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be needful, the words of the promise to send Hiin, are in place, as proof: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
“ But when the Comforter is come, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” “ When he, the Spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all truth”_" he shall take of mine, and show it unto you.” How much soever, in these quotations, is appropriate to the miraculous dispensation of the church, and the prophetical office-work of the Holy Ghost, it recognizes him as the Spirit of Truth,—associates his operation with the truth, and indicates, plainly enough, the line of his influence in leading and guiding his people to the truth.
He is said, too, to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, and on grounds calculated to induce conviction - he is said to " strive with man," and we are exhorted not to “grieve the Holy Ghost," and are admonished of the sin against the Holy Ghost. All these expressions show that the commerce of the Spirit is with the activities and living responsibilities of the soul; that his agency on men, is laid out where it is, philosophically, capable of being resisted, grieved, checked, and turned aside. Men treat the Spirit as they treat the truth, and often resist both, in resisting either. “ Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost,”—and hence the unpardonable nature of the sin against the Holy Ghost: it thwarts the ultimate provision of grace.
The varied phraseology quoted above, would be very inapposite, if the Spirit's work consisted in the lodgınent of a substratum in us, in the entire passivity of the soul, as a mere foundation for right emotions. Setting aside the monstrous metaphysics of such a position, such a work, in its occurrence, does not use the truth, or involve the agency or responsibility of man. It might be performed on him, for aught we know, in sleep, or in utter ignorance of God, and when under no impression of duty. It would be a merely sovereign work of divine, creative power, having in it no correlation with truth or moral obligation.
The word of God is styled “ the sword of the Spirit,” showing the truth to be the instrument of his contact, influence, and subduing power over the souls of men.
To the same end, is the testimony of consciousness. The mind in conversion, in the commencement and progress of piety, is conscious of no impression but in view of the truth. Although responsibility attends the whole process, we are aware of no influence, except in accordance with light in the understanding. We feel only in view of considerations drawn from the Bible. We repent in view of the wrong of sin, and the rightness of God's law and government, and i he claims of his goodness and grace. We believe, froin the evidence of the truth; we love, from an apprehension of the excellency of the truth, of the appreciated perfections of God, of the abounding reasons for loving Christ; we submit, from the overwhelining conviction of truths adapted to produce submission. Such was the penitence of David, and of the prodigal son; such is the reminiscence of the Christian; such is the language of the convicted sinner, and of the new convert, whose whole soul is full of praise : such, the testimony of any one who has been conversant with seasons “of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.” Indeed, if it were not so, religion has no more virtue than instinct, or the service of God than that of idols.
With the intimations of consciousness, coincides the doctrine of the Spirit's agency, as taught by our Saviour in the interview with Nicodemus, so far as applicable to the point before us. “ The wind bloweth where it listeth, 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.” There is an influence exerted, though the agent be not seen, and the agency be recognized in the effects. These are according to truth. There is no infringement of the laws of mind, no suspension of its conscious responsibilities, all is in accordance with the legitimate tendencies and results of truth on our intelligent nature. It is the Spirit of God, with the truth; his co-ordinate, mighty, sufficient agency, with it and for it, giving it deserved success; inducing repentance and every Christian grace, in view of considerations adapted to such issues; giving the issue which truth has over sinless mind without the superadded economy of the Spirit, which it ever should have over all mind, and which it would have over us, but for our sinful degeneracy of heart and life.
A reference may here be fairly made to what is known of the nature of mind, and the laws of influencing it. We can conceive of no way in which it can be swayed to good or evil, but through considerations presented to its view : changes in it, irrespective of these, must be irrespective of accountability, and be without moral quality or character. What, too, are the analogies of the subject ? How is the mind influenced on other subjects than that of religion, by other beings than the Spirit of God ? How are men influenced by one another ? how by Satanic agency, and that which is wrong? How came angels to sin? How was Eve tempted—a pure, sinless spirit, until temptation entered ? She saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise; considerations vastly magnified, no doubt, by the suggestions of the adversary, and filling, at the time, the whole horizon of her view, at least enough to give them a prevailing influence over her; and “she took of the fruit and did eat.” In this instance, a mind capable of choosing, and considerations inducing choice, seem to be all the material facts of the case. Habit and previous character were against the issue. A holy being became sinful in this way. Does it help us to the conclusion, that a sinful being may become holy, in the same way," mutatis mutandis ?" The assertion that the law of the Spirit's agency is wholly unique and incapable of illustration, from the sources here referred to, is certainly gratuitous, is without necessity and without proof. But if there be any analogy, as here contemplated, and the agency of the Holy Ghost may be regarded as in the direction and channel of the truth; his impressions as coupled with the annunciations of the gospel, to give them their deserved and full effect; then is the doctrine of the Spirit the source of defined and intelligent encouragement, to commend ourselves, in dispensing truth, to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
IV. An accurate analysis of the hinderances to conversion.
It was the fault of scholastic times to invest the subject of our repentance and recovery to holiness with an abstract and involved phraseology, and clothe it with a form of expression which has little alliance with the thoughts or language or associations of men in other departinents of knowledge. There was in it bad logic, an imperfect analysis of mind, and an illdirected effort to preserve the forms of orthodoxy, though sure to diminish its power. Nor are the effects of this impolicy yet fully worn from the face of the church. The good or ill success of the gospel is often taken out from the channel in which ordinary instruction is viewed, and based upon recondite theories, which the mind of the applicant cannot well investigate or comprehend. Faith is made too abstruse a principle for ordinary apprehension. Conversion is viewed as part of a mysterious economy, not obvious to reason nor connected with the legitimate issues of instruction. The obstacles to piety are referred to, in some implanted principle of evil, occuli in the essential nature of man, intangible to the sinner himself, and independent of his agency, and capable of removal only by a sovereign act of God, as an indispensable prerequisite to the force of truth upon the mind, or to a capacity for the discharge of duty. But the doctrines of grace are not aided by such recondite statements and conceptions. All this is like David in the armor of Saul; but the cumbrous ritual of other times, that can only embarrass inquiry, and muffle the edge of “the Sword of the Spirit.” It would seem important, also, that the popular mind be free froin the habit of resolving the difficulties of conversion into physical obstructions and inabilities in the nature of inan.
Such a reference of the matter cannot but be attended with a weakened sense of responsibility--with a spirit of self-justification, on the part of those in sin, and a diminished response to truth, as it reaches them in the ordinary avenues of instruction. The subject will bear a more practical reference, and may be brought more fully under the notice of observation and consciousness. In this light is it presented by our Saviour himself in the parable of the sower. This parable is recorded by two of the Evangelists, with an accompanying exegesis, and presents in clear light the relations between the word of God and the hearers of it. Hinderances are here detected, in the inattention and frivolity and worldliness of men, and in the agency of “the wicked one;"' in minds full of other things than the word of God; in sensibilities benumbed and deadened by sinful habits and courses,and affections enlisted in behalf of selfish and worldly gratifications, preventing due consideration of the word, and its taking root in them, “ unto faith and salvation.” The especial type of binderances will, of course, change, with the ever-changing circumstances of the hearers of the gospel; but how nultiform soever, they should not be looked for in the essential properties of the mind. They are rather the accretions of its history, than the ingredients of its being. They have arisen from its wrong action at first: they spring from that which is of the nature of the habit from within, or temptation from without. All sin is of the general nature of any particular sin : all sinful habits, much of the nature of any particular sinful habit. The obstacles to repentance in the sinner, are like the obstacles to reformation in the inebriate ; they are to be overcome through considerations of truth and obligation, and not by a creative fiat, in the listless passivity of the subject. And when repentance has occurred, the sinner will usually find the special obstacles that had prevented it, to be the most ensnaring of any in his future course, as in the case of one recovered from a particular vice. His progress away from them, and his strength against them, will be gradual, and his history illustrate the law of habit, in respect both to the sin and the holiness of men. This feature is observ. able in all changes of character, and not least in the highest of all changes, that from sin to holiness, from apostacy to reconciliation with God. And the reference here is, to the intent that it may contribute its influence to divest that event of needless mystery, and to exhibit it as a rational process in accordance with light in the understanding, and convictions in the sensibilities of the soul.
This view of the obstacles to piety accords, it is believed, as well with the lessons of experience as with the nature of mind, nor is it in conflict with the phraseology of the Bible. The “cannot there found, is always that of popular use. It is correlated with facts that have arisen in the history of the agent, with the circumstances in which he is found—with his sinful and depraved habits and state—with the variety and strength of those hinderances which have accumulated upon him in the ways of sin. It refers to what is predicable of man since the fall, of that which is of the nature of sinful habit, in the progress of human history, and of temptation from without, acting on the course and character of man.
To recur to a previous illustration, it is the inability of the drunkard to refrain from his cups,—of the voluptuary, to forego his pleasures,—of the idle man to shake off his sloth. It is the inability of one addicted to falsehood to speak the truth-of the “swearer” to cease his profaneness, or “ of them accustomed to do evil," in any form,“ to learn to do well:”—and those hinderances are so accumulated and prevailing, and their practical views so entirely uniform, that they are well described, for all the purposes of speech, in the language of the Bible and of common life. “ Joseph's brethren hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.” “Ye cannot serve God,” says Joshua," for he is a holy God.” “For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with