Page images
PDF
EPUB

man heart, and the pride of human reason, a system at war with human worldliness and sensuality, and that neither flatters the pride, nor tempts the avarice, nor pampers the lusts of men; yet does it reject with indignation every attempt to influence them, except by considerations which commend themselves to the conscience. Frank and ingenuous in the expression of its claims, candid and open in the designs it aims at accomplishing, it counts on success only as its truths enlighten the understanding, awaken and regulate the conscience, and purify the heart. True religion has its seat in the soul. It is a matter not of external forms and observances, but of conviction and feeling. No man possesses it any farther than he voluntarily embraces its principles and feels their power. The Bible therefore must necessarily depend for its triumphs, not upon the authority of human governments, or the tricks of sordid policy, or any concealment of its ultimate objects, or any appeals to human selfishness, but upon its own inherent excellence and high-born claims. Falsehood and sophistry never made a man at heart the friend of the Bible. Every true believer in the word of God has the witness within his own bosom, that he is not led away by “ cunningly devised fables and the craftiness of men, but that his confidence in it is justified by the begun and growing conformity of his heart to the heavenly character which this word requires. The truths of the Bible have been brought home to his own soul “in demonstration

senses.

of the Spirit and of power. There is an agency that gives them effect which is exerted by God himself. We do not hear this still, small voice, nor is it in any way an agency that is the object of our

The hand that accomplishes the work is unseen, and all that we can behold is the work itself accomplished. It is the supreme, the almighty agency of God, by the unseen power of his Holy Spirit. It is an influence that controuls the thoughts, dispositions and affections, and that makes the Bible the “ wisdom of God and the power of God to salvation."

Now this constitutes one great pre-eminence of the Holy Scriptures, and is fitted to show the obligations of the world to this sacred volume. It has higher claims to our regard even than the excellence of its truths. It reveals the existence and interposition of an omnipotent agent, known in the method of redemption by Jesus Christ, whose province it is to enlighten and renovate the heart, and give power and energy to his own revelations. This can be affirmed of no false religion. Just before the author of the gospel left our world for his throne in the heavens, he promised his disciples that he would send the heavenly Paraclete, who should “reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment;" who should guide into all truth;" who should take of the things that are Christ's, and show them unto his people.” The religion of the Bible therefore has this high and peculiar pledge of its efficacy, that it is associated

with an omnipotent agency, which, by its controul over the intellectual faculties and moral dispositions, renders the truth which God has revealed effectual in the moral transformation of

men.

God has revealed himself in the Scriptures as One in Three. So distinct are the three, that they sustain distinct offices in the work of Redemption, and possess the properties of distinct persons; and yet so intimately are they identified in the divine nature, that they are the One only living and true Jehovah. This is a great mystery, and we receive it on the testimony of God. The Holy Spirit is not a mere influence, or power, or emanation of the Deity, but a living agent, to whom the Scriptures ascribe intelligence, choice, and power. He is represented as teaching, instructing, dictating, commanding, commissioning, sending forth, convincing, sanctifying, and bearing witness. To him are appropriated the true and proper names of the Deity.

He is spoken of as eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, and as one who is worshipped as God. He is the direct and immediate Author of the Scriptures, while miraculous gifts and operations are every where ascribed to his power. There are also internal operations of the Spirit; that is, operations immediately exerted upon the mind itself. It is his province to illuminate the ignorant and benighted; to awaken the thoughtless; to convince the obdurate; to renew and sanctify the heart; to comfort and seal

the heirs of salvation for their final inheritance, and fit them for the glory to be hereafter revealed. The truths of the Scriptures, though divine in their origin, are only the instrumental cause of all holy impressions. Their saving efficacy, in all cases, depends on the power and agency of the Holy Spirit. Nor are the nature and mode of this influence altogether undefined. It is in every instance, connected with the truth; imparting to the mind clear perceptions of what God has revealed in his word, and rendering these perceptions impressive and effectual to the formation of a spiritual character. Truth is the motive of the change, and the agency of the spirit its cause.

The terms and illustrations by which the Scriptures represent the work of the Spirit are strongly significant. Sometimes it is represented by the metaphorical language of the new birth.” When, in the moral history of man, a rebel becomes a child, it is because he is “ begotten, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Sometimes it is exhibited as a "new creation." When from the confusion, darkness, and disorder of the natural mind, men are formed anew, and adorned with all the glories of a spiritual transformation; they are “his workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus after the image of him that created them.” Sometimes it is set forth as a "resurection from the dead.” If the dead in sin burst the bars of their cold sepulchre and come forth; it is because “he quickens

them,” and his Spirit is the sole author of this new and holy life. If the apostate child of Adam becomes the child of God; if his moral nature lives by new culture, and his faculties acquire a new developement; if he sustains new relations, possesses new tastes, preferences, and pleasures ; if he is devoted to new pursuits; if he has a new heart and a new spirit; it is from “the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” “ He that hath wrought him for this self-same thing is God.”

I need not tell you that a different theology than this has, to no inconsiderable extent, pervaded the Church of God in almost every age. Pelagius, as early as the fifth century of the Christian era, taught, that "for us to be men, is of God; but that for us to be righteous, is of ourselves." Of the same class are those teachers in modern times, who affirm, that while God cannot regenerate men, men regenerate themselves! We have no fellowship with views so directly opposed to the instructions of the Bible, and so utterly at variance with the experience of good men. I have often wondered at the rashness of those who have ventured thus to tamper with principles of such extreme delicacy and importance. There is nothing we should approach with greater fear and trembling than the work of that Almighty Spirit, to whom so much is entrusted, and whose office and honours are protected by such fearful sanctions. It is easy to give a wrong touch to the Ark

« PreviousContinue »