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a little circle of converts. But such success as I understand by the fulness of the blessing has not been vouchsafed to any of us in these days. I am not speaking of the comparative success which one minister may have above another, but the success of all of us put together, would be but little compared with that of Paul or Peter.
It may be important to inquire, What can be the reason of this? "Is the Lord's arm shortened "that it cannot save?" Is the gospel another thing than it was once? Are we to say that we cannot work miracles? Miracles never converted men, except as the grace of God wrought with them. There cannot be a greater mistake than to think that miracles can change the heart. It is the ordinary grace of the Holy Spirit which produces that change. It was this that converted Saul into Paul.
Are we to resolve it into God's sovereignty? He is sovereign; but a holy, righteous, just one: he" delighteth in mercy ;" and he hath promised that "his word shall not return unto him void, "but shall prosper in the thing whereunto he "sends it." I do not say, however, that we are to resolve it all into human causes; God's purposes and sovereignty may well be most seriously considered; but then we must not cast the weight on that. Our duty, and not God's secret will, is our concern. Generally God works in proportion to the fitness of the instruments. If we quiet ourselves on the supposed ground of God's sovereignty, we tempt God, and shall assuredly not have the blessing. We may therefore properly
inquire, if there be no reasons which may account for this want amongst us of the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.—
We may inquire whether our modern preachers of the gospel do so prominently hold out the peculiarities of Christianity, as the apostles did : whether they come with the holy law of God as the ministration of condemnation in one hand, and the gospel of Christ as the ministration of life in the other; whether they warn sinners, like John the Baptist, not to trust in any outward forms, and then point out to them the Lamb of God; whether Christ crucified is the great subject of their instructions; and they say with St. Paul, "God forbid "that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord "Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified "unto me, and I unto the world." Many persons who are said to preach the gospel may have exhibited Christ in the picture; but the question is whether the Saviour has not been rather in the back ground; whether they have not been ashamed of bringing him fully forward; whether they have not hidden and covered something of Christ and his cross.
It is the work of the Spirit to glorify Christ. May we not then ask, whether God the Spirit is glorified in his person and grace, in his love and power in the work of conversion; whether we do not hold the doctrine of the Holy Spirit slightly? For, if we do not honour the Spirit, how can we expect that he will honour our ministry? Matters are more promising in this respect now than they were twenty years back; but I have heard and read sermons in which Christ was exhibited, but
the Spirit scarcely mentioned. We must expect all success from his power alone. If a man trust in knowledge, talents, eloquence, human suasion, he will do nothing. It is our business indeed to do all we can in inviting, entreating, and instructing men; but, when we have done all, it is the Spirit of God who alone can quicken the dead and enlighten the blind; and, if we depend not on him, we shall not, we cannot, succeed.
Some, on the other hand, may be inclined so to look to God, as to neglect the means which God has appointed to be used. A man may say,
The blessing must come from God; I can do nothing of myself, and therefore I will do nothing at all.' This is not trusting God, but tempting him. Our speculating on God's commands, instead of obeying them, is most criminal. If the prophet Ezekiel had done this, when he was sent to prophesy to the dry bones, what would the Lord have answered him? A great deal of gospeltruth may be preached and little good done, because we do not fairly use all the means in addressing and calling on sinners to repent and turn to God.
We do not expect this fulness of blessing, and are satisfied without it. There is a littleness in our faith and conception of things. We do not ask or expect this fulness, we have no idea of it, it does not enter our minds. Can we wonder, then, that the Lord says to us, " According to thy faith be "it unto thee?" But the apostles went forth, and expected and asked a fulness of blessing. When a man is in earnest, nothing will satisfy him but this. Others may be satisfied without
success. They may go through a formal set of observances, and be contented; instead of examining their ministry and their whole conduct, and saying, "Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me." If we can be satisfied without this enlarged blessing, certainly we shall never have it. If a man says, I have a large, attentive congregation; I have a good income; the people are obliging; my circumstances are comfortable-he is in a most dangerous state. It is the same as if a fisherman should be satisfied because he has a good net, and pleasant companions, and fair weather, though he comes home cmpty. If any thing but usefulness will satisfy us, I do not wonder we are not useful. We must thank God for this and that thing; but nothing must satisfy us but the conversion of sinners.
Our faithfulness and earnestness are more in the pulpit than in the closet. We preach Christ as if in earnest, and we go and pray as if not in earnest. There is but little wrestling with God for a blessing. There is a want of the spirit of prayer. Sometimes this may arise from a seeming humility; but it is a false one. St. Paul was most humble; yet most earnest in prayer, most persevering, most importunate; and so he obtained a fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
-There is a want of that holy heavenly temper, and that general circumspection of conduct, which would make us patterns of good works. Our example may not be dishonourable; but is it so
Q. Our expecting and asking for but little success.-J. S.
honourable to the gospel as it might be? example is not a scandal; but can we say with the apostle, "I have coveted no man's silver or "gold, or apparel?" Can we say, "Ye know how
holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved "ourselves among you that believe?" Do we embody Christianity? Do we not only put a copy before others and leave them to write, but take the pen and shew them how to form each letter? Are we men of God; heavenly, disinterested, dead to the pleasures, interests, and honours of this world? What would Paul say if he were to come amongst us? Would he not have reason to say, "All seek their own, none the things that are "Jesus Christ's?" Are we not fishers of ease, fame, money; rather than " fishers of men ?"
You may perhaps say, If this be the character of the minister who "comes in the fulness of the "blessing of the gospel of Christ," there are a great many who are very far from it. No doubt there are but, remember, a Christian is a devout penitent, reconciled to God, and obeying the gospel and yet you are all called Christians. And do you wonder, then, that many are called ministers, who are not what they should be? It is not their fault as ministers, but as men. What makes nominal Christians, makes nominal ministers; but neither the one nor the other can be accepted of God. When you had a minister who did not care for your souls, did you earnestly pray for him? Or did you neglect him as much as he neglected you? If you did not pray for one to teach you aright, what wonder if God permitted one to come