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continues to the present day. When the will, the wisdom, and all the passions of man, are brought into silence in this state of quiet waiting, the mind is in the best situation to be brought so under the government of the Divine Influence, as to speak “as of the ability which God giveth." 1 Pet. iv. 11.
Satan is spoken of in the Scriptures, as being stransformed into an angel of light.” 2 Cor. xi. 14. And we have no reason to believe that he is not as busy and ás artful in his transformations, as ever he was in any age of the world. Thus he has often promoted the kingdom of darkness, by an apparent zeal for religion. And thousands have encompassed themselves with sparks, and warmed themselves with the fire of their own kin, dling; and in the end have realized the sentence, that they should lie down in sorrow. Neither the busy workings of the creaturely will, nor the reasoning faculty of the human mind, can ever bring forth any thing as ministry, that will benefit the speaker or the hearers. That passage in Matthew, vii. 22, 23, seems to have reference to this view of the subject : “Many will say to Me, in that day, Lord ! Lord ! have we not prophesied in thy Name? and in thy Name have cast out Devils ? and in thy Name have done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them; I never knew you !"
Fair, specious prospects may be presented to the mind; wide fields of doctrine, in which there may be large scope for the display of eloquence; and yet all this may have no application to the state of the meeting, and no authority from the Head of the Church.
“My sheep,” said Christ, “hear my voice, and they Follow Me, and the voice of a stranger they will not follow.” John x. 27, 5. The attentive mind will be able to discover the difference; but nothing short of the Divine Influence itself, can, be the true evidence.
It is well known to those who have been led into this experience, that much perturbation of mind may very easily arise on these awful occasions; and that such may, at times, be ready to sink under the conflict of feelings that takes place. Some of these feelings may be regarded as resembling the earthquake, the whirlwind, and the fire. Great and distressing conflicts may take place, as preparatory to the call and command, to move. But this is not the only kind of conflict to be noticed. All those emotions which arise from a fear of the assem, bly, or of
any individuals in it, ought to be overcome; for “ the fear of man bringeth a snare,” Prov. xxix. 25.; and will unfit the minister. When a true prospect pre, sents to the mind, it will generally, if not always, be with calmness : and it is of importance that that calm, ness should not be disturbed. But it will be disturbed, if place is given to any other feelings, reflections, or reasonings, instead of simple attention to the pure gift, and the admonition of the apostle; “Be instant in season.” 2 Tim. iv. 2. Thus moving on, with undivided attention to the openings of the Word of Life, and in the faith and ability afforded the minister will be enabled to arise with the arising of Divine Power. But if any should
that their own natural abilities or acquirements are sufficient for this important work-or if they should suppose, that, from their past experience, they are able to preach the Gospel, without the immediate aid and Influence of the Spirit of Christ, “they know nothing yet as they ought to know,” 1 Cor. viii. 2; and will be found in the corrupt and false ministry
The more we advance in experience, the more deeply shall we be impressed with a sense of our de pendence upon God, through Jesus Christ, and that “ without Him we can do nothing." John xv. 5. No man can be released from this dependence, without ceasing, at the same time, to be a servant of Christ.
There is, however, a strong propensity in the creature to assert its own independence. It is painful and humiliating to the naturally proud mind of man, to be in this dependent state—to be made a spectacle to angels and to men, and to be accounted a fool for Christ's sake; and, after many times of favour and enlargement in the ministry, to sink down into nothingness of self. But this is the beaten path, which the apostles themselves, and all true ministers, down to the present day, have trodden.
Let then the admonition be observed by all: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Prov. iii. 5.
Vocal supplication may be considered as belonging to the ministry. In this exercise, the minister becomes the mouth of the assembly. And if addresses to the Throne of Grace which are unfelt, must necessarily be unavailing, how clear must be the necessity, in this case, of speaking only under the Influence of the Eternal Spirit! To address Almighty God, on behalf of an assembly, expressing their wants and their feelings, cannot be done without the Spirit of Jesus Christ, through whom alone there is access, and by whon alone
we can have that feeling sense of the states of others, which is necessary in this most solemn exercise.
Our Lord, while personally on earth, adverted par. ticularly to the subject of prayer. The zealous professors of that day were in the practice of maķing long prayers. But our Lord admonished his disciples to be not as the hypocrites, who used vain repetitions, and thought they should be heard for their much speaking. The specimen of prayer which He gave them, Matt. vi. 9-13, it was a specimen, for He said: “ After this manner pray ye”) was remarkable for its fulness and conciseness. How comprehensive, and yet how short and simple !
It is a fact, to which experience, as well as Scripture, will bear testimony, that those who are favoured with the nearest access to the Thộone of Grace, to whom the Divine Majesty becomes most clearly revealed, will feel the most awfulness, reverence, and self-abasement, in these approaches. And in this reverential awe, there will be no place for light or redundant expressions. The language will be full, solemn, and concise. And while it will comport with the dignity and solemnity of the occasion, it will contain nothing for the sake of mere ornament.
He knows what we have need of before we ask, and therefore cannot need repetitions or explanations. Nor is it consistent with the nature of this solemn engagement, to be intermixed with exhortations to the people.
In looking back to the ministers of the Gospel in the primitive Church, in the exereise of their gifts, both in preaching and in supplication, we shall find in them an encouraging and instructive example. There is no instance of their delivering premeditated or written orac tions, either as sermons or prayers. They came not with excellency of speech or human wisdom, declaring the great Truths of the Gospel, but they spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance; a reaching power and energy attending their ministry. And this same power is graciously permitted to attend the true ministers of the Gospel to the present day. Nor is it exclusively confined to the ministers, whom it enables to speak with the demonstration of the Spirit and power; but it is the çrown and glory of the Church in all ages. And I am well assured, that it would be more abundantly afforded to the professors of the Christian name, if it were more believed in and sought after—if they would “believe in the Light and walk in it.” John xii. 35, 36. Many, very many. pious minds, who now, with weary steps, tread the dull rounds of devotional exercises, planned by the wisdom, and performed in the will of man-who, leaning on these exercises, find not that comfort to which, at times, they ardențly aspire-by looking to the Spirit and Power of Christ, revealed in the heart, would indeed find “the place” they are in to be “shaken.” Acts iv. 31. And as they are brought to experience, in the language of another portion of Scripture, “the removing of those things that are shaken,” they would find “those things which cannot be shaken to remain.” Heb. xii. 27. “ Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,” (Heb. xiii. 8.), has promised a spiritual communion with those that love Him. John xiv. 23. But in order to experience these blessings there must be faith in his spiritual appearance. Were this faith more preva