תמונות בעמוד

made by a single saint, whose experience is recorded in the sacred volume. Nothing is more clear, than that the scripture doctrine of dependence on divine grace, was never intended to cherish a spirit of sloth or inactivity, nor to operate in any way, as a discouragement to exertion. On the contrary, it is uniformly held out as a motive to strenuous effort, for the attainment of holiness. Whether we can explain the philosophy of the subject, or not; whether we can understand how the backsliding christian can begin to seek God at all, or not; we know, that the inferences stated above are erroneous. We know, too, by our own experience, that if we begin, in the coldest and most unpromising state of mind, to cry to God in prayer; to occupy our ihoughts in contemplations upon his excellence and glory; to press home upon conscience a sense of guilt; to dwell steadily on that most affecting of all spectacles, the sufferings of Christ in the room of sinners: although our minds for a time may seem unaffected; though all may be dark and discouraging, and our spiritual sensibility may seem utterly extinguished; still, if we are faithful to ourselves, if we take time, and yield not to the despairing suggestions of an evil heart, we shall at length succeed, and though we “sow in tears, we shall reap in joy.” The true doctrine, then, of our dependence on divine grace, is a doctrine which never dispenses with our activity. “Sanctify them through thy truth,” is the prayer of the Savior himself; and we know, therefore, what to do, whenever we desire to grow in grace. Without suffering our minds to be perplexed, for a moment, with metaphysical subtleties, we must begin at once to act; we must apply our understandings, with steady and persevering effort, to the contemplation of divine truth, and urge, with reiterated cries, our suit at the throne of grace, without one moment's delay, or a single doubt of our ultimate success. Divine truth is perfectly adapted to such a being as man. It is not a mere appointment of sovereignty, that the truth should be used, in our endeavors after holiness. There are principles, in the very structure of the human soul, to which the truths of the bible make the strongest and most affecting appeals. In the case even of the unconverted, the Holy Spirit operates (as we are assured,) through the instrumentality of these truths, though, as we firmly believe, in some more direct way, than merely by presenting them to the mind. But in the case of one who has already been renewed, there is, in addition to these natural principles, a spiritual seed inplanted, which is never wholly extinct,-a spiritual sensibility begotten, which, though it may seem utterly suspended, in our seasons of backsliding, still exists, to be operated upon by that word of God, which is “sharper than any two-edged sword.” We believe, therefore, that whatever metaphysical difficulties there may seem to be, on a first view of the case, these difficulties will

all disappear, whenever the mind is led to look at them with candor, and when it no longer wishes to make use of them, as the hiding-places of obstinacy and sloth. And we would here repeat a sentiment, which we have formerly expressed in our pages, that there is no reason to believe, that the gift of the Holy Spirit is an arbitrary dispensation; or, that the child of God, who is faithful and persevering, need ever remain, for any length of time, without sensible evidence of the presence of that blessed comforter, in his own heart.

The same difficulty, which we have just been attempting to obviate, is sometimes stated in another form. How, it is asked, shall the christian, who has been reclaimed from his backslidings, and is now living near to God, preserve this happy state of mind? He dreads to lose it; and from his past painful experience, he koows, that if left to be his own keeper, he will lose it. But if he is thus dependent on the Spirit of God, for the continuance of his present spirituality and joy, is there any thing at all for him to do, to " keep himself in the love of God”? We answer, as above, that there is something for him to do. This happy state of mind will not of itself continue; it may and will be lost, except as appropriate steps are taken on his part to preserve it. These steps are, in a word, meditation on divine truth, watchfulness over himself, and prayer. There is no necessity for the christian's growing cold and formal again, after he has been reclaimed from his backslidings. His heart may be, habitually, kept warm and engaged in the service of God. He may live always under the influence of the great truths of the bible, and, day by day, feel their governing power upon his soul.

But he cannot do this, without taking pains for it. He cannot do this, if he entertain any such views of his dependence on the Spirit's influences, as shall lead him to remit his own efforts, and sit down in idleness and sloth, to wait God's time. He must follow the inspired direction, “ work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.” As to motives to such effort, (another difficulty sometimes alledged,) under a true view of dependence, they are abundant. They are to be found in the fact, that God requires such effort; that such effort is adapted to the end in view; that it has uniformly been followed, in all past experience, with success; and that, without it, the christian graces as uniformly all droop and wither. Let every child of God, then, remember, that the warmth and elevation of his piety will be proportioned to the amount of well-directed effort, which he shall put forth, to advance in holiness. And if his piety now, is in a low and declining state, let him know and feel the cause of it, and not charge upon the doctrine of dependence, consequences which by no means belong to it. Vol. VII.


3. With this view of the true nature of dependence on divine grace, and the difficulties supposed to be involved in it, we come now to the main design of this article,-.to point out some of the beneficial influences of this doctrine, when it is properly understood, and faithfully applied in practice.

1. Correct views of the nature of the christian's dependence on divine grace, inspire and cherish a sense of God's presence, and a reliance upon bis aid, in all the varied employments and concerns of life. Most christians feel, that on inportant occasions, and in trying emergencies, they are to look to God, for the temper and spirit which are requisite to a proper discharge of their duties. But how apt are they to forget this, in respect to every-day occurrences,—the thousand little concerns which try our tempers, and affect more or less our christian character! But when we carry out the doctrine of dependence to its proper length, and feel, that without the Spirit's influences, we shall do nothing right; that a holy heart is our best counsellor, in the most common concerns of life, as well as in more trying emergencies; we shall then be continually lifting up our souls to God for his aid, in the midst of all our employments, both small and great. The effect of thus constantly coming back to God, as to every thing, and looking to him for the requisite aid in the discharge of all duty, must be truly desirable. It will give a proper balance to the mind, under prosperity; when, without some check or counterpoise of this kind, the mind will be in danger of losing its balance, and becoming inAated with pride and self-exaltation. What a support, also, does it give in adversity, when the heart is in danger of sinking into despondency, and becoming discouraged, except as there is something for it to lean upon, from without itself, and beyond the present scene! What an incentive does it supply, to watchfulness over ourselves, and to the humble, cheerful, persevering “exercising of ourselves unto godliness”! What an all-pervading influence is there in the reflection,—God is present; he is the source of my spiritual strength in every thing, in the smallest as well as the greatest duties; and, if I am active and faithful to secure his guidance, I shall never be without his aid! Is there any view, which the human mind can take, which, in so many ways, tends to exert a beneficial influence upon us, under all circumstances, and at all times? Is it any wonder, that the christian who acts habitually under this influence, should exhibit a calmness, an equanimity, a moral courage, a fixedness of purpose, in the path of duty, such as christians sometimes have exhibited, and such as were never produced by any other cause ?

2. À proper view of our dependence on God for holiness, cherishes a humbling sense of our depravity by nature, and those other graces to which that state of mind gives rise. There are

[ocr errors]

views of the doctrines of dependence, we believe, which have no such influence, but which have directly the opposite tendency. They are those to which we have already alluded, which represent man as incapable, in any sense of the term, of doing any good thing; which make him dependent on the grace of God for power, as well as for willingness, to do bis duty. Such views must, of necessity, preclude any definite or practical sense of guilt. For how is it possible, that a man should feel guilty of baring done wrong, when he believes bimself unable to do otherwise? If there is a dependence for holiness, which makes it necessary for God to bestow bis grace, in order to give men ability to obey his commands; then where is the criminality, without this grace, of not obeying his commands? And how, on this principle, can a just sense of guilt ever be fastened on the sinner's mind? The gracious ability to do our duty, (of which some speak,) seems to us to partake nothing of the nature of grace ; for if God requires obedience of those who are unable to render it, be is bound to bestow the ability, before the obligation to comply with his requirement can exist. How this tends to preclude a sense of guilt, and to make the sinner feel, that he is unfortunate, rather than to blame, is easily seen. But on the other view, that man is not unable, but unwilling, to obey God; that his dependence on divine grace results entirely from his own wicked perverseness; there is ample ground to charge home guilt upon him, and room for his feeling the justice of the charge, and sinking into the dust, under the weight of it. And this is the direct and proper tendency of a right view of dependence: it goes to produce a deep and overwhelming sense of guilt, and of depravity by nature, and thus to cover us with shame and confusion of face before God. When we see and feel, that it is nothing but the sheer perversity of our hearts, which renders the grace of God necessary to our holiness; when we reflect on all the motives which we have to love God, and then dwell on the dreadful truth, that we have never done it, and never shall do it, except as the direct result of divine influence on our hearts; how can we help laying our hand on our mouth, and our mouth in the dust, and crying, Unclean! unclean ! God be merciful to me a sinner! To feel, after all the joy and peace which we have had in believing, that if God were to let us go for a moment, we should sink back into utter hardness of heart and blindness of mind,how dreadful an exhibition is this, of our lost and ruined state by nature ! How is such a view of ourselves, and of all that we are, in and of our ourselves, irrespectively of divine grace, calculated to humble us, and to show us the extreme and hopeless misery of our case, without the influences of the Spirit to raise us up from out of this condition ! Surely, if any thing can beget within us the spirit of humility, it is this view of ourselves. If any truth can lower our pride, shut out self-confidence, and break down the principle of separation between us and God, it is this very thing; it is found in the doctrine of our dependence on God's special grace for holiness. Besides, it is a natural result of these humbling views of ourselves, as thus taught us by the doctrine in question, to lead us to cherish a feeling of forbearance towards others, and a reluctance to condemn them; a feeling, that, aside from the grace of God, we are probably more guilty than they, and deserving of a sorer condemnation ; a resolution, never to speak of their faults, unless required to do it, as an act of duty; a disposition to place ourselves low, not only before God, but before one another, “ esteeming others better than ourselves.” Some of the “resolutions” of Edwards, and many passages in the life of David Brainerd, will here occur to our readers, who are familiar with the writings of these eminently holy men. We may remark, also, in this place, that these humbling views of ourselves, as thus taught us by the doctrine of our dependence on divine grace, will induce us to urge that doctrine upon others, and especially the impenitent, in a spirit of deep humility and kindness. The doctrine of dependence, and that of divine sovereignty, are sometimes inculcated, unconsciously perhaps, in a harsh and unfeeling manner; and the denunciations of wrath, in the word of God, against those who shall be left to perish in their sins, are often uttered in a tone of superiority, and almost of unkindness, which ill becomes a worm of the dust, who speaks in the name of his Maker.

When we remember, that, in uttering these denunciations, we may be pronouncing our own doom, and should be, but for preventing grace, a sense of propriety would surely dictate, that we should abstain from all appearance of severity or unkindness; that we should feel tenderly towards all men; that our bowels of compassion should yearn over them; and that, if their conduct is such, that we must tell them their “end is destruction, we should do it as St. Paul did, “even weeping.” Now these, and such as these, are the very feelings, towards others, which a correct view of our own dependence on the grace of God for salvation, will naturally produce.

3. A just view of the doctrine of dependence, gives the most cheering encouragement to diligence and effort, in building up the kingdom of God in our own souls, and in all our attempts for the benefit of others. False views of this doctrine, as we have already intimated, discourage effort. They wrap the backsliding christian in the mantle of indolence, and make him to exclaim, as to the impenitent around him: “If the Lord should make windows in heaven, then might this thing be." But when we take the doctrine in its true character, as involving an influence which implies, in its very nature, the activity of its subject, we then seel the whole force of the apostle's exhortation, “Work out your own salvation,- for it

« הקודםהמשך »