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brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever."* “For this cause,” prays Paul for the Ephesian Church :“for this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now, unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.”+
Let this suffice for the present. Another branch of the subject will claim our attention the next opportunity.
. Heb. xii. 20, 21.
| Ephesians iii. 14-21.
THE GREAT WORK OF RELIGION.
NEHEMIAH vi. 3.
THERE is one aid in the great work of religion which, of all others, demands the most close and serious attention. I mean the crowning aid of the Spirit of the most high God; without which all other aids can render us but imperfect and inadequate assistance. This aid is both implied and expressed in the history, for it was the Holy Spirit, who, by his secret comforts supported the mind of Nehemiah in all the difficulties and labours of his arduous undertaking. It was the Holy Spirit who, by his secret suggestions, put it into the heart of the king of Persia to look with an eye of favour on the petition of his captive cup-bearer. It was the Holy Spirit who, by his secret suggestions, induced the wisdom of all the plans which were pursued, and at last brought them to ultimate success. Nehemiah is by no means backward to acknowledge this great and infinitely important truth. It is thus recognised distinctly in the history :—“And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me."* And after the work was finished, the same truth is held forth :“So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes : for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.”+ But we have a passage of Scripture in relation to the restoration of the Jewish state, which inculcates the same truth in terms which it were utterly impossible to gainsay—“Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain ? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain : and he shall bring forth the head-stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace, unto it.” | A brief running exposition of this passage will bring before your minds the great subject of present investigation. The people of God, by reason of discouragements, had almost given up their case as hopeless, and began to despair whether their city would ever be replenished, and their temple ever rebuilt. I will do it, saith the Lord. God will carry on and complete this work, as he had begun their deliverance from Babylon not by external force, but by secret influences and internal operation upon the minds of men. Not by might nor by power, says God, but by my Spirit. Might and power here stand for visible force. It was not by visible force that God wrought the deliverance of his people, in their release from Babylonish captivity. It was the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts working upon the mind of Cyrus, aiding him to proclaim liberty to the people, and aiding them to accept it. It was by the same spirit that the heart of Darius was inclined to favour them, and that the sworn enemies of their work were so infatuated in their counsels, that they could not hinder it. And thus the excellency of the power is of God, and not of men. Without this free disposing, and this efficient working power of God, the hands of Nehemiah would have been weak and powerless—his counsels would have been languid—the hearts of the people would have failedtheir enemies would have triumphed, and the wall of the city left unbuilt, and the ruin of Jerusalem unrepaired.
This leads me directly to my purpose. As the crowning aid of all his efforts, the individual engaged in the great work of religion, has the aid of the Holy Spirit, without which all the hosts of earth and heaven, without which all the resources of God's providential dispensation, would be without avail. And this aid the individual really engaged most unquestionably has, for without it he never could have entered on the work; he would have remained in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. But He who works both to will and to do, put into his heart, and if the individual is but faithful to himself, He who puts into the heart will, by
his Spirit, maintain it there through all the difficulty, and opposition, and weakness, and weariness of the way, for this is the declaration of an inspired apostle: —“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."*
When I state the proposition of my discourse, that those who are really engaged in the great work of religion have the aid of the Holy Spirit in his peculiar operation, I am aware that I may at once be met by the question—How can these things be? And I am reminded that the place whereon we stand is holy ground. I may not advance with presumptive rashness, lest I encounter the danger of darkening counsel, by words without knowledge. But as there is nothing which can exceed in importance the doctrine to be stated, it is to be approached with perfect boldness. The very nature of the subject, however, forbids all curious speculation. It is as high as heaven, and deep as hell. And who shall pretend that human intelligence is sufficient to investigate the Divine operations upon the soul, or even upon the material world? The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. But there are many things in the works of creation and providence which are equally beyond our reach, and baffle the comprehension of man, notwithstanding his boasted ingenuity and clearness of philosophical
• Philippians i. 6. 9. 11.