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contrary, this is the very condemnation of the world, “that light having come into it, men have loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds are evil.”
Were men destitute of natural faculties, or were there not an adaptatiou in the revelation of God to those faculties, they could not properly be the subjects of blame for rejecting it. But the case is entirely different, when all the natural powers remain, though deranged and mis-directed by the state of the moral dispositions. It would be no sin in a blind man to refuse to see at the command of God, if the faculty of vision were not imparted. It would be no crime in a dead man not to rise at a divine command, or in a madman to disobey injunctions implying sanity. But it is a crime, for a man so blinded by passion or by prejudice, as to call evil good, and good evil, to refuse compliance with what both his duty and his interest require. If moral death is the state of the sinner, it still leaves him conscious of his accountableness, and the proper subject of blame and punishment.*
On the part of God, a most wise and admirable provision has been made of means suited to the condition of his erring and accountable creature. The fitness and adaptation of the revelation, we have already noticed. It commends itself to his natural mind. Its truth is not so generally questioned as its suitableness according to the
See Note [P].
the sinner's views. In most cases he rejects it, not because he has discovered it to be false; but because he cannot bring himself to submit to its provisions and restraints. His conscience tells him it is true, his understanding assents to its facts and reasonings; but his heart will not yield to its spiritual requirements.
From the effects, which we see the Gospel producing in the world, it is evident that the state of men's natural faculties has little to do with its reception or rejection. It is not received by men of great acuteness and enlargement of mind-men who are above vulgar prejudices, and capable of calm and accurate investigation. It is not declined or trifled with by the ignorant and the stupid; many such seem to understand it well, and to manifest its influence on their understandings and their hearts. All acute men, however, are not unbelievers, and all obtuse men are not christians. Its friends and its enemies are to be found among all classes. Wherever there is rationality, there is enough of intellectual power to receive the Gospel; but the highest degree of intellectual capability will not dispose its possessor to receive its humbling truths. It presents subjects capable of interesting the most gigantic mind; while the principles, which are necessary to salvation, are adapted to the capacities of a child.
When men speak therefore of wanting power to believe, they must be told, that the only meaning of this language is, they will not believe. When they allege that they are waiting till God be gra
cious, they must be informed that he is gracious, and that they are putting his mercy and long-suffering to trial. When they are apologizing for themselves, that they cannot come unto God; they must be assured in the language of the Saviour himself—that they will not come unto him that they might have life :—that the power which they want, is only a moral power; that is—the inclination to cease to do evil and to learn to do well, and that for the want of this power they will be condemned at last, unless they repent and believe.
Thus I conceive, the Holy Spirit has nothing to do strictly with the natural faculties, but only with the moral dispositions of the soul. It improves the former to a certain extent, by its operation on the latter. But it is not by making a man's natural understanding stronger or more acute, that it leads him to repent and believe. It brings the understanding and the other faculties under the power of a new affection. It does
away enmity to the only means which are adapted to give health and cure; and thus brings the remedy of Heaven to bear upon its subject, which cannot be done without securing its most cordial reception, and thus bringing salvation.
4. As it is not in the subject of the Gospel ministry, or in the message which it delivers, or in the state of man's patural faculties, that we must seek for the necessity of the Spirits agency; I observe in the fourth place, that neces
sity does not arise out of the imperfections which belong to the ministry itself, nor is it intended to make up for its deficiencies.
Of the natural and spiritual qualifications which belong to those who occupy the responsible office of the teachers of Christianity, it ever becomes us to speak with diffidence and distrust. If the apostles were not “sufficient of themselves to think any thing as of themselves,”—and felt that all their sufficiency was in God; if they speak of themselves as “ earthen vessels,”-as “the foolish things of the world—the weak things of the world—and the things which were nought;" it surely becomes all other men to beware of glorying in the flesh.
The imperfections of the christian ministry, the deficiencies in knowledge, and wisdom, and ardour, and eloquence, and goodness, and every other qualification, suitable to those who exercise it, may be admitted. It is not owing to these imperfections, where there is genuine Christianity and real devotedness to God, that the purposes of the christian ministry entirely fail. In many instances, where there is the most marked and apparent unsuitableness as to those qualifications to which men naturally attach importance, a considerable degree of real success accompanies honest and zealous effort to propagate the truth. God frequently works by instruments of his own choosing, to confound the pride of man; so that no flesh may glory in his presence.
On the other hand, no actual or supposeable combination of natural and moral fitness will of tself secure success. Every requisite and im
portant qualification was found in the apostles and their coadjutors; yet not to these qualifications do they ever ascribe their success.
Paul was a man of learning, possessed of extensive knowledge, both divine and human; capable of speaking with great power of argument and of eloquence. Apollos was both mighty in the Scriptures, and eloquent in reasoning from them. The one planted like a wise husbandman, and laid the foundation like a wise master-builder; the other watered and built up in the exercise of the same wisdom. Yet the apostle pronounces, in the most unqualified manner-"Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither be that watereth; but God who giveth the increase."
We make these remarks, not to justify inattention on our part to the choice of suitable instruments to do the work of God. The use which He sometimes makes of men, and the use which we should be warranted to make of them, are very different things. And none of those qualifications which the common sense of mankind, and the injunctions of scripture require of the preachers of the Gospel can ever be neglected with impunity. Our reasoning is intended to shew, that the provinces of the human instrument, and of the Divine Agent in the work of the Gospel, are entirely distinct; and that the latter is absolutely necessary, not on account of the natural or moral unfitness of the former ; but that even when every qualification exists in the highest degree, there will be an entire failure, except as the Spirit God is pleased to bless.