« AnteriorContinuar »
his free agency he ceases to be a man. He is a machine, and is acted upon. In opposition to this, God is said in Scripture, to draw us with the cords of love, and with the bands of a man: that is, in such a manner as is most consistent with freedom of choice, and agreeable to the constitution of a reasonable nature. Reason being the noblest faculty of the human frame, it first partakes the influence of the divine Spirit. Its views are enlarged to take in the system of divine truth, and its power is increased to govern the whole man. These divine aids extend to the heart and the affections, place them on proper objects, and give them their noblest joys. In short, they take in the whole of the Christian life. They infpire good resolutions and purposes of new obedience; they carry us on, and encourage us in the ways of righteousness; they render the practice of our duty easy and delightful, and bring us at last to the enjoyment of uninterrupted and everlasting happiness.
Thus you see, that the influence of the divine Spirit is in a way agreeable to the frame of human nature, gentle and persuasive; not controlling or obstructing the use of reason, but by the use of reason influencing the will, moderating the affections, and regulating the whole conversation. It is no argument against the reality of such divirte aids, that they are not distinguishable from the operation of our own ininds, and that we feel them not in a sensible and friking manner. How difficult is it in our own character to distinguish what is natural from what is acquired; to distinguish between the natural treasures of the mind, and thofe foreign stores which she imports from education. The Spirit of God acts in such a manner as is most agreeable
to the faculties of the mind. It is in this manner also, that God acts in the material world. Whatever is done in the heavens, or in the earth, or in the sea, is brought about by Divine Providence. Yet all that chain of causes and effects, from the lowest up to the throne of God, we call by the name of the course of nature. But what is this? The course of nature is the energy of God.
In the second place, I observe, concerning the influence of the Spirit, that its reality is only known by its operation and effect upon our lives. “Mars vel not,” said our Lord to Nicodemus, “ that I .“ said unto you, Thou must be born again. The “ wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the “ found thereof, but canít not teil whence it cometh, " and whither it goeth. So is every one that is “ born of the Spirit.” That is, as if he had said, the influences of the spirit are indeed imperceptible to fense, and cannot be distinguished in the precile moment of their operation, but they are visible and certain in their effects, and in the fruits which they produce. A life of obedience and holiness, therefore, is the proof, and the only proof, that the Spirit dwells in us. The fruit of the Spirit, fay the Scriptures, is goodness and righteousness and truth. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and temperance. The life then, my friends, the life is the criterion and test by which we shall know if we are born of the Spirit. There are indeed other marks, easier at. tained, which some people have found out to them. selves. A light within, a call from heaven, a secret voice, and an extraordinary impulse, these are often
the effects not of a divine favour, but of a weak understanding, and a wild imagination, and often of something worse, even of arrant hypocrisy and' un. blushing impudence. These indeed are the marks of a spirit which hath often appeared in the world, but which is very different from the Spirit of God. These are the symptoms of that intolerant and persecuting Spirit, the offspring of darkness and of demons, which, excepting a few favourites, pursues the human race with unrelenting hatred in this world, and consigns them over to eternal pains in the next. This is a spirit which hath slain its thousands. Fire and sword mark its approach ; its steps are in the blood of the just, and it shakes the rod of extermination over the affrighted earth. But the Spirit of God is the Spirit of love. It fills us with affection and benevolence towards all our brethren of mankind. For he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God dwelleth in him.
This doctrine of the Spirit dwelling in us, and affisting us to perform good works, furnisheth a strong argument for humility. Why boastest thou, o man ? What halt thou which thou hast not received ? From God defcendeth every good and every perfect gift. We can do nothing of ourselves, not even fo much as to think a good thought. It is by the grace of God that we are what we are. He graciously accepts of our sincere endeavours to please him ; and at last rewards those services, which by his grace he enables us to perform. Let us therefore be sensible of our own imperfections, and give all the praise to him. Let this ftir us up to activity in our Christian course. The proper use and improvement of this
doctrine is not to fit still and take our rest, because God gives us his Holy Spirit, but relying on the afsistance of his spirit to move forwards in our Chrif. tian race. Seeing God worketh in you, therefore work out your salvation. Up therefore and be do. ing, seeing the Lord is with you. You not only ad with the force of Providence on your side ; you have not only the Captain of Salvation fighting with you ; but you have also his Spirit within you, leading you on to victory.
In the last place, Let us express our gratitude and praise to this divine Guest, who vouchsafes to be our guide and our comforter ; let us be careful not to grieve and offend him by wicked actions, lest he withdraw himself from us ; and let us always re. member, that he who is a pure and holy Spirit, cannot dwell in polluted hearts, and in temples that are not his own.
ISALAH xxvi. 20.
Come my people, enter thou into thy Chambers, and fout
thy doors about thee.
WITHOUT viewing these words in connection with what goes before or follows after, I shall consider them as containing an exhortation to religious retirement. Man was intended by his Creator for society. All the powers of his frame, the faculties of his mind, and the qualities of his heart, lead him to the social state as the state of his nature. But although man was made for action, he was also intended for contemplation. There is a time when folitude has a charm for the soul ; when weary of the world, its follies and its cares, we love to be alone, to enter into our chamber, to shut the door about us, and in silence to commune with our heart. Such a retirement, when devoted to pious purposes, is highly useful to man, and most acceptable to God. Hence the holy men are represented in Scripture as giving themselves to meditation ; hence Jesus Christ himself is described as sending the mul. titude away, and going apart to the mountain.
An opinion once prevailed in the world, and in many parts of it still prevails, that all virtue consisted in such a retreat ; that the perfection of the Chriftian life consisted in retiring from the world altogether, in withdrawing from human converse, in