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Perhaps there are many of you who may see peculiar reason to do it; perhaps you may be conscious to yourselves, that the arm of the Lord was remarkably revealed in conquering every sensible opposition, and getting itself the victory, even when you seemed as if you had been resolutely bent upon your own destruction, to struggle to the utmost against the operation of his grace on your soul. Others may perhaps have perceived the strength of the divine agency in the slightness of the occasion, or in the weakness of the means by which he wrought; which indeed is often matter of astonishment to those that seriously reflect upon it. But whatever your inclinations may have appeared, and whatever means or instruments were used, give God the glory of all.
If you have found yourselves from your early years inclined to attend to divine things, and susceptible of tender impressions from them, that attention and those impressions were to be resolved into this, that God prevented you with the blessings of his goodness. If you have enjoyed the most excellent public ordinances, even with all the concurrent advantages that the most pressing exhortations, and the most edifying example of parents, ministers, and companions could give; it was divine providence that furnished you with those advantages, and divine grace that added efficacy to them, else they had only served to display their own weakness, even where they might have appeared most powerful, and to illustrate that insensibility or obstinacy of heart which would have rendered you proof against all. You do well indeed to honour those whom God has blessed as the means of your spiritual edification : But if they think aright, it would grieve them to the very heart to have those applauses given, and those acknowledgments made to them, which are due to God alone. All they have done is so little that it deserves not the mention; and the greater attainments they have made in religion, the more cordially will they join with the holy apostle in saying, Neither is he that planteth, any thing, neither he that watereth ; but God that giveth the increase*. [2.] We may further infer, that they who attempt the conver
sion of sinners, should do it with a humble dependance on the co-operation of divine grace,
Otherwise they will probably find themselves fatally disappointed ; and after their most skilful or most laborious attempts, they will complain that they Have laboured in vain,
* I Cor. ii. 7.
and spent their strength for nought* ; and find reason to say, The bellows are burnt, and the lead is consumed of the fire, yet the dross is not taken awayt. A dependance upon God in all the common affairs of life becomes us, as we are creatures ; and it is most necessary that we should In all our ways acknowledge him, as we expect or desire that he should direct or prosper our pathst. But the greater the undertaking is, the more solemn should the acknowledgment of God be.
Let me therefore especially recommend this to those who are coming forth as young officers in the army of Christ. See to it, my brethren, that In the name of your God, you set up your bannerss; that you apply from time to time to your public work with a deep conviction upon your minds that no strength of reason will effectually convince, that no eloquence will effectually persuade, unless he that made men's bearts will plead his own cause, and bow those hearts in bumble subjection. With these views, I have often known the feeblest attempts successful, and the meek and lowly have Out of weakness been made strong|l; while, for want of this, all the charms of composition and delivery have been at best but like the Lovely song of one that has a pleasant voice, or the art of one that can play well on an instrument. It is Those that honour God by the most cordial dependance upon him that he delights to honour**. And I will presume to say, that it is the inward conviction of this important truth, which I feel upon my soul while I am confirming it you, that encourages me to hope, that this Labour shall not be in vain in the Lord+t, but that a divine blessing shall evidently attend what has already been delivered, and what shall further be spoke. Only let me conclude my present discourse with this one necessary caution, [3.] That you do not abuse this doctrine of the necessity of di
vine influences, which from the word of God has been so abundantly confirmed.
God does indeed act upon us in order to produce this happy change; but he acts upon us in a manner suitable to our rational nature, and not as if we were mere machines.
He saves us, as the scripture expresses it, by awaking us to save ourselves11: A new heart does he give us, and a new spirit does he put within us$ş, to stir us up to be solicitous to make ourselves a new heart and a new spirit|ll: He Circumcises our heart to love him11, by engaging us to take away the foreskin of our hearts***.
+ Jer. vi. 29. # Prov. iii. 6. Psal. xx. 5. || Heb. xi. 34. Ezek. xxxiii. 32.
H i Cor. xv. 58.
# Acts ii. 40. IŞ Ezek. xxxvi. 26. III Ezek. xviii. 31. IT Deut. xxx. 6. *** Jer. iv. 4.
* Isai. xlix. 4.
** 1 Sam. ii. 30.
the correspondency of the phrases, and it is of great importance that you attend to it.-If any therefore say, “ I will sit still, and attempt nothing for my own recovery, till God irresistibly compels me to it;" he seems as like to perish, as that man would be, who seeing the house in flames about him, should not attempt to make his escape, till he felt himself moved by a miracle. Sirs, the dependance of the creature on God, though it be especially, yet it is not only, in spiritual affairs: It runs through all our interests and concerns. We as really depend upon his influence to stretch out our hands, as we do to raise our hearts toward him in prayer. Your fields could no more produce their fruit without bis agency, than his word could, without it, become fruitful in your hearts: Yet you plow and sow; and would look upon him as a madman, that upon this principle should decline it, urging, that no crop could be expected, if God did not produce it; and that if he pleased to produce it, it would come up without any human labour. The argument is just the same in that case, as when men plead for the neglect of means or endeavours, from the reality and necessity of a divine concurrence.
And if they apply this arguinent to the concerns of their souls, when they do not apply it to those of their bodies, it plainly shews, that they regard their bodies more than their souls; and that, in pretending to make these excuses, they bely their conscience, and act against the secret conviction of their own heart. Such persons do not deserve to be disputed with, but rather should be solemnly admonished of the danger of such egregious trifing, where eternity is at stake. And sure I am, that it is offering a great affront to the memory of the blessed Paul, when men pretend to encourage themselves in this perverse temper from any thing he has said. For when he gives us, as it were the substance of all I have now been saying, in those comprehensive words, It is God that worketh in you, both to will, and to do of his good pleasure*; he is so far from mentioning it as any excuse for remissness and sloth, that he introduces it professedly in the very contrary view, as engaging us to exert ourselves with the utmost vigour in a dependance upon that divine operation. And therefore, as he there expresses it, I say with him, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; and if you will not do it, you have eason to tremble in the prospect of a final condemnation from God, aggravated by yonr having thus irrationally and ungratefully abused the revesation of his grace.
Phil, ü. 13.
Of the various Methods of the divine Operation in the Produc
tion of this saving Change.
1 Cor. xii. 6. -There are Diversities of Operations, but it is the same God
which worketh all in all. WHATEVER the original sense of these words was, and how peculiarly soever they may relate to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, the whole tenor of the discourse now intended will shew, with how much propriety they may, at least, be accommodated to the operations of his grace. I have proved to you in the last of these lectures, that wherever regeneration is produced, it is ultimately to be ascribed to a divine agency ; and though I cannot say, it is equally important, yet I apprehend it may be both agreeable and useful to proceed,
Fifthly, To survey the variety of those methods which God is pleased to take in producing this bappy change : Or, to borrow the language of the text, to consider the diversity of operations, by which the same God, who worketh all in all, ii. e. who produces all the virtues and graces of the christian character, in some degree, in all his people,) is pleased according to his own wise and gracious purposes, to proceed in his agency on those whom he
regenerates and And this survey will not be matter of mere curiosity, but may probably revive the hearts of some amongst you by the recollection of your own experience : And it may be a caution to others, who, for want of due compass and extent of thought and knowledge, are ready to argue, as if God had but onc way to work on the human heart, and that one the particular manner by which he recovered them. Of this I shall speak more largely hereafter. In the mean time, I judged it necessary to premise this bint, to direct us as to the temper with which this discourse should be heard, as well as to the purpose to which it is to be improved.
Now what I have to offer on this subject, will be ranged under these three heads. There is a diversity and variety observable, in the time,
the occasion,-and the manner, of the divine operations on the soul. 1. There is an observable variety, “ as to the time of God's
gracious operations on different persons."
Some are called in their infancy :-Others, and these perhaps the greatest part, are wrought upon in youth :-And some very few in the advance, and even in the decline of life. 1. Some are wrought upon by divine grace “ in their infancy.”
This is often the case ; and I doubt not, but if parents were to do their duty, it would much more frequently be so. And it is an honour which God is pleased, in some instances, remarkably to confer on a good education ; which is indeed so important a duty on one side, and so great a privilege on the other, that it is the less to be wondered at, that he so mercifully encourages christian parents in the discharge of it; thus granting, as it were, an immediate reward for this labour of love. And I must here take the freedom, on my own observation, to say, that God seems especially to own the faithful endeavours of pious mothers in this respect. He has wisely and graciously given that sex a peculiar tenderness of address, and an easy and insinuating manner, which is admirably adapted to this great end, for which no doubt he especially intended it, that of conveying knowledge to children, and making tender impressions on their minds: And there is hardly any view, in which the importance of the sex more evidently appears.
We have encouragement to believe, there are a cousiderable number, who are as it were sanctified from the womb, and in whom the seeds of divine grace are sown, before they grow up to a capacity of understanding the public preaching of the word : A remark, which Mr. Baxter carries so far as to say, “ that he believes, if the duties of religious education were conscientiously discharged, preaching would not be God's ordinary method of converting souls; but the greater part would be wrought upon before they were capable of entering into the design of a sermon.” And indeed it seems to me, that children may early come to have some apprehensions of what is most important in religion. They may have a reverence for God, and a love for him, as that great Father, who made them, and that kind friend who gives them every thing that they have: