Imatges de pàgina
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that they hold to this old way because they are ignorant, but because they are bigoted. They have, say some, been taught it, and they never will renounce what they have been taught. They have been taught it. This is what the apostle declares; but who was their teacher ? Let the apostle answer. “ Ye have an unction from the Holy One.” He was their teacher; and they will not give up what he has taught them.

Two things are peculiar to the Holy Ghost as a teacher; his disciples will believe him; and what he teaches them they will never renounce; though they should be tempted, or sawn asunder, or slain with the sword; or have to wander about in sheep-skins, and goat-skins, destitute, afflicted, and tormented, on account of their faith, yet they will not renounce it.

“ Should all the forms that men devise,

Assault their faith with treacherous art,
They'd call them vanity, and lies,

And bind the Gospel to their heart.”

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This some think to be obstinacy. But it is not; for obstinacy will sometimes, after long continuance, give up. It may, in some cases, be overcome. But this can never be overcome. It holds to its object with a grasp vastly more firm, and it is more unyielding than obstinacy itself. It never will give up. Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." This is not obstinacy-no; it is faith; that faith which has subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness been made strong, waxed valiant in fight," and will absolutely the world, the flesh, and the devil," and "come off conqueror, and more than conqueror, through him that loved us, and gave himself for us."

4. In view of this subject, we' see, that it is not strange that different men, with the same external means, have very different views about the Gospel, and very different feelings towards it. It is not unaccountable that some men embrace it; and prize it more than they do thousands of gold and silver: and that others, of equal learning, talents, and opportunities, reject it. When Paul preached the Gospel, “ some believed, and some believed not.But we have no evidence that those who believed had in all cases more learning, or talents, or opportunities, than some who believed not. Nor have we any evidence that those who had “an unction from the Holy One, and who "knew all things,” were in talents superior to some who went out from them, and thus proved that they were not of them. It was not necessary to be superior in talents in order to know the truth, and be made wise unto salvation; for it is not human learning merely, or talents, or opportunities, which'avail for the attainment of saving knowledge. These may be, nay, they are used as means, and the more of them, if devoted to God, the better; but this knowledge that is sanctifying and saving, is imparted by the Holy Ghost. If some men feel the need of his teaching, heartily seek it, and receive it, and other men do not, it is not strange that they should differ in their views about the Gospel, or in their feelings towards it. Nay, it would be strange if it were not so; for the truths of the Gospel are known by being felt.

Take, for instance, the doctrine of human depravity. If one man feels it, and when he looks into himself, finds that he is actually poor, and wretched, miserable, blind, and naked, in want of all things; and another man, when he looks into himself, imagines that he is rich, and increased in goods, and has need of nothing; it is not strange that the one believes the doctrine of human depravity, and the other rejects it. Just give to that man the same kind of evidence which the other has; let him look again into himself, his mind being enlightened by the Holy Ghost to “discern spiritual things," in a spiritual manner; and let him find, as thousands have found, that instead of being, as he supposed, rich, and increased in goods, and in need of nothing, he is actually poor, and wretched, miserable, blind, and naked, in want of all things; and he too will believe the doctrine of human depravity. He will feel it; and thus know that it is true. What the man needs may be neither learning, nor talents, nor opportunities; but an humble spirit, receiving the truth as God has revealed it. He needs faith ; that faith which is "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” If one man has this, and another has not, it is not strange that they should differ in their views about the truths of the Bible, and in their feelings towards them. It would be unaccountable if it were not so.

And if some men, without "an unction from the Holy One," seem to embrace the Gospel, and afterward in time of temptation appear to fall away; and other men, who, by an unction from the Holy One, really embrace the Gospel, and, through evil report and good report, persevere in their belief and practice of it to the end; being kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation; it is no more than what, from the Bible, we had reason to expect.

And when this takes place, instead of being, as some suppose, unaccountable, and operating as a stumbling-block, it is only a practical illustration of Bible truth. And it ought to lead every man who beholds it, to trust, not in his own wisdom and goodness, or strength, but in the living God.

5. We see, in view of this subject, the reason why children and poor persons; persons of little learning and small abilities, sometimes embrace ihe Gospel ; appear clearly to understand it, and deeply to feel its truths. It is because the Holy Ghost can and does teach them as really as others. The truths of the Gospel are adapted to their condition, and exactly meet their wants. They can understand them.

The little child, when weeping over the wickedness of his own heart, in godly sorrow and true penitence, understands the doctrine of depra

vity as really as a man; and more so, unless the man has been taught it in the same way, by feeling it. And that child may pray as sincerely,

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me," as any man on earth. And he may turn from sin, look to the Lord Jesus, and believe on him, love him, and obey him; Christ may be formed in him the hope of glory; be all his salvation and all his desire; and be the end of the law for righteousness to him, as truly as if he were

greatest philosopher on the earth. The reason is, the Gospel, the glorious "Gospel of God our Saviour,” is adapted, not merely to adult

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sinners, or to learned sinners, or sinners of great talents; but to sinners of every class.

“ This remedy did wisdom find,
To heal diseases of the mind;
A sovereign balm, whose virtues can
Restore the ruined creature, man.”

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And man, in every condition in which he is a sinner in a state of probation, and feels his need of pardoning mercy, is able to understand the Gospel, and is able to embrace it, and to be begotten again by it, unto a lively hope, which shall purify him even as God is pure. And this is one of the precious, unspeakably precious glories of the Gospel. It is adapted to sinners of every sort, and whosoever will, may embrace it. “ Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” " Whosoever will, let him come; and him that cometh, I will in no wise cast out.”

Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls."

6. We see, in view of this subject, the reason why some men, with the Bible in their hands, are ever learning, and yet never come to the knowledge of the truth." They do not feel their need of the teaching of the Holy Ghost. They perhaps do not believe “ that there is any Holy Ghost. They do not seek his teaching. They do not obtain it. And the truths which he has revealed they do not believe. Hence, they grope in darkness at noonday, and stumble as in the night.

7. If Christians, to whom the Gospel has come, not in word only, but in power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, would have others to embrace it, and in such a manner that they will never renounce it, but be sanctified and saved with an eternal salvation; while they use all suitable means to convey divine truth to their minds, they must depend for success upon “ an unction from the Holy One.” And for this he will be inquired of ;" he" will be sought unto." Hence Christians, while they make all possible efforts to convey divine truth to the minds of men, should, at the same time, abound in prayer. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God giveth the increase." Nor is this the least discouragement either to effort or to prayer; it is rather the grand encouragement to both. For would any of you, being a father, should a famishing child ask bread, give him a stone? or should he ask a fish, would you give him a serpent ? " If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?" " Ask, and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

Every one that asketh receiveth, he that seeketh findeth, and to him who knocketh the door of mercy is opened." Let then Christians, who have "an unction from the Holy One," of every denomination and of every name, use the means of God's appointment, and there is no insuperable difficulty in the way of the conversion of sinners; or of a revival of true religion, which shall not stop till it has extended to every district, and state, and kingdom; and has reached to every family, and every in

dividual on the globe. Give each a Bible; let him daily read it; and listen to it as to the voice of Jehovah ; let the Gospel, the glorious Gospel of the ever-blessed God, be preached in purity and with power to every creature; let prayer, believing, effectual, fervent prayer, ascend without ceasing; and in answer, let there be given to all people “ an unction from the Holy One;" and there would be a mourning for sin all over the earth: and then, let the Lord Jesus Christ be proclaimed as the only hope of glory, and every heart would embrace him; the song of salvation would echo from sea to sea; and the whole earth join the blest anthem, TO THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN, AND HATH REDEEMED US TO GOD BY HIS BLOOD.

SERMON LXXXIII.

BY WILLIAM J. ARMSTRONG, A. M.

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA.

PRACTICAL ATHEISM OF SINNERS.

EPHESIANS, ii. 12.—And without God in the world.

The avowed advocates of atheism have never been numerous. Pride of intellect and depravity of heart have indeed led many to embrace opinions which would lead to it, if fearlessly followed out to their legitimate consequences. But atheistical doctrines are so completely at war with all around us, and all within us, that it seems scarcely possible for any to embrace them with a calm and deliberate conviction of their truth. Dark indeed must be that understanding which can nowhere discern traces of unsearchable wisdom and almighty power; and dead to every generous emotion that heart, which does not recoil with horror from the dark and desolate caverns of atheism. The Supreme Intelligence who presides over all things is indeed invisible and far above the comprehension of finite reason. Him no man hath seen or can see. He sits behind his works, covered with awful mystery, but in the veil that hides him from our view, his existence and agency are every moment seen, and heard, and felt

. We do not doubt whether the sun shines at noonday, because its dazzling brightness renders us unable exactly to ascertain its shape and dimensions. As little should we doubt the existence of our Maker, because the overpowering splendours of his glory confound our imagination, and mock at the feeble efforts of reason to grasp or define them. I exist, therefore God exists. The universe exists, therefore God exists. No reasoning can be more direct and conclusive. Every exercise of consciousness, every operation of my senses, bears testimony to the divine existence. It is not wonderful then, that, while many have feared, and hated, and wished to shun the great Author and Judge of all, few have had the folly, the daring impiety, the infernal hardihood, to deny his existence.

But the truth which men cannot reject, they may alter and pervert, to suit their own feelings; or while they hold it uncorrupted, they may banish it from their hearts, and deny it that influence upon their lives which it demands. In this respect the Ephesians, to whom the apostle wrote, were “ without God,” until they heard and believed the Gospel. They were idolaters; worshippers of those deities, whose impure and cruel rites were at once the scourge and the shame of ancient Greece and Rome. They were not atheists, strictly speaking, but their gods were their own passions deified, and they ascribed to them characters, that would, in our day, banish men from all decent society. If any of them entertained more correct, notions of the divine character, as doubtless some did, they “held the truth in unrighteousness,” refusing to subject their hearts and lives to its authority. And as the expression of the apostle, “ without God in the world,” presents a just view of their character, so it correctly describes their condition. As they wilfully rejected the knowledge and the service of God, so they were aliens from his favour, and utterly destitute of that serenity and peace in life, that hope in death, and that blessedness in eternity, which flow from an interest in his love. In this respect, my brethren, their case was not singular. It is the criminal and unhappy condition of all our fallen race until they are renewed by the Spirit of God. It is ours to-day, if we have never been born “from above." Till the heart is changed by the Holy Spirit, every man is, in this sense, “ without God in the world.”' However correct his notions of the existence and perfections of his Maker, he is practically an atheist. In the most important sense, 66 without God in the world," describes his character; and as to all that can inspire hope or justify joy, without God in the world," describes his condition. To the illustration of these two points, let me now invite your attention; however painful the subject, listen, I pray you, to the testimony of Scripture and reason.

First : The character of unregenerate men is atheistical. They who admit the being of God, but deny all or any of his perfections, evidently reject the true God, and worship in his stead the creature of their own imaginations. That such are without God is too plain to need any illustration. The object of their worship is no more a reality, than the Jupiter of the Greeks, or the Brahma of the Hindoos. But admit the infinite majesty and excellence of our Maker, and you cannot deny that all rational creatures are under the most sacred obligations to love him supremely, to take his will as the rule of their conduct, and to seek his glory and the enjoyment of his favour as the great end of their existence.

The same conclusion is irresistible, if we regard him as the Author of our being, and the bountiful Parent of our mercies. Every generous and noble principle and feeling of our nature calls us to love, obey, and glorify him who gave us life, who feeds and clothes and protects us, who crowns us with loving-kindness and tender mercies. You would justly esteem that man a monster of ingratitude, who should disregard obligations to a fellowman, unspeakably less than what you owe to the Father of mercies.

In addition to the perfect excellence and loveliness of his character and to his creating and preserving power and goodness, recollect, that God is the author of eternal salvation, that he hath given his only-begotten Son to die for a fallen world, that he hath provided, at an infinite expense, for the pardon of our guilt, our renovation to holiness, and our exaltation to perfect and everlasting purity and bliss in his presence; and then say, if his claims to our love and obedience are not strong and sacred, and tender beyond all expression : and judge ye, if they who live in the daily and hourly disregard of claims like these, are not, emphatically, without God in the world. Are they not fairly obnoxious to the charge of practical atheism ? And are they not surely, and justly, in a state of dreary alienation from the favors of him whom they profess to know, but in works deny ?

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