Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

say, it'ho hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord retealed? The labours of the Apostles, accompanied with the promised and full effusion of the Holy Spirit, were largely blessed; but in some instances that was withheld, and then even their sermons seemed only to harden and enrage those to whom they were addressed. These things may shew us the insufficiency of human agency without the grace of God.

Human agents cannot of themselves EDIF THOSE WHO ARE CONVERTED, or carry on the work of divine graee. Ven still retain, when converted, a carnal nature; and though that be mortified, and brought under by a divine counteracting power, yet there are strong remains of it, and it is still enmity against God; and fresh supplies of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (Phil. i, 19.) day by day, can alone enable us to vanquish and overcome our corruption. Without me, says the onlywise Lord, whatever man may say, without me, ye can do nothing. The Apostle excludes both minister and people from all share in imparting or procuring spiritual good. Il'e are not sufficient, says the holy Panl, to think any thing as of ourselves--Meither is he {hat watereth any thing.

Success in hearing, and growth in grace, do not primarily depend on the ministry. Who more able, or wise, or holy, than Paul? who more eloquent or mighty in the Scriptures, than Apollos? But Paul plants, and Apollos waters in vain, except as God giveth the increase. 1 Cor. iii, 4-7. In the largest success which the Gospel ever had, preached by the Apostles or any others, though multitudes received the Gospel, we never find that all who heard believed and were converted.

These and other similar passages respecting divine teaching, cannot be referred merely (as Socinians endeavour to do) to an outward Revelation. This will be evident, not only from what has already been mentioned, but also from the prayers for those, and the prayers of those, in possession of the Holy Scriptures. The prayer of the Apostle for the Ephesians (chap. i, and iii.) clearly shews that more is needed than the outward Revelation which they at that time had. As it has been remarked, “ If God gave spiritual knowledge no other way than by his providence, affording outward means, men ought not to pray for light from God after once they get the Gospel; for the prayer in that case would be for new revelations of truths not contained in the word of God, the scope of which is enthusiasm and delusion." Prayers in the Scriptures for divine teaching, by men already possessing the Scriptures, and the promises of guidance and teaching to particular characters, (Ps. xxv, 9; Prov. iii, 6.) the mere outward Scripture being possessed by all men of every character, shew the same need of inward divine teaching True it is, the outward revelation is full of light and truth: true it is we have natural understanding and capacity to comprehend what it reveals. It is not from any defect in the Bible, or in our natural powers, that we insist on the necessity of having the Holy Spirit; but it is because of our evil heart of unbelief.

The learning, and human qualifications of the hearer are not the true spring of improvement. The Apostle says, (1 Cor. i, 26.) Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Nor does a growing improvement of the word depend on man's natural goodness, nor on any natural power or effort in man: it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God that sheweth

mercy.

Well it is that it does not depend on us; every experienced Christian heartily concurs in the sentiment of the Apostle, In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. We have no naturally holy dispositions, inducing us to love divine truth, and embrace it, and duly improve it. Those dispositions by which we do so, come from the special grace and

mercy

of God. How humbling is this doctrine; and yet it is the very groundwork of all true faith, repentance, humility, hope, love, and happiness!

If it be objected against such a statement that its tendency is to produce indolence and despondency-that it leads to a disregard and neglect of human instruments and efforts - we reply, By no means. And the very figure by which the Holy Scripture illustrates the doctrine, furnishes a sufficient answer to such an objection. Shall the husbandman vever plough, nor harrow, nor sow, because he cannot make the seed shoot, and grow, and spring up, nor command the sun to shine, nor cause the rain to descend? Shall the gardener never plant, because he cannot make his plant take root and flourish, and bear fruit, without the heavenly influence? He uses the means, and God gives the blessing. Let us do the same thing, and we shall as surely receive a blessing. It has been well observed, “ The seaman knows that he cannot sail without wind, and the wind is not in his power, nor in the power of a creature; yet though it is not in his power to command a favourable gale when he pleases, he does not therefore neglect every thing concerning his ship; he fits it out, and makes preparation, till thut wind, which depends upon the power

of the Creator, come.” Faith comes by hearing; that is the divinely-appointed method for conversion and growth in grace. Where preaching is

fany

neglected and despised, there religion does not flourish. Where Christ is proclaimed to attentive bearers, there, invariably, a blessing follows. The word does not return void, but prospers in the thing whereto God sends it. We speak of preaching and hearing, not only because this is the subject of the Treatise, but because it is God's great ordinance for this end; for though the statement of divine truth be so plain and simple in the Scriptures, that a wayfaring man need not err therein; yet through our corruption we disregard the sacred truth when hid in a book. The blazing torch of Revelation must be lifted up, that every eye may behold it. We need the continual and powerful ministry of the word to awaken and excite our attention, to instruct and inform our minds, and to press home on our cousciences the lessons which God has given us. Should

any

still ask, What is the use of directions ? or, Why should we be exhorted to duty? We reply with Maclaurin, “Exhortations shew us our weakness, our duty, and our danger. They shew us what God approves, hates, or desires; and what is necessary to salvation, The corruption of man's nature would never have appeared to be so evil as it is, if it were not for the offers of God's grace. Were it not that experience proves it, men might be ready to think that it is impossible wicked corrupt creatures, shortly to die, shortly to receive a sentence to endless misery, would refuse or despise the offers of reconciliation.”

Should any go so far as to ridicule all expectations of divine grace as foily or enthusiasm, let them remember, that they do in fact ridicule all prayer and worship of God, and all religious services. There are persons who make a conscience of outward worship, and yet laugh at the very meaning of the prayers which they

offer. In truth, as it has been observed, “they mock God when they pray to him to make them holy: for if there be not a divine operation on the soul of a sinner to give just and holy inclinations, it is a mocking God to seek these things from him, to pray to him, to niortify our sins, and to cleanse our hearts, or to praise him.”

But if any reader have entertained the objection that this doctrine fosters indolence, we would ask, May not this lead you to detect the real state of your own mind? You have seen how the husbandman and the gardener act, and how the general conduct of men in temporal matters meets the difficulty; is not then the attaching any weight to such a difficulty an indication of a want of real concern for your spirtual interests? Are you as willing to receive divine truth, as really desirous of spiritual good, as thoroughly disposed to use means for the advancement of your eternal, as they are for that of their earthly concerns?

But, though the insufficiency of man's teaching should not lead us to disregard and neglect the ministry, it should teach us not to overvalue human instruments, or set one against another. The Apostle had to reprove this fault-IVhile one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal? This is an error into which even good men are apt to fall. Mr. Cecil remarks, “I once said to myself, in the foolishness of my heart, “What sort of sermon must that have been which was preached by St. Peter, when three thousand souls were converted at once ?' What sort of serinon ? such as other sermons ! There is nothing to be found in it extraordinary. The effect was not produced by his eloquence, but by the mighty power of God present with his word. It is in vain to. aitend one minister

« VorigeDoorgaan »