« PreviousContinue »
ly. Be faithful, my brethren, to your own souls, and be not afraid to discover the true ground of your complaint. . Have you been led to read and to hear the word of God, under a strong sense of your
darkness and blindness without it? and do you always seek the grace of the Holy Spirit to explain and to apply it? The first of these is absolutely necessary: because you will not ask wisdom of God, until be convinced you lack it. And you will ask it with more or less earnestness in proportion to the sense you have of your want of it; so that when you are made deeply sensible of your great ignorance, then you will become
humble and teachable. This is the proper disposition of mind which the Holy Spirit must work in you both before and under divine teaching, and the consideration of which was the third particular I proposed to speak.
Divine teaching is absolutely necessary for the learning of divine things, and God teaches his chil. dren by his word and by his spirit. You may be convinced, my brethren, of these truths in speculation, but it is very difficult to bring them into practice. For such is the pride of the natural man, that he will not submit to be taught, no, not of God, He will exalt his own reasoning faculties above the wisdom of God's word, and above the teaching of God's spirit. Although he has nothing to be proud of, being a creature made up of ignorance and sin, yet is he excessively proud: for pride is interwoven in his very frame and constitution. Our Lord says, pride proceeds from within, out of the heart: Mark, vii. 21. It comes from a corrupt principle that is within us in the heart; there it has taken deep root, and grown luxuriant, bringing forth a vast crop of proud looks, words and works. Nothing but the almighty grace of God can pull down the high opinion which this proud creature entertains of himself, and which he will continue to entertain until he be well disciplined into the knowledge of himself. He must be brought to see his ignorance, and to feel his guilt and
misery, before he will be hamble enough to apply to God for instruction. And this is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is through his gracious operation that the proud self-sufficient sinner is made thoroughly acquainted with his ignorance and sinfulness, The Holy Spirit gives him a view of himself in the glass of the law, and shows him and makes him feel the entire corruption of his nature, the blindness of his understanding, the depravity of his will, and the rebellion of his heart. The natural man is a bad scholar at this humbling lesson. He learns it very slowly, and with great pain and difficulty. The practice of it is like plucking out a right eye, or cutting off a right hand: for his inbred sins are as dear to him as any member of his body. But the Holy Spirit so alarms him with his guilt, and with his danger, that by degrees he is brought heartily to wish for deliverance from his ignorance, and from his sins; and thus he is made teachable. He becomes simple, and is willing to be taught of God. He is brought into a proper frame of mind to sit, with Mary, at the Master's feet, hearing his word, in order to be enlightened with saving wisdom, and to be blessed with the comforts of saving faith. To persons of this humble, teachable temper, the scripture has made many sweet promises, both when they at first go to the school of Christ to learn his will, and also when they afterwards sit at his feet, hearing his words, that they may do them. In general it is said that God giveth grace 'to the humble, and particularly grace to learn his will, as Psal. xxv. 9, “the meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way:” the meek are they who with an humble and lowly spirit receive the word of God, according to the apostle James, i. 21—"receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” They shall be taught of God who are disposed to receive his word with meekness; he will ingraft it inwardly in their hearts, and will enable them to bring forth the precious fruits of it in their lives, and thus he will teach them his way, and then they will be able to take up
the words of Christ, gratefully acknowledging what God has done for them : “ We thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” The things of God are still hid from the wise and prudent, from the wise and prudent ones of this world, who seek the knowledge of them by mere human learning, which, without grace, only puffs them up, and hinders them from seeing their want of divine teaching; from all such he hides the knowledge of spiritual things, but he reveals them to those whom the Holy Spirit has made humble and teachable. When such persons come with a meek temper to be taught of him, then he manifests to them the secrets of his kingdom; for he reveals them unto babes: unto them that blessed promise of the New Testament is fulfilled; “If any of you lack wisdom, and is humbled under a sense of his want of it, let him ask it of God, who giveth unto all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.”-James, i. 5.
This then is the proper disposition of mind with which the Holy Spirit prepares the children of God for divine teaching, and by which he helps them to profit under it. He makes them humble, meek and lowly, in their own eyes, and desirous of being taught of God. To such persons he giveth grace to understand the word, to apply it, and to be edified by it. To those whom he hath humbled he giveth his grace, because they will take no merit to themselves; but will ascribe the glory of what they learn to their divine teacher, and use it to the praise of the glory of his grace. You are, I hope, convinced of these great truths; but perhaps some of you do not see clearly how you are to attain this humble, teachable disposition. Are you convinced of your own want of it ? If you are, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. He has begun to make you sensible of your ignorance; and he must prepare you to receive instruction, as well as give it you. The desire to be taught of God cometh from him, as well as the teaching itself. He must work in you both to will and to do: for it is written, (Prov. xvi. 1,) “ the preparations of the heart in man are from the Lord.” If there be any preparations in your heart to be taught of God, this is not from yourself, it is from the Lord, and is expressly ascribed to him, Galatians, v. 23, where meekness is mentioned among the other fruits of the Spirit. That meekness whereby we receive the ingiafted word is the fruit of his grace in the heart. Apply to him for it, and he will make you an humble teachable scholar in the school of Christ; and when he has thus disposed you to give him all the glory of teaching you, then to you his promise shall be fulfilled, and you shall be taught of God.
From what has been now offered, the doctrine of the text is, I hope, made plain and clear. If scriptūre authority can convince, and matter of fact can determine the point, they give in full evidence for the necessity of divine teaching: which is farther confirmed from the established method in which God teaches his children. He revealed his word for their instruction, and his Spirit still accompanies the hearing, or reading of it, and renders it effectual to the purposes for which it was revealed. He still, by his grace, prepares the sinner's mind to receive it, by convincing him of his ignorance of the things of God, by bringing him with an humble, teachable temper to learn them from the word of God, and then he works faith in the sinner's heart by the word, and helps the believer to act faith upon the word of God's grace, which is able to build him up, and to give him an inheritance among all them who are sanctified.
These particulars have been established upon express passages of holy scripture; and what effect, my brethren, has our present consideration of them had upon you ? Has it been the means of showing any of you how much you stood in need of divine teaching? Has it stirred up fervent desires in any of you for
the teachings of God's Spirit ? If neither of these good effects followed, what is the cause which hindered? If you believe the scripture to be the word of God, you cannot deny the doctrine. No words can be plainer than these written in the prophets—they shall be all taught of God.” If all are not to be taught of God, how do you understand the words? Do you think they speak only of the apostles 'and primitive Christians to whom they were fulfilled, but we are not now to expect their accomplishment ? This is the opinion of many persons, but it is quite unscriptural. The fifty fourth chapter of Isaiah, as explained by an infallible interpreter in the New Testament, treats of the Gentile church in the last days, of which it is said, verse 13, “and all thy children shall be taught of the Lord. All, without exception, all God's children among the Gentiles, in every age, shall be taught of the Lord. To the same purpose the prophet Jeremiah, ch. xxxi. speaking of the new covenant which was to be established in the last days, declares from the mouth of God, ver. 34 :
66 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” This promise belongs to the new covenant, under which God himself
engages to teach his people, and they all, from the least to the greatest, shall know the Lord. And when our blessed Saviour in the text referred to these and such like promises which are written in the prophets, he made no limitation, but said, "they shall be all taught of God"-all, in every age of the church, who are made sensible of their want of divine teaching, and look up to heaven for a divine teacher, shall be taught of God. Certainly these passages cannot be so far wrested and tortured as to make them speak for divine teaching in one age of the church only. How can you, with any appearance of truth, fix a limited sense to these universal propositionsall thy children shall be taught of the Lord-they