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What he maintained, was, that these sudden conversions are not to be expected by the clergy who preach to Christian congregations, which are composed of those who have been trained up in the belief of Christianity.”
Mr. Roscoe. “ That there are many who have been trained up in the belief of Christianity, who feel its moral' influence, in producing repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, I have no doubt; many who have no knowledge of the time, when they first felt its power, or when they passed from death unto life. The whole process of their conversion has been conducted so silently, and so gradually,—they have been led on by such imperceptible steps from one degree of knowledge and of purity to another; and it has been with so much hesitating precaution, that they have embraced the consolatory promises of mercy; that they have erected no monumental pillars to commemorate any great moral revolution in their character; nor placed any sacred land-marks by which their
progress in the life of faith can be traced. But, are your congregations composed exclusively of this description of bearers ? Oh! no, you may see all the varieties of human character sitting around you, when you ascend the pulpit: the Sabbath breaker, the swearer, the debauchee, the seducer, the scoffer, the mere formalist in religion. Must not these persons be converted before they can enter the kingdom of heaven? And how is their conversion to be effected? You employ your arguments to convince them of the divine origin of Christianity; and they are convinced of it, but still go on in a course of sin. You employ the force of moral suasion to induce them to turn from iniquity to righteousness, but such is the fatal obduracy of their hearts that it makes no impression. Whať do to ensure success."
Mr. John Roscoe. “Why if people will not be converted by argument or persuasion, they must take the consequences upon themselves. I don't know any thing more that can be done."
Mr. Roscoe. “ But if you were to read the New Testament with close attention, you would perceive
that there is a power, associated with a faithful and enlightened ministry, which makes it not the letter of instruction merely; but the spirit which giveth life. Did not the Saviour, when he
the apostles their commission say, “Lol am with you always, even to the end of the world. Is it not to his immediate presence with the first preachers of the truth, that the sacred historian every where ascribes the signal success which crowned their labours, and not to the force of miracles ? If a great multitude at Antioch turned to the Lord, it was because the hand of the Lord was with them; if Lydia believed in consequence of giving attention to the things which were spoken, it was because the Lord opened her heart; if Paul planted, and Apollos watered with success, it was the Lord who gave the increase; and highly as they were endowed, they did not presume to rely on the efficacy of their own addresses, or the force of the miraculous attestations of their own mission; but confessed that it was through God, that they became mighty and triumphant, in all their ministerial labours. If then his presence is associated with a faithful ministry, and the apostles invariably ascribed their success to the concurring testimony of his power; and if he promise to be with his ministers through every succeeding age, ought you to overlook it? Will you boast of your uninterrupted succession in the ministerial office, from the times of the apostles, while you undervalue the importance of the presence of the Lord, to give validity to your official labours ? or do you suppose that now Christianity is grown venerable by her age, she can turn from darkness to light-from the power of Satan to God, without the concurring testimony of that Almighty power on which she relied in the days of her youthful vigour ?"
Mr. John Roscoe. “ These quotations and references undoubtedly prove that our Saviour must give success to our ministry; but I think it would be very injudicious to state such a fact to our congregations.
Mr. Roscoe. Why so ?”
Mr. John Roscoe. “ Because it would lower the
priesthood in their estimation, if they were to say that they were not invested with a plenitude of power to accomplish the design of their appointment; and might lead the people to wait for a miraculous conversion, instead of trying for it, in the regularly appointed way.”
Mr. Roscoe. “ Then you must admit that the writers of the scriptures, who wrote under the plenary inspiration of the Holy Spirit, acted a very injudicious part; and have set us a very improper example, as they have placed the faet of their personal insufficiency, and entire dependence on their invisible Lord, in a bold point of vision. Indeed the consequences of such an admission would be alarming, as they would necessarily oblige us to pass a censure on the wisdom of the Divine Spirit in allowing such moral facts to be placed on record: if they are calculated to produce a pernicious effect, on the state of the public mind. Instead of saying that those people are deluded, who are taught by their ministers, that they must invoke in solemn prayer the agency of the Spirit, to give efficacy to the truth which they hear, and which they believe; the accusation becomes just when applied to those congregations, whose ministers condemn such a practice, or who neglect to enforce it. Can we expect forgiveness unless we pray for it? and is not the moral renovation of our nature of equal importance ? and if in the economy of salvation, we are to be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and sanctified by the Spirit of God, are we to be reprobated as deluded, when we invoke his purifying agency? Let us look around us, and what shall we see? What!-a scene not less affecting than that which struck the eye of the prophet when he received his commission from above to enter the mystic valley of death. It was full of bones : and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. Ezek. xxxvii. 2. He was asked-Can these dry bones live? And he answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. v. 3. What did he do? He prophesied as he was commanded; and when thus engaged, the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they lived. If then the ministers of grace wish to accomplish the great moral design of their appointment, and acquire the deathless honour of rescuing sinners from that state of guilt, degeneracy, and misery in which they are involved: let them preach the gospel in a clear, and in a faithful manner; teaching them that every good thought, every holy desire, every sacred principle, must proceed directly from the Father of mercies, and God of all grace; and that while they are employed as his servants, in administering the revelation of his will, if any good results from their labours, it must be in answer to the humble and fervent prayers of those who proclaim, and those who hear the truth.”