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kingdom of Heaven, surely the former serm. must be admitted to have some share in XIII. securing our admission; and the share they have in this might really be rendered as intelligible as possible if men would but be content not to run to extremes. If good works do something towards our salvation, is it necessary to insist that this cannot be, unless they do all ? So, if the grace of God is represented as indispensably necessary, must this imply that man is quite excluded from any co-operation? Let us recur for a moment to the comparison of my text, “ The fruit declareth if the ** tree bave been dressed."
Isit not certain that the fruits of the earth are improvable by the labour, care, and attention of the husbandman ? Is it not certain that what is placed in such circumstances by the providence of God, as to be productive and profitable through care and good management, may, through mismanagement and neglect, become wholly useless and unproductive ? Shall we be so absurd as to say, that because the seed could seus
SERM. not grow, nor the fruit come to maturity, 11. without God had provided for such a cir
culation of juices and conversion of substances as should conduce thereto, that therefore the care of the husbandman was wholly superseded, and of no account at all? If it pleased God, he could make the corn to grow as freely as the sterile weed, or he could make the sterile weed as serviceable and as precious as the corn ; but even in these things he has made a difference, and seems of his especial grace and goodness not only to have permitted, but to have invited man to co-operate with him in his acts of Providence: nevertheless the comparison we ought to make even in these subordinate concerns, should serve to repress all improper arrogance, and all pretence of self-sufficiency. For what after all is the labour we bestow, to the operations of nature, ever fulfilling the designs of God? We can dress the tree, and manure the field, and reasonably look to some good effects to flow from such attentions ; but who but God can give any real effect to such operations ? who but God could
ordain that such cares should meliorate the SERM. soil, or improve the fruit, by an introduc- XIII. tion of fresh juices? Here God may surely be said to do all in some sense, because, without his providential pre-disposition of circumstances, all we could do would avail nothing ; but yet man does something, because, without dressing the tree, or manuring the field, though we can never oppose the course of God's providence, or alter the plan and purpose of his laws; yet we may put ourselves in the way of receiving more abundant benefits therefrom. Though, as the Apostle argues, 1 Cor. iii. when - Paul” had “planted,” and “ Apollos “ watered,” God only could “ give the in“ crease," and therefore the planting and watering were really of no effect without the further influence of God's grace; yet the planting of Paul, and the watering of Apollos, might be the occasion, and particular subject, of the divine interposition, and therefore necessary thereto as motives or conditions of God's own appointment. Can any thing be more express than the Apostle's own words ? ver. 7, Neither is
SERM. “ be that planteth any thing, nor he that waXlll. “ tereth; but God that giveth the increase ;"
but yet he adds, ver. 8, “ Every man shall “ receive his own reward according to his own “ labour;" not because his labour is meritorious independent of God's grace, but because, says he, “ we are labourers toge" ther with God.” The waters of Jordan were efficacious to the recovery of Naaman as a means sanctioned by God's especial appointment; as such they had a virtue peculiar to them; a positive virtue, however dependent on the grace of God, else as Naaman himself would have reasoned, why should not those of Abana and Pharpar, in hisown country of Damascus, have doneas well *? We are taught by the Holy Scriptures to look upon the labour to which man is doomed in the cultivation of his fields, to be a punishment for sin : it is strange then that
any should regard such endeavours as we make to “ work out our own salvation," as a presumption on our part, and hateful in the sight of God. The necessity of good
2 Kings v. 12.
works might stand upon its proper ground, serm. if, instead of considering them as necessary to our salvation in the way of merit, we should consider them as necessary, as a just acknowledgment of the corruption of our nature. And here also the analogy would hold good; for though labour be a curse, the Almighty still makes a distinction in the common course of his providence. The field of the slothful will never yield such an abundant crop as that of the frugal and industrious; and therefore let us rate the value of good works as low as we please ; yet that in the great business of our salvation, they may operate to our advantage, is consistent with what we daily see before our eyes, in the prosperous success of the diligent man, though labour was originally denounced as a curse. In short, let us only avoid extremes, and I think it is not possible to conceive that the Christian can hope to reap the blessed fruits of Christ's Gospel, without the recommendation of a good moral life. And whenever we see the course of God's Providence so changed, as that the possessions of the