Page images
PDF
EPUB

to come in, by showing to their will such an excelling good as it cannot but embrace ;" for the will is naturally carried to the best good. And thus the Spirit works upon the soul harmoniously and agreeably to its nature.

4. Christ's knocking at the door of the soul implies the immediate access of the Spirit of God to the soul of man. He can come to the very innermost door of the soul at his pleasure, and make what impression upon it he pleases. Instruments used in this work have no such privilege or power. Ministers can but knock at the external door of the senses. “Thine eyes shall see thy teachers.” We can see their persons and hear their voices—we can reason with sinners, and plead with their souls; but awaken them we cannot, open their hearts we cannot ; we can only lodge our message in their ears, and leave it to the Spirit of God to make it effectual. This is a work belonging to the Spirit of God, incommunicable to angels or men. If an angel from heaven were the preacher, he could not give one effectual stroke to the conscience : much less can man; we have no dominion over your consciences. The keys of the doors of your souls hang not at our girdles, but are in the hands of Christ. He hath the key of David ; he openeth, and no man shutteth; and he shutteth, and no man openeth. Rev. 3:7. The conscience and all the faculties of the mind lie naked and open to the stroke of God's Spirit; he can wound them and heal them, and make what impression he pleases upon them. Learn hence, what need there is both for ministers and people, before they enter upon the solemn ordinances of God, to lift up their hearts by prayer for the blessing and power of the Spirit upon them. Lord, send forth thy Spirit; pour it forth upon and with thy word. Ah, how many sermons have we preached and you heard, and yet there is no opening. In the next place let us consider,

III. BY WHAT INSTRUMENTS Christ knocks at the doors ; that is, the judgment, conscience, and will of a sinner. And here my work will be to show how the Spirit of God makes use both of the word and works of God to rouse the consciences and open the hearts of sinners. These are the two hammers or instruments of the Spirit, by which he knocks at the door of the heart. .

1. The word written or preached, but especially preached. To this Christ gives the preference above all other instruments employed about this work; and hence the word is called God's hammer: “ Is not my word like as a fire ? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” Jer. 23:29. By this hammer Christ knocks at the door of a sinner's soul, to give warning that he is there. The Spirit of God can open the heart immediately, if he pleases ; but he will honor his word in this work. And therefore, when Lydia's heart was to be opened, Paul the great gospel-preacher must be invited, even by an angel, to come over to Macedonia and assist in that blessed work. Acts 16:9. Lydia was to be converted, her heart must be opened to Christ; the angel could not do it, but calls for the help of the apostle, God's appointed instrument to carry on that work. So saith God to Paul, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God.” Acts 26:16–18. There are three ways in which the Holy Spirit uses the word as his hammer in knocking at the door of the soul.

(1.) He knocks by particular convictions of the word on the conscience : this knock by conviction rings and sounds through all the rooms and chambers of the soul; particular and effectual conviction wounds to the very centre of the soul. When the word comes home by the Spirit's application, like that of Nathan to David, “ Thou art the man," then all the powers of the soul are roused and alarmed; now it pierces as a two-edged sword, Heb. 4:12, and divides the soul and spirit, the superior and inferior faculties of it-lays open the secret guilt and inmost thoughts of a man's heart, before which the sinner cannot stand. The secrets of his heart are made manifest; and falling down on his face, he must acknowledge that God is in the word of a truth. 1 Cor. 14:24. O these convictions of the word are such a knock at the door of the conscience as will never be forgotten, no, not in heaven to all eternity. ..

(2.) Christ knocks in the word by its awful threatenings, menacing the soul that opens not with eternal ruin ; these are dreadful knocks. O, sinner, saith Christ, wilt thou not open ? Shall all the tenders of my grace made to thee be in vain ? Know then, that this thy obstinacy shall be thy damnation. Thus the word denounces ruin, in the name of the great and terrible God, to all impenitent and obstinate unbelievers, John 3:36: “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” O dreadful sound! like unto which is that in John 8:24, “ If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” As if he had said, “Thy mittimus for hell shall be made and signed. Will you not come to me, that you may have life? Then you shall even die in your sins. O it were better for thee to die any kind of death than to die in thy sins." These are loud knocks of the word, terrible sounds, yet no more than are needed to startle the drowsy consciences of sinners. And then,

(3.) The Spirit knocks by the gracious invitations of the word ; and without this, no heart would ever open to Christ. It is not frosts and snow, storms and thunder, but the gentle distilling dews and cherishing sunbeams that make the flowers open in the spring. The terrors of the law may be preparatory, but only the grace of the gospel is that which

effectually opens the sinner's heart. The obdurate flint will sooner break when smitten upon the soft pillow, than upon the anvil. Now the gospel abounds with alluring invitations to draw the will and open the heart of a sinner; such as that, Matt. 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” What a charming voice is here; he that considers it, may well wonder what heart in the world can resist it. Like unto this is Isaiah 55:1, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Come, sinner, come; though thou hast no qualifications nor worthiness, nor righteousness of thy own—though thou art but a heap of sin and vileness, yet come; grace is a gift, not a sale. And such is John 7:37, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.” As if he had said, My grace is not a sealed fountain ; it is free and open to the greatest of sinners; if they thirst, they are invited to come and drink. This is that oil of the gospel-grace which makes the key turn so pleasantly and effectually among all the cross-wards of man's will. Thus you see how the word preached becomes an instrument in the Spirit's hand to open the door of a sinner's heart, at which it knocks by its mighty convictions, dreadful threatenings, and gracious invitations.

2. We now come to the second hammer by which the Spirit knocks at the sinner's heart, and that is the providential works of God. These, in subserviency to the word, are of excellent use to awaken sinners and make them open their hearts to Christ. God hath magnified his word above all his name, yet there are some of the providential works of God greatly serviceable in this case ; the word sanctifies providences, and providences assist the word and make it work. There are two sorts of providential dispensations which the Lord Jesus makes use of to gain entrance for him into the hearts of men, namely, judgments and mercies.

(1.) Judgments and afflictions: the word of God many times works not till some stroke of God come to quicken and assist it. Thus did the Lord open the heart of that monster of wickedness, Manasseh ; the word could not work alone, but a smart rod quickened its operation. “And the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people ; but they would not hearken. Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.” 2 Chron. 33:10–12. Thus the heart of this man relented under the word, assisted by the rod. It is good that God takes such a course with some sinners, else the word would do them no good : and to this purpose is Job 36:8–10: “If they be bound in fetters and be holden in cords of affliction, then he showeth them their work and their transgressions that they have exceeded. He openeth also their ear to discipline.” This is the rough course which the obstinacy of men's hearts makes necessary for their recovery; and therefore it is observable, that some words of God have lain dead in sinners' hearts for years together, and at last have begun to work under some smart rod. Alas, while all things are pleasant and prosperous about us, the word has but little effect : “I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice. The wind shall eat up all thy pastures, and thy lovers shall go into captivity; surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.” Jer. 22:21, 22. As though he had said, Your eyes are so dazzled with the beautiful flowers, and your ears so charmed with the syren songs of earthly delights, that my word can take no effect upon

« PreviousContinue »