« ПретходнаНастави »
every age of the world.
“ There are diversities of gists, but the same spirit. There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. There are diversities of operations, but it is the saine God who worketh all in all. But the MANIFESTation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” And since gists, adıninistrations, operations,-all manifestations outwardly are no longer necessary ; since we can vow understand the great Agent by his moral work, we inay still add with Paul, as we trace his awful goinys, "all these worketh the self-same Spirit, dividing to every inan severally as he will.” In this view, we do not hesitate to affirin, that modern revivals are precisely of a kind with those of the apostolic age, in a moral point of view; and that is in every thing of substance. So far therefore as scripture authority is wanted, they have it in the most complete manner.
But the question still remains as coinnon to both, whether the special agency we claiin, is any better than imayinary natical. And here we are brought, in the way of vindication, to look at the doctrine as it is in itself, and in its effects.
Let us try whether the doctrine itself has any thing absurd in it. And here the great question, almost the only question is,what do we mean by the special agency of the Spirit ?
A fundamental principle, a point from which every development of the doctrine should proceed, is this,-that every instance, degree and kind of spiritual agency is dispensed and regulated by laws as systematic and fixed as those of the heavenly bodies. We have been at some pains to examine, and find notbing inconsisfent with this doctrine in any of our standard authors; and no intelligent christian, it is presumed, can be found in our churches to question the position. What it is which determines the law of spiritual agency, (for all laws are determined by ends,) or what the law is, we know but very imperfectly. We know generally, that God bas respect to the highest good in every thing. We know a little more definitely, that every thing which he does is consistent with every other tbing ; so that he will dispense his Spirit in a manner accordant with the nature of an intelligent subject, and so as 10 have a due respect to babits, education, personal relations, times, and all the providences of life and wants of the world. We know quite definitely, that bis law is sometimes Exed in relation to the prayers that will have been offered, and sometimes, as Howe, Paley, and others hold, by the improvement inade of blessings; on the principle, that to bim that hath, or diligently useth, shall be given.
It is true, indeed, that we can discern but little regularity or system in the dispensation of spiritual agency ; but the same is true of alınost every thing besides. We discern no law of order in the range of animal heat, the action of the pulse, or in the mysterious Vol. VIII.
distribution of health and epidemic disease; but no one, certainly po intelligent person, doubts the presence of a law in these as detinite as in the heavenly bodies. Could we enter the secret of God's counsels we should see nothing done by the piece or by irregular start. Even what we call miracles, are, to the mind of God, doubtless, as much in the course of system and general law, as chemical attraction or the movements of the heavens.
But if all spiritual agencies are dispensed according to general and fixed laws, what do we mean by special agency? Wbat propriety is there in such terms ? We speak of special agency in three several ways.
We use the term special in the way of distinction froin what is called common agency. It is generally believed, and the bible countenances the belief, that there is a certain degree of divine energy employed, somewhat uniformly, in restraining and sofiening the natural ferocity of sin ; this is called common. And when this is augmented, so as to produce great seriousness and concern in any place or individual, we call it special. The terms are used only as a convenience of language and as relative terms, and not because there is (in the use we now speak of) any precise line which divides the common from the special. Thus, when there is an uncommon degree of religious interest among any peopl, we are accustomed to speak of it as special, or as due to the special outpouring of the Spirit.
We sometimes use the term special agency also from a sort of practical necessity; just as we speak of special providences. We do it not superstitiously, or as implying a departure from general laws; but because here is a gist of great value, and wbich we need to regard as special, in order to affect ourselves with suitable gratitude and give it the moral power it was designed to exert in our hearts. We pluck it out therefore, from the general current of events and label it special, that we may take it home more distinctly to ourselves. We contemplate the vegetable world as having its growth according to general laws. Now were plants to be endowed with wills, that they might grow voluntarily and upon consideration of soil, sun, rain, dew and the like, and not by mere blind consequence, they would begin at once to single out seasons or concurrences as special; in a warm and copious dew, perchance, they would exercise their imagination with the feigned thought, that the Giver is designing especially for them in this favor, that so they might the more carefully improve it. It is the personal intent of God in his providences and dispensations, and not the providences and dispensations themselves, which affect and solien ibe heart; and as it is not possible for us to find out his seeling or intent toward us in any particular providence or dispensation as part of a whole, by reason of our finite comprehension, it becomes neces
sary to single out from the universal, something which shall be regarded as special, even though it be a mere fiction. In this way only can be sustained that salutary idea of mutuality, which is so essential to a pious spirit : for the mind is lost at once if it seek for the mutual in the universal, where only in strict rruil it lies.
There is a more distinctive sense in which 100, and perhaps more frequently, we use the term special agency; we denote by it, an agency dispensed of God 10 secure the repentance of certain persons. Throngh all spiritual agency runs a distinction of this sort; that in certain cases, the result which will actually be secured in the subject, to wit, bis conversion, is what determines the law of the the spirit; while in all other cases, though operating with a sincere fitness to the same result, the gift is yet dispensed for other reasons; God well knowing that here his work will be resisted. There are certain persons called in scripture the elect; these are such as will repent is a given spiritual agency be dispensed, and of course they are virtually chosen to eternal life in the very determination to dispense such agency. In the same community are certain others, who will not repent under any such gift of the kind as God may consistently bestow. Yet God, we may suppose, orders a revival of religion in that community, and pours out his Spirit upon some of both classes. In case of the former, it is to bring them to repentance; in case of the latter, as it is well known, they will not repent: God, who never acts on reasons that fail, acts of course for other reasons. It may be, so to temper that community as to remove all obstacles to the conversion of the others: or it may be, 10 vindicate his iinparliality hereafier in their destruction; or it may be for unimaginable reasons. Nor is this having respect to different ends any proof that there is no general law or laws in the case. The production and distribution of light are by general laws; but that does not forbid the belief that respect is had to definite and various ends of utility; as for example, that we may walk, work, read, and the like. But some steal and murder by ihe light; and surely in so far as they do ibis, God did not give them the light to walk, work and read by; for in that case he would be disappointed. Perhaps he gave then the liglit to vindicate his goodness to them; perhaps to aid their detection. Yet the light was as well fitted for them to walk, work and read by, as for any, and God as sincerely desires that they should use it in that manner. Having respect therefore to ends, is no proof against general laws. In this latter view, the special agency of the Holy Spirit means, of course, an effectual or saving agency, and one that was given for that precise reason. In no other case is it a saving or effectual agency, or given with a view to its being actually effectual. It is fitted to save,-fitted to be effectual according to its measure, (what that measure is, we know not in any case,) yet not imparted, because if imparted it would be effectual. The foriner kind brings in the elect,-it was meant for that object. The latter brings in no one,- it was meant for other objects, though filled according to its degree to save, as well as if it had been effectual.
We have ihus stated as definitely as we are able, what is meant by the special agency of the Spirit. And now is there any thing fanatical' in this ?-any thing ibat deserves reproach or suspicion, as unreasonable and against discretion? Let us try some of the most obvious objections.
We bave spoken of the Spirit as acting immediately upon the soul : this some may think savors of fanaticism. If so, it is virtually the fanaticism of all mankind; for it is universally agreed, that a certain department of our nature is subjected for the most part, not to our wills but to the Creator's laws. Thus memory, conscience, the successions of thought, the clearness, force and scope of our perceptions, and the intensity or delicacy at any given time, of our sensibilities to what is morally beautiful or odious; all these, by cominon consent of mankind, are regulated by constituent laws; or if partially subjected to our wills, yet subjected by, and for the remainder, to constituent laws. But what are constituent laws, - those of mind, nature, the universe, but simply GOD acting in his sphere, and with bis own power executing ihe process of bis devisings? And if so, we have God acting in man immediately, at all times, and in precisely that department of the soul in which, and in which only, the Spirit is supposed to act. We only claim that he directs in a peculiar manner, the succession of our thoughts, and awakens to activity and power, menjory, conscience, perception, and sensibility; and is it fanatical to hold, that God regulates what all men agree he regulates ? Or if a colder philosophy please; if the law which governs nature may be less than supernatural; if we can form such a notion of Power as does not involve the self-activily of spirit; is, standing in this great laboratory of living mind, where all events and providences seem but DEFINITE THOUGHT, we feel that it best accords with our impressions to speak of a distant God; then let us erect the partition wall of second causes ; yet the case is still virtually the same. The only difference is in the moral value of these two modes of conceiving the truth. If the Holy Spirit should regulate or excite attention, memory, conviction, perception, sensibility, through the planet Jupiter, we should still have all the feelings, manners and resulıs, which we now have in morals, (except in so far as the moral value of his work would be greater if differently conceived,)should have them as much from God, and as much by a supernatural agency. Why theo is it deemed fanatical, that we regard the Holy Spirit as operating iipinediately in our ninds? Mediately or iminediately, it is virtually the same thing; and the case stands
precisely on a level with those constituent laws which all admit. Is it replied, that constituent laws operate regularly; but that if God may seize upon our minds in this way, and work thein unseen, we cannot know when our thoughts and feelings are to be relied on? It is not true that constituent laws operate regularly as 10 their result in mental states; on the contrary, we view thinys differently at different times; we have surges of feeling, emotion, energy and interest, in reference to other things, precisely analogous to the peculiar times of interest and excitement which we have in religion. And what produces ibese surges of feeling and mental vividness, but constituent laws? Are iben these too eccentric and disorderly to be trusted ?
But do we not then claim, it may be asked, that the Holy Spirit, operating immediately, moves irresistibly? Not certainly as moving the will; he compels to no act of repentance : but every one who repents is as free not to repent as those who do not. What though he be said to move irresistibly on that department of the soul just described, as governed by constituent laws ? that would be no encroachment upon personal freedom, any more than are those laws themselves. We do not, however, say precisely this; we rather suppose that the Spirit may be resisted in bis advances upon this department, external to our will, much as the constituent laws of the same may be, though not always in the same degree. Accordingly, in certain cases, the power of the Spirit over the thoughts and feelings, or sensibilities, seems to be very easily resisted; in others 10 be well-nigh absolute, the subject telling us, that he tried in vain to fly the arrow, or pluck it from his heart; that be felt himself in the hands, as it were, of an unaccustomed power, which directed and gave a preternatural vigor to his thoughts, and would not let biin rest. But still he was conscious, at every moment, of moral freedom in the province of bis will; he felt, that if he could not resist the birth, he could yet resist the power of these awful thoughts of danger, duey, sin, eternity, religion, and God; that he could still say, depari from me, I desire not the knowledge of thy ways,--and that though the Spirit would not retire, he could again and forever say, depart, depart. Though in a sense vanquished by the grace of God, it should still be said, when a sinner turns from his iniquities, that he not only himself acts in view of what is wise and right, as it is the nature of an intelligent mind to do; but he acts more freely, or with less of slavish bias, than he ever did in bis life before.
Some are decided against the doctrine of divine agency, because it is a claim of supernatural interference with men; they can believe in nothing supernatural. Perhaps it is not enough to reply to such, that they ouglit then to believe in nothing ;