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together in the school of Christ, are there equally favoured with grace, and instructed in the knowledge which leadeth to salvation. Ill would it fare with mankind, if they must be linguists and historians, before they can be duly informed of the nature of that religion, which was intended for the happiness of all; and on the neglect and ignorance of which they are obnoxious to divine displeasure.
Systematical or intellectual religion may employ the pen of a ready writer, or the tongue of a voluble disputant in the academical or ecclesiastical chair; but cordial religion, effectually, though silently; certainly, though unostentatiously sweetens, softens, and spiritualizes the human disposition. It may not gratify the pride or serve the worldly interest of individuals, but it elevates and refines the general nature of man.
How is this religion to be learned ? Not from systems, not from critics or metaphysicians, not from heathen historians and moralists, but by the teaching of God, or the divine energy of gospel grace. Such is the principle of what I have
"Not by the letter, but by the Spirit, was Mary Magdalen learned. And how are your family, your mother and sister, your servants, your poor neighbour, made Christians-by Dr. Clarke? by academical professors ? or by the gospel accompanied with immediate grace ?
But whom say ye that I am ? Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Bar Jona; my Father which is in heaven hath revealed it unto thee.' Matt. xvi. 15, &c.
Our Saviour does not say that Peter had done well to form that conclusion, from reasoning on what he saw and heard; or deriving the conviction from any human means ; but he says, * Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.'
ventured to term Christian Philosophy,' in contradistinction to the philosophy of heathenism, and modern infidelity. It is clear, amidst some obscurity, from the whole tenour of the gospel and epistles, that since our Lord's ascension, the beneficial purposes of Christianity are accomplished by the continual agency and never-failing superintendence of the Holy Spirit. I would by no means proceed so far as a writer some hundred
| That experience is the best guide to Christian knowledge, is Dr. South's opinion :
66 The truths of Christ crucified are the Christian's philosophy; and a good life is the Christian's logic; that great instrumental, introductive art, that must guide the mind into the former ; and where a long course of piety, and close communion with God, has purged the heart, and rectified the will, and made all things ready for the reception of God's Spirit, knowledge will break in upon such a soul, like the sun shining in his full might, with such a victorious ray, that nothing shall be able to resist it.
“ It is experience that must give knowledge in the Christian profession, as well as all others; and the knowledge drawn from experience is quite of another kind from that which flows from speculation and discourse. It is not the opinion, but the path of the just, that, the wisest of men tells us, shines more and more unto a perfect day. The obedient, and the men of practice, are those sons of light, that still outgrow all their doubts and ignorances ; that still ride upon these clouds, and triumph over their present imperfections ; till persuasion pass into knowledge, and knowledge advance into assurance; and all come, at length, to be completed in the beatific vision, and a full fruition of those joys, which God has in reserve, for them whom, by his grace, he shall prepare for glory.” Dr. South.
Dr. South, a man of wit and most vigorous intellect, was particularly active in decrying the doctrine of immediate grace, because the court discountenanced those who maintained it : and, therefore, what he has here said must be allowed to be extorted from him, by the force of truth opposing royal influence and political religion, which varies as the wind blows.
16. The obscurity and difficulty of the Scriptures serves," says bishop Wilson, “ to subdue the pride of man ; to convince us, that to understand them, we have need of a light superior to reason, and that we must apply to God for help."
years ago, who, observing the great and constant power attributed, by the written gospel, to the Holy Ghost, published a book, which he entitled, Evangelium Spiritus Sancti ; or, the gospel of the Holy Ghost; but at the same time, it appears to me evident, from the declarations of Jesus Christ, that the gospel is now chiefly efficacious, as it has been ever since the ascension, by the operation of the Holy Ghost; the wakeful, tutelary guardian of every human creature. He may be resisted; his holy fire may be quenched; his temple may be polluted; and he may, in consequence, depart in displeasure. Happy would it be, if appearances did not justify the apprehension, that he is actually resisted, his holy fire quenched, his temple polluted, and both his displeasure and departure little regarded. It is the scope of Christian Philosophy to prevent this dreadful calamity.
To enquire how the Spirit operates, is fruitless, if not presumptuous. It is enough for man to know, that it does operate; that, unless the words of Scripture are violently tortured out of their meaning, out of that plain sense which every reader of competent judgment and of integrity, unwarped by prejudice, must allow them to bear, the Spirit of God is at this moment effecting, in the bosoms of all who are duly prepared for its energy, the grand purpose of our Saviour's incarnation. Great, indeed, is the mystery: but equally mysterious are the processes of nature.? All around us a mystery. Our very existence,
I “ Vocula illa quomodo,” Luther used to say, “ est detestabi. lis." _5 The little word “how' is detestable.”
? " Is the doctrine of grace more stupendous than the velocity of motion given to light?” Bp. Warburton.
ar motiolimentathe union have,
our nutrition, the motion of a muscle in our bodies, is a wonderful arcanum, too difficult to be accounted for by reason. Yet, I believe, I know that I live, and move, and have my being,' though I cannot explain the union of soul and body, the mode of alimentary supply, or the cause of muscular motion. So also the spiritual life and motion are inexplicable. But this is certain-he who believes the Scriptures, must believe its reality. And he who is once truly and experimentally convinced of the Spirit's operation, will want no other evidence; and he who tastes the fruits of the Spirit, will desire no other display of the excellence of Christianity. Thus will the purpose of my book be accomplished. The evidence and excellence of Christianity will be felt” and
Η της ΠΕΙΡΑΣ ακριβεια κατισχυει την των λογων TiDavoryta.”-Diod. Sic. Hist. lib. i. “The accurate and certain knowledge of actual experience, surpasses all that can be taught by the persuasive powers of oratory or composition.”
Prayer is the means of producing this experience in religion.
66 If mankind are corrupted and depraved in their moral cha. racter, and so are unfit for that state which Christ is gone to prepare for his disciples ; and if the assistance of God's Spirit be necessary to renew their nature, in the degree requisite to their being qualified for that state, all which is implied in the express, though figurative declaration, “Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God : supposing this, is it possible any serious person can think it a slight matter, whether or no he makes use of the means, expressly commanded by God, for obtaining this divine assistance; especially since the whole analogy of nature shows that we are not to expect any benefits, without making use of the appointed means for obtaining or enjoying them ? Now reason shows us nothing of the particular immediate means of obtaining spiritual benefits. This, therefore, we must learn from Revelation.” And Revelation says, ask, and it shall be given.—Butler's Anal. Part ii. c. 1.
? 6 We not only believe it, but we feel it too; we feel the comfortable influences, the sacred emanations of the Holy Spirit
acknowledged by every man, who becomes a convert to the doctrine of grace. He will acquire a spiritual understanding ;' his rational faculty, as to spiritual matters, will be sublimed and refined in such a manner, as to supersede the necessity of those voluminous, far-fetched, and elaborate proofs and defences of Christianity which have been enumerated, in a long catalogue, by Fabricius; and which, one after another, like abortive, productions, bave dropped into the gulf of oblivion, and left Christianity just where they found it. Indeed, as defences of this kind have increased, Christians appear to have decreased. The cavils introduced for refutation have lived, and the refutations died and been forgotten.
But doctrines which cannot be refuted by Scripture, are sometimes exploded by the illiberal means of stigmatizing them with an offensive or unpopular name. This practice has always been highly detrimental to the diffusion of genuine Christianity. It causes opinions to be condemned in the gross. It induces the mind of the careless, contemptuously to reject the mass, without selecting the wheat from the chaff, and, indeed, without the trouble of examination. There is a vicissi
upon us; more particularly at those offices of devotion, wherein he descends upon us also, as he did once upon our blessed Savi. our, like a dove, and sheds his grace upon us, in some measure, with those excellencies which become the sons of God.
6 Orʻrather, he descends upon us, as he did once before, upon the face of the waters, when he brought beauty and order upon that which before was nothing but deformity and confusion."-Bp. Hickman.
. Col. i. 9. “We pray for you that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Again, “ Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.”--2 Tim. ii. 7.