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Apostle deserves to be here repeated. Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee ; T. open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan uto God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in me. Acts. xxvi, 17, 18.
Here it is to be remarked, that St. Paul was sent to the GenLiles, not only to preach the Gospel, and to open their eyes, but to turn them, also, from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Accordingly, he was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision; but shewed first to them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
These declarations, made by St. Paul, are unanswerably evinced to be true by the history of his life. In the very manner, here recited, he preached to boih Jews and Gentiles the glad tidings of salvation ; and persuaded men every where to renounce, and forsake, their iniquities; and thus actually opened their eyes, and turned them from darkness to light.
The beginning of the Preaching of Christ, as recited in the Gospel according to St. Mark, is in these words: The time is fulfilled: the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Repent ye, and believe the Gospel. The people, therefore, whom he addressed, had not hitherto repented, nor believed. Of course they were sinners. In the whole history, contained in the Gospel, and in the Acts, there is not, so far as I recollect, a single instance recorded, in which we have any satisfactory proof, that even an individual sinner was regenerated without the influence of Divine Truth upon his heart. On the contrary, these writings are full of examples, in which the efficacy of this Truth is asserted directly, as having been indispensably concerned in producing this change in man.
The same doctrine is, also, amply exhibited, as it respects the Jewish Church. Of the Priests, the ordinary Ministers of that Church, whose proper office it was to teach the Scriptures to the Israelites, God says, in the Prophet Malachi, The Law of Truth was in their mouth; and they turned many away from ini
quity. This declaration is a complete history of the fact in ques. tion, so far as the present subject is concerned, throughout all the preceding ages of the Jewish Church.
What was true concerning the periods, contained in the Scriptural history, has been equally true, so far as we have any information of the periods, which have since elapsed. Ministers have every where, and in every age of the Christian Church, preached to sinners: and sinners under their preaching have been turned to God. In all these facts the duty of Ministers, at the present time, is distinctly seen, and gloriously encouraged. He, who would preach as the Priests preached, as Christ preached, as the Apostles preached, will proclaim the tidings of salvation to sinners ; and will urge them unceasingly to Faith, Repentance, and Holiness. Upon bis preaching, if faithfully conducted in this manner, and accompanied by his own prayers, and those of the Christians around him, he may confidently look for the blessing of God.
THE ORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE,
WHAT THEY ARE ;
WHAT IS THEIR INFLUENCE.
1 CORINTHIANS iv. 15.
For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye
not many fathers : for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel.
In the last discourse, I attempted to prove, that there are Means of Grace and Salvation : the first subject, then proposed for discussion. I shall now endeavour,
II. To show What they are ; and,
The Means of Grace may be distributed into a greater or less number of divisions, without any material disadvantage. At the present time, it will, however, be useful to mention only those, which are of peculiar importance.
Of these, the Gospel, by which I here intend the Scriptures at large, is ever to be regarded as the sum: for it plainly involves them all. The Gospel is especially to be considered as being efficacious to salvation, when it is preached : this being that institution of God, to which His peculiar blessing, life for evermore, is especially annexed in the Gospel itself. Still, it is ever to be remembered, that in every lawful, serious use of its instructions, precepts, warnings, threatenings, invitations, and promises, it is possessed of the same general nature, and influence.
When we speak of the Means of grace, in the plural, we always intend either different modes of applying the Gospel, or some or other of its Precepts, or Ordinances, to the human Understanding, or Affections; or the performance of some act, or series of acts, enjoined in the Scriptures.
It will be proper further to observe, that the phrase, which I have here used, is commonly employed to denote, both the Means by which, in the usual course of providence, grace is originally ob
Under this head are included,
To these may be added, as efficacious to the same end, although differing in several respects from all those already mentioned, the instructive and monitory, the merciful and afflictive, Dispensations of Divine Providence to ourselves and others. It ought to be remembered, that I consider none of these as Means of Grace, in any other sense, than as they display, and impress upon the mind, the Truth of God.
In the Scriptures, all these things appear to sustain the character, which I have attributed to them.
The Law of the Lord, says David, is perfect ; converting the soul : The testimonies of the Lord are sure; making wise the simple. Search the Scriptures, says our Saviour to the Jews, for in them
have the words of eternal life. How shall they believe, says St. Paul, in him, of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher ? So then, Faith cometh by hearing; and hearing by the Word of God. God be merciful lo me a sinner, said the Publican, who went up to the temple to pray: and our Saviour informs us, that he went down to his house, justified rather than the Pharisee. He that walketh with wise men, says Solomon, shall be wise. Examine yourselves, says St. Paul, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves : know ye not your own selves ; how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobate? This exhortation is obviously given to persons, supposed by the Apostle to be, individually, of different moral characters; and is plainly given to them all, whatever their character might be. Stand in awe, said David to his enemies, and sin not : commune with your own heart upon your bed ; and be still. Keep thy heart, said David to Solomon, with all diligence ; for out of it are the issues of life. Train up a child in the way he should go; says Solomon, and when he is old, he will not depart from it ; and again, The reproofs of instruction are the way of life. Fathers, says St. Paul, Train up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
These and many other passages, of a nature generally similar, I consider as directing, either mediately, or iinmediately, the conduct of sinners. Most of them are so obviously of this character, as apparently to admit of no dispute. A part of them may, I am aware, admit of objections to this construction. But, if these were to be given up, the rest would, I apprehend, be abundantly sufficient to answer the purpose, for which they have been quoted. That they are directed to such objects, as . I have termed Means of Grace, will not be questioned.
With the instruction, furnished us concerning this subject by the Word of God, we are bound to unite that also, which is exhibited to us by his Providence. If certain measures have been customarily crowned with success in the pursuit of salvation; and other measures, or the omission of these successful ones, bave terminated without that success; then we are warranted to conclude, that the course, which has been heretofore successful, will be again. We are warranted to conclude, that what God has usually blessed, he may confidently be expected to bless; and that the conduct, which has been regularly followed by impenitence and unbelief, will produce, hereafter, no other consequences.
But, so far as man can judge, one general course of conduct bas, in fact, been usually crowned with success in this mighty concern, from the beginning. The preaching and hearing or