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MATTHEW VII. 7. “ Ask, and it shall be given you, seek, and ye shall
find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you." THESE words of the Saviour I. As to the state of fallen man, express infinitely great and pre- under the dispensation of the goscious promises, on the most favour-pel, three things are to be consid able terms. No laborious task is ered ; required, no sacrifice of real good 1. It is a state of total sinfulis to be made, as the condition of ness, or depravity of heart. By salvation. It is only to ask, seek, the orthodox, at the present day, and knock ; and “ All things are it is acknowledged, that mankind, now ready.” Do we stand in per- in a state of nature, are totally deishing need of an unmerited favouri praved in heart-have not the love or do we need the forgiveness of of God in them. They are dead many offences? It is only to ask the in trespasses and sins. Such are favour and the forgiveness which said to be carnally minded, which we need ; and all is right and well is death ; for the carnal mind is
Or, bave we carelessly enmity against God. lost a most valuable treasure imagination of the thoughts of how liberal is the promise, that, if man's heart, is only evil continualwe seek the treasure, we shall find ly.” And although an infinite ait! Or, do we stand in the utmost tonement is made, and made for Deed of admission into glorious the sins of the whole world ; yet habitation, of which we are most this alters not the character of sinunworthy ? even decency requires, ners. Still - the natural man re-' that
we knock for admission. Sure- ceiveth not the things of the spirit ly, nothing can be more liberal, of God.” Still, the state of fallen than the terms of salvation. It is man is such, that "destruction and only to desire salvation, and we misery are in their ways, and the
way of peace they have not For a more full discussion of known : there is no fear of God this subject, we may consider, in before their eyes.” the first place, the peculiar state
2. The state of fallen man is a of fallen man, under the dispensa- state of condemnation. tion of the gospel ; and in the ny as are of the works of the law, second place, the nature of the ask- are under the curse ;" for it is ing, seeking and knocking, which written, “ Cursed is every one
, are the conditions of salvation. that continueth not in all things."
have it freely.
6. As ma•
For a single transgression, men sisting of a holy society, engaged fall under the curse ; a curse from in holy exercises. Without holiwhich the law cannot provide re- ness, therefore, no one can seek lief or deliverance. "Impenitent for the enjoyments of heaven. sinners, if they depend on any Really to seek for heavenly objects, thing for the hope of salvation, de- is to seek them as silver, and pend on their own righteousness. to search for them as for hidden But justification is only by faith in treasure. With regard to knockJesus Christ. 6. He that believ- | ing, it implies a sincere desire of eth on him is not condemned: admission into the kingdom of God, but he that believeth not, is con- on account of the holy society and demned already," In this deplora- felicity of this kingdom. When ble state are all the impenitent, Peter knocked at the door of the total enemies to God, and God to gate, where his Christian friends them, For he holds them under were assembled, praying for his the sentence of a righteous con- deliverance from prison and from demnation.
death ; he felt a pressing desire to 3. The state of sinners, how- enter in, and enjoy the holy felever, is not a hopeless state. lowship of the saints. Had Peter Blessed be God, there is a plan of been a sordid miser, and an enemy deliverance, and salvation, through of the followers of Christ, who faith in Christ, and the forgive- knocked for admission among that ness of sin. “Christ hath redeem- praying company, for selfish pured us from the curse of the law, poses; would the devout compabeing made a curse for us.” Now ny have bidden him such a corthe door of mercy is open ; and all dial welcome ? Certainly not. things are now ready. All are now Neither will the door of heaven urged with the most pressing inf- be opened to those, who knock from vitations, such as our text cor- selfish motives. In short, it is evtains ;
Ask, and it shall be giv-ident from reason, and the nature en you, seek, and ye shall find, of things, that the asking, seeking knock, and it shall be opened un- and knocking, which are connect
ed with the divine promises, imII. We proceed to explain the ply real, Christian sincerity.) They nature of the asking, seeking and are the exercises of a humble, knocking, which are the conditions penitent, believing heart-a heart of salvation. To ask for any thing reconciled to God, through Jesus as a favour, implies, that we really Christ. desire the thing that we ask for, on Accordingly, the declaration of account of its own intrinsic worth. Christ is, “ Not every one that To ask for holiness, implies that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall we love holiness, and hate iniqui- enter into the kingdom of heaven.” ty. The disciples of Christ gave a The testimony of James is, “ Ye specimen of this kind of asking, ask and receive not, because ye when they said unto him, “Lord, ask amiss, to consume it upon increase our faith." To seek the your lusts." A holy asking, a hokingdom of God implies, that, in ly seeking, and a holy knocking, our view, it is a most desirable ob- are essential to the approbation of ject : and it implies a heavenly a holy God. As there are those, temper. Hence, the Saviour, when who ask and receive not ; so there he exhorted the people to seek are those, who seek and find not. first the kingdom of God, added, "Strive to enter in at the straight “ And the righteousness thereof.” gate ; for many shall seek to enHeaven is a holy habitation, con- ter in, and shall not be able.” Many are also said to knock, and , humble and contrite; to the poor knock in vain, saying, “Lord, in spirit, to those that mourn ; to Lord, open unto us." But the the meek ; to those that hunger and Lord from within declares, “I thirst after righteousness; to the know you not, whence you are, merciful; and to the pure in heart. depart from me, all ye workers of All these meet the divine approbainiquity.” Thus evidently it ap- tion. pears from scripture and reason, Having considered the state of that the “asking, seeking and fallen man, under the dispensation knocking, which meet the promises of thc gospel; and explained the in the text, flow only from holy nature of the asking, seeking, and love, and Christian sincerity. The knocking which are the condition same truth is evident, from a view of salvation; we proceed to an of the divine requirements. The
IMPROVEMENT. law of God is holy, and the com- I. By this subject we are taught, mandment holy, and just and that the first and immediate duty good :” Every precept of which, of sinners, is genuine repentance. requires a holy beart. Without | The conditions of divine favour, the exercise of holiness, no duty expressed in the text, clearly imcan be performed acceptably. ply the exercise of repentance to"Love is the fulfilling of the wards God, and faith towards our law." Without faith, which works Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance by love, it is impossible to please and faith are the special requireGod. “ Follow peace with all ments of the gospel. Without men, and holiness, without which these there is no religion; no duty no man shall see the Lord.” In is done. These were taught by all this view of the nature and im- the prophets, and especially by portance of the divine require- John the Baptist, by Jesus Christ ments, can it be conceived that and his holy apostles. Nothing God directs people, with an im- | is mentioned in the scriptures, as penitent, unbelieving and rebel- a duty, antecedent, or preparalious heart, to ask, seek and tory to these duties. No prayers knock and on these conditions, and strivings, no previous efforts, ?
", loads them with his richest prom- no steps are pointed out in the ises ? In the holy scriptures, we gospel, by which sinners may gradfind no promises made to the un- ually attain to the Christian charregenerate, and the impenitent. acter and the Christian hope.Their best works, and richest sac- When multitudes on the day of rifices, are an abomination to the Pentecost, under the preaching of Lord.' Their plowing is sin ; be- Peter, were pricked in the heart, cause they regard not the honour and cried out, Men and brethren, and glory of God. There are ma- what shall we do? The answer was ny who seek to be justified by not, “ Do as well as you can; exCorist : They make the Christian ert your best endeavours ; and profession, and conform to all the trusť in the Lord to make up your externals of religion : But on a deficiency:" but the very first word, close inspection, they are found by way of an answer was,
66 Resinners. These are abhorrent in pent; and (of course) be baptized, the sight of God, and of his peo- every one of you, in the name of ple. The benedictions of Christ Jesus Christ, for the remission of are withholden from all the proud sins." No duty could be even in heart, and from all hypocrites in attempted, previous to a deep, practice. They are limited to the sincere, and genuine repentance.
When the jailor came, trembling al inability to repent. But be this under a sense of his sin and guilt, inability what it may, “ God now and fell down before Paul and Si- commandeth all men every where las, and said, “ Sirs, what must I to repent.” It is the first, and the do to be saved?” The answer was, immediate duty of all the impeni“ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, tent. and thou shalt be saved, and thy II. From a review of the whole house.” This belief implies a subject, we clearly see, that askhumble, penitent heart. 'In the ing, secking, and knocking, in the scriptures, true repentance is re- sense of the text, are the fruits, quired, invariably, as- the first and or effects, and not the cause, or immediate duty of sinners. This, means of regenerating and sanctiit is thought, is agreeable to com- fying grace. mon sense, no less than to the ho- On this ground, many embrace ly scriptures. Sincere repentance an error, that cherishes the pride is demanded of every man, who of their hearts. While they imasins against his neighbour. Parents gine themselves, with many cries demand of their rebellious children, and tears, to be earnestly seeking immediate repentance. They have the grace of God; they are, in fact, no idea that their prodigal children “ seeking salvation, as it were, by can sincerely ask their forgiveness, the deeds of the law.” They imseek their favour, and knock for agine, that although they are not admission into their house, without now regenerate, not delivered from the previous exercise of repent- the curse of the law; yet they are ance. Sensible that all the diffi- so well disposed to ask, and seek culty in the exercise of repentance and knock, as in due time to obtain arises from the wickedness of the regenerating grace. They hope heart, no allowance is to be made, to obtain the great salvation, as an no forbearance to be exercised, on answer to their many cries and account of a supposed inability to tears. This is an idea, whether repent. Had there been a real realized or not, which tends wholly inability to repent and return to to subvert the gospel. The gospel God, not an instance of repent-teaches salvation, not by unregen-. ance would ever have occurred, erate doings, so called; but by reamong the human race.
Not one pentance and faith in Jesus Christ. true penitent would have been The terms of salvation are infinitefound on the day of Pentecost. ly more easy and liberal, than by And the solemn exhortation of Pe the law. The scriptures teach us, ter to repent and be baptized, ev- that salvation is a work of God. ery one of them; would have been “ That which is born of the flesh, an insult to their weakness. The is flesh; and that which is born of history of the conversion of Paul the Spirit,is Spirit.” And “' ey that would have been altogether false are in the flesh, cannot please God." and spurious. But if thousands -The scriptures consider every and millions of sinners have vol. right exercise of heart, and every untarily exercised repentance; and right action, to be the fruits of the if the duty is easy; then who can Spirit; and not the procuring have the conscience to plead ina- cause of the operations of the Holy bility? It is a plea of perfect inno- Spirit. “Now the fruit of the
“ cence; it is an impeachment of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long, divine character. ' Hard, indeed, suffering, gentleness, goodness,
, , must have been the condition of faith.” Surely, the matter is plain, salvation, if sinners had laboured, that sinners do not, in their unreapd do still labour, under a natur- 1 generacy, ask, seek, and knock,
in a manner acceptable to God.
Never, unless God make Regeneration is not the effect, but them willing, in the day of his the cause of all those exercises and power, will they ask, or seek, or practices, which are connected knock for admission into the king
, with salvation. All depend on di- dom of heaven. The door of mervine power, and grace.' Speaking cy is open; a great feast is providof the accession of the Gentiles to ed; the invitation is given; and all the church of Christ, the Lord things are now ready. But, with says, “ I was found of them that one consent, all begin to make exsought me not, I was made mani- cuse. They persevere in their sest unto them that asked not after excuses, till it becomes evident, me.” The same sentiment is ex- that they will not come unto Christ, pressed in these words, being the that they may have life. But the
. language of the saints: “Surely, difficulty exists, only in the will after 1 was turned, I repented, and or heart: and this renders all sinafter that I was instructed,” i. e. ners wholly inexcusable. But it spiritually taught, “ I smote upon is a difficulty, which none will my thigh,” in token of contrition. surmount, by any means, short of Speaking of the restoration of Is- the efficacious grace of God. Of rael, God says, “I will sprinkle course it depends on the sovereign
, clean water upon you, and you power
grace of God to decide shall be clean. From all your
their final and eternal state. filthiness, and from all your idols Finally. It becomes all the imwill I cleanse you.
A A new heart penitent to realize, that they stand also will I give you, and a new on a most critical and precarious Spirit will I put within you.” This foundation. They are ready to is regeneration: and what is the perish in their sins, and have no fruit? what are the effects? It is heart to do any thing that is calcuadded, “ Then shall ye remember lated to better their coridition. your own evil ways, and your do- They will not ask, nor seek salvaings which were not good; and tion with candid and honest hearts. shall loathe yourselves in your own They will not knock at the door sight, for your iniquities and for your of niercy, though it opens wide to abominations." These
receive them. This is the deplorfruits of the special, renewing grace able state of impenitent sinners: of God; and not the effects of mere and a feeling sense of their state selfish seeking of salvation. Thus and character, is essential to their it appears, that divine influence and deliverance from deserved ruin. divine agency go before all the do- It is essential, because God has ings of those who faithfully seek made it so. He generally causes the kingdom of God. According conviction to precede conversion. ly the apostle exhorts “ Work out where a deep conviction of sin your own salvation with fear and takes hold of the conscience, a trembling; for it is God who work- hope is excited, that God is preeth in you both to will, and to do, paring the way for the bestowment of his own good pleasure.” The of the riches of his grace. But if effects of regeneration are great not, then the way is preparing for and glorious; but without these, or an aggravated condemnation; and without a new heart, we may ask, their case is almost hopeless. For, seek and knock in vain.
" he that being often reproved, III. The subject establishes the hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly point, that sinners are dependant be destroyed, and that without on the mere distinguishing grace remedy." Amen. of God, to decide their final desti
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