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power of Christ does with the sound of the gospel; and before it the heart opens, and the will bows. Psalm 110:3. Man can no longer oppose God; the power of man can repel that of a fellow-creature, but when the power of Christ comes with the voice of man, there is no more power to resist. This voice of Christ, of which the text speaks, is an impression made on the soul of a sinner from heaven, which is to that soul instead of a voice, and as fully expressive of God's mind concerning it as any articulate voice can be. It is a beam of light shining immediately from the Spirit into the soul of a sinner, as plainly revealing both its danger and duty as if a voice from heaven had declared them. Thus it is said, Isa. 8:11, the Lord spake to Isaiah with a strong hand, that is, by a mighty impression upon his spirit, which was as a voice to him. Thus the Lord not only directs a suitable word to a sinner's condition, but impresses it with such a strong hand upon his heart, as leaves no doubt but that it was the Lord himself that spoke to his soul. This is Christ's way of speaking by his Spirit to the ear of the soul : not by audible voices, which I take to be but the imaginings of an overtroubled fancy, but by an efficacious impression upon the heart. In audible voices we may sooner meet satanical delusions than divine illuminations. The learned Gerson speaks of a good man who, being in prayer, seemed to hear such a voice as this : “I am come in person to visit thee, for thou art worthy." But he justly suspecting a delusion of Satan, shut his eyes and said, “ I will not see Christ here, it shall suffice me to see him in glory." Christ's voice in the written word is more sure than a voice from heaven. 2 Pet. 1:19. This spiritual impression is Christ's effectual call from heaven, and is a voice without sound or syllable.
2. As this voice of Christ implies almighty efficacy, so it implies, in like manner, the facility of conversion unto Christ : he can do it easily with a word of his mouth, as in the bodily cures performed by him in the days of his flesh; how suddenly and easily did he effect them. “Speak the word only,” said the centurion, "and my servant shall be healed.” Thus, let the Spirit but speak to the dead soul and it lives. Elijah did but cast his mantle on Elisha, as he was ploughing in the field, and he entreated the prophet to give him leave to go home and bid his friends farewell, and he would follow him. Thus it is here : let a beam of saving light shine from the Spirit into a man's heart; let an effectual impression be made upon his soul, and he is at once made willing to quit and give up his dearest lusts and interests, and to embrace Christ
the terms of the gospel. Conversion is too difficult a work for angels or men to effect, but Christ can do it with a word.
III. I shall endeavor to show THE SPECIAL PROPERTIES of this spiritual voice of Christ, which must be heard, or there can be no opening the door of the heart to receive him.
1. It is a secret and still voice, whereby somewhat is communicated to the soul, making a particular application of what is spoken to the ear, much like that of Nathan to David, “Thou art the man.” 2 Sam. 12:7. This still voice sounds through the whole soul, yet none hear it but the soul concerned in it. It is said, “The Lord had told Samuel in his ear, a day before,” 1 Sam. 9:15, that is, he whispered the secret into the prophet's mind. So the Spirit of Christ whispers a word into the ear of a sinner, which makes his heart tremble, after this manner :
“This is thy very condition ; this is thy sin, which is now opened by the gospel in thine ears.". This is a voice without sound to others, but very intelligible to the soul to whom it is spoken. You read in 1 Kings, 19:11, 12, that when Elijah stood upon the mount before the Lord, a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind : and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake : and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle.” So it is here : dreadful things are thundered against men by the voice of the law; the terrors of the Lord are made known, hell is set before the eyes of sinners ; but until the Lord come in the still voice of his Spirit, and apply these things to the conscience, the sinner never covers his face with shame and confusion, nor goes aside to mourn and lament his misery. This voice of God sounds to the very centre of the soul. As for the outward voice of the gospel alone, it signifies little; in hearing, men hear not. Matt. 13:13. They hear the voice of man,
but not the voice of God; they hear the sound, but feel not the
power of the word. What is spoken externally dies in the ear that hears it, but this still voice of the Spirit makes its way to the heart, and none knows what God speaks but the soul itself.
2. The spiritual voice of Christ is personal, speaking distinctly and particularly to the state of the soul, as if by
Ministers' must speak in general; they draw the bow of the gospel at a venture, not knowing to whom God will direct the arrow; but the Spirit guides it to the mark. He applies truth to particular persons, so that the soul to whom he directs it is fully convinced that the Lord intends and means him, in such a threatening expression. Oh, says the soul, has the Lord singled me out in particular? this is my very case.
You read that Christ calleth his sheep by name. John 10:3. How does he do this, but by speaking directly and particularly to their condition, as if he called them by their particular names? He does not now in an extraordinary way, as of old, call, “Samuel, Samuel,” or, “Saul, Saul,” but he sends a beam of convincing light into the conscience, plainly showing this or that to be our sin, danger, or duty;
and as to the effect, it is all one as if God named him. And truly, until it comes to this the word has no saving operation upon the soul. A man may hear ten thousand general truths and assent to them, and yet be no better for them. How quiet was David's conscience, until Nathan struck the nail upon the head by a home personal application, and then his conscience startled. Thus God singles out one from a thousand in the congregation, speaks to the heart, and disturbs the secure conscience : the rest hear the same words, but feel not the same efficacy. And truly it is a choice mercy when God pleases thus to single out one person after this manner, to speak to his heart. As Christ said, in Luke 4:25, 26, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, but to none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. So here, multitudes sat with you under the same prayer or sermon, but to none of them, at that time, was the Spirit sent to make a particular application thereof, but to thee. In this the peculiar goodness of God shines out, and should for ever be admired by that soul.
3. This spiritual voice of Christ is distinguishable by the soul that hears it from all other voices. The sheep know his voice. John 10:4. As in the style of the Scriptures there is a weight and majesty which distinguish them from all human compositions, so in this voice of Christ there is a peculiar efficacy, a divine authority, by which the soul distinguishes it from all human voices. It was said of Christ in the days of his flesh, “Never man spake like this man." John 7:46. The same may be said of his spiritual voice: the soul never heard such a voice before; it seals the truth upon the heart so firmly that no objections are left against it.
There are two things in this inward voice of Christ, which distinguish it from all human voices. First, a marvellous light comes into the soul with it, which discovers all the secrets of the heart. God shines into the heart at the same time he speaks to it, 2 Cor. 4:6; and now the secrets of the heart are manifest, and God is acknowledged to be in the word of truth. 1 Cor. 14:25. Second, a marvellous power accompanies this voice, to make a deep and firm impression of what is spoken on the soul ; and this power is a character of the voice of God, whereby the soul receives it as his, with much assurance, as the apostle speaks in 1 Thess. 1:5: “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” They could not be more certain of any thing, than they were that it was the Lord who spoke to them in that word. It is true, at the first instant the soul may be amazed and at a loss, as Peter, when he was delivered out of prison, thought at first he had seen a vision; but when he was come to himself, he said, “Now, I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me.” Acts 12:11. Thus it is with the soul : it is amazed, and doubts what manner of call or power this is; it never heard such a voice, nor felt any thing like this before. But the matter is quickly cleared up when the soul has reflected upon it, and finds such a wonderful change of the temper of the heart following upon it. I now speak not of those into whom grace is distilled in the way of godly education in their tender years, but of adult persons, and especially such as have been
sinners. 4. This spiritual voice of Christ is a surprising voice, altogether unexpected by the soul that hears it: “I am found of them that sought me not.” Isa. 65: 1. Little do we foresee the designs God has in bringing us to such a place, and under such a sermon, at such a time; even as little as Saul thought of a kingdom when he was seeking his father's
It is much with us as it was with the apostles when Christ called them : little did Matthew think when he sat at the receipt of customs, or Saul when hasting to Damas