Page images

from the beginning of the world, as recorded in Scripture, is nothing but the history of the Lord's dealings with them by his Spirit. These dealings therefore existed before the era of Scripture; and it cannot be rationally supposed that, since the first date of these Sacred Writings, no spiritual operations have taken place but what are transmitted to us in them.

We prove from Scripture that the holy spirit is not only occasionally withdrawn from the good, but that it ceases to strive with the wicked. The righteous of all ages, whether Patriarchs, Prophets, or Apostles, could only exercise their spiritual gifts in prophecies or in miracles, as they were immediately influenced by its power. That which proved like their daily bread, was the object of their daily petition: and their holy inspiration did not prevent their faith from being sometimes low. Of this David was an illustrious example; and Paul himself, though endowed with the gift of healing, did not exert this gift for his own interest or convenience, when he saw meet to leave his sick friend and companion behind him.* It was through instant watching and prayer that divine influence was renewed, and divine ability received to work the works of God.

The momentary lapse of faith in Moses, the guilt and contrition of David, the humiliation of Isaiah, the incredulity of Jonah, the bitter complaints of Jeremiah, the deep baptisms of Ezekiel, the defection of Peter, the unbelief of Thomas, and the many spi

* 2 Tim. 4. 20.

ritual trials of Paul, prove to what a state of temporary desertion, these holy men seemed at times to be reduced,

On the other hand, the Almighty declared that his Spirit should not always strive with man; and many of the Lord's servants testified that the heart might be hardened against the feeling of good, and the conscience seared as with a hot iron.

It is hence fair to conclude that the measure of the Divine spirit in the soul, is not like a faculty or instrument of the mind, to be played with, whenever the creature is pleased to use it. The memory may be exercised, the fancy may be exercised, and the judg ment may be exercised, at all times, with more or less vigour, according to the natural humour and tone of the animal spirits-except indeed in idiots and the insane. But if any man can exercise his spiritual faculties, so as to command a morsel of daily bread to restore his hungry soul, or a drop of heavenly rain to allay his thirst, or the feeblest ray of divine light to illuminate his darkness, he has attained to a height and excellence in spiritual growth, which no servant of the Lord, however dignified, that we read of, ever experienced. Who then can say that these things are attainable by the use of any faculties, which, in his own way and time, and at his own will and pleasure, man has the power to exercise? And surely no one will say that, if there be a God, and man an accountable being, these things can be dispensed with. But these positions being

taken for granted, the conclusion follows of course, that Divine assistance is as necessary to man as his Providence is to the outward creation: and, moreover, this assistance never was, and-unless the moral scheme be changed-never can be, afforded, but through the medium of his Spirit.


Of Wisdom, Divine and Human, Faith, Enthusiasm, Revelation, &c.

Proposition IV.

As the rational faculties, or natural powers of the understanding are always more or less at the command and under the controul of man; and the ratio of increase in the seed of Divine grace, is not in proportion to the speculative knowledge of Divine Truth, but in proportion to heartfelt obedience and living operative Faith; it follows demonstratively that the discursive or argumentative faculty is not the source, discoverer, and framer, by any intellectual process, synthetic or analytic, of Divine Truth in the soul.

We are now prepared to consider the fourth Scripture Truth, which indeed is partly implied in the two last propositions, and follows as a natural conclusion. But for the sake of more clearness, at the expense of some repetition, I shall comprise in this section a few observations, nearly relating to the subject, on Human

and Divine Wisdom, Faith, Enthusiasm, and Revelation. I consider that each proposition, or truth, resting, as it does, on the general testimony of Scripture, though expressed in other words, is complete in itself; and, requires no form of syllogism, to make it more clear. I do not therefore pretend to follow any precise logical method in these remarks.

The latter part of the proposition at the head of this section, more particularly claims our attention, at the present time; as it seems to include the sense of the two preceding members of the sentence, which have already been partially under notice. Indeed I have found it difficult to separate the consideration of one part of this subject from that of another.

It seems to me of the greatest importance to mark the distinction between Human Wisdom and Divine, in other words, between the unassisted power of the discursive faculty, and the Divine effective Word of Life—the spiritual source of all-availing Truth in the Soul, to mark it, I say, in the strongest possible manner.

I know that it has been the wish of some enlightened moral and religious writers to bring them as closely together as possible, and, if not to identify them, at least to make them always coincide. It has been said, perhaps justly, that the instruments God has given to enlighten the mind with natural and religious truth, can neither deceive, when properly exercised, nor contradict each other in their evidence. Hence it has been taken for granted that the cultivation

of one necessarily leads to the cultivation of the other, and that their real ends and objects must be the same. Consequently, this plausible conclusion satisfies the supporters of human reason; and if they are opposed by the exclusive advocates of Revelation, they are more likely to push their own doctrines to an extreme. For when the proposition is extended, so far as to make the instrument, whose office it is to acquire natural truth, competent also to investigate and judge of that which is supernatural, we are bound to hesitate before we admit the conclusion-a conclusion by no means following from the premises.

Of Wisdom, Divine and Human.

Before I proceed, I shall insert a few passages from Scripture, to establish in principle, the truth announced in the proposition relative to the difference between Divine and Human Wisdom; and, for this purpose, the 1st Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians appears to contain as strong a testimony as could well be adduced.

"It is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe ? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."

« PreviousContinue »