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ST. PAUL'S DELIGHT IN PREACH
ING THE GOSPEL. THE CHARACTER OF THE
WE have beheld a glorious display of Almighty power in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who, from a fiery bigot was made a zealous disciple of Jesus Christ.
In the great work of conversion, the Almighty acts upon us as rational creatures.
When man fell from his original state of innocence, and lost the image of his Maker, he did not lose those powers of his soul which distinguished him from the brute creation. Being endued with understanding, will, affections, memory, and conscience, he still remained a free agent, a responsible being, subject to moral obligations. But, he became a sinner, and as such, he was obnoxious to infinite justice, lay under the curse of a broken law, and having lost both righteousness and strength, was utterly unable to regain either holiness or happiness.
In this state of spiritual death, despair would
have made Adam its wretched victim, had not the Throne of Grace appeared, from whence, in sweetest sounds, mercy proclaimed salvation through the Virgin's Son.
What wonder must have seized the heavenly host, when LOVE, uprising from the bosom of the Eternal Father, in the person of the Everlasting Son, thus expressed his willingness to save our ruined race: "Lo I come: In the volume of the Book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God."
Jesus, the promised Saviour, came into our world, and bled and died that guilty man might, through his death, be made an heir of glory. A way of escape is now opened for us. All who believe in Jesus shall be saved. All, who are found in Him, are accepted and blessed of the Father. But as the mercy of our God is great, so also is his justice. Out of Christ, we are hopeless and helpless. We fell in Adam. Through his fall we lost all spiritual strength. We cannot save ourselves.
No parental discipline, no human law, no system of education, no influence of friends, no moral suasion, no ministerial labour, no afflictive dispensation, nor any other earthly thing, can, of itself, turn a soul from darkness unto light,-from the power of Satan unto God.
All these may be, and often are, blessed as means, but the Holy Spirit is the sole efficient, free, and sovereign agent in the regeneration of the soul. God will, and must have all the glory of our salvation, through Jesus Christ. The proud
sinner must be humbled, and brought as a little child to the foot of the cross. Fallen man fancies himself to be something, when he is nothing, less than nothing, and vanity. But, “thus saith the Lord, let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord, which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight saith the Lord."
Through the Gospel of his grace, the Almighty persuasively, yet powerfully addresses the understanding, the conscience, and the heart. He reveals to us our danger as apostate rebels; our madness in preferring sin to holiness-the road to hell, rather than the way to heaven. He unfolds to us the redeeming love of Christ, to melt our hearts, to captivate our affections, to move our wills to choose him as our only Saviour. And when His Divine Power thus accompanies the Word of Truth, great and glorious is the change produced. The darkened understanding is enlightened, the crooked will receives a new bias, the wayward affections are fixed upon Christ, and the wretched outcast is made a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus, when pouring his heavenly light into the benighted mind of Nicodemus, made him acquainted with this all-important truth: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." St. John, the beloved disciple, informs us, that, when Jesus came unto his own, his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
To the multitudes who followed him, because they did eat of the loaves, and were filled, Jesus said: "All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
St. James, in perfect unison with his Divine Master, says: "Of his own will, begat he us, with the word of his truth."
And so does St. Peter: "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, -but, with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot. See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently, being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
St. John attests the same divine truth: "whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for
his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
St. Paul, taught by the same Holy Spirit, proclaims in all his Epistles, the doctrine of free grace, abounding to the chief of sinners through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
When speaking of himself in his ministerial capacity, he says: "By the grace of God, I am what I am and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, which is Jesus Christ. We are ambassadors for Christ-and stewards of the mysteries of God."
With feelings of gratitude, the Apostle ascribed all his ministerial usefulness, and personal holiness, to the grace of God, and to that unction from the Holy One, which is the earnest of future glory.
It is beautiful to see with what humility he seeks on all occasions to magnify the love of God, which shone so brightly in his conversion.
If we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, our hearts, like that of Paul, will overflow with thankfulness and praise.
With the same faithful pen, guided by the unerring Spirit of Truth, he shows to the various churches, the source of all their blessedness: "You hath he quickened, who were dead in tresspasses and sins; having forgiven you all trespasses. For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ye are all the