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total selfishness, which is a free and voluntary exercise, that belongs to the heart and not to the understanding, and they can no longer disbelieve, or deny that they are totally depraved. For they must know from their own experience, that selfishness has reigned in their hearts, and constantly led them to regard their own good, more than the good of others, or the glory of God. And as soon as they are convinced of the total selfishness of their hearts, they will be equally convinced of their total depravity. This shows the importance of explaining and inculcating the entire selfishness of sinners. There is no other truth so directly calculated to fasten conviction on their conscience, and to throw them into the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. As soon as they come to realize, that they have always acted from mean, mercenary motives, in all they have done for God, for themselves, and for others, their former goodness, and their former hopes built upon it, entirely vanish, and they see no ground of dependence, but only the undeserved and unpromised mercy of God. This was the case of Paul under a realizing sense of his total selfishness. When the divine law was brought home to his conscience, his sins revived and the ground of his hope gave way. For he realized, that he had always been governed by mere selfish motives in all his conduct, which was expressly forbidden, by the precept, “Thou shalt not covet;" that is, “thou shalt not feel, nor express the least degree of selfishness.” It is in vain to preach about total deprav ity, without explaining it; for nothing will convince sinners, that they are totally depraved, until they are made to see and feel the total selfishness of their hearts. This Christ knew, and therefore, not only taught total depravity, but made it appear to be total selfishness. It is not the name, but the thing signified by total depravity, that will carry conviction to stupid, selfrighteous, and self deceived sinners. Upon this subject, it is impossible to be too plain and explicit. It is necessary, to teach sinners the nature and criminality of selfishness, not only to convince them of their guilt and danger, but also to convince them of their immediate and indispensable obligation to perform every duty, which God has required them to perform. As soon as they see and feel, that they are totally selfish, they cannot help seeing and feeling, that they have no excuse for the neglect of duty, but are under imme. diate and indispensable obligations, “to turn from all their transgressions; to make them a new heart and a new spirit; to repent and believe the gospel; and to walk in newness of life.” When they clearly see and
” sensibly feel, that all their depravity and criminality consists in their free and voluntary exercises of selfishness, they can no longer plead it as an excuse for impenitence and unbelief, because they know, that it depends upon their own choice, whether they shall love, or hate God; whether they shall continue in, or cease from sin; whether they shall accept, or reject the offers of mercy; and whether they shall be saved, or lost.
; They feel the whole authority of the law and of the gospel, binding them to turn and live, while they realize, that their depravity is not their calamity, but their guilt. And when the preachers of the gospel have thus shown sinners the plague of their own hearts, they may with propriety and force address them in the language of the apostles, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to
THE ORDER OF GRACIOUS EXERCISES IN THE
GALATIANS v, 6.
PAUL was surprized that the churches of Galatia, which he had been instrumental in planting, should so soon be led into great and dangerous errours, by false teachers. “I marvel, says he, that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert he gospel of Christ. But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” The apostle had taught these christians, that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, and that his atonement is the only foundation of pardon and acceptance in the sight of God. But the false teachers denied the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and taught the doctrine of justification by the deeds of the law. This he represents as a fatal errour. “For, says he, if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” And he goes on to say, “I testify to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, ,
whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision;
but faith which worketh by love." The Judaizing teachers were ignorant of the nature and necessity of regeneration in order to those gracious exercises, which are connected with justification and eternal life; and it was owing to their ignorance of this saving change, that they maintained the doctrine of justification by the deeds of the law. The apostle, therefore, strikes at the root of their fatal errours by saying, that sinners. are justified by that faith in Christ, which works by love. But it has long been a question, whether the apostle means, by this mode of expression, to assert that faith flows from love, or that love flows from faith, This is a very important question, because a just solution of it will directly tend to distinguish all true religion from false.
All evangelical writers and preachers maintain, that none can be real christians, without exercising faith, repentance, and love; but they differ widely in respect to the proper Order of these gracious affections. Some place faith before love and repentance; and some place love before repentance and faith. Though all true christians do actually experience these gracious exercises; yet very few are able to determine from their own experience, the Order in which they take place in a sound conversion. This we must learn chiefly from Scripture, and the nature of these holy affections. And that we may discover the truth upon this interesting subject, it is proposed in the present discourse, to consider two things. One is, the Order in which
gracious exercises take place in a renewed sinner; and the other is, the importance of representing such gracious exercises in their proper Order.
1. Let us consider the order in which holy exercises take place in a renewed sinner. The Spirit of God in renewing, sanctifying, or converting a sinner, does not
the punishment of his sins. The malefactor on the cross no sooner loved the suffering Saviour, than he repented of his sins, and accepted the punishment of them. Paul no sooner exercised true love to God, than he repented of his sins, and sincerely acknowledged the justice of the law, which condemned him to die. “For, says he, I was alive once without the law; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” As soon as the holy Spirit reconciles the sin
. ner to God, he naturally loaths and condemns himself, as God loaths and condemns him, for his sins. He does not stand to inquire, whether God loves him and intends to save him, before he repents; for he feels both bound and disposed to repent, though God should cast him off forever. As it is morally impossible for the sinner to repent before he loves God, so it is morally impossible for him to refrain from repenting after he loves him. True repentance always flows from love to God, and not merely from a hope of salvation.
As repentance follows love, so faith follows both love and repentance. When the sinner loves, he will repent, and when he repents, he will exercise not merely a speculative, but a saving faith. It is morally impossible for a sinner to love Christ for condemning sin in the flesh, until he hates sin, and sincerely repents of it. It is morally impossible, that he should love the grace of the gospel, until he loves the justice of the law. It is morally impossible, that he should feel his need of a Saviour, until he sees and feels, that God would be righteous and amiable in sending him to destruction. But as soon as he loves the divine character, and the divine law, and condemns himself as the law condemns