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and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls." O then you are likely to derive benefit from reading or hearing the word when you are delivered from the love of every sin, and when you can come to his dear feet, and pray, “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ? Lead me in thy way; and guide me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day."
Agencies must evermore operate according to the nature of their subjects. Heat, the very same heat, that melts the wax, will harden the clay. Dress a living and a dead man in the same clothes ; and one will be warm, the other will be cold: the raiment is the very same, the flesh is not. Take two persons sitting in the same pew, and hearing the same truth; if the one of them believe it, and believe not only the truth of it, but the importance, and the other does not-is it possible for these two to feel alike the very same doctrine ? No; what says the apostle to the Hebrews ? “ The word preached did not profit, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” What says he to the Thessalonians ? “ Ye received our word, not as the word of man, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh in them that believe."
Lastly, these natural influences operate in connexion with human means and exertions. So do the spiritual. The husbandman knows that he cannot produce an ear of corn : but he equally knows that he can manure, and plough, and Sow : and he knows that he should be a fool to look for a crop without theso. For though he well knows that God could produce a crop without him, he knows that he never does ; and he knows that though these would be all Dothing without the snow and the rain from heaven, he equally knows that the rain and the snow from heaven would be nothing without these. The one in the economy of God is as necessary as the other. Why should you be shocked at this ? Instrumentality never excludes agency; never detracts from it ; yea, displays it the more. And therefore you ministers study hard; and seek to find out, not only words of truth, but acceptable words; and then retire and pray, “ O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity." Don't you parents talk like some foolish parents, “ We cannot make Christians ; we cannot convert our children ;” but “ train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and when they are old they will not depart from it;" and each of you be induced to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God “ who worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure."
“ For all these things," says God, after promising them, “ will I be inquired of them by the house of Israel to do it for them." Here indeed now is some difference between these natural and these spiritual influences ;” but then it is in our favour. We are not sure that our prayers will always move the clouds : but we know who has said here, “ Ask, and it shall be given ; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened.” We know who has said, “ If ye being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." The fertility produced by these influences in the fields and in the gardens is always limited: but there are no bounds to control the spiritual progress ; God giveth “ more grace: he is “ the God of all grace:" you may go on unto perfection;" you may “increase with all increase of God," and be “ filled with all the fulness of God." VOL. III.
Lastly, we apprehend Isaiah means to trace the resemblance between these natural and spiritual influences IN THB CERTAINTY OF This seems to be his principal, though not his only aim. The snow and the rain, says he, which came down from heaven, returned not thither : that is, they do not return there fruitless. “ So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it:" that is, neither of them is ineffectual according to a certain order; some result always follows.
Now, how is this? How is this with regard to the snow and the rain? Are they always useful? It is easy to see that when they fall upon the garden and upon the field they are useful : but where is their use when they fall upon the sea, and upon the sand, and upon the rock? And yet would you dare to say that they were useless there ? Could you say that God poured them down in vain there? Is it for you, mere short-sighted creatures, to determine what is in vain in the divine empire, where you often find one operation will produce a thousand effects. It is a fact, that God sends the Gospel, and that it is fairly and faithfully preached often where persons do not receive it at first. Is it then thrown away? Even with regard to the wicked it is not in vain : they shall know that a prophet has been among them; they shall have “ no cloak for their sins;" they shall be speechless; they shall feel the full conviction that their destruction has been from themselves ; or, if they say any thing, they will acknowledge that He is “justified when he speaketh, and clear when he judgeth.”
Besides, man is to be considered not only personally but relatively. Where the Gospel does not sanctify, it restrains ; where it does not save, it civilizes. The community derives a thousand benefits from the general influence of the Gospel : and if we had time we could exemplify this in many instances with regard to charitable institutions, with regard to slavery, with regard to war, with regard to marriage, with regard to the tone of morals among the lower orders of the people. But there is a certainty of some spiritual effects in this case also. The degree of usefulness here, and the instances of usefulness here, we are incompetent judges of. The person to whom the minister has been useful, perhaps is a traveller; he goes on his way immediately, and he never sees him more. The person, perhaps, is soon after removed to a distant residence; the minister never sees him again; the man, perhaps, nerer comes forward to make the acknowledgement; he is afraid that he has not really “ the root of the matter" in him.
Then here is another view to be taken of the thing. The Apostle, you see, ir his epistle to the Philippians considers the day of Christ as the period of ministerial rejoicing : “That I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run
I in vain, neither laboured in vain," Ah! my brethren, in the ministry, you may then rejoice : you can then depend upon the effects; the fruit remains, and will remain for ever. And you also, then, are prepared to receive the knowledge of it. It would endanger you now: you will then be disposed, and be able, to ascribe the whole undividedly to the Lord, who worketh all in all. Who, but God, can tell what good has been done by a minister of long life and consistent character ? But would it be safe for him to be entrusted with the knowledge of
this now? He should know something of it; he will know something of it: he will know enough now to encourage him to go forward: and there is enough to encourage him, if he has been the means of the conversion of only one sinner's soul from the error of his ways, and to create joy in the presence of the angels of God. But who can tell the good that is done by a single sermon in a large audience, while the effect moves about like an invisible spirit from heart to heart? What conviction does it produce : what emotions does it excite? And then these convictions and emotions are carried away, and persons exemplify them in relative and in common life. O, could we witness what has taken place under the preaching of a Gospel sermon, as God surveys it! There we should find one pricked in the heart, crying out, “What must I do to be saved ?" There another is freed from his doubts and fears, and enabled to rejoice in the God of his salvation. Another comes in pressed down with grief to the ground; and the preacher has the tongue of the learned, and speaks a word in season to him as the weary heart knows its own bitterness : but under these feelings the Christian comes in, and finds God in his palace for a refuge A poor widow comes in, and sits down on a form under the gallery; and pulls to her knee her fatherless boy, and sighs. Let her alone, for her soul is troubled and vexed within her: but she soon begins to wipe away her tears with the corner of her apron : for she hears the minister say, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them; and let thy widows trust in me.” “ The Father of the fatherless, and the Husband of the widow, is God in his holy habitation."
I must think of drawing towards a close.
And now, in the first place, God forbid that ever you should go away from this place, or any other place, supposing that you go away the same that you entered. Be assured that the Gospel upon which you attend is one of those agencies that will operate in some way or other; that it is a medicine that will hurt or heal, kill or cure. Every time you withdraw from hearing the Gospel, you are less susceptible, or more, of spiritual and heavenly impressions; you are more or less fitted for heaven or hell. Who believes this—who ever thinks of this, as he ought? If you saw the sun shining upon the land of your neighbours, and a dark, dense cloud always hanging over yours; if you saw the rain coming down upon the fields and gardens of some others, while yours remained dried up and parched; would you not be uneasy? would you not be alarmed ? would you not say,
66 Tell me
-O tell me what is the cause that these influences are withholden from me? Why should I be made a spectacle of the divine displeasure to all around ?" How is it that you do not realize this in another and a more important cause? When you see others affected under the Word, and you are insensible: when others join the church, and you keep back. Perhaps the servant joins the church, and you, the master, keep back. Perhaps the wife joins the church, and you, the husband, keep back. Perhaps on the Sabbathday morning of the sacrament, when you go down the aisle, you father, you mother, look back and see your dear child remain at the table of the Lord, while you are withdrawing: how can you bear this?
A minister in the country, not very far off now, had one day called upon him two sisters in early life, who proposed themselves as candidates for communion. It was necessary to make enquiries concerning them : and, as we remember the remark of old Philip Henry, that " men are in religion really
what they are relatively”—he called upon the mother. The mother had buried the pious husband some years before, but had remained undecided herself. She bore an excellent testimony to her daughters, and said, “ If they do not go to heaven, I know not whoever will :" and then rising up from the chair, and, wringing her hands as she walked up and down the room, she exclaimed, “ Lord, what will become of me! My husband is gone to heaven; and now my daughters are going: and am I to be left a poor spiritual outcast. 0, Sir! pray for me, that the God of my husband, and the God of my children may
my God.” He perceived the impression that was made, and cherished it: and some time after came forward the mother and the daughters together; and a brave weeping-time they all had.
Well, but this subject affords encouragement to God's servants. They should remember that they do not labour at random, or at an uncertainty; the Lord assigns them their place, and their work, and their ability, and the nature and the degree of their usefulness. My dear brethren in the ministry, allow me to recommend you always to look at our text before you leave your study. Allow me to say, Always look at this text, and think of it the last thing in the pulpit when you are just rising up to preach : “ So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Ministers have trials-many more than some of you are aware of. They have trials in common with you as men; and they have trials in common with you as Christians : but in addition to these two huge multitudes, they have trials peculiar also to theniselves : but " they live if you stand fast in the Lord." It is enough under all they endure if the work of the Lord prospers ; if souls are added to the Lord daily of such as shall be saved ; and the conversation of Christians is such as becometh the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yea, they know too, that, if Israel be but gathered, they shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord: and thus they shall stand faithful. They know that they are a sweet savour unto God, both in them that are saved, and in them that perish : to the one indeed they are “ the savour of life unto life:" but to the other they are “the savour of death unto death." There is, however-I am sure I speak the feelings of my brethren here—there is another and a better comfort they have than this; and that is, the hope that they shall save, not only themselves, but also them that hear them.
Well this encouragement of course extends to all missionary efforts. To think of evangelizing the whole world is a bold and daring enterprize. It certainly is a very important and a very necessary one, if we believe our own principles, if we believe the testimony of God concerning the state of those who are destitute of the Gospel, and the mode by which they are to be recovered. But why should it be thought an impracticable one? Has not God foretold it, and promised it? It will be needless now, and we have not time, to repeat the number of passages of Scriptnre, which, blessed be God, on these occasions are now become very well known and familiar. But when we read sucn declarations as these : “ He shall sprinkle many nations"_" All nations shall fall down before him, and all kings shall serve him"-" The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea"—and so on: allow me to ask, whether any thing has yet occurred in the history of divine Providence or grace, sufficient to embody these assurances ? If not, whatever be the croakings and the forebodings of some, better days are before us than the world has ever yet witnessed.
And has not God also commanded this? Has he not said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature ?" And would he enjoin what is an absolute impossibility ? Has not much been done already in this cause?
How unlikely when the law went out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, how unlikely was the rapid establishment and spread of Christianity which followed. “ But,” say some, “ there were miracles then.” There were ; and miracles have now ceased; and we are not to look for miracles now. But, then, neither do we need them. How was this highly-favoured country evangelized at first? Not by miracle. How have the South Sea Islands been evangelized ? Not by miracles : no, but by the blessing of God on the use of means. Why then, should not this cause become general ? Why should it not become universal ? What is there in any case to be overcome that has not been overcome in various instances already, by the blessing of God upon means, inferior to those which we are in the possession of? How many things are there that may be considered as indications and pledges in this case? We cannot refer to them at all now; but it is impossible not to remark the prompt and easy mode of intercourse now between one country and another ; the increase of science, and the extension of commerce. You will observe that these are almost exclusively appertaining to Christian countries. And there is one thing that exclusively belongs to them; namely, all colonization. Such is the wretched state under Mahometan and heathen governments, that there is no surplus population to be provided for. But all the colonies that have been formed for a length of time back, and are still being formed; all these are from Christian nations. And therefore they go forth with more or less of the means of grace in their possession, and the knowledge of divine truth, and maintain connexion with the mother country, from which they derive assistance.
And then what a field is there open to Protestants. There is no Popish mission now; and I am persuaded there never will be again. The field, therefore, lies open entirely to Protestants : it is occupied by them only. There yet remains very much land to be possessed: but what a spirit has God already awakened; and what efforts have been made in the translation of the Scriptures; and in sending forth missionaries. How many Missionary Societies have there been established: and all these (blessed be God) all these look to God for their efficiency and success. They are all therefore, founded on prayer; and they all carry forth. with some little shades of difference, wbich do not affect the essentials of Christianity, all carry out the same truth—the truth as it is in Jesus.
So far, my Christian friends, my reflections have been general, and intended to meet such an occasion as this. It is not necessary that they should be more particular : we are all here agreed; we may venture to say that the spirit of catholicism characterizes all the missionary societies, and that they rejoice in each other's success. With regard to you, my brethren, who have the honour of having gone before many others, before the Baptist Missionary Society, before the London Missionary Society, before the Scotch Missionary Society,