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cannot conceive a good desire, nor direct our thoughts to a right object, but under the constraining influence of his grace. He gives to every man grace enough to take the first step towards that which is good and acceptable to Him. Upon the improvement of that grace, which, because it is given to all, may be called natural, depend those subsequent supplies, by the aid of which a gradual advance is made towards Christian perfection. And these are the promised privileges of Christians, and the peculiar gifts of the Holy Spirit, who by them enlightens, and strengthens, and sanctifies the genuine members of Christ's Church.
But there are diversities of gifts, says the Apostle; a truth, which may at once abate presumption, and check despondency. God desireth all men to be saved. His intention is, that they should all arrive at the kingdom of heaven; and if any fail, it is by their own fault. But he places them in different stations and offices in his kingdom and household here on earth, and endues them with different capacities and means of serving him. The poorest and feeblest member of the Church has his appointed and appropriate part to perform; and has the meansof obtaining all the spiritual gifts neces
sary for its performance; while the wisest, the most eloquent, the most influential, is so only by God's appointment, and derives his wisdom, and eloquence, and influence from the Holy Spirit:God, says the Apostle, hath set the members, every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him." And therefore let us not hastily pronounce a judgment upon the spiritual state of another, if he appears to be less advanced than ourselves; remembering that there are diversities of gifts, and that the Spirit divideth to every man severally as he will. But there are some results, which are to be looked for in every case; and where these are wanting, any pretensions made to the gifts of the Spirit, are false, and may be denied. If we be asked what these are? we answer, with St. Paul, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,—against such there is no law.8
It is a habit, not less correct in point of fact, than improving to ourselves, to refer all that we have thought, or done of good, to the influence of the Holy Spirit; but all the evil to ourselves. We should act beforehand with as much energy and diligence as if every thing depended on our
7 1 Cor. xii. 18.
8 Gal. v. 22.
own exertions, yet not relying upon those exertions for success; and afterwards look back upon what we have achieved, with an entire renunciation of desert and credit on our own part; and with a grateful and implicit recognition of the effectual influences of God's Holy Spirit.
Lastly, there is a promise concerning the gifts of the Spirit; and the promise is to us and to our children; I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." And we have an encouragement to claim the
promise; If ye, being
evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? 10 But do we need his aid? Let me ask in return, Do we believe and live as we ought to do? Do we love God, and pray to him as warmly as we ought? Do we view the world in its right colours? Are our hearts in heaven? The answers to these questions, if made in sincerity, will determine whether we need the aid of the Holy Spirit or not. But where shall we seek him? In his Word, in prayer, in the Christian sacraments. If the Spirit be promised to them that ask him, when and where can he be
9 John xiv. 16.
10 Luke xi. 13.
asked for, with so much certainty of an answer, as in the great distinguishing act of Christian worship, the communion of the body and blood of Christ?
But then we require the aid of the Spirit even to seek for the Spirit. The first movements of divine grace direct our thoughts towards spiritual things; but in order to the attainment of them, by the right use of those means and resources, which are provided for us under the Gospel Covenant, we must pray earnestly for further help, that we come to a more perfect understanding, a stronger faith, a livelier affection. The Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought. But for this one thing at least we know that we may pray, and let us do it with an earnest and sincere intention; that we may realize that description of the Apostle, having access by one Spirit unto the Father, and being fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; that so we may grow unto an holy temple in the Lord; and in him be builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
11 Eph. ii. 18-22.
GEN. I. 31.
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.
How sublime, yet how unadorned and simple is the expression, in which the sacred historian describes the Almighty, as surveying with complacency the great and glorious system, which had been called into existence by the word of his power; God saw every thing that he had made; and, behold, it was very good! Every part of the vast and intricate machine was perfectly adapted to perform its proper function, and to answer its appointed end. To the eye of a limited understanding, which is able to embrace but a small portion (how small a portion