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doubt. Through the channel of inspiration the truth and love and purity which dwell in God flow in a small measure into the human soul and wash away its lower nature, The change is real and radical, and is above all cavilling and dispute. It is not merely an intellectual change consequent upon a knowledge of truth and God; it is not a fitful outburst of sentimental enthusiasm in moments of prayer ; it is not a mere reformation of external life and character. It is a conversion of the whole life, a complete unification of the human with the Divine will. The Divine Spirit takes full possession, of man, and reigns supreme over all his thoughts, feelings, words, and deeds, so that nothing remains in him of himself, and all that is in him is of the Lord. Such is the real and vital work of conversion effected by the inspiration of God. The first step man takes towards salvation is to eschew sinful deeds and also to curb impure thoughts. But this is not enough. He then attains positive purity of character. Even this is not enough. It may be altogether our own purity in which we are rejoic-: ing—a righteousness wrought out by our own will. The third step has yet to be taken. There must be absolute self-surrender and self-abnegation. Our truth must be God's truth, our love God's love, our power God's power, our purity God's purity. In such a state of mind the very conception of a will as contradistinguished from that of God becomes impossible, for one will alone reigns—that of God, and into that the will of man has merged. In Pantheism man, with all his impurity, fancies he is God. In Theism the human will is. purified, and so attuned to the Divine will as to become one with it. The Theist's heaven is not absorption into the Divine essence, but the nirvana
of ahankar or the annihilation of egotism. In the highest state of inspiration man's only creed is " Lord, Thy will be done."
A great prophet was he of Nazareth. In his life you will find a singularly lucid illustration of what I have already said. Some may think, in fact it has often been contended, that throughout his public career he systematically endeavoured to exalt himself at the expense of his Maker and Creator. I think otherwise. I fully believe that he was not proud, but “meek and lowly in heart.” Not a single word have I to this day discovered in his recorded utterances in the Gospel which militates against my deep conviction that he believed, with his whole heart and soul, in the doctrine of selfabnegation. Nay, it seems to me to be an utter moral impossibility that Jesus could have thought or believed otherwise. Self-annihilation was his
, mission. That he taught, for that he lived, and to that he bore witness in death. He would have been untrue to himself had he even in thought proudly exalted and glorified himself. He would have ceased to be Jesus. In his private and public life, in his prayers and conversations, in his ministry and in his last words, he consistently denied self and glorified God. Take his words,how simple and unmistakable ! “I can of mine own self do nothing :" “ The words which ye hear are not mine :” “I live by the Father.” Consider these transparent testimonies which clearly reveal his inner self, and tell me if it is possible to misconstrue them. No, you cannot misconstrue them, twist their meaning as you may. They furnish the most conclusive evidence of the impossibility of charging that great prophet with a proud attempt to arrogate Divinity. He repeatedly said
that he was nothing, and had no power save that conferred by God. "Not my will but Thy will,” — that was the burden of. all his prayers and the motto of his life. The complete abnegation of self he taught and lived, for the glory of God's name and the salvation of mankind. He wholly surrendered himself to God and dedicated his will to the Divine. How? By inspiration. He was baptized, and lo ! the heavens were opened unto him and the spirit of God descended and lighted upon him. And a voice was heard proclaiming the acceptance of the beloved son by the Father. What does this beautiful and significant narrative mean? Evidently this, that when Jesus was inspired by the Holy Spirit he gave up his earthly life, entered into heavenly life, and was admitted into loving communion with his Father. Such is the glorious change effected by the inspiration of God.
This new birth is known only by its effects. The course which, inspiration takes is indeed Inysterious. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” You know that a
man is inspired only from the change which is produced in him. But how that change has been brought about ye know not. You cannot explain the wherefore of man's conversion to heavenly life. God Almighty works with invisible, and spiritual agencies in the depths of the soul. Who can enter into the arcana of the Godheads ? Behold a certain sinner under an overpowering consciousness of sin kneels at the gate of heaven, and with tears in his eyes prays for redemption. Days and nights pass away, but his heavy heart finds no rest, and the chafing bonds of sin he cannot cut asunder,
He repents and sighs, weeps and prays. One day on returning from his God he suddenly discovers in his house a message addressed to him. He opens it, he reads it. It is the glad message of salvation from heaven. The more he reads and understands it the more he profits by it. Who brought this strange message, how it came there and when,--all this is involved in mystery. But its marvellous effects upon the heart are plain and clearly visible. It is not given to us to look into the hidden currents of electricity, which God sends forth into the human soul. You see a spark, and anon a fire which rapidly consumes sin and impurity, and illumines and purifies the whole man. But whence the ignition you know not. The changed man is astonished at his own conversion, and can give no account of it. He wonders how those sins which troubled him only twenty-four hours ago, and from whose grasp he felt it impossible to escape. have been easily vanquished. He could not bear witness to the truth, he was so strongly tempted to lie. His hard and selfish heart would not give alms to the poor, for his love of self was intense. He was sold to sin, and over his own will he had lost all control. But it is all changed now. Truth falls from his lips instinctively, and charity entails no effort. God's inspiration has so completely turned his heart and purified the root of his being, that he not only leads a godly life, but he does so naturally and easily. He lives in God, and God lives in him. Religion becomes to him as the free air of heaven, and the inspired man inhales it as easily as
He lives and moves in the breath of God. He not only enjoys perpetual communion with the Divine Spirit, but separation becomes impossible. In the first stage
man is occasionally inspired; he breathes out his prayers and God breathes in His spirit. But in the highest stage man's aspiration and God's inspiration are continually exchanged with all the ease and force of natural breath. They become in fact the soul's vital breath, without which it cannot live. Let the inspired soul be cut off from God and it dies. The question then is, not whether man can be virtuous or honest or truthful without His spirit, but whether he can live without it. His heart ceases to beat, his soul sinks as soon as the breath of the Holy Spirit is withdrawn. He says truly, "the spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”
How mysterious, yet how grand, is this living union of God and the human soul! Blessed they are who can realize this union! It seems indeed foolish and ambitious that we who are born of the dust and are defiled with iniquity should cherish such high aspirations. But with God nothing is impossible. Brethren, let us feel thankful that He has consented to dwell in us. Only prayerful humility and trust are needed on our part, and Divine grace will do the rest. From the lives of prophets and martyrs we learn that such union is possible, nay that it is a fact in the world's history. Let us then learn from them that humility and self-denying meekness which led them to kneel at the feet of the Lord and realize inspiration. Do you know why they received such precious treasures in the Father's house ? Only because they felt they were poor. They received wisdom only because they confessed they knew nothing. Their poverty proved their wealth, their simplicity their wisdom. "Unto babes that light was given which was denied to sages. Verily through humility and self-abasement shall man be raised to be a par