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the objects which elicit them, whether unlawful, or the contrary;---that the mere involuntary excitement produced by the action of an improper object on our susceptibilities, is not sinful, but only becomes so, if allowed to prevail until it gains the consent of the will;—and that this excitement ripening into will and purpose, possesses no compulsory power, but follows the general laws which God has ordained for the government of mind.
What thosc laws are, have already been incidentally brought into view. They may be summarily stated to be the following, viz. ; that on the presentation of an object adapted to any susceptibility of our nature, an impression or involuntary excitement in some degree, when it is perceived, shall follow-that the strength of the impression, or the degree of involuntary excitement depends upon the vivid character of the first perception of the object,—that if the excitement is not resisted, it will, by virtue of the laws of associated thought, increasc and gain a controling power over the will, first securing its consent, and then maturing into some purpose according to, and in prosecution of, which the appropriate capacities of action are exerted, and in such way as to give indication of the fact.
In all these, we observe a strict analogy with the manner in which material objects act upon the mind, through the organs of sense. The floweret of beauteous colour, or delicious odour when approached, makes its impression on the appropriate organ of sense. The impression if lively, awakes the attention of the mind. The attention of the mind increases the strength of the impression, as it brings the organ of sense, more fully under its exciting power. That impression deepening, we approach and pluck it, or inhale its perfume, giving demonstration in acts, and often in laudatory expressions, not only of the exciting influence of the flower, but also, of that excitement being voluntarily sustained and promoted by us.
But the objects appropriate to our spiritual life, the things of the Spirit, are not directly cognoscible by our
“The natural man perceiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, neither can be know them, because they are spiritually discerned."'l The great realities of eternity, and the peculiar exciting facts or truths of our holy religion, are none of them open to the inspection of our senses. They are reported to us by the testimony of God, who cannot lie, and it is only by fuith, that we can have any knowledge of them. This indeed, is the only way in which we can obtain information with regard to matters of fact, which we have not seen, or which have been without the sphere of our personal observation. It is, from the very necessity of the case, and not by reason of any arbitrary constitution, that in these high concerns, “ we walk by faith, and not by sight.” In due season, we shall be permitted to apprehend them, by other means, and to our inconceivable delight, when the emancipated spirit, shall have thrown off the casement of the mortal body, or that body shall be resuscitated, with its senses so sublimed, and purified, and delicately attenuated, as to secure, in blissful impressions on the soul, the full and joyous excitement from real objects, which now can only be known by faith. But though we do see as through a glass darkly-though the life we live, is by the faith of the Son of God, yet have we sufficient information communicated to us by God, in His holy word, for all the purposes of a present blissful life, and of eternal safely and glory. The Bible is made the sphere of spiritual vision. Here are spread before us the wondrous objects which excite, and bring into blissful and holy exercise, the susceptibilities, and capacities, of our immortal nature. With faith, as with a telescopic glass,
1. 1 Cor. ii. 14.
2. 2 Cor. V, 7.
we peer into eternity, and survey with rapture and delight, the realities of the unseen world. For “ we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things, which are unseen: for the things which are seen, are temporal, but the things which are not seen, are eternal.” Nay further, we penetrate by its means, into the very heart of Heaven and of God: for the Bible is the revelation of Ilis mind and will, disclosing to our view, Himself and His perfections, Christ and His salvation, the Spirit and His work, Heaven and its happiness, Earth and its misery. Hell and its horrors, man and his guilt, the church and her interests, the world and its rebellion, and whatever other spiritual truths or facts we need to know. And hence it is called, “a light to our feet and a lamp to our path.
But the wondrous facts revealed in the Bible, make no salutary impressions on the minds of multitudes. Instead of rousing into blissful action their susceptible nature, its precious truths, with many, have an irritating effect. While the christian pores over its sacred pages, and, in the spirit of prayer, <lrinks in the refreshing influence of the truth, exclaiming with the Psalmist, “Oh, how I love thy law; it is my meditation all the day. »2 The unrhywed sinner dislikes it, and neglects to consult it, as the man of his counsel,” though it is “able to make bim wise unto salvation.”
He sees nothing lovely or attractive in it; except, indeed, it may be, in the sublimity of its poetry, and simplicity of its history. The blessed Saviour, who is there unveiled in the rich glories of his character, possesses no charms.
He is, to the unbeliever, “a root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness, and when He is seen, there is no beauty (per-' ceived) in Him, (to excite the sinner) to desire Him." Whence arises this difference?
We reply, from the special agency of the Holy Spirit. He, by His gracious interposition and influence, brings before the mind the grand central object of our faith and hope—the blessed Redeemer-and influences it to attend to and contemplate Him, and his claims. Various objects or truths, as is the case when the sinner is convicted, may have been previously presented by Him, producing a state of excitement, or bringing the mind into a mood, favorable to an impression from the appeal which He makes. When the pains of Hell get hold of the conscience, and the sinner becomes uneasy, the instinctive desires of the soul for bliss are excited. The'promise of bliss in Christ, attracts attention. His natural susceptibilities of emotion, are variously excited. Hope, fear, desire, sorrow, begin to operate. Reformation is attempted. An exciting influence from spiritual objects, although they are but partially and imperfectly understood, is now experienced. The interested attention given to them, increases that excitement. Clearer views of their solemnity and importance, or their excellence and desirableness are had. Some degrec ofillumination ensues. Spiritual things are apprchended as realities, and the full and hearty approbation and choice of Christ, as all our salvation and all our desire, are secured, aliecting the heart with sorrow for past neglect, or contempt of Him, and for the ingratitude manifested by former iniquity, and rejection of his proffered mercy, and engaging the whole soul, in all its various capacities to act, no longer for its own sellish interests, but for His glory. The heart loves Him, confides in Him, yields, in adoring submission, to His claims, lies humbled at His feet, and consecrates itself and all to Him.
1. 2 Cor. iv, 18.
2. Psalm cxix. 97.
3. Isai, lüi. 2.
And thus the sinner, in a way persecily consistent with, and through the established laws of human thouglit and feeling, is brought by the Spirit of God, to turn from his sins and live. Every one, who is acquainted with the experience of the christian, knows the truth and general ac
euracy of the above account, of the process of conversion. The different steps taken by the sinner, and the different accessions of divine influence, prior to the entire surrender of the heart to the Saviour, in some cases occur at distant intervals, and it is not till after long and much striving, that the rebel yields. But, in others, the transitions of feeling are rapid; and, into the short space of one half hour, is crowded an experience as full and vivid, as that which is spread over months. These sudden changes occur in seasons of revival, when the Spirit's influence is powerfully exerted.
The former most frequently take place, when there is no special excitement on the subject of religion.
In estimating the reality of conversion, we must not look to the time, during which our minds may have been affected with convictions, prior to believing; but to the reality of certain characteristic exercises. Have we been brought to see and feel our wretched, guilty, cursed state, by reason of our own sios? Ilave we been affected with a sense of Ule evil of our sins, as committed against God? Have we feli, that it would be most righteous for Him to condemn us eternally, for our sins? Have we been convinced, that our carnal minds are enmity against God? Have we seen that there is, and can be no hope for us, from our own obedience? Have we heard of the salvation which there is in Christ? Have we seen, that in Him there is a fullness and sulliciency for all our need-blood, to atone for our sinsrighteousness, to justify—and a purifying Spirit, to cleanse our hearts? Have we given full and hearty credit to God's word, when he calls upon us to embrace this Saviour, as a certification of his great benevolence, and of his willingness to receive and save us? Have we actually ventured upon Christ, and given ourselves, soul, spirit, and body, away to Him? Have we sincerely and deeply repented of our sins,