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point. The danger referred to is exhibited in the history of all times and all churches. It is that of ceasing, practically, to depend on the Spirit's influence, as the result of something like mature hierarchical arrangements. It may have happened in the case of individual Ministers, when young, inexperienced, dependent, and full of fear and apprehension, that they were diligent in prayer for the assistance and blessing of the Holy Spirit ; but, as time advanced, as stores of knowledge were acquired, and a facility in preaching obtained, there may have been less of this. The result is seen. The early ministry of such men will have been eminently useful, in the conversion of sinners; and the latter part of it, by reason of their not enjoying the
“unction of the Holy One,” comparatively barren. The same may be the case with churches. When despised, persecuted, poor, few in number, and surrounded by every form of difficulty, they are, of necessity, driven to first principles—to cry to God, repose in his power, and expect the conversion of sinners and the enlargement of their borders, by the power of the Holy Ghost. But as they grow in numbers, respectability, and wealth ; as their organization, religious ordinances, and means of grace, become more perfect and regular ; and, moreover, as verbal definitions, canonical laws, ecclesiastical arrangements, and the dress and adorning of the system become more and more attractive; it is extremely possible for such a community partially to lose sight of the necessity of spiritual influence in the operations of the church, and to depend mainly on the efficiency of the machinery. Let us avoid this danger. Whilst we are grateful to God for our increased facilities for worship, and the enjoyment of full religious services, let us cherish the same humble dependence on the effusions of the Holy Ghost, as if we went out, as our fathers did, without “scrip” or “sandals,” and with nothing but the truth in our hands. And, besides this, we are taught by our own history not to prescribe modes of operation to the Spirit ; not to mark out channels for the water of life ; nor to imagine that the “wind” must necessarily blow from one quarter. Let us remember, “ the wind bloweth where it listeth.” If God chooses to disturb the still, calm, quiet duties and devotions of any particular place, by pouring out his Spirit, so as to awaken “ the dead in sin,” and by this to produce opposition, and the old complaint of “ enthusiasm,” let us not be ashamed of the imputation. On the other hand, it is essential to our prosperity, the perpetuity of our work, the salvation of the wicked, and the ultimate end we propose,—the conversion of the world, that the Holy Ghost should exhibit his power constantly amongst us. This must be sought by every legitimate means ; and He must not be “ grieved,” or “ quenched," by a fastidious fear of offending the cold, sober, and sceptical portions of men around, who, when they succeed in driving good men from one point of practical orthodoxy, never rest
till they have driven them from the next, and then the following, till the church sinks into perfect apathy and death.
(3.) Let us continue to proclaim, constantly, as on the house-top, the doctrine of salvation by grace.
Grace, we mean, in contradistinction to works. This is not only necessary to the evangelical character of a church's creed ; but its faithful declaration is indispensable to the success of its exertions to save the souls of men. It was a bold and noble task, undertaken on the part of our fathers, in their day, to preach a gratuitous salvation, confronted as they were at every point, and in every place, by a host of law-and-merit men. Nearly the whole theology of those times was imbued by this spirit, and its authors were prepared to defend it against the intruders, who by this one doctrine sapped the foundation of the fair fabric.
The true question is, whether, in treating with a sinner, on the matter of his pardon and sanctification, God acts in the plenitude of his own grace, or on the ground of man's personal state, as to his obedience, works, innate fitness, or observance of sacramental duties. This is to be considered as a fact, on one side or the other; and our exertions must agree to the truth as it may be fixed in the economy of Christianity, and revealed in holy Scripture. It is most evident, that all ministerial and church exertions to accomplish the ends proposed by the Gospel, must depend, for their success, on their harmony with the established order of the economy itself.
We are speaking of legitimate effects ; not of all kinds of influence and power over the masses of mankind. It has happened in the course of the history, for instance, of the popish hierarchy, that the end sought has been secured. The advocates of that great and dire apostasy have fixed on this as an argument of its being the pure catholic church, to which our Lord made his promises of perpetuity, universality, and that he, by his Sacred Spirit, would continue to be with it “to the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 20.) Here, it is argued, is a visible Christian power which has existed from the beginning of Christianity, possessing one Head, an universal ecclesiastical authority, a regular succession of Priests, the true sacraments, and whose doctrines have been professed by unnumbered nations. On account of this power are claimed all the attributes and rights of the one, true, and only church of God. We ask, whether the gracious ends proposed by Christianity have been accomplished by the doctrines and offices of this Church ? or whether it presents itself in the aspect of a mere organization of men, under the domination of superstition? When we enter this splendid temple, and examine its pretensions by the infallible test of Scripture, we find that, instead of Christian fruit, we have a system of gross and palpable idolatry, and every corresponding enormity. On this and other evidence, we are
led to see, that great effects may follow a professedly religious establishment, and yet that those effects may not be Christian in their character. To secure these, it is clear that the means employed must be in harmony with the manner in which God produces them.
Now it only requires an impartial examination of the word of God to perceive that salvation is of grace. "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” (Titus ii. 11.) “ We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Eph. i. 7.) “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” (Titus iii. 5.) This is the general language of the Gospel message. It exhibits a provision, a law, a settled rule, in the kingdom of God. This cannot be altered by man. Teaching of another sort may be resorted to; and, in fact, the utmost pains have been taken to establish other doctrines, to the utter repudiation of this. Have they succeeded ? Poor, guilty, and polluted sinners have been trained, drilled, and exhorted, in every form of language, to look for the blessing of God by the observance of ceremonies, the works of law, and self-mortification. Has God met them at these shrines of human superstition, and conferred upon them the forgiveness of sin and the gift of his Holy Spirit ? If effects are to determine the question, we may know infallibly that he has not. They remain still in the misery and pollution of sin ; and though they exercise some kind of unintelligible dependence on their performances, yet the salvation they expect is always distant, and they are taught to decry the notion of present effects. Not so when the doctrine of grace is faithfully proclaimed. Led to God by a system of teaching which represents him as a God of love, “ pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin," from the free and spontaneous motions of his own grace, He meets them in the fulness of his mercy, and in Christ Jesus freely justifies and saves them. Let us still adhere to this doctrine, publish it abroad, and endeavour, by all the means in our power, to cause it to be received. It has hitherto been our life, our power, our means of success. Nothing can supersede it. With it, we, and others of like creed, may still move the world ; without it, we must sink into oblivion !
(4.) Let us continue, in all our labours for the salvation of men and the triumphs of the Gospel, to trust to the sufficiency of faith.
Keeping the end in view, all along referred to the induction of sinners into the privileges and blessings of the Gospel,--the doctrine of faith must be the main instrument. The point on which it is desired that attention may be fixed is this :—that the Apostles who finished the canon of holy Scripture, not only embodied this truth as of fundamental importance in the sacred records, but employed it without reserve, in their labours for the conversion of men. Their
whole teaching was in exact accordance with this one address : “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins : and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts xiii. 38, 39.) This was their great rule, and in imitation of this apostolic practice, our predecessors adopted the same line of proceeding. The law, it is true, whereby “ the knowledge of sin," and the obligations of repentance and of works meet for repentance, were every where insisted upon ; but, in the matter of pardon and the attainment of “the liberty of the sons of God,” faith alone was taught. This was the great lever which, in the hands of the first Preachers of Christian doctrine, moved the world; and which on the last revival of religion produced so deep an impression. Without the application and constant use of this doctrine, any church must either sink into some kind of heresy, or assume some form of external superstition. Purity and life cannot be conserved, but by a constant union with Christ, and the rich reception of the grace of his Spirit; and this union can only be maintained by faith. “ The just shall live by faith.” (Heb. x. 38.)
“ stand in the old paths,” and address ourselves to the duty of seeking the conversion of mankind, laying aside every other subject, and do this in the proper sense of the expression; then we shall be true to this principle, because we shall find that nothing else will accomplish the end we seek. Let us not be diverted from this by the consideration, that great numbers of our people are so far advanced in Christian attainments, as to make it inexpedient to keep up this kind of ministry amongst them. The object is to bring into the experience of saving grace those who are destitute of these blessings; and it would be wrong to neglect the state of those who are not saved, by the consideration of those who are. In old congregations, as well as in new places, if the “edification of the body of Christ” be sought, by the constant accession of new converts, then this light must be kept up “ to guide their feet into the way of peace.” Preaching the doctrine of faith keeps the door of our Lord's house constantly open; the way to his kingdom clear and well defined; presents the blessings of pardon and acceptance as constantly practicable ; and exhibits the grace of God, and the passion and merit of Christ, as in perspective, to the sight and hopes of sinners.
This is the case with regard to the church in her stated and general ordinances and services. But, in addition to this, Christian bodies, with their Ministers and means, ought to go much beyond the line of their own established services, in seeking the salvation of the lost. The darkest places of our own population ought to be entered; the most profligate and abandoned ought to be sought; the churchneglecting and out-door masses, which constitute the vast majority,
ought to be visited, in their neglected state, by the pervading and aggressive calls of the Gospel. And then, beyond our own limits lie the dark dominions of Popery, Mahomedanism, and Pagan idolatry. How are these wants to be met ? We have only one mode of successful enterprise, and that is, in continuing to imitate the example of the first Evangelists, and our own predecessors, in proclaiming the freeness of God's grace to be received by faith. All prosperity and success depend not merely on holding the truth, as a dogma, but on the use made of this doctrine in the services of the church; the public preaching of the word ; and labours employed to carry out the purposes of the Gospel, in the conversion of the world of ungodly men.
This is the truth which God has ever sanctioned by the effusions of his blessed Spirit ; and without these influences, churches can neither preserve their vitality, nor fulfil the divine
purpose in the salvation of those who are ignorant and out of the way.”
(5.) Finally, let us rest on the perfection of the Gospel in itself, and the means it employs, guarding against all refinements, or the employment of human expedients to accomplish the Lord's work.
Nothing can be conceived of more importance than this. It is just as possible to carry expediency into religion as into the business of civil life. There will always be the temptation to this. To make the teaching and ordinances of the Gospel palatable to the age, to adjust it to circumstances, to render it attractive and ornamental, and, by adorning it in the dress and colouring of a secular eloquence and external beauty, to endeavour to render it popular and agreeable to public taste ;—are dangers to which we, in common with all other Christian bodies, are exposed. There is great plausibility in all this ; and when it becomes excessive, the effect is, to put aside the Gospel and service of God, properly considered, and to substitute the shadow for the substance, the flesh for the spirit, and the human for the divine. The pure and unadorned Gospel is itself the essence of beauty and grandeur. Standing out in its simplicity, mercy, holiness, and hopes, nothing can equal its sublimity. The spiritual glories of Christianity are too ethereal and divine to receive improvement from the human intellect; and, in their unsophisticated truth, they are too powerful to need the ingenuity of man to render them effective. But we are not speaking of Christianity in its abstract verity and beauty, but as the instrument of carrying on God's saving work in the world. We deem the Gospel, independent of any other means, sufficient. It is unquestionably right and necessary, that godly order, discipline, and rules of action should be devised by the church, and observed by its Ministers and people. But what, it may be inquired, is the relation of these things to the truth? Just the same as that of the walls and the different utensils of the temple, to the