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ments, there is something which you may do. You are not to confound your case with that of the heathens.
“God has given you all things which pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who has called you to glory and virtue.” Your case is different from theirs “who are without Christ, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Whatever kind, or degree of imbecility you may think to plead, this cannot be admitted as an excuse, when you are assured, that God grants his Spirit even to sinners; for Christ sent
; his Spirit to convince the world of sin; and, in respect of his awakening and convincing influences, he is beforehand with you, and
, anticipates your requests. Jesus knocks at your door, before you inyite him to come in. He stretches out his hand even to the disobedient and gainsaying.
If you ask then, what you must do to obtain a new heart, the answer is, Exercise yourselves in serious consideration. Meditate on the purity and extent of God's commands, and compare your hearts and lives with them, that you may gain a knowledge of your sins. Think on the awful issue of a guilty and impenitent life, that you may apprehend your danger. Contemplate the invitations and promises of the gospel, that you may see the hope which is set before you. Consideration is a necessary step to repentance. David thought on his ways, and turned his feet unto God's testimonies. It is God's complaint of sinners, that they do not consider. It is his command, that they consider their ways.
Apply yourselves to the means of knowledge; for it is in knowledge that the new man is created. He is begotten by the word of truth. It is by hearing this word, that faith comes. sent that he might turn men from darkness to light. Cry after knowledge; thus shall you understand the fear of the Lord.
Abstain from every thing which has a tendency to suppress the honest convictions of your minds, and to obstruct the gracious influences of the Divine Spirit. This is the exhortation of the Prophet, “ Cast away all your transgressions, and make you a new heart.” Similar is the advice of the Apostle, “ Lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls."
Encourage serious sentiments awakened in you, pursue the good resolutions which you have formed, and hold fast what you have received. Implore the grace of God to create in you a new heart; for,
, after the promise in the text, he expressly declares, “I will for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them."
Say not, that until you have this new heart, your prayers will be vain. God has said no such thing. He says, “He will be enquired of.” He who hears the ravens when they cry, will also hear sinners, when, awakened by his own word and Spirit to a sense of their danger, they call on him in the use of appointed means, to put a new spirit within them.
Give yourselves up to God through Jesus Christ. Follow the example of those, whose repentance the prophet thus describes; “They shall go weeping and mourning, and shall seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, and shall say, come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten.
SINNERS CONTRADICTING THEIR PRAYERS.
JEREMIAH XXXVII. 3.
And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and
Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, PRAY NOW UNTO THE LORD OUR GOD FOR US.
Not long before the time here referred to, the king of Babylon, who had brought the kingdom of Judah under his power, appointed Zedekiah to be king or viceroy of the country.
He swore allegiance to the king of Babylon, and bound himself to pay him a certain tribute. But afterward, with an intention to throw off the yoke, he made a treaty with the king of Egypt, who agreed to send an army for his support. On this encouragement, Zedekiah revolted from the king of Babylon, who, to reduce him, came and besieged Jerusalem. On hearing of the approach of the Egyptian army, he raised the siege, marched against the Egyptians, defeated them, and then renewed the siege which issued in the reduction of the city, and the capture of the king, and all the people who were with him. Jeremiah had been a faithful reprover and monitor. But
is observed, in the words preceding the text, that neither the king, nor his servants, nor the people of the land hearkened to the
words of the Lord, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah. In this time of distress however, he sent messengers to the prophet, requesting his prayers. He said, “ Pray now to the Lord for us.”
There were many idolatrous prophets in Jerusalem, who had promised the people deliverance from their enemies, and had raised a clamor against Jeremiah for his faithful warnings. Why did not the king send to them, and ask their prayers ? — The truth is, he had no confidence in them now. He saw that their predictions had failed; that they had only flattered the people with false promises, and deceived them with lying words: and he applied to Jeremiah, who had spoken with honest plainness, and whose words were now verified. He hoped that the prayers of such a righteous man would avail much. He saw no help but in God, and no intercessor so good as a prophet of God.
There was a time, when Jeremiah was taken up as a traitordenounced as an enemy to his country-imprisoned-thrown into a dungeon, and there confined till he was half dead; and all this for no other cause, than his fidelity in his office, good will to his country, and prudent advice to the rulers of the people. But at this time, when the city was besieged, his prayers were solicited by the king and his servants, as what, they hoped, might save them and their country in so dangerous a crisis.
We see the inconsistency of these wicked men, and we condemn it. It may be proper to inquire, whether there be not the same inconsistency in others, or even in ourselves.
1. They persecuted a good prophet while they thought themselves safe ; and sought his prayers when they found themselves in danger.
There is in most men an inward conviction of the truth and importance of religion. If the men of the world ridicule the strict piety, and resent the just reproofs of the friends of religion—if they endeavor to blast their reputation and destroy their influence; still, in their sober judginent, they esteem these as the excellent of the earth, and place much more confidence in them, than in men like themselves. These are the men whose advice they ask in cases of difficulty, to whose justice they apply for redress of injuries, and whose prayers they solicit in seasons of distress. If to serve a party design, they wish to promote unprincipled men to places of public trust, yet they will not commit their private interests into such men's hands. They will often cavil at religion and slander the professors of it, that they may keep themselves in countenance. But in their conscience they cannot but revere religion and honor the professors of it as wise in their choice. Herod feared John the Baptist, viewing him as a just man; yet because John opposed and reproved his vices, he gave orders to take off his head.
Sinners, in the day of prosperity, may wish to believe that religion is all a fable, that its friends are fools and its professors hypocrites. But whenever they are awakened by distress, or the approach of death, they wish to fly to religion for protection, and to take a share in its hopes and comforts. When they can live no longer, they, like Joab, run to the altar, lay hold on its horns and resolve to die there.
But let the contemners of religion consider, that in order to secure its comforts in the day of trouble, they must embrace its doctrines and obey its precepts in their more prosperous days. Let them attend to the divine warning ; “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish; for I work a work in your days, which ye will not believe though one declare it to you.” If they reject God's salvation in the time of his patience, “ will he hear their cry when trouble comes?” “I have called,” says Wisdom, " and they refused; I have stretched out my hand, and they have not regarded; therefore I will laugh at their calamity, I will mock when their fear cometh. Then shall they call on me, and I will not answer; they shall seek me and shall not find
because they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.”
2. Zedekiah and his attendants in the day of their trouble, asked the prophet's prayers; but we find not that they gave themselves to prayer.
Are there not many, who are guilty of the same inconsistency? They live unmindful of God's presence, and insensible of their dependence on him. But in the day of affliction, they ask the prayers of their pious friends.