Page images

effectual, inasmuch as it does that, which our unassisted nature, even with all the light which the Gospel revelation has shed upon the counsels of God, and the destiny of man, could never accomplish; it sanctifies us, and enables us to prefer things spiritual to things temporal; and to worship and serve God with sincerity of purpose, and singleness of heart. It is feared, that many who aspire to be Christians, and persuade themselves that they are so, rest contented in the persuasion that they have been taken into covenant with God by baptism ; that Christ has died to make atonement for their sins; and that therefore, if they live as well as they can, (that is, as well as they can by their own sense of what is right, and by their own endeavours to practise it,) they shall be saved: but as to any deep and humiliating feeling of their own insufficiency and weakness; as to any earnest and ardent seeking for the aid of the Spirit ; any cheering recollection of the promises of a Comforter; to all this they are strangers. They do all which of themselves they are able to do; except that, without which all the rest is unavailing, the seeking for that spiritual strength which may enable them to do what of themselves they never could do. But again we say, and it is a truth which

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

cannot be too perseveringly enforced, that the great practical privilege of Christian discipleship is this; it entitles us to the promised aids and influences of the Spirit; If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his ; but if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in

you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you :' and it is by a diligent seeking for his quickening power, that we must labour to make the promises of the Gospel our own, and ourselves what the Gospel requires us to be. The circumstance of our being in covenant with God, of our having been baptized, and of having passed by baptism from the

power of sin, into the liberty of the children of God, is a wonderful change in our moral state, in our spiritual capacities, and prospects; but it is not a renovation of the inner man; it is not in itself sanctification ; but makes us capable of being renewed and sanctified by the Spirit ; who, when he is sought for, and followed by those, whom he has first regenerated in baptism, worketh righteousness in them that believe; as the great spirit of evil, the prince of the power of the air, worketh wickedness in the children of disobedience.

and mastery

3 Rom. viii. 9, 11.

This doctrine is briefly, but emphatically, expressed by our Church, when she directs us to pray, that “ being regenerate, and made the children of God by adoption and grace, we may daily be renewed by his Holy Spirit;" in allusion to the words of St. Paul, After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."

The words, in which the Apostle describes the assistance rendered by the Spirit to the faithful Christian in prayer, are exactly descriptive of the mode, in which, as the Comforter, he supplies all the wants, and strengthens all the weaknesses of the believer: likewise also the Spirit helpeth our infirmities. He does not irresistibly constrain our will. He interposes not the strong arm of his almighty power to crush, or chain down our rebellious passions. He pours not an irresistible flood of light upon the eye, which is closed by pride and prejudice : but he helpeth our infirmities. How affecting, how encouraging is this description ! how conformable to that character, in which the Holy Spirit has

4 Collect for Christmas Day.

s Tit. iii. 3.

been especially promised to Christians, the character of the Comforter! But how is it realized ?

In the first place, the Spirit has laid down for us a plain, infallible rule of belief and practice. The revelations and the precepts, both of the Law and the Gospel, were dictated by the same eternal Spirit of Truth. This is the instrumental aid, which is afforded generally to the infirmities of human reason and conscience. But then there is the particular application of this aid to the case of individual men; and this is that work of the Spirit, in which we are most nearly and personally interested; by which he enlightens the understandings of men to discern, and bends their hearts to adopt and follow the truths and precepts so revealed to them. In the first instance, he sets before us a path to walk in; and then strengthens our feet to walk in it. Glorious as is the light of divine truth, it shineth in a dark place;" its beams fall upon an understanding, which labours under the gross darkness of corruption, and has of itself scarcely a faint and indistinct perception of the things of God. And even if it perceived them ever so clearly, it could not of itself spontaneously choose, and resolutely embrace them : nor has it that intrinsic principle of purification, which would work effectually to the understanding, and the reception of saving truth.

6 South, Serm. Vol. V. p. 285.

7 2 Pet. i. 19.

This then is the second, and not the least important part of that office, which the Holy Spirit performs in the work of our salvation. Admit that the nature of man is depraved, (and if the Word of God did not assure us of the fact, our own experience would bear melancholy testimony,) and it will follow, as a necessary conclusion, that the cure of this depravation, the restoration of the spiritual and moral agent to health, must be effected by an agent distinct from and superior to human nature itself; that is, by the Spirit of God. The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Attend, I beseech you, my Christian friends, to this most important distinction.

God giveth freely: he giveth, says another Apostle, to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. And what are the gifts so freely given ? None other than the offer and the means of grace and salvation ; his Word and sacraments; the doctrines of the


1 Cor. ii. 11.

9 James i, 5.

« PreviousContinue »