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Free Agency of Man
By W. B. Johnson
First President of the SBC
     As a free agent, man has life and death set before him, with the liberty of choosing the one, and rejecting the other. As a fallen creature, he is an enemy to God, and without the provision of mercy in his Son, would for ever remain such. Descending to the abode of the devil and his angels, as a company of kindred spirits, he would for ever unite with them in their unhallowed opposition to their common Creator. Mutual crimination and joint blasphemy against their Maker, would render them as miserable as their capacity would admit. But now, the announcement of pardon and restoration invites him to return. "Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price."

     As moral agents, for whom there is hope, I call upon you, then, fellow-sinners, to turn to the Lord; for thus saith the Lord, "Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" Your God commands, invites, entreats.

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Open your ears, and hear the word of this salvation which is sent unto you - "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." As disobedient subjects, as prodigal sons, come back. Your Sovereign is ready to receive you - your father's arms and house are open to embrace and entertain you. Come, then, the fatted calf shall be killed for you, the best robe shall be put upon you, joy and gladness shall thrill through your ransomed, heaven-born souls. The church on earth shall rejoice. Attending angels shall bear the tidings to the throne of the Eternal, and the holy company of cherubim and seraphim in his presence, shall make all heaven resound with hallelujahs of praise to God and the Lamb.

     But if ye refuse the invitations of love and mercy, and will not have the man Christ Jesus to reign over you, if ye will continue in sin, ye must receive its wages - death - eternal death. You must see that man Christ Jesus on the judgment-seat, and hear from his sacred lips the sentence - "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." But you will be your own destroyer; the Judge will only, as the organ of insulted justice and violated law, pronounce the sentence which you will have drawn down on your own head.

     Now, now, O fellow-sinners, you have it in your power to place yourselves under influences that are spiritual and saving; or under influences that are carnal and damning. You can read the Bible, or the book of infidelity; the sermon of truth, or the novel of fiction; you can attend the party of sinful pleasure, or the meeting for holy prayer; you can go to the midnight revel, or to the house of God. You can lift up the prayer of the publican, or the howl of the bacchanal. You can utter the praise of the Most High, or belch out the blasphemy of the arch-fiend. How solemn the responsibilities that are upon you! Under

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what awful accountability does your free agency place you! The freedom to choose is the freedom to reject. O, exercise this freedom aright! Pause, consider your latter end. "Choose you this day whom you will serve. If the Lord be God, serve him; if Baal, follow him." Difficulties attend the decision. For their removal, search the Scriptures, implore the teaching of that Holy Spirit, whom God will give to all who ask for him in sincerity. And O, may He enlighten the eyes of your understanding, and give you to see Christ in the Scriptures as your "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."

Joseph Belcher, editor, The Baptist Pulpit of the United States: Eloquent and Instructive Passages ..., 1850, pp. 125-127. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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