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ferent to spiritual duties, ignorant of the interior world of their own bosoms, in the motives and principles by which they are actuated, and, apparently, as superior to the necessity of regeneration, or the duty of "striving to enter the strait gate" of the kingdom, as if an exemption in their case had been fully ascertained to them-an exemption from those eternal laws of the moral-mediatorial system to which the destinies of all other men are impartially subjected.
Think of such momentous spirit-stirring truth as the following-truth as intelligible as if it were not fundamental too: "The whole world lieth in wickedness; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness. He that believeth not shall be damned. Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; hell-fire, where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched. Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Repent and believe the gospel. God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Strive to enter by the narrow door. If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. For when they shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.'
In view of these everlasting and “true sayings of God," how can a man have
Sometimes, indeed, they fall, or falter, or deviate for a season; but the King's servants then go to them, rectify their progress, and, it may be, rebuke them for their errors. This, too, is a service of love and faithfulness not enjoyed by those who do not "enter at the strait gate." How much depends upon beginning right! For who hath ended right that began wrong? Once more, it is implied, or rather plainly affirmed,
3. That those who make no effort never enter; those who know no agony realize no relief; they never pass the threshold of salvation, never begin as they ought; their hope is delusion.
Let us here admit that experiences vary, both in degree and form, where they are genuine in the main; that some converts have more distress, or terror, or difficulty, or tardiness-some more agonizing than others in achieving an entrance; that some repent and believe the gospel almost instantaneously, while others loiter for years, and make doubting and hesitating a part of their religion at last; that decision and promptitude ought to characterize the action of Christians, and that no responsive obedience can coincide too absolutely with the orders of the Captain of salvation; that all preaching should correspond with that of inspiration inspiriting onward the reluctant piety of man; and that there is no necessity at all for shedding an ocean of tears, or undergoing an awful quarantine of convictions-that is, a process of disobedient horror and despondency, or of waiting for a miracle that will never be wrought, or of anticipating anything which God has neither required nor promised to confer. Still, is a man converted without an effort? Does he enter the gate without ever caring to strive, or making any sacrifices, or engaging in any systematic service, or honouring his moral responsibilities, or confessing Jesus Christ as his Lord and Redeemer, or exemplifying the spirit of decision, or renouncing the Pagan party of unbelief, and consorting with Christians, and yielding his social influence to the cause of the gospel? It is against two classes of respectable men that these interrogatories are urged,those whose serene and self-satisfied habits of ease, joined with what the world calls moral estimableness, make them entirely regardless, or utterly unassailable, or wholly impassive to the awakening influence of truth; and those whose active duties and business-like usefulness of conduct render them indif
piety with no experience; with no exertion; with no tension of mind after holiness; with no spiritual discernment; with no difference of views, or feelings, or motives towards God; without prayerfulness, without constancy in well-doing, without being born again? What is piety that is not experimental? that is not spiritual? that does not revolutionize the affections of the human bosom, from the creature to the Creator, from objects of sense to those of faith, from sin to holiness, and from earth to heaven? "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature; and as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."
From this general survey of the subject, it is our proper drift, and the scope of the whole, that every unconverted man whom we address should instantly commence this striving, and so prosecute it as to achieve an entrance at the strait gate; or, in other words, should immediately commence the business of religion, give his heart to its supreme pursuit, and become a lover and a servant of Jesus Christ.
THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN CONVERSION.
Ir this topic is important in an almost unparalleled degree, it is equally important to make no mistakes about its nature, and to practise no abuse of its requirements. If I mistake not, there is no doctrine of revelation that has been oftener or with equal impunity abused— if that soft reprehension may befit the rebuke of technical darkness, that has changed its character; of mechanicalizing and materializing doctrine, that has distorted its symmetry; of Antinomian indolence, that has separated it from its moral relations and its legitimate fruits; of philosophizing pride, that has rejected its truth or extenuated its importance; and of fanatical and visionary madness, that has perverted its excellence, detached it from all evidence, alienated it from the sanction of the written word of God, misrepresented Christianity and scandalized mankind respecting it, in the elevation of unfounded claims, the lawlessness of misguided fervours, and the abomination of spurious achievements. In a general way, the doctrine has often been injudiciously preached, invested with an air of mystery, and so disguised,
in its connection with the duty of the hearers, as almost, perhaps quite, nay, sometimes eminently, to justify and comfort their impenitence. With the Bible open, need we say that all such things are utterly diverse from the genuine "fruit of the Spirit," and obviously at war with the doctrine of the Spirit? As a rule of safety, we might say that dark points are to be postponed to clear ones; that obscurity is less to affect us than perspicuity, in the language of the sacred oracles; and that an undefinable influence, that contravenes in any way "the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth," is at best a mistake of the truth; and ought to be abandoned instantly and for
The influence of the Spirit, considered at large, is susceptible of a threefold classification; each department of which, though fundamental in the whole economy of God, is not equally, or in the same way, related to our duties: we may state them as the physical or providential, the extraordinary or miraculous, and the moral or Scriptural, departments -since, to our limited powers, a subject of any composition or abstruseness is best seen analytically, or in the successive examination of its parts; while, to the perfect vision of God alone, the reduction of integers to fractions is wholly unnecessary.
We begin with the moral and Scriptural department; that which chiefly or immediately concerns accountable men, and to which the others are happily subordinate. Here two rules may be sumed as our guides in the investigation: first, that the written truth of Scripture, inspired by the Spirit of God to that very end, is in our age the uniform instrument of his influence; and second, that his actual influence, at any given time and on any particular mind, is always as the truth of Scripture is correctly perceived, sincerely approved as Divine, and practically honoured in its appropriate produc
The means of grace are the appointed channels, conscious or otherwise, of conveying the words of the Spirit to the minds of men, and conciliating them to their ascendancy. The mind of the subject-fanaticism and dreaming apart-is conscious only of the truth, and its effects, or its own resulting acts and exercises as connected with the force of truth: "The sword of the Spirit, is the word of God:" and its point it is that we feel. Hence the criterion of this influence is
tangible and perfect; its sanction identified with "truth and soberness;" its vindication, an assemblage of excellencies "against which there is no law." Hence it is to the elucidation and enforcement, or rather the just appreciation, of the words of the Spirit, that the whole apparatus of the means of grace, and eminently the preaching of the gospel, with the times and scenes and acts of universal worship, are properly subservient. The truth is the sceptre of the Spirit; its sway is the reign of the heavens; its subjects are the lovers, filial and loyal, of the King of righteousness: "for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” * But if the Spirit leads them, their agency is not excluded; they follow and as "they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh"-a course of action in which there is less of mystery than misery-even so "they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit; for, to be carnally minded," or the savouring of carnality, "is death; but, to be spiritually minded," or the savouring of the Spirit, "is life and peace;" is justification, and acceptance in the beloved, and infinite consolation. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth."
It is in such a view of the subject that we can not only see the meaning of various passages of Scripture, otherwise 'obscure or never to be reconciled; but their consistency, force, and beauty, are at once apparent: and whether we there regard the process of sanctification, in which "the sons of God" are led by the Spirit onward progressively to heaven; or that branch of it, which may be denominated consolation or establishment, in which God is said to "dwell in them and walk in them;" or the commencement of religion in the soul, in which "the sons of God" are "born of the Spirit," and this is what we mean by regeneration or an entrance effected at "the strait gate;" or those general effects, which we call, very properly, the common influences of the Spirit, in enlightening the mind, awing the conscience, restraining the conduct, softening the character, and every way improving the aspect and the structure of Society-preventing millions of crimes, refining the manners, expanding the thoughts, rectifying the sentiments, sharpening the intellect, and allaying the animosities of neighbouring intercourse
influences eventually complied with by all the individuals of "the elect," and ultimately resisted by the wanton wickedness of all the others: every way considered, or in whatever particular relation regarded, the influence of the Spirit, as presented in the Scriptures, is an intelligible and glorious contemplation. There, indeed, the effect is often put for the cause, and the cause for the effect; the agent for the influence, and the influence for the agent; the word for the Spirit, and the Spirit for the word; but certainly this need not induce confusion or obscurity; it is as we speak in other relations and topics innumerable; the person and the preaching of Christ are often phrased in the same way convertibly; and each selected passage of Scripture, calmly viewed and meditated, yields to the scrutiny, and loses nothing of its force, its fragrance, or its usefulness. The piety of the saints is frequently described absolutely :-and why not, since it has an absolute existence? Often as the production of the word-and this is true instrumentally in every instance; and often as the result of the agency of the Spirit of God, either with or without an express mention of the word: still, universal piety, all the moral excellence ever seen by the eye of God in our apostate species, is plainly resolved into "the fruit of the Spirit," and credited in its authorship to God alone: "The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth. The word of God is quick and powerful :"* -not "a dead letter," as some venturous corruptors are wont to defame it, imputing their own deadness to the living truth of the Scriptures: "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. The Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. The Gospel-is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Thy faith hath saved thee. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. For the pro
* That is, alive and energetic, or penetrating; ζων και ενεργης.
phecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently; being born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever for all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the word of the Lord endureth for ever; and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."
Thus it is plain that the moral or Scriptural influence of the Spirit, that is, his influence through the medium of his own revealed truth, however affecting the mind, or by whatever means conveyed to it-this influence is entirely at one with the command of the Scriptures to repent and believe the gospel, and could be pleaded against an absolute and prompt compliance with it, only as other preposterous things are often said or done to the disparagement of religion and the injury of souls. Christianity is concerned with such abuses only to disclaim and expose them-concerned with them, only as a character of exemplary virtue is allied to the calumny that wantonly vilifies it-or as light is related to darkness, by a perfect contrast of appearance and an utter contrariety of nature.
But the influence of the Spirit is also extraordinary and miraculous. That miracles were wrought, in many surprising and most serviceable forms, is a fact of which we need not remain doubtful or ignorant a fact supported by an infinitude of rational evidence which has had all the benefit of infidel investigation to perfect and to prove it: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will." The day of Pentecost was characterized by the miraculous, as well as the moral and sanctifying influence. Prodigies were wrought among the nations, for their conviction, when the gospel was first carried to them by apostolic missionaries: "And they went forth, and
preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." How plain is it that the miracles were wrought in subserviency to the word! can they then be justly quoted in opposition to its influence? Paul represents himself as "ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost;" but he also ascribes the miracles to God as performed on purpose "to make the Gentiles obedient;" and evinces their accompaniment "by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God." Now the argument is this-that as these miracles were all wrought in subserviency to the word, and the word, as we have seen, is the medium of holiness and so of salvation, the miraculous influence of the Spirit is certainly no barrier any way between us and immediate piety, but gloriously the reverse.
The use of miraculous agency was great; and remains to be, what it was, infinitely useful. It perfectly answers its own admirable ends-chiefly three: the successful introduction and permanent implantation of Christianity in the world; the antecedent preparation of the church for that event; and the lasting moral force of the well-attested history of miracles, and indeed of the total Scripture, as a glorious demonstration to the end of time that the gospel is the system not of man, but of God. They hence become as useful (perhaps more so) to us and others, in their moral influence, as to the original spectators, or even the benefited subjects of their performance. Not of one, or a few, but of the whole of them, do we enjoy the moral benefit. But here observe-1. That they were confined to the earlier ages, and are not to be repeated while the world stands, as we have reason to believe. Their necessity exists no more. Christianity is introduced. It is also fully proved. It is planted. It can never be exterminated. Its foes will perish; it will endure. Its rational and moral evidence is abundant. I venture the assertion-which yet involves no venture-that not a living man of sense ever did, or ever can, candidly and fully consult that evidence, and doubt prevailingly its conclusiveness, its irresistible sufficiency. Modern miracles are wrought only by the craft of the Jesuit. They are anticipated, in the sealed Scriptures of God, as the marks and tokens of the great apostacy, the sig
"oracles of God," are devoted to the egregious and whimsical folly of immediate inspiration; as if it were now enjoyed or necessary, and as if it constituted the very vehicle, and life, and spirituality of true worship. How many thousands have been thus speciously deceived! kept with doating zeal and awful constancy in "the broad road;" amused to their ruin with false lights, and spiritually intoxicated with their error, while they not only refuse to "strive" for an entrance, but fail for ever of entering at "the strait gate!" One deluded oracle of the sort is sometimes found, like Mohammed, to argue his Divine mission from his success, and to anticipate his success from his Divine mission; and by other circular proofs of the sort to infatuate a vast multitude, darken the Scripture for ever to their minds, as well as prejudice it in their estimate, and so to found a denomination of reasonless proselytes, whom centuries will perhaps pass before it becomes possible to reclaim to "the faith ONCE DELIVERED to the saints." But they must meet their responsibility, as well as the angel of heresy, to whom they gave heed: "They have Moses and the prophets-let them hear them;" they have Christ and the apostles; they have the finished Scriptures of truth; and great and damning is their sin while they neglect them, or invert, or imagine any superior rule; making THE WORD OF GoD of none effect through their tradition which they have delivered, and many such like things do they," willingly and sinfully ignorant of "the true sayings of God." They are the victims of a false inspiration, the despisers of the true; and so without any genuine inspiration at all-unless the ill-assorted and illselected scraps of Scripture, which they corruptly retain in their memory, and stupidly pervert in their ministry, may be thought to form an exception: "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light: therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
natures of "the man of sin, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved." 2. Miracles are not of the essence of piety, however ancillary to its existence. For example, inspiration is miraculous, as an influence of the Spirit; but inspiration is a gift, and not a grace; in some instances it was even imparted to the wicked. Generally, indeed, "holy men of God" were alone inspired; but their holiness was one thing, and their inspiration another. It was given to some for the sake of others; to the few for the sake of the many: but other "holy men," millions of them, availed themselves of the inspiration of those, its select conveyers, according to the will of God and by faith in their messages, and were thus themselves sanctified and saved-but not inspired! Thus, by faith, we realize all the advantages of inspiration; while nothing but delusion, or pitiable weakness, or execrable sorcery, can make us vaunt, or wish, or deem ourselves inspired. The ancients were inspired for our sakes; "unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister :" hence we are assured that, "whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Would the Great Economist of the universe give us the Bible in vain? Would he first inspire the writers of the Scriptures for our use, and then inspire us to neglect them? If not, why do we wait, or what do we want? Suppose we were inspired; -this is not piety! we should have to repent and believe afterward-or perish! we should still have to "strive," and actually to "enter" by way of "the strait gate," or move on to destruction. Other gifts are not piety, why should that of inspiration be? Because it is miraculous? so is the gift of tongues, but who could confound a knowledge of the languages, however attained, with love to God and benevolence to men? Immediate inspiration then exists no more. There is no need of it. Mediate inspiration is all we want-and this we amply have. The inspired Scriptures are a complete revelation. They contain all in rich abundance which it concerns us to know; and criminal and dangerous indeed is the delusion of those, who, disparaging in their obstinacy the written
We pass, to contemplate that department of influence which we term physical and providential; and say of it, that it is wholly helpful and encouraging to piety, absolutely necessary to its existence and support, and hence not at all adverse or embarrassing to it, either in its beginning, or its progress, or its consummation. That God is the great maker of beings