Chapter 6.


We have beheld a glorious display of Almighty power in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who, from a fiery bigot was made a zealous disciple of Jesus Christ. In the great work of conversion, the Almighty acts upon us as rational creatures. When man fell from his original state of innocence, and lost the image of his Maker, he did not lose those powers of his soul which distinguished him from the brute creation. Being endued with understanding, will, affections, memory, and conscience, he still remained a free agent, a responsible being, subject to moral obligations. But he became a sinner, and as such, he was obnoxious to infinite justice, lay under the curse of a broken law, and having lost both righteousness and strength, was utterly unable to regain either holiness or happiness.

In this state of spiritual death, despair would have made Adam its wretched victim, had not the Throne of Grace appeared, from where, in sweetest sounds Mercy proclaimed salvation through the Virgin's Son. What wonder must have seized the heavenly host, when love, uprising from the bosom of the Eternal Father, in the person of the Everlasting Son, thus expressed his willingness to save our ruined race, "Lo, I come; in the volume of the Book it is written of me, I delight to do your will, O my God."

Jesus, the promised Savior, came into our world, and bled and died that guilty man might, through his death, be made an heir of glory. A way of escape is now opened for us. All, who believe in Jesus, shall be saved. All, who are found in Him, are accepted and blessed of the Father. But as the mercy of our God is great, so also is his justice. Out of Christ, we are hopeless and helpless. We fell in Adam. Through his fall we lost all spiritual strength. We cannot save ourselves. No parental discipline, no human law, no system of education, no influence of friends, no moral persuasion, no ministerial labor, no afflictive dispensation, nor any other earthly thing, can, of itself, turn a soul from darkness unto light; from the power of Satan unto God. All these may be, and often are, blessed as means; but the Holy Spirit is the sole efficient, free, and sovereign agent in the regeneration of the soul. God will, and must, have all the glory of our salvation, through Jesus Christ. The proud sinner must be humbled, and brought as a little child to the foot of the cross. Fallen man fancies himself to be something, when he is nothing, less than nothing, and vanity. But this is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!"

Through the Gospel of his grace, the Almighty persuasively, yet powerfully, addresses the understanding, the conscience, and the heart. He reveals to us our danger as apostate rebels; our madness in preferring sin to holiness; the road to hell, rather than the way to heaven. He unfolds to us the redeeming love of Christ, to melt our hearts, to captivate our affections, to move our wills to choose him as our only Savior. And when His Divine Power thus accompanies the Word of Truth, great and glorious is the change produced- the darkened understanding is enlightened, the crooked will receives a new bias, the wayward affections are fixed upon Christ, and the wretched outcast is made a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

"The human heart is naturally shut against the Truth by spiritual blindness, and the influence of sinful affections. The unregenerate man is incapable of perceiving its excellence, and dislikes it, because it aims at humbling his pride, and would detach him from the unhallowed objects of his love. External means are not sufficient to remove those obstacles to a cordial reception of the Gospel. You may describe colors, in appropriate terms, and with glowing eloquence, to a blind man; but no distinct idea of them will be excited in his mind, while he is without the organ of sight, by which only they are perceived.

"In what manner God acts upon the soul when he renews it, it is impossible to explain. The Scriptures informs us, that, he opens our eyes, enlightens our understandings, changes our hearts, makes us willing, and fulfils in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power. With these and similar declarations we should be satisfied. In the economy of grace and of nature, we must be content with the knowledge of facts. There is a veil upon the mode of the Divine operations, which presumption may attempt to remove, while humble piety will be employed in observing and admiring the effects. Happy is he who can say with the man whom our Savior cured, 'One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.'

"There is not a principle of our religion more clearly taught in the Scriptures, and which should be more steadfastly maintained, than that the conversion of a sinner is the effect of supernatural influence. It is a principle which is in unison with all the other parts of the system, and contributes, in concert with them, to promote its ultimate design, the glory of Almighty and Sovereign Grace. To God is reserved the exclusive honor of our salvation; and the proper sentiments of man are humility and gratitude. The scriptural doctrine of grace as the efficient cause of conversion, takes away from man every pretext for alienating himself from his Maker, who should be the constant and supreme object of his love, and trust, and gratitude. It annihilates his boasted dignity and excellence, and leaves nothing to be seen and admired but the Divine goodness. This is true religion; for, in harmony with all the works of God, it terminates in the manifestation of his glory."

Jesus, when pouring his heavenly light into the benighted mind of Nicodemus, made him acquainted with this all-important truth, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, you must be born again." John, the beloved disciple, informs us, that when Jesus "came unto his own, his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

To the multitudes who followed him because they ate of the loaves and were filled, Jesus said, "All who the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out. No man can come to me, except the Father who has sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, comes unto me." James, in perfect unison with his Divine Master, says; "Of his own will he begat us with the word of truth.'' And so does Peter, "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold- but, with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot. See that you love one another with a pure heart fervently, being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever."

John attests the same divine truth, "whoever is born of God does not commit sin, for his seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." Paul, taught by the same Holy Spirit, proclaims in all his Epistles, the doctrine of free grace, abounding to the chief of sinners through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. When speaking of himself in his ministerial capacity, he says, "By the grace of God, I am what I am- and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, which is Jesus Christ. We are ambassadors for Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God."

With feelings of gratitude the Apostle ascribed all his ministerial usefulness, and personal holiness, to the grace of God, and to that unction from the Holy One, which is the pledge of future glory. It is beautiful to see with what humility he seeks, on all occasions, to magnify the love of God, which shone so brightly in his conversion. If we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, our hearts, like that of Paul, will overflow with thankfulness and praise.

With the same faithful pen, guided by the unerring Spirit of Truth, he shows to the various churches, the source of all their blessedness; "You has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; having forgiven you all trespasses. For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. You are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light. Know you not, that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and such were some of you; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, which you have of God; and you are not your own, for you are bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

O! that the pure Gospel of our salvation were sounded throughout the earth; then would the nations rejoice and be glad; then would this waste howling wilderness become the garden of the Lord. Blessed is that minister, who, like the great Apostle of the Gentiles, is able to say to his flock, "Brethren, be followers of me, and mark those who walk so, as you have us for an example." An awful neglect, yes more, a marked dislike, is often manifested to the doctrines of grace, under the specious but false pretense of vindicating the interests of morality. Pride lurks at the bottom of such opposition, or at least a dangerous obscurity veils the minds of many, respecting the true nature of the Gospel of Christ. These opposers may be amiable in their manners, benevolent in their dispositions, and correct in their conduct; yet, being dark in their views respecting the Gospel way of salvation, they consider the zealous preacher of the cross as an enemy, rather than a friend to practical Christianity. They do not see that all practical godliness springs from a living faith in a crucified Savior, through whom the sinner is freely and fully justified, "without the deeds of the law."

Were all our churches filled with such men as Paul the Apostle and servant of Jesus Christ, our island would become a Goshen, full of the light of Gospel Truth. A day is fast approaching, when each must give account of himself to God. We are all stewards of the manifold gifts of grace. All have some talents committed to their trust, and for those talents all will be responsible unto God who gave them. When the command goes forth, "Give an account of your stewardship," may we do it with joy, and not with grief. Dreadful, in that day, will be the doom of slothful pastors, blind guides, negligent hearers, and wilful abusers of Divine mercy. Has the Father so loved us, as not to withhold from us his Son, his only Son? Has the Son so loved us, as to purchase our souls with his own blood? Has the Eternal Spirit so loved us as to condescend to dwell in our polluted hearts? And shall none of these things move us?

This love of God in Christ was the delightful theme which inspired the tongue, warmed the heart, fired the zeal, and impelled the progress of the indefatigable Apostle into the darkest regions of the earth. He knew no happiness separate from that of preaching Christ crucified, as the Savior of sinners, the Justifier of the ungodly, the Purifier of the unclean. When he saw the divine blessing accompanying his labors, in fulfillment of his Redeemer's promise, his heart overflowed with joy. He knew whom he had believed; he inwardly felt the consolations of the Gospel; he realized by faith the glory to be revealed; and was desirous that all around him should partake of the same felicity.

The Epistles which he wrote, afford abundant evidence of his unfeigned faith in the Lord Jesus, and his fervent love to all the saints. As letters are directed to certain individuals, so the Epistles of Paul describe the people to whom they were addressed. The following directions are so plain, that no one can well mistake the character of the people for whom they were intended. "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints." "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints." "To the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus." "To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi." "To all the saints and faithful brethren which are at Colosse." "Unto the church of the Thessalonians, which is in God the Father, and in the Lord Jesus Christ."

From these addresses, with which his several Epistles commence, it is evident, that the Apostle did not write to a set of carnal, ungodly, worldly, unbelieving men, who cared nothing for Christ, or for the salvation of their souls; but, to those who had been convinced of sin, converted to God, united by faith to Jesus Christ, in whom the Holy Spirit dwelt, and who, by their holy lives, were so many shining lights in the midst of a dark and polluted world.

Are these beautiful letters, which contain such consolations and directions, addressed only "To the saints, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus?" Then let not the carnal professor of the Gospel, whose heart is glued to the world, for one moment think, that these glorious promises in Christ Jesus are his, merely because he has been sprinkled with water at the baptismal font, or because he bears a Christian name, and outwardly adheres to the visible Church of Christ! While in a state of unregeneracy, all the denunciations of wrath contained in these Epistles are against him; for thus says the Apostle, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha." However much it may offend his pride, yet such a nominal Christian, destitute of the Spirit of Christ, while conforming to the ceremonials of religion, is on a level with the poor benighted heathen; yes, in a condition far more awful.

For what says our blessed Lord himself, respecting the highly-favored Jews of his day, whose privileges were not so great as those which we enjoy since his glorious ascension, and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit? "Woe unto you, Chorazin, woe unto you, Bethsaida; for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you." "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

Let each one then, with deep solicitude, ask himself this serious question- Do I bear the character, and manifest the spirit, of those primitive believers to whom Paul wrote with such paternal affection? To ascertain this important point, still further inquire- Do I believe in Jesus with all my heart? Is my love to him supreme and fervent? Am I reposing all my hopes of glory upon his atonement, righteousness, and intercession? Do the fruits of the Spirit appear and abound within me? Am I delivered from the pollutions and vanities of the world? Is holiness the element in which I desire to live? Do I crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts, and, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body?

If our hearts can give the faithful affirmative; if we can truly say that we love Jesus, and long to be forever with him; and if our daily walk bears witness to the sincerity of this our profession- then we may read these beautiful Epistles, as if they were addressed to ourselves, and take all the promises of forgiveness, reconciliation, strength, and consolation, which are contained in them, to our personal comfort; and in the fullness of faith, and hope, and charity, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

The praising Christian is the happy Christian. God wills the happiness of his people, and is Himself the source of their happiness. The heart of Paul was peculiarly susceptible of grateful emotions. Divine grace shone forth with such a loveliness in all his actions, as renders the contemplation of his character and experience most interesting to the Christian mind. Let us hear some of his sweet accents of praise, as expressed to the churches which he had been instrumental in forming, in the midst of idolatrous abominations.

To the Christians at Rome, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." To the Corinthians, "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ" To the Philippians, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now." To the Colossians, "We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which you have to all the saints." To the Thessalonians; "We give thanks to God always for you all, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father, knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fit, because that your faith grows exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other abounds."

Having himself tasted the goodness of the Lord, the Apostle was delighted, when he saw other poor sinners, led by the Spirit, to the same fountain of grace and mercy. What a happy feeling is holy gratitude, when it expands itself toward that Savior whose bounty is ever affording fresh occasion for its rapturous emotion. Those cold hearted Christians lose much spiritual enjoyment, who would exclude the exercise of the affections from their system of religion. As some people, through the corruption of their hearts, "turn the grace of God into lasciviousness;" and others let their passions run mad into the wilds of enthusiasm; so many, to avoid these evils, as they think, oppose the glorious freeness of Gospel grace, and the lively exercise of sanctified affections. But, unless the affections of the heart be engaged, little progress will be made in the Divine life by the mere knowledge of the head. With the heart man believes unto righteousness; Christ dwells in the heart by faith. True faith is not a cold assent of the understanding; it is a divine grace wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, which exercises the highest powers, and the best affections of the soul. It unites the believer to Christ, works by love, and binds all the members of his mystical body together, by the indissoluble bond of charity.

Are we in possession of this Gospel grace? If not, are we seeking after it, with an earnestness which will ensure the blessing? Faithful is he who has promised, who also will do it. Jesus, who bids us ask, will never fail to bestow the gift which his Spirit stirs us up to seek. How encouraging are the words of David, "Lord, you have heard the desire of the poor; you prepare their heart, and your ear hearkens thereto."