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THE CONNEXION OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE WITH THE USE OF DIVINELY
Isaiah lv. 10, 11.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from
heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater : so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
As it is my intention to pursue the subject of the preceding discourse, from the point at which it was concluded, I shall not at present advert to the meaning and design of the passage of Scripture which I have now selected, as they will become to be considered in the course of the present discussion.
The object of these discourses is to shew, that between the proper use of divinely appointed means on our part, and the exercise of spiritual influence to render them effectual on God's part, there is a certain and fixed connexion. In order to establish this, I have taken a general, but not a minute review of what I understand by the means, in the use of which we are encouraged to expect the blessing of God. In regard to these, no difference of opinion can exist. Their accordance with the will of God, their importance in themselves, and their adaptation to the circumstances of the world, must be acknowledged by all. Their full and vigorous employment could not fail to produce an effect on mankind, even independently of the special influence of the Spirit of God. Without that influence, they would not command the effects which we desire ; but they would operate to the healing of the nations, even if they failed to impart to them eternal life. Nothing but the power of Him who breathed into man's nostrils, at first, the breath of life, can raise men from a death in trespasses and sins. And blessed be God, we have no reason to despair of the exercise of this power, while we are engaged in doing the work of God. To prove this, I shall now proceed to adduce those reasons, which satisfy me, that God has established a fixed connexion between the faithful employment of his own appointed means, and the communication of that influence which renders them effectual.
1. In the first place, the establishment, by God, of a system of appropriate means, affords presumptive ground for believing, that the divine blessing shall attend them. I am not aware that to this general statement any decided objection can be brought; as all christians concur in thinking that God will bless his own appointinents. Yet it seems generally to be thought, that there is no necessary connexion between the one and the other; nor is it supposed to be an extraordinary thing, for christians to employ all the means appointed by God, and yet to experience a very small degree of encouragement from the blessing of God. It is assumed that he will bless; but believed that he may not: that the connexion between the two branches of his moral administration is arbitrary and indefinite : and consequently all our expectations are of a vague and general nature. My proposition is intended to express more than this; it is designed to convey the idea, that God's institution of means, seems to involve an obligation on his part, to bestow, along with their proper employment, spiritual blessings.
Without this, I can scarcely account for their appointment at all. A wise man would never construct, at the expense of vast labour and skill, a nicely contrived machine: and, after putting it together, withhold the wheel or spring necessary to set the whole in motion. The vast machinery of the heavens, after being formed by
God, and all their parts most harmoniously arranged by his infinite power and wisdom, would have constituted but a universe of lumber, without the exercise of that pervading influence, which philosophers call the laws of nature ; but which a christian recognizes as the omnipresence of Deity. What would the admirable structure of the human body, with all its assemblage of vessels, organs, and instruments be, without the master principle which sets and keeps them all in motion, and accomplishes by them the ends contemplated by God? In such cases, we should
a system of means, without power, which
are not; a combination of instrumental causes, without the operation of the principle, which is requisite to render them efficient. Look at that idiot, with all the apparent organs and properties of man, but destitute of his informing spirit; between whose material and immaterial part, the mysterious connecting principle is broken, or deranged in its operation; and do you not consider that there is in his case, a departure from the ordinary laws by which Jehovah administers the affairs of his creation? But this is only an exception, a partial and limited departure from general and fixed principles. Supposing, however, such cases to be very numerous, the difficulty in accounting for them, consistently with the wisdom of God, would be very great. Supposing them to be very general, and that the exception became the rule, and the rule the exception, would we
not exclaim with justice, " Wherefore hath God made all men in vain ?”'
Now on the supposition that God has provided a system of moral means, admirably adapted to promote the spiritual good of his creatures ; and that those means are duly employed by persons actuated by the principles, which ought to operate on those, who are engaged in doing the work of God; I wish to know, whether the appointment and operation of these means do not imply the communication of the efficient principle. Were we reasoning about means of human devising, the offspring of the wisdom and the ingenuity of man, the case would be materially altered. We might then be left to conjecture, how far they were in accordance with the mind of God; and left to utter uncertainty as to their success. What he has not instituted, he is under no obligation to acknowledge or to bless; and hence, if failure takes place in connexion with schemes of merely human device, which too often savour of the pride and independence of man, we have no reason to complain. Who hath required these things at your hand? is the question which God may justly propose in reference to such things ; which is sufficient to expose their unjustifiable nature, and to account for their discomfiture.
But we have seen that God, in his adorable wisdom and goodness, has provided the means of diffusing the blessings he intends to bestow, and therefore we infer, that though he may justly