« AnteriorContinuar »
to baptised persons, let them produce their authority for it from the sacred Scriptures, and shew that such an application of them is sanctioned by Christ, and the Apostles. But do not let them attempt to justify such perversion of scriptural language, by citing the opinions, and writings of any uninspired men, or intrenching themselves behind the customs and usages of uninspired speech in any age of the world.
There is nothing more deluding and dangerous, than to use the language of Scripture, as expressive of ideas, different from those of the inspired writers, who first employed it. Nothing can justify such a thing. It is, in this case, a wresting of words, and perverting of the truth, to the ruin of souls; and they that will be guilty of such an attempt, to get rid of a vital and essential doctrine of christianity, as to apply the terms of Scripture, which denote a change of heart, so indispensably necessary to salvation, to a mere formal rite or ordinance, can no longer be regarded in any other light, than as false and dangerous guides. We know what some have done, and how they have actually eviscerated the lively oracles of God, of all their distinctive and living truth, of every thing that can give consolation to a troubled conscience, while, nevertheless, the language is retained. The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth lifo;" and whether it be the essential fact, of an atoning sacrifice offered by the eternal Son of God, or of the vital influence of the Holy Spirit, in changing the sinner's heart, we can discern but little difference. It is but a frigid, killing system of religion, where either does not hold a conspicuous place. The wretched mind of man, is in most disordered action; drawn away, by earth, from God, the source and centre of its bliss, and held, in sad, corrupting subjection, by its selfishness. There is need for an influence from God, a beam from the fountain of light, to restore the miserable and degraded being, that has resigned himself to the dominion
of his lusts. Blessed be God, that the instances are not rare, in which He “who hath shined out of darkness into light, shines into the heart, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.”. There is no hypothesis of infidelity, no resort of formality, no refuge of lies whatever, that can resist the evidence of facts occurring, so plainly and so satisfactorily solved in the sacred Scriptures, by referring us, for their cause, to the special agency of the Spirit of God.
THE REALITY OF THE SPIRIT'S SPECIAL
Tae doctrine of the special agency of the Spirit in the conversion of the
sinner not a mere hypothesis—The history of the church, furnishes proof of a special care indicating a special agency on the part of God— The same thing inferred from the numerous promises relating to its growth and prosperity-Objected that these things are true only of the church, as a collective body-Proofs to the contrary—The effects of the special agency of the Spirit, capable of being traced though human consciousness, and consciousness conjointly with the testimony of the Scriptures, furnishing evidence of the reality of the Spirit's special agency.
We have assumed as true, in the remarks already made, the special agency of the Spirit, in the work of conversion, and shewn, that it alone is a cause adequate to account for the effects contemplated. Before we attempt to trace that agency, in its immediate influence on the mind and heart of man, it may perhaps be proper to adduce some proof of its reality in addition to what has incidentally been exhibited. It is not a mere hypothesis.
Were there no other evidence of the special agency of the Spirit of God, in the regeneration of the sinner, than the plausible manner in which it accounts for the remarkable moral transformations among men, commonly called conversion, regeneration, change of heart, &c. it would after all, be nothing more than a mere philosophical theo. ry, invented and adduced, to explain the language of the Scriptures, and as such it could not, however plausible, claim the assent of our faith. But that such is not its character, a few considerations will suffice to convince the reader.
No man can have looked with any degree of thoughtfulness upon this vast world of living beings, without having been led to some ideas of dependence on God, and at least of providential agency on His part in their preservation and support. The circumstance of there being an apparent blending of divine and human agency, may indeed produce some perplexity; but it will not destroy the conviction, that there is, and must be some over-ruling care and poiver on the part of God. But while the general providential agency of God, in the support of our animal being, and in the government of our moral actions, will perhaps be admitted, the direct and special influence of the Spirit in the conversion of the sinner is denied by some. But there is suficient evidence,—not only of a general providence on the part of God extending to all nations and people; but also of a special care employed in relation to the church, which CARE indicates a divine agency, in her offairs, different from, or superadded to, that from which all alike, receive benefit.
The whole history of the church, for near six thousand years, may be appealed to in proof of the assertion. One nighty collossal nation after another, has raised its proud and losty head, and seemed, as it loomed large before the world, to be upheld and guided by the hand of God:-but in a few centuries where was it? Fallen, broken, and in ruins! But the church of God has lived and flourished, on the ruins of the mighty nations which sought its overthrow. Is there no proof of special care and agency on the part of God, towards his church and people in the Egyptian bondage, and subsequent miraculous emancipation?—in their forty years sojourn in the wilderness?-during the Babylonish captivity?-in their return to Judea? in the spread of the gospel?-in its preservation in the world, when the floods of northern barbarians had swept
away nearly every vestige of civilization, and for centuries inundated the world with ignorance?-in the preservation of the truth among the Waldenses?-in the triumph and spread of the reformation?--and in the rapid progress, which has marked the course of those who, within the last thirty years, have sought to diffuse the blessings of religion, in despite of all the proud menaces, and . predictions, and combination of haughty infidels? He, must be blind indeed, who cannot see a special agency of God, for the preservation of his church, in accordance with His own pledge, that “the gates of Hell,” should not prevail against His Zion!
And what mean all the promises of God, which look to the growth, enlargement, prosperity and universality of the church of God? Is there no intimation of His special and peculiar agency when God says, “Fear not; for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west: I will say to the north, give up; and to the south keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by my name; for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." "I will make the place of my feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted thee, shall come bending unto thee: and all they that despised thee, shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the Lord; The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee. I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations " “ And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit that is upon thee,
1. Isai. xliü. 5-7.
2. Isai. lx. 13--15.