« السابقةمتابعة »
be accomplished. And what he sees, he helps. His aid and influence are assisting to the willing Christian, truly and sincerely willing, though yet in a low and imperfect state of proficiency; nay, though in the outset, as it were, of his religious progress. "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart" (Psalm xxxiv. 19). But in all this there is nothing arbitrary.
Nor, secondly, is the operation of the Spirit arbitrary in its degree. It has a rule, and its rule is this: "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.” Now, of this rule, which is expressed under some, but under no great, difference of phrase, in all the three first Gospels, I have first to observe, that, though it carry the appearance of harshness and injustice, it is neither the one nor the other, but is correctly and fundamentally just. The meaning is, that whosoever uses, exercises, and improves the gifts which he has received, shall continue to receive still larger portions of these gifts; nay, he who has already received the largest portion, provided he adequately and proportionably uses his gifts, shall also in future receive the largest portion, More and more will be added to him that has the most: whilst he who neglects the little which he has, shall be deprived even of that. That this is the sound exposition of those texts is proved from hence, that one of them is used as the application of the parable of the talents, concerning the meaning of which parable there can be no doubt at all; for there he who had received, and, having received, had duly improved, ten talents, was placed over ten cities; and of him the expression in question is used, "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance." On the contrary, he who had received one talent, and had neglected what he had
received, had it taken from him and of him the other part of the expression is used: "Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath." But there is a point still remaining, viz. whether this Scripture rule be applicable to spiritual gifts. I answer, that it is so applied, more especially to spiritual knowledge, and the use which we make thereof. "Take heed how ye hear: unto you that hear shall more be given; for he that hath, to him shall be given, and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath." So stands the passage in 'Mark,' and substantially the same, that is, with a view to the same application, the passage stands in Matthew' and 'Luke.' I consider it, therefore, to be distinctly asserted that this is the rule with regard to spiritual knowledge. And I think the analogy conclusive with regard to other spiritual gifts. In all which there is nothing arbitrary.
Nor, thirdly, is it arbitrary in its final success. "Grieve not the Spirit of God:" therefore he may be grieved. "And hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (Heb. x. 29): therefore he may be despised. Both these are leading texts upon the subject. And so is the following-" And his grace, which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain” (1 Cor. xv. 10): therefore it might have been in vain. The influence, therefore, of the Spirit may not prevail, even as the admonitions of a friend, the warnings of a parent, may not prevail, may not be successful, may not be attented to, may be rejected, may be resisted, may be despised, may be lost; so that both in its gift, in its degree, operation, and progress, and, above all, in its final effect, it is connected with our own endeavours, it is not arbitrary. Throughout the whole it does not supersede, but cooperates with, ourselves.
But another objection is advanced, and from an
opposite quarter. It is said that, if the influence of the Spirit depend, after all, upon our endeavours, the doctrine is nugatory; it comes to the same thing as if salvation was put upon ourselves and our endeavours alone, exclusive of every farther consideration, and without referring us to any influence or assistance whatever. I answer, that this is by no means true; that it is not the same thing either in reality, or in opinion, or in the consequences of that opinion.
Assuredly it is not the same thing in reality. Is it the same thing whether we perform a work by our own strength, or by obtaining the assistance and cooperation of another? or does it make it the same thing that this assistance is to be obtained by means which it is in our own choice to use or not? or because, when the assistance is obtained, we may or may not avail ourselves of it; or because we may, by neglecting, lose it? After all, they are two different things, performing a work by ourselves, and performing it by means of help.
Again: It is not the same thing in the opinions and sentiments and dispositions which accompany it. A person who knows or believes himself to be beholden to another for the progress and success of an undertaking, though still carried on by his own endeavours, acknowledges his friend and his benefactor; feels his dependence and his obligation; turns to him for help and aid in his difficulties; is humble under the want and need, which he finds he has, of assistance; and, above all things, is solicitous not to lose the benefit of that assistance. This is a different turn of mind, and a different way of thinking, from his who is sensible of no such want, who relies entirely upon his own strength; who, of course, can hardly avoid being proud of his success, or feeling the confidence, the presumption, the self-commendation, and the preten
sions, which, however they might suit with a being who achieves his work by his own powers, by no means, and in no wise, suit with a frail constitution, which must ask and obtain the friendly aid and help of a kind and gracious benefactor before he can proceed in the business set out for him, and which it is of unspeakable consequence to him to execute some how or other.
It is thus in religion. A sense of spiritual weakness and of spiritual wants, a belief that Divine aid and help are to be had, are principles which carry the soul to God; make us think of him, and think of him in earnest; convert, in a word, morality into religion; bring us round to holiness of life, by the road of piety and devotion; render us humble in ourselves and grateful towards God. There are two dispositions which compose the true Christian character humility as to ourselves; affection and gratitude as to God; and both these are natural fruits and effects of the persuasion we speak of: and, what is of the most importance of all, this persuasion will be accompanied with a corresponding fear lest we should neglect, and by neglecting lose, this invaluable assistance. On the one hand, therefore, it is not true that the doctrine of an influencing Spirit is an arbitrary system, setting aside our own endeavours.--Nor, on the other hand, is it true, that the connecting it with our own endeavours, as obtained through them, as assisting them, as cooperating with them, renders the doctrine unimportant, or all one as put in the whole upon our endeavours without any such doctrine. If it be true, in fact, that the feebleness of our nature requires the succouring influence of God's Spirit in carrying on the grand business of salvation, and in every state and stage of its progress, in conversion, in regeneration, in constancy, in perseverance, in sanctification; ;
it is of the utmost importance that this truth be declared, and understood, and confessed, and felt; because the perception and sincere acknowledgment of it will be accompanied by a train of sentiments, by a turn of thought, by a degree and species of devotion, by humility, by prayer, by piety, by a recourse to God in our religious warfare, different from what will, or perhaps can, be found in a mind unacquainted with this doctrine, or in a mind rejecting it, or in a mind unconcerned about these things one way or other.