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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 the 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 deliver us from the dominion of sin, 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,
I. 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, is entirely rational, and has only a persuasive and moral influence. It does not resemble the inspiration of the prophets of old, which was sudden and violent, and overpowered the mind; which superseded the use of reason, and suspended for a while the exercise of the natural faculties.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 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 inspire 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 nnd 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 controuling 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 divine aids, that :hey are not distinguishable from the operation of our own minds, and that we feci them not in a sensible and striking 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, . .ind those foreign stores which she imports from education. The Spirit of God acts in such u manner as i» 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 efforts, from the lowest np to the throne of God, we call by the name of the course of nature. Bat whut is this? The course of nature is the energy of God. II. I observe, concerning the influence of the Spirit, that its' reality is only known by its operation and effect upon our lives. "Marvel not," said our Lord to Nicodemus, "that I snid unto you, Thou must be born again, The wind bloweth where it Hsteth, and thou hearcst the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it coineth, 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 arc indeed imperceptible to sense, and cannot be distinguished in the precise moment of their operation, but they are visible and certain in their effects, and in the fruits which tiny 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, say 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 »c shall know if we are born of the Spirit. There are indeed other mark*, easier attained, which some people have found out to themselves. 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 unblushing 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 marks it 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, dwelledi in God, and God dwelleth in him.
This doctrine of the Spirit dwelling in us, and assisting us to perform good works, furnisheth a strong argument for humility. Why boasteth tbou, O man 1 \Viiat hast thou which thou hast not received ( Frqm God descendcth every good and every perfect gift. We cau do nothing of ourselves, not even so much as to think a good thought. It is by the grace of God we are that 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 stir us up to activity in our Christian course.— The proper use and improvement of this doctrine is not to sit still and take our rest, because God gives us his Holy Spirit, but relying on the assistance of his Spirit to move forwards in our Christian race. Seeing God worketh in you, therefore work out your salvation. Up, therefore, and be doing, seeing the Lord is with you. You not only act with the tbrce of Providence on your side; you have not only the Captain of Salvation fignting with you; but you have also his Spirit within you, leading von on to victory.
111. 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 lei in always remember, that He, who is a pure and a holy Spirit, cannot dwell in polluted hearts, and in temple* that are not his own.
Isaiah xxvi. 20.
Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee.
WITHOUT viewing these words in connection with what goes before or follows after, I shall consider thrm 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 solitude has a charm for the soul; when weary of the world, its follies and its cares, we Jove 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 u>tful to man, and most acceptable to God. Hence the holy men are represented in Scripture as giving themselves to meditation; hence Je.-us- Christ himself is described a* sending the multitude 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 Christian life consisted in retiring from the world altogether, in withdrawing from human converse, in shutting ourselves up in the solitude of a cell, ant passing out days in barren and unprofitable speculation. Such notions of a holy life have no foundation in the word of God. Moses and the prophets, Jesus and the apostles themselves, acted a part in public life, and enjoin their disciples not to withdraw from ihe world, but to go about doing good; not to wrap up their talent in a napkin, but to improve it by their industry; not to put their light under a bushel, but to make it •hine before men The retreat, therefore, which Scripture recommends, is temporary and not total; is not the Retreat of a monk to"his cell, or a hermit to his cave; but of men living in the world, going out of it for a time, to return with greater improvement. To retire at times into the closet for these purposes is of general obligation upon all Christians. To induce you, therefore, to the practice of this duty, I shall now shew you the advantages which thereby you may expect to reap.
The advantages attending religious retirement are these: it takes off the impression which the neighbourhood of evil example has a tendency td make upon the mind; it is favourable for fixing pious purposes in the mind, and «trengthening our habits of virtue; it brings us to the knowledge of ourselves; it opens a source of new and better entertainment than we meet with in the world.
I. Religious retirement takes off the impression which the neighbourhood of evil example has a tendency to make «]ji n the mind The world, my friends, is not in general a school of virtue; it is often the scene of vanity and vice. Corrupted manners, vicious deeds, evil communication!-. Burround us on every side. From our first entrance into life, we become spectators of the vicious, and witnesses to the commission of sin. This presence of the wicked lessens our natural horror at a crime; it renders the idea of vice familiar to the mind; and insensibly lulls asleep that
fuarded circumspection, which ought always to be awake. It-sicks this contagion of evil example, the unhappy proncneo of men to imitate the manners ot those with whom tlu _v live, adds strength to the temptations of the world. Our favourable opinion of the person extends to the action he commits: and by our fatal loudness of imitation, we do •what we see done. Our way, then, in the world lies through snares and precipices: we see and we hear at the peril ot our souls. The contagion, in which we live, transfuses itselt into our own minds. How often is the purity of the closet lost amid the pollution of the world! The good resolutions of the morning give way to bustle and business, or to the carter of pleasure; and the day, that began with innocence and devotion, ends in vanity and