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with him in his ordinances, you will experience a new life, and joy, and power, in the ministration of his word.
O Christians! let us never be content with the outward ordinance, without real communion with Christ in it: and should we not yet have obtained this, at least may we feel a hungering and thirsting after it, and diligently seek it till we find it.
The Holy Spirit, received in hearing, the only
Source of genuine Profit.
I HERE are those who attend public worship, and hear in the course of years, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of faithful sermons, and yet manifestly by their general spirit and conduct, remain unconverted and worldly. There are others who in the main derive good from their attendance, and yet cannot with truth be said to obtain edification, in any degree in proportion to the vast opportunities of religious instruction which they receive. And there are, again, those evidently fed, and nourished, and blessed by the sermons which they hear, and steadily growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
How is this to be accounted for? and whence does this variety proceed? It is not owing merely to a difference in the 'ministry. You may observe all this under the same minister, and in the same congregation, It is
not owing to a difference in natural character, for it is observable in persons of the same natural disposition ; nay, we sometimes see that those characters whom we should be ready to think most favourably affected towards the truth, are those on whom it makes the least impression; and those whom we should think most likely to receive it gladly, and improve it largely, are the very persons who reject it.
The Bible explains the cause of this apparent auomaly. All, by nature, are averse to divine truth, and would reject it; and various motives, besides love of the truth, may produce an outward attendance on the ministry. Man's own good disposition makes not the difference. Neither is the wisdom of the minister that which produces the change. The whole difference is from divine grace. This is so obvious, and so admitted by real Christians, that while the Apostle asks the question, he thinks it needless to give the auswer-Who maketh thee to differ from another? und what kast thou That thou didst not receive? i Cor. iv, 7. But we are far too apt to lose sight of this, and to forget who alone gives the blessing. We depend on the minister, or on our own fancied powers of improvement: and if the writer may judge of others by himself, this is far too much the case even with those who admit the doctrine of divine grace. He would ask himself, and ask others the question, are we living under the full influence of this doctrine-do we constantly, in practice, as well as professedly, seek the grace of God, so as not only to know experimentally its necessity, but to feel also its blessedness?
The whole subject may be practically brought before us under the assertion of the Apostle, Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God,
that gireth the increase. This assertion was not made by a novice in religion, but by one who had deep knowledge and experience; it was not made by a wild enthusiast, but by a holy, sober, and practical teacher ; it was not made by an unsuccessful minister, but by one more blessed with success, than any other human instructor has ever been; it was not asserted merely as the conviction of human wisdom, but as the divinelyinspired dictate of the Holy Ghost.
The figure is very expressive. The allusion is to the husbandman, or gardener, putting plants into the ground, and cultivating them. They do not grow by virtue of any power derived from the gardener. “God gave to the plant its life and nature by which it shoots up, buds, and brings forth fruit. God makes his sun to shine, and his rain to descend upon it, and so it becomes vigorous and fruitful.” So in spiritual agriculture': it is not any ability in man that communicates the power of growing, nor is it merely any native vigour that causes the fruitfulness; but the blessing of God in the use of appointed means. Our souls flourish and are fruitful as they are cherished by the beams of the Sun of Righteousness, and partake of the refreshing showers of divine grace.
Human agents cannot of themselves CONVERT THE SOUL. Look at our state by nature, as described in the Holy Scriptures, dead in trespasses and sins. What can the dead do of themselves? What human being can give life to the dead? We are described as in ourselves, blind and in darkness.--Who can open the eyes of those that are born blind? Our hearts are said to be hard and slony-what human power can make them soft and tender? It is evident from the scriptural.
account of our natural state, that we can neither convert our own hearts, nor those of others.*
There is one plain and obvious passage on this point that cannot be mistaken. St. John, describing the true
* The Author is not ignorant of the great difficulties that attend the subject of the existence of moral evil, and man's sin and inability, as consistent with God's wisdom and benevolence, and of the way in which it has exercised the highest human intellect, and the ablest Christian writers; but he rests in the plain words of Scripture. Those who have hastily made up their minds, without due consideration, and are positive in their own views of this subject, would do well to see how much may be said on all sides, and how nearly real Christians agree, by reading such a work as Baxter's Catholic Theology; or if that be too voluminous, the abstract of it in “ Bates Observations on Important Points in Divinity.” Dean Milner on the Liberty of the Will, Edwards on the Will, and Scott's Synod of Dori, are instructive works in the same reference. The real solution of the difficulty seems above our comprehension; and, was it not intended to be so for the exercise and proof of our faith, and submission to God? Let us repose with unshaken faith and perfect comfort in the divine wisdom and love, righteousness and perfections. Satan has, by the unbridled speculations of men irusting in their own wisdom, even where their object might be good, gained an immense advantage to divide and distract the church, and to bring in separations, and distance, and hatred, among those who should love as brethren. The Author is fully satisfied, that in the warmth of controversy, and in the desire to guard against opposing errors, inany writers of real piety and great talents have used far too strong language, and Christian love (the more excellent wuy) has been forsaken, and a mere war of words, has unhappily resulted. All irreverence towards God, or so speaking as if the creature could find out the great Creator to perfection ; any thing that would give the praise of man's salvation to himself, and not to God in Christ. the light, joy, and hope of the world; or on the other hand, any thing that would weaken moral obligation; and any thing that casts the fault of man's sin and ruin on God, (the very essence of the refinements of Heathenism) should be most carefully avoided. And after all the researches of men of the acutest minds, we are compelled to come back and rest in the simple and plain declarations of God's word. On these subjects, it is especially important not to be wise above what is written. I Cor. vi,6. The wisest know no more than is in the Scriptures revealed to the poor and unlearned. If any man speak, let him speak as the Oracles of God. See the Rev. John Scott's valuable Sermon on this text.
spring of regeneration, and our adoption into the family of God, says of the sons of God, (John i, 13.) They were born not of blood, not by natural descent, or earthly power, nor of the will of the flesh, not by their own, or any other innate good disposition, or desire, nur of the will of man, nor by the power of understanding and reason, or any persuasion, influence, desire, or efforts of their fellow-creatures--these are not the first causes and true springs of this great change: but they were born of God; of him alone, as going before, providing and prospering all other means, and to whom alone must be ascribed all the praise and glory.
All ages confirm this. Look at the period before the coming of Christ! See how often the ministry of Moses, notwithstanding all the splendid miracles with which it was sanctioned and attested, failed of success among the Israelites! What was the reason? It is declared, (Deut. xxix, 4.) The Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. Look at the ministry of Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others! There you see men of various gifts and talents, men of firm integrity, of unshaken boldness, of the sublimest genius, and of the tenderest affections, labouring with comparatively little effect. The reason we find, John xii, 39,40. Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them, Look even at the ministry of our Lord himself! His character was perfect; his doctrine altogether wise, and pure, and exactly adapted to his hearers; yet it pleased him in his own ministry to let us have an illustrious proof of the truth which we are establishing; and even he could