« PreviousContinue »
“The person who enters on the study of a science, of which he has only a general idea, must receive many things at first on the authority of his instructors. And surely there is no one, who, by his life and works, has such claim to trust and confidence in his words as the Author and Finisher of our faith. If then we really desire to know the certainty of his doctrine; if we have the courage to sacrifice meaner pursuits to the wisdom that is from above, and the felicity of attaining it; we shall study the truth of his religion as he directs, by the practice of its laws. And this method, he assures us, will yield us the repose and comfort of firm persuasion. Continuing steadfast in such a course of discipline, we shall not seek after signs from heaven, nor ask to behold the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, or the dead raised up. The healing efficacy and blessed influence of the gospel will sufficiently vouch for its truth and excellence.
“ The evidence which thus possesses the soul is not liable to be impaired by time, as might an impression once made on the senses; but will shine more and more unto a perfect day. For the practice of religion, by purifying the heart, will raise and improve the understanding to conceive more clearly and judge more rightly of heavenly things and divine truths; the view and contemplation of which will return upon the heart the warmth of livelier hopes and more vigorous incitements to obedience; and effectual obedience will feel and testify that it is the finger of God.
“For is nature able, by its own efficiency, to clear the eyes of the mind; to rectify the will; to
regulate the affections, to raise the soul to its noblest object, in love and adoration of God; to employ it steadily in its best and happiest exercise, justice and charity to man; to detach its desires from the pleasures, profits, and honours of the world; to exalt its views to heavenly things; to render the whole life godly, just, and sober ? He, who impartially examines his own moral abilities by the pure and searching light of the gospel, must discern their defects and weakness in every part; and when he well considers the tenor and spirit of this gospel, must acknowledge that he is not of himself sufficient for the attainments to which it calls and conducts its faithful votary.
« What then is it that hath taken him by the hand, and leads him on in this rising path of virtue and holiness; that prevents his steps from sliding; or if his foot hath slipped, raises him again ; that keeps him steady in the right way; or, if at any time he hath wandered out of it, recalls him to it; that strengthens him to resist temptations, to endure toils, and so continue patiently in well doing; that, as he advances, opens to his faith a still brightening view of the heavenly Jerusalem, through the gloom which our earthly state hangs upon death and futurity; and animates him to live and walk by this faith ?
“ If these are exertions beyond the sphere of mere human activity, the question, whence such improvement of soul, and spirit, and life proceeds, will admit of an easy and clear answer. It is God who blesses our earnest petitions that we may do his will, and our sincere endeavours to do it, with
the grace of his Holy Spirit; who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure; and thus verifies and fulfils the promises, made by Christ to those who ask in his name, of succour and strength from on high. Christ therefore is his beloved Son, by whom we are redeemed, and in whom we are accepted. The religion which be hath taught us, so worthy of God in the theory, and so favoured by him in the practice of its laws, proves its heavenly origin by the fruit it produces; and brings its divinity home to the breast of the devout professor by experience of its power unto salvation.
“ It is natural to conclude, that he who has this conviction of its certainty will be desirous of persuading others to the belief and practice of it; and will be of an apt and fit disposition to instruct them in it.”
There is scarcely any recent divines, whose opinions ought to have more weight than those of Dr. Townson. He lived, as he wrote, according to the true gospel. He is universally esteemed by the most learned and judicious theologists of the present day; and his opinions alone carry with them sufficient authority to justify me fully in recommending that evidence of the gospel truth which arises from divine influence, consequent on obedience to its precepts. An orthodox life, I am convinced, is the best preparative to the entertainment of orthodox opinions; and I rejoice to find such men as Townson enforcing the doctrine, ' that if any man will do the will of Christ, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.' He does not refer us to systematical or philosophical works, but to the teaching of the Holy Ghost, for the attainment of this knowledge; a knowledge, compared to which all other is to man-condemned as he is shortly to die- but puerile amusement, a house of cards, a bubble blown up into the air, and displaying deceitful colours in a momentary sunshine.
Dr. Doddridge on the doctrine of Divine Influence.
“Any degree of Divine influence on the mind, inclining it to believe in Christ, and to practise virtue, is called grace. All those who do indeed believe in Christ, and in the main practise virtue, are to ascribe it not merely or chiefly to their own wisdom and goodness, but to the special operation of Divine grace upon their souls, as the original cause of it. None can deny, that God has such an access to the minds of men that he can work upon them in what manner he pleases: and there is great reason to believe that his secret influence on the mind gives a turn to many of the most important events relating to particular persons and societies,' as it is evident many of the public revolutions, mentioned in the Old Testament, are ascribed to this cause. Though the mind of man be not in
! Prov. xxi. 1. ? Ezra, i. 1. Religion of Nature Delineated, p. 105-107.
vincibly determined by motives, yet in matters of great importance it is not determined without them: and it is reasonable to believe, that where a person goes through those difficulties which attend faith and obedience, he must have a very lively view of the great engagements to them, and probably, upon the whole, a more lively view than another, who in the same circumstances, in all other respects acts in a different manner. Whatever instruments are made use of as the means of making such powerful impressions on the mind, the efficacy of them is to be ascribed to the continual agency of the first cause. The prevalence of virtue and piety in the church is to be ascribed to God, as the great original Author, even upon the principles of natural religion. Good men in Scripture, who appear best to have understood the nature of God, and his conduct towards men, and who wrote under the influence and inspiration of his Spirit, frequently offer up such petitions to God, as show that they believed the reality and importance of his gracious agency upon the heart to promote piety and virtue. God promises to produce such a change in the hearts of those to whom the other valuable blessings of his word are promised, as plainly implies that the alteration made in their temper and character is to be looked upon as his
• The Scripture expressly declares, in many places, that the work of faith in the soul is to be