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in the uniformity of nature; and forgetting | give you a clear view of what that is which that it is the inspiration of the Almighty constitutes a speciality in the work of a which giveth and preserveth the understand- Christian teacher. And to carry you at ing of all his creatures, might be tempted to once by a few plain instances to the matter repose that confidence in man, which dis- we are aiming to impress upon you, let us places God from the sovereignty that belongs suppose a man to take up his Bible, and to him. But what we wish to prepare you with the same powers of attention and un for, by the preceding observations, is, that derstanding which enable him to compreyou may understand the altogether peculiar hend the subject of any other book, there call, that there is for dependence on God in is much in this book also which he will be the case of a Christian teacher. We have made able to perceive and to talk of intelligently. a short enumeration of those talents which Thus, for example, he may come, by the a teacher of Christianity might possess, in mere exercise of his ordinary powers, to common with other teachers; but it is for understand that it is the Holy Spirit which the purpose of proving that he might pos- taketh of the things of Christ and showeth sess them all, and heightened to such a de- them to the mind of man. But is not his gree, if you will, as would have made him understanding of this truth, as it is put illustrious on any other field, and yet be ut-down in the plain language of the New terly destitute of powers for acquiring him- Testament, a very different thing from the self, or of experience for teaching others, Holy Spirit actually taking of these things that knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ and showing them unto him? Again, he will which is life everlasting. be able to say, and to annex a plain meaning to what he says, that man is rescued from his natural darkness about the things of God, by God who created the light out of darkness shining in his heart, and giving him the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ. But is not his saying this, and understanding this, by taking up these words in the same obvious way in which any man of plain and honest understanding would do, a very different thing from God actually putting forth his creative energy upon him, and actually shining upon his heart, and giving him that light and that knowledge which are expressed in the passage here alluded to? Again, by the very same exercise wherewith he renders the sentence of an old author into his own language, and perceives the meaning of that sentence, will he annex a meaning to the following sentence of the Bible-" 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." By the mere dint of that shrewdness and sagacity with which nature has endowed him, he will perceive a meaning here which you will readily acknowledge could not be perceived by a man in a state of idiotism. In the case of the idiot, there is a complete barrier against his ever acquiring that conception of the meaning of this passage, which is quite competent to a man of a strong and accomplished understanding. For the sake of illustration, we may conceive this poor outcast from the common light of humanity, in some unaccountable fit of attention, listening to the sound of these words, and making some strenuous but abortive attempts to arrive at the same comprehension of them with a man whose reason is entire. But he cannot shake off the fetters which the hand of nature has laid upon his understanding;
With the many brilliant and imposing things which he may have, there is one thing which he may not have, and the want of that one thing may form an invincible barrier to his usefulness in the vineyard of Christ. If, conscious that he wants it, he seeks to obtain from God the sufficiency which is not in himself, then he is in a likely way of being put in possession of that power, which alone is mighty to the pulling down of strong holds. But if he, on the one hand, proudly conceiving the sufficiency to be in himself, enters with aspiring confidence into the field of argument, and think that he is to carry all before him, by a series of invincible demonstration; or, if his people, on the other hand, ever ready to be set in motion by the idle impulse of novelty, or to be seduced by the glare of human accomplishments, come in trooping multitudes around him, and hang on the eloquence of his lips, or the wisdom of his able and profound understanding, a more unchristian attitude cannot be conceived, nor shall we venture to compute the weekly accumulation of guilt which may come upon the parties, when such a business as this is going on. How little must the presence of God be felt in that place where the high functions of the pulpit are degraded into a stipulated exchange of entertainment on the one side, and of admiration on the other; and surely it were a sight to make angels weep when a weak and vapouring mortal, surrounded by his fellow sinners, and hastening to the grave and the judgment along with them, finds it a dearer object to his bosom, to regale his hearers by the exhibition of himself, than to do in plain earnest the work of his Master, and urge on the business of repentance and of faith by the impressive simplicities of the Gospel.
II. This brings us to the second head of discourse, under which we shall attempt to
ions. How natural to think that the same powers and habits of investigation which carried him to so respectable a height in the natural sciences will enable him to clear his way through all the darkness of theology. It is well that he is seeking,-for if he persevere and be in earnest, he will obtain an interest in the promise, and will at length find;-but not till he find, in the progress of those inquiries on which he en
and he goes back again to the dimness and delirium of his unhappy situation; and his mind locks itself up in the prison-hold of its confined and darkened faculties; and if, in his mysterious state of existence, he formed any conception whatever of the words now uttered in your hearing, we may rest assured that it stands distinguished by a wide and impassable chasm, from the conception of him, who has all the common powers and perceptions of the species.tered with so much alacrity, and prosecuted with so much confidence, that there is a barrier between him and the spiritual discernment of his Bible, which all the powers of philosophy cannot scale,-not till he find, that he must cast down his lofty imaginations, and put the pride of all his powers and his pretensions away from him,-not till he find, that, divested of those fancies which deluded his heart into a feeling of its own sufficiency, he must become like a little
Now, we would ask what kind of conception is that which a man of entire faculties may form? Only grant us the undeniable truth, that he may understand how he cannot discern the things of the Spirit, unless the Spirit reveal them to him; and yet with this understanding, he may not be one of those in behalf of whom the Spirit hath actually interposed with his peculiar office of revelation; and then you bring
into view another barrier, no less insur-child, or one of those babes to whom God mountable than that which fixes an immu- reveals the things which he hides from the table distinction between the conceptions wise and from the prudent,-not till he find, of an idiot and of a man of sense,-even that the attitude of self-dependence must be that wonderful barrier which separates the broken down, and he be brought to acknownatural from the spiritual man. You can ledge that the light he is aspiring after, is conceive him struggling with every power not created by himself, but must be made which nature has given him to work his to shine upon him at the pleasure of anway through this barrier. You can con- other,-not in short, till, humbled by the ceive him vainly attempting, by some en- mortifying experience that many a simple ergies of his own, to force an entrance cottager who reads his Bible and loves his into that field of light where every object Saviour has got before him, he puts himself of faith has the bright colouring of reality on a level with the most illiterate of them thrown over it, where he can command a all, and prays that light and truth may clear view of the things of eternity,-where beam on his darkened understanding from spiritual truth comes home with effect upon the sanctuary of God. his every feeling and his every conviction,—| We read of the letter, and we read also where he can expatiate at freedom over a of the spirit, of the New Testament. It scene of manifestation, which the world would require a volume, rather than a sinknoweth not, and breathe such a peace, gle paragraph of a single sermon, to draw and such a joy, and such a holiness, and the line between the one and the other. such a superiority to time, and such a de- But you will readily acknowledge that there votedness of all his affections to the things are many things of this book which a man, which are above, as no man of the highest though untaught by the Spirit of God, may natural wisdom can ever reach with all his be made to know. One of the simplest inattention to the Bible, and all the efforts of stances is, he may learn the number of his sagacity, however painful, to unravel, chapters in every book, and the number of and to compare and to comprehend its pas- verses in every chapter. But is this all? sages. And it is indeed a deeply interest-No,-for by the natural exercise of his meing object to see a man of powerful under-mory he may be able to master all its hisstanding thus visited with an earnest desire torical information. And is this all? No, after the light of the gospel, and toiling at for by the natural exercise of his judgment the entrance with all the energies which he may compare scripture with scripture,— belong to him,-pressing into the service he may learn what its doctrines are,-he all the resources of argument and philoso- may demonstrate the orthodoxy of every phy-mustering to the high enterprise, his one article in our national confession,-he attention, and his conception, and his rea- may rank among the ablest and most judison, and his imagination, and the whole cious of the commentators, he may read, host of his other faculties, on which science and with understanding, too, many a ponhas conferred her imposing names, and laid derous volume, he may store himself with before us in such a pompous catalogue, as the learning of many generations,―he may might tempt us to believe, that man, by one be familiar with all the systems, and have mighty grasp of his creative mind, can mingled with all the controversies,—and make all truth his own, and range at plea- yet, with a mind supporting as it does the
sure over the wide variety of her domin-burden of the erudition of whole libraries,
he may have gotten to himself no other wisdom than the wisdom of the letter of the New Testament. The man's creed, with all its arranged and its well weighed articles, may be no better than the dry bones in the vision of Ezekiel, put together into a skeleton, and fastened with sinews, and covered with flesh and skin, and exhibiting to the eye of the spectators, the aspect, and the lineaments of a man, but without breath, and remaining so, till the Spirit of God breathed into it, and it lived. And it is in truth a sight of wonder, to behold a man who has carried his knowledge of scripture as far as the wisdom of man can carry it,—to see him blest with all the light which nature can give, but labouring under all the darkness which no power of nature can dispel,-to see this man of many accomplishments, who can bring his every power of demonstration to bear upon the Bible, carrying in his bosom a heart uncheered by any one of its consolations, un-nor, out of that portion of the book of namoved by the influence of any one of its ture which we are employed in contemtruths, unshaken out of any one attachment plating, does it bring into view a single to the world, and an utter stranger to those character which is not really and previously high resolves, and the power of those great inscribed upon it. And so of the Spirit. and animating prospects, which shed a glory He does not add a single truth, or a single over the daily walk of a believer, and give character, to the book of revelation. He to every one of his doings the high charac- enables the spiritual man to see what the ter of a candidate for eternity. natural man cannot see; but the spectacle which he lays open is uniform and immutable. It is the word of God which is ever the same;-and he, whom the Spirit of God has enabled to look to the Bible with a clear and affecting discernment, sees no phantom passing before him; but amid all the visionary extravagance with which he is charged, can, for every one article of his faith, and every one duty of his practice, make his triumphant appeal to the law and to the testimony.
the Spirit worketh. He does not tell us any thing that is out of the record; but all that is within it he sends home, with clearness and effect, upon the mind. He does not make us wise above that which is written; but he makes us wise, up to that which is written. When a telescope is directed to some distant landscape, it enables us to see what we could not otherwise have seen; but it does not enable us to see any thing which has not a real existence in the prospect before us. It does not present to the eye any delusive imagery,-neither is that a fanciful and fictitious scene which it throws open to our contemplation. The natural eye saw nothing but blue land stretching along the distant horizon. By the aid of the glass, there bursts upon it a charming variety of fi lds, and woods, and spires, and villages. Yet who would say that the glass added one feature to this assemblage? K discovers nothing to us which is not there;
We are quite aware of the doubts which this is calculated to excite in the mind of the hearer,-nor is it possible within the compass of an hour to stop and satisfy them all; or to come to a timely conclusion, without leaving a number of unresolved questions behind us.
There is one, however, which we cannot pass without observation. Does not this doctrine of a revelation of the Spirit, it may be asked, additional to the revelation of the word, open a door to the most unbridled variety? May it not give a sanction to any conceptions of any visionary pretenders, and clothe in all the authority of inspiration a set of doctrines not to be found within the compass of the written record? Does it not set aside the usefulness of the Bible, and break in upon the unity and consistency of revealed truth, by letting loose upon the world a succession of fancies, as endless and as variable as are the caprices of the human imagination? All very true, did we ever pretend that the office of the Spirit was to reveal any thing additional to the information, whether in the way of doc-ject of the all-seeing and ever-present Deity, trine or of duty, which the Bible sets before labours under all the obstinacy of an habitus. But his office, as defined by the Bible ual blindness. Carry him abroad, and you itself, is not to make known to us any truths will find that the light which beams upon which are not contained in the Bible; but to his senses, from the object of sight, commake clear to our understandings the truths pletely overpowers that light which ought which are contained in it. He opens our to beam upon his spirit, from this object understandings to understand the Scrip- of faith. He may occasionally think of it tures. The word of God is called the sword as he does of other things; but for every of the Spirit. It is the instrument by which one practical purpose the thought aban
We trust that this may be made clear by one example. We have not to travel out of the record for the purpose of having this truth made known to us,-that God is every where present. It meets the obser vation of the natural man in his reading of the Bible; and he understands, or thinks he understands, the terms in which it is delivered; and he can speak of it with consistency; and he ranks it with the other attributes of God; and he gives it an avowed and formal admission among the articles of his creed; and yet, with all this parade of light and knowledge, he, upon the sub
the reason is, that there rests upon him a peculiar manifestation, by which the truth is made visible to the eye of his mind, and a peculiar energy, by which it comes home upon his conscience. And if you come to inquire into the cause of this speciality, it is the language of the Bible, confirmed, as we believe it to be, by the soundest experience, that every power which nature has conferred upon man, exalted to its highest measure, and called forth to its most stren
dons him, so soon as he goes into the next company or takes a part in the next worldly concern, which, in the course of his business, comes round to him. It completely disappears as an element of conduct, and he talks, and thinks, and reasons just as he would have done, had his mind, in reference to God, been in a state of entire darkness. If any thing like a right conception of the matter ever exist in his heart, the din and the day light of the world drive it all away from him. Now, to recti-uous exercise is not able to accomplish it,— that it is due to a power above nature, and beyond it; that it is due to what the Apostle calls the demonstration of the Spirit,-a demonstration withheld from the self-sufficient exertions of man, and given to his believing prayers.
fy this case, it is surely not necessary, that the Spirit add any thing to the truth of God's omnipresence, as it is put down in the written record. It will be enough, that he gives to the mind upon which he operates, a steady and enduring impression of this truth. Now, this is one part of his office, and accordingly it is said of the unction of the Spirit, that it is an unction which remaineth. Neither is it necessary that the light, which he communicates, should consist in any vision which he gives to the eye, or in any bright impression upon the fancy, of any one thing not to be found within the pages of the Bible. It will be enough if he give a clear and vigorous apprehension of the truth, just as it is written, to the understanding. Though the Spirit should do no more than give vivacity and effect to the truth of the constancy of God's presence, just as it stands in the written record-this will be quite enough to make the man who is under its influence carry an habitual sense of God about with him, think of him in the shop and in the marketplace, walk with him all the day long, and feel the same moral restraint upon his doings, as if some visible superior, whose virtues he revered, and whose approbation he longed after, haunted his every footstep, and kept an attentive eye fastened upon the whole course of his history. The natural man may have sense, and he may have sagacity, and a readiness withal to admit the constancy of God's presence, as an un-ruption and of blindness along with it, deniable doctrine of the Bible. But to the which it is beyond the compass of human power of this truth he is dead; and it is means to overthrow. There is a dark and only to the power of this world's interests settled depravity in the human character, and pleasures that he is alive. The spiritual which maintains its gloomy and obstinate man is the reverse of all this, and that resistance to all our warnings and all our without carrying his conceptions a single arguments. There is a spirit working in hair breadth beyond the communications the children of disobedience which no of the written message. He makes no pre-power of human eloquence can lay. There tensions to wisdom by one jot or one tittle is a covering of thick darkness upon the beyond the testimony of Scripture, and face of all people, a mighty influence abroad yet, after all, he lives under a revelation to upon the world, with which the Prince of which the other is a stranger. It does not the power of the air keeps his thousands carry him by a single footstep without the and his tens of thousands under him. The field of the written revelation, but it throws minister who enters into this field of cona radiance over every object within it. It flict may have zeal, and talents, and elofurnishes him with a constant light which quence. His heart may be smitten with enables him to withstand the domineering the love of the truth, and his mind be fully influence of sight and of sense. He dies fraught with its arguments. Thus armed, unto the world, he lives unto God,-and he may come forth among his people,
There is the malignity of the fall which adheres to us. There is a power of cor
And here we are reminded of an instructive passage in the life of one of our earliest and most eminent reformers. When the light of divine truth broke in upon his heart, it was so new and so delightful to one formerly darkened by the errors of popery,he saw such a power and such an evidence along with it, he was so ravished by its beauties, and so carried along by its resistless arguments, that he felt as if he had nothing to do, but to brandish those mighty weapons, that he might gain all hearts and carry every thing before him. But he did not calculate on the stubborn resistance of corrupt human nature, to him and to his reasonings. He preached and he argued, and he put forth all his powers of eloquence amongst them. But mortified that so many hearts remained hardened, that so many hearers resisted him, that the doors of so many hearts were kept shut in spite of all loud and repeated warnings, that so many souls remained unsubdued, and dead in trespasses and sins, he was heard to exclaim that old Adam was too strong for young Melancthon.
flushed with the mighty enterprise of turn- | power must be brought to bear upon the ing souls from the dominion of Satan unto mass of resistance which is before him; and God. In all the hope of victory he may let the man of confident and aspiring genius, discharge the weapons of his warfare among who thought he was to assail the dark seats them. Week after week, he may reason of human corruption, and to carry them by with them out of the Scriptures. Sabbath storm, let him be reduced in mortified and after Sabbath he may declaim, he may de-dependent humbleness to the expedient of monstrate, he may put forth every expe- the Apostle, let him crave the intercessions dient, he may at one time set in array be- of his people, and throw himself upon their fore them the terrors of the law, at another prayers. he may try to win them by the free offer of the Gospel; and, in the proud confidence of success, he may think that nothing can withstand him, and that the heart of every hearer must give way before the ardour of his zeal and the power of his invincible arguments. Yes; they may admire him, and they may follow him, but the question we have to ask is, will they be converted by him? They may even go so far as to allow that it is all very true he says. He may be their favourite preacher, and when he opens his exhortations upon them, there may be a deep and a solemn attention in every countenance. But how is the heart coming on all the while? How do those people live, and what evidence are they giving of being born again under the power of his ministry? It is not enough to be told of those momentary convictions which flash from the pulpit, and carry a thrilling influence along with them through the hearts of listening admirers. Have these hearers of the word, become the doers of the word? Have they sunk down into the character of humble, and sanctified, and penitent, and pains-taking Christians? Where, where is the fruit? And while the preaching of Christ is all their joy, has the will of Christ become all their directions? Alas, he may look around him, and at the end of the year, after all the tumults of a sounding popularity, he may find the great bulk of them just where they were,-as listless and unconcerned about the things of eternity,-as obstinately alienated from God, as firmly devoted to selfish and transitory interests, as exclusively set upon the farm, and the money, and the merchandize,—and, with the covering of many external decencies, to make them as fair and plausible as their neighbours around them, proving by a heart given, with the whole tide of its affections, to the vanities of the world, that they have their full share of the wickedness which abounds in it. After all his sermons, and all his loud and passionate addresses, he finds that the power of darkness still keeps its ground among them. He is grieved to learn that all he has said, has had no more effect, than the foolish and the feeble lisp-exercise of thought in watching over the ings of infancy. He is overwhelmed by a Churches, what a world of perplexity in his sense of his own helplessness, and the lesson dealings with men, and in the hard dealings is a wholesome one. It makes him feel of men with him; and were they friends, that the sufficiency is not in him, but in or were they enemies, how his mind beGod; it makes him understand that another hooved to be ever on the alert, in counsel
Let us now bring the whole matter to a practical conclusion. For the acquirement of a saving and spiritual knowledge of the gospel, you are on the one hand, to put forth all your ordinary powers, in the very same way that you do for the acquirement of knowledge in any of the ordinary branches of human learning. But in the act of doing so, you, on the other hand, are to proceed on a profound impression of the utter fruitlessness of all your endeavours, unless God meet them by the manifestations of his Spirit. In other words, you are to read your Bible, and to bring your faculties of attention, and understanding, and memory, to the exercise, just as strenuously as if these and these alone could conduct you to the light after which you are aspiring. But you are at the same time to pray as earnestly for this object, as if God accomplished it without your exertions at all, instead of accomplishing it in the way he actually does, by your exertions. It is when your eyes are turned toward the book of God's testimony, and not when your eyes are turned away from it, that he fulfils upon you the petition of the Psalmist,-"Lord, do thou open mine eyes, that I may behold the wondrous things contained in thy law." You are not to exercise your faculties in searching after truth without prayer, else God will withhold from you his illuminating influences. And you are not to pray for truth, without exercising your faculties, else God will reject your prayers, as the mockery of a hypocrite. But you are to do both, and this is in harmony with the whole style of a Christian's obedience, who is as strenuous in doing as if his doings were to accomplish all, and as fervent in prayer, as if without the inspiring energy of God, all his doings were vanity and feebleness. And the great Apostle may be quoted as the best example of this observation.
There never existed a man more active than Paul, in the work of the Christian ministry. How great the weight and the variety of his labours! What preaching, what travelling, what writing of letters, what daily struggling with difficulties, what constant