William Bradford Institute
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Early Settlement of America

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Awakening Truths Tending to Conversion


Increase Mather 1710


PREDESTINATION AND HUMAN EXERTION

THERE are some Sinners so unreasonable, and so wicked. Ask them why they don't
reform their Lives, why don't you turn over a new leaf, and amend your ways and
your doings, they will answer, God does not give me Grace. I can't Convert
myself, and God does not Convert me. Thus do they insinuate as if God were in
fault, and the blame of their Unconversion to be imputed unto him. But as Elihu
speaks, Suffer me a little, and I will shew you what I have yet to say on God's
behalf.

1. I say, God is not bound to give Sinners Grace: He is an absolute Sovereign,
and may give Grace or deny Grace to whom he pleaseth. Shall the thing formed,
say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? has not the Potter power
over the Clay, to make one vessel unto honour, and another to dishonour? The
glorious God has a greater power over his Creatures, than the Potter has over
the Clay. Wherefore, He has Mercy on whom He will have Mercy, and whom He will
He hardens, Rom. 9.18. If He giveth Grace to any man in the World, it is from
His Sovereign good pleasure. Why were such poor Fishermen as Peter, and James,
and John and others, as mean as they, made the Subjects of Saving Grace, when
many incomparably beyond them in Learning and Wisdom, have been left to perish
in their unbelief? Even so, because so it has seemed good in the sight of Him,
who is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, Math. II - 25, 26. Grace is a wonderful
gift of God. Sinners are enemies to him, and Rebels against him: Is He bound to
bestow such a gift on his Enemies, when it may be too they will not so much as
humbly Pray unto him for it[?] Indeed He sometimes has done so. Sinners that
never Prayed to him, that never had one thought in their hearts of returning to
him, he has miraculously Prevented them with Sovereign Grace. So it was with the
Converted Gentiles. Of them the Lord sayes, I am sought of them that asked not
for me, I am found of them that sought me not, I said, behold me, behold me to a
Nation that was not called by my Name, Isa. 69.1. Nay, sometimes when Sinners
have been in the height of their Resistance and Rebellion, to shew the exceeding
Riches of his Grace, God has then Converted them. Thus it was with Saul
afterwards Paul, when he was breathing out Slaughters against the Disciples of
the Lord, then did God give him Faith in Christ, without his Praying for it.
Thus also those Converts in the Second Chapter of the Acts. Not many days before
their Conversion they had been Murdering the Son of God. And just before the
Sermon began they were mocking of the Preacher, and yet Converted by that
Sermon. Such Instances there have been known in the World, of men that have come
to hear a Sermon only to deride it, and yet have been Savingly wrought upon by
it. A credible Author reports, that two profane men drinking together, knowing
that Mr. Hooker was to Preach, one of them said to the other, Let us go hear
how Hooker will baul, yet was he Converted by that very Sermon, which he went to
hear with a Scornful Spirit. And after that had such a love for Mr. Hooker, as
to remove three thousand Miles, that so he might live under his Ministry. Such
Examples are wonderful Evidences of Sovereign Grace.

2. Altho' it is true, (as has been shewed) that Sinners cannot Convert
themselves, their Cannot is a wilful Cannot. Math. 22.2. They will not come. It
is not said they could not (tho' they could not of themselves come to Christ)
but that they would not come. If it were in the power of a Sinner to Convert
himself, he would not do it: For he hates Conversion. It is abomination to
fools to depart from evil, Prov. 13.19 Thou hatest instruction. If they hate to
be Converted they will no chuse it. Prov. 1. 29. They hated knowledge, and did
not chuse the fear of the Lord. Their hearts are in Love, and in League with
their Lusts, yea they hate to be turned from them: They love darkness rather
than light, they hate the light, neither come they to the light, John 3:19.
Sinners are haters of God: they say and think that they love him, but the Lord
knows that they hate him, and therefore they will not repent of their Sins, and
believe on Christ. Christ said to the Jews, you will not come to me that you
might have Life, Joh. 5: 40. No, they would dy first. And why would they not
come? The reason of their Aversion is mentioned in v. 42- I know you, that you
have not the Love of God in you. Their camal unregenerate Minds were full of
enmity against God, and therefore they would not come to Jesus Christ the Son of
God. They cannot Convert themselves, and they are not willing that God should
Convert them. If Sinners were willing to have Grace and Holiness, why do they
not repair to him for it, who alone can give it to them? An hungry man is
willing to have bread, therefore he will seek after it, where ever it is to be
had. When the Egyptians were hunger bitten, they went to Pharaoh, crying for
bread, he bid them go to Joseph, and they did so. Thus if Sinners were willing
to be Converted, they would cry to God to turn them: whereas there are many
Sinners that did never put up one earnest Prayer to God in their Lives, that he
would bestow Converting Grace on them.

3. Sinners can do more towards their own Conversion than they do or will do.
They should give diligence to make sure of their being effectually called. They
should stnve to enter in at the strait gate. Conversion is the strait gate that
leadeth unto Salvation. They should Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but
for that which endureth to Everlasting Life: but they do not give diligence,
they do not strive, they do not Labour to obtain Grace and Salvation: Therefore
they perish, and perish justly. Prov. 21. 2,5. The desire of the slothful
kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. Men say that they desire Grace, and
yet their hands refuse to Labour, they will be at no pains to obtain it: And
this slothfulness kills them. It proves the death of their Souls. The Soul of
the sluggard desireth and has nothing, but the Soul of the diligent shall be
made fat, Prov. 13.4. There are several things which Sinners have power to do in
order to their own Conversion, & which they ought to do, but they will not.
(i) They have power to avoid th things which are an hindrance of Conversion.
e.g. They can if they will forbear the outward Acts of sin. By giving way to sin
their hearts are hardned, and their Conversion becomes the more difficult. Heb.
3.13. Take heed lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
But Sinners give way to many sins which they could abstain from, if they would.
A Sabbathbreaker can forbear his profaning of the Sabbath. An ungodly Swearer
can forbear his profane Oathes, if he will. A Lyar can forbear telling such
Lyes. Sinners can avoid the Temptations which will endanger their falling into
sin. He that knows that if he goeth to such a place, or into such a company, he
will probably be drawn into sin, ought to avoid the Temptation. Prov. 4.15.
Avoid it, turn ftom it, and pass away. The Sinner can do so if he will, but he
will not keep out of the way of Temptation. A drunkard will not avoid the
Temptation to that his sin. Prov. 23.3I. Look not on the Wine when it giveth
his colour. He can chuse whether he will look on the wine or no: he has power
to refrain, but will not. Thus men by habituating themselves to sin, do what in
them is to hinder their own Conversion. Jer. I3. 23- Can the Ethiopian change
his skin, or the Leopard his Spots? then may you also do good that are
accustomed to do evil. Again, Evil Companions hinder Conversion. Alas! Alas!
Alas! there have been the Eternal ruin of many a Young Man, that was in an
hopeful way for Conversion: He has fallen in with vain Companions, they have
given him bad Counsel, so have Convictions been stifled, and the motions of Gods
holy Spirit quenched in his Soul. The word of the Lord sayes, Forsake the
foolish & Live, Prov. 9.6. The Sinner has power to forsake them, but he will not
tho' he dies for it.

(ii) Sinners have power to wait on God in the use of means which has a
tendency to promote Conversion. They can if they will, not only forsake evil
Companions, but associate themselves with those that are good: Then are they in
the way of Conversion. Prov. 13.20He that walketh with wise men shall be wise,
but a Companion of fools shall be destroyed. That Learned & Holy Man Dr.
Goodwin in the account which he giveth of his Conversion, declares, That when
he was a Young Schollar in the University of Cambridge, there were in that
College, which he belonged unto, a Number of holy Youth's (that's his
Expression) his associating himself with them was an happy means of furthering
the work of Conversion in his Soul. This Unconverted Sinners have power to do.
Their feet are as able to carry them to a godly Meeting as to an ungodly one.
Reading the Scripture has sometimes been the Means of Conversion. I could tell
you of several Learned Jews that were Converted from their Judaism by Reading
the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah. The famous Fr. Junius, was Converted from his
Atheism reading the first Chapter of John's Gospel. He that can read is able to
read the Scripture, and Books which promote Godliness in the power of it, but a
Sinful Creature chuseth rather to mispend his Time in reading vain Romances, or
it may be worse Books. A diligent attendance to the Word of God is the way to
obtain Converting Grace. Rom. 10.17. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the
Word of God. Sinners many Times do not mind what they hear. Nay, it may be they
will Set themselves to sleep when God is speaking to them by his Minister? And
shall they then complain, that they cannot Convert themselves, & that God will
not Convert them? Once more, Serious thinking & Consideration on Spiritual and
Eternal things is oftentimes blessed unto Conversion. This is what God has
given men power to do, if they will use that power. They ought seriously to
think what they have done, and what they are, and what their end is like to be.
If they would do so, it may be Repentance would be the effect of it. I King.
8.47. If theyshall bethink themselves, and Repent, and make Supplication. David
sayes, I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy Testimonies, Psal. i i
9. 59. If men would be Perswaded to think seriously, it may be they would Turn.
How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? A Sinner will suffer vain
thoughts to lodge within him, but serious & holy thoughts he will give no
lodging unto, he will not suffer them to abide in his heart. Serious
Consideration is a duty incumbent on Sinners. Hag. 1.5. Thus sayes the Lord of
hosts, Consider your ways. Would the Unconverted Sinner, consider sadly what his
Sinful wayes have been, what numberless sins he has been guilty of, and what a
fountain of sin his heart is, and whither he is going, it may be Conversion
would follow upon such serious consideration. Ezek. 18.28 Because he
considereth and turns away from all his Transgressions. Yes, if he is set upon
Considering, there is great hopes that he will Turn, and that he shall live, and
not dye. If he will be perswaded to go alone, to think and consider sadly with
himself, What is my present Condition? Am I in Christ, or am I not in Christ? If
I should dy this Night, What would become of my Soul? In what World must it be
to all Eternity. It may be such considerations would issue in Conversion.
Sinners should consider of Death, that the thing is certain, and the Time
uncertain, and that they run an infinite hazzard if they neglect making sure of
an Interest in Christ one day longer. Deut. 32.29. O that they were wise, that
they would consider the latter end! And they should consider of the eternity
which follows immediately upon death. If they would do that, surely it would
affect their Souls. A late Writer (which I have formerly mentioned) speaks of a
pious man, that One in Company with him observing a more than ordinary fixedness
and concern in his Countenance, asked him, What his thoughts were upon, he then
thereupon uttered that Word For-ever, and so continued saying nothing but
repeating that Word, For-ever! For-ever! For-ever! a quarter of an hour
together. His Thoughts and Soul was swallowed up with the consideration of
ETERNITY. And truly if an Unconverted Sinner would be perswaded to go alone and
think seriously of Eternity, if it were but for one quarter of an hour, it may
be it would have an Everlasting Impression on his heart. This Sinners can do if
they will: And if they will not do as much as this comes to, towards their own
Conversion and Salvation, how inexcusable will they be? Their blood will be upon
their own heads. Let them no more say, God must do all, we can do nothing, and
so encourage themselves to Live in a careless neglect of God, and of their own
Souls, and Salvation. Most certainly, altho' we cannot say, That if men improve
their Natural abilities as they ought to do, that Grace will infallibly follow,
yet there will not one Sinner in all the Reprobate World, stand forth at the day
of judgment, and say, Lord, Thou knowest I did all that possibly I could do, for
the obtaining Grace, and for all that, Thou didst withhold it from me.


 

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