ence and true piety; nevertheless, the Holy Spirit renders the one subservient to the production and advancement of the other.

Moreover, the Spirit of God operates during a revival to bring into exercise a far more vigorous and efficient human instrumentality, than on ordinary occasions. He impresses ministers more deeply with their responsibility, causing them to bring home the truth to the consciences of their hearers with unwonted earnestness. He renders Christians more circumspect, more active, more earnest in prayer, more ready to warn the sinner of his wicked way, more desirous of abounding in all respects in the work of the Lord. In short, he causes the whole system of means to be wielded with a greatly increased energy. The truth of God bursts forth upon the conscience of the sinner on every side ; and the reason is that God is making his ministers and his people feel their responsibility, by impressing them more deeply with their obligations to Christ, and by carry ing them forward to the solemnities of the judgment day.

With two inferences we shall conclude the discourse.

1. We may see, in view of our subject, that it is possible to attribute to the Spirit too little agency, and too much, in revivals of religion.

There are those, on the one hand, who attribute too little to this Almighty Agent. They do this by the manner in which they speak of revivals—as if they were produced altogether by man; and if the Spirit is mentioned at all, it is in a way that would indicate that we had little to do with it. They do this by the measures which they adopt in carrying forward revivals; substituting 'human inventions for divinely appointed means; and urging the doctrine of moral agency not in connection with that of a divine influence, but in a great degree to the exclusion of it. On the other hand, there are those who attribute too much

to the agency of the Spirit. They do this who speak of revivals, as if God only was at work in them, and man a mere passive recipient of impressions. They do this who do not exert themselves to the utmost to co-operate with God, on the ground that a revival is a mere matter of sovereignty, and that God is able to carry forward his own work independently of means. They do this also who speak of every thing that may happen to be connected with a revival as the immediate effect of divine influence; -who set down to the account of the Holy Spirit peculiar tones of voice, and expressions of countenance, and violent gestures, which are supposed to indicate deep and strong feeling; and any thing that is harsh, or boisterous, or in any respect irregular, even though it may seem to be associated with the greatest imaginable fervor. These things no doubt may all exist in connection with a true revival; but they are the work of men-not the work of God.

The two evils of which I have spoken may possibly coexist in respect to the same persons; that is, the same in. dividuals may attribute too much to the Spirit in some respects, and too little in others. His agency in carrying forward the great work may practically be recognised but little; and yet he may be familiarly spoken of as being present in particular scenes, and as prompting to particular actions, which he could not fail to disown. Brethren, we honor the Holy Spirit most, when we give him precisely the place which he claims; when we recognise him as the efficient author of conviction, conversion, and sanctification; but he is offended when we undertake to palm upon him what we ought to take with shame to ourselves.

2. Our subject teaches us that if we would labor successfully in the cause of revivals, we must labor with a spirit of dependence on God.

This is the spirit that is most likely to bring success to

our labors, because it is most likely to render us active and faithful. He who depends upon his own strength, has but a feeble motive to exertion; for his strength is but weakness; and when viewed in relation to the object to be accomplished the conversion of the soul-it is the weakness of an infant. But he who depends on God has the most powerful motive for action that can be presented; for he realizes that the almighty and everlasting arm is round about him in his work; and this is the only pledge of success that he needs. With this encouragement he is prepared to labor vigorously and perseveringly; to labor in the face of appalling obstacles; to labor even in the darkest times; for he knows that God's grace is sufficient to render the feeblest of his efforts mighty to the pulling down of strong holds:

Besides, it is a spirit of dependence that honors God. In it there is a practical acknowledgment of our own weakness, and of his greatness and goodness, of his ability and readiness to help. In the exercise of it, man sinks down before the throne as nothing, and with the confidence of a child, lifts up his heart to God as all in all. And them that honor him in the exercise of this spirit, he will honor by sending down in answer to their prayers the blessings of his grace.

And on this subject I appeal with confidence to facts. Wherever God's people have been truly humbled before him, and have been brought deeply to feel their own impotence, and have been willing to be used as mere instruments, and to let him have all the glory, there


will find that a rich blessing has usually been bestowed ; and on the other hand, where they have had little sense of their need of divine influence, and have addressed themselves to their work with a spirit of self-confidence, however diligently they may have labored, they have ordinarily been compelled to witness barrenness and lethargy in the train of their

efforts; or, if there has been the appearance of a revival, there is much reason to apprehend that there is in it little of the presence or power of God.

What then, Christians, is the great practical inference which you ought to deduce in respect to yourselves ? : It is that in all your labors for the revival of God's work in the midst of you, or for the promotion of the general cause of revivals, you should feel more deeply that the Lord Jehovah is your strength. Every effort that you make in the spirit of self-confidence, is an insult to the Holy Ghost. Go forth then, leaning upon the Almighty arm. Go and do your duty to each other and to the world ; go and instruct the ignorant, and guide the inquiring, and put forth every

effort you can to bring souls to Jesus ; but remember after all, and remember for your rich encouragement, the doctrine of sovereign grace. Yes, even in the moments when you feel the weakest, and when your work seems the greatest, and when obstacles the most appalling rise up in your path, and when your heart is driven from every other source of hope, even then, remember the doctrine of sovereign grace, and hold on your way laboring, yet rejoicing





--Striving together for the faith of the gospel.

The Apostle uniformly manifested a cordial regard and complacency towards all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ. But there were reasons why the Philippian Christians occupied a higher place in his affections than many others. It was through his instrumentality that they had been converted to the faith of the gospel. They had manifested a faithful adherence to their principles in the midst of much opposition. They seem moreover to have given some special evidences of sympathy and attachment towards him, during his imprisonment at Rome-such as became the relation they sustained to 'him as his own children in the gospel. Hence it is not strange that he should have honored them with an epistle ; or that it should have been characterized by expressions of most affectionate regard, and of the deepest concern for their spiritual welfare. At the date of the epistle, he was still confined in prison; and it does not appear that the time of his release was then fixed: hence, in exhorting them to fidelity and perseverance, he alludes to the fact that he might or might not make them a visit; but in either case, he earnestly desires that they may continue steadfastly engaged in the cause to which they were devoted. Only let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come

« VorigeDoorgaan »