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given, is not generally admitted. But we are expressly told, that “all God's children shall be taught of him:” and both the goodness and integrity of God are pledged for the performance of the promise*. There are, however, certain qualifications which we must possess, before the proffered benefits can be extended to us : and what they are, it is my intention, in this present Discourse, to set before you.
Let me then state, 1. What dispositions are necessary for a reception of
divine truth The term “ meekness” is of very extensive import. But, instead of entering into the variety of senses in which the word is used, we shall find it more profitable to confine ourselves to the precise view in which it is used in the passage before us. be denominated “meek," 1. When they are sensible of their own ignorance
[Ignorant we are, whether we be sensible of it or not. The fall of man has proved no less injurious to his intellectual powers than to his heart. “His understanding is darkened :" “ the god of this world has blinded his eyes:" and "he is alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him, and because of the blindness of his heart."
But men are unconscious of this. They feel that their powers are strong for the investigation of human sciences; and they see no reason why they should not be equally so for the comprehension of things relating to the soul. Any intimation to this effect they are ready to resent, as the Pharisees did of old : “ Are we blind also ?b”
Very different is their conduct, when they are become truly “meek.” Then they perceive their want of spiritual discernment. They feel that no efforts of flesh and blood will suffice for the illumination of their mindsd; and that they need " not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that they may know the things that are freely given to them of Gode."]
2. When they are willing and desirous to be taught of God—
[As man by nature is not sensible of his own blindness, so has he no wish to obtain a spiritual insight into the things of God. He is satisfied with a speculative knowledge: and, if he possess that which may be apprehended by reason, and which may be attained by his own personal exertions, he has all that he desires. All beyond that is, in his estimation, a vain conceit.
c 2 Cor. ii. 14.
& ver. 8.
b John ix. 40.
But a person who possesses the disposition spoken of in our text, desires to be taught of God, and to be guided into all truth. He is not contented with abiding in the outer court of the temple ; but longs to be introduced within the vail, even into the sanctuary of the Most High, in order that he may behold God shining forth in all his glory, and receive from him the richest possible communications of his grace and love. For this end, whenever he opens the inspired volume, he lifts up his heart to God, and prays, “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law!". In relation to the whole work of redemption, whether as revealed in the word, or as experienced in the soul, he desires to hear God himself, and be “ taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus':” and he pleads with God that most encouraging promise, “ Call upon me, and I will shew thee great and mighty (hidden ) things, which thou knowest not?,"]
Such are the dispositions which characterize the people whom God will instruct.
We are next to shew,
There is, in the whole scope and tenor of the Gospel, 1. A contrariety to our carnal reason-
[The substitution of God's co-equal, co-eternal Son in the place of sinners, his vicarious sacrifice, his bringing in a righteousness by the imputation of which sinners may be justified before God, and his imparting all the blessings of redemption to them, through the exercise of faith, and without any respect whatever to their works; these are truths to which carnal reason is extremely averse. They are among “ those things of the Spirit which the natural man neither does, nor can, receive." A man may, indeed, adopt these things as his creed, and may account an opposition to them heresy ; whilst yet he has no spiritual acquaintance with them in his own soul: but to see the excellency of them, to love them, to delight in them, to “account all things but dung for the knowledge of them,” is an attainment which the natural man has no idea of, and which, instead of desiring, he hates. They form altogether a mystery. Hence, till he is humbled before God, he cannot possibly
comprehend these things: they are a stumbling-block to him; they are mere “ foolishness" in his eyes.] 2. An opposition to our depraved appetites
[The Gospel calls upon us to “ mortify our members upon earth,” yea, and to "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts :" and to such an extent does it require the subjugation of our corrupt appetites, that, if there be a thing dear to us as a right eye, it calls upon us to pluck it out, or a thing useful as a right hand, to cut it off. Now, how can such doctrines as these be received by a proud, unmortified, and unhumbled spirit? It is not possible but that there should be the utmost repugnance to them in all who feel not the value of their own souls, and desire not above all things to obtain peace with God. In truth, the doctrines of Christianity are not a whit more offensive to the reason of the natural man, than the duties of it are to his corrupt affections; which, therefore, must be mortified, before he can acquiesce in them as good and right.] 3. An inconsistency with our worldly interests
[The instant we embrace the Gospel with our whole hearts, the world will become our enemies. They hated and persecuted the Lord of glory himself: can we suppose that the disciple will be above his Lord, or that, if they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, they will not find some opprobrious names for those also of his household? We are taught by our Lord that we must be hated of all men for his name's sake; and that, if we will not take up our cross daily, and follow him, we cannot be his disciples. Nay more; if we be not willing to forsake all, and even to lay down our lives for him, we cannot be partakers of his salvation. But what will an earthly mind say to this? Will not a faithful declaration of these things draw forth that reply which was given to our Lord, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” Many, when our Lord proclaimed these things, turned back, and walked no more with him: and this cannot but be the result with every carnal and worldly mind, when such sacrifices are required.
Hence, then, it is evident, that, unless a very great change be wrought in the heart of an unconverted man, he neither will, nor can, be in a state to receive truths to which his whole nature is so averse. If he really desired to do God's will, the film would be removed from his eyes, and he would be able to appreciate the things which are set before him in the Gospel : but, till he becomes thus “meek" and docile, he will be inaccessible to the light, or rather, the light itself will only augment his blindness. ]
That all may be encouraged to seek these necessary dispositions, I proceed to notice,
III. The promise made to those who are possessed
of them It has already appeared, that men, by the Fall, have suffered loss both in their intellectual and moral powers. And, in both respects, shall they be restored to a rich measure of their pristine dignity, if only they cultivate the dispositions which God requires.
1. God will “ guide them in judgment”—
[They see at present through a dense and delusive medium: and hence every thing relating to God assumes, in their eyes, an odious and distorted shape. But God will rectify their views: he will enable them to discern every thing in its proper colours, and to see its bearings on the welfare of the soul. The excellency of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, the blessedness of having all our corruptions mortified, and the wisdom of sacrificing all our worldly interests to the welfare of the soul; these, and all other truths connected with them, shall be brought home to the mind with an evidence which it cannot doubt, and with a power which it cannot withstand: or, to use the expressive language of the Psalmist, “ In the hidden part God shall make them to know wisdom h.” In a word, he will bring the soul out of darkness into marvellous light; so that it shall no more call evil good, and good evil, but shall “ be guided into all truth," and shall “ have the very mind that was in Christ Jesus."] 2. He will enable them, also, to walk in his ways
[Truth shall not float in their minds as a mere theory or speculation, but shall influence their every act, their universal habit. God will, by his word and Spirit, reduce them from their wanderings, and guide their feet into the way of peace. And, if at any time they be for a moment turned aside through error of judgment, or instability of mind, he will cause them to “hear a word behind them, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it." He will go before them, as he did before the Israelites in the wilderness, causing his word to be a light to their feet and a lantern to their paths: and thus " he will guide them by his counsel, until he shall finally receive them to glory.”
Here, then, we may see,
1. Whence it is that the blessings of the Gospel are so pre-eminently enjoyed by the poor
h Ps. li. 6.
[It is a fact, that “not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, are called;" but that “ God has revealed to babes and sucklings the things which, to so great an extent, are hid from the wise and prudent.” The wise and great are too generally under the influence of self-sufficiency and selfdependence. They cannot bow to the humiliating doctrines of the Gospel: they will not endure to view themselves in so destitute a condition as the Gospel represents them. Hence they, almost universally, “ stumble at the word, being disobedient." But the poor are easily brought to see that they need instruction from above: their very incompetency to enter into deep researches of any kind gives them a comparative diffidence of their own powers, in relation to the things of God. Hence they see but little to stumble at even in those points which the wise and learned find most difficult to overcome: and, being more easily brought to seek instruction from God, they, in far greater numbers, are taught of God, and almost engross to themselves, as it were, the possession of his kingdom. O, ye poor, never repine at your lot; but rather rejoice that you are of the happy number of those whom God has chosen chiefly, though not exclusively, “ to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom.” And, ye rich or learned, seek to “ become as little children,” and be willing to “ become fools, that ye may be truly wise."]
2. Whence it is that there are so many falls and errors in the religious world
[People, when they have embraced the truth, are but too apt to lose the simplicity of their earlier days, and to become wise in their own conceits. Hence many of them fall into errors of divers kinds; and not unfrequently dishonour, by their conduct, their holy profession. Alas! alas! what a picture does the religious world present ! See what controversies and animosities obtain amongst those who profess themselves children of one common Father! Dear Brethren, dreadful is the advantage which our great adversary gains by these means. Remember, I pray you, that your growth in grace is to be shewn, not by a proud dogmatizing spirit
, but by a spirit of meekness, and humility, and love. He is most acceptable to the Lord Jesus, who most resembles a little child: and he shall have the richest communications from God, who, with most lowliness of heart, implores his continual aid. In reading the Holy Scriptures therefore, and under the public ministration of the word, be careful not to lean to your own understanding, but to trust in God for the teaching of his good Spirit; that “receiving the word with meekness, as an engrafted word,” you may find it effectual to sanctify and “save your souls."]