Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

even to prevent the legitimate effect of those he has attempted to enforce.

There is also an unnatural mixing up of human wisdom with God's word, which, so far as it has any effect, must be unfriendly to the influence of divine truth. Let the naked sword of the Spirit be brought home to the consciences of men, and the effect of it must and will be felt, and the anxious inquiry will be heard, and sinners, in all probability, will be renewed. But let the wire-drawn theories of metaphysicians be substituted in place of the simple truth ; or even let the genuine doctrines of the gospel be customarily exhibited in connection with the refined špeculations of human philosophy; and though I dare not say that God in his sovereignty - may not bless the truth which is actually preached, yet I may say with confidence that but little effect can be reasonably expected from such a dispensation of the word. And the reasons are obvious; for God has promised to bless nothing but his own truth; and the refinements of philosophy are to the mass of hearers quite unintelligible.

I may add that a want of directness in the manner of preaching the gospel, may prevent it from taking effect on the consciences and hearts of men. It is only when men are made to feel that the gospel comes home to their individual case, that they are themselves the sinners whom it describes, and that they need the blessings which it offers, -it is only then, I say, that they hear it to any important purpose. Suppose that its doctrines, instead of being exhibited in their practical bearings, and enforced by strong appeals to the conscience, are discussed merely as abstract propositions, and with no direct application, the consequence will be that, though the great truths of the Bible may be presented before the mind, yet they will rarely, if ever, sink into the heart. Sinners will hear them, and instead of

realizing that they involve their immortal interests, will probably be as indifferent, as if they were matters of idle speculation. So it has been in a multitude of instances ; and so, from the very nature of man, it must continue to be.

I might mention also, as another important hindrance to a revival, the want of a simple dependence on God; but as this will come up in another form in a subsequent discourse, I shall waive, for the present, a distinct consideration of it.

In closing this view which we have taken of the obstacles to a revival of religion, I know not, my Christian brethren, how we can use the subject in a single word, to better purpose, than to gather from it a deeper impression of our own responsibility.-Christians, ye who profess to desire a revival of religion, and to make this a commanding subject of your prayers, let me ask whether, in view of what you have now heard, you have no reason to fear that you may yourselves be standing in the way of the bestowment of the very blessing for which you profess to plead. The great obstacles to the revival of God's work are no doubt to be sought in the church : what these obstacles are, at least some of the more prominent of them, you have now heard ; and I appeal to each of your consciences, as in the presence of the Searcher of the heart, whether the guilt of hindering God's work, in some or other of these ways, does not lie at your door? Wherefore is it that the Holy Spirit is not now as manifestly in the midst of us, by his awakening and converting influences, as he has been in other days? Is it not because you have relapsed in some measure into a habit of worldliness ; or because you value the blessing less; or because you are less united and vigorous in your efforts to obtain it? Or is it for any other of the reasons which have now been spread before you ? Christians, awake, one and all, to a deeper sense of your respon.

cver.

sibility. Let it not be told in heaven that God's people on earth are opposing obstacles to the salvation of perishing men. In doing this, ye parents, ye may be keeping your own children out of heaven. In doing this, ye who have unconverted friends sustaining to you the tenderest earthly relations, you may be assisting to fix their doom in wo for

In doing this, ye Christians of every class and of every condition, you are opposing the interests of God's holy kingdom, opposing the design of the Saviour's death, opposing the salvation of immortal souls. But do this, and think what you are doing. It must be that you are acting incautiously. Awake then to solemn reflection. Awake to earnest prayer. Awake to faithful and persevering action. Else there may be sinners who will greet you at the last day, as the stumbling blocks over which they fell into eternal perdition.

you cannot

9*

LECTURE I V.

DIVINE AGENCY IN REVIVALS,

HABAKKUK iii. 2.

O Lord, revive thy work.

There are few, if any, who acknowledge the existence of a God, but will be ready to admit that he has some kind of agency in the government of the world. What the precise nature or extent of this agency is, however, it were rash even to attempt to determine. Part of it is direct; but much the greater part of it, at least so far as we are concerned, is mediate; and it is not easy for us accurately to draw the line between the one and the other. Besides, he has created a vast multitude of agents, and moral agents; but though he has given them the power of action, he has not made them independent beings; though they act with perfect freedom, yet he acts in them and by them. Is not every man in this respect à mystery to himself? Who will venture to determine, in reference to his own conduct precisely the measure of influence that is exerted upon him by that Almighty agent, in whom are all the springs, not only of physical, but intellectual and moral being ?

As it is admitted by all except the downright atheist that God has some kind of agency in the government of the world, while yet there is much in respect to the nature and extent of that agency which we cannot understand, so also it is admitted by all Christians that he exerts an in

[ocr errors]

fluence in the sanctification of men, though they do not pretend exactly to define the character of that influence. On the same general principle, those who believe in revivals of religion, believe that God is the grand agent in producing them; though they are well aware that here, as in other departments of his agency, he “moves in a mysterious way;" and that this is no field for a roving fancy or rash speculation. Something however may be known on this subject from God's word; and on a matter of such deep and awful' concern, while we are to take heed that we keep fairly within our own province, it surely becomes us to gather up with devout attention even the most obscure of the divine intimations. I design therefore in this discourse, to bring this subject before you ; and keeping an eye on the law and the testimony in connection with the unequivocal dictates of experience, reverently to inquire respecting THE AGENCY OF God in revivals of religion. The passage which I have read to you, taken from the prayer of Habakkuk, may be a fit introduction to this subject, for though the petition is made up of five words "O Lord, revive thy work”-it recognises the fact of God's agency in a revival in two different ways:-it declares tha: the work is God's; and it is the direct expression of a desire that he would revive it..

This agency may be advantageously considered under two distinct heads :

I. The agency of Providence.
II. The agency of the Spirit.

I. Of Providence. It is one of the most simple deductions from the perfections of God, that he orders all things according to the counsel of his own will; in other words, that he has a plan which includes all events; which extends even to the numbering of hairs and the falling of sparrows. Of course, nothing ever occurs to an individual,

« VorigeDoorgaan »