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after another, and to hear sermon after sermon, unless we pray that the Holy Spirit accompany his word."
Let us then cease from man. They who fancy any human being, however great or excellent, to be the only means of their conversion or edification, are guilty of idolatry, and transfer to the creature that regard and confidence which is due only to the Creator. Do not sacrilegiously divide the honour between man and God. While you esteem highly and love sincerely the faithful labourer for his works' sake, give all the glory of every good to God alone. What we transfer to ourselves, we take from God. Be afraid of being lavish in extolling man, or thinking highly of the creature. Faithful ministers dread to receive human praise, lest God should be dishonoured. It is his purpose that the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted.
These things amply shew the weakness and insufficiency of man, without the grace of God to convert and edify the soul.
But, blessed be God, this is only part of the truth, and the humbling part; there is another part of the subject full of consolation. While man can of himself
do nothing, through Christ strengthening him he can do all things; and God, who commands the seed to be sown, himself giveth the increase.
*While the fact of God's operation on the soul is strenuously maintained, we pretend not to explain the mode. Many of the controversies which have agitated the Church, and produced the most hostile feelings, might have been spared, had the assertion of our Lord been duly weighed-The wind bloweth where it listeth, and 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. O that men were willing to be ignorant, and to confess their ignorance, where God has not revealed his ways to then!
The form in which the Apostle speaks when he says God giveth the increase, claims attention, as it excludes the hearer as well as the preacher. The Apostle does not say the hearer of the word produces the increase from the good use of his own powers. The views which some entertain, had they been correct, would have led to such a mode of expression. They would have said, All depends on the state of your own mind. If you have a good heart, and a right disposition, then you will hear with advantage. This is very true in one way, but very false in another. It is true, if we duly regard God's grace, making the heart good, and giving suitable dispositions, and blessing the ministry of the word: but it is false, if we imagine any man has by nature a good heart; for where is the heart naturally disposed to spiritual and heavenly things? where is the man with a truly holy disposition, or that has by his own power and ability acquired it? None such can be found. The special grace of God is wanting for that very preparation of the heart which is needful for our hearing aright; or, in the words of the church of England, “We have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, [that is, preceding or going before us] that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will."
The expression giveth the increase, however, suggests that it pleases God to work through the instrumentality of man. It is not God makes the Christian without means,' 'God does the work without employing man's agency; but the expression is such as to shew that man must plant and water, must faithfully use all the appointed means, or he cannot expect the wished-for increase. Thus are we equally guarded against proud,
self-righteous, and self-sufficient thoughts of human ability on the one hand, and disregard of means and Antinomian licentiousness on the other. "The sinner cannot quicken his own soul, but he ought to use the means of grace. If we would have the Lord do for us and ours what man cannot do, we must diligently attend to all those things which we can, and ought to do."
We will now show, that on those very points on which the Scriptures declare the insufficiency of man, they fully express the power of divine grace in conjunction with the word.
Thus God CONVERTS THE SOUL. He promises it `as his work-A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an · heart of flesh. Ezek. xxxvi. If any have spiritual life, the Apostle shews them where to ascribe all the praise -God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.
And this great change is BY MEANS OF THE WORD. St. James (i, 18.) speaks very expressly on this point--Of his own will begat he us, with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures; wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear. St. Peter is equally decisiveBeing born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, whick liveth and abideth for ever....and this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you. 1 Pet. i, 23-25. Thus all glory is taken from man, and given to God; and yet the means of salvation which God blesses, are carefully and specially noticed. So the Apostle Paul tells the Thessalonians, God hath from the beginning chosen you to
salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
Then look at the history of God's dealings with his church. The best human instruments, as we have shewn, were insufficient, when God did not work by his Spirit. The weakest are mighty through him. Whom did God appoint to convert the world? Philosophers, Statesmen, Orators, the learned, and the wise? No! the very reverse. God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence. 1 Cor. i, 27-29. Twelve men of humble birth, many of them poor fishermen, despised Galileans, and of slender attainments, were the chief instruments in commencing and establishing the kingdom of God upon earth. By their ministry, we find in the Acts of the Apostles, when the first fruits of the Spirit were given, three thousand were converted in one day, and presently they grew to five thousand. They are dispersed by persecutions, but the church, under this divine influence, only increases more and more. In Judea and Samaria, Cæsarea and Damascus, the Gospel is gladly received. It still spread wider and wider, till it covered the known world. Such was the. invincible energy of the Holy Ghost; so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
Our reformers felt strongly their need of divine grace. "Without this grace," says Jewell, ** you can do
See his Exposition on 1 Thess. i, 1--5.
nothing; you can neither feel the burden of your sins, nor seek to be eased of them, nor perceive when they are forgiven; you cannot rend your heart, and set apart from you the vanities and lusts of the flesh which does evermore fight against the soul; you cannot discern the word of God, and by it enter the way to everlasting life; you cannot abhor that which is evil and cleave unto that which is good; without the grace of God, you cannot continue steadfast and constant in faith and in hope of the mercies of God through our Saviour Jesus Christ. The words of the preacher enter in at the ear, the Spirit of God conveyeth them to the heart."
The state of the church of Christ in our own day manifests the same truth. Where there may be deep learning, great talent, and many external qualifications, but Christ is not preached, and his Spirit is not honoured, and the great doctrines of his Gospel are adulterated and concealed, no spiritual good is done, not a single soul is converted from the error of his way. It pleases God, too, sometimes, to try his faithful servants, even where he has bestowed superior gifts and talents, with comparatively small success, though he generally in one way or other, largely uses the gifts which he confers, to the extension of his own kingdom and glory; and really, and perhaps more widely in the result, prospers their labours.* At other times, God has been pleased to use a preacher with very little learning, and not endued with great powers of mind, but with much zeal and love, and a devoted heart, and to make him,
* We see this in such cases as Hervey, Adam, Walker, and Scott, men (comparatively with other very inferior men in judgment and acquirements) little prospered in their personal min. istry, yet largely and extensively blessed in their publications.