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researches. When then asked the question, How can these things be ? the best and only answer is, the one given by the Saviour himself, to the captious Nicodemus :-“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.”
All I pretend to do is to give you the clear revelation of the Scriptures.
Every individual really engaged in the great work has the aid of the Holy Spirit in these things, which are essential to his ultimate success—1, the illumination of his understanding ; 2, the subordination of his will; 3, the control of his affections; and 4, the comfort and support of his soul. As the last subject on which I addressed you was tender and touching, this is grand and overwhelming. For truly may it be said, "God's ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts."
1. The servant of God has the aid of the Holy Spirit in the progressive illumination of his understanding
As the natural man cannot originally discern the things of the Spirit of God, so neither can there be any progressive spiritual discernment and knowledge of spiritual things without the continual aid of the Holy Spirit acting upon the understanding of the man. And as no man can originally call Jesus, Lord, but by the Holy Ghost; that is, no man can come to any kind of comprehension of the real character and dignity and offices of Jesus Christ, unless influenced by the illumination of the Holy Ghost; so no man can progressively understand more and more of the character, dignity, and offices of Christ, unless the same
Spirit continues his operations on the mind. And as the very first impression made on the mind, in relation to the value and preciousness of a Saviour, is when the Spirit of God takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us; so there can be no increase of these holy exercises unless the same Omnipotent agent continues the same Omnipotent agency. What I mean by this can be very simply illustrated. Suppose that an individual, impressed by the Spirit of God, just gets a glimpse of himself as a sinner, and a glimpse of Jesus as a Saviour; and suppose that in this situation the Spirit of God ceases any further operation of his mind; he would remain without any solitary advance in spiritual knowledge; this would be the whole amount of his knowledge. And perhaps I can draw an illustration from the analogy of nature. You know that in the morning when the sun is a certain number of degrees below the eastern horizon, what we call twilight commences, a kind of mixture of darkness and light, but in reality neither the one nor the other. Now, suppose that precisely in that situation, by the withdrawal of the agency of God, this earth on which we live should stand still, it is evident to you that our portion of the globe would remain in twilight. It is the morning which brings on the perfect day. But there is a striking scriptural instance, which is a perfect illustration of my meaning :-“And Jesus cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw aught. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees,
walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up; and he was restored, and saw every man clearly."*
And so it is, my friends, in the great work of religion. The individual
The individual really engaged in this work has been partially illuminated by the Spirit of God. It is frequently little more than the twilight of the soul with him, ignorance and knowledge so blended, that he can scarcely tell the line of separation between them. It is frequently with him, that like the man partially restored to sight, he sees with a very indistinct vision all spiritual objects. What he does see is because his eyes have been thus far opened. But not one ray of further light could be let into the chambers of his understanding, if the beam from heaven should be interrupted. The individual engaged in the great work of religion has the aid of God's Holy Spirit to enlighten his understanding, that he may know more and more of the truth, that he may have clearer and clearer views of himself, and clearer and clearer views of the purity and holiness of God; that he may have more lively conceptions of all that concerns his duty and the way of happiness, and be filled with the love of Christ. And this was the burden of the apostle's prayer—"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him : the eyes of
• Mark viii. 22-25.
understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power."*
Again : The individual engaged in the great work of religion, has the aid of the Spirit of God in that hardest of all works, the gradual subjugation of the will.
It is the stubbornness of his will which alone stands in the way of any sinner's acceptance of the offers of salvation; and when originally an individual is turned to seek with earnestness and perseverance the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul, it is because this stubbornness, by some process mysterious to us, is broken up by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost. The carnal mind is enmity to God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; and our hymn, striving to embody the language of Scripture, has finely portrayed the real state of the case, when it says:
The will perverse, the passions blind,
In paths of ruin stray :
The safe, the narrow way.
Can aught beneath a power divine
The stubborn will subdue ?
To form the heart anew.
It is impossible for me to say how the agency of God, in the process of conversion, is to be reconciled
with the free agency of man. The difficulty, however, is not an intrinsic one, that is, it does not exist in the nature of the subject itself, but in the imperfection of our faculties. It is clearly revealed that there is a perfect compatibility, for the two subjects are brought before us in Scripture in the closest and most intimate connexion—“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you to will and to do, of his own good pleasure.'
As in the case of every one, there is an original opposition of the will to a perfect submission to the will of God; so after conversion, and during the whole course of life, there is more or less of this opposition to be discovered. And as it requires an exertion of the power of God to break down this opposition in the first instance, it equally requires an exertion of the power of God progressively to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. I do not suppose that there is a single Christian now in the presence of God, but who, from his own experience, is fully persuaded that the chief obstacle to his progression in that holiness which is required by the Gospel, is the opposition of his own rebellious heart, the determination to have his own way in some form or other, and a steady resistance of entire submission to God. It is the aid of God's Holy Spirit which exercised on the converted heart, can alone prevent the natural will from having its uncontrollable dominion, and bearing down by the otherwise remediless torrent of the passions, every thing which connects itself vitally with the eternal interest of the soul. I do not suppose that there is an individual engaged in the great work of religion