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If it should be asked, how the Spirit elicits and excites the feelings, appropriate to the character of any spiritual object or truth, we must reply, as we have already done, that the precise mode of His agency is, to us, inscrutable; but, in so far as its effects can be traced through human consciousness, it eludes not our research. We have already seen, that we are so constituted as to be differently affected and excited by different objects. Why it is so, we cannot say, other than that, so God has ordained, and such is the nature of His own providential rule. When the object is apprehended, it makes its impression, unless the sensibilities have become extinct. He that understands somewhat of the human heart, can operate upon another's sensibilities, whose character he knows, by such a presentation of objects, and by such appeals and exhibitions of motive, as to produce an high degree of excitement, and both influence his conduct and shape his character. His success depends upon his knowledge of character,—the exciting power of the considerations adduced,—the excitability of the individual, on whom he seeks to operate,—the exciting power of the considerations adduced,-the wisdom and art, requisite to combine circumstances, calculated to excite the very passion desired, and to sustain or prolong that excitement, and the skill with which he can adapt his exhibitions of motive, to the particular mood of mind induced, and to the interests of the individual to be affected. In all this, there is no physical creation. Should we then deny to the Spirit of God, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins of the children of men, what we concede to a worm of the dust? And maintain, that when He undertakesto change the heart, to disentangle the affections from sinful and direct "them to holy objects, it must and can only be done by physical power--an act of physical efficiency? But this subject will more appropriately present itself in the next chapter
We conclude this by remarking, that from the view of spiritual illumination as already given, it clearly follows, that the blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, which characterize the reprubate, are not attributable to any positive efficiency, or “sovereign” agency on the part of the Spirit of God. They are the natural results of a refusal, on His part, to toil and strive with impenitent men, who have alreaciy resisted the impressions of truth. The sovereignty of God, is His supremacy, as a moral governor. And He displays it, in the laws and constitutions He ordains,-in the method which He has devised, and instrumental agencies which IIe employs for administering, or executing the interests and provisions of His government,--and in the exercises of His prerogative to pardon. A mere capricious and arbitrary volition is not sovereignty, but tyranny. In the punishment of offenders, He simply executes His justice. In the pardon of rebels, He exercises His sovereignty, or the right of His supremacy to forgive. No rebel has, or can have, a claim on Him for forgiveness.
If, in any case, IIe sees fit to abandon a man, and leave him to himself, there is no wrong done to him, no positive influence from God, or divine efficiency exerted on him. All restraints being withdrawn, the man yields to the pagsions and affections excited by sinful objects. They obscure his perceptions of truth, and thus, by process of resistance in the first instance, and of unrestrained indulgence subsequently, the man becomes incurably blind and callous. It is a result that naturally follows: and we are under no necessity to talk about a judicial procedure on the part of God, in giving the sinner over to hardness of heart, as though that were the basis of certain positive influences and agency exerted for his destruction. Judicial processes are reserved for the great judgment day, when it shall be found that none of the natural results
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previously eventuating in God's providential rule, will militate against the principles and decisions of eternal justice.
And this is exactly the account which God Himself, has given of this matter. “My people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. them up unto their own heart's lusts; and they walked in their own counsels." Correspondent with this, is the Saviour's account of the same, when explicitly speaking of those who were the subjects of incurable blindness. “By hearing, ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing, ye shall sce, and shall not perceive; for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time, they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." This dreadful result according to the Saviour's account, is brought about through the sinner's exercise of his natural capacities, and susceptibilities. He hears and sees things that are calculated to excite and induce him to forsake the ways of sin. They make some impressions; but he resists them. He refuses to attend to them. He labours to obliterate them. Eventually they lose their impressiveness. In the absence of all impression from the truth, or divine things, he acts as though such things did not exist, and God lets him alone. His sensibilitics become indurated. His lusts become dominant, and through the influence of base and corrupting passions, the most obvious truths are imperceptible by him. The man is not to be moved by any appeals made to himn in judgment, or in merey. Aflictions irritate, mercies are despised, and the wretched slave of hateful passions, is “ led captive by the Devil at his will." Pha
1. Psalm Ixxxi. 11, 12
2. Mat. . 14, 15.
raoh was a splendid example of this sort: and so were the Gentiles of whom Paul speaks. And when, in the one instance, God is said to have hardened Pharaoh's heart, and in the other to have given them over to “ vile affections,” and “a reprobate mind,” no other agency on His part is implied than His abandonment of them. Withdrawing from them the restraints of His truth and grace, and letting circumstances occur in His providence, which irritate and exasperate their corruptions, they become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Falsehood is believed in preferince of ihe truth. Conscience often resisted, is easily bli le ho pot reasonings, and loses all power to contro!
... Like raging waves of the sea, they foam out : Sin', " speaking evil of those things which they low aot, a id what they know naturally as brute beasts, i. those they corrupt themselves."'2
The same account is also given by the Apostle, when speaking of those who are devoted to destruction for their adherence to that wicked one, “whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders.” He says that the corrupting and hardening influence which is exerted on sueh, so far from being from God, is from the Devil, and is “ with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.” It is the deception which they practice on their own minds, through their ingenious acts of disobedience, that holds them in guilt, and hardens their hearts. God does not choose to counteract their wilFUL resisting of the truth.
Yea for this very thing he abandons them. "Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved--and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, (it results in His providence, and according to the great principles of His government, that they should believe a lie; that they
1. Rom. i. 21-32.
2. Jude 10 v.
all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”! So God Himself predicted that it should be, and so He denounced His vengeance against the rebellion of those who would not be influenced by the truth, to make choice of Him, and submit to His sway. “They have chosen their own ways, and their scul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them, because when I called none did answer, when I spake they did not hear, but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not."
The result is manifest. God is not to blame. lle is not the eficient agent in blinding the minds, and hardening the hearts of impenitent men. They destroy themselves. They arm the very capacities and susceptibilities of their natare against themselves, and by opposing the will of God, secure through the very operation of the laws ordained for the government of the human mind, their own defilement and damnation. Yea, and they expose themselres by the indulgence of deceitful lusts, to the caprice and tyranny of the enemy of all good,--that fell “spirit of the storm,” that rides in the tempests of human passion, and guides them at his will. For, “if our gospel bc hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom, the god of this world, (not Jehovah,) hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, should shine unto them.
Reader, art thou resisting thy conscience, shutting out the light, rejecting the Saviour, receiving not the love of the truth, and sporting thyself with thine own vain imaginings? Thou art in the pathway to Hell. The strong blasts from the deserts of earth, are sweeping thee away. The prince of the power of the air, is assuming a control
1. 2 Thes. ii. 9-12.
2. Isai. Lxvi. 3, 4.
3. 2 Cor. iv.3, 4.