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PROVIDENCE AND GRACE.
ALLUSIONS are frequently made that a creating act is constantin Scripture to an analogy ex- ly exerted to
the seed isting between the natural and to sprout forth. Hence it has spiritual worlds. The providen- been with propriety said—“ Protial superintendence of God over vidente is a continued creation.” his works of creation is often re The power of God is required to ferred to as illustrative of his ope- preserve and perpetuate, as well rations in presiding over the appli- as originally to form. Speaking cation of the blessings of his grace. of the seed deposited in the soil, It might be anticipated, that as the Apostle says — " That which Providence and Grace are different thou sowest, thou sowest not that but closely connected parts of the body that shall be, but bare grain, administration of the same Being, it may chance of wheat or some some similarity would be discover- other grain : but God giveth it a able between them. It is very body as it hath pleased him.”obvious that this conclusion is (1 Cor. xv. 37, 38.) When it is sanctioned by Scripture. Bishop said (Mark iv. 28) the earth bring. Butler has referred to this analogy eth forth fruit of herself (autouárn) for the purpose of showing that it relates, as is evident from the similar difficulties to those which context, not to the exclusion of apply to natural and revealed re- divine, but of human power.ligion, occur in the constitution Man, after he has deposited the and course of nature, and has thus seed, can do no more to cause it to triumphantly repelled the objec. grow. The earth bringeth forth tions of cavillers to the system of fruit “ spontaneously.” This exreligion in general, and to the clusion of human power is quite Christian system in particular.- consistent with what is stated in The object of the following re- the previously cited passage, of marks is to trace the analogy sub- the actual exertion of divine power, sisting between the operations of and with the words of our Lord, God in applying the benefits of (Matt. viii. 30.) “ If God so clothe the Christian system, and in the. the grass of the field,” &c. Of established economy of his Pro- this last passage it should be revidence.
marked, that Christ refers to this One point of resemblance, to process in the natural world, as which Scripture often refers, is furnishing an example from which found in the circumstance that a the disciples might assure themdirect operation of divine energy selves of their heavenly Father's takes place, both in Providence continued superintendence over and in Grace. When Paul says, them, and the constant exertion (1 Cor. iii. 6,) “ I have planted, of his power and goodness in their A pollos watered, but God gave behalf. It is in vain, in order to the iucrease;" he plainly intends obriate the conclusion to which that the power which renders the this analogy leads, to affirm that gospel-proclamation efficacious, is the seed produces its fruit accordanalogous to that which causes ing to the established course of nathe seed of the husbandman to ture. The acknowledgment of the germinate and grow. In the na exertion of divine power is by no tural world, then, it is evident means avoided by this reference
to the original constitution of na that watereth, but God that givture. Every existence must have eth the increase.” This conclu. an efficient
When the sion, however, it should be reblade, therefore, appears, there marked, whilst it seems obviously must be a cause adequate to its to flow from the analogy referred production. It will not be affirm- to, is supported by abundant ined that the seed is such a cause; dependent evidence.
Not only it can be nothing more than a does the general tenor of Scripsecond cause, or occasion for its ture proceed upon the recognition appearance. If it be alleged that of it, but it is often directly affirm. God's original establishment of ed. Of Lydia it is said " whose the course of nature is the cause, heart the Lord opened.” The it may be replied, that even dead in trespasses and sins are if it were possible to conceive declared to be divinely“ quickenof a course of nature apart from ed.” Eph. ii. 1. Repentance is the continued agency of the God stated to be given by God, (2 Tim. of nature, still, as the term course ii. 25.) Faith is represented as a of nature is a general one, includ- divine production in the soul, ing all its particulars, the divine (1 Eph. xix. 20.) In short, where. will is as much the cause of each ever conversion is traced to its event in the succession, as of the source, it is uniformly ascribed to general series thus denominated. the power of the Most High, and To say that God has constituted thus the analogy holds that in nasuch a course is only to state that ture and in grace
“ all things are he has determined the succession of God.” of a certain order of events, and Another point of similarity lies the particular we are considere in the imperceptible manner in ing, the appearance of this blade, which the divine energy is exerted. among the rest.
His will must In Providence we see nothing but therefore be the efficient cause of the operation of second causes, and its production. However unable this, because God acts on every we may be to conceive of an in- thing in a manner consistent with finite mind, the cause of all exist- its own nature and properties.ence throughout its vast domain, The seed appears of itself to proour incapacity constitutes nó duce its fruit. In the support of ground of objection to the view our animal frames we are sensible of Providence on which we are of nothing but the nutrition arising insisting. This divine operation, from the aliment we receive. In then, in the natural world, is al. deciding on any course in the conluded to by the Apostle as illus- duct of life, we are governed by trative of that interposition where- the force of the considerations by God applies to the soul the which appear most constraining, benefits of the Christian scheme. without being aware of any suAs in the former it is not enough perior direction. So also in grace, to attribute the production of the the subject of divine influence is fruits of the earth to the properties at the time insensible to its operaof the seed and of the soil, so, in tions. “ Asin reference to the conthe latter, the influence of educa- servation of our natural beings, tion and the power of suasion are
we are assured equally insufficient to produce the the first cause co-operates with inresult. or Neither is he that ferior causes, (for we live, move, planteth any thing, neither he and have our being in him,) though
the divine influence is not com it listeth, and thou hearest the municated to this purpose with sound thereof, but canst not tell any sensible glory, or so distin- whence it comest nor whither it guishably that we can discern goeth, so is every one that is born what influence is from the superior of the Spirit." Still, however, cause, and what from subordi, th
the mind acts with spontaneity nate; our reason and faith cer and is therefore sufficiently free. tainly assure us of what our sense Instead, then, of cavilling at the cannot reach in this matter. So it doctrines of superior influence, it is here also, the divine Spirit ac becomes us to admire the power commodates himself very much to and the wisdom of the Creator, the same way of working with our
who has so constituted his creaown, and acts as suitably to our tures as to be capable of being own natures.” Works, vol. ii. p. wrought upon by an energy from 156. Whilst this manner of ope- himself, whilst at the same time ration detracts nothing from the in full possession of their own reality of divine influence, it suf- freedom of agency. ficiently destroys all objections to A resemblance may further be it as interfering with the free observed in the sovereignty wbich agency of man.
There might be pervades the economy both of Prosome ground for the objection, if vidence and Grace. Even in inany who had been the subjects of fancy, how great a difference prethis influence, had been at the time vails in the natural constitution; sensible of any thing like compul. in some cases it is vigorous, in sion, though there would then be others, weak and sickly. Few little cause truly for complaint, if also will advocate the idea that all blessings so inestimable were forc- minds are originally alike. In ed on our acceptance. Nothing one part of a tract of land, moreof this kind, however, has ever over, the husbandman ‘rejoices in been experienced. At the period favourable weather and in the of regeneration, the convert has plenteousness of his sheaves; in found new views breaking upon another, the crops are impovehim, and new feelings arising in rished by the drought, or beaten his mind, but has ever been fully down by the storm.
Whilst soconscious of the possession of his vereignty then is found to freedom. He is only sensible of through the administration of Probeing guided by the force of the vidence, shall we wonder that it considerations, which his mind is also pervades that of Grace? It revolving—and the ability to act is true that difficulties, supposed thus under the influence of motives to attach to the latter, are not reis all that freedom requires. A moved by a reference to similar mind beneath the renewing influ- difficulties in the former. Viewed ence of the Spirit, instead of being in this light, however, both apcompelled against its inclination, pear as harmonious parts of the becomes gradually not only wil government of the same Being ; ling but anxiously desirous to em and, as the principle in both cases brace the offer of the gospel. It is the same, the difference arising is at the time little aware of the merely from the superior imporreason that considerations now ap tance of the one instance to the pear so constraining whose force other, we may at least see the falwas before unappreciated. As in lacy of hesitating to admit in the nature, “the wind bloweth where one, what cannot but be acknow
ledged in the other. The recog- mascus, the agency of Ananias nition of the creature's unworthi- was employed to direct and inness, and the absence of all claim struct him. This method of di. on the bounty of the Creator, is the vine procedure is perfectly comtrue principle of acquiescence in patible with sovereignty and preboth. For the further removal destination. The sovereignty of of difficulties, we must wait the God is his acting according to the disclosures of a state of maturity good pleasure of his will, and this of knowledge, resting at the point is the course which, in his sovewhere our Lord left it when he reignty, he is pleased to adopt. said, “ Even so, Father; for so it The means are included in the seemed good in thy sight." purpose. His designs of mercy
One other point of analogy, towards the Eunuch of Ethiopia however, it is important to annex were connected with the employto the preceding remarks. In both ment of the ministry of Philip. Providence and Grace divine in- The question is not what God fluence is exerted in connexion with could do, but how he does ạct. a system of appropriate mcans. It would be a digression from the As in nature the sowing of the subject to inquire here into the seed must precede the exertion of probable reasons of the divine apdivine power to cause it to grow, pointment to act by means, or so in grace the interposition of much might be said to evince the God is equally connected with the wisdom of the arrangement. Those, use of the appointed instrumen- therefore, must be deeply in error tality; nor would it be a greater who object to the proclamation fatuity in the husbandman who of the gospel to the ungodly, and should expect to see his fields co to missionary efforts among the vered with corn when no seed had heathen, imagining that they hoheen deposited, than it is in any nour God by leaving him to acto look for spiritual influence apart complish the number of his elect. from the employment of the means On the same principle might we with which it is by the divine con- refrain from giving counsel to a stitution associated. The Apostle, friend in perplexity, that God on the contrary, writes—“I have might interfere to direct him. In planted, Apollos watered,” in the this case it would at once be seen same sentence in which he ascribes that it is partly through the advice the increase to God alone.
of friends that providential guiTo apply this to the case of con- dance is communicated. In the version. Not only in the lan- same manner it is by the general guage of Paul, just cited, but call of the Gospel that God acwherever this great change is complishes his purposes. That spoken of in Scripture, the instru- gospel is preached to all, and“ mentality of the word is recog- many as are ordained to eternal nized. The converts at Pentecost life believe in it.” To hesitate, were impressed beneath the power- therefore, to employ the instituted ful address of Peter; their hearts means, instead of honouring God, were swayed by divine influence, is to do bim manifest dishonour, not operating through the medium of only by disobedience to his comconsiderations presented to them mand to use them, but also by preås intelligent beings. Even in the sumptuously expecting him to decase of Paul, though impressed part from the course he has ever by the scene on the road to Da- seen fit to adopt. If, however,
the moral state of man be referred be encouraged to seek from on to, as rendering it useless to address high the communication of the to him the gospel message, we still Spirit to subdue bis depravity, and reply by referring to the system of vanquish his disinclination. It is
The state of man is, in- in this way that apostate man is deed, one of utter depravity. He brought back to God, since, by the is wholly disinclined to comply use of such an instrumentality, the with the gospel call, and this dis- Spirit works on the soul. inclination, which is the only bar To apply the same principle to rier to success, is, as we have seen, the progressive sanctification of invincible by human power. But believers, it may be observed that if there be any accuracy in the re we are sanctified as well as remarks which have been made, the newed by the medium of the truth. power of God acts on the mind of We are ever prone to extremes. the sinner through a system of Whilst sometimes apt to forget the appointed means, principally by need of divine influence to purify, the reading and hearing of the at other times do we not look for word, more especially the latter. growth in grace, whilst too negAn exhibition is then to be made ligently employing the means by to the sinner, in the gospel ministry, which it must be promoted ? If of all the truths which Scripture the channels through wbich disupplies to instruct him in the way vine influence is imparted be of salvation, and of the motives slighted; if the Scriptures, our which it urges to enforce his ac, directory in holiness, be listlessly ceptance of the plan. His lost read ; if meditation, in which the condition is to be shown to him. realities of religion are brought to The command of God to “ all men bear on the mind, be seldom atevery where to repent,” which Paul tended to ; if watchfulness against proclaimed at Athens, is to be the impediments to spirituality be reiterated in his hearing. The at- remitted, there can be little cause to tractions of the cross are to be set wonder that our graces languish, and before him, and in connection with our corruptions prevail. Let our
repentance towards God," “ faith sense of the need of spiritual inin our Lord Jesus Christ” is to be fluence be connected with an attenfaithfully " testified” to him. He tion to the command, “Exercise thyis thus to be admonished of his self unto godliness.”
• • Work out,” duty, a duty which arises out of says the Apostle, in a passage with the command of God, and the pos- which these remarks may well be session of sufficient natural powers, concluded, “
your own salvation and which lies wholly apart from with fear and trembling; for it is the bestowment of influence to in- God which worketh in you to will cline. Whilst his duty is thus and to do, of his good pleasure.” urged on his conscience, and motives set before his heart, let him
ON THE PROPOSED DECLARATION OF THE FAITH, CHURCH ORDER,
AND DISCIPLINE OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES. To the Editors.—As the object of brethren, I hope you will indulge the insertion of the proposed De me with the liberty of offering a reclaration of the Congregational mark or two on that excellent doChurches, is, I presume, to call cument. the friendly suggestions of the In the fifth principle of church