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behind me, Satan ; thou art an offence unto me," from the same gracious lips which had pronounced, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Even to the last, we find them disputing which should be the greatest. On the very evening of his resurrection, he had occasion to say to two of them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken ; ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?"
These, and many other instances, prove, that to minds not prepared and enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the instructions even of Christ himself were inefficacious. After his resurrection he continued with them forty days, speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God; yet at the close of these days, as he was about to leave them, they still inquired, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" forgetting all that he had foretold concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and the captivity of their nation. He answered, “ It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power : but ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
We are this day, my brethren, met together to commemorate the fulfilment of this most gracious promise, -a promise corresponding with our Lord's declaration in the text, “ When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all truth ;" or rather (as the original words signify) all the truth-all the truth respecting Christ's person, character, and offices, the nature of his kingdom, and whatsoever else constituted those glad tidings which it would be their blessed office to promulgate in the world.
Behold them, assembled at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and "waiting for the promise of the Father.” Hear that “ sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, which fills all the house where they are sitting.” Observe the “ cloven tongues, like as of fire, that rest on each of them.” Filled with the Holy Ghost, who gives them utterance, they speak in their respective languages to the multitudes assembled from every region under heaven, “ the wonderful works of God.” Can this be the same Peter who denied his heavenly Master at the challenge of a servant-maid ? Hear how he bears to him the most convincing testimony. He scruples not to accuse his murderers of their guilt. He proves
from Scripture, now at last fully opened to his own mind, that “ God has made that same Jesus whom they crucified both Lord and Christ.” Pricked at the heart, they exclaim, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?" He exhorts them to repent and be baptised ; and no fewer than three thousand obey the exhortation. In a few days the number is increased to five thousand; and soon a great company of the priests become obedient unto the faith. The boldness which he and his brother Apostle John afterwards exhibited, and the wisdom with which they spake, astonished the rulers of the Sanhedrim, and filled Jerusalem with believers.
How the prejudices and the bigotry of Saul of
Tarsus were overcome—what light was infused into his soul—what an acquaintance with Divine truth was conferred upon himself, and what power of communicating it to others, you can scarcely fail to remember. Study his admirable Epistles, especially those to the Romans, the Galatians, and the Hebrews, and you will there see how fully he was initiated into the truth as it is in Jesus.” You may also observe how admirably he imitated the example of our Saviour, in teaching men“ as they were able to bear instruction.” To the Corinthians he says, “I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat ; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” To the Hebrews, “We have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing;” and then he endeavours to excite them to go on from this childish state, which only admitted an acquaintance with the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, “ to perfection” in that doctrine. It would be easy to illustrate this part of the subject by many examples; but I am more anxious that we should all feel our own concern in it; and will therefore proceed to shew
II. The applicability of the doctrine of the text to our present circumstances.
The Bible might address many, who have long had an opportunity of knowing what it teaches, in our Saviour's language, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” What St. Paul said of the Corinthian sophists is true of worldly-wise men in
every age : “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him : neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
When we look at the writings of Voltaire, and Hume, and Gibbon, or listen to the conversation of other infidels, who esteem themselves, and are esteemed by many, as philosophers, we find them utterly destitute of genuine wisdom. They may exhibit acuteness of intellect, and display considerable stores of human learning; they may overpower the judgment, and perplex the minds of the unstable ; but as they evidently possess no real love for truth, so is it manifest that they have no discernment of it. When they scoff at the Scripture, it is certain that they are deriding their own misconceptions of its statements, rather than the information which God has communicated,—not indeed to them, for they have no faculties capable of receiving it, —but to the humble and unprejudiced inquirer, whose heart He has opened. The case of infidels, however, need scarcely be adverted to : their conduct generally proves, that it is not the doctrine of the Gospel, but the holy course of life it prescribes, from which their minds revolt. They feel, as it has been often said, that the Bible is against them, and therefore they are against the Bible.
And what shall we say of those who, professing to believe in Christianity, dispute its most essential doctrines ? Do the Socinians, when they endeavour to explain away every text which asserts the Godhead or the atonement of our Saviour, prove that it is their preeminent discernment of truth which causes them to
reject the doctrines they call errors ? Is it not rather evident, that the pride of human intellect, the vain conceit of their own morality and sufficiency, has blinded their eyes, so that they cannot see what God has written in the most radiant characters concerning each of them, “Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting."
But not only the decidedly heretical, many who esteem themselves strictly orthodox, revolt from the humbling doctrines of man's utter corruption and impotence; the insufficiency of his best works to merit justification before God, which can be attained only by faith in Christ's atonement and imputed righteousness; the necessity also of complete renewal through the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. Such persons esteem as foolishness the faithful preaching of Christ crucified; they deem those enthusiasts who insist much on the necessity of spiritual influences—the doctrine of Divine predestination and election of vital union with Christ; every thing, in short, which surpasses the standard of human reason and human morality has in their eyes a sectarian character. Whence arises this incapacity to receive doctrines most plainly revealed in Scripture ? Is it not from the pride and prejudice of the carnal heart? Is it not from an exaltation of human reason above Divine authority—from a reliance on the traditions of men—from a dislike to the humble holy character which is held forth as the highest distinction of Christ's true disciples, but which is incomprehensible by those who rest in a mere form of godliness ? Let each one search his own conscience on this subject, and