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Gospel; the law of life. But although God giveth freely, man cannot freely receive ; that is, the natural man : he cannot, it appears, even know, or be perfectly assured, that these are the gifts of God, unless he have first given him the spirit by which he may discern the divine impress upon them. Christ is indeed the light of the world; the universal light : he shines in the Gospel; and in a certain sense, and to a certain degree, illuminates externally both the good and the bad; but his light is savingly discerned only by those who have a corresponding light of the Spirit within ; not a fancied illumination of the soul, superseding the light of its natural faculties; but a renewed and purified heart; or at least a heart awakened from sleep, and roused from its lethargy by the touch of the Spirit; and cleared in part for the first perception of evangelical truth.
The natural light of conscience, implanted in man by his Creator, is now obscured and oppressed by natural corruption; a veil is over the heart, and prevents it from comprehending the glories which surround it: and if the light which is in us be darkness, how great is that darkness.Io Many there are, whose eyes are open to the
10 Matt. vi. 23.
truth, the historical truth of the Scriptures; who believe them to have been given by inspiration of God; who are alive to their sublimity, and simplicity, and beauty; who are not insensible of the light, which the Christian revelation has shed
the duties and destiny of man, as compared with the faint glimmerings of human philosophy, or the thick darkness of pagan superstition; who live in the full brightness of the Gospel day, and are sensible that they live in it; and yet it has never really enlightened them; because it has never reached their hearts. A way for its transmission thither has never been opened by the Spirit; and yet the Spirit was ever at hand; and the light was streaming around them in all its illimitable fulness and splendour ; but they have never sought for his influences, and therefore have never experienced them. Nay, it is possible that they may have had recourse to the very means, by which he ordinarily imparts those influences to the believer's soul, and yet have experienced no effect; and simply because they have used them without any serious consideration of the end to be answered by - them; without any hearty and urgent desire for the benefits which they are intended to convey.
The Spirit helpeth our infirmities; and there are means of God's appointment by which that help may be obtained: but the help must be sought for, and the means must be used, with all that earnest anxiety and determined perseverance which result from a deep and overpowering sense of the infirmities themselves. The pure Word of God may be preached by faithful ministers, with the serious and persuasive eloquence of truth and affection; the sacraments of grace may be rightly administered, and regularly received: the ordinances of devotion may be so performed, as to produce for the time a decent seriousness, and a favourable impression of religion; the Spirit may be round us, and close at hand, and waiting to be called upon; but yet he is not called upon; he is not implored; he is not earnestly besought with groanings that cannot be uttered ; and what is the result? The Word preached passes across the mind, as the shadow of a cloud, and is forgotten; the sacramental communion of Christ's body and blood is a communion only as to the outward and visible signs: the seriousness produced by the solemn forms of holiness, is a seriousness of demeanour only, and that but for a time: and the whole impression produced, is of the same class with those undefined and unprofitable emotions, which are excited by the concord of sweet sounds : And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not." I appeal to your own consciences whether this be not too often the case; whether all your religious observances and attendances have not been too often unimproved and unimproving; and if the answer be in the affirmative, I would beseech you to consider, whether you can assign any probable cause for it but this, that the aid of the Spirit has not been sought for in good earnest, and with a determined
purpose of heart: and whether, if at any
have been led to seek for him, you have ever failed to experience some degree of his refreshing influence ?
The Spirit helpeth our infirmities. What would become of us if it were otherwise ? for there is a Spirit of evil, who is always exercising a malignant activity, to aggravate those infirmities; the more malignant and the more active, because he knows that the help and the remedy are close at hand. He strives, often, alas! too successfully, to avert our eyes from the brightness
11 Ezek. xxxiii. 32.
of the light, in which they are placed by the revelation of God's will : and if a transient gleam of truth shoots across the darkness of a passive uninquiring soul, he straightway interposes some object of present interest, some glittering bauble, or some attractive delight, and effaces the impression almost as soon as it is made. There is thus a contest for predominance and mastery in the moral world, between the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of evil. But there is this important difference, with respect to man, who is the object of that contest; that whereas the Spirit of evil enters unbidden into the soul; and takes possession of it; and fills every part of it with his train of sinful thoughts, and deceitful images of splendour and happiness; the Spirit of God, though always at hand, and watching with affectionate interest the progress and movements of the immortal soul, and ever ready to step in, and assert his own authority and dominion, and the power of saving grace, must yet be sought for, and invited, and with sincerity entreated; Deliver me from mine enemies, O God, for they are too many for me. Where the necessity is so great, and the succour so near, and so effectual, what can be said for those who neglect to have recourse to it?