« PredošláPokračovať »
be a wonder if he blessed them. It is a matter of the last importance to be faithful.
6. In carrying on his work, the Lord often rejects the means which are most likely and probable in themselves. In this sense, might and power are not always in opposition to God's method; but in subordination to it. Viewed in the best light, the most plausible means are never to be doated on. Divine power alone must stir up, and bless the most likely means before they can be useful. When probable means are depended on, and get a place which they do not deserve, and God is forgotten; they are often removed. Even then the saints have no reason to be anxious or unbelieving, while God is under obligation by his promise to prosper and promote his own work. When continued, the Divine blessing alone can make these means effectual; and when taken away, the Lord can make his work prosper without them. When all visible power and might fail, he is the Lord of hosts. In carrying on his work, Christ often lays aside the means and instruments on which the Church is most inclined to depend, that he may exalt his own power. He has often adopted this method about remarkable deliverances and interpositions. The means, on which his people depended in the extremity of distress, failed; but his wisdom and love were the more illustriously displayed. We are far from meaning to insinuate that God will carry on his work without the appointed means of grace. We only mean that the Lord's work does not depend on this and the other instrument, on talents of a certain description, or on some peculiar address. When
the means of grace are dispensed, there is often too much of the creature in some discourses for the Creator to adopt them; and if we lay undue weight on any instrument, God may justly blast him, for he will not give his glory to another. Alas! we have not far to seek for an example in point! But HE does all well!
We now proceed to the second branch, which is, that the Lord's work is carried on by his Spirit.
1. The Holy Ghost is qualified for promoting Christ's work as he is a Divine Person. Divine wisdom and power are absolutely necessary for building the spiritual temple. The Holy Ghost is the true God, and possessed of both. Every thing about the salvation of sinners is a great mystery. The doctrines of religion are such a depth that the angels desire to look into them. They learn from the church the manifold wisdom of God. None but a Divine Person could know those that belong to the election of grace, and though they did, they would be ignorant how to gain their hearts. Without infinite wisdom, the various necessities and conditions of such as are lively stones in Christ's temple could never be understood, instead of being supplied. The same may be said about the wiles of their enemies, and their own evil inclinations. Divine power is as necessary as infinite wisdom, both to defeat the opposition, and execute the work. The opposition is great and unremitting. The fallen angels have drawn the whole human race into a conspiracy against God, and none but God can make sinners own their allegiance to their rightful Lord. To form proper con
ceptions of the opposition made to Christ's work, we ought to consider the innumerable attempts, and the incalculable obstructions made to the conversion and sanctification of one sinner. We should also keep in mind that as far as Satan and the world are permitted, the opposition to them all is equally great. Some saints may be more harassed than others, and some sinners are better qualified for promoting Satan's interest; but his enmity to God, and the salvation of sinners, is malicious and unabating. Put the case, that he might lose less by the salvation of some individual than others; such is his malignity that it makes him exert himself to the utmost to oppose every conversion. The heart itself is enmity against God, and peculiarly inimical to his grace. After being long dead and in the graves, men will as soon reassume their natural life as begin the spiritual, and believe on the Son of God. Omnipotence is absolutely necessary to dispossess the strong man, and implant grace. The exceeding greatness of that power which raised Christ from the dead is indispensably requisite. The Gospel report will never be credited till the arm of Jehovah be revealed. When the opposition is defeated the work is but half done. Not only must the rubbish be removed, but the foundation must be properly laid, and the spiritual edifice reared up. Dead sinners must be quickened, and born again. Sanctification must be gradually promoted, and none but a Divine Person can work in the heart of sinners both to will and to do. Possessed of the same perfections, and equally engaged in the work of salvation, the Holy Spirit,
like Christ, is able to save to the uttermost, and infinitely willing. Opposition must vanish before him. In the day of his power, the most obdurate shall be made willing. Often he is resisted when he strives; but where he has a design of grace, hell and earth can neither prevent nor retard it. He is in the church prosecuting the Redeemer's cause, and it must prosper. All opposing endeavours will at last serve only to display, in a more illustrious manner, his wisdom and power, vigilance and care; and of all who are given to Christ, he will lose none. While these comforting conclusions flow from his divinity, they are confirmed by facts. Few could be better qualified to promote Satan's interest, or more cordial and active in his cause, than Saul of Tarsus: but in a moment, the prey was taken from the mighty. Equal power is always necessary, and shall certainly be exerted.
2. The Holy Ghost promotes this work in an official character as the Spirit of Christ and in a spiritual manner. He is the Spirit of Christ. Thus Christ himself says, Prov. i. 23, "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you." Christ opened the channel for the Holy Ghost, and procured his influences. He is employed in the same cause with the Redeemer, and supplies his place. Christ took particular notice of this, Haggai ii. 5, "According to the word which I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you." Before his death, frequently and with infinite grace, he promised to send the Comforter. This gracious title is most comprehen
síve, and includes the whole application of salvation. To accomplish this great work, he dwells more immediately in Zion than either the Father or the Son. In his official character he is equally qualified with the Mediator, and will be no less faithful. Till his wisdom be outwitted, and his power exceeded, his good will eradicated, and his promises invalidated, the work must prosper. He carries it on in a spiritual manner. When sinners are converted or saints sanctified, the great Agent is invisible, and his operations secret and mysterious; but the effect is certain and irresistible. He breathes his Divine influence into the heart like the blowing of the wind. He falls like the rain, and distils as the gentle dew. Promoting it in a spiritual manner, the kingdom of God cometh not with observation. At Pentecost, and during the lives of the apostles, his effects were extraordinary and visible. In a settled state of the church, he accompanies the still small voice of the Gospel with powerful, but imperceptible virtue. As to conversions, this and that man is turned to the Lord. He distributes his influences here a little and there a little. The joy of the saints is what strangers do not intermeddle with. He must promote it in a spiritual manner, as he uses spiritual instruments. The chief of these are his word and ordinances. He makes the voice of Providence subservient to both. The great end of the work is spiritual. His chief design is to take away the old, and give a new heart, and make the outward actions run in a new channel, as influenced by the great principle of love, and directed to the glory of God as their great end.