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nal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” The inspired apostle declares, that“ being confident of this very thing, that he which had begun a good work in you, would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The Lord says, concerning such, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good, but I will put my fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.”
- And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever.” Here God pledges his faithfulness on his part, and then engages that his children shall not fail on theirs : it is impossible that language should be more directly to the point.
Lorenzo. If the doctrine is true, that saints will infallibly persevere, will it not have a tendency to relax Christians in every good word and work?
Evander. To one whose religion consists in selfishness, I acknowledge that it would not be a very stimulating doctrine; he would consider his personal interest secure, and that would satisfy him. But one whose religion consists in active benevolence, has no evidence that he is a child of God; unless he is forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth towards those that are before, and pressing forward towards the mark of the prize of the high calling
of Godin Christ Jesus. To such an one, I
consider it one of the most stimulating doctrines in the gospel. Hezekiah being informed that God had added to his days fifteen years, did not prevent his using the means prescribed for his recovery.
Our Lord assured the apostle Paul, that he should bear witness of him at Rome; yet when he knew that certain Jews had bound themselves under an oath to kill him, he took every prudent' means to preserve his life; but had Hezekiah and St. Paul possessed a spirit to tempt the Lord, one might have said, as he had God's positive word that he should be healed, there was no necessity of using the means prescribed for his recovery; and he might go further, and refuse his daily food, as he had the infallible word of God that he should live fifteen years. The other might have said, there was no necessity of avoiding the band of ruffians who had leagued to take his life, as he was sure that he should be preserved to visit Rome. But this cavil is by no means a new one.
Satan told our Saviour, if he was the Son of God, to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, insinuating that there was no necessity of his taking prudent care of himself, for he had the promise of God that he would give his angels charge concerning him, that in their hands they should bear him up, lest at any time he should dash his foot against a stone. And Christ's answer to Satan, ought to apply to every
one who insinuates such presumption : “ Again it is written, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
Lorenzo. What is the nianner of the special operation of the Spirit ?
Evander. It is like the wind; we see its effect and feel its influence; “ the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
Lorenzo. If the Spirit moves in a sovereign manner, how is it possible for us to obtain its influence when we wish ?
Evander. “ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for every one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” And God's sovereign promise satisfies every one that has confidence in his veracity.
Lorenzo. If I am destitute of a disposition to ask, how shall I obtain it?
Evander. While you have no disposition to ask for the Divine influences, you have no reason to expect salvation; but have abundant reason to conclude, that you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity.
Lorenzo. I see no necessity of considering myself a cast-away, at any rate; but if I make a sincere attempt to obtain a right disposition, I
but if you
shall be in the way of my duty, and have reason to expect God will bless my endeavours.
Evander. If you mean, by sincere endeavours, those desires which are the fruit of the spirit, then I fully agree suppose that a person while in a state of nature, and opposed to God, can in any sense be in the way of his, duty, I must totally disagree with you; for God never commanded mankind to do this, or that, as a prerequisite in order to repent, believe, or to be holy; but requires the thing itself: "repent, believe, be ye holy,” &c. This is the language of the Scriptures. Be not deceived, my dear sir, for God is not mocked.
Lorenzo. How can I determine wbether I am a subject of the special operation of the divine Spirit?
Erander. If you are conscious, from self-examination, that your affections are in Heaven, and on Divine things, and that you love God for what he is in himself, and his law, which pronounces condemnation on the least transgression; and rejoice in being in his hands, as clay is in the hands of the potter; and that your greatest consolation is, that the Lord reigns, and will do all his pleasure; and in daily committing yourself, by prayer, into his hands, for time and eternity; relying alone on the atoning merits of Jesus Christ for justification before him; and if you delight in all the precepts of the gospel, imitating Christ in all his imitable
perfections, choosing his followers for your constant companions; and finally, in taking up your cross daily, and following the Lord. If you can say, with godly sincerity, that you pos. sess these things in some degree, then I can say from the authority of God's word, blessed art thou, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee.
Lorenzo. Well, Evander, we have continued our conversation much longer than I first contemplated, and my mind is so full I want a little time for reflection. If you please, we will drop the subject for the present, and at some future period resume it again.
Evander. I am perfectly agreed; and may we, in our retirement, humbly beseech him with whom is the residue of the Spirit, to enlighten our darkened understandings, and bring us into the marvellous light of his gospel, so that we may behold the beauty of the Divine character, in his works of providence and grace; and unite with all holy beings, in heaven and on earth, in the celebration of his love, and goodness. Farewell.