صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

verted into despair, or to impute the want of Grace to a neglect in the Deity, rather than in themselves. While those, who imagine themselves to be thus exclusively favoured, will indulge presumption and spiritual pride; of every species of pride the most unbecoming and troublesome. For whoever thinks that he is under the immediate influence of heaven, in any particular case, must, in that instance, assume infallibility to himself, to the great annoyance of more modest Christians.

Nor are these sentiments more inconsistent with reason, than they are with the moral history of the world. The whole plan of providence is obviously founded upon a respect to the freedom of choice in the human breast, and á determination to employ natural causes, in order to direct this freedominto its proper channel, to the utmost extent of their influence. Physical and moral powers are the instruments of God for good, and he will not dishonour them by acting as if they were unnecessary or superfluous.

The whole history of the Jewish Dispensation proves and illustrates the remarks that were made, in our preliminary observations to a preceding Disquisition; for it is the history of the natural means, which were employed to

the extent of their powers, in order to purify a particular people from the dross of idolatry, for the benefit of the world. Every miracle I wrought did not consist in a personal change of heart; it was either to surmount adventitious. difficulties, which could not have been removed by natural means, or it was such a demonstration of the divine Majesty and Might, as had a natural tendency to inspire sentiments of awe and veneration.

Every servant of God selected to accomplish his purposes, possessed a previous adaptation. Had Noah not been a righteous man, he would not have been appointed to re-people the world, Abraham evinced the piety of his character before he received the promise, that "in him should all the nations of the earth be blessed." Moses was a man of superior education and superior capacities; and in place of being seduced by the splendour of a court, "he refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter; chusing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.' Nor was any one of the prophets miraculously converted from profligacy, in order to be invested with the prophetic character.

[ocr errors]

Notwithstanding the Christian Religion is emphatically a Dispensation of Grace and Mer

cy, yet it gives no intimations that this grace shall immediately operate upon the individual minds of the wicked. The only promise which they can claim is forgiveness, and acceptance into the Divine favour, upon their sincere repentance, There is but one instance of miraculous conversion upon record, which is that of St. Paul. His extraordinary services, as an apostle of Christ, sufficiently evince, why he thus became a chosen vessel. The ardour of his zeal, and the superior powers of his mind, were now enlisted in the promotion of that religion which he had persecuted with vehemence. Although a Jew of the strictest sect, he became the eminent apostle of the Gentiles. He made every effort to compensate for his crime. He considered himself as a "debtor both to Jew and Gentile;" and he devoted his whole life to a discharge of the debt. His conversion, therefore, deserved a miracle, for it was performed for the benefit of the Christian world. Instructions, example, exhortations, admonitions, and warnings, the most liberal promises of pardon and of remuneration, were placed before a sinful race, as means and motives. These are also the primary manifestations of Grace, in the gospel of Christ. These are expected to work; and if they be not operative, it is presumptuous to expect supernatural aid.

These proceed from God; and they are precursers of every other mark of parental affection.

Wherever these implanted conviction, and excited right dispositions of mind, the most ample promises of all requisite aid were given. Every one is commanded to seek before he can expect to find, to ask before he can expect to receive. It was the complaint of Jesus, ye will not come unto me that ye might have life. A complaint which would have been unnecessary, had it been the plan of providence primarily to influence individual minds. The compassionate Saviour might also have spared himself those foreboding horrors, and pathetic lamentations, poured forth over the impending fate of the Jewish Nation for their wickedness, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have. gathered 'thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not."

The above remarks clearly evince that the supreme Parent, acts according to those maxims of wisdom, which he has implanted in the human breast. He manifests a parental disposition to assist and co-operate; but he fully expects, as a prerequisite, that they should duly exercise all those powers with which he has endowed them. Those

who are disposed to work out their salvation with an anxiety proportioned to the object, it is his good pleasure to assist, both to will and to do, in such a manner as shall make their calling and election sure.*

Some philosophical Christians, on the other hand, maintain that the whole benefit of prayer consists in the deep and reverential impression made upon the mind of the Supplicant, when he presents himself immediately in the presence of his Maker, adoring his perfections, confessing his own transgressions, imperfections, wants, and incessant dependence upon the divine bounty. They allege, that it is inconsistent with just sentiments, respecting the immutability of the divine nature, and a reflection upon his permanent benevolence, to suppose that he can be induced by our intreaties to change his designs; or be inspired with a disposition to grant blessings which he had been reluctant to bestow; and they deem it more rational to confine all these strong promises to the peculiar state and exigences of the apostles and primitive Christians, by which they were enabled to establisli a new religion among men, and encounter the peculiar difficulties and dangers to which they were exposed.

* See Note C.

« السابقةمتابعة »