Sidor som bilder

no reason then to suppose that his conversion was effected without its agency.

2. We introduce a second class of arguments from revivals of religion.

The first revival of which we have any account after the Savior's ascension, was on the day of Pentecost. The circumstances of this revival show us that there was an immediate agency of the Holy Spirit in producing it. The adherents to the Christian cause were few, dispersed, despised. Only the twelve associated to pray and consult on measures to propagate the new religion. On what natural principles can we account for the sudden and immense increase of their numbers on the day of Pentecost. There is no account of any new movement or uncommon effort, only that the little band were united in heart and affection, and engaged in fervent prayer. Suddenly they are endued with the gift of tongues. They address the multitudes that assemble in strong and pathetic appeals. Thousands, not only listen and are convinced, but become deeply concerned for their souls' salvation; and strange to relate, on the very spot where the greatest hostility had lately prevailed against this new religion and its adherents, three thousand become suddenly its decided, warm, and undaunted advocates. What produced the mighty change? No natural power can account for it. The only rational solution is furnished by Peter on the occasion, "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we are all witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye see and hear." There was a manifest display of divine power. Yet this was united and in perfect coincidence with the outward means—the declaration and subordinate agency of divine truth.

Ezekiel's valley of dry bones, though a mere emblem, may here be properly introduced. The bones were very many and very dry. He was directed to prophesy to them. Hopeless as the task might seem, at the divine command he obeys. The bodies are re-organized but have no life. The wind-emblem of the Spirit-must blow upon them, and immediately they are endowed with all the powers of life and activity-arise and become an exceeding great army. The combined agency of the divine Spirit and divine truth in bringing the impenitent to the Savior, is here forcibly though emblematically shown.

Revivals among us, present similar facts, which admit only of similar explanations. Why so sudden and unexpected in their appearance? Why at one time limited to a small compass, at others bursting out and spreading in one direction, in several or in every direction, baffling all human calculation? Why often stop so suddenly and sometimes without any assignable cause from natural things? Why sometimes appear under the same exhibition of truth, and the same apparent effort, and sometimes not? The only satisfactory answer, is, that when the means of grace are accompanied with the special influences of the Spirit, religion revives; when they are not thus accompanied, it declines; that both these agencies combined are necessary in their production and continuance.

The frequent instances of special prayer for an individual, by two

persons uniting and claiming the promise for this purpose, resulting in the conversion of the individual, are a convincing proof of the doctrine under consideration. Such cases are numerous, and are familiarly known in the history of religious revivals.

3. Instances of remarkable conversion prove the same truth. How can a change of heart and of life, like the one related of the memorable Colonel Gardner, be accounted for, but on the supposition of the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit, acting through the medium of divine truth previously imparted to the mind? A veteran in the indulgence of almost every kind of sinful pleasure; unaccustomed to any restraint in the gratification of any natural propensity; while actively prosecuting the eager pursuit, and thinking of nothing less than reformation, or an abandonment of his course, he is suddenly surprised by the loud and irresistible remonstrances of an accusing conscience. Listen he must, reflect he must, reform he must, change his course of life he must. We find him through the remaining portion of his earthly existence, a sober, temperate, humble, self-denying follower of Christ; and though a soldier and an officer in the army, he wears the Christian badge, maintains the Christian character, and boldly advocates the Christian cause. But this case is not singular. Demonstrative evidence of the power of the Holy Ghost is furnished in the conversions of John Newton, William Wilberforce, William Cowper, Henry Kirke White, and multitudes of others.

But we need not go to the page of history to learn this fact-we have witnessed it ourselves. We have witnessed the sensible manifestations of the power of the Holy Ghost in the reformation of our neighbors, our friends, and relations. They have felt this power and acknowledged it too. They believe and rejoice in this truth, and no ingenious sophistry, no "philosophy falsely so called," can make them believe that it is an illusion of fancy. What though some of them have gone out from us. It is "because they were not of us. They went out from us, that it might be made manifest that they were not all of us." Yet this circumstance does not prove, that even themselves, much less, that others, have not been the subjects of the influences of the Spirit. On the other hand, it rather establishes the truth of the doctrine, by furnishing those exceptions to his saving operations, called common influences, which we are foretold to expect in cases where he is resisted, grieved, quenched. And their latter case becoming worse than the first, is a still farther confirmation of its truth, because we are taught by holy Writ, to expect that it will be so.

Nor let the counterfeits of the Spirit's influence be brought up as opposing testimony against this doctrine. A counterfeit supposes something real and genuine to be counterfeited. There can be no imitation without something to be imitated. Thus God by Moses and Aaron wrought a real miracle, when their rods became serpents. This Satan could imitate through the magicians. But the counterfeit is soon detected. The serpents formed of the rods of Moses and Aaron, swallowed the serpents formed of the rods of the magicians. So counterfeit conversions and revivals are evanescent and soon disappear, while

[ocr errors]

those that are genuine, are permanent, and will prevail over all falsehood and error.

Am I asked how the Spirit operates upon us in performing this work? I reply in the language of the Shorter Catechism, By "convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and in renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel." Attention is exerted, conscience is awakened. The consequence is, we see and feel ourselves to be lost sinners. Our minds are enlightened to discover the way of salvation. This is conviction. Our wills are renewed; that is, as I understand it, our moral inability, or inability of will, is taken away, so that we are persuaded and enabled, as there is no other hindrance, tó embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel. This is conversion; and the continuance of the work thus begun is sanctification. And as we have now sufficiently shown, is accomplished by the united agency of the Spirit and word of God.

II. We shall briefly conclude with two inferences.

1. It is contrary to sound doctrine to teach, that the influences of the Spirit are sufficient to guide us into the knowledge of truth and duty, independently of the aid of the inspired word. We do not mean to deny his power to impart truth supernaturally to the mind now, as well as anciently to the inspired writers. What we deny is, that this is in accordance with the divine economy. The Spirit does not operate without the instrumentality of the word; not because he cannot do it, but because another method has been chosen. Is the proof demanded? The proof is at hand. 1. No one will dare to affirm that he teaches by the Spirit what is contrary to the Bible. For then his own mouth would condemn him. 2. No one will venture to affirm, that he teaches by the Spirit more than what is in the Bible, for then this holy book would denounce upon him the plagues written in it. 3. No one will, I presume, undertake to affirm that he teaches by the Spirit precisely what is in the Bible, unless he has learned it through the Bible, since this would be acknowledging at the expense of his own industry, the performance of a work by the Holy Spirit, which is admitted to be unnecessary, and which it belonged to himself to perform-or in other words, that the Holy Spirit has been kind enough to perform his work for him, because he was too indolent to perform it himself. This surely every one must see to be too derogatory to that divine Personage, and too degrading to himself, to be admitted for a


Besides, we are told not to believe every spirit, but to try the spirits whether they be of God. Now how can we try them? By the word of truth; the only infallible rule of faith and practice. Set up an ininspiration independent of this, and you have no advantage over the Brahmin, the Boodhist, or the Mohammedan. You have nothing to teach him that your religion is true and his false.

But farther; it is called the sword of the Spirit. When the soldier goes forth to the victory without his weapon, then, and not before,

may we expect that the Spirit will accomplish the victory over sin without the word.

How important, then, that the minister of the gospel should be thoroughly furnished from the treasury of the Scriptures, that he should be able to teach others. That he should go to the fountain head, study in the original, and use all the lights and aids which may unfold their true sense and render him a workman not needing to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

How important that Christians should study the Bible, teach it to their children, and render it what it is intended to be, the instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying the soul.

2. They are in a fatal error who hold and teach that the inspired Scriptures, without the immediate agency of the Divine Spirit, are sufficient to accomplish the work of sanctification. If we have not proved from the Scriptures that in every instance, there is an immediate influence of the Spirit in converting and sanctifying the soul, we may despair of producing proof or conviction of any truth. If we cannot see the kingdom of God without being born of the Spirit, can any knowledge of the word without this, be sufficient for our admission into that kingdom? Surely not. And why, let me ask, is the Spirit called holy? Not because He possesses holiness; for this belongs equally to the first and second Persons in the Trinity. But because it is his office to produce holiness in us-that holiness without which


no man can see the Lord." This we have abundantly shown, he does mediately by his word, but immediately by his direct and special influence. If any remain yet unconvinced, we should despair of their conviction, even though one rose from the dead.

The subject is full of comfort and encouragement to Christians. Does the Spirit convert and revive his people? He is accessible by prayer; He is moved by prayer; He has placed his own influence in their power by prayer. Have we ungodly friends, neighbors, parents, children? The Spirit's power is attainable for them by prayer. Does the spirit of piety seem almost to be "clean gone forever?" Are revivals few and far between? Are the times portentous? Is there a feverish excitement through the civil and religious community? The Messenger of peace can revive us again, bind the jarring materials together, and infuse a spirit of harmony and love. Christians, behold your privilege, behold your power, behold your duty, your responsibility. Heaven is moved by prayer. Where two are united as touching any thing they shall ask, it shall be granted. How much more when all unite? Oh! how great your power! How awful your responsibility! Away then with "unlearned and foolish questions, which gender stife." Wrestle in one united petition for the bestowment of the Spirit upon the church and the world, and the windows of Heaven shall be opened, and a blessing poured out, that there shall not be room to contain it. For sorrow we shall have comfort; for division we shall have union; for despondency we shall have hope; for complaining we shall have rejoicing; and for the sighs of dejection we shall hear the songs of salvation. Amen.






No. 2.

THE POWER AND INFLUENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. MATTHEW 16:18, 19. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.


JESUS of Nazareth had been accredited by many infallible testimonies of his divine character. He had been celebrated as the Messiah at his birth by a multitude of the heavenly host. He had been acknowledged by a voice from heaven at his baptism. He had wrought many public miracles, and given a clear exposition of his doctrines, in language which could not be misunderstood. He next took measures to bring the minds of his disciples to a more full examination and acknowledgment of his character, and gradually prepared them for his ignominious death, and for all they were to suffer in preaching Jesus Christ and him crucified.

After all this, the Pharisees and Sadducees required of him an additional sign from heaven in attestation of his Messiahship, and were rebuked for their inconsistency and unbelief. When he was retired with his disciples, he drew from them an account of the various conjectures entertained of him, and then demanded of them their own opinion. Peter, with his usual promptness, answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This declaration drew from the Savior the words of our text. We will,



1. We are to interpret the text. Peter was one of the first called of those who followed Christ as his disciples. He was the most zealous and decided of the whole. He always appeared most deeply interested in the doctrines of the gospel. He was the first who preached them to the Jews, and the first who preached them to the Gentiles. It was probably reference to his stern and inflexible character that the Savior gave him the name of Cephas, which in the Syrian language means a stone or rock, and Peter in the Greek, which means the same.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »