« PreviousContinue »
teachers were given "for the perfecting of the saints-for the edifying of the body of Christ;" which is the church. Evidently, then, there are means of grace; there are means by which the vineyard of the Lord is cultivated, and his "building," his temple, erected.
Many other parts of the holy scriptures might be adduced, to prove that purchased grace is conveyed from Christ, by the operations of the Holy Ghost, through faith; and that the gift of faith is ordinarily communicated through the instrumentality of truth.
God's people are made willing, in this manner, to embrace Jesus, in the day of his sovereign grace and almighty power. Man is enabled to wield the sword of the spirit, the word of God: and the Lord makes bare the bosom of his foes, directs the attack, and makes the weapons of the spiritual kingdom sharp in the hearts of the King's enemies. Eph. vi. 17. and Ps. xlv. 5. The "word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb. iv. 12.
Having arrived at the conclusion, that divine truth is the medium through which the Spirit communicates faith, and thus effectually calls the heirs of salvation, it remains to be exhibited, by what means THIS TRUTH is brought into operation.
Instead of working without instruments, in teaching the truth, God invariably adapts them to his designs. The knowledge of God, of man, of the law, and of the gospel, is to be conveyed to the human mind. It does not please Jehovah, so far as we can learn, immediately to create ideas, or thoughts, upon these subjects; but he presents objects, and employs both our bodily organs and mental faculties. When God has been pleased to make an immediate revelation of any truth, he has even then done it through the faculties of the being, which were already in existence. When "at sundry times, and in diverse manners," God "spake in time past" to the prophets, and through them to the fathers, the Holy One assumed some visible form, and used the
sounds of a human voice. His revelations were through signs visions, sounds and dreams.
To perpetuate the knowledge of saving truth, the Father of mercies has given mankind the Holy Bible. From this we derive knowledge, through our organs of sight,, or of sound. We either read or hear it. These scriptures we are to search and meditate upon, with diligence and devotion. Parents are to teach them to their children, masters to their pupils and servants, and the ministers of the gospel to all classes of men. may have access to the truth, the scriptures are to be published in all languages, and spread to all lands. That the people may be constrained, and in some sort compelled to hear the whole truth, public teachers are to expound the scriptures, and the missionaries of the cross are to preach the gospel to every creature. In this manner will be ushered in that glorious day, when effectual calling will be universal, and the knowledge of God will cover the whole earth.
The means which Jehovah uses to bring those to the knowledge of the truth, who shall be heirs of salvation, are almost as numerous as their peculiarities of character and situation. Ask twenty intelligent Christians by what means God effectually called them out of darkness into his marvellous light, and each will have to exhibit something singular, in the mode of divine operation through the truth. The Lord, who made us, knows every string which reaches the human heart, and his hand can touch ten, or ten thousand of them, so as to produce heavenly melody in that soul, which once resounded only with infernal discords.
All those means, which are blessed by God, for the convey. ance of salutary truth to the mind, may be called means of grace, or means of effectual calling; because God makes use, sometimes of one, and at other times of another, or of many in union, to work his pleasure in the soul.
FAITH is the primary, and TRUTH the secondary means of be. stowing grace. The means of conveying truth constitute a third order; and these may be subdivided into three classes.
The first comprehends those in which divine providence is the immediate author of the means, as well as of the gracious influences. God sends affliction, disappointment, tribulation, sickness, adversity generally, or prosperity, or some unusual occurrence, which he causes to promote serious reflection. He awakens sensibility, perhaps by the death of a friend, child, or partner; he knocks loudly at the door of the sinner's heart; forces a passage for truth, quickens the conscience, convinces of sin, slays by the law, and then freely gives faith in "one mighty to save." By his unusual providences the Lord often speaks, causes the sinner to hear, and makes the dead soul live.
The second class comprehends those means, which men use by divine appointment, and under the guidance of Providence for the salvation of their fellow men. Of this description are the training of children in the way in which they should go, family worship, the preaching of the word, the other public ordinances of the Lord's house, particularly the administration of the sacraments, gospel discipline, the example of the pious, and friendly admonition. All these may come under the general denomination of planting; and when seed is, in this manner, com→ mitted to the soil, God does usually give the increase.
The third class comprehends all those means, in which impenitent sinners, either from the force of conscience, education, habit, or any other cause, are used under Providence as agents, immediately acting upon themselves. It is not pretended, that God requires any thing short of immediate and perfect holiness, or that the unrenewed sinner serves God by the use of these means; for his heart is unsubdued, and there is not found one good thing towards the Lord God of Israel, in any part of him. Still, we affirm that God, who brings good out of evil, through the sovereign grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, often causes sinners, essentially and everlastingly to serve themselves. What they perform from no good motive is often converted, by the Holy Spirit, to their saving benefit.
The second and third classes of subordinate means are not unfrequently caused to co-operate. The parent trains his child, and from filial affection, natural but not holy, the child consents
to be trained; and the Spirit of the Lord operates through this concurrence of means, so that when the child is old, he departs not from the way of wisdom.
A master reads the word of God. In obedience to command, or from a conviction of decorum, his servant attends, and God sets home to his heart the words of life.
A gay, thoughtless youth, is instigated by advice, curiosity, or the insufferable fatigue of doing nothing, to frequent the house of God. His attention is first gained by the eloquence, logic, zeal, or manifest sincerity of the preacher. Christ is preached, and the doctrine of Christ crucified, induces a spirit of inquiry. The rebel begins to consider his way, (Hag. i 7.) and his latter end. Deut. xxxii. 29. The law performs its appropriate work, and the gospel becomes unto him the power of God unto salvation. The ordinance of baptism is administered, and another sinner, who came to please a pious parent, is taught of God that he needs to be washed in the fountain set open for Judah and Jerusalem. Prayer is offered. An impenitent person makes an attempt to pray; and is for the first time convinced, that his heart is not right with God. The knowledge of this truth is instrumental in preparing the way for the reception of the gift of faith. The Lord's supper is celebrated. An impenitent sinner sees an acquaintance, a father, a mother, a child, a partner, seated at the sacramental table, and is constrained by the Spirit of the Lord to ask, even to the salvation of his soul, "why should not I become a guest ?"
A believer exhibits in his life the excellency of christianity an unbeliever takes knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus; and looking upon the image of the Son of God, is changed through the knowledge of God, into the same likeness.
One newly converted lisps the praises of Jesus. An uncon→ verted friend listens, and exclaims, "once it was otherwise! I heard blasphemy: now I hear ascriptions of glory to Christ. Whence this change? There must be a power in the gospel; a reality in Christianity." Again he listens, catches the tones:
the cords of his tongue are loosened, and he in turn, is taught to speak for God, and say, "worthy is the Lamb, who was slain."
Through such means God has already effectually called multitudes into his kingdom. By such feeble instrumentality he has caused his grace to extend from heart to heart, from house to house, and from land to land.
From this exhibition of the means of grace, all the children of God should take encouragement to plant and water the seeds of truth. Use the word of God like an instrument to break the rocky heart. Cultivate the Lord's vineyard. If any "fig-tree" has been unfruitful for many years, "dig about it" once more, and possibly it may abundantly reward you for all your labour. "He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." Eccl. xi. 6.
ON THE ARMINIAN TENDENCY OF HOPKINSIANISM.
It has been often asserted, and never disproved, that many of the doctrines of Hopkinsianism tend directly to support the theory of Arminius. If any one doubts upon this subject, let him compare Emmons with any Arminian writer, upon the subject of original sin, imputation, and effectual calling; or regeneration, by the change of exercises.
Since many of the Eastern divines are fond of colloquial discussions, it may not be improper to adopt their method, and introduce