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The effects of means are frequently not only great but their connexion with the cause perfectly obvious. From a vigorous, devoted, and judicious ministry, how much good frequently arises ! Why then should we doubt, that under similar circumstances, similar results will always take place? Why ascribe that to partiality, or resolve it into mystery, when on scriptural principles it can be so easily accounted for?
Should you be disposed to ask, whether we may expect no good to the world till the full and perfect employment of the means of God's appointment, for which we have contended, takes place? I answer, till then, we cannot reasonably expect that the full result of Christianity should appear. While its
While its power is weakened, or impeded and crippled in its operations, we must look for a corresponding partiality in the effect. But such is the condescension of God, and the adaptation of his means to our circumstances, that in the proportion in which we use the power or resources, with which we are entrusted, in that
proportion, generally, may we expect the blessing of God. Though all God's appointed means and agency have a vastly increased influence, when combined together, compared with what they have in the separate operation of each distinct part; yet each part has a power of its own when properly employed. And as the approximation to a perfect use of the vast moral machinery which God has committed to the management of his church advances, we may
expect a corresponding increase in beneficial and spiritual influence. This affords sufficient encouragement to labour in the mean while ; and to pray, that, in regard to these, and all other matters which affect the glory of Christ and the salvation of the world, -all his disciples may soon “be one, as he and the Father are one; that the world may believe that he was sent unto it.”
To some it may appear, as if there must be an infringement on the sovereignty of God, where the views which have been expressed are entertained. This, I by no means admit. There is indeed a spurious sovereignty, for which some persons contend, that will be affected ; and I intend that this should be the case; as I believe it lies at the root of the most injurious errors. By them, sovereignty is only another expression for capricious and arbitrary determination-in the exercise of which, good and evil are indiscriminately distributed; and for the allotment of which, no other reason can be assigned, than the will of God. This is not, according to my belief, the doctrine of Scripture on this important subject. That sovereignty which consists in the wise and gracious distribution of good, according to principles revealed by God himself in his word, is in perfect accordance with all the sentiments which have been brought forward. It never can be at variance with means, which He has appointed, and constantly recognizes in the communication of his blessings. If there be any limitation in the degree or manner
in which he thus dispenses gracious influence, it is a limitation determined by himself. Forgiveness is an undoubted act of sovereignty, yet God engages to pardon all who believe in his Son. Hence, “ if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just,” as well as merciful, “ to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Eternal life is the gift of God, and is consequently bestowed as an act of sovereignty; but it also is promised to all that believe, and in its peculiar rewards is made to correspond with the works of those who receive it. If God then has promised divine influence to render successful the faithful and conscientious exertions of his people; if he has brought himself under an obligation to meet and to exceed all their efforts, ought this to be considered as an interference with his high prerogative? No. In kindness and wisdom he himself appointed the means, he promised to bless them, he excites his people to use them, and thus to Him. belongs all the glory of the grand result.
Let it be further observed that our views de. termine nothing as to the precise degree of blessing and success. We contend only, that there will always be afforded more than a sufficient measure of influence, in every case of legitimate and Christian exertion. Success always attended apostolic effort, but in
but in very different degrees. Sometimes three thousand, and at other times only a few individuals, received the word of God.
In both cases, the labourers obtained their re. ward; and, looking at the diversity of the circumstances, it must be regarded as in full proportion to the labour bestowed.
Nor do our views determine any thing as to time, place, and persons. These the Father will ever retain in his own power; and it is in regard to them that his sovereign pleasure is particularly displayed. We cannot guide the course of the clouds, or distribute at our pleasure the showers of heaven. There will be diversity in the distribution of crops, in the same general harvest. Some may have great abundance, and others a more measured return; while all
have reason to be satisfied that their labour has not been in vain. Thus it will ever be in the vineyard of the Lord. The showers of sacred influence may appear at one time more copious, and at another time more scanty. They may now visit one spot, and then visit another. Their direction, as to individuals and spots, will not always be according to our mind, or answer our desires and expectations. But with all this variety, there may be the enjoye ment of great success, by every individual, who is properly exercising the means which God has put in his power; while the universal and combined efforts of the church of God will not fail to ensure a rich and a glorious harvest. “ My word shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing whereto I send it.”
The sovereignty of divine influence, if these views be correct, so far from inducing the neglect of means, affords the greatest and best encouragement to employ them. It is so in the case of individuals. God has promised, “ that we shall know, that is, be taught, if we follow on to know the Lord.” Is not this a reason why we should diligently prosecute the pursuit of knowledge ? He has promised his Holy Spirit in answer to believing prayer. Is not this a reason why men should pray and not faint? He has promised, that whosoever cometh unto Him through his beloved Son, shall not perish but have everlasting life. Is not this a powerful inducement to all to come to Him for this purpose? He has promised that those who wait on Him shall renew their strength, and that all who labour and suffer in his cause shall meet with adequate support. Are not these delightful encouragements to act according to his will ?*
The same effect ought to be produced on the church of God, in reference to its exertions for the good of the world, by the doctrine of divine influence. It not only furnishes the most ample encouragement, but is the only consideration that can justify our efforts, or vindicate our expectations. With our views of human depravity, and the feebleness of man's power and efforts, when directed against that depravity, nothing would be
* See Note [FF].