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in their views, who will not exhort sinners, under the idea of its being useless to speak to the dead ; making no difference between those who are naturally and those who are spiritually dead. The hour is indeed coming, when the former shall be aroused from their slumber by the voice of the archangel and the trump of God: but the hour now is, when the latter are awakened, through grace, by the sweet sound of the trumpet of the Gospel of peace.
When Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy in the valley of dry bones, and was asked : « Son of man, can these bones live ?” He modestly replied : 660! Lord God, thou knowest.” Without reasoning upon the subject, or objecting to the work of prophesying to dry bones, he implicitly obeyed the divine command; and immediately there was a shaking, and the bones came together, and the sinews and flesh came upon them. Then he was again commanded to prophesy unto the wind, and the breath came into them and they lived.
So when the apostles went forth at the command of Jesus to preach the Word of life to thousands “dead in trespasses and sins ;" an agitation was felt wherever they came; and multitudes were turned unto the Lord through the power of the Holy Ghost.
St. Paul writes thus to the Ephesian Church : “ In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation.” Also to the Thessalonians : “Our Gospel came not unto you in word only,” (like Ezekiel's first prophesying,) “ but also in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." A quickening influence accompanied the word; and souls, before dead in sins, were quickened and saved by almighty grace. “ For this cause, saith the apostle, thank we God without ceasing, because when ye received the word of God, which
heard of us, ye received it not as the word
of man, but as it is in truth the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” St. James in like manner plainly declares : “ of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth.” St. Peter again, fully confirms this doctrine: “Being born not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.” “ The word of the Lord endureth for ever; and this is the word, which by the Gospel is preached unto you.” Surely then may the Messenger of peace say to a ruined world: Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” His duty is to preach the word. The promise of God is: “it shall not return unto me void.”
Our blessed Lord in his beautiful parable of the sower, compares the word of God to seed sown on various grounds.
There is the hard beaten pathway which cannot receive the seed. It lies on the surface, and is devoured by the fowls of the air. There is the rocky ground, lightly covered with earth, which admits indeed the seed; but affording from its shallowness no moisture, in seasons of heat and drought the plant withers away. There is the thorny ground, so covered with weeds and brambles that the seed, if it spring up at all, can bring no fruit to perfection. There is the good ground, which being ploughed and broken up, is brought into a proper state to admit the scattered grain from the sower's hand, and plentifully rewards his toil.
Wherever the Gospel is faithfully preached, there the good seed of the word is sown. The soil is the human heart.
Careless hearers receive no good whatever from the most faithful preaching of the Gospel. Mere animal excitements are of short duration, whilst the stony heart remains unchanged. Worldly riches, cares, and pleasures check the growth of the Gospel in the soul.
One soil and only one is good; that is a heart prepared by divine grace; a heart deeply impressed with the command of God; “ break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns, lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it;” a heart groaning under the burden of conscious guilt, and crying out : “what must I do to be saved ?"
Such a heart, like soil that has been ploughed and broken up, is prepared to receive the precious seed of Gospel grace ; those glad tidings of great joy which proclaim pardon and peace through a crucified Redeemer.
According to the strength of faith is the produce which this blessed soil yieldeth, in some thirty, in some sixty, in some a hundred fold.
Fruit is invariably produced by such a soil in a greater or less degree; it is “the ground which the Lord hath blessed." Happy is he who aboundeth in the fruits of righteousness, for Jesus hath declared : “herein is my father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples.
Now if the word of God, or the great truths drawn from that word, be the instrument of our regeneration ; if a moral change be thus effected by moral means; how invaluable are the two great blessings, which a God of mercy has bestowed upon mankind, viz. “the Scriptures of the prophets,” and “the preaching of Jesus Christ." St. Paul knew their value when he wrote,
66 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by
tho Scripture of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith : to God only wise be glory through Jesus Christ for ever, Amen." Romans xxi. 25-27.
Thus the wisdom as well as the grace of God is manifested in appointing the Holy Scriptures, and a preached Gospel, as the two grand instruments in the hands of the eternal Spirit, for the bringing of all nations to the obedience of faith.
If such be the great authority, and such the sure foundation, on which Bible and Missionary societies are established; what must we think of those, who, professing to be Guardians of the truth, labour to paralyze the exertions, or suppress the endeavours of the zealous servants of Christ, whose only aim is to extend the knowledge of salvation among the perishing millions of mankind, by those very means, which infinite love has ordained for our present and future happiness?
From want of due consideration, some persons confound the regeneration of the soul with the rite of baptism ; and suppose that every person baptized, is invariably born again, during the celebration of that sacred ordinance.
A man cannot be born twice in a spiritual, any more than in a natural sense. If an infant be truly regenerated in baptism, (and who dare limit the Holy One of Israel ?) he will no doubt manifest the change by corresponding fruits, at least in childhood, before the influence of bad example has unhappily corrupted his renewed nature. But does not the painful experience of almost every family testify, that infants in general unfold the powers of their
souls, without manifesting one genuine fruit of the Holy Spirit? Lies, dissimulation, and perverseness, in childhood frivolity and licentiousness
in youth- ambition and love of the world, in manhood-covetousness and peevishness, in old age ; awfully prove the soul to be dead in sin, and an heir of hell.
Should the Almighty transform a child after the holy image of its Saviour, when presented to Him in baptism, this would only evidence the sovereign mercy and grace of a compassionate God; but does not disprove the former statement of facts. Man, under the Christian, as under the Jewish economy, is not necessarily and invariably changed by the outward rite either of baptism or circumcision; for St. Paul expressly declares: “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Thousands, however, are turned from darkness unto light, through the grace of God, accompanying the faithful preaching of the Gospel. Those who have been baptized and have grown up in the visible Church in the commission of every crime, have been converted from the error of their way, and made the humble, holy followers of Jesus, through the word of his grace.
The change produced by the Spirit, when thus bringing the truth to the heart, is radical and universal. They become in every sense new creatures. They are quite different from what they were before. Surely then all must confess, that the Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, when wielded by the Almighty Spirit, through the instrumentality of men appointed to preach to a world of sinners the unsearchable riches of Christ.
So invaluable to fallen man is the Gospel of sal