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JOHN vi. 44.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hati
sent me, draw him.
Perhaps there is scarcely any doctrine of Scripture more repugnant to the feelings of sinful man, than the necessity of a Divine influence in whatever relates to the salvation of the soul. And yet there is none, which, when rightly understood and duly appreciated, is more full of encouragement and consolation. How it happens, that we, worms of the dust, ignorant, weak, and wicked, are unwilling to be enlightened by that Being whose understanding is infinite; to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man ;” and to have him “ work in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure ;" how this happens, is surely to be accounted for in no other way, than that sin, the most deep and dreadful, hath “ darkened our foolish hearts," rendered us blind to our own true interest, and urged us to rush onward to perdition ; refusing to be rescued by that arm which alone is mighty to save. This opposition to the doctrine of Divine
influence is as various as the different shapes of sin and diversities of human character.
Indeed, it often changes its form in the same breast; and, when driven from one“ refuge of lies," finds a hold in some other.
1. Unbelief doubts the possibility of Divine influence." I can trace,” says one,“ within my own mind no symptoms of foreign guidance or aid. I discover there nothing but the regular and uninterrupted flow of my own thoughts, emotions, and purposes-no supernatural suggestions--nothing that is not connected with something preceding. I always act from motives, and as reason dictates, without any sudden and unaccountable starts of aversion to vice or love of virtue. Indeed, were it pot so, I should cease to be free. Place me under Divine influence with regard to moral objects of thought'or action, and you make me a mere machine ; you destroy my responsibility to God.”
2. Pride disdains this influence.—“Am I not,' is its language, “ the absolute sovereign of my own thoughts, affections, and conduct, and capable, as a free agent, of controlling and directing them as I please ? Must I be still influenced and guided by God in the exercise of that very power which he has given me, of choosing the good and refusing the evil?"
3. Self-righteousness does not want this influence.-“ All the commandments of God have I kept from my youth up,” it exclaims : 6 what lack I yet?” Why need I be drawn by God to a re
liance upon the merits of his Son-I who am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of noth
4. Slothfulness is waiting for this influence.--Its language is :-" I have nothing to do in the affair of my salvation. God alone can change the heart. He alone works in us both to will and to do. I will therefore live in hope that I shall be compelled to enter into the kingdom of heaven; and in the mean while, surely but little blame can attach itself to one who is thus absolutely dependent for all holiness upon the efficacy of Divine influence."
5. Guilt, awakened by conscience, imagines that it truly longs for this influence, and murmurs because it has not received it. How long," it says, “ will God withhold from me the energy of his grace? My ardent wish is to be made holy and happy. I see the extreme wickedness of my own heart. I feel that I am unable to change its polluted affections. How often have I sought carefully the interposition of Divine assistance, and yet have not found it? What else can I do that I have not done ?"
Such, my hearers, are some of the repugnancies which the sinner feels against the doctrine of Divine influence, and some of the perversions which he makes of it. I propose to consider them in their order, and to shew, that although some of them may, in a few instances, originate from misapprehension and mistake, yet that most of them always and all of them often, are to be traced to the deprayity of the human heart.
I. In the first place, then, Unbelief doubts the possibility of Divine influence-and why? Because it can discover no traces of this influence in its own mind, and because it deems it to be inconsistent with the freedom of human agency.
Let us attend to these two particulars.
Unbelief can discover no traces of a Divine influence in its own mind.--But surely this is a very unsatisfactory argument to prove that it has not affected the minds of others. Shall the sickly invalid, who has from his very birth, laboured under the constant pressure of lassitude and disease, be justified in concluding that no one feels the benign influence of health, because he has never been conscious of it ? Strong and unequivocal is the testimony of thousands, whose clearness of apprehension, sobriety of judgment, and veracity of assertion, in all other cases, are never called in question that they discover within themselves a wonderful transformation of temper and conduct which manifests itself to be the effect of a Divine influence, by marks the most distinct and certain. Now, surely, it is neither the part of candour nor good sense, to deny the reality of that which is attested by the most respectable witnesses. But Infidelity is not satisfied with this reply to its objection, It starts another difficuly, more subtle and ingenious.
“ Every one." it says, “ even the advocate for a Divine influence, who is careful to turn his view inward and examine attentively what passes within his own mind, will discover there nothing but his own thoughts, emotions and purposes. He will soon find, that these succeed each other in a certain order ; that one, as it were, grows out of some other preceding it; that all are under the guidance of his will, though subject in a certain sense to that principle of association which is one of the fundamental laws of the human mind.” Now, admitting all this to be true, what does it prove ? Why this precisely, and this only, that the human mind is subject to certain laws, which so control it as to produce a regular and connected train of thought and action. And is this inconsistent with the possibility of a Divine influence ? Who gave the human mind these laws ? Who sustains their operation ? The Father of spirits. And cannot he through the instrumentality of these laws, have access to those very souls which he supports in being, so as to guide and direct them as he pleases ? But to press the unbeliever more closely-let him tell what these laws are ; what any laws are, whether of Providence, of Nature, or of Grace, but a certain uniformity of operation which the Divine Being has seen fit to adopt in the exhibition which he makes of himself to his intelligent creatures. It is this very uniformity which displays him, in the greatness of his strength, moving onward in silent majesty to the completion of his vast and incomprehensible purposes. And