« ÎnapoiContinuați »
on this account, ccase to be, or be at all less, an agent, is built upon no known principles of truth or evidence.
The farmer and gardener turn their soil, and plant their seeds : the rain descends upon them, and the sun shines : but all these things do not make them spring up and yield their increase. God must still interpose with his creative power, to produce these desirable effects; or a crop will be expected in vain. God, therefore, is the sole Agent and Author of the crop ; yet the farmer and the gardener, the ground and the seed, the rain and the sunshine, are all Means of its existence. Without these means, there would, according to the established order of things, be no crop. Of course, they are means of its existence; and means indispensable,
It may be said, that these cases are not similar. If this should be said; it would, I think, be said rashly : for Christ himself, St. Peter, St. James, and St. Paul, have all chosen this allusion to illustrate this very subject. See the parable of the sower. See also, 1 Cor. iii. where Paul declares himself to have planted, Apollos to have watered, and God to have given the increase.
With regard to the other objection, it is obvious, that, so far as we can see, the glory of regenerating man is all ascribed to God; and all ascribed in the manner most honourable to him; is attributed to his Spirit as the Efficient cause, and to his Word as the Means. If he has in fact, as, if I mistake not, I have proved, declared that this is the manner, in which he has chosen to accomplish this work; we need not fear, that in giving this account of it we shall detract from his character.
REMARK. If the scheme of discourse, which has been here exhibited, is just; it will follow, that the Gospel is to be preached to sinners.
My audience may, perhaps, wonder that any evidence should be thought necessary to prove this assertion. IfʻI am not misinformed, however, the assertion has not only been questioned, but denied. That such should have been the fact is certainly wonderful, in my view, as well as in that of others.
When the Gospel was first preached by Christ, the whole world, with very few exceptions, was in a state of sin. The Gentiles were so generally of this character, that, as a body, they were styled, by St. Paul, sinners of the Gentiles. Gal. ii. 15. To the Gentiles, however, Paul was sent directly by Christ, to preach the Gospel. The extraordinary commission of this Apostle deserves to be here repeated. Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee; То
and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in me. Acts. xxvi. 17, 18.
. Here it is to be remarked, that St. Paul was sent to the Gentiles, not only to preach the Gospel, and to open their
turn them, also, from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Accordingly, he was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision; but shewed first to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
These declarations made by St. Paul, are unanswerably evinced to be true by the history of his life. In the very manner, here recited, he preached to both Jews and Gentiles the glad tidings of salvation ; and persuaded men every where to renounce, and forsake, their iniquities; and thus actually opened their eyes, and turned them from darkness to light. The beginning
of the Preaching of Christ, as recited in the Gospel according to St. Mark, is in these words : The time is fulfilled : The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Repent ye, and believe the Gospel. The people, therefore, whom he addressed, had not hitherto repented, nor believed. Of course they were sinners. In the whole history contained in the Gospel, and in the Acts, there is not, so far as I recollect, a single instance recorded, in which we have any satisfactory proof, that even an individual sinner was regenerated without the influence of Divine Truth upon his heart. On the contrary, these writings are full of examples, in which the efficacy of this Truth is asserted directly, as having been indispensably concerned in producing this change in man.
The same doctrine is, also, amply exhibited, as it respects the Jewish Church. Of the Priests, the ordinary Ministers of that Church, whose proper office it was to teach the Scriptures to the Israelites, God says, in the Prophet Malachi, The Law of Truth was in their mouth; and they turned many away from iniquity. This declaration is a complete history of the fact in question, so far as the present subject is concerned, throughout all the preceding ages of the Jewish Church.
What was true concerning the periods, contained in the Scriptural history, has been equally true, so far as we have any information of the periods, which have since elapsed. Ministers have every where, and in every age of the Christian Church, preached to sinners : and sinners under their preaching have been turned to God. In all these facts the duty of Ministers, at the present time, is distinctly seen, and gloriously encouraged. He who would preach as the Priests preached, as Christ preached, as the Apostles preached, will proclaim the tidings of salvation to sinners ; and will urge them unceasingly to Faith, Repentance, and Holiness. Upon his preaching, if faithfully conducted in this manner, and accompanied by his own prayers, and those of the Christians around him, he may confidently look for the blessing of God.
THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.-WHAT THEY ARE.AND WHAT
IS THEIR INFLUENCE
1 CORINTHIANS iv. 15.–For though ye hare ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet
have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the Gospel.
1 In the last discourse, I attempted to prove, that there are Means of Grace and Salvation: the first subject, then proposed for discussion. I shall now endeavour, II. To shew What they are ; and, Ill. To explain their Influence.
The Means of Grace may be distributed into a greater or less number of divisions, without any material disadvantage. At the present time, it will, however, be useful to mention only those, which are of peculiar importance.
Of these, the Gospel, by which I here intend the Scriptures at large, is ever to be regarded as the sum : for it plainly involves them all. The Gospel is especially to be considered as being efficacious to salvation, when it is preached : this being that institution of God, to which His peculiar blessing, life for evermore, is especially annexed in the Gospel itself. Still, it is ever to be remembered, that in every lawful, serious use of its instructions, precepts, warnings, threatenings, invitations, and promises, it is possessed of the same general nature, and influence.
When we speak of the Means of grace, in the plural, we always intend either different modes of applying the Gospel, or some or other of its Precepts, or Ordinances, to the human Understanding, or Affections ; or the performance of some act, or series of acts, enjoined in the Scriptures.
It will be proper further to observe, that the phrase, which I have here used, is commonly employed to denote, both the Means by which in the usual course of providence, grace is originally obtained ; and the Means of increasing it, when once obtained.
Under this head are included, 1. The Preaching of the Gospel ; II. The Reading of the Scriptures ; III. Prayer; IV, Correspondence with religious men; V. Religious Meditation ; particularly Self-Examination ; and Vi. The Religious Education of Children. To these may be added, as efficacious to the same end, although differing in several respects from all those already mentioned, the Vol. IV.
instructive and monitory, the merciful and afflictive, Dispensations of Divine Providence to ourselves and others. It ought to be remembered, that I consider none of these as Means of Grace, in any other sense, than as they display, and impress upon the mind, the Truth of God.
In the Scriptures, all these things appear to sustain the character, which I have attributed to them.
The Law of the Lord, says David, is perfect; converting the soul: The testimonies of the Lord are sure; making wise the simple. Search the scriptures, says our Saviour to the Jews, for in them ye think ye have the words of eternal life. How shall they believe, says St. Paul, in him, of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? So then, Faith cometh by hearing; and hearing by the Word of God. God be merciful to me a sinner, said the Publican, who went up to the temple to pray and our Saviour informs us, that he went down to his house, justified rather than the pharisee. He that walketh with wise men, says Solomon, shall be wise. Examine yourselves, says St. Paul, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves; how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobate? This exhortation is obviously given to persons, supposed by the Apostle to be, individually, of different moral characters; and is plainly given to them all, whatever their character might be. Stand in awe, said David to his enemies, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed; and be still. Keep thy heart, said David to Solomon, with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Train up a child in the way he should go; says Solomon, and when he is old, he will not depart from it and again, The reproofs of instruction are the way of life. Fathers, says St. Paul, Train up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
These and many other passages, of a nature generally similar, I consider as directing, either mediately, or immediately, the conduct of sinners. Most of them are so obviously of this character, as apparently to admit of no dispute. A part of them may, I am aware, admit of objections to this construction. But, if these were to be given up, the rest would, I apprehend, be abundantly sufficient to answer the purpose, for which they have been quoted. That they are directed to such objects, as I have termed Means of Grace, will not be questioned.
With the instruction, furnished us concerning this subject by the Word of God, we are bound to unite that also, which is exhibited to us by his Providence. If certain measures have been customarily crowned with success in the pursuit of salvation; and other measures, or the omission of these successful ones, have terminated without that success; then we are warranted to conclude, that the course, which has been heretofore successful, will be again. We are warranted to conclude, that what God has usually blessed, he may confidently be expected to bless; and that the
conduct, which has been regularly followed by impenitence and unbelief, will produce, hereafter, no other consequences.
But, so far as man can judge, one general course of conduct has, in fact, been usually crowned with success in this mighty concern, from the beginning. The preaching and hearing of the Gospel, and the diligent, anxious use of those, which I have styled Means of Grace, have been actually followed by faith, repentance, and holiness, from the promulgation of the Gospel to the present time. The same things may, therefore, be reasonably expected to produce the same consequences hereafter.
ill. I shall now endeavour to explain the Influence of these Means
Before I begin this explanation, I wish to remark, that, although I should fail of giving a satisfactory account of this subject, the failure would, in no degree, affect the truth of the doctrine. If the evidence alleged has been sufficient, and the conclusions have been fairly drawn ; then the doctrine is true. Nor will my ignorance, or that of any other persons, concerning the Manner, in which the event referred to is accomplished, and the doctrine true, make any difference with respect to the principal point. We know, perfectly, the Existence of many facts; while of the Manner, in which they are accomplished, we are unable to form any adequate conception.
The Influence of the Means of Grace upon mankind may, if I mistake not, be explained under the two general heads of
It will be universally acknowledged, that men, according to St. Paul's declaration, cannot believe on him, of whom they have not heard ; nor call on him, in whom they have not believed. If God, the Father, or the Son, be unknown; it is plain, that he can neither be trusted, invoked, nor obeyed. There can be no known relation, in this case, between the creature and the Creator; and, therefore, on the part of the creature, no known, or possible, duty to the Creator. Where there is no law, there is no transgression; and where there is no knowledge, either actual or possible, of a law, there is, in the fullest sense, no law. The knowledge of God, therefore, his Law, and our obligation to obey it, is indispensable even to our possible obedience, or disobedience.
When mankind had fallen, and Christ had made an expiation for their sins; it was equally, and absolutely, necessary, in order to their acceptance of Christ, which then became their duty, that they should know this Glorious Person, in such a sense, as to enable them to exercise faith in him as their Redeemer. Without such knowledge, it is naturally impossible for us to believe in Him at