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communicated in answer to prayer, and we are exhorted to pray for it. “ If ye (says our Lord), being evil, “ know how to give good gifts unto your children ; “ how much more will your Heavenly Father give the “ Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?” And conformably with this the first great effusion of the Spirit was given in answer to prayer, when the disciples were for that purpose “ with one accord in one place;" and, on another occasion, " when they had prayed, the place “ was shaken where they had assembled together; and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and spake “ the word of God with freedom.” (i)
Nor, again, is the operation of the Spirit arbitrary in degree. Its rule and measure is, “ Whosoever hath “ much, to him shall be given, and he shall abound: 6 but whosoever hath little, from him shall be taken “ even that which he hath.” (k) Hence result the exhortations of the apostles to the Gentiles, which would otherwise be remarkable enough: “ Be strong 6 in the grace which is by Jesus Christ.” “ Strengthen “ yourselves in the Lord and in the power of his 6 might.” “ Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to “ one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual “songs.” (1)
Nor, on the other hand, is the withholding or the withdrawing spiritual influences merely an arbitrary act. It is the just punishment of men's wickedness, perverseness, and folly, in trifling with the means of
(i) Luke, xi. 13. Acts, ii. 1. iv. 31. See also James, i. 3.
grace,“ doing despite unto the Spirit,” and thus “ grieving that Spirit,” till it is compelled to withdraw. (m) Hence, by the way, results the necessity of a constant self-denial : because it is evident that so far as we indulge any vanity of mind, or corruption of heart, so far we resist the graces of the Spirit, and render ourselves indisposed to relish and improve its inspiration : we should, therefore, sedulously avoid all those tempers and employments, all those enjoyments and indulgences which may cause us to be “less “able, and less disposed, to improve those degrees of “ Divine grace that are communicated to us."
Lastly, I may remark, that the doctrine under consideration is most dreadfully abused by every one who says, “I can do nothing without Divine assistance, • therefore I will sit still and use no effort for my re
covery till God irresistibly impel me to it.' Here, as in numerous other instances, the state of torpid inactivity persevered in is completely different from that which is recommended and adopted in all analogous circumstances where religion is not concerned. For, although, as it is forcibly expressed in the Liturgy, " we have no power of ourselves, to help ourselves," yet it does not follow that we can do nothing: we can put ourselves in the way to obtain the aid offered to us. The dependance of the creature on God is not confined to religious matters, but runs through all our concerns. We can no more stretch out our hands, or walk, than we can raise our hearts to God, without his aid; yet stretching out the hands, or walking, is perfectly vo.
(m) Heb. x. 29. Eph. iv. 30.
luntary. Our gardens and our fields will be totally unproductive, unless God further our endeavours by his agency and his blessing : yet who but a madman or an idiot would think this a sufficient excuse for neglecting the culture of his garden, or the business of ploughing and sowing in his fields ? Spiritual influences neither destroy our moral liberty, nor remove our moral responsibility; but bring with them a corresponding class of duties. We are not to be careless in our conduct, because we are assured of the sugges tions, reproofs, and expostulations of our faithful friends; nor are we to be supine in our religious concerns because we know not how soon or how long it may be before the suggestions and monitions of the Holy Spirit are prevailingly influential. The apostle Paul does not refer to the promised aids of the Spirit, as an argument for sloth, but for exertion ; his language (already quoted in this letter) is" Work out “ your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it “ is God that influences your desires and endeavours “ of his benevolence.” . As this topic, and especially exhortation to obey the solicitations of the Spirit, falls peculiarly within the province of ministers of the Gospel, allow me to terminate this letter by a quotation from an excellent modern author, whose eloquence and piety on this as on all occasions mutually adorn and exalt each other.
“ Though a general attention to the duties of piety "s and virtue, and a careful avoidance of the sins op“ posed to these, are certainly included in a becoming “ deportment to the Holy Spirit, perhaps it is not all “ that is included. The children of God are charac“ terised in Scripture by their being • led by the “ Spirit:' led, evidently not impelled, not driven “ forward in a headlong course, without choice or “ design; but, being, by the constitution of their s nature, rational and intelligent, and by the influence “ of grace, rendered spiritual, they are disposed to “ obey at a touch, and to comply with the gentle in66 sinuations of Divine grace; they are ready to take “ that precise impression which corresponds with the “ mind and purpose of the Spirit. You are aware of
what consequence it is in worldly concerns to embrace 6 opportunities, and to improve critical seasons; and “ thus, in the things of the Spirit, there are times “ peculiarly favourable, moments of happy visitation, " where much more may be done towards the advance66 ment of our spiritual interest than usual. There “ are gales of the Spirit, unexpected influences of “ light and of power, which no assiduity in the means W of grace can command, but which it is a great mark “ of wisdom to improve. If the husbandman is atten“ tive to the vicissitudes of weather, and the face of “ the sky, that he may be prepared to take the full “ benefit of every gleam of sunshine, and every falling “ shower, how much more alert and attentive should 66 we be, in watching for those influences from above, “ which are necessary to ripen and mature a far more “ precious crop!
“ Permit me to suggest two or three heads of in“ quiry. You have sometimes felt a peculiar serious
ness of mind, the delusive glare of worldly objects
“ has faded away, or become dim before your eyes, 6 and death and eternity, appearing at the door, have “ filled the whole field of vision. Have you improved 66 such seasons for fixing those maxims and establishing “ those practical conclusions which may produce an 66 habitual sobriety of mind, when things appear under " a different aspect ? You have sometimes found, “ instead of a reluctance to pray, a powerful impulse “ to that exercise, so that you felt as if you could do “ nothing else. Have you always complied with these “ motions, and suffered nothing but the claims of “s absolute necessity to divert you from pouring out “ your hearts at a throne of grace ? The Spirit is " said to make intercession for saints, with groanings .66 which cannot be uttered; when you have felt those 6 ineffable longings after God, have you indulged
them to the utmost ? Have you spread every sail, “ launched forth into the deep of the divine perfections .66 and promises, and possessed yourselves as much as :“ possible of the fulness of God? There are moments .“ when the conscience of a good man is more tender, .“ has a nicer and more discriminating touch than usual;
" the evil of sin in general, and of his own in particu.“ lar, appears in a more pure and piercing light. “ Have you availed yourselves of such seasons as " these for searching into the chambers of imagery,' “ and while you detected greater and greater abomi5 nations, been at the pains to bring them out and 66 slay them before the Lord ? Have such visitations “ effected something towards the mortification of sin ? 66 Or have they been suffered to expire in mere ineffec