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DISCOURSE IV.

THE CONNEXION OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE WITH THE USE OF DIVINELY

APPOINTED MEANS.

MALACHI ii. 10.

Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts,

if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

On the subject of the Spirit's influence in promoting the work of God, two most injurious mistakes have been entertained. By one class of persons it has been confounded with the means, and by another class it has been entirely separated from them. The former have, in a great measure, got rid of the work of the Spirit-or have at least practically set aside the necessity of his distinct operation on the heart of man. The latter have so viewed the sovereignty of God in the exercise of this influence, as to conclude that there is no essential connexion between the due employment of divinely appointed means, and the enjoyment of the enriching blessing of Heaven. Among the one description of individuals, it will be found that the most erroneous conceptions are entertained of the character and circumstances of man; and among the other, it will be found that no just views obtain of those great revealed principles which regulate the administration of the Most High. Knowing that Paul may plant, and Apollos water in vain, if God withhold his blessing, they conclude that he may withhold that blessing. Observing that the increase is ascribed to God, they imagine that his faithful servants may be left to plant and to water without that increase; that as they are nothing, without God, they may be treated as nothing, or left to effect nothing, by God. They assume, that spiritual influence is so entirely unconnected with every thing felt or done by us, and so completely at the sovereign disposal of God, that no reasons can be assigned for its being either given or withheld ; that it is one of those things of which God giveth no account to his creatures; that its not being enjoyed is no reflection on them, and its being withheld no breach of engagement in him.*

That this sentiment affords a very convenient apology for indifference and indolence, is abundantly evident. Its tendency clearly is to shift the blame from the creature to the Creator, and under the plausible pretext of giving all the glory to God, it effaces from the mind those impressions of guilt which a different view of matters, and the statements of the word of God are fitted to

* See Note[U].

produce. It seems as if it assigned a reason for want of success, with which we ought to be satisfied, while it is perhaps producing the very state of things with which success cannot be associated. All readily acknowledge that the increase, in whatever degree experienced, belongs to God; but it does not therefore follow, when increase does not take place, that no blame belongs to us. Wherever this is so, inquiry ought to be made, “ Is there not a cause ?" And if that inquiry is properly conducted, I have no doubt the cause will be found in some evil attaching to us, and not in any failure on the part of God.

That the Lord has been doing, and is doing a a great work in our day, it is our privilege to know and acknowledge. The church of Christ has been roused from the slumber of ages, and like a giant refreshed with new wine, has been putting forth a mighty effort to redeem its lost character, and to accomplish the salvation of the world. In the translation and multiplication of the Scriptures, in the employment of living agents to propagate the truth, and in the application of property to Christian purposes, the present age is certainly distinguished above all that have preceded it. Yet there seems a general impression abroad, that the success has not corresponded with the effort, that the means employed have been greater in proportion than the result. Divine influence, it is supposed, has not been imparted to the extent we might have anticipated; and although blame is not directly charged upon God, a feeling of disappointment or murmuring is scarcely suppressed.

I doubt the fact of our success not being in full proportion to our measures and to our faitb. Though not according to our wishes, it has been far beyond the desert of all our labours, contributions, and prayers. So far from complaining, I think there is abundant cause for gratitude and encouragement in what has taken place, and in all that is now going on. The present is not a day of “ small things,” however some may despise, and others sneer at the progress of events. The days in which we live would have rejoiced the spirits of our forefathers, had they been privileged to witness them, and they will be looked back upon by the children of a more glorious period, as the commencement of the triumphs which shall then be celebrated.*

I am at the same time far from maintaining that more might not have been reasonably expected, and that more might not have taken place. I am not sure that all has been done on the part of the people of Christ, that they should have done. I question, whether there has not been some concealed Achan in the camp, bringing discomfiture on the armies of the cross. Have we brought all the tythes, (I do not mean our property only, but all other Christian contributions) into the storehouse of God? Have we made full proof of bim in the way that his word points out? Had this been the case, assuredly he would have opened the

• See Note [X.]

windows of heaven, and poured us out a blessing till there should not have been room enough to receive it.”

The words of our text have a reference to the temporal circumstances of the people of Israel. They were, in the days of the prophet Malachi, groaning under all the miseries of scarcity and famine. The produce of their ground was destroyed; their vines cast their fruits before the time; their storehouses and their barns were empty, and universal desolation was threatened. They murmured and complained against God, as if he were to blame for these things. Whereas, they were guilty of profaning, defrauding and robbing God. In consequence of which, “ they were cursed with a curse, even that whole nation." To retrieve their circumstances, God called upon them to “ return to him, and he would return to them.” No longer to be guilty of the neglect and sacrilege in which they had long indulged ; and instead of reproaching him, and justifying themselves, he calls upon them “ to bring all the tythes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

The doctrine of the text is not applicable exclusively to this state of things. If we do our part, it assures us God stands pledged to do his. If we comply with the injunctions of his word, he will perform the promises of that word. The'

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