« AnteriorContinuar »
to them for ever.-As they had no language but their own, without the gift of tongues they could not have preached the gospel except in Judea;—and as they had no authority of their own,--without the supernatural one of signs and wonders,--they could not vouch for the truth of it beyond the limits where it was first transacted. In this work, doubtless, all their sufficiency and power of acting was immediately from God; his holy spirit as he had promised them, so it gave them a mouth and wisdom which all their adversaries were not able to gainsay or resist.–So that without him,— without these extraordinary gifts, in the most literal sense of the words, they could do nothing.–But besides this plain application of the text to those particular persons and times, when God's fpirit was poured down in that signal manner held sacred to this day,— there is something in them to be extended further, which christians of all ages,-and, I hope, of all denominations, have still a claim and trust in,—and that is, the ordinary assistance and influences of the spirit of God in our hearts, for moral and virtuous improvements ;-these, both in their natures as well as intentions, being altogether different from the others above mentioned conferred upon the disciples of our Lord.—The one were miraculous gifts,---in which the endowed person contributed nothing,—which advanced human nature above itself, and raised all its projedile springs above their fountains; enabling them to speak and aćt such things, and in fuch manner, as was impossible for men not infpired and preternaturally upheld. In the other case, the helps fpoken of were the influences of God's fpirit, which upheld us from falling below the dignity of our nature:- that divine affiftance which graciously kept us from falling, and enabled us to perform the holy professions of our religion.—Though these are equally called fpiritual gifts,—they are not, as in the first case, the entire works of the spirit,—but the calm co-operations of it with our own endeavours; and are ordinarily what every fincere and well-difposed christian has reafon to pray for, and expect from the fame fountain of ftrength,—who has promised to give his holy fpirit to them that ask it.
From this point, which is the true doctrine of our church,--the two parties begin to divide both from it and each other ;-each of them equally misapplying these passages of Scripture, and wresting them to extremes equally pernicious.
To begin with the first; of whom, should you enquire the explanation and meaning of this or of other texts,--wherein the affistance of God's grace and holy spirit is implied as necessary to fanctify our nature, and enable us to serve and please God?—They will answer,
- That no doubt all our parts and abilities are the gifts of God,—who is the original author of our naturę,—and, of consequence, of all that belongs thereto.-That as by him we live, and move, and have our being, we must in course depend upon him for all our actions whatsoever,--since we must depend upon him even for our life, and for every moment of its continuance - That from this view of our state and natural dependence, it is certain they will say,We can do nothing without his help.--But then they will add,--that it concerns us no farther as christians, than as we are men ;--the fanctity of our lives, the reli- . gious habits and improvements of our heart, in no other sense depending upon God, than the most indifferent of our actions, or the natural exercise of any of the other powers he has given us.—Agreeably with this,—that the fpiritual gifts spoken of in Scripture, are to be understood by way of accommodation, to fignify the natural or acquired gifts of a man's mind; such as memory, fancy, wit and eloquence; which, in a strict and philosophical sense, may be called spiritual ;-because they transcend the mechanical powers of matter, --and proceed more or less from the rational soul, which is a spiritual substance.
Whether these ought, in propriety, to be called spiritual gifts, I shall not contend, as it seems a mere dispute about words ;-but it is enough that the interpretation cuts the knot, instead of untying it; and, besides, explains away all kind of meaning in the above promises. And the error of them seems to arise, in the first place, from not distinguishing that these spiritual gifts,-if they must be called fo, ---such as memory, fancy and wit, and other
endowments of the mind, which are krown by the name of natural parts, belong merely to us as men; and whether the different degrees, by which we excel each other in them, arife from a natural difference of our fouis,-or a happier disposition of the organical parts of us. They are such, however, as God 0riginally bestows upon us, and with which, in a great measure, we are fent into the world. But the moral gifts of the Holy Ghost,—which are more commonly called the fruits of the fpirit,-cannot be confined within this description.We come not into the world equipe with virtues, as we do with talents ;--if we did, we should come into the world with that which robbed virtue of its best title both to present commendation and future reward. The gift of continency depends not, as these affirm, upon a mere coldness of the constitution or patience and humility from an insensibility of it;-but they are virtues insensibly wrought in us by the endeavours of our own wills and concurrent influences of a gracious agent ; and the religious improvements arising from thence, are so far from being the effects of na