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conviction of truth, and of course is brought about by the immediate instrumentality of the word and the means appointed to impress that word on the mind. Here the work of preparation ends. This is the boundary of all that can be done for unregenerate men. The preparation does not improve their hearts. The bodies in the valley of vision were as dead after their organization as before. Life was infused by the wind which afterwards breathed through the valley. And in this case under consideration, “Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase."* The ancient dispute between Abraham and the rich man in torment whether the most powerful array of motives could change the heart, has convinced thousands in every generation, and me among the rest, that they who for twenty or thirty years can withstand Moses and the Prophets, would not "be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”+ * 1 Cor. iii. 7.
+ Luke xvi. 19—31.
SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
ISAIAH lv. 11. SO SHALL MY WORD BE THAT GOETH FORTH OUT OF MY MOUTH; IT SHALL NOT RETURN UNTO ME VOID, BUT IT SHALL ACCOMPLISH THAT WHICH I PLEASE, AND IT SHALL PROSPER IN THE THING WHERETO I SENT IT.
III. I AM to treat of the means and influences by which the word is conveyed to the minds of the unregenerate.
It is now ascertained that all that can be done for the unregenerate by their own exertions, or the efforts of others, or the means of grace, or the influences of the Spirit, (laying out of account the prayers of Christians for them,) is to set home upon their minds the truths of the word. The question then arises, how far are these several agents and instruments concerned in this effect, and what proportion of the effect is ascribable to a natural and what to a supernatural operation? It is important to know how to estimate both our dependance on God and the value of the means of grace; to ascertain, on the one hand, how far we are beholden to a supernatural influence, and to what extent that influence coincides with the course of nature and encourages human exertions; and on the other hand, how far means and human efforts are available, and which of the exertions of men and of the means within their reach have the fairest chance for success. But let us not lose sight of the effect about which we are inquiring. It is not regeneration nor conversion, but simply the conviction of the unregenerate.
This effect is partly natural and partly supernatural.* The supernatural influence, though not so regular in its operation as to reduce it to one of the laws of nature, is so far stated and coincident with the natural order as greatly to encourage human exertions. In illustrating these ideas we shall have an opportunity to contemplate the vast importance of the means and efforts which God has appointed for man.
(1). The effect is partly natural. This at once brings back the question, how far the exertions of the unregenerate themselves, and the efforts of others for them, and the means of grace, are concerned in conveying truth to their minds in a natural way. Now it is manifest that all the ordinances of religion address truth directly to their eyes or ears, in a manner perfectly natural. The dispensations of providence suggest truth to their minds in the
* It is denied by some that the convictions of the Spirit anterior to regeneration are supernatural. But if they are natural they are brought about by no other power than uniformly attends the course of nature, that is, without any special interposition of God. But the sudden and powerful impression of divine truth upon a mind which for twenty years has been fortified by unbelief, without any visible cause of the change, certainly cannot be accounted for in this way, any more than regeneration itself. If the power which produces conviction acts otherwise than uniformly through a series of natural causes, it is as well entitled to be called su. pernatural as that which produces holiness. What other definition of supernatural can be conceived. If the objection is to prevail, all that unregenerate anxiety which appears in a revival of religion, no more indicates the special presence and power of God than an epidemic or a thunderstorm, and, great as it may be, produces by itself, no manner of certainty, and scarcely a presumption, that one of the whole mass will be converted.
same direct way, or by means of the association of ideas. The expositions and exhortations of others lay before them the instructions and motives contained in truth. Their own exertions, (except the mere motions of the body,) are all comprehended in the single word attention,-attention to truth and to the means appointed to convey truth to the mind. There is such a thing as an effort of the mind to fix its eye on truth, much like the effort of the natural eye to adjust itself to an object, and to pry if the object is indistinct. Without this effort of its own, all the exertions of others to bring truth before it are in vain. A thousand objects may be presented, but if the mind shuts its eye, or turns it another way it is all to no purpose. It must attend for itself or it will never see. Even the influence of the Spirit, (such influence I mean as is afforded to the unregenerate,) if it could be exerted without fixing the attention, would infuse no light, would produce no effect. Every ray of light must enter through the eye of the mind, and except flashes sometimes produced by more immediate power, must enter while the eye is purposely directed towards the object.
Thus far the process is altogether natural; and according to the laws of nature the effect would be proportionate to the human exertions within and without, and greater or less according to the channels through which the truth was conveyed, and to the means employed to propel it through. There are different channels by which natural truths are carried to the mind with different degrees of clearness, such as the external senses, the passions, the imagination, &c. There are different outward means by which natural truths are propelled through these channels with different degrees of force, such as the instructive discourses and passionate addresses of others, including their tones, gestures, &c. ' But the same instruments and channels by which natural truth is conveyed to the mind with different degrees of force, will serve for the conveyance of spiritual truth with force in corresponding proportions, though weakened in all its degrees by the resistance which it meets within. Again, it is a law of nature that when the mind turns its own attention to natural truth it discovers it, and with a degree of clearness proportioned to the intenseness of its application. By a process equally natural it may discover divine truth, with a distinctness proportionate to the degree of its attention, except so far as its vision is perverted by prejudice,-allowing also that the views accompanying every degree of attention will be greatly obscured by unbelief. Now the mind is capable of different degrees of attention, from what may be called simple reflection, up through the ascending grades of meditation, study, and that agonizing reach of soul which is put forth in prayer. In no other sense than as being the highest degree of attention to truth, are the prayers of the unregenerate of any use. But as such, when the mind is serious in the effort, they are of all means the most powerful to impress truth upon the conscience,—those truths in particular which the soul struggles most to apprehend in prayer, for instance, those which respect the character of God, his relations to us, the vileness, danger, and ruin of the sinner, and his helplessness, made more and more apparent by every struggle to subdue himself and prevail with God. That divine truth should be apprehended in proportion to these several degrees of attention, when ignorance or special prejudice does not prevent, is altogether according to the laws of nature. Further, so far as the attention is turned to divine things by the mere influence of the means of grace, or the exertions of others, or any of those causes which act on the body and induce melan