we cannot perform ? It may serve a good purpose. It is certainly much better that men should feel uneasiness than tranquility, while their duty is unperformed.Nothing is more dangerous than to sleep in the midst of extreme danger. Ephraim was sensible of his inability to turn to God when the rod of God was upon him, and at the same time sensible that he was loudly called to return. What was the consequence? He cried unto him that was able to help him, and his cries were heard. “I have surely heard Ephraim, bemoaning himself, Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely, after that I was turned, I repented," Jer. xxxi, 18, 19.
Remember that it is your present duty to believe on Christ. Augustine confessed that he sometimes prayed to God to convert him, but with this reservation, “Lord, not yet.”' He wished to have some more gratifications to his siriful lusts, before he was completely turned to the Lord from his evil ways. Thus there are many who will confess that it is their duty to believe on Christ; but the time is not yet come, when without presumption, they can lay hold on eternal life. They must attain some qualifications which they do not yet possess, before Christ can be expected to welgine them, although he hath said, 6 Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out."
Why should you think that certain qualifications are requisite to procure your acceptance by Christ? Do you not know that your salvation must be of grace? Have you considered what it is to be saved by grace? Do not you know that you oppo e the grace of God, while you seek some qualifications in yourselves to entitle you to a participation of the benefits of Christ?
It is indeed certain, that without renouncing all self dependence, you cannot believe on Christ. Confidence in the flesh is inconsistent with rejoicing in Christ Jesus, Phil. iii, 3. But how deplorable is our perverseness! We endeavor to make out some kind of title to the salvation of Christ, by convictions that we never can have any tille to him, but that which himself affords us in his word.
The devil does all that he can to prevent that humiliation under a sense of sin, which may dispose the sons of men to cry out for a share in the salvation of Christ. But when he cannot prevent them from seeing and feeling that they must perish without him, he endeavors by his subtilty, to per. vert to their ruin those impressions which the law of God has made upon them. They would make their sense of poverty a price to purchase the blessings which are to be bought without price; and when they are conscious that their impressions of their own unworthiness are but faint, they must not promise themselves any thing from the Lord till they are more effectually humbled.
Are you sensible that you must perish if you have no part in Christ, and that it is only sovereign mercy that can give you a part in him? Why do you seek any
further? The Lord is gracious because he is gracious, and to whom he will be gracious. Paul said unto the Philippian jailor, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." When the poor man heard Paul's discourse concerning Jesus, he believed, with all his house. He did not say, I must wait till I be more deeply humbled before I believe on Jesus; nor did Paul tell him that he must