« AnteriorContinua »
by the assistance thus graciously afforded
That we very much want these helps and encouragements, we all know: that we are very much indebted to them, we Christians believe: and that they are not the less real, because, perhaps, not distinguishable from the workings of our own minds, now that revelation assures us of the fact, we have no scruple to affirm.
To this divine Spirit, then, the spirit of the Father, and the spirit of the Son P, as he is equally styled, because proceeding from both; to this spirit, I say, enlightening our understandings, purifying our wills, and confirming our faith, we must impute all that is good in us, all that proficiency in true holiness which qualifies us for the enjoyment of heaven: and through this discipline it is, that they who sow to the spirit, are, in the end, enabled of the spirit to reap everlasting life.
These three characters might be further opened and distinctly considered; and then it would appear, that all the revelations of God's will, chiefly with regard to the redemp
o Matth. x. 20.
P Gal, iv. G.
tion of man, made to the patriarchs of old, to the prophets under the law, to the Apostles of our Lord, nay to our Lord himself, as the man Christ Jesus, and all the secret illumina-' tions of the faithful in all times, are to be regarded as so many emanations from the spirit of God, THE ENLIGHTENER: that all the gradual improvements of our virtue, all the graces which first descend upon our hearts, and then manifest themselves in every good word and work, are the production of the same spirit, in his office of SANCTIFIER: and, lastly, that all the firmness and resolution we possess under every trial in this world, all the foretaste we have of future favour and acceptance, all our joy and peace in believing, are the signs and proofs of the COMFORTER, speaking to us, and, according to our Saviour's promise, abiding
It is very conceivable that all this diversity of operations may be justly and reasonably ascribed to the influence of the holy Spirit, without supposing that our own freedom is impeded or infringed. For influence is not compulsion; and we are every day induced by others to do that which we should not have done of ourselves, without feeling or suspecting that the least violence is offered to our free-will, A
convincing truth clearly presented to us; a virtuous thought incidentally suggested; a gleam of hope or gladness, suddenly let in upon us; all this is no more than we frequently experience in the company of wise and good men, who yet would be much surprised, and would have reason to think themselves much injured, if we complained of any undue influ ence exerted by them. Yet thus it is, and thus only, that the holy spirit constraineth us: and the scriptures are so far from representing this constraint under the idea of force, or physical necessity, that they speak of it as the perfection of moral freedom: Where the spirit of the Lord is, says the Apostle, there is liberty.
Having, therefore, seen in what sense it is affirmed that the spirit giveth life; and in what way, consistently with the free use of our faculties, he dispenses this gift, and exercises a variety of offices towards us; it remains,
III. In the last place, to see what returns of duty, as corresponding to the several characters of the holy Spirit, and resulting from the relations in which we stand to him, are required on our part; in other words, what we
p 2 Cor. iii. 17.
are to do, before we can hope to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, under the influence of the holy Spirit.
One previous indispensable condition of our obtaining that influence seems to be, that we ASK it, that is, put up our petitions to God for it a consideration, which, while it shews the utility, the necessity of prayer, sufficiently accounts, I doubt, to many of us, for the little or no effect which, as we pretend and sometimes lament, this renovating power of the spirit has upon us.
This duty of prayer being supposed; with regard to the holy spirit himself, in general, all the reverence, honour, worship, which his divine nature exacts from us, and all the love and gratitude which his gracious concurrence with the Father and the Son, in the great work of our redemption, so eminently deserves, are to be religiously paid to him.
More particularly, we are to consider, that to the several characters or offices, sustained by this divine person, and exercised towards us, several duties respectively correspond; which indeed are obvious enough, but must just be pointed out.
1. If a ray of light break in upon us, if a new degree of knowledge be imparted to us, if we see the truth of the gospel more clearly in any respect than before we had done, we cannot mistake in ascribing this additional information or conviction (which comes very frequently we know not how, and when the general bent of our thoughts, perhaps, lies another way) to the illuminating spirit within us; and we are to see to what further purpose that illumination may serve, and how far it may go towards dissipating the darkness of our minds in other instances.
2. If we feel (as at times we all of us do) a vicious inclination checked, a virtuous purpose encouraged, a moral or a pious sentiment suggested, these secret motions are, nay, must be, from the holy Spirit; and our duty is to entertain and to improve them,
3. Or, again, if we perceive our devotions to be quickened, our hopes enlivened, our faith fortified, though the present state of our temper or constitution may be instrumental in producing these effects, yet, if they go no farther than scripture warrants, and right reason allows, we shall not mistake (having the express promise of our Lord and Master) in