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him of joy unspeakable; of a peace which passeth understanding; of rivers of pleasure which flow at God's right hand for evermore.
Thus the Gospel of grace discovers to fallen man, not only the nature of true happiness, but the way to obtain it. It shews him the source of all misery : -THE FALL OF OUR FIRST PARENTS;—and conducts him to the fountain of all blessedness :-GOD MANIFEST IN THE FLESH.
Through faith in this gracious deliverer, the soul is saved from the guilt and power of sin. The world and all its vanities, like the retiring tide, recedes from the heart; whilst the joys of God's salvation flow in, and fill the soul with substantial and satisfying delights.
The sinner thus made wise unto salvation by the eternal Spirit, finds the way of peace, and becomes at length, what worldlings never can be truly happy.
o blessed Jesus! thou in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, make me wise unto salvation. Preserve me from being satisfied with the false glare of human knowledge, which possesses only the name, but nothing of the qualities of wisdom.
Come, O! divine Redeemer, with all thy full salvation, into my longing heart. Without thee, I cannot be happy. (With thee, I cannot be miserable. The world may smile, but if thou frownest, I must be wretched. The world may frown, but if thou smilest, I am blessed. Let me no longer seek my comforts from creatures, however fair and excellent. 6 All my fresh springs are in thee.” Be thou my all in all, in adverse days and pleasant seasons. 0! let thy grace be in me as a well of water, springing up into everlasting life. Then I shall be holy and happy. All will be serene within, the sweet presage of eternal rest!
PASSIVE IMPRESSIONS AND ACTIVE HABITS. 189
Touch'd by the power of love divine,
Too long, alas! a wand'ring sheep,
Thou art my refuge and my rest,
XXXIV, ON PASSIVE IMPRESSIONS AND ACTIV
It is very important to distinguish rightly between passive impressions and active habits.
We are continually liable to receive impressions of one kind or another. Impressions of love and aversion; joy and grief; hope and fear.
A pleasing representation of a person produces a favourable impression upon the mind, bordering upon love. How common to hear it said : “ your description makes me quite love him.” And yet, this is often but a mere impression. The description and the feeling are soon lost in the succeeding objects which crowd upon the mind: · Thus many persons are deeply impressed by awful representations of the day of judgment and the horrors of hell, who yet never break off from their sins, or turn truly to God.
We often hear of an impressive sermon; a sermon calculated deeply to affect the mind and heart of the congregation. And yet how seldom do we lear of conversions, which are the consequences of abid ing impressions, producing active habits.
It is a truth, that impressions, if only passive, and forming no active habits in the soul, lose their power by repetition.
Hence many persons, who were much affected when first they heard the Gospel, and in consequence made some considerable profession; yet owing to this impression being simply passive, and not leading to the formation of gracious habits in the soul; have become by degrees so Gospel-hardened, that the sharpest rebuke, as well as the most affectionate intreaty, has lost its edge and influence on their minds: they hear as though they heard not.
This view of the subject may lead us to distinguish between what is the operation of natural causes, and what is the operation of the Spirit of God.
Impressions, however strong at the time, if merely the result of lively description upon the imagination, will soon wear away, as the imagination loses the vivid colouring which fascinated it; just as the beautiful tints of an evening sky gradually disappear, as the sun retires beneath the horizon.
But the impressions made on the soul by the Spirit of God, being of a nature peculiar to themselves, produce an immediate change (though apparently small at first) on the views and feelings of the person affected ; which deepening by repetition, form those active habits, which give a new character to the whole man.
Hatred of sin ; a holy fear of God; love to the Saviour ; joy in the Holy Ghost ; delight in holi
ness; patience under suffering; and deadness to the world; are the result of those saving, quickening impressions, which are made on the heart by the almighty energy of the Divine Spirit.
When this is the case, the same subjects, which at first impressed, continue to impress. The habits of the soul become more active and holy. Faith waxes stronger; love abounds yet more and more; hope becomes more lively; and obedience in heart and life more regular and delightful. . But the same subjects are heard with complete indifference after a time, when the impressions are passive, and occasioned by the simple effect of natural eloquence on the mind.
This proves that no oratory, however fascinating, can truly reach the heart, or produce gracious habits in the soul, if unaccompanied by a divine power.
The understanding may be convinced, the conscience may tremble; but the affections can never be firmly fixed upon God, through the power of human eloquence, or the arts of moral suasion.
“A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you;" is both the promise and work of almighty love. Popular ministers of the Gospel, who gather crowds of admiring auditors around them, may learn from this subject both humility and dependence.
No eloquence of language, no force of expression, no pathetic appeals to the passions, can produce one saving impression upon that adamant which lies within the human heart. He, who commanded Moses to strike the rock, must graciously accompany the stroke with his supernatural power, or the waters of true contrition will never flow.
The humble and comparatively weak instrument may from hence take encouragement; knowing that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord, that Satan is dislodged from his stronghold, and the sinner saved.
The weakest instrument becomes effective, in proportion to the skill and power of him who wields it. Hence infinite wisdom is pleased, in general, to employ the weak things of the world, to confound the things that are mighty, that no flesh may glory in his presence. .
Instances not unfrequently occur in the experience of faithful ministers, of sermons, which they had rejected for their supposed want of good style and arrangement, but which they afterwards preached for want of time to write better, being made the blessed instruments of fastening conviction on the conscience, and leading the sinner to the cross of Christ; whilst many an elaborate discourse on which they had bestowed hours of thought, and from which they expected great results, produced no other effect, than that of drawing forth flattering commendation, or critical remarks.
We are taught in the word of God, not to despise the day of small things; nor to lean unto our own understanding, nor trust to an arm of flesh. These holy precepts operated powerfully on the mind and practice of the great apostle to the gentiles. "I came not,” said he to the Corinthians, "with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God; for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and him crucified. My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
And again to the Thessalonians he writes. “As we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but
You the testim speech or of the Corinthiae gentiles.