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Spirit by them, and in a manner perfectly adapted, alike to their own nature and to that of the human mind and heart, secures the fixed and interested attention and the voluntary consecration of the soul to God. These means, may all be ultimately resolved, into the truths and facts of scripture, as brought to bear upon the mind of rational and feeling man. For what,” says an eloquent writer, "are bibles, sermons, and sacraments, but instruments to carry truth to the understanding and heart? What are all the expostulations of others, but efforts to press the motives contained in truth, upon the sensibilities of the soul? What are the passions which preachers address, but channels, through which truth is carried to the quick, or instruments to rouse the soul to view it with sharpened attention? What does Providence more than illustrate, and enforce revealed truth? Sabbaths are not means of grace, so much as opportunities to attend on ordinances and exercises that are." The believing prayers of christians, in relation to the unconverted, which are made, in the closet or apart from them, are hut means of securing, in the good providence of God, that impressive exhibition of the truth, through which the Spirit subdues the heart. The gracious exercises, and other efforts of christians, are but a preparation for its more decisive and effective appeals. And the efforts of the unconverted, to which, by some, a superstitious, and by others, a seli-righteous, importance has been attached, are all reducible, when properly examined, to the attention which the mind gives to the truth, or to the ordinances or means through which it is exhibited.
Now it is obvious, that there is a natural tendency of the truths and facts revealed in the scriptures, to induce those exercises, appropriate to the capacities, condition, and relations of men, in the commencement of which consists regeneration. We are required to love and confide in
1 Park street Lectures, p. 135,
God, to repent of our sins, and to hope in and fear Him. All of which things are affections of the renovated man, and without which, no one can lay claim to the christian character. But in the bible, the truth, faithfulness, benevolence, justice, holiness, grace and compassion of the divine nature, are unfolded, and specific declarations are to be met with, in the form of promises, giving clear and decided intimations of these things, and they certainly have, in the nature of things, as obvious a tendency to produce the affections of love for, and confidence in God, as have the exhibitions of similar traits of excellence, and proots of regard, when coming from man to man, to induce such exercises between them. The dreadful nature of sin, its damning consequences in us, its frigł tful impeachments of the divine character, and its horrid malignity as depicted in the scriptures, are calculated to move to repentance, And the views which are given, of the bliss and glories of Heaven, and of the character of God as a Moral Governor, have as manisest a tendency to excite hope and fear.
The opposition, which the heart may and does make against these things, and their failure, in any case to produce such results, do not disprove the tendency of the truth to secure them. Nor, do the special influences of the Spirit, which are NECESSARY in consequence of the rebellion and resistance of men against the trulh, fornish any argument, against the adaption of that truth, to the circumstances, eharacter, condition, and constitutional capacities of man, and consequently, its natural tendency to produce the affections contemplated. So far are the scriptures from sanctioning such an idea, that they do actually urge the ORLIGATION, arising out of the very erhibilion of thc truth, made to the mind and heart of man, instantaneously to exercise, and express the affections appropriate.
I''ith the following examples, the scriptural reader is
familiar. "Thou blind Pharisee! cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
“Put of all these; anger, wrath, nalice,”? &c. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners and purify your hearts, ye double-iindcd.” “Stablish your hearts.'' "Set your affections on things above." "Make to yourselves a NEW HEART and a new spirit.” "Oh Jerusalem wash thy heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be
“Suve yourselves from this untoward gencration.” “My son give me thy heart."9
Whatever influence the Holy Spirit escrts, to awaken and induce such feelings and exercises in men, is and must be, in entire accordance with their moral agency. For, unless men exalt their philosophy above the bible, it is undeniably through the truth, that it is imparted. This very circumstance, implies thai the solemn consideration of the facts or objects, which that truth makes known, isi intimately connected with the sinner's conversion. Indced we do not perceive how else a rational and accountable creature such as man is, is to be made willing to renounce his sinful, selfish, sordid attachments, and bestow his affections on spiritual things. The idea of inimediate power on the soul, or a physical efficiency determining the will, is a contradiction. If he is voluntarily to turn from sin' to God, and the will is always determined by motives, appropriate motives must be presented and the attention interested. This in the very nature of things, is necessary;: and may serve to throw some light upon a subject, exceedingly perplexed, and obscured by the false philosophy and false theology of some, viz: the use of the means of grace. 1 Mat. xxiii. 26. 2 Col. iii. 8.
3 James iv. 8. 4 James v. 8. 5 Col. ii. 2.
6 Ezck. xviii. 21. 7 Jer. iv, 14. 8 Acts ii. 40.
9 Pov. xxii. 26. Other instances of the same sort, may be seen in James i. 21; 1 Pet. i. 22, ii. 1; Col. iii. 12-15; lieb. xii. 1; Deut. X. 12-16; Jer. iy 3,4.
On the first view of this subject, it would scem natural and right, that we should attempt to discriminate correctly, and inquire, in whose hands the means become effectual;whether in the Spirit's or the sinner's—ard what are the particular agencies of the Spirit, and of the sinner, necessary to their being used suceessfully? We shall attempt a reply to these questions, in the confirmation and elucidation of a few simple propositions.
1. There are, strictly and properly speaking, such things as are called means of grace. If the phrase is not found in the bible, that is no reason why it should be rejected, provided that the thing it teaches or implies, is found there. In the hand of Gud, the truth is unquestionably a means through which He displays and imparts His grace. In the experience of the christian, the consideration of the truth, to which his mind is led in the right performance of the duty of prayer, and in the reading of the scriptures, contributes greatly to the growth and perfection of the gracious affections, and principles of his character. As employed by the Lord's people, the various methods which they adopt for the exhibition of the truth, are conducive alike to their own spiritual improvement, and to the conversion of sinners. And as a wakening and fixing his attention, even the unconverted sinner may make use of means, that have a salutary tendency. Whoever may be the immediate agent contemplated, there are appropriate means through which he may operate. God and man both work by means.
2. The means of grace are admirably adapted to the end designed by them. God's wisdom is infinite, and it were an impeachment of it, and of His character altogether to suppose that it were otherwise, as it respects the instrumentalities of His agency. Nature and Providence alike display proofs of this. We have already seen the adaption of the truths of scripture to the result sought, which
is the sinners conversion. They address His intellect and heart, and make their powerful appeals to conscience which unites both.
3. The means of grace, however, notwithstanding this natural tendency or adaption, do not possess any efficiency in themselves, to secure the end designed. For, if that were the fact, then must they differ from all other instrumentalities whatever. Instead of being called means, they should be sty icd causes.
4. The efficacy of the means of grace, docs not depend upon the agency of man entirely, in the use of them, for the exhibition of the truth. That man has a very impor
art to act, in co-operating with God, according to His plan, in the use of those means Ile is ordinarily pleased to employ and bless, we do not deny. Would that the whole church wcre more awake under a sense of the importance and obligation of this thing! But our co-operation with God, however important and indispensible, according to the constitution. He has ordained, is not that which gives efficiency to the means. . Ile is the Mighty One who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, and makes use of our agency as the channel through which He imparts His own energy. “Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."
5. It is only as the use of the means of grace secures the divine agency, that they become effective means of salvation. “I have planted,” says Paul,“Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. This, we presume will be denied by none. But what is that agency, and how is it secured? It is not a physical efficiency, as we have seen, but a moral power-a power given to the truth, which sways effectually the mind and heart of the rebel, and turns him from the error of his ways. If that power be exerted on the mind and heart of 1 1 Cor. ii. 17.
2 1 Cor. jii. 6.