Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

reconciliation, or the living epistle—the conduct and example of the church, or the lively oracles themselves, as quoted, explained, or taught by men, it is still the great means which the Spirit of God employs to convince us of our sins, nd turn us from the error of our ways.

Every one whose mind has ever, in any degree, apprehended the truth of the scriptures, has felt somewhat of its pi suas ve influence, leading him to a compliance with it. “Almost thou persuadest me to be a christian,” said Agrippa. And when Paul “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled."2 The powerful exhibition of motive by the minister of Christ, as he appeals to the consciences of his hearers, and sympathetically moves by the manifestation of his own feelings, seems to have a natural tendency or operation to induce the conversion of the sinner. All that have turned to God have felt it.

But is this all the influence of the Spirit? Does His infuence extend no further than the mere exhibition in the word, of motives, arguments, objects and considerations calculated to move the heart and change the will? The sacred scriptures intimate something more than this. He does, in this way, strive with men universally, who hear the gospel, and sometimes, with remarkable evidences of its influence; as in seasons of revival of religion, when alm st every heart is made to quake, and every mind is impressed with the solemn conviction that God is in the midst of His people. But if there is no other agency of the Spirit than the mere exhibition of moral truth calculated to excite, then is there no special and immediate or supernatural influence, to secure the conversion of oue more than another; whereas the Saviour's thanksgiving to God plainly teaches that there is. "I thank thee Oh Father, Lord of Heaven and of earth, because Thou hast hid 1 Acts, xxvi, 28.

2 Acts xriv, 25.

these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babcs. Even so Father for so it seemed good in thy sight.” And the numerous conversions in the primitive churches are all attributed to some special agency, which justified the apostles in using, as the designation of their members, the phrase "elect of God.” Beside, the Saviour says expressly,“no man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me." There is something more than the mere objective strivings of the Spirit, as they are sometimes called.

In so saying, however, we are not to be understood as denying that the eslicient agency of the Spirit, is in perfect unison with the moral influence of the truth: nor as maintaining that it consists in an effort of physical power. It is very obvious, that the same truth pronounced by one man will make a much deeper impression than as it comes from another, though both may be placed precisely in the same ext.rnal circumstances. One man may better understand the character of him whom he addresses, than another, and from his knowledge of that character, and interests, relations, prejudices, dominant passions, and the like, be able to make his appeals, in such way, and to sustain them by such motives, as to produce the very excitement, and rouse into action the very feelings, requisite to sway the will into a compliance with his demands. Perhaps no other man could have done this. We see examples of this nature, in the success with which one man of practical know, ledge and tact, and particular acquaintance with dispositions, &c., makes his appeal to the heart of some wretched slave of avarice, and secures his liberal donation, al. though others had often tried and failed.

. Mat. xi. 25.

2 John, ví 44, 45.

We see

Were we then to say, that the Spirit of God, who knoweth perfectly what is in the breast of man, can so arrange providential circumstances, and, at the same time, so cause truth, specially adapted to the mood of mind which they have produced, to be presented, as to rouse into action the constitutional capacities and susceptibilities, and thus secure the compliance of the will with his solicitations, we should maintain a special and direct agency of His, superadded to that of His mere objective strivings or the inere presentation of truth to the mind. The grace of such a procedure would be passing strange indeed!

But there is an influence which mind exerts on mind, the extent and power of which we cannot estimate. ii, in the impressions which a father has made upon his son, and trace its wondrous developments, as that son may roam is distant lands;-in the distracting effects of those terrible denunciations of vengeance, with which an angry foe has put to fight some timid offender;-in the checks and barniers, which some benevolent friend has, by his feeling counsels, thrown in the way of the young rotary of sinful pleasure; –in the winning influence of certain indications of affection, made by the very twinklings of the eye, which livet the heart; in the solemn, premeditated appeal, which passes unheeded at the moment, and seems to die from the recollection, but revives, with almost tempestuuos power, when the individual to whom it has been made, suddenly finds himself involved in the circumstances contemplated;und in the surprise, delight, anxiety, or terror, which may be awakened in the mind of another, by one, who, studious of the beart, has learned from certain outward indications, to read the thoughts, and founds an appeal on what the individual addressed had supposed, would never be known or suspected by man.

We stand amazed, at times, at the potency of that influence, which those conversant with the human heart, and with knowledge of the ways of wicked men, can exert, in detecting culprits, in swaying the angry passions of the multitude, and in subduing, almost hy a word, and altogether unarmed, the subjects of violent and infuriate excitement. There is a sort of sympathy between human spirits, which may be touched to produce designed emotion, with as much certainty as we can strike the chords of music, to secure the very sounds desired. What, in these things, we concede to man, must be attributel, in infinitely greater degree, to that Spirit, who searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins of the children of men.

Nor are we disposed to rest even here. We freely admit, that the Almighty Spirit, which formed us at first, is able to rouse our different capacities into action, in some way peculiar to Ilimsell, so as to produce exactly the result Ile designs; yet so as neither to do violence to any principle of our nature, nor be the efficient Author of our volitions, or of any positive creation within us, having causal power over such volitions. But what that agency precisely is, we will not presume to say, any further, than that it is noi irrespective of the appropriate influence of truth, upon the rational mind and feeling heart of man, nor in any indepen:lent exercise of physical power, nor inconsistent with the voluntary agency of man.

When the influence of the Spirit, in Regeneration and sanctification, is promised, or spoken of, it is as in connection with and through the truth. When Paul prayed, that the cyes of the understanding of the Ephesian converts might be enligincned, he asked God specially to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Christ.' When the Saviour promised the Comforter to his disciples, he said, "He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said

1. Eph. i, 17, 18.

1

2

3

5

unto you." When He prayed for their sanctification, it was "Through the truth--the word.Paul says of the Corinthian converts, “In Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel." Peter says of christians, that they are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God;"4 and Paul prays, that God might sanctify and cleanse (them) with the washing of water, by the word..

These, and such like testimonies, are sufficient to teach us, that whatever influence of the Spirit in regeneration or

sanctification is promised, prayed for, or to be expected, | it is in and through the truths of the sacred Scriptures. In

them, are revealed the great objects which the Spirit presents, and causes to make their appropriate impressions on us, so that our minds and hearts are led forth in holy exercises. This fact will not be denied; but an agency of the Spirit, quite different from any that we have noticed, is asserted and contended for by some, as constituting the pos

itive work of the Spirit in regeneration. It is something | altogether independent of the moral influence of truth, and

which may as readily be exerted without, and irrespectively of the truth, as with or through it. We refer to the physical energy of God, which we have denied is exerted in the regeneration of the sinner.

The reader will remember, what has been already brought into view on this subject, in a preceding chapter, where it is shown, that such an energy is actually contended for by some old Calvinistic divines, and is altogether unsupported by reason or Scripture. We are aware, that some are disposed to accuse us of a misrepresentation of the views of old Calvinists, and seek a subterfuge in the equivocal import of the word physical, as it is sometimes used synony

2. John xvii, 17.

1, John xir. 26. 4. 1 P., 3.

3. 1. Cor. iv, 15. 5. Eph. v. 26.

« ZurückWeiter »