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CCCCLXXXIV. THE MANNER IN WHICH GOD CCLXXXI
DRAWS HIS PEOPLE.
Hos. xi. 4. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love:
THE doctrine of divine influences is generally considered as enthusiastic and absurd. But though we grant that there is much in it which is above our comprehension, there is nothing in it that is contrary to reason. God brought originally his people out of Egypt: but in what manner did he effect it? he called them when they were, like a little child, ignorant, helpless, forward: and, by the signs and wonders that he wrought before them, he shewed, that it would be their wisdom and their happiness to put themselves under his guidance and protection. He drew them; but it was with such cords as were proper to move a rational being, and with such bands, as made them his willing captives. And it is thus that he calls us out of worse than Egyptian bondage.
We propose to shew
I. That God does draw the hearts of his people
1. From scripture
[If we consult the declarations of scripture, we shall find that man is not sufficient of himself for a good act, word, or thought. We shall be equally convinced that the word and ordinances, however well administered, have no power in themselves to convert men; and that God is the only source of all good.
If we attend to the confessions and petitions contained in them, we shall see that all the most eminent saints concurred in this acknowledgment, "Thou hast wrought all our works in us. ." St. Paul especially, who was not inferior to any of them, expressly ascribes every spiritual good to the operation of divine grace: he is fired with indignation at the thought that any one should arrogate to himself the honour due to
God alone: and with respect to himself he shews the greatest jealousy on this head, and, when compelled by his adversaries to speak in commendation of himself, he takes especial care that all the glory should be given to God alone.1
From hence then, if we had no other proof, we see the propriety of that petition offered by the church of old, "Draw me, and we will run after thee."m
2. From experience
[It cannot be doubted but that many, whose names are recorded in the scriptures, and many also in the present day, have lived, or do yet live, above the world, in a noble contempt of all its pleasures, honours, and interests. If we will look around us, we shall soon be convinced of this fact. Now whence is it that they are enabled to do this? Is it of themselves? Why then can you not all do the same? and why, when we urge you to attempt it, do you tell us that it is impracticable? Is it owing to any power in the ordinances? Why then have not the ordinances operated in the same manner upon all? Why have many attended them for years without effect, while others have been wrought upon by the first or second sermon that they heard? To whom then can we ascribe the permanent conversion of souls to God, but to God himself? Beyond a doubt, it is owing solely to the operation of his grace: and accordingly it will be found, that all truly converted persons throughout the world do ascribe the change to God, and do acknowledge their need of that same grace to keep them, which they first of all needed to quicken and renew them.
If any desire to have further proof of this point, they have within themselves the fullest means of conviction. Let them go home and mortify within themselves the love of the world, together with every sinful appetite; and let them fill their own hearts with the love of God, with an abiding delight in holy exercises, and with heavenly affections: let them do this by any power of their own, and they will confute us effectually. But we are very sure that the longer they persist in the attempt, the more thoroughly they will feel their need of divine assistance.]
In Confirmation of this point we will proceed to shew II. In what manner he draws them
We are not to imagine that God deals with us as machines, that move involuntarily according as they are impelled by any exterior force. Man is possessed of an
k1 Cor. iv. 7.
11 Cor. xv. 10.
m Cant. i. 4.
understanding and a will: and it is by these that God operates upon us: he draws us
man, and with the bands of love."
with the cords of a
1. He enlightens the understanding
[God, in converting any soul to himself, first causes it to see its lost and perishing condition, and then the suitableness and sufficiency of the salvation he has provided for us. By this means he convinces the judgment that it is really a rational thing to "flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life." He makes it appear that a life of sin, however it may be commended as liberty, is really the sorest bondage; and that a life of devotedness to God is truly a rational service°
2. He engages the will
[As a preparatory means of changing the will, he often persuades us by his terrors:" but none were ever effectually renewed by fear alone: it is "love," and love only, that has "bands" sufficiently strong to hold the soul, and to keep it stedfast in the way of holiness. God therefore, to secure us unto himself, shews us "the heights and depths of his incomprehensible love to us in Christ Jesus;" and at the same time" sheds abroad his love in our hearts," and enables us by a spirit of adoption to call him, Abba, Father." This overcomes the reluctance of the stoutest sinner, and “ constrains" him to devote himself altogether unto God3——
Thus does God "make us willing in the day of his power:' and to this overpowering influence of divine love does the Prophet ascribe the change, in whomsoever it has been wrought."]
1 What reason for shame have unconverted sinners!
[If men have not committed gross and scandalous offences, they think they have no cause for shame: but every one that is not thoroughly converted to God, has need to blush and be confounded before him. Can any person doubt in his mind whether to love and serve God be not our reasonable service? Doubtless, however men may hate the restraints of religion, they must confess, that all who are drawn by the cords of a man, or are duly influenced by their reason, will gladly submit to them. And can any one doubt whether God have not given us abundant cause to love and serve him? "What could he have done more for us than he has done?"
Rom. vi. 16. 2 Pet. ii. 19.
P Eph. iii. 18, 19.
4 Rom. v. 5.
$ 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.
t Ps. cx. 3.
• Rom. xii. 1.
Rom. viii. 15.
Yet though he has cast "the bands of love" about us, how have unconverted men "burst them asunder, and cast his cords from them!" Know then, that a worldly and carnal life argues a most unreasonable and most ungrateful state of mind; and that, if you be not ashamed of it in this world, you will be when you stand at the judgment-seat of Christ.]
2. What reason of thankfulness have they who are converted to God!
[If you had not been drawn by the Father, you would have been, at this very hour, as far from God as any other person in the world. He looked upon you when you were lying in your blood, and bid you live." What thanks then should you render to him for such distinguishing grace! How should you bless him for encircling you with his bands, and for drawing you with his cords! O beg of him that he would fasten his bands yet more firmly about you, and never suffer any thing, from without or from within, to break them. Endeavour at all times to yield to his kind attractive influences, and to comply with the first intimations of his will. And be assured, that this is to act the part of a rational being; and that the more closely you are drawn to God at present, the more intimately will you enjoy him in a better world.]
* Ezek. xvi. 6.
CCCCLXXXV. THE BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT.
Matt. iii. 11. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.
IT is ignorantly imagined that they, who are most enlightened with the knowledge of Christ, and are most zealous in bringing others to an acquaintance with him, must of necessity be puffed up with pride, and be filled with an high conceit of their superiority to others-But none ever surpassed the apostle Paul either in zeal or knowledge; yet none ever manifested more deep humility, since language could not even afford him words whereby suficiently to express the low sense he had of himself before God: he calls himself "less than the
least of all saints"-Another eminent example of humility is exhibited in the conduct of John the Baptist, who, though faithful in the highest degree as a preacher of righteousness, never sought his own glory, but invariably directed the eyes of his followers to Christ, in comparison of whom he accounted himself unworthy of the smallest regard-His expressions before us lead us to consider
I. The transcendant dignity of Christ
Christ, in a civil view, was not at all superior to John, yea, perhaps inferior, inasmuch as the son of a carpenter might be reckoned inferior in rank to the son of a priest: nevertheless he was, in other points of view, infinitely superior:
1. In his person
[The person of John might well be considered as dignified in no common degree-He was the subject of prophecy many hundred years before he came into the world: his formation in the womb was announced by an angel from heaven, and that too at a period when his parents, according to the common course of nature, could entertain no hope of having any progeny-He was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his very birth; and was ushered into the world with the restoration of prophecy, after that gift had been withdrawn from the church almost four hundred years-But in all these respects Christ was far greater than he: Christ had been the subject of prophecy from the very foundation of the world: his work and offices had been exhibited to the world in numberless types and prophecies during the space of four thou sand years-His body was formed, not merely in a preternatural, but in a supernatural way, by the immediate agency of the Holy Ghost, who created it in the womb of a virgin; by which means he was not merely holy, but spotless, without the smallest taint of that corruption, which every child of Adam inherits-Without noticing the songs with which' the heavenly choir celebrated the tidings of his birth, or any of those miraculous circumstances which pointed him out to the eastern magi, we see already how far superior he was to John, even in those things wherein John surpassed all other
But what must we say, when to this we add, that he was GOD, "God manifest in the flesh," "God over all blessed for ever? Then all comparison must cease: and the expres
a Isai. xl. 3. Mal. iii. 1.