« AnteriorContinuar »
LUKE xi. 13.
How much more shall your heavenly Father give the
Holy Spirit to them that ask him !
In the beginning of this chapter, our Lord prescribed to his disciples a pattern of prayer. He discovered the Deity to them under the tender name of a Father; and he taught them to approach the throne of Grace with the affection and the confidence of children. To encourage them still more to practice this duty, he assures them of success upon their perseverance in devotion ; and to impress his instructions in the strongest manner upon their minds, he delivers a parable to them, which he concludes with these words : “ Ask, and it shall be giv“ en 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 ; 6 and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. If a « son shall alk bread of any of you that is a father, “ will he give him a stone ? or if he ask a fish, will 6 he for a fish give him a serpent ? or if he shall alk “ an egg, will he offer him a scorpion ? If ye then, “ being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your 66 children, how much more shall your heavenly Fa. " ther give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?” As if he had said, “I have told you that God is “ your Father ; that his ear is ever open to your “ cry, and that his hand is ever stretched out in " your behalf. You that are fathers can judge of “ the paternal affection. If you see a child in dif“ tress, will your bowels of compassion be shut a. “ gainst him ? When he utters the voice of sorrow, “ will you turn a deaf ear to his complaint ? Will " you refuse to stretch out the hand to save him “ from the pit, and instead of relieving him, push " him down into destruction ? There is no father so “ barbarous, and no heart so cruel. If you, then, " evil and corrupted as you are ; if, clothed as you « are with human frailties and infirmities, you know “ how to give good gifts unto your children ; if the “ workings of nature, and the yearnings of paternal " affection, prompt you to perform good offices, how “ much more will the infinite benevolence of the De"ity prompt him to bless all his offspring, and open “his bountiful hand to the whole family of heaven " and earth! As the Most High God who inhabit“ eth eternity, excells his meanest creature, the be"sing of a day, so far doth the infinite benignity and " everlasting love of your Father in heaven exceed : - the fondest affection of an earthly parent.” ence, than the necessity of divine aids. · For alas ! the balance in human nature, between reason and appetite, between the powers of the mind, and the inclinations arising from the body, is in a great degree loft. There may be, and there once was, a more harmonious temperament in the human frame. The rational part of our nature was better enlightened and more vigorous ; the passions and appetites of the animal part moved under its control. But that state of innocence is no more. Our nature is now degenerated ; we find a law in the members warring against the law of the mind. This disorder of our frame is more and more increased by those false no. tions of happiness which we are apt to imbibe, and by the many bad examples among which we pass our early years, insomuch, that by the time that we are grown up to the full power and exercise of reafon, we find ourselves brought under the dominion of sensual and wicked inclinations. How then shall we recover our liberty ? How shall we regain the original rectitude of our nature, and obtain a victory over the vices which war against the soul ? Is nature, such as it now is, sufficient for these things ? Is reason alone an equal match for the passions and desires of the heart, broke loose from all their restraints, authorised by custom, and inflamed by example ? Can we cease to do evil and learn to do well, purely of ourselves, and be able to turn the stream of our af. fections from sensible and earthly things, to objects worthy of the choice and pursuit of a reasonable na. ture ? Can we, in short, convert ourselves by our own strength, and.turn from the power of Satan unto the living God ? Are we sufficient for these things?
In further discoursing to you upon this subject, I shall explain what is meant by giving the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps these words may refer to the extraordinary effufion of the Holy Ghost upon the Apoflles on the day of Pentecost, when they received the gift of tongues, and were endued with the power of work. ing miracles. Though these words may include this meaning, yet they chiefly refer to the ordinary influence of the Divine Spirit, which extends to every
generation ; which is the principle of the spiritual life within us, and continues with the faithful in all ages. Reason and revelation concur in assuring us, that the great Creator hath never withdrawn himself from his works. Above us, around us, and within us, God is seen, God is felt. The vast universe is one great temple which he fills with his prefence. As he is ever present in the world, he is ever employed. The hand that at first stretched out the heavens, still supports the pillars of the firmament. The breath which kindled the vital heat of nature, still keeps the flame alive and glowing ; God still acts through all his works, preserving and upholding the whole system of things, and carrying for. ward the designs of infinite wisdom and goodness. His providence is a continued exertion of creating power. As he is employed in the material, he acts also upon the moral world. The Father of spirits communicates himself to holy men, enlightens their understandings with divine knowledge ; by secret ways, at once strengthens and ravilhes the mind, and fills them with a conscious sense of his own presence. Hence the wisest among the heathens, guided only by the light of nature, acknowledged the necessity of supernatural aids, and taught that nothing great or good could be performed without the influence of a divine Spirit. But as this doctrine hath been by fome denied altogether, and by others involved in inysticism and absurdity, it will be proper to give you that just and rational account of it which the Scripture authorises.
There is hardly any one thing of which mankind may be made more sensible from their own experi.
We are not. When we would do good evil is present with us; the sensual part of our nature obtains dominion over the rational; we are chained down to the earth, while we attempt to soar to thę heavens. Here, therefore, God hath graciously interposed for our recovery. As he sent his Son into the world to redeem us from the guilt of sin and the curse of the law, he gives us his Holy Spirit to de. liver us from the dominion of fin, and to translate us from the bondage of Satan into the family of Heaven, and the glorious liberty of the children of God. Hence he is said to work in us both to will and to do that which is his good pleasure. We are said to receive the Spirit, and our bodies are styled the temples of the Holy Ghost.
Concerning this Spirit given to those that ask him, I observe, in the first place, that his influence is consistent with the freedom of a reasonable being. The assistance which we receive from above, both in our first conversion from sin, and through the whole course of a religious life, are entirely rational, and have only a persuasive and moral influence. They do not resemble the inspiration of the prophets of old, which was sudden and violent, and overpowered the mind; which superseded the use of reason, and suspended for a while the exercise of the natural faculties. The prophets were but the instruments of the Spirit, but we work together with God. The grace of Heaven does not take away the powers of the mind, but exalts them. It does not destroy the natural liberty of the mind, it makes us free indeed. If a man loses