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speculations, asserting that the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit, necessarily impels the individuals, to whom, according to the eternal decree of irrespective election, it is vouchsafed, with an energy always resistless, and always persevering in the path to heaven; while the rest of mankind, to whom, according to a similar and irrespective eternal decree this indispensable aid is denied, are passed over, and as it were overlooked by divine mercy, and thus abandoned to incurable depravity, and inevitable destruction.
Due attention to our divine Lord's promise in the text, will guard us against all these errors; will teach us the certainty and the reality of this spiritual aid, which must be equally necessary to every Christian, even to the end of the world; and which with impartial mercy will be granted to all, who sincerely seek for it, and will be effective to secure the final salvation of all those, (and those only) who diligently improve it—who receiving it " in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience;"*—the fruit of " faith which worketh by love,”ť productive of good works here, and crowned with glory hereafter.
The indispensable necessity of this spiritual aid, to prepare us for acceptance with God, is repeatedly and plainly asserted in holy writ. Thus, can words more clearly declare the necessity of the Spirit to regenerate and sanctify the soul, than our Saviour's declaration to Nicodemus; “ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God ?”! Or those of the apostle, “ they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his ?” And in explanation of the effects, which will testify this sanctifying influence, the apostle adds, “ If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die ; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."| How beautifully also, does the same apostle describe “the fruit of the Spirit,” as consisting “ in all goodness, and righteous
* Luke, viii. 15.
$ Rom. viii. 8, 9.
+ Gal. v. 6.
# John, iii. 5. | Rom. viii. 13.
ness, and truth;” as manifest in “ love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. It is impossible that any individual, in whom these virtues do not dwell, can be a true follower of Christ. The Spirit therefore, whose peculiar fruits these virtues are, cannot be confined to the apostles, or their first converts; but must dwell in the heart, and direct the conduct of every human being, who at any time shall become a faithful member of the church of Christ on earth, or an inheritor of the kingdom of God.
Equally clear, and as universally applicable, are the passages which declare, that it is the Spirit which guides the servants of God in the paths of duty ; strengthens them in temptation : comforts them in suffering ; inspires them with devotion, and prepares them for heaven. “ If ye love me," says our Lord to his disciples, “ keep my commandments; and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth.”† And the apostle speaking of those converts, who exhibited in their lives and characters such clear marks of the glorious efficacy of the Gospel, that they formed as it were an epistle commendatory of those ministers of Christ who were instrumental to their conversion, terms them, an “ epistle of Christ ministered by us, written, not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart.” And, in expressing his “trust (respecting them) through Christ to God-ward," adds, “not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”+
In prayer, this Spirit was to direct and animate the suppliant, as St. Paul declares; “ The Spirit also 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." From the same source was to be derived strength to resist temptation. “For God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape,
* Ephes. v. 9. Gal. v. 22.
12 Cor. iii. 4, 5.
+ John, xivi 15, 16. S Rom. viii, 26.
SPIRITUAL AID NECESSARY, AND ATTAINABLE.
that ye may be able to bear it."* In suffering, consolation and support were to be obtained from the same all gracious aid. “ If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, (says St. Peter,) happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.”† Finally; it was the Spirit which was to seal the faithful “ to the day of redemption.”I Thus indispensably necessary is the influence of the Holy Spirit on the soul of every believer in Christ, for his conversion and sanctification here, and his salvation hereafter.
But as this gracious aid is equally essential to all Christians, it is equally attainable by all, who will sincerely pray for, and diligently improve it. Indeed, were there no other passage establishing this conclusion, that brought forward in the text would be abundantly sufficient. For it should be remembered, this was not a promise addressed to the apostles alone; it had no relation to any circumstances of severe persecution to which the first Christians were pre-eminently exposed; it had no reference to those miraculous gifts and graces which seem confined to the first establishment of the Gospel scheme. The promise was delivered on an occasion of most general concern; the disciples having found our Lord engaged in private prayer, had entreated him to “ teach them to pray, as John also taught his disciples." With this request, at once so humble, so rational, and so pious, our Redeemer immediately complied, and dictated that admirable summary of all the petitions, which a Christian can implore from his God-a prayer designed not for the apostles alone, but for all Christians, in every age and every nation to the end of the world ; (and surely, therefore, every person who offers it up with sincerity, will be heard)--a prayer, every .clause of which, except that which implores a daily supply of the necessaries of life, relates to spiritual gifts, and expressly supplicates for spiritual aid, to protect us from evil, (or the evil one,) and guard us against the seductions of temptation—while our Redeemer, to prove his peculiar anxiety to impress the conviction that Divine mercy will favourably hear all such supplications, repeatedly commands us to offer them up
*1 Cor. X. 13.
+ 1 Peter, iv. 14.
§ Luke, xi. 1.
Ephes. iv. 30.
earnestly, nay importunately, with a full assurance of faith, not to be shaken by apparent delay or repulse. 6. For he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him : and he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise, and give him, because he is his friend: yet because of his importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you : seek, and ye shall find : knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth : and he that seeketh, findeth : and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”* And in another passage, our Lord delivers the parable of the importunate widow, “ to teach that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;" representing, that it is as it were a fixed law of God's moral government, to hear and grant the prayer of the sinner's persevering supplications. Nay, this the Son of God, who alone knoweth his counsels, and understandeth all his will, condescends to represent the Sovereign of the world as our tender Father, conscious of our spiritual weakness, solicitous for our eternal happiness, possessing equally the power and the will to relieve those wants, if we will but seek, accept, and improve his gracious aid. And he illustrates this by a comparison with the tenderest sympathies, and the fondest affections of the human heart.
“ If,” says he, shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?"| Now let me appeal to the reason and the feelings of every human beingwhat is there in this solemn declaration, in the heaven-taught prayer which it accompanies, or the touching comparisons which illustrate it; what is there which indicates a narrowed and partial dispensation of this merciful gift to a select few, while the great
* Luke, xi, 9. xviii. 1-8. VOL. III.
+ Luke, xi. 11, 13.
mass of mankind are by an eternal and irrespective decree passed over, and thus excluded from its benefits, and by this exclusion abandoned to eternal misery—and this without any reference to their conduct, their dispositions, or their prayers ?
Thus again; can we find such a limitation as this, in the address of the apostle James, to his brethren of the “ twelve tribes, scattered abroad” through the world, whom he thus exhorts and encourages ? “ If any of you,” (he does not say, if any of the elect, exclusive of the reprobate, but) “ if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth” (not to the elect only, the apostle hints at no such distinction) “ to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him.”*
Not less explicit, unconfined, and impartial, is St. Paul, who, in that form of blessing which he intended for all Christians in every age and nation, with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,” unites also the “ communion of the Holy Ghost,"t as equally necessary for the salvation, and equally to be expected in answer to the prayers of every humble servant of his Redeemer and his God. Surely .then, if words be not an unmeaning sound, and the most solemn promises of Scripture a delusive mockery, every sincere and earnest supplicant for divine grace and assistance, will undoubtedly receive it.
In this promise of divine assistance, thus explained, as truth and scripture warrant, surely nothing appears which reason can disapprove, nothing which human weakness ought not joyfully to receive. Yet experience proves that no doctrine of revelation was considered as more strange and novel at its first introduction, or has been more exposed to objection, misapprehension, and abuse. The pride of human nature has ever been prone to assert its full sufficiency for the discovery of every reli. gious truth, and the observance of every moral duty. The heathens in general prayed to their gods for external blessings; for life, and health, and competence; but the virtuous and well-governed mind they did not hesitate to declare they could secure for themselses. The same pride excited also the strongest opposition to the entire revealed scheme of redemption.
* James, i, 5.
7.2 Cor. xiii. 14.