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by using to the utmost of their power the means of impression for this end, as well as those of conviction. In tbis conduct they show, more evidently than is possible by any other method, that they realize this difference, and to avail themselves of it, employ these means.
The Scriptures themselves are universally formed in this manner. They are everywhere filled with instruction ; but they are also filled everywhere with persuasion. Instead of being a cold compilation of philosophical dogmas, they are filled with real life, with facts, with persons, with forcible ap
peals to the imagination, and with powerful applications to the · heart. With these the instruction is everywhere interwoven.
By these it is continually embodied. In the Bible no affection of the human heart is unaddressed. Our hope and fear, our love and hatred, our sorrow and joy, our desire and aversion, nay, our taste for beauty, novelty, and sublimity, for moral glory and greatness, are all alternately and most forcibly applied to, in order that the whole man, as a being possessed of imagination and affections, as well as of understanding, may be alarmed, allured, and compelled, to return from sin, embrace boliness, and live for ever.
Now the Scriptures were published to a world of sinners; and with the most merciful design of bringing them to repentance and salvation. To them, in a peculiar manner is a great part of the Scriptures addressed. They are profitable in all their parts ; and are contrived by Infinite Wisdom so as best to compass the end for which they were written. They teach, that we may see, they impress, that we may feel, divine truth in the most profitable manner.
In the promotion of this end, all the means of grace conspire. By an early and well directed religious education, such truths as children can understand are conveyed to their minds with a force eminently impressive, and singularly lasting. The state of the mind itself is here peculiarly favourable to the design of making deep impressions; and has hence been particularly regarded by God in those precepts which enjoin such an education at this period. The efficacy of these impressions is strongly declared in that remarkable passage, already quoted from the book of Proverbs : • Train up a child in the way he should go ; and when he is old he will not depart from it.'
What is true of religious education is also true of all the means of grace which I have specified. Public worship is plainly formed with a particular design to affect the heart of man by those truths which are taught in the bouse of God. The day, the place, the occasion, are all in the highest degree solemn and interesting. The numbers united in the worship, necessarily communicate and receive the strong feelings of sympathy; and regard the subjects of instruction with emotions widely different from those which would be experienced in solitude. The nature of the ordinances is also in a singular degree solemn, awful, and affecting. In a word, every thing pertaining to the subject is in the happiest manner fitted to move the mind, and deeply to enstamp on it the truths of the Gospel.
Prayer, in the like manner, is eminently fitted to teach, and not only to teach, but to make us feel the various doctrines of religion. Prayer, in every form, is a service, peculiarly impressive. In the church, in the family, and in the closet, it is attended by pre-eminent advantages. When we retire . to our closets,' and shut the door' on the world, and all which it contains ; and pray to our Father, who is in secret,' we are withdrawn from all external things ; are fixed on our own concerns ; our guilt, our danger, our helplessness; our dependence on God alone for hope, sanctification, and deliverance; and our absolute necessity of being interested in Christ, as the only expiation for sin, and the only safety to man. We bring God before us, ' face to face ;' and 'see eye to eye.' The awful and transcendent character of this great and glorious Being rises up to our view, in a manner resembling that in which the Israelites contemplated it at the foot, or Moses on the summit, of Mount Sinai. The nearness of the judgment is realized with singular force, and the approach of the final recompense anticipated with profound awe, and most salutary apprehensions.
Among the things which, in the attempts to perform this duty, are deeply impressed on the soul of the sinner, his own inability to pray in a manner acceptable to God, is one of the most important and affecting. No sinner realizes this truth before he has made the attempt in earnest. Nor does any thing appear to lay low the pride, and annihilate the selfrighteousness of the human heart in the same effectual man
Wnen he attempts to pray, and in the very act of attempting it finds clear and practical proof that his prayers are selfish, cold, and heartless, he first begins to feel in a useful manner his absolute dependence on God for every good disposition. Prayer is naturally the last hope, the last consolation of man. So long as we can ask for mercy, we never feel entirely unsafe. But when the soul becomes satisfied by actual trial that its prayers are such as itself condemns; it becomes also satisfied, that its only ultimate dependence is on the mere mercy of God.
Prayer also in the same effectual manner opens to the view of the soul, with peculiar power, its whole moral state ; its guilt, its exposare, and its ruin. All these things, when brought up to view in its converse with God, in making them the subjects of its own confessions and requests, and in revolving them with the most solemn and interesting meditation, all enhanced by a realizing sense of the presence of God, are felt by the soul with a peculiar energy, usually followed by happy effects.
Each of the other means of grace which I have specified has its own, and that a very desirable power of affecting the heart. We are so formed as to be capable of deep impressions in various ways, and from many different sources. Each way has its peculiar efficacy; and every source is copious in its influence on the mind.
The great objects concerning which these impressions are especially needed, and are actually made, are the guilt and danger of sin; the glorious mercy of God in redeeming, sanctifying, and forgiving sinners; the absolute dependence of the soul on him for all good, both natural and moral; and his willingness to communicate both through Jesus Christ. These united and thoroughly understood, constitute those views and awaken those emotions which, together, are commonly styled convictions of conscience ; or, to speak perhaps with more precision, that awakened state of the conscience which usually precedes regeneration; and which, in the ordinary course of God's providence, seems indispensable to its existence. Converse with as many religious men as you please concerning this subject, and every one of them will declare that he bas passed through a state of mind substantially of this nature ; and will inform you that it anteceded every hope of reconciliation to God, and every exercise which he has believed to be genuine religion in itself. Such there may be deemed one of the laws of the moral or spiritual kingdom ; a law which appears to be formed with supreme wisdom, and with supreme benevolence to the singer. If he were never to entertain such a sense of sin, if he were never to have such apprehensions of his danger, if he were never thus to feel his dependence on his Maker, he could not I think form any just views of the nature or greatness of his deliverance ; nor of the goodness of God in rescuing him from destruction, sanctifying his soul, and blotting out his transgressions ; nor of the importance or excellence of that holiness with which he is endued ; nor of the nature and glory of that happiness to wbich he will gain a final admission. In a word, it seems indispensable that such a state of mind should precede his regeneration, in order to enable him, throughout all his future being, to understand what God has done for him, and to feel the gratitude actually felt by the minds, and joyfully expressed in the praises, of the first-born.
Some persons, when considering this subject, appear to feel as if regeneration could not be absolutely attributed to the Spirit of truth, unless it was accomplished altogether without the employment of means. But this opinion is plainly
The very means themselves are furnished entirely by this Divine Agent. When furnished, all of them united would prove wholly insufficient without his creative influence. No man in his sober senses ever mistrusted that plowing and sowing, rain and sunshine, would produce wheat. The almighty power of God, after all these things have operated to the utmost, is absolutely necessary even to the germination of the seed, and still more obviously to the perfection of the plant. In the same manner, whatever means may be employed in bringing man from sin to holiness, and whatever may be their influence, the creative power of the Divine Spirit is absolutely necessary to accomplish his renovation. All that can be truly said in this case is, that this glorious Person operates in one manner, and not in another.
The human soul is not regenerated in the same manner with that in which the dust of the ground was originally made into a human body. In this case, a mere act of divine power, unconnected with every thing else, accomplished the effect.
But, before renewing man, God is pleased in the usual course of his spiritual providence, to instruct bim, to alarm, to invite, to promise, and to persuade. To prove the usefulness of these means, nothing more seems necessary than to observe that they always precede or attend our renovation ; that is, always in the usual course of providence. It is the soul which is thus taught, alarmed, and allured, upon which descends the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit; and not the soul uninstructed, unawakened, thoughtless of its guilt, and devoted only to the pursuit of sensual objects. The whole history of experimental religion, both within and without the Scriptures, is, unless I am deceived, a complete confirmation of this truth.
But to the existence of this state of the soul, the means of grace, as I have described them, and their influence, appear to be indispensable. By the instructions which they communicate on the one hand, and the impressions which they make on the other, concerning spiritual objects, they appear whenever employed with seriousness, fervour, and perseverance, to bring the soul into this interesting and profitable situation. It is I conceive with reference to this fact, that, God says, • Is not my word as the fire, and as the hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?' With reference to this fact, Christ says, that his words are spirit and life;' and that they will make men free from the bondage of corruption. With the same reference, Paul declares the Gospel to be the power of God unto salvation;' and the word of God' to be quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.' From this power of the Gospel was derived the fact, that the Jews who crucified Christ were in such numberspricked in the heart' by the preaching of St. Peter, and cried out, Men and brethren, what shall we do?'
All the efficacy which I have attributed to the means of grace does not, I acknowledge, amount to regeneration, nor ensure it. But it amounts to what St. Paul terms. planting' and' watering.' The 'increase' must be, and still is, given by God only. In the same manner, God must create the grain ; or the husbandman, after all his ploughing and sowing, after all the rain and the sunshine, will never find a crop. Still, these are indispensable means of his crop ; so indispensable, that without them the crop would never exist. As truly, in the