« PreviousContinue »
men shew to God, is owing to their education. They have been taught froin their infancy that they ought to shew great respict to God. They have been taught to use respectful language, when spraking about God, and to behave with solemnity, when attending on those exercises of religion, wherein they have to do with him. From their childhood, they have seen that this is the manner of others, when they pray to God, to use reverential expressions and a reverential behaviour before bim.
Those who are brought up in places where they have conimonly from their infancy, heard men take the name of God in vain, and swear and curse, and blaspheme; they learn to do the same ; and it becomes habitual to them. And it is the same way, and no other, that you have learned to behave respectfully towards God; not that you have any more respect to God than they; but they have been brought up one way, and you another. In some parts of the world, men are brought up in the worship of idols of silver, and gold, and wood, and stone, made in the shape of men and beasts. They say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calf. Hos. xiii. 2. In some parts of the world, they are brought up to worship serpents, and are taught from their infancy to shew great respect to them. And in some places they are brought up in worshipping the devil, who appears to them in a bodily shape; and to behave with a shew of great reverence and honour towards him. And what respect you shew to God has no better foundation; it comes the same way, and is worth no more.
2. That shew of respect which you make is forced. You come to God, and make a great shew of respect to him, and us! very respectful terms, with a reverential tone and manner of speaking; and your countenance is grave and solemn : you put on an humble aspect; and use humble, respectful postures, out of fear. You are afraid that God will execute his wrath upon you, and so you feign a great deal of respect, that he may not be angry with you. Through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit them. selves unto thee. Ps. Ixvi. 3. In the original it is, Shall thine enemies lie to thee. It is rendered therefore in the margin, shall yield feigned obedience unto thee. All that you do in religion is forced and feigned. Through the greatness of God's power, you yield feigned obedience.
You are in God's power, and he is able to destroy you; and so you feign a great deal of respect to him, that he might not destroy you. As one might do towards an enemy that had taken him captive, though he at the same time would gladly make his escape, if he could, by taking away the life of him who had taken him captive.
3. It is not real respect that moves you to behave so towards God: you do it because you hope you shall get by it. It is respect to yourself, and not respect to God, that moves you.
You hope to move God by it to bestow the rewards of his children. You are like the Jews who followed Christ, and called him Rabbi, and would make bim a king. Not that they honoured bim so much in their hearts, as to think him worthy of the honour of a king; or that they had the respect of sincere subjects ; but they did it for the sake of the loaves. Jesus perceived that they would come and make him a king. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, how camest thou hither? Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. John vi. 15, 25, 26.
These things do not argue but that you are implacable enemies to God. If you examine your prayers and other duties, your own consciences will tell you, that the seeming respect which you have shewn to God in them, has been only in hypocrisy. Oftentimes you have set forth in your prayers, that God was a great, a glorious, and an infinitely boly God, as if you greatly honoured him on the account of these attributes; and, at the same time, you had no sense in your heart of the greatness and glory of God, or of any excellency in his holiness. Your own consciences will tell you, that you have often pretended to be thankful; you have told God, that you thanked him you was alive, and thanked him for various mercies, when you have not found the least jot of thankfulness in your heart. And so you have told God of your own unworthiness, and set forth what a vile creature you was; when you have had no humble sense of your own unworthiness.
If these forementioned restraints were thrown off, you would soon throw off all your shew of respect. Take away fear, and a regard to your own interest, and there would soon be an end to all those appearances of love, bonour, and reverence, which now you make. All these things are not at all inconsistent with the most implacable enmity. The devil himselt made a shew of respect to Christ, when he was afraid that he was going to torment him; and when he hoped to persuade Christ to spare him longer. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high 2 I beseech thee, torment me not. Luke viii. 28.
Some may perhaps object against this doctrine of their being God's enemies, the religious affections they have sometimes experienced. They may be ready to say, That when they have come before God in prayer, they have not only
used respectful terms and gestures, but they have prayed with affection; their prayers have been attended with tears, which they are ready to think shewed something in the heart.But to this it is answered, that these affections have risen from other causes, and not from any true respect to God.
1. They have risen from self-love, and not love to God. If you have wept before God, from the consideration of your own pitiful case ; that has been because you loved yourself, and not because you had any respect to God. And if your tears bave been from sorrow for your sins; you have mourned for your sins, because you have sinned against yourself, and not because you have sinned against God. When ye fasted and mourned, did ye at all fast unto me, even unto Me? Zech. vii. 5.
2. Pride, and a good thought of themselves, very commonly has a great band in the affections of natural men. They have a good opinion of what they are doing when they are praying ; and the reflection on that affects them : they are affected with their own goodness. Men's self-righteousness often occasions tears. A high opinion of themselves before God, and an imagination of their being persons of great account with him, has affected them in their transactions with God. There is commonly abundance of pride in the midst of tears; and often pride is in a great measure the source of them. And then they are so far from being an argument that you are not an enemy to God, that on the contrary, they are an argument, that you are. In your very tears, you are, in a vain conceit of yourself, exalting yourself against God.
3. The affections of natural men often arise from wrong notions they have of God. They conceive of God after the manner they do of men, as though he were a being liable to be wrought upon in his affections. They conceive of him as one whose heart could be drawn, whose affections can be over. come, by what he sees in them. They conceive of bim as being taken with them and their performances ; and this works on their affections; and thus one tear draws another, and their affections increase by reflection. And oftentimes they conceive of God as one that loves them, and is a friend to them; and such a mistake may work much on their affections. But such affections that arise towards God, as they conceit him to be, is no argument that they have not the same implacable batred towards God, considered as he really is. There is no concluding that men are not enemies, because they are affected and shed tears in their prayers, and the like. Saul was very much affected when David expostulated with him about pursuing after him, and seeking to kill him. David's words wrought exceedingly upon Saul's affections. And it
came to pass when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David ? and Saul lift up his voice, and wept. 1 Sam. xxiv. 16. chap. xxvi. I, &c. He was so affected ibat he wept aloud, and called David_bis son, though he was but just before seeking his life. But this affection of Saul was no argument that he did not still continue in his enmity against David. He was David's mortal enemy before, and sought his life; and so he did afterwards. It was but a pang; his enmity was not mortified or done away. The next news we bear of Saul is, that he was pursuing David, and seeking his life again.
Restraining Grace a great Privilege. If natural men are God's enemies ; then hence we may learn, how much we are indebted to God for his restraining grace, If all natural men are God's enemics, what would they not do, if they were not restrained ? For what has one that is an enemy in his disposition, to restrain him from acting against him to whom he is an enemy? Hatred will not restrain a man from acting any thing against him that is bated. Nothing is too bad for hatred, if it be mere hatred and no love. Hatred shews no kindness either in doing, or forbearing; it will never make a man forbear to act against God; for the very nature of hatred is to seek evil. But wicked men, as has been shewn, are mere enemies to God; they have batred, without any love at all. And hence natural men bave nothing within them, in their own nature, to restrain them from any thing that is bad ; and therefore their restraint must not be owing to nature, but to restraining grace. And therefore wbatever wickedness we have been kept from, it is not because we have not been bad enough to commit it; bat it is God has restrained us, and kept us back from sin. There can be no worse principle, than a principle of hatred to God. And there can be no principle that will go further in wickedness than this, if it be neither mortified nor restrained. But it is not mortified in natural men; and therefore all that keeps them from any degree of wickedness, is restrained. If we bave seen others do things that we never did ; and if they have done worse than we, this is owing to restraining grace. If we have not done as bad as Pharaoh, it is owing to divine restraints. If we bave not done as bad as Judas, or as the scribes and Pharisees, or as bad as Herod, or Simon Magus, it is because God has restrained our corruption. If we have ever heard or read of any that have done worse than we; if we have not gone the
length in sinning, that the most wicked pirates or carnal persecutors have gone, this is owing to restraining grace. For we are all naturally the enemies of God as much as they. If we have not committed the unpardonable sin, it is owing to restraining grace. There is no worse principle in exercise in that sin, iban enmity against God. There is the entire fountain, and all the foundation of the sin against the Holy Ghost, in that enmity against God that naturally reigns in us.
It is not we that restrain ourselves from the commission of the greatest imaginable wickedness ; for enmity against God reigns in us and over us; we are under its power and dominion, and are sold under it. We do not restrain that which reigns over us. A slave, as long as he continues a mere slave, cannot controul his master, “ He that committeth sin, is the servant of sin.” John viii. 34. So thąt the restraint of this our cruel tyrant, is owing to God, and not to us. What does a poor, impotent subject do to restrain the absolute Lord, that has him wholly under his power? How much will it appear that the world is indebted to the restraining grace of God, if we consider that the world is full of enemies to God. The world is full of inbabitants; and almost all are God's enemies, his implacable and mortal enemies, What therefore would they not do; what work would they not make, if God did not restrain them?
God's work in the restraint that he exercises over a wicked world, is a glorious work. God's holding the reins upon the corruptions of a wicked world, and setting bounds to their wickedness, is, a more glorious work, than his ruling the raging of the sea, and setting bounds to its proud waves, and saying, Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further. In hell, God lets the wickedness of wicked spirits have the reins, to rage without restraint; and it would be in a great measure upon earth as it is in hell, did not God restrain the wickedness of the world. But in order to the better understanding how it is owing to the restraining grace of God, that we are kept and withheld from the highest acts of sin, I would here observe several things.
1. Whenever men are withheld from sinning by the common influence of God's Spirit, they are withheld by restraining grace. If sinners are awakened, and are made sensible of the great guilt that sin brings, and that it exposes to a dreadful punishment; under such circumstances they dare not allow themselves in wilful sin; God restrains them by the convictions of his Spirit; and therein their being kept from sin, is owing to restraining grace. And unawakened sinners that live under the gospel, who are in a great measure secure, commonly have some degrees of the influence of God's Spirit, with his ordinances influencing natural conscience. And