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all truth."--Christians are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the Spirit to obedience:” they “ abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” “ They pray, in and by the Holy Ghost, who helps their infirmities :" “ they are led by the Spirit," and all their holy tempers and actions are " the fruits of the Spirit.” So that, “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his :" for all his redeemed people are “sealed by the Spirit who is the earnest of their inheritance:” as & the Spirit of adoption, he witnesses with their spirits that they are the children of God;" and thus he becomes their all-sufficient comforter; “ for the kingdom of God ismin righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
In these respects we are warranted to expect the pouring out of the Spirit on our souls and congregations: and we are confident that all true Christians are “ the temple of the Holy Ghost, an habitation of God through the Spirit :" and we are amazed that any man, who calls himself a disciple of Christ should be so ignorant as to deny this fundamental truth of the gospel, or so profane as to turn it into a ridicule! “ If ye,” says our Lord, “ 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?” This aecords to the promise of the Lord by his prophet, “ I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements and do them.” Luke xi. 13. Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26.
We presume not to effect equality with prophets and apostles: we expect no new revelations; for the Seriptures soberly interpreted are the standard of truth. But we profess, to depend on the Holy Spirit to enable us properly to understand them: and if we hold any thing contrary to the word of God, we deceive ourselves, if we suppose it to be derived from the teaching of the Spirit. We have no other rule of duty, but the commandments of God; but we need the promised teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to understand this rule, to convince us of our manifold deviations from it, to humble and soften our hearts in true repentance, to encourage our hope of mercy, and help us to apply for it, and to strengthen us for renewed obedience. We do not pretend to know that our sins are pardoned ; except as we are conscious that we hate and abhor them, and humbly trust in Christ to deliver us from them. We infer our interest in the love of God as our heavenly Father, from our love to him as his adopted children, and from an habitual desire of living to his glory, obeying his commandments, and doing good to our brethren for his sake.
Surely no man, who professes to reverence the Scriptures, will call this enthusiasm! We disclaim all pretensions to predict future events, or to discover things unknown to others by any immediate revelation from God : yea, we protest against them as derogatory to the Holy Scriptures, and a disgrace to the gospel; and even the incautious language of some wellmeaning persons, meets with decided disapprobation from others, who hold most of the same doctrines; because it is capable of being perverted or misunderstood.
These remarks having been premised, I observe, that as all spiritual religion is produced by the influences of the Holy Spirit, and every degree of success attending the gospel of Christ must be ascribed to a few drops, as it were, of this fertilizing rain ; so there are seasons, in which the Spirit is poured from on high in copious showers, upon some favoured spots of the Lord's vineyard. This was most remarkably the case on the day of Pentecost, and for a considerable time afterwards; and though the effects were gradually diminished, yet neither the communication of miraculous gifts, nor the abundant converting and sanctifying influences accompanying the preaching of the gospel, ceased, till perhaps more than two centuries afterwards.-Such an out-pouring of the Spirit attended the labours of the reformers, in the time of Luther, and for many years after his death. Nor has our land been left wholly destitute of this special benefit during the present century; and
some places seem yet to be favoured with it in a considerable degree. In short, they who are conversant with the records of the church, ancient or modern, will recollect various seasons, when, in different places, the Spirit of God was poured upon his people from on high; and all these should be considered as earnests of more abundant blessings, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought into the church : and the Jews “ shall look to him whom they have pierced,” uniting penitent tears with believing supplications. Zech. xii. 10-14.
II. We proceed to consider more particularly the nature and effects of this promised blessing.
In order to elucidate the subject, we must advert to the present state of the church and of the world. If we look among the constituted ministers of religion, we cannot but perceive, that vast numbers consider their profession, in great measure, as a secular employment, and pursue their worldly interests by it, like other orders in the community, without any proportionable earnestness in seeking the salvation of souls, and the advancement of genuine Christianity. Many indeed are very learned and ingenious; but alas, they embrace and contend for doctrines, which certainly were deduced from a very different source, than the Sacred Scriptures. Others preach several of the great truths of the gospel ; but seem little concerned to apply them to the hearts and consciences of mankind; or to excite them, by fervent exhortations and a bright example, to “ adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” A few indeed appear to be honestly and simply engaged in the most useful work of their sacred function: yet perhaps the skilfulness, boldness, self-denial, diligence, zeal, and faithfulness, even of this remnant, fall much beneath the degree which men “ of like passions” have at more favoured seasons been known to display.
These things should not be considered as a censure of modern times; for the case has been nearly the same in almost every age and part of the church. No external appointment to the ministry, no engagement, or mode of worship, can by its own efficacy dethrone the selfishness of the human heart, or induce the carnally-minded to act from pure motives, and to delight in the spiritual service of the Redeemer. But when “ the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high ;" we may expect, that such ministers as have feebly sought the glory of God in the salvation of souls, will feel their hearts enlarged with more abundant zeal and love; and that a vast accession will be made to their wisdom and knowledge of Christ and his holy doctrine. They will probably be to a great degree delivered from the fear of men,-raised above the love of the world --emancipated from a bigotted regard to systems and parties,--filled with melting compassion to perishing sinners, and tender love to their brethren; occupied with realizing views of eternal things, prepared for perilous and self-denying services, and disposed cordially to unite with their fellow-labourers in promoting the common cause ; without regard to competition, personal interest, or reputation.
Those who have preached the truths of the gospel, without application or animation, will then probably feel and insist upon their practical tendency, and manifest it in their own conduct. Some, who have been adverse to the truth, may be won over to preach the faith which once they opposed ; loiterers and hirelings may be converted into faithful, diligent, able, and disinterested pastors; many labourers will be sent forth into the vineyard ; and every one who partakes of these fertilizing showers, will “ take heed to the ministry which he hath received of the Lord, that he fulfil it."
The change which took place, even in the apostles themselves, after the descent of the Holy Ghost, with the conduct of the primitive ministers of the gospel, and the exhortations addressed to them in the New Testament, abundantly warrant these expectations.
If next we survey the mass of people called Christians, and observe their disposition and conduct, we shall readily understand what effects would be produced by the pouring out of the Spirit upon us. Let us, for instance, consider the inhabitants of this city, and their behaviour in respect of the Lord's day, the public worship, and the preaching of the gospel. We shall in this review see cause to lament, that vast multitudes retire into the country for irreligious recreation, or employ the holy Sabbath in travelling ; that crowds assemble in places of intemperate indulgence, or frivolous amusement, and that many spend part of the day in adjusting some worldly business, and the residue in sloth or festivity. A few, compared with the whole immense number, attend at the several places of public worship; the majority of whom, it is to be feared, having paid their weekly tribute, think no more about it; being " as a man who dreameth that he eateth, but he awaketh and his soul is empty.”. Others frequent the places where the word of God is preached, with considerable regularity, but continue hearers only, and not doers. In short, few comparatively seem to receive the “ gospel, not as the word of man, but as—the word of God, which effectually worketh in them that believe;" or to worship the Lord in spirit and truth; and even these see cause to lament their want of zeal and fervency, and too often manifest a languor and a defect in earnestness and activity, where the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind, are concerned.
But if “ the Spirit were poured upon us from on high,” the hearts of such persons would expand with holy affections, and be filled with divine consolations. They would become fervent in every religious duty, and earnest in prayer for their ministers and brethren, and for a blessing on every attempt to propagate the gospel ; they would bestow pains to impress the instructions of Scripture on the minds of their children, relatives, and servants ; to recommend the truth by their example, and to enforce it in their conversation : They would say to those, with whom they had any influence, “Come
ye, and let us go to the house of God, and he will teach us of his way, and we will walk in his paths." Isaiah ii. 3. And as Andrew brought Peter, and Philip, Nathanael, to an acquaintance with Christ, they would endeavour, by letters, books, and all other means in their power, to lead such as had been strangers to the gospel, to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and into the way of life and salvation.
At such a season, formal worshippers would find their hearts engaged in a new manner to attend on the ordinances of God, and many of them would become true believers. Those, who had imbibed false doctrines, would perceive that God was of a truth present in our congregations, and be induced to join themselves to us; a general attention and inquiry would be raised ; and “the Lord would daily add unto the church such as should be saved."
In this manner it hath frequently been known, that great multitudes, through large districts, have in a short time been brought to consider their ways; the veil, that hides God and eternal things from men's minds, hath been apparently rent; and more hath been done, in bringing men to receive the gospel, and to walk in newness of life, during a few months, than the very same ministers had been able to accomplish in the course of many preceding years. These effects are also proved to be genuine, by their permanency, and by the holy lives of numbers, after the first vehement affections, and the remarkable circumstances of such revivals, have ceased. Thus the thousands that were converted, when the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship," they were of one heart," they “ had all things in common,” and “ great grace was upon them all.” But when a religious commotion arises from enthusiasm, false principles, and selfish affections, it often leaves men more immoral and ungodly than they were before.
Again, if we consider the more pious part of our congregations, how often have we reason to lament that there is no more union and affection among them? And that they are kept at so great a distance from each other, by their stations in life, their different employments, talents, and dispositions, or even by trivial resentments, suspicions, and prejudices? But the bless
ing of which we speak would deliver Christians from such contracted and selfish passions; and they would be ready, without hesitation, cordially to forgive all who had offended them,--to make concessions and amends to those whom they had injured, and to seek reconciliation with every one who had been in any respect alienated from them. An increase of divine illumination and brotherly love would terminate or moderate our differences of opinion ; men would less regard the trivial disparity of outward rank, except as it reminded them of their several duties; they would readily unite in social worship and profitable conversation; and in proportion as these sacred influences rested on their souls, they would abound in self-denying beneficence, and in active endeavours to supply the wants of the indigent,to soothe the anguish of the afflicted,--and to alleviate the miseries of mankind. An attentive meditation on the apostolical exhortations, and the conduct of the primitive Christians, may suffice to convince us, that these must be the effects of the pouring out of the Spirit upon any congregation, city, or country; for indeed, “ the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.”
Should we advert to the state of religion more at large, we should d, that the remnant, which professes the leading truths of Christianity, and appears to be influenced by them, is lamentably divided into parties, about subordinate points of doctrine, or matters of discipline and government. So that, if we could collect together the whole company of real believers, we should find them very discordant in their sentiments, and disposed to magnify the importance of their several particularities ; and it would be extremely difficult, if not wholly impossible, to unite them in religious services, or in the same plan for promoting the common cause. On the contrary, it would hardly be practicable to exclude subjects of doubtful disputation, or to prevent such contests and mutual censures as only serve to furnish the enemies of the gospel with plausible objections ! Alas, this is an evident proof, that, as the apostle expresses it, we are yet carnal, (1 Cor. iii. 3, 4,) however orthodox our creed may be, or how zealously soever we contend for
“ Hereby," says our Lord, “ shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another."
But when “ the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high,” all “ who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity,” will “ love one another with a pure heart fervently." The pride and selfish passions, which occasion disputes, will be mortified; the minds of Christians will be more fully illuminated ; the harmony of Scripture will be better understood; the comparative value of every part of religion will be more clearly ascertained ; and men will be rendered more humbly sensible of their fallibility, and more eminent in candour and patience. Thus, while a most desirable progress will be made, in regulating every thing according to the standard of truth; Christians will be cured, in great measure, of their propensity to judge or despise their brethren ; and will learn to “receive one another, even as Christ receiveth them to the glory of God.” The pouring out of the Spirit will effect, what acts of uniformity, conciliatory schemes, or philosophical candour can never accomplish; for it will bring Christians, through whole countries, “ with one mind, and one mouth, to glorify God:" to form one church, professing the same fundamental doctrines ; harmoniously joining in the same worship, and the celebration of the same ordinances ; and zealously concurring to promote the conversion of Mahometans, Jews, and Pagans, to Scriptural Christianity.
These happy effects are predicted by the prophets, under various significant representations; of which it may suffice at present to produce a single speci
“ The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid ; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox: and the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy
in all my holy mountain ; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah xi. 6–9. xli. 18—20. xliv. 3-5.
These are some of the effects which will proportionably follow, whenever the Spirit is poured out upon the church. Many others might be mentioned, did brevity permit; and some of them will come in our way, in the subsequent part of the subject.
III. Then we proceed to make some remarks on the emphatical word, “ Until."
A variety of plans are continually proposed and adopted, to meliorate the condition of mankind, and to guard at the same time against tyranny in the rulers, and the turbulency of the multitude. No doubt something may be done in this way to render the state of the world more tolerable, than it would otherwise be: for, while civil government in general is God's ordinance, the peculiar arrangement of it is left in great measure to human prudence; and it may therefore be also called the ordinance of man. Rom. xiii. 2. 1 Peter ii. 13. But too sanguine expectations are formed, when changes take place, or when supposed improvements are made; and speedy disappointment is the consequence. The world after all remains full of oppression or sedition: the rulers and the people generally continue the same in disposition, whatever external changes take place: and selfishness produces its effects, after all the efforts which are made to counteract it; even as poison retains its destructive efficacy, in whatever form it is administered. This will in great measure continue to be the case, “ until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, to renew men's hearts to the divine image of love : and then, they will delight in equity, goodness, mercy, and peace, after the example of our Holy God! which will render human society as happy, as it is now too often miserable.
Again, the earth hath in every age been a field of blood; and the vast proportion of our race, which has perished by the sword, almost exceeds credibility or calculation : nor can the compassionate mind reflect on the subject without horror and amazement. The causes of this deplorable fact have been sought for, in the different forms of government; and the ambition of men distinguished by certain titles, or invested with authority in some peculiar manner. Yet the disposition to delight in war seems to have been common to governors of all descriptions : and the sacred writers, characterizing the ungodly, say, “ their feet are swift to shed blood.” Universal history is the best comment on this text ; all the genius of mankind, however diversified, has combined to celebrate successful warriors. The original murderer has appeared in this respect especially to be the god of this world: Mars, Bellona, and even Minerva, (the poet's emblem of prudence in war,) were the names under which polite nations have worshipped him; and unnumbered millions of human victims have been immolated at his shrine by his renowned priests, who have emulated his ambition and malignity, and shared the adoration which he received. Thus it will be in great measure, “ until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high.” Ambition, resentment, rapacity, and interfering interests will continue to excite mankind to war: and both the mighty and the mean, will in general, deem this one of the most honourable and desirable of employments; till those happy times arrive, which are predicted in the Scriptures, when “ the nations shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks: and they shall learn war no more.” But every degree of that sacred influence will in the mean while, produce proportionably the same happy consequences.
It is likewise grievous to reflect on the severities which are necessary to maintain peace and order in the community;—On the numbers deprived of life, immured in dungeons, and banished to remote and desolate regions, that others may live in security. While the silent ravages of licentiousness appear even still more dreadful, to those who have the opportunity, or are under the painful necessity of investigating them! The wisdom and assiduity of