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contribution of our means and efforts will be more than met with a corresponding blessing from God; and if there be a failure in the blessing it must be traced not to any want of faithfulness or generosity in Him; but to some impropriety on the part of his people. This doctrine I mean to apply to spiritual influence; and therefore I shall endeavour to shew, that it is not the arbitrary, uncertain thing, which it is generally considered to be; but strictly connected with the due employment of divinely appointed means.
On a former occasion I attempted to prove the absolute necessity of this influence, in order to success; to point out the true reasons of that necessity; and to illustrate the harmony which subsists between the means of divine appointment, and the Spirit's operation on the heart of man. If I can now succeed in shewing that there is a law or principle, according to which this influence is invariably dispensed; while this will tend to inspire us with confidence, it must operate also on our sense of deficiency as to the past, and on our exertions for the future. It will tend to fix the charge of failure, where failure takes place, on ourselves; and where success occurs, it will lead us to give glory to God, to whom alone it is due.
In speaking thus of divine influence, and connecting it so closely with means, I must explain fully in this discourse what I intend by those means.
I include under this head then, the full and proper employment of all that instrumentality which God has appointed, and of all those resources which God has entrusted to his church, for the benefit of the world. And this definition may be applied either to any given portion of the church, in relation to its particular circumstances; or to the church as a whole, in relation to the world at large.
Whether we operate on a small or on a great scale, it will be found to hold good—if we prove God, by acting according to his will, he will open the windows of Heaven, and pour out an abundant blessing.
1. In order to this, we must address to the world a full, fair and faithful exhibition of divine truth. As it is in connexion with the revelation of Heaven, we entertain the confidence that God will bless our efforts, and honour them with success, we cannot reasonably look for his approbation, if we are not employing his own appointed means in the best manner possible. He has not granted to us the power of determining how we should act in this matter, but has laid his commands upon us, requiring on our part unreserved and cheerful obedience.
As all “ God's words are tried words,” it must be important that they should be fully stated. He alone is the judge of what it is proper for him to make known to his creatures; and for any portion of those, who have themselves received the communication, to sit in judgment, as to whether any part, or what part, of his revelation, ought to be kept back, is a daring encroachment on his prerogative. We have nothing to do with the use men are likely to make of God's word ; he will take care of his own honour ; and should they abuse the privilege bestowed upon them, the fault and blame will be their's. The divine record contains a clear view of the perfect character of God, of all that he has done for the rcovery of lost creatures, of what he expects of them in order to the enjoyment of his favour, and of his future intentions of mercy and of wrath. Every part of it is so closely connected with another, that the abstraction or concealment of one part necessarily injures the unity and perfection of the whole, and must tend to impair the effect which it is fitted to produce. Paul attached high importance to his declaration of “the whole counsel of God;" and the discharge of the same duty to the world, on the part of the church, is no less necessary than formerly.
Fairness is equally required with fulness of statement; that is, where the statement is made by men, it is necessary that every part of truth should be justly represented. That in their preaching, the various topics of revelation should hold that place, in point of prominence, and of relative connexion, which they occupy in the divine system.---That there should be no “handling of the word of God deceitfully :” no disjointed, exaggerated, unfair representation of the doctrines or precepts of the grand economy of redemption. It does not admit of improvement by us; and any attempt at this, on the part of an erring mortal, must necessarily fail, and tend to injure the cause which he thus injudiciously seeks to advance.
Fidelity is not less necessary than the other qualities, which are essential to the due fulfilment of our Lord's injunction--to preach the Gospel to every creature. Fidelity to the truth and testimony of God, and to the souls of men, There must be no concealment, or artifice, or management in this holy warfare; but a faithful manifestation of the truth to every man's conscience, as in the sight of God. Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ must be testi. fied to all. No respect of persons must be shewn -no desire to gain the favour, or to escape the frown of men, by a compromise of integrity-no dread of the consequences of a bold and unreserved declaration of the will of Heaven. In short, there must be an ambition to follow the high example of the great apostle of the Gentiles, who studied above all things in the discharge of his office, to be clear from the blood of all men, by keeping back nothing, and by bringing forward every thing, which he had it in charge from God to deliver.
In nothing has the wisdom of man done more serious injury, than in its interferences with the wisdom of God, in regard to the publication of divine truth. Often has it been supposed proper to modify the strong statements and declarations of Scripture, in order to meet the prejudices and the hostility of the world. This truth has been kept back, that has been thrown into the shade, another has been softened down ; and thus, it has frequently been supposed, that our wisdom will work out the righteousness of God, or promote God's plans; while all the time, we have been tampering with the great instrument by which alone we can fight so as to conquer. The ethereal temper of the Spirit's sword has been destroyed by the means which have been used to improve it; and we have wondered how so little has been effected, while the fault has belonged entirely to ourselves.
Nothing is more admirable or more worthy of imitation, than the plainness, fulness, and fidelity with which the apostles stated the Gospel, and dealt with the consciences of those who heard it. They always spoke like men who had the fullest confidence in the work in which they were engaged, and in the suitableness of the means which they employed. They invariably acted as persons who felt they had nothing to fear and nothing to be ashamed of; who courted investigation, and wished all things to be examined by the light of Heaven. They resisted all inducements to refrain from preaching Christ and him crucified; at the same time “ warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom ; that they might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."*
A mutilated, perverted, distorted statement of the Gospel, has contributed extensively to retard the progress of the work of God. The minds of
* Col. i. 28.