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the world. "Who are these, that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows?" A flight of birds resembles a cloud. The multitudes pressing from all parts into the kingdom of Christ, the prophet compares to a cloud of doves flying into the windows of the dovehouses." Who are these that fly!" It is an expression of admiration and surprise at such a speedy increase of the church, from persons, or countries, in which such a change had been little expected. A similar expression we find in the rev elation. After an hundred and forty and four thousand had been sealed out of all the tribes of Israel, John says, "He beheld; and lo, a great multitude which no man could number, from all nations and people, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and cried, Salvation to our God and to the Lamb." And one of the elders said, "What are these which are arrayed in white robes ? and, Whence come they ?" On enquiry, it was found, that "these, had come out of great tribulation." They had come into the church through great trials and dangers. Such a mighty accession was matter of admiration and joy among angels, as well as men. If there is joy in heaven, when one sinner repents, how great will be the joy, when nations are born at once, and the earth brings forth in a day?
The social and benevolent spirit of religion in christians, operates in fervent desires and prayers for the increase of Christ's flock. They look and long for the time, the set time, to favour Zion. They mourn the decay of religion among professors, and the general indifference to it among mankind. They speak often one to another, that they may be fellowhelpers, to the truth. They comfort and encourage those who would join themselves to the Lord; they take up the stumbling blocks out of the way of the lame and feeble. They animate the
young and tender, the diffident and fearful. They are careful not to perplex weak and honest minds with difficulties and objections, and thus to make the hearts of the righteous sad, whom God hath not made sad; but rather to remove dangereous impediments, and confirm good resolutions. This is the divine instruction; "Cast ye up; go through the gates; prepare the way; gather out the stones; say to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh." Though the glorious things foretold concerning the church, remain to be accomplished in some future time; yet, if christians would unite in their prayers and labours for her increase, some part of the promised glory might be anticipated in our own times.
The Dovelike Descent of the Spirit on Christ.
LUCE iii. 22.
The holy Ghost descended, in a bodily shape, like a dove upon him.
FROM this comparison of the descent of
the spirit on Christ, to the gentle hovering of a dove when it alights, we have observed, that the Spirit of Christ's religion is a dovelike Spirit.
This observation we have illustrated in several particular instances, taken from the allusions of saered scripture..
The illustration of our subject opens to our view some important matters, which I shall now lay be, fore you, as its proper improvement.
1. Our subject suggests to us, that the spirit of Christ usually comes to the soul in a mild and gentle manner. His operations are, as his fruits, dovelike, sweet and kind.
The benevolent and friendly nature of the dispensation which Christ was about to introduce, was intimated in the manner of the Spirit's de
The law, which was a ministration of death and condemnation, was delivered to the people with circumstances of terror and amazement. God came down on the mount with thunder and lightning, with an earthquake and tempest; and uttered the law with such an awful voice, that they who heard it, intreated, that it might not be spoken any
Christ came in a different manner to publish his gospel. He appeared, not in the terrors of unveiled divinity, but in the fashion of a man-not in the forbidding majesty of a monarch, but in the more familiar form of an ordinary person. He taught with such a soft and easy address, that they who heard him, wondered at the gracious words, which proceeded out of his mouth, and confessed, that never man spake like him. He dwelt among men full of grace, as well as of truth. If his reproofs were sometimes pointed with severity, it was only when they met with callous and obdurate hearts.
As his manner of teaching, so the doctrines which he taught, were kind and gracious. While he with plainness condemned the sinner, and warned him of the awful consequence of his impenitence, he proclaimed aloud the mercy of God to pardon the penitent, and, with melting eyes, lamented the dreadful fate of the obstinate and irreclaimable.
The ordinary influence of his Spirit, in the con version of sinners, corresponds with the genius of his gospel, and the manner of his instruction.
The miraculous gifts of the Spirit, on the day of pentecost, were dispensed in a more grand and solemn manner. "When the disciples were gathered together, suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the house, where they were: And there appeared cloven
tongues, like as of fire, and sat on each of them; and they were filled with the holy Ghost, and spake with other tongues." But the ordinary operation of the Spirit in the renovation of sinners, and the sanctification of believers, is soft and mild, not like a flame of fire, but like a genial warmth-not like a rushing wind, but like a gentle breeze. The apostle says, "God has not given us the spirit of bondage, but the spirit of adoption-not the spirit of fear, but the spirit of love and of a sound mind.
The awakening and convincing power of the Spirit in sinners is, doubtless, often attended with a degree of terror, greater or less according to the degree of guilt and enmity previously contracted. But this terror, so far as it is the effect of gospel truth, and divine influence, is accompanied with hope, not with despair. Sinners under conviction may, indeed, be so filled with a sense of guilt and danger, as, in a great measure, to overlook the encouragements of the gospel, and consequently to fall into great despondency. But their desponding apprehensions proceed from the weakness of nature, or the power of temptations; not from the direct influence of the spirit of God.
The gospel, while it represents the awful danger of the careless and impenitent, proposes to the awakened and enquiring every possible encouragement. And the influence of the Spirit is so agreeable to the gospel, and so consentaneous to reason, that a man never feels the power of divine truth so sensibly, nor exercises his understanding so clearly, as when he is under this heavenly direction.
A person, under true conviction of sin, will be deeply humbled, will see vast unworthiness; will feel his desert of condemnation; will admire God's patience toward so guilty a creature. But horrible, despairing apprehensions are no part of real conviction. The divine Spirit comes to the soul, not VOL. II. I i