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GEN. vi. 3.—”My Spirit shall not always strive with man.”

ACTS vii. 57.—”Ye do always RESIST THE HOLY GHOST; as your fathers did, so do ye.”

JOHN vi. 45.—”It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me.”

I WISH you, my friends, to examine the doctrine of election, which we are now considering, in the light of the Holy Scriptures, and, with that view, I have already directed your attention to several plain and simple texts, whose testimony no candid man can possibly overlook or disregard. And I now close the consideration of this important subject by inviting your attention to one 226other general remark. We object to this doctrine of election, because,


The Word of God not only asserts the necessity of the Spirit’s work—it speaks very plainly of the nature of that work in the conversion of the soul. It tells us precisely what is the kind of influence which the Spirit exerts upon the souls of men in order to bring them back to God. It is styled a “drawing” of the soul on the part of God; it is a persuasive influence, adapted by infinite wisdom, to the nature of the soul; it is not like that influence which is exerted upon inert and unconscious and unthinking matter; it is such influence as is adapted to the nature and properties of mind. It is not the turning of a mountain, but the revolution of a mind; not the dragging of a body, but the drawing of a soul, which this influence seeks to effect. And accordingly, we find the Sacred Scriptures representing the matter exactly in this light. We cannot conceive of a more direct or explicit statement upon this point than what is embodied in John vi. 45, wherein our Saviour himself very clearly intimates to his disciples the precise manner in which the Father draws. We have seen that, in the 44th verse, he asserts the absolute and indispensable necessity of the influence in order to enable any man to come to him—“No man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him.” 227 But he immediately instructs us respecting the nature of this influence—he instantly informs us in what way the Father draws, when he adds, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” You will observe the precise phraseology which our Saviour uses, with the evident design of anticipating and correcting the blunders into which dreamy and mystifying theologians should be apt to fall.. He does not use the expression “draweth” at all in the 45th verse. He uses the expressions, “taught of God,” “heard and learned of the Father;” and observe, more particularly still, our Saviour uses these expressions in order to render it impossible for any man, without the most obvious perversion of his words, to affirm that the drawing is anything different from the teaching, or the hearing and learning of the Father, anything different from the soul’s voluntary submission to the drawing influence of the Spirit. It is impossible for any man to come without the drawing influence; but all men are taught of God, and every man who hears and learns of this divine teacher, infallibly cometh unto Christ. Such is our Saviour’s statement. Do you not see, therefore, that the drawing of the Spirit and the teaching of the Spirit are here identified? Is it not plain, from these words, that the Spirit draws by teaching, and that wherever the Spirit teaches there he draws, and that whosoever listens to his teaching, and learns at his feet, actually cometh unto Jesus? The persuasive influence of the Holy Spirit, whereby he 228 draws men to Jesus and to happiness, is here strongly contrasted with the opposing influence of the Scribes and Pharisees, whereby the souls of the people were seduced away from Christ. And whereas those infatuated men and women who submitted to be taught by those erring teachers, and heard and learned at their feet, did not and could not come to Jesus, it was very different with those who regarded the teaching of God the Spirit rather than the fallible and erroneous teaching of fallible men; for while the former could not possibly come to Christ, every one of the latter “who hath heard and learned of the Father [Jesus emphatically declares] cometh unto me.”

You see, therefore, how it is that the Spirit of God draws the human soul; it is by his own infallible teaching. And you see, farther, how it is that any soul is drawn by the Spirit; it is by disregarding the mere teaching of mere men, who would set up their own fallible creeds and confessions and catechisms and sermons, as if they were to be placed upon a level with the Word of God, thereby, like the ancient Pharisees, setting aside, by their traditions, the Scriptures of truth. It is by setting aside all such mere human authority—by disregarding all such fallible and priestly dictation to the conscience—by elevating the Word of God to its legitimate position of supremacy above all human creeds—by acting out practically the great principle of the Reformation, and practically asserting, in the face of an aspiring and ignorant clergy, the right and duty of private individual judgment as to the 229 Scriptures of truth—by every man remembering that it is not to his ministers or elders, but to his God, that he is responsible for his belief; or (to use the language of Jesus himself, in the verse we are now considering) it is by hearing and learning of the Father, as he speaks by the Spirit in the Bible, that men are drawn of God, and brought to Christ and to happiness.

But while such is the doctrine of the verse before us, that doctrine is denied and set aside, in order to make room for the strange notion of election we are now engaged in examining. You have already seen that, in order to bolster up this strange notion, its advocates find it necessary to maintain that sinners are quite able to believe, and do all their duty, without the influence of the Spirit; but, in connexion with this, they hold the theory of a special influence, which they inform us is directly and mysteriously exerted upon the minds of the elect, in order to make them willing to believe, and which is withheld from all the rest of the human race, who, if they were only willing, could be saved without it. This thing, then, which they call a special influence, is not the influence of the divine teaching. It is not the influence exerted upon the soul when the soul hears and learns of the Father. We are told that it is something else—something different from—something over and above that influence of which alone our Saviour speaks, in the 44th and 45th verses of the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. We have demanded to know what it is, and where it is spoken of in the Word of God—and, strange to say, its supporters cannot tell! They cannot 230 inform us what this special influence is! But what is still more strange, whenever we come to press them for proof of its existence, from the Word of God, they refer us to such passages as those we are now considering; but whenever we begin to examine these passages, we find that they inform us distinctly of the reality and necessity and distinctive nature of the Spirit’s work. These texts inform us that the Spirit works by means—that he draws men to Jesus by presenting truth before their minds—that it is only when taught of God, and when they hear and learn of the Father, they ever come to Christ. But this is the very thing which these electionists deny. They deny the doctrine so plainly stated in the very passages of Scripture which are most frequently upon their lips!—And it is because they deny what we submit to you Christ plainly says, about the nature of divine drawing—(when he exhibits it not as direct or without means, but as exerted by means of teaching or instruction, and when he thereby exhibits it, not as physical but moral in its nature),—that we hold their doctrine to amount to a mere figment of the human imagination.

But I here call your attention to a somewhat more tangible feature of this dreamy and mystical theology. We are informed by its supporters, that this special influence whereby the work of the Spirit is set aside, is altogether irresistible. We are not informed what it is, although we are told that it is not divine teaching: But when we come to inquire a little more closely into the matter, we are told that whatever it be, it cannot 231 be resisted by any sinner on whose mind it is once exerted. This additional piece of information seems to us quite decisive, in order to stamp this special influence as a mere delusion. It cannot be the influence of the Holy Ghost—whatever men may choose to call it. And the reason why we speak so decidedly here, is, that the Bible speaks decidedly upon this particular point. And here, my friends, you will find some use for the passages of Scripture which, in the outset, I have requested you to mark. We are informed by its friends that their “special influence” cannot be resisted, and that it is never exerted upon the minds of any of those sinners who perish in their unbelief. Well, then, we take our brethren at their word, and we say to them—Brethren, that influence of which you speak cannot therefore be the influence to which God himself refers, when he says, in Genesis vi. 3, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” for there was an influence which was resisted, and overcome by the antediluvian transgressors, who, because of their obstinacy and sin, were ultimately swept away by the waters of the deluge. The simple question here is—did these antediluvian transgressors resist the influence of the Holy Spirit or did they not? That these men resisted a very powerful influence when they resisted the preaching of Noah, our brethren are ready to admit, but they deny that it was the influence of the Spirit which was resisted; for if they did not deny this, they would need to give up their system of theology which is based upon the theory of 232 election, whereby they are taught, that the Spirit of God cannot possibly be resisted by any with whom he strives. But I stand before you this evening pledged to demonstrate the utter falsehood of that theory of election, and the consequent delusiveness of that system of theology which is based upon it. And here is one of my proofs—God himself gives us to understand that his Spirit strove with the antediluvian sinners who finally perished. And have we not a right to ask any man who says that God’s Spirit did not strive with these men (otherwise they would have all been saved),—“Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” How comes it to pass that proud and vain mortals persist in setting up their own imaginations in direct opposition to the most obvious truths of God’s own Word? It is all for the purpose of upholding an unscriptural and soul-destroying system of theology, which teaches sinners to believe, that if the spirit of God only strive with them they cannot possibly be lost, and which thereby instructs them to stifle their consciences, and remain at ease under the garb of a dry and fruitless attendance on the means of grace, while they say to their souls—“Soul, take thine ease and be at peace, for if the Spirit of God only strive with thee, thou canst not possibly be lost.” Now, my friends, I hesitate not to make my appeal to your own consciences this night, while I direct you to this simple statement, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” and just as if I were proposing a question to any class of Sabbath—school children, do I ask every one of you to say, 233 what the doctrine of this passage is,—Does it not contain the doctrine that the Spirit of God did strive with the generation of men who existed before the flood? It was not the means of grace merely that these men resisted; it was the influence of the Spirit, exerted through the instrumentality of the means. I charge you, therefore, this evening, to listen to God’s Word; and to reject the traditions of men which contradict that Word, and would lead you to believe that the influence of the Spirit was not exerted upon those men whose spirits are now shut up in the prison-house of despair. Permit me here to refer you to another inspired condemnation of that doctrine of election which is founded upon the error of a special influence. The passage is one which bears directly upon the statement from Genesis which we have now before us. It is written in 1 Peter iii. 18-20: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.” Now, here you notice, (1,) That Christ preached to the spirits in the prison-house of despair. (2,) That the time when Christ preached to those lost and imprisoned spirits was in the days of Noah—while yet these spirits now in prison were inhabiting their fleshy and mortal tabernacles,—before 234 they were swept into prison by the waters of the flood, and while yet the long-suffering of God waited for their repentance. (3,) You will observe more particularly, that it was by the putting forth of the influence of his Spirit upon them, through means of preaching—the preaching of Noah, the preacher of righteousness (as we are elsewhere informed)—it was by his own Spirit thus striving with them, in order to bring them to repentance, that Christ did most earnestly seek to prevent those spirits from going down into the prison of everlasting woe. Now, can any honest and candid man look such facts—divinely recorded facts—as these are, fairly in the face, and at the same time affirm, that the influence of the Spirit cannot possibly be resisted? I have no doubt, my dear friends, that you see clearly enough the bearing of this question upon the great doctrinal point now under discussion. You see that if this question be honestly answered as God himself answers it, the entire doctrine of election in the faith of which, you, and I, and thousands more, were unhappily nursed up from our infancy, falls to the ground—a baseless and demolished thing. But if your eye does not see farther than this, you will fail to appreciate the infinite importance of the question which I am so earnestly pressing upon your notice. My fellow-sinners, your own souls, and the souls of your children, and the souls of your friends, and the souls of the thousands and tens of thousands who even now are posting onwards and downwards to the doleful prison-house, are practically interested, and will be 235 eternally affected, either for weal or for woe, by the question which I now press upon your notice! Does God himself not declare that his good Spirit strove, and strove long, and strove earnestly, with those lost spirits which are’ now in prison, enduring the dreadful penalties of their stubborn and unnatural resistance? The teachers to whom ye trust, with united voice tell you, “No,” for our Confession of Faith says, that the influence of the Spirit cannot be resisted! Here, then, is a dreadful controversy! It is a controversy between the infallible God and fallible men! Men and brethren, on whose side are ye resolved to stand? Will ye idolize men because these men are called ministers of Christ? Will ye stand out striving with your Maker, and confronting the truth of God by a blasphemous contradiction, and stay your souls any longer upon a mere arm of flesh? Can you forget that it is thus written, “Cursed be the man who putteth his trust in man”? I appeal, therefore, this night, from the verdict of the men who teach you, to the infallible verdict of the living God—the God of truth, who cannot possibly lie and who cannot possibly be mistaken; and in opposition to Scotland’s vaunted theology—whereby the people of my native land have been too long deceived and deluded, and, in too many instances, eternally ruined—do I this night declare, that there is not a soul among you all with whom the Spirit does not earnestly strive; and that if any of you perish, your blood is on your own heads, and ye shall go down into despair resisting the influence of the Holy 236 Spirit, whereby every soul of you may happily be saved!

But this leads me to call up before you another infallible witness in support of the position I am now seeking to maintain,—it is the testimony of the Spirit himself, speaking through the lips of a dying martyred saint, to which I now summon your attention. You find it written down in Acts vii. 21: “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” In the face of this evidence, we are very coolly informed, by our modern theologians, that the Holy Ghost cannot be resisted! Well, then, my fellow-men, it is not for me to dictate, but it is for you, as in the sight of God, to make your choice. Which will ye believe? Choose ye between the Word of God and the traditions of fallible men, and say which ye will believe! Do you ask me to inform you how it is possible for them to meet such evidence as this, and yet retain their soul-destroying doctrines? You may well propose the question, and I shall now try, as briefly as I can, to answer it. This evidence splits them up into two parties, who each endeavour vainly to assail it from two very different points. One party says” These men did not resist the Holy Ghost at all—it was only the preaching of the apostles, and the miraculous evidence by which it was proved to be divine, that the men resisted.” Another party rejoins—“It was not the proper influence—the special influence—the only influence which converts the soul, that these men resisted—for this we hold it to be impossible for any 237 man to resist—they resisted the common influence of the Spirit, which is not, properly speaking, the influence of the Spirit at all, since it never did, and never can, convert a single soul to God.” Such is the double battery which Calvinists have erected, in order to assail this impregnable fortress of the truth of God, and thereby, if possible, save from destruction their “horrible decree.” But most evident it is, that both parties fail so much as to touch the real point of assault. That point is involved and exhibited in the very distinct assertion of the Word of God, wherein we are plainly informed, that the murderers of Stephen were going down to hell resisting, in their downward progress, the true and proper influence of the Holy Ghost, which was drawing and inviting them upwards to heaven: they were posting onwards to destruction in spite of all the efforts of the Holy Ghost to save them. Now, it will not do for one set of Calvinists to tell us that these infatuated men did not resist the Holy Ghost at all, but that they simply resisted the means of grace, which in themselves can never save a single soul. We admit that they resisted the means of grace, but we maintain that they resisted more than the means, for we are distinctly informed that they resisted the Holy Ghost himself.

Do you not observe the recklessness with which those assailants assault the Scriptures of truth? In a former Lecture, we quoted to you a passage from one of their books, wherein they endeavour to prove that any sinner who chooses, may be saved without 238 the Holy Ghost altogether. You will remember that the writer quoted the verse wherein Paul says to Timothy, that from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make men wise unto salvation; and because Paul does not mention the name of the Holy Ghost in that particular connexion, it was maintained by this writer, that Paul inculcates the doctrine that any sinner who chooses may easily become wise unto salvation, without the influence of the Spirit. Now, here is a passage where the Holy Ghost is expressly named, and where not one word is said about the Scriptures and the means of grace; and what do those reckless perverters of God’s word now do? They reverse their own system of interpretation altogether, by overlooking the distinct mention that is here made of the Holy Spirit, and insisting that this Scripture passage does not refer to the Spirit at all, but only to the means of grace! In speaking of one passage where the Scriptures are mentioned, but where the Spirit is not named, they insist that no reference whatever is made, even by implication, to the Spirit. And this they do in order to bolster up their doctrine, that the Spirit is not needed to enable any sinner to be saved! But when you take them to another passage, where the Holy Ghost is expressly named and where the means of grace are not mentioned, they exactly reverse their former principle of interpretation, and insist, that though the Holy Ghost is named, he is not at all referred to in the text; and though the Scriptures are not named, they, along with 239 the other means of grace, are exclusively referred to! And this they do for the same reason as before—they must at all hazards uphold their system of theology, and hold by a special, irresistible influence, in order to keep up their theory of election, and avert its threatened destruction! The truth of God needs to be defended by no such unseemly weapons. We have mentioned to you before, that where the Scriptures, or other means of grace are mentioned, the Holy Spirit is not thereby excluded. And so, when it is said—“The Scriptures are able to make men wise unto salvation,” it is not implied that the Scriptures are able to do this without the influence of the Spirit. And so here, when it is said to men who perished—“Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost,” the Scriptures and other means of grace are not excluded, and it is not implied that these murderers did not resist the means; but what we affirm is, they resisted more than the means—they resisted the influence of the Holy Ghost himself—that very influence whereby the Spirit saves the soul.

I submit, therefore, to your unprejudiced and honest judgments, whether it be not unanswerably proved, by the text before you, that the Holy Ghost has been resisted, and may therefore again be resisted, by the sinners with whom he strives. But what do we make of the other mode of interpretation whereby the force of the passage is sometimes evaded? We are told that it is the common influence of the Spirit which is here said to be resisted; and when we ask what is the meaning of the expression, a common influence, we are 240 informed that it is an influence whereby God does not mean to save, and which cannot save the soul. This is what we are told. But the all-important question is, BY WHOM are we told this?—to whom are we indebted for this marvellous piece of information, about an influence of the Spirit which cannot possibly save any sinner’s soul? and on whose authority are we called upon to believe in it? This will not be said to be an unreasonable demand. Let us see one solitary passage in the whole Bible which speaks of an influence of the Holy Ghost which needs to be supplemented by another kind of Divine influence, in order to become adequate to the salvation of the soul, and we shall instantly believe. But of all the absurdities of error, this is the most absurd! Of all the weak positions which erring men are compelled to occupy, this is the most weak and infantile. And hence it is, that even among Modern Calvinists, it is only “the weaker brethren” who are found to skulk into this most unscriptural position. Every reader of his Bible knows well, that there are not two kinds of ordinary Divine influence spoken of throughout its pages. There is not a work of the Holy Ghost for all men, and another work or influence of a different kind for the elect only, spoken of in the Scriptures. There are, indeed, miraculous gifts, and gifts of inspiration referred to; but these are not surely included in what is called the common influence, which all men are said, by this hypothesis, to possess, though it never can save a single soul; and these are not included by our brethren in the thing which they call a special 241 influence, which they say is irresistible. And there are different degrees of Divine influence referred to in the Bible—one man possessing comparatively less of the Spirit than another, and all being commanded to be “filled with the Spirit.” But we challenge any man to adduce one single passage of Scripture which so much as hints at two separate and distinct kinds of influence—the one common to all men, but which cannot save, and never did save a single soul—the other confined exclusively to the elect, but which, from its very nature, cannot possibly be resisted. The truth is, that as there is one God and Father of all, and one Lord and Saviour of all, even so there is but one Spirit who strives with all, and who saves and sanctifies all those who believe. And as there is one Spirit, so there is but one kind of spiritual influence, which is common to all men, and which, when any man resists, he resists the Holy Ghost. Neither are we left in ignorance as to the nature of this influence, for it is said in the text we are now considering, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Now, that it is resistible by men, is obvious at the very first reading of the verse. But when the question is put, How does the Spirit exert his influence?—is it directly upon the soul, or by means, and through the instrumentality of truth? we have only to betake ourselves, not to the dreams and speculations of fallible men, far less to the musty creeds of men who most religiously murdered their fellow creatures, on the charge of witchcraft!—“we have a more sure word 242of prophecy, to which we would do well to take heed.” The text refers us to the fact, that as their fathers resisted the Holy Ghost, so did they. Now the question is—Does the word of God supply us with information as to the way in which their fathers resisted the Spirit? It does. Turn with me, therefore, for example, to the ninth chapter of the book of Nehemiah, verses 20th and 30th. “Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.” And again (ver. 30), “Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedest against them by the Spirit in thy prophets; yet would they not give ear.” Thus was it that the fathers of Stephen’s murderers resisted the Holy Ghost; and thus did these their children resist the Holy Ghost; and thus does every sinner on the face of the earth resist the Holy Ghost, who refuses to believe the testimony of the Spirit, speaking through means of the Scriptures, and to enter into the possession of eternal life. It is thus by means that God the Father draws the sinner to himself; and it is only when the sinner hears and learns of the Father, speaking to all men by his Spirit through the Word, that he cometh unto Jesus, and finds rest unto his weary soul.66   See the very able Treatise upon the Work of the Spirit, by T. W. Jenkyn, D. D., of London.

And now, my friends, I have done with this unscriptural theory of election, the falsehood of which I have endeavoured, in the four last Lectures, to establish. We 243shall very speedily, if God spare us together, come to set before you a theory of election from the Word of God which excludes none of you from salvation, but which is gloriously consistent with the gospel message which comes to every sinner on the face of the earth. We have said that we shall do this, if God shall be pleased to spare us together. But, beloved friends, there is much in that little word “IF.” It may be that we shall not all meet again beneath the sun—it may be, that we shall not all meet until we shall face each other before the judgment-seat of Christ. My friends, God is my witness when I assure you, that the glorious truth which I am feebly endeavouring to set before you, gives MY sinful and guilty and hell-deserving soul glorious hope in the prospect of that day. I tell you more, when I assure you, that I too once preached the very error which I have been endeavouring to expose, and against which, to my dying hour, and with my latest breath, I—would warn my fellow-men. That doctrine never gave me peace in the prospect of meeting with my God. It never assured even the preacher himself, that he was one of the elect. The preacher knew he was “the chief of sinners;” but how could he know that he was one of the special favourites of God without a special revelation, which to him was never once vouchsafed? My dear friends—may I not add, my fellow-sinners—sinners against God as well as he who now speaks to you—are ye possessed of another revelation different from that which lies before me? Have your teachers furnished 244 you with a Bible to the elect? Have you g6t from them a message which will serve you in the face of death, judgment, and eternity, if their doctrine of election be not all a fable? If God has indeed brought only some among you into existence under the possibility of being saved, is it possible for you to know which of you is interested in the love of—God, so as to cherish good hope beyond the grave.? It is impossible I But I have proved to you that the current doctrine of election is a falsehood and a lie; therefore, I say, it is not impossible for you this very evening to come to peace with God through the knowledge of his love—his matchless love to you as well as to me. There is no Divine influence kept back from you. No. “He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up to the death for you all, shall he not with him also freely give you all things?” Think you, then, that when he gave his Son, he will withhold the needful influence of his Spirit? Think you that he will hold you guilty for not believing, and yet keep back the one thing needful to enable you to believe? No, brethren. You have something to believe, and that something is true; and that something is not bad news, but good tidings of great joy to every one of you, in the solemn prospect of “THAT DAY,” till which, I have said, we may never all meet again. But what is that something which you are bound to believe, and which, if you do not believe, you make the God of truth a liar to his face? Tell me, my beloved friends, what you would like it to be? In the face of death and judgment, what, my fellow-sinner, would be 245 good news to thy sinful soul? Riches? Honours? No! no! These will not comfort thee at the hour of death! What if, at that solemn hour, an angel from on high were to descend and sing—“Fear not: for unto thee was born a Saviour! and that Saviour bare thy sins in his own body on the tree! and that Saviour hath sent me down to assure thee, sinner, of his love; and, through his blood, to proclaim to thee the pardon of thy sins!” You say—“Give me an angel’s word and then I will believe, and will not fear to face my God.” My fellow-sinner, I point thee to more than an angel’s word! I point thee away from the errors of men to the Word of the Holy Spirit. In that Word there is truth—in that Word there is power, the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. That Word is the word of the gospel, with which the Spirit approaches thy sinful soul, and says that Jesus loved thee! and shed his blood for thee! and that pardon through that blood is proclaimed to thee! Such is the testimony of the Spirit to every sinner in this house to-night—such is the good tidings of great joy which, not an angel, but God himself addresses to you all! O then, friends, believe Him even now, and yield to his truth even now, for, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

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