Below is an excerpt from Welseyan Rev. Richard Watson’s sermon, “Ezekiels Vision of the Dry Bones”, which was preached October 6, 1813, in Albion Street Chapel, Leeds, at the formation of the Methodist Missionary Society for the Leeds District.
Notice especially the connection Watson draws between the preaching of the Gospel and the active work of the Holy Spirit (prevenient grace) both before and during the Gospel proclamation:
Our confidence rests,
1. On the power of the Gospel. Wherever the Gospel is preached, it is accompanied by a dispensation of the Spirit: “A day of visitation” is vouchsafed, and all to whom it is sent are put into a capacity to understand and obey it.
We are not to consider the Gospel as a mere system of doctrines, and duties, and hopes, offered coldly to the reason of mankind. It is this system, but it is more; it is the source of a Divine influence which exerts itself upon the faculties of those who hear it. Its authorized emblem is fire; and, like that, it has its active energy as well as its light and splendour.
The word is never sent without its Author. “Go, and preach my Gospel, and lo, I am with you;” not only for personal support, but, as the connection clearly indicates, to give success to your labours. The same union subsists between the Spirit and the word. He is sent “to convince the world of sin.” “The words which I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life.”
Here is our hope of success.
The prophet’s words were attended with the vital breathings of heaven. “God hath made us ministers of the Spirit.” He goes forth with his servants as the cloud of glory before the Israelites every where preparing their way, and shedding a secret but active energy upon the world, putting all men into a state of incipient salvation, assisting their minds to know and their wills to choose. If this power be used , they will be saved; if resisted, their condemnation is just. But the employment of means so adequate affords a moral certainty of great success.
Merely to send the Gospel by faithful men to the heathen, is in one sense, to give life to the dead.
To this, which may be called the ordinary power of the Gospel, are to be added those extraordinary effusions of the Spirit upon certain places and people, at different times, which are usually granted in answer to earnest prayer. Thus the prophet is represented as calling for the breath of heaven: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”
And let ministers go forth, either at home or among the heathens, in the strong spirit of prayer; let the people of God every where join them in supplicating those displays of “power and glory” which have been so often “in the sanctuary;” and it will be again proved whether He who holds the gales of heavenly life, as well as the natural “winds, in his fists,” will not answer to the call of his “elect who cry day and night unto him,” and make his word “Like mighty winds and torrents fierce;” subduing all opposition, and bearing down the strongest barriers of the empire of sin.
Thus the Christian dispensation was introduced; thus every great revival of religion has been distinguished; and thus may we expect that God will frequently signalize his own future work in the conversion of heathen nations.
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