[This post first appeared at GospelEncounter.wordpress.com]
“His [the Holy Spirit’s] operations on souls are so various that it would be almost an endless task to describe how He at first arouses men to come and seek from Him a display of the great truths of the gospel.“
– J. A. Paisley
In his sermon, published in 1862, “The Possessions of Christ and the Manifestation Thereof”, Methodist Rev. J.A. Paisley includes the following description of the Spirit’s work of Prevenient Grace, that is, of how prevenient grace “works” (remember, in Arminian Theology, “The concept of prevenient grace is synonymous with the work of the Spirit” (H. Ray Dunning), or put another way, “‘Grace’ is to be understood as the personal presence of the Holy Spirit; and ‘prevenient grace’ is a particular mode of the Spirit’s presence…” (G. Stephen Blakemore)).
Rev. J.A. Paisley (bold added):
Of the manner in which the Divine Spirit performs this work, many illustrations drawn from Scripture and experience might be given. To confine ourselves to the spiritual aspect of the question, the communicating of spiritual riches to the children of men, we may mention that He employs many instruments whereby to fulfil His office.
We know how He first of all gives the word wherein is contained as much of the truth as is necessary to our salvation. This word He diffuses here and there, and, by various agents, presses it on the attention of those to whom it is sent. The ministry of the Gospel, as well as the gifts of all who believe, are enlisted into His service. By these He brings it again and again before the minds of mankind, opening up its sacred treasures to those who believe, that, in all aspects, they may present it to the needy.
Often He constrains into His service the elements of nature, and the ills which flesh is heir to, in order that by them He may bring men to consider. Sometimes He operates in a wonderful manner on men, bringing to their recollections some long forgotten text of truth, or long past incident, from which they cannot get any relief till they come through Him to the Saviour.
In short, His operations on souls are so various that it would be almost an endless task to describe how He at first arouses men to come and seek from Him a display of the great truths of the gospel. By the awakening of conscience through the denunciations of the law, by the melting of the heart through the invitations of mercy, by the terrors of wrath and by the promises of bliss, He convinces, reproves, and allures the sons of men to become willing subjects to the rule of the Redeemer, and inheritors of his glory.
Likewise in regard to supplying the wants of the Christian out of the treasury of Christ, his methods are various. Sometimes He permits them to wait long, and sometimes the answer is immediate. Sometimes the portion seems to the asker but scanty, and sometimes overflowing.
Sometimes it comes through the still small voice within, at others by the medium of the word written or preached, and often through the channel of Christian intercourse, Sometimes afflictions are sent and doubts are permitted to arise, and joys are as it were withdrawn, in order that the soul may be prepared for the burst of glory and the profusion of riches which are just about to be communicated.
Many other ways might be mentioned, and many examples might be adduced of how the Spirit communicates and prepares the soul to receive the riches of Christ. Much might be said of the enlightened mind in the knowledge of all truth; and the boons conferred on men by their advancement in such knowledge. Volumes might be written of transcendent displays, which at times the Spirit gives to the soul, of the love, the grace, and the glory of the Saviour; of the vastness of His kingdom, the depth of His mercy, and the riches of His grace. But we forbear; suffice it to say that, since the days of the Spirit’s outpouring until the whole history of the Church and the experience of every Christian on the way to heaven, and the remembrance of every Christian now in glory, will prove the truth of our Lord’s statement in the context, “He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of the things that are mine, and shall show them unto you.”
The full sermon is available online at the following link, from pages 80-84 and continuing at page 145-149. The above excerpt is from pages 148-149: The Primitive Methodist Magazine