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GOD IN INTERCOURSE WITH MAN.
BY REV. BOSTWICK HAWLEY, A. M.
God holds a gracious intercourse with man. He has done so from the beginning. With Adam, the representative of the race, he conversed face to face.
To Enoch and Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he made direct and personal revelations. By his son Jesus Christ, and by his universal Spirit, he enlightens "every man that cometh into the world.”
Does man commune with his fellows? a father with his child? and is it incredible that the infinitely intelli. gent Spirit, should make intelligible communications to man, bearing, even in ruins, evident traces of the divine spiritual image? No, verily.
The manner of this intercourse has been various in different periods of the history of the church, and ac. cording to the progressive development of revealed truth.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son.” Though there has been a diversity as to the manner of the divine intercourse with man, the matter of it has been essentially the same. The only diversity in the subject of revelation has consisted in a gradual development of the truth, in enlarging the prophetic view, and in making ssential principles more cognizable and more practical. The revelation of divine truth to man has been effected through dispensations or covenants, varying according to the state, condition, and the preparedness of the age to receive and appreciate them. Referring
back to the primitive intercourse of God with man, we find two covenants, one succeeding the other, very different in character, though tending to a similar end; the promotion and preservation of moral purity: a covenant of works, designed for man in his original purity and moral completeness; and a covenant of grace, subsequent to the fall, a shadow of the gospel, and called the patriarchal covenant. It is so designated because the patriarchs, both antediluvian and postdiluvian, lived under its provisions of grace.
In the progress of the church, the covenant of grace underwent several changes, and was accordingly named Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Christian. The Abrahamic is so called, because of the covenant of God with Abraham, the father of the faithful. The Mosaic, because Moses was the mediator of the covenant between God and the Israelites after their escape from Egyptian oppression. The Christian is so named because, being the realization of all that the former ones indicated and foreshadowed, Jesus Christ, the son of God is its everliving mediator,
In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle compares the two latter as media of divine communication with man, and shows the superior excellence of the Christian both in its purer character, larger compass of truth, and in its more ample and glorious provisions of mercy for man.
He calls this the “new”' in contradistinction from the Mosaic; and the “ better,” because it is ac. companied with ample grace to enable sinners to comply with its world-wide provisions.
The Hebrew word (berith) rendered covenant, is derived from another meaning to purify, and denotes a purification, or a purifying engagement; because, in all covenants between God and man, sin and sinfulness are impliedly predicated of man; and it is indicated that
God can not enter into any gracious engagement with him, without a purifier. In the gospel covenant, Christ is the Lamb slain and atoning purifier. The gospel system is a purifying covenant, a medium of saving intercourse with man.
A covenant implies a treaty between two parties. When the parties are equal as to character and position -are on equal footing—they may counsel together, and recognize their mutual relations. When the character and relations are not equal, the superior may make conditional proposals, and the inferior by complying, may enjoy the advantages of them. In the new and better covenant of grace, as a medium of divine communion with man, the parties are wholly unequal. Man is sinful and a sinner. God is holy, and sinned against. Man is condemned, God the condemner. Man is wretched and undone. God is the provider of mercy, and ready to forgive. Because of this infinite disparity, man of himself can do nothing, can make no proposals suitable to his condition, nor adapted to his relief. For the same reason, God, in the exuberance of his grace and infinitude of his love, has planned a way of escape, and earnestly calls upon man freely to accept pardon and salvation on certain necessary conditions-conditions arising from his moral agency and responsibility. To save man from sin, and to bring him into alliance and communion with himself, God has spared no efforts. " What could have been done more to my vineyard,” says God,
that I have not done in it." The covenant of salvation, as a medium of special divine intercourse with man, is “ full of grace and truth.”
“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord. I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” In these words we have set forth the ways and
means of God's intelligent intercommunion with man, and the consequent covenant-relations and duties. We see that God takes three things upon himself, and requires only one of man. Let us dwell briefly upon the terms of this covenant of grace.
"I will put my laws into their mind." By this, I understand God to say, that he will clearly make known to man his will, requisite to salvation; that he will make the essential principles of his spiritual and moral government clear to the intelligence and judgment, so that men may know the divine pleasure, and their duty. He will influence them by law, truth and holiness, and enlighten them in reference to the obligation of law, the value and agency of truth, and the beauty and importance of holiness. This eminently important work, God most certainly accomplishes:
1. By the instructive influences of universal nature; by her laws and movements. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work.” “One day uttereth speech to another day, and night showeth knowledge. unto night.” Intelligible divine instructions are given continuously, from day to day. from night to night; so that “there is no human speech nor language, where their voice of instruction is not heard." “ Their line ” of truth, or their doctrine,“ is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” The heavens are not voiceless, but thousand-tongued, making even the deaf to hear them. The earth is not a blank, but written all over by the finger of God, with instructive lessons. “The law of the Lord,” one branch of which is traceable in the material and spiritual worlds, “is perfect, converting or restoring the soul.” By these communications, even the heathen are a law among themselves.
2. God puts his laws into the minds of men, makes
them clear to the understanding, by the world-wide influences of his Spirit and grace. The Holy Spirit “convinces the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judg. ment." “The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men, teaching them,” &c. As certainly as the morning breeze or the evening zephyr rustles every leaf of the forest, fans every flower of a wide-spread prairie, and fills every canvass on the wide, wide ocean, so certainly the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, touches, and sweetly influences every soul of man peopling the green earth,
3. God accomplishes this spirit work by the silent and yet effective influences of general intelligence, general morals, and the prevalence of gospel truths. These pervade all Christian lands, and noiselessly enlightens the minds of men. Who, indeed, has been omitted, who are uninfluenced, and who are unenlightened by some of these means of communicating the mind of God to man?
These divine instructions once put into the mind, and made clear to the understanding, “enlightening the eyes,” they are then written upon the heart. “I will write them in their hearts." This is another item or step in the intercourse of God with man. The order of God, is to reach the heart through the understanding. Hence, he first makes known his laws to the intellect, and through it impresses or engraves them upon the heart, upon the emotional and affectionate nature of man. Such impressions are more permanent, such incite. ments more enduring, and such feelings more deep and effective. The heart is the seat of responsible feeling, and the source of effective action. When once the laws of God are written upon the ever-present and conscious tables of the heart, its desires and feelings, its affections and hopes may be rectified, so that we may love God with a pure heart, fervently, and obey his words cheerfully.