Page images
PDF
EPUB

operative intellectual judgment, as to the nature of sin, conviction. It is the sinner's waking up, under a realizing view of the fact of his own guilt, and its just and horrid consequences in his own case.

The graces of the Spirit, will be sern to be something more than mere intellectual perceptions of truth. They involve, essentially, those feelings or emotions, which are appropriate to the character of the objects the Spirit presents, and the relations the individual sustains to them.

The peculiar significancy of particular passages of scripture, which every christian has, at times, noticed in his experience, and which is ostimes esteemed proof of some special illumination of the Spirit, can be easily explained by a reference to this simple fact, that, on such occasions, the individual has experienced the very feelings expressed in the language contemplated.

In seasons of affliction, and persecution, and peril, from different sources, when feeling is strongly excited, how pregnant with import are many of the Pslams, which, under other circumstances, make but little impression! The perfect applicability of the ser.timent expressed, to the circumstances of the christian, when feeling of any kind is excited, renders it quite intelligible.

In seasons when strong devotional feelings prevail, how refreshing are those parts of the word of God, which breathe forth the ardent expressions of love to the Redeemer, and hope and trust in Ilim! Ilow does the heart feel its interest excited, by those incidents or peculiarities in the circumstances, or experience of christians, recorded in the Bible, which correspond with its own! The language of the soul, in close and deep communion with God, is intelligible and only intelligible to those, who have been admitted to the same.

In seasons of revival, when the current of feeling, awk. ened by the truth and Spirit of God, seem full and strong

how lucid do the Scriptures generally appear! The untutored and unlettered christian, seems, at once, to understand the import of scriptural metaphors, and of transactions had by primitive christians, which no commentaries can enable the mere intellectual formalist, or pharisaic professor to apprehend. He enters directly into the feelings of the convicted, or the rejoicing around, and what, to the cold and speculative rationalist, and self-righteous pharisee, appears disgusting and fanatical, unmeaning and absurd, is, to him, altogether authorized and appropriate, interesting and delightful.

It is unnecessary to cite any further facts. The above are sufficient to confirm and illustrate the position, that spiritual illumination consists in those vivid and interested perceptions of divine truth, which are secured through the influence of the feelings, appropriate to the character of the object presented, whenever such feelings are excited. It is, in scriptural terms, understanding with the heart-the knowledge obtained, not by observation, but by actual sen. sible experience.

Such being its nature, it is easy to perceive, in what consists the special agency of the Spirit in its production. It is, in eliciting and exciting the feelings of the heart appropriate to the character of the objects and truths, presented to the mind, and thus securing those vivid perceptions and that interested attention, without which there can be no in. fluential and abiding knowledge. This is exacăly the ac. count which is given of it by the apostle John. "The anointing,” says he to christians, “which ye have received of him, abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, (a reality) and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."1 i. 1 John, 1, 37

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 reprobate, 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, Ile 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 passions and affections excited by sinful objects. They obscure his perceptions of truth, and thus, by process sistance 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

of re

So I gave

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.

« PreviousContinue »