« EdellinenJatka »
and constructively requires us, not to ask, that we may receive, but to receive, that we may ask! Driven from this untenable ground, you will perceive, on impartial examination, that attention to means, though it does not include the temper of the gospel, is nevertheless calculated to inspire it ; and, in this view, is a duty, at once incumbent on man, and acceptable to God.
That this is a correct statement of the case, is evident, not only from the contents, but from the very existence, of the bible. Why is this holy book put into the hands of sinful men, but that by the perusal and contemplation of its interesting instructions, they may be “ born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever?" All the doctrines and precepts of inspiration imply the necessity and authorize the use of means. In what other way can we yield a voluntary assent and obedience?“ How shall we believe in him of whom we have not heard ? and how shall we hear without a preacher ? So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
We are so constituted by the great author of our being, as to be incapable of any attain
ment whatever, without recourse to means. In every conceivable instance, preparatory steps are to be taken. Needful information is to be gained, native reluctance to be overcome, and efficient motives to be called into action, before we can proceed with alacrity or advantage, in the most common transactions of life. Do we aspire to opulence ? How much arrangement and labour must precede the acquisition ! Nor are intellectual and moral improvements exempt from this general law of our nature. Excepting those only, which are prompted by natural instinct or impetuous passion, the human mind imbibes no dispositions, forms no opinions, and arrives at no conclusions, but by the previous exertion of its powers. Ask the man of science, and he will tell you, that beside the painful and persevering study, which must always be the purchase of increasing knowledge, neither time nor relish for the requisite application can be commanded without constant vigilance, self denial, and resolution. Is religion then, alone to be acquired and practised independent of our personal endeavours? No : As in secular, so in spiritual concerns,
“ whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” In secular concerns, every one feels that activity
and enterprize are indispensable to the accomplishment of his wishes: But spiritual objects, being more abstract and foreign to the senses, are liable to be viewed in a different light, as the immediate gifts of God. This, however, is a distinction no where to be found in the scriptures. They declare that “
every good gift and every perfect gift is from above ;”. nor do they more frequently, or more explicitly ascribe religious attainments to the agency of heaven, than earthly possessions. If, therefore, we discard means in the first case, reason and consistency require us to reject them in the last. But should we not, with one voice, pronounce that man delirious, who would make no exertions to provide for his safety and support, because he reads, “ the Lord upholdeth all that fall; raiseth
those that be bowed down ; and giveth meat in due
The fact is, that the means of religion bear the same relation to their appropriate end, as do the means of worldly prosperity and wealth. This I need not prove ; for the differences, which exist among christians on the subject, are rather speculations of the head, than sentiments of the heart. In practice all agree. The awakened sinner, whatever may have
been his theory, scruples not to “ frame his doings to turn unto the Lord.” Convinced of the guilt and danger of his condition ; anxious to escape “ the wrath to come, and obtain the glory and happiness in reversion for the faithful, he would fain“ flee for refuge and lay hold on the hope set before him.” Under these impressions, though as yet the scales have not fallen from his eyes, “behold he prayeth.” Whilst he asks counsel and assistance from above, he reads, hears, meditates, and converses on the important topick which has seized and absorbed his attention. Nor is he apt to mistake the nature of these exercises. If left to follow the directions of divine truth, unperplexed by metaphysical subtilties, far from conceiving them to be all that “ the Lord his God requireth of him," or suspecting that they tend only to increase his criminality and wretchedness, he readily assigns them the same rank in regard to religion, which industry holds in the prosecution of earthly blessings. Persuaded by this analogy that constant circumspection and zeal are absolutely necessary to his amendment and salvation, all diligence to make his calling and election sure ;" suffers neither the calls of business, nor the avocations of pleasure to turn him
" he gives
aside; and with an ardour similar to that, with which silver is sought, and hid treasure explored, “ labours not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat, which endureth unto everlasting life.”
Should it be objected here, that to be thus desirous of embracing the overtures of mercy is in fact conversion, it is obvious to reply, that this objection is grounded on the supposition, that moral goodness consists exclusively in volition. Were this true, it would follow that every one is precisely as devout and virtuous as he wishes to be ; that good men may arrive at sinless perfection by a simple act of the will ; and consequently that means are useless even to them. But do not good men habitually wish and strive for degrees of holiness far beyond their highest attainments? If not, why does Paul exclaim, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” What can he mean, when he speaks of “a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind ;” and affirms, “ to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not.”
There is no person, regeneráte or unregenerate, accustomed to observe what passes within himself, who has not sometimes been con