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easy, how delightful has duty been at such times 2 How did our hearts burn within us? What advances were we able to make in the Christian life? But when we were left to our own spirits, how dull, how dead our performances 2 how little could we do or bear for God? Like Samson with his locks cut, we found ourselves feeble and good for little, if we thought to go out and do as at other times. We should often call these things to remembrance, to invigorate our desires. By such means evil desires are produced and fed in the minds of sinners, by ruminating on the agreeableness of tempting objects to sense ; so they make provision for the works of the flesh. Therefore Solomon cautions those addicted to intemperance, “not to look upon the wine, when it is red, when it gives its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright,” Prov. xiii. 31. And Christ forbids “looking upon a woman to lust after her,” Matth. v. 28. Christians should make such provision for the works of the Spirit, kindling their desires by frequent and steady contemplation of the worth and excellence of the object. 2. All the sacred institutions, wherein the Spirit hath encouraged us to expect he will meet us, must be diligently attended. They who vainly think themselves above ordinances, really put themselves out of the way of the Spirit; for he acts principally in and by these. Here he increases the light of his saints, strengthens their faith, enflames their love, and excites their graces to proper exercise, and is used to dispense his most refreshing consolations. Though his communications are not confined to them, yet they are his stated ways of intercourse. There are peculiar promises of his presence in them, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you,” James iv. 8. They have a special aptitude to our reasonable nature. And good men are supposed, when they engage in such exercises, to be eminently in a frame to wait for him, and to give him entertainment: that is the very language of their approach, and their regular business there is neither with small nor great, but with the king of Israel. If they come to them in obedience to his institution, “through desire they separate themselves, to seek and intermeddle with heavenly wisdom,” Prov. xviii. 1. And then they may hope to find what they come for. If we are frequent and serious in our private retirements,
conversing with God and his word, and our own souls; Out Father which sees in secret, will be with us by his Spirit ; and by making this our daily exercise, we may hope to secure him with us all the day long.
Public ordinances are equally necessary to the improvement of Christians. To them Israel of old was directed for meeting with God, Exod. xx. 24. "In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee." When the church, full of longing affection, desires to know where she may meet her Lord, he points her to the same course, Cant. i. 7> 8. "Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou • makest thy nocks to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" She is full of solicitude to be under the kind influences and improving care of her shepherd. His direction is, "If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds tents." Christ himself guides our expectation the same way, when he declares, Matth. xviii. 20. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," that is, by his Spirit. It is observable, that when the dispensation of the Spirit was more eminently to commence upon Christ's ascension, his extraordinary influences were first manifested, when "the disciples were all with one accord in one place," Acts ii. 1. As if he intended by that circumstance to shew Christians, where they were chiefly to expect him. As ever we would have our souls to prosper, we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of too many i• now, as well as it was in the apostle's days, Heb. x. 25.
And as the Lord's day is the most stated season by divine appointment under the gospel for religious exercises, so it claims a peculiar regard from all who desire a plentiful share of the Spirit. It should not be forgotten, that St John was eminently "in the Spirit on the Lord's day," Rev. i. 10. And though that phrase included in his case the extraordinary influences of the Spirit in a way of inspiration, yet it signified his being in a very pious frame also: and so common Christians may hope to be too, if they endeavour to leave their worldly cares and thoughts behind them, and to employ that sacred time in the public and private exercises of religion.
* All God's sacred institutions are apt means of obtaining the Spirit's influence. As, A diligent and continued study of the holy scriptures. They are sufficient, as a rule, “to make us perfect,” 2 Tim, iii. 16. They contain the mind of the Spirit; and he is not used to carry on his work in saints any more than to begin it in sinners, by immediate revelation ; but to assist their increase in the knowledge of God, by accompanying their own search of the scriptures with his delight and grace to discern the deep things of God. A careful attendance on the ministry of the gospel, is another of his appointments. Those, who are born of God, should “desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby,” 1 Pet. ii. 2. Those two exhortations stand together, 1 Thess. v. 19, 20. “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying.” Prophesying there is probably understood to signify one of the methods of public instruction in use in the primitive times, for explaining the scriptures. The apostle, by connecting these two exhortations, may intimate to us, that to despise prophesying is one way of quenching the Spirit. Close and fixed meditation on divine things is an exercise wherein he has often met his servants. The Psalmist presaged, that “his soul should be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, when he remembered God upon his bed, and meditat. ed on him in the night watches,” Psal. lxiii. 5, 6. And when a good man, from his delight in the law of God, meditates on it day and night; that, along with his being planted by the rivers of water, will contribute to his bringing forth fruit in season, Psal. i. 2, 3. *Singing of Psalms is recommended for the same end. So the verse after the text may be understood as prescribing a means of farther participation of the Spirit. “Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.” While you are endeavouring this way to raise devout affections, you may hope he will come into your aid, and blow up the holy spark into a flame. - Prayer is an exercise more frequently mentioned, than any one in particular, wherein his agency may be expected. On
that account he is stiled "the spirit of grace and supplication," Zech. xii. 10. Though he helps our infirmities in other cases, yet the apostle directly speaks of his doing so in prayer, Rom. viii. 26. "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Here are two eminent branches of his help in prayer intimated; direction what to pray for, by convincing us of our wants, and of that in the divine promises which is suitable to them; and then exciting those sincere and fervent affections, those lively and vigorous desires, which are the soul of prayer. We are directed also to "pray always (that is, frequently) with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit," Eph. vi. 18. to "pray in the Holy Ghost," Jade 20. which plainly intimates, that Christians in the performance of the duty of prayer, may hope to find him ready at hand with his gracious aids.
And when the Lord's supper is instituted for purposes every way serviceable to our spiritual interests, our conscientious attendance upon that must lay us directly under the province of the Spirit.
Those, who would be filled with the Spirit, should live in the neglect of none of .these, but walk in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord, as each of them claims our regard upon his authority. If we live in the customary neglect of any, we may have just reason to fear lest he should withold his presence in others.
3. All things, which have a direct tendency to quench hi* motions, should be carefully guarded against.
Su*h are eminently all fleshly lusts. These are directly opposite to the characters by which he hath made himself known, as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit sent down from heaven, whither nothing that defiles can enter. Sensual, having not the Spirit, are characters closely connected, Jude 19. Sensuality reigning is a sure sign, that men Lave not the Spirit in his saving operations; and acts of sensuality are the greatest obstructions, in any who have received him, to his progressive influences. Would to God there were no occasion to offer such a caution to the disciples of Christ, but that the use of it were confined only to those who have not tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious. But offences of this kind,
God knows, have too often been given by some of a better character: and cautions even against such evils are addressed in scripture to visible saints. The apostle calls the church of Colosse to “mortify their affections which were upon earth, fornication, uncleanness, evil concupiscence,” Col. iii. 3. And Christ saw it needful to charge his own disciples, Luke xxi. 34. “to take heed to themselves, lest at any time their hearts should be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness.” And in the text St Paul warns Christians against being filled with wine, as not only a great evil in itself, but which stands in direct opposition to being filled with the Spirit. The same is to be said of impurity, in any degree of it; it is not only highly unworthy of those, who are become the temple of the Holy Ghost, but defiles that temple, and is like to make God withdraw. The scripture represents the flesh and the spirit as in a struggle even in good men, Gal. v. 17. Now, though the first motions of the flesh may be in the best; yet if they “walk in the Spirit, they shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh,” ver, 16. If they listen to his gracious suggestions, and set themselves to oppose depraved inclinations, under the aids he is at hand to dispense; they shall get the mastery of them, and the heavenly guest will with complacency continue still to assist them in farther conflicts; but if his motions are neglected, and the flesh indulged, they must expect a great suspension of his influences: it may be for a long time, as in the case of David. Diabolical sins equally silence him : such as wrath and malice, and envy and uncharitableness, which eminently grieve him; as is intimated by the connection of the two exhortations, not to grieve him; and to put away those vices, Eph. iv. 30, 81. The spirit of love chooses to reside and act freely in a soul that breathes the same heavenly temper. 4. The Spirit should be directly eyed and employed by us, according to the province which he is revealed to sustain. Since his agency is so particularly revealed in the gospel, he justly expects that Christians should more explicitly direct their eye to him, and acknowledge their need of him, through the course of the Christian life, than the saints of former ages usually did. It is true, when we pray for any spiritual good, for any Christian virtue, it is in effect praying for the Spirit, because God confers it upon us by his Spirit: and in former