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salvation they had neglected, by the great wrath which would be inflicted.
In fine, he seconded all his endeavours with fervent prayer to God, that He, by his Spirit, would effectually persuade men. Paul was no Arminian. He well knew that the best arguments, urged by the most powerful motives, would never, without the efficacy of Divine grace, persuade or change a single heart. While this was clearly asserted in many places of Scripture, the apostle had two proofs that the most conclusive reasoning would never change the heart: he knew what it took to change his own: every mean was in vain, till he got a remarkable discovery of Christ, and a particular intimation of peace and pardon.Often did he himself make every exertion to persuade others, and some continued hardened, while others blasphemed.
No man ever spake more about the necessity of the exceeding greatness of the mighty power of God to persuade a sinner, and shut him up to the faith. He spake invariably of the conversion of sinners, in terms which implied the absolute necessity of Divine power and energy. One while, he asserts that sinners in their natural state are dead, and that Christ alone, by his Spirit, could quicken them. Again, he calls their conversion a new creation, and a first resurrection.
These considerations would influence his gracious heart to apply to God in the most fervent manner for that Divine energy, and these gracious influences which alone could make the means effectual, and
powerfully persuade sinners to come to Christ, and escape the terror of the Lord.
All these things he would do, firmly persuaded that they were means of God's appointment, which he had promised to bless. This would make him speak with authority and courage, and animate his heart with hopes of success. He knew that the Lord would gather his own to himself, and that he would bless these means for that end. He knew the grace and faithfulness of him who had promised to go forth working, when his servants went forth preaching. He relied on Christ's faithful promise that he would be with him always to the end. Constrained by love, and animated by Divine faithfulness, however great his discouragements were, having received this ministry, he did not faint, but knowing the terror of the Lord, continued to persuade men.
We shall now subjoin some further application.
1. We may learn from this subject that moral suasion of itself will never change the heart, or bring a sinner to Christ. The Scriptures expressly assert this. They assure us that no man cometh unto Christ unless the Father draw him. We have many proofs in fact. Christ was infinitely able to argue. well acquainted with all the arts of persuasion; but * no man received his testimony.” Paul had every possible advantage. He had excellent natural abilities, much literature, and great grace. He received his acquired endowments at the feet of Gamaliel, and made such progress, as made some conclude that much learning had made him mad. He received his
gracious qualifications in the third heavens. But, with all these attainments, he could never persuade or change a single heart. Not accompanied by Divine power, his best discourses adapted in every respect to his hearers, instead of bringing sinners to Christ, exposed him to the contemptuous titles of a babbler, a setter forth of strange gods, and an insignificant creature, rude in speech.
Moral suasion never did, and never will, produce love to Christ in the carnal heart, which is enmity. The utmost which the best reasoning can do in this matter, is to produce a cold, dry, uninfluencing light in the head, and some transient, uneasy emotions in the conscience; while the heart itself is left hard as the nether millstone. Sin is too strong for the best arguments. The hearts of men are fully set in them to do evil. The heart is dead, dark, shut, and makes positive exertions to keep out the light. The old man fights hard for his own safety, and the enjoyment of his lusts. If he appears at any time to yield, it is only a kind of ill-formed resolution, and insincere promise to repent at some future period, and convenient season. The resolutions and
engagements of the unrenewed heart are like those of one half awake. He promises to rise, but instead of performing, instantly falls faster asleep.
2. That it is of the greatest importance for Gospel hearers to know whether they are persuaded or not. All who are persuaded believe the terror of the Lord to be a great reality, that they themselves deserve Divine wrath, and are exposed to it. They believe that they must fall under that wrath, unless they are mercifully
delivered. This produces great concern. It makes them
cry, with the jailer, What shall I do to be saved; or with these in Micah, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow before the most high God! This leads to fervent prayer. Impressions of future wrath, not issuing in fervent supplication, have no evidence of being saving. If these prayers for mercy are in earnest, the suppliant gives up with all selfdependance, and ventures on Christ. Discerning the naughtiness of his own righteousness, he casts it away as filthy rags, and depends alone on the finished work of the Redeemer.
When men are not persuaded, though there should be great awakenings, powerful convictions, and apparent reformation; these effects will only be temporary and transient. It will “ happen unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and, the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” Their hearts will be more hardened than ever.
They who have been persuaded should be thankful. Christ has done much for them: he bare the wrath of God, and died in their stead. He has done much in them: he has actually persuaded them, changed their hearts, and made them willing in a day of power. He will do much more: he will lead them in all their way, and keep them. He will more and more persuade them to improve his fulness. He will do great things beyond conception for them to all eternity. They should therefore, like David, summou their souls, and all that is within them to praise, and bless his holy name. Psal. ciii. 1-6.
Sinners should now be persuaded. O for the persuasive arts of the apostle, that if possible we might gain some! Sinners should think on the shortness of time, the vanity of all sublunary enjoyments, and the endless duration of eternity. They should remember and believe, that there are only two places and conditions in the other world—the dungeons of darkness, and the mansions of glory. They should believe that they themselves must be in one or the other of them; that they deserve hell; and that, without an interest in Christ, they can never enter heaven. Hell is misery beyond conception. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we would persuade sinners; and they should be persuaded. But, as we are unable, and they unwilling, may Jehovah the Spirit persuade them!