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to any deficiency in the gospel itself (which is perfectly suited to sinners of every size, the greatest as well as the least ; none are excepted, all are invited, nay, commanded, and made welcome to come and be saved : and, for our encouragement, the blessed Saviour himself hath said, “ Him that cometh “ to me I will in no wise cast out,” John, vi. 37) but wholly owing to their own unbelief, and not being willing to comply with the gospel terms. Mark, xvi. 16, Matt. xxiii. 37.
That any indeed close with Christ, is owing to the infinite grace of God; but the rejection of him is of sinners themselves. Fallen man, it is true, cannot merit salvation ; but can damnation : “ No man can come unto
me, except the Father, which hath sent me,
draw him," saith our blessed Saviour : And again, “ ye have not chosen me, but I “ have chosen you.” John, vi. 44, and xv. 16. “ For by grace ye are saved, through “ faith ; and that not of yourselves, it is the
gift of God,” saith the man who was caught up to heaven. Eph. ii. 8.
Many indeed by a nominal profession are enclosed in the net of the gospel, and dragged a while through life, who shall be, like the fishes that were bad in the parable, cast away at last. Matt. xiii. 48.
Yonder fishermen, I observe, are fouling the stream to darken the water, so that the fish may be more easily surrounded and taken in the net. Faithful ministers of the gospel, though they foul not the stream of human nature, point out the corruption, defilement, and darkness, it hath imbibed through the fall; so that men may become sensible of their lost and undone state, and embrace the light of the glorious gospel.
Those men I observe with poles, are searching under every brow, root, and covert, in order to push out the fish, so that they may run into the net : Exactly so do the ministers of the word, by the means of the law, search out all the refuge of lies under which guilty men endeavour to shelter themselves; so that they may be driven from these haunts, and enclosed in the gospel net.
The general mercy of God is a covert under which many endeavour to shelter themselves : God is merciful, say they, and he never made any of the human race to be damned: he is infinite in goodness, and therefore we hope he will never destroy us : Be
cause sentence against an evil work is not “executed speedily, therefore the heart of the
sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” Eccl. viii. 11, saying, with those scoffers mentioned by the apostle, “ Where is the
promise of his coming ? for since the fathers “ fell asleep, all things continue as they were
from the beginning of the creation.” 2 Pet. iii. 4. Such despise the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth them to repentance. Rom. i. 4.
In order to push sinners from this general covert, ministers of the gospel, these fishers of men, use the word of inspiration, which declareth that God will by no means clear the guilty; and the wicked shall be turned into hell, Exod. xxxiv. 7, Psal. ix. 17; and in God's sight shall no man living be justified. Psal. cxliii. 2. The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thess. i. 7,8; and there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked, Isa. lvii. 21.
Thus, by the terrors of the law, they are driven from under the presumptuous covert of God's general mercy; but no sooner are they so, but they fly under another shelter, equally dangerous, even confidence in the flesh, and begin to rest in external performances and carnal privileges, hoping these things will commend them to God.
To force them from this also, they are threatened with condemnation : “ By the “ deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be “ justified in his sight;" Rom. iii. 20; and
except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, Thus sinners are driven from under the shelter of confidence in the flesh also : but anxious still to shelter themselves under a covert of their own choosing and making, they immediately run under the old root of self-righteousness, and endeavour to reform their inward man, by keeping a stricter watch over their thoughts and words, while they double their external duties, so that God may be pleased with them, and save them from wrath, on account of their strict and holy lives. Now they are apt to conclude, however it be with others, all shall be well at last with them: but now and then a sinful thought they observe passing through their hearts, and words they ought not to speak flowing from their tongues, for which they are grieved, but endeavour to make amends to God for such in future, by striving to restrain the lawless wanderers from their minds, and keeping a stricter watch over their tongues. But to drive them from this root of self-righteousness likewise, the sharp law is thrust in upon them, with this malediction, “ Cursed is
ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom 66 heaven." Matt. v. 20.