Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

they would endeavour, by letters, books, and all other means in their power, to lead such as had been unacquainted with the gospel, to the knowledge of “the truth as it is in Jesus," and into the way of life and salvation.

At such a season formal worshippers would find their hearts engaged, in a new manner, to attend on the ordinances of God: and many of them would become true believers. Those who had imbibed false doctrines, would perceive that God was of a truth present in our congregations, and be induced to join themselves to us : a general attention and inquiry would be raised ; and “the Lord would “ daily add unto the church such as should be “ saved."

In this manner it has frequently been known that great multitudes, through large districts, have in a short time been brought “to consider their “ways:" the veil that hides God and eternal things from men's minds has been apparently rent; and more has been done in bringing men to receive the gospel and “to walk in newness of life,” during a few months, than the very same ministers had been able to accomplish in the course of many preceding years. These effects are also proved to be genuine by their permanency, and by the holy lives of numbers, after the first vehement affections and remarkable circumstances of such revivals have ceased. Thus the thousands that were converted, when the Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost, “ continued stedfastly in the “apostles' doctrine and fellowship;" they “ were “ of one heart,” they “ had all things in common," ” and

great grace was upon them all.” But, when

a religious commotion arises from enthusiasm, false principles, and selfish affections; it often leaves men more immoral and ungodly than they were before.

Again, if we consider the more pious part of our congregations; how often have we reason to lament that there is no more union and affection among them! and that they are kept at so great a distance from each other by their stations in life, their different employments, talents and dispositions; or even by trivial resentments, suspicions, and prejudices ! But the blessing of which we speak would deliver Christians from such contracted and selfish passions; and they would be ready, without hesitation, cordially to forgive all who had offended them, to make concessions and amends to those whom they had injured, and to seek reconciliation with every one who had been in any respect alienated from them. An increase of divine illumination and brotherly love would terminate or moderate our differences of opinion ; men would less regard the trivial disparity of outward rank, except as it reminded them of their several duties; they would readily unite in social worship and profitable conversation; and, in proportion as these sacred influences rested on their souls, they would abound in self-denying beneficence, and in active endeavours to supply the wants of the indigent, to soothe the anguish of the afflicted, and to alleviate the miseries of mankind. An attentive meditation on the apostolical exhortations, and the conduct of the primitive Christians, may suffice to convince us, that these must be the effects of the pouring out of the Spirit upon any congregation, city, or country: for indeed “ the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long

suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, “ and temperance.”

Should we advert to the state of religion more at large, we should find that the remnant which professes the leading truths of Christianity, and appears to be influenced by them, is lamentably divided into parties, about subordinate points of doctrine, or matters of discipline and government. So that, if we could collect together the whole company of real believers, we should find them very

discordant in their sentiments, and disposed to magnify the importance of their several particularities : and it would be extremely difficult, if not wholly impossible, to unite them in religious services, or in the same plan for promoting the common cause. On the contrary, it would hardly be practicable to exclude subjects of doubtful disputation; or to prevent such contests and mutual censures as only serve to furnish the enemies of the gospel with plausible objections. Alas, this is an evident proof, that, as the apostle expresses it, we “are yet carnal,”however orthodox our creed may be, or how zealously soever we contend for it! “ Hereby,”, says our Lord,

o shall all men “ know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love “ one for another."

But, when “ the Spirit shall be poured upon us “ from on high,” all“ who love the Lord Jesus in

sincerity” will “ love one another with a pure “ heart fervently.” The pride and selfish passions

[blocks in formation]

which occasion disputes will be mortified; the minds of Christians will be more fully illuminated; the harmony of scripture will be better understood; the comparative value of every part of religion will be more clearly ascertained ; and men will be rendered more humbly sensible of their fallibility, and more disposed to candour and patience. Thus, while a most desirable progress will be made, in regulating every thing according to the standard of truth, Christians will be delivered in great measure from the propensity to judge or despise their brethren ; and will learn to “ receive one another, “ even as Christ receiveth them, to the glory of “ God.” The pouring out of the Spirit will effect what acts of uniformity, conciliatory schemes, or philosophical candour can never accomplish: for it will bring Christians, through whole countries, “ with one mind and one mouth to glorify God;" to form one Church, professing the same fundamental doctrines, harmoniously joining in the same worship, and the celebration of the same ordinances, and zealously concurring to promote the conversion of Mohammedans, Jews, and Pagans, to scriptural Christianity.

These happy effects are predicted by the prophets, under various significant representations ; of which it may suffice at present to produce a single specimen. “ The wolf shall dwell with the “ lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the “ kid ; and the calf, and the young lion, and the

fatling together; and a little child shall lead “ them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; “ their young ones shall lie down together; and " the lion shall eat straw like the ox: and the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

sucking child shall play, on the hole of the asp, “ and the weaned child shall put his hand on the “ cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor de“stroy in all my holy mountain : for the earth “ shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as 66 the waters cover the sea.”]

These are some of the effects which will proportionably follow, whenever the Spirit is poured out upon the church. Many others might be mentioned, did brevity permit; and some of them will come before us in the subsequent part of the subject.

III. Then we proceed to make some remarks on the emphatical word, “ Until.”

A variety of plans are continually proposed and adopted, to ameliorate the condition of mankind, and to guard at the same time against tyranny in the rulers, and turbulency in the multitude. No doubt something may be done in this way to render the state of the world more tolerable than it would otherwise be : for, while civil government in general is “ God's ordinance,” the peculiar arrangement of it is left in great measure to human prudence; and it may therefore be also called “the “ ordinance of man."2 But too sanguine expectations are formed, when changes take place, or when supposed improvements are made ; and speedy disappointment is the consequence. The world after all remains full of oppression or sedition: the rulers and people generally continue unchanged in character, whatever external changes take place: and selfishness produces its effects,

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »