Page images
PDF
EPUB

No man can have looked with any degree of thoughtfulness upon this vast world of living beings, without having been led to some ideas of dependence on God, and at least of providential agency on His part in their preservation and support. The circumstance of there being an apparent blending of divine and human agency, may indeed produce some perplexity; but it will not destroy the conviction, that there is, and must be some over-ruling care and poiver on the part of God. But while the general providential agency of God, in the support of our animal being, and in the government of our moral actions, will perhaps be admitted, the direct and special influence of the Spirit in the conversion of the sinner is denied by some. But there is suficient evidence,—not only of a general providence on the part of God extending to all nations and people; but also of a special care employed in relation to the church, which CARE indicates a divine agency, in her offairs, different from, or superadded to, that from which all alike, receive benefit.

The whole history of the church, for near six thousand years, may be appealed to in proof of the assertion. One nighty collossal nation after another, has raised its proud and losty head, and seemed, as it loomed large before the world, to be upheld and guided by the hand of God:-but in a few centuries where was it? Fallen, broken, and in ruins! But the church of God has lived and flourished, on the ruins of the mighty nations which sought its overthrow. Is there no proof of special care and agency on the part of God, towards his church and people in the Egyptian bondage, and subsequent miraculous emancipation?—in their forty years sojourn in the wilderness?-during the Babylonish captivity?-in their return to Judea? in the spread of the gospel?-in its preservation in the world, when the floods of northern barbarians had swept

away nearly every vestige of civilization, and for centuries inundated the world with ignorance?-in the preservation of the truth among the Waldenses?-in the triumph and spread of the reformation?--and in the rapid progress, which has marked the course of those who, within the last thirty years, have sought to diffuse the blessings of religion, in despite of all the proud menaces, and . predictions, and combination of haughty infidels? He, must be blind indeed, who cannot see a special agency of God, for the preservation of his church, in accordance with His own pledge, that “the gates of Hell,” should not prevail against His Zion!

And what mean all the promises of God, which look to the growth, enlargement, prosperity and universality of the church of God? Is there no intimation of His special and peculiar agency when God says, “Fear not; for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west: I will say to the north, give up; and to the south keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name; for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." "I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted thee, shall come bending unto thee: and all they that despised thee, shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord; The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee. I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations " “ And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit that is upon thee,

1. Isai. xliü. 5-7.

2. Isai. lx. 13--15.

and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord from henceforth and forever." It is unnecessary to add to such déclarations. They might be multiplied indefinitely. Assuredly such promises pledge something more to the church, than that general agency, by which God upholdeth all things. Whether they are understood of the literal Israel, and look forward to those wondrous scenes of Evangelical triumph, when God shall make the repentance and conversion of the Jews, prove the riches of the world; or whether they have reference to the spiritual Israel, and

describe the prevalent influence of the truth among them, a it éffeets not our argument. In either case, there is dis

tinctly recognized a special and gracious agency on the part of God as the appropriate cause of these results.

Here, perhaps, it will be objected: there is, indeed, a special divine agency towards the church; but it is only in her character as a collective body, that it is to be regarded, and not as extending to her individual members. The language of some of the passages above quoted, evidently intimates something very different. Beside, the objection is contradicted alike by facts, and the plainest declarations of the word of God. Was there no special agency in the divine care of Abraham, of Joseph, of Moses, of David, of Daniel, of Jesus, of the Apostles, and others.

If it should be urged, that they were extraordinary persons, then let the objector say, why it is still, that in different families such different results are seen, in the character of different members: --why one is taken, and the other is left. Why is it, that one is drawn to the house of God, and to the place where prayer is wont to be nade, and inclined to seek the face and favour of God, while hun

1. Isai. lix. 20-21.

dreds and thousands go on in blasphemy and crime, to their eternal ruin? Why is it, that through all the ghanges, which eventuate in the history of one and another, there is ever and anon something stirring within him, reproving him for his sins and short-comings, and leading him to look to and depend on God and Christ alone, while others, with more outward opportunities, and more likely means to rouse their consciences, remain entirely indifferent? Why does the word come with power into the heart of this man, and not into that of him, that sits beside him? Why is a burden of distress laid on the heart of God's people, for this one and another, and great fervency in prayer for their salvation is induced, while others excite no interest in the heart, and no freedom in prayer for them is felt? And why, in despite of all his resistance, is this, and the other rebel spirit made to bow in submission at the feet of Jesus, while others set their mouth against the Heavens, and through the pride of their countenance, will not seek after God?

The answer is plain, and may be given in the language of God Himself, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee;"> or, in that of the blessed Redeemer; "I thank thee, O Fa. ther, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." The words of God, as reported by the prophet, in the 43à chapter of Isaiah, are very explicit, and they only assert individually of the members of the church, true christians, what is elsewheresaid of them collectively, as true alike of each and every one. “This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise." The truth is, there is not a promise of the well ordered covenant, which does not imply such an agency. What mean such

1. Jer. 31, 3.

2. Mat. xi. 25.

3. Isai. 43, 21.

expressions as these-"I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”. “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your Slthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse, you: A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” It is impossible for language to be more pointed, and plainly indicative of a special agency on the part of God, towards the conversion of sinners.

Although it may be truly said, that the primary reference of these passages, is to the great and wondrous effusion of the blessed Spirit of God, when the remnant of the Jewish pation, which is now scattered over the face of the earth, shall be converted unto God, yet does not the agency by which this shall be effectuated, differ, in character, from that which is exerted, and has been, from the first, for the con> version of a sinner? For the apostle has shewn, that the grand principle involved in these promises, is applicable throughout the whole period of the Evangelical church. What God says, in reference to the ultimate conversion of the Jews, was fulfilled on the day of Penticost, and is still in every revival of religion, and conversion of a sinner. I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, (it) as one mourneth for an only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, (it) as one that is in bitterness for a first born.">3 Assuredly, these things mean something direct and special, in which all do

1. Jer. Xxxi, 33. 2. Ezek. xxxyi. 25.–28. 3. Zach. xii, 10.

« PreviousContinue »