« ZurückWeiter »
The means as such may be divinely appointed, which is the case with the Gospel ministry; they may be as perfectly adapted to the end, as means can be, which is the case with the Gospel itself: but still they are only means, that is channels, or mediums through which power is exerted, and blessings communicated. The instrument may be excellent in its nature, polished in its appearance, and sharp in its edge; but it is powerless, except as wielded by a skilful and energetic arm. The seed sown may possess all the qualities which, to our judgment, fit it for vegetation; but if the living principle is not imparted, it will be deposited in the earth, and watered by the showers of heaven in vain. The subject may be all that is important, it may be stated with all the plainness and eloquence of which it is capable, and urged with the utmost fidelity and sincerity; and yet there may be a failure:-a failure, not owing to the subject, or to its representation, or to its advocate, but to a cause of a totally different nature; into which we shall now proceed to inquire.*
The necessity of the Spirit's influence arises from the entire depravity of human nature, which, though it leaves man in possession of all his accountableness, indisposes him to attend to every representation on the subject of God's salvation, which is only placed before him; nothing, therefore, but a direct operation of the Spirit on his
* See Note [Q].
mind, can produce such an affinity between that mind and the things of God, as that profitable and permanent benefit shall be experienced.
The statements of Scripture on the subject of man's depravity, are very powerful and affecting. He is represented as entirely destitute of righteousness, or all moral conformity to God; as without any knowledge of him, or even desire to know him; as “ alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in him, because of the blindness of his mind;" as having destroyed himself, and therefore destitute of all power to help himself; as, to sum up all, "dead in trespasses and sius.” It has destroyed or deranged all his moral faculties, and exercised a most pernicious influence even upon his intellectual powers. This depravity, however, cannot implicate or set aside his accountableness, while he is furnished with all his rational faculties, and with all suitable means adapted to them. And hence he is invariably addressed in Scripture as a responsible creature ; and, through the medium of his understanding, of his hopes and fears, are we justified in endeavouring to im
Did man only need pardon from God, that pardon he might be capable of receiving even in his state of depravity, or the benefit of it, he might experience, whether he received it or not. But as he requires to be cured, as well as forgiven; and as that which conveys the pardon, is also destined to promote the cure, it is evident that, without a state of disposition which will
appreciate the blessing, it is impossible to enjoy Heaven's forgiveness, or Heaven's remedy. It is God's determination to pardon only those whom he heals of the disease of sin; to remove guilt only in connexion with that which occasions it. While the mind therefore revolts at the grand remedy, which that of every natural man does, both forgiveness and salvation are impossible. However powerful may be the remedy, however wisely prescribed, while the individual rejects and resists it, benefit cannot take place. *
If any part of that original moral nature which once belonged to man remained unaffected, there might be an avenue left by which we might gain access to his mind, and accomplish, by suitable means, his entire renovation. If one spark of the life of God still lingered and flickered in his soul, from the supply of heavenly material with which we are furnished in the Gospel, we might hope to enkindle a holy flame, which would burn ap and destroy all the rest of his iniquity. If one ray of celestial light still occupied the dark and cheerless chamber of his perverted understanding, we might attempt to increase it, till in the light of God he saw light clearly. But his whole moral nature being overspread with a mortal and loathsome leprosy, which has left not one sound spot for a remedy to operate upon; death having seized and frozen up all the springs of goodness, and left neither vitality nor light
* See Note (R).
to become tbe sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."*
7* These passages clearly shew, that the word and Spirit of God are necessary to the conversion of a sinner; and that conversion, when it takes place, is the effect not of their separate, but of their conjoined influence. The operation of the Spirit without the word, would produce no rational or explicable effect; the operation of the word without the Spirit, would produce no radical change on the state of man's heart towards God, and consequently leave him as guilty and polluted
Spirit without truth would form a fanatic; truth without Spirit would form a cold and heartless speculator. The one is the revealed remedy, the other is the power which disposes to receive it; the one makes known the pardon, the other applies it; the one shews that the way into the holiest is opened by the blood of Jesus, the other brings the steps of the sinner into that way; the one presents the light of Heaven, the other unscales the eye to behold and enjoy it; the one testifies of Christ and pleads his cause, the other opens the heart to embrace him, and stamps his image on it. The Gospel is the revealed law of mercy and holiness, the Spirit transcribes, and impresses it in indelible characters on the soul.+
* James i. 18. i Peter i. 23. John i, 12, 13.
+ See Note [S].
T'he necessity of spiritual influence to produce conversion, is one of the most powerful and conclusive proofs of the fearful extent of the depravity of our nature. Well might God say, addressing the children of men,-“What could I have done more, that I have not done for you?”—I have from my own unsought and undeserved kindness, formed a plan of deliverance; I have sent my own Son to execute that wlan, and to manifest my boundless love, and my earnest desire to save the lost; I have addressed to you, through him, a free and unlimited pardon, to which you can offer no reasonable exception; I have employed my servants to explain, command, and intreat you to receive the generous and important gift ; and have encouraged you, by every possible motive, to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life. But all is in vain, unless I put forth in connexion with this provision, a power which shall bear down your opposition, and destroy the enmity of your hearts to myself, and to all the offers of my love.
Would you then ascertain the nature and degree of man's dislike to God, look not at him, insulting the authority of his Maker, and turning a deaf ear to all the curses of Sinai; look not at him, working all iniquity with greediness, and running to the utmost excess in riot and profligacy; look not at him, scorning the admonitions of friends, the warnings of Providence, and the stings of conscience; look not at him, trembling on the verge of the grave, and even there—despising the interests of eternity: but look at him, listening to the