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He who made the heavens by his word, and all the
How delightful the thought that we are under the government of this great and good Being! In whatever part of the world we dwell, and in whatever period of time we live, we are within his dominion and under his care, and his goodness extends to us. Whatever afflictions attend us, or dangers threaten ús, he can protect and deliver us. His mercy is not straitened, his arm is not shortened, nor is his ear heavy. Great and precious are his promises; but they were not too precious for him to make, nor are they too great for him to fulfil. Though difficulties may seem to lie in the way of their accomplishment, yet nothing is too hard for him. We observed,
Secondly, That the expression, "The spirit of the Lord is not straitened," may be applied to his grace in the conversion and salvation of sinners.
If we believe, that there is a divine influence directing the motions of nature, and overruling the events of the world, we must believe, that there is also a divine operation in forming the human mind to virtue, and in preparing it for the happiness of futurity.
To acknowledge God's hand in supporting and preserving our bodies, and, at the same time, to ex
clude him from all concern in recovering our souls from sin and guilt, would be a palpable absurdity. It would be to suppose, that in smaller matters we are dependent, but in greater we are selfsufficient. However difficult it may be to conceive, how God influences our minds without controling our liberty, yet certainly this may as well be done in the concerns of religion, as in the concerns of common life. There is no more difficulty in the one case than in the other. If we deny a divine influence in forming the soul to holiness and to a meetness for heaven, because we cannot conceive how this is consistent with the freedom of moral beings, we must, on the same principle, deny that he exercises any kind of moral government over the rational creation, for there can be no government without a superintendency over men's actions.
The scripture teaches us, that the conversion of sinners is the work of God; but a work adapted to their rational and intelligent nature. This work is in a peculiar manner ascribed to the Spirit of God; and in this "his Spirit is not straitened."
1. The influences of the Spirit are not confined to this or that person, or description of persons; but extend, in some kind and degree, to all who enjoy the benefit of revelation. Where God sends his word, he sends his Spirit to accompany it; and every person is doubtless made a partaker of it. God's Spirit strove with the inhabitants of the old world, while the ark was preparing. The Jews, in their corruptest state, had the Spirit working among them. Hence Stephen says, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and in ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye." The gospel is called "a ministration of the Spirit." They who heard the gospel are said to "have received the Spirit in the hearing of faith." The
Savior speaks of himself as "standing and knocking at the door of sinners, that they may hear and open to him." Though every one under the gospel is not brought to a saving repentance, yet there is reason to believe, that every one, at some period or other, is under the awakening and convincing influences of the spirit. And they who continue impenitent, and finally perish in their guilt, are such as have rebelled and vexed the Holy Spirit. They whom God gives over to their own hearts' lusts are such as hearkened not to his voice, and would not obey his calls.
2. The spirit is not restrained to any particular time or place.
There may, indeed, be more plentiful effusions of the spirit at some times and places, than at others. But these effusions are not so limited, but that all may seek with hope to obtain a share in them. "If any man thirst," says our Lord, "let him come to me and drink." This spake he of the spirit, which they who believe in him shall receive. "Ask," says he, "and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find, for God giveth his holy spirit to them who ask him." "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have abundance."
3. The Spirit is not straitened by men's unworthiness. If he was, all must despair of his influ
Every sinner in whom the Spirit of God effects a saving change, is utterly unworthy of this favor; for he has not only transgressed the law of God, but often resisted the grace of Christ. Some, however, are more unworthy than others. They have continued longer in sin, have more grossly violated the commands of God, and have more perversely opposed the grace of Christ.
But the Spirit has often wrought effectually, even in such as these. "Where sin has abounded, grace
has much more abounded." Paul ranks himself in this class. He says, "I, who was before a persecutor, a blasphemer and injurious, obtained mercy; and the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus," "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."
4. The Spirit of God can overcome the greatest obstinacy.
The carnal mind is enmity against God; but the word preached is mighty through God to cast down imaginations, demolish strong holds, and captivate every thought to the obedience of Christ. The work of conversion is compared to a new creation, and to a resurrection from the dead, not only because it makes a great change in the subject, but also because it is effected by the powerful grace of God. Paul says to the Ephesians, "You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. By grace are ye saved through faith, Ye are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works.
5. The operations of the Spirit are not confined to the time of the sinners conversion, but are continued for the completion of the work. He who begins the good work, performs it to the day of Christ. He supplies the convert with grace sufficient for him-with grace to help in time of need. The believer is strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. When he is weak, then he is strong by the power of Christ resting upon him. Whatever difficulties attend his religious course, he is kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
6. The Spirit is not straitened in his way and manner of working. He divides to every one seve, rally as he will.
Conversion, in its general nature, is the same in all, who are the subjects of it; but the manner in which it is produced, is attended with great variety. In some the work is more gradually, in others more speedily accomplished. In some it is accompanied with greater terrors and awakenings; in others it proceeds by more soft and gentle steps. In some it is followed with clearer evidence of its reality; in others darkness, doubt and fear longer remain.→→ Some have severer conflicts with corruption and temptation; others obtain a more easy and decided victory over their enemies, and sooner find the ways of wisdom to be ways of pleasantness.
There is also a great variety in the means by which the Spirit awakens sinners to conviction and repentance. Some are excited to serious thoughtfulness by severe affliction, or sudden danger ;-some by a seasonable admonition in private, or by a pertinent word in public. Manasseh was brought to repentance by means of his captivity; the jailer was awakened by an earthquake; Lydia's heart was opened in hearing the word; the Jews were pricked in the heart by Peter's solemn reproof.
Once more The Spirit is not straitened in the kind of assistance, and the measure of grace, which he affords to the saints,
There is what the Apostle calls " a supply of the Spirit." Hence Christians are exhorted to be " filled with the Spirit." "It hath pleased the Father, that in Christ all fulness should dwell; and of his fulness believers receive grace for grace;" or grace in that degree and variety, which their necessities require.
The humble Christian receives grace to direct him in his doubts, comfort him in his afflictions, support him in his temptations, preserve him in his dangers, sanctify him more and more from his pol