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into the inheritance of the saints in light, of whom it is written, “They are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.'
ON DIVINE GRACE.
ROMANS viii. 26.
LIKEWISE THE SPIRIT ALSO HELPETH OUR INFIRMITIES.”
The use and necessity of Divine Revelation are very apparent when we consider the fall of man;
man; for by this calamitous event his natural powers were weakened, and he became incapable of understanding the will of the Lord, or of acting with a firm adherence to rectitude and truth. His mind seems to have been impaired by the altered condition of his nature, and his passions, getting the better of his reason, forced him to do things contrary to his judgment. He knew what was right, his moral sense still acting as a law upon his mind; but he had not the power or resolution to follow its dictates; whilst his conviction, that, weak as he was, he was still accountable to God for his conduct, rendered him, at all times, restless and unhappy. St. Paul describes this state in the most moving terms where, he says, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ? I thank God,” or as it may be better expressed, the grace of God, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Revelation, therefore, became necessary as soon as man had forfeited his first estate of innocence, in order to supply him both with the requisite information for his future conduct, and with the assurance of new strength for the performance of his duty. He had lost the clue which was to guide him through the labyrinth of this world, and, therefore, needed other help than he now possessed, to lead him through in safety. Accordingly, God was pleased, from time to time, to vouchsafe such discoveries of himself, as should be sufficient to reveal his will, and teach mankind their duty. These he delivered in such a way as was best calculated to make the deepest impressions, and most effectually accomplish his object. Man was so far gone from original righteousness, that he had not sufficient strength and capacity in himself to turn and seek after God, without the preventing and co-operating grace of the Holy Spirit ; and consequently, the revelations of God, which declared his will, and explained the duties of human creatures to their Creator, would have been useless exercises of his goodness, had he
not been pleased, at the same time, to endue men with a new capacity for receiving his mercies, and fulfilling his commands. In giving his laws, therefore, he condescended to communicate grace to the recipients, whereby they should be enabled to comprehend their nature and extent, and to fulfil their spirit. This must have been done in every dispensation of divine mercy, for it does not seem possible that man could either have rightly comprehended or duly accomplished the revealed purpose of his Maker, had not the adequate ability been at the same time vouchsafed. God's holy word is an incomprehensible mystery to the carnal mind. It is a sealed book, to the opening of which there requires a hallowed fire from the altar of heaven. The experience of every one has taught him, that the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and pray for the illuminating grace of the Spirit of truth. How often in reading the sacred oracles of heavenly wisdom, does the light break in suddenly upon our minds, and show us meanings, and produce consolations, which we never witnessed or felt before. The more we peruse these holy records, the greater is the light reflected on us. It is a light shining at first as in a dark place till the day dawns, and the day-star rises on our hearts. If, then, we are naturally so weak and ignorant, and of ourselves are incapable either of understanding what the will of the Lord is, or of practising it in our lives, how much does it behove us to pray with all earnestness and assiduity, that God would be pleased to help our infirmities, and enable us by his holy inspiration to “think those things that be good, and by his merciful guiding to perform the same, through our Lord Jesus Christ." It is by prayer alone that we can come to a right knowledge of God.
It is by frequent, repeated, earnest importunity, through the merits of Christ, that we can hope to interest God very deeply in our favour, or to fit ourselves for a due reception of his grace. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone ? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent ? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children : how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?” It is by the Holy Spirit that we obtain the very ability to implore this grace, and to profit by this help, thus benignantly imparted. For so ignorant are we, that “we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” What God seems to regard is the willing mind. Where he perceives a disposition to love and serve him, there he communicates the required assistance, and enables the devout suppliant to address him in an acceptable manner.
He gives, indeed, to all the ability to turn and seek after him, but where this ability is felt, valued, and employed as it ought to be, there he adds more grace. He makes the act of improvement the receiver's own, and thus