Page images
PDF
EPUB

exércised, a power of inflicting diseases as corrections upon disobedient and dissolute Christians, to bring them to a better mind. They were also sometimes enlightened so as to discern the hearts of men, and to know who were secret enemies to religion, though they outwardly professed it. These extraor. dinary powers were variously imparted to the disciples ; nor were they confined to them, but were communicated by the hands of the apostles, in different degrees, to other Christians of that time.

II. I proceed, secondly, to speak of those gifts, which the Holy Ghost imparts to all sincere believers, to all good persons

in all ages.

If any one should say, That there can be no such thing as a divine assistance acting upon the human mind, because men are not sensible of it, or because such influences would destroy human liberty,-he would affirm more than he would be able to prove. God, who made us, who is a Spirit, --who is ever present to us,-in whom we live and move, may, doubtless, act upon our minds by many ways, unknown and undiscoverable. He may, by his holy Spirit, awaken us to a sense of our duty,-may cherish our good dispositions,-may comfort us in affliction,-may strengthen us in difficulties,---may animate us in dangers, without any act of compulsion. We cannot prove the impossibility of this ; and therefore we ought not to conclude, that there can be no such thing.

It is frequently declared in the New Testament, that the Holy Ghost dwells in them; every Christian is said there to have the Spirit; to receive the Holy Ghost, and to be a disciple of Christ, is represented there as one and the same thing ; and in a word, frequent mention is made of the assistance of the Spirit. That something more is meant by the aids of the Spirit, than the bare external motives to obedience, may be showed, without an examination of particular texts of scripture, by this argument :

Christians ought to request of God only those things, which God hath promised to grant. If God has promised to his servants nothing besides remission of sins and eternal life, a Christian would indeed have cause to return daily thanks to God, for the revelation made to him in the gospel; but he would have no grounds to ask any thing of God relating to his spiritual concerns, except this, that God would accept his repentance and his religious endeavours, and make him happy in the next world. On the contrary, it is plain, from the doctrine of the New Testament, that a Christian hath leave and encouragement to ask, that God would give him his holy Spirit; that he would give him religious wisdom ; that he would assist him to overcome temptations, and to persevere in his obedience. Why in particular should a Christian ask of God, as he is directed to ask, that he would give him his holy Spirit, if by that Spirit is meant nothing besides the gospel? That is given him already, and once for all; so that he might, with the same reason, ask God to give him a body and a soul.

But that we may not fall into enthusiastic notions, concerning this divine assistance, these things are to be observed : first, that the influence of the Spirit is only given at such times, and on such occasions, as require it ; secondly, that it is not distinguishable from the operations of our own minds; thirdly, that it leaves us free agents,—that it compels not, that it only inclines and aids, and that it may be resisted ; lastly, that a life of obedience and righteousness is a proof, and the only proof, that the Spirit dwells in us. " The fruit of the Spirit,' say the scriptures, “is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance. The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth.' In this method of judging, there is no difficulty, and there can be no deceit. These are clear proofs, by which we may satisfy not only ourselves, but others also, that we enjoy the assistance which God hath promised to his children ; whilst a light within, a call from heaven, a secret voice, an extraordinary impulse of the Spirit, and a conversation with him, are often the effects, not of divine favour, but of a weak understanding and a warm head ; and sometimes something worse, even mere hypocrisy and unblushing assurance. Imagination, when it gets the better of reason, is a dangerous guide; it is a good servant, but a bad master.

The divine assistance, or the influence of the Spirit, or grace, as it is commonly called, is to be distinguished and divided, as I observed before, into the extraordinary and the ordinary, The true difference between them seems to be this, that the extraordinary and miraculous operation of the Spirit is distinguishable by the person on whom it is conferred, from the operation of his own mind; and that the ordinary influence of the Spirit is not thus distinguishable. The former is communicated by à strong impulse, by visions, by an outward or an

inward voice, revealing secret tlrings past, present, or future, and conferring prophetic and miraculous powers. The latter is an impulse of the moral kind, tending to the improvement of the servants of God. It is an act of the divine Spirit upon the human faculties, the chief and noblest of which is reason; and upon the human reason it must principally act, to strengthen and enlarge it.

It is possible, indeed, that the Spirit of God may also act upon the inferior faculties of man; that is, upon the imagination, and upon the passions, exciting hope, fear, sorrow, joy, desire, aversion. But then it must be in such a manner as to leave the passions obedient and subservient to the superior principle of reason ; else God would counteract his own purpose, which is to preserve us moral and rational agents,--to support that faith which was first founded on proper evidence, and a serious conviction of the truth of religion. The overbearing impulses, emotions, and agitations, by which men are incited to foolish or unlawful actions, must needs proceed from other causes : they are the mere effects of a disordered body and mind; they are the effects of enthusiasm, which I take to be a false persuasion of the enthusiast, that the Spirit acts upon him in a sensible manner, which he can certainly distinguish from the acts of his own spirit.

I have only a few remarks to add relating to this subject.

1. The apostles, in the exercise of miraculous powers, were not left to themselves, to use them at their own discretion, according to the dictates of mere human reason, or inclination and affection. They did not work miracles in every place through which they passed; or before every assembly to which they preached the gospel. We may, therefore, suppose, that they gave these proofs of the divine mission at such times only, and upon such occasions, as seemed proper to the holy Spirit, by whom they were guided.

2. The Holy Ghost imparted these gifts severally, and in various degrees, to the first Christians, according to his own good pleasure. They were designed, not so much for the benefit of those who received them, as for the benefit and conversion of others, and to be a testimony of the truth of the gospel; and they were not constantly bestowed according to the moral qualifications of Christians. A person in those times, by working miracles, gave indeed a sufficient proof, that the VOL, I,

20

Holy Ghost dwelt in him. One person might do wonderful works in confirmation of the gospel, and not live according to its rules ; another might perform no miracles, and yet be a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost : and therefore St. Paul prefers charity and the works of righteousness to all miraculous powers.

3. The gifts which the apostles received, were of two sorts ; the first was of the miraculous kind; the second was courage and constancy, and a mind not to be deterred by dangers, or seduced by any worldly advantages, from preaching the gospel, and from observing its precepts.

These gifts differed in this respect, that the first were operations upon them, as upon subjects merely passive ; they contributed nothing on their part towards them, except sometimes faith, or a trust and belief that they had such powers and such assistance. But it was not so in the second sort. Their piety, their courage, and their perseverance, were acts of their own choice; in the performance of which they were indeed supported and assisted in an uncommon manner, as they were called to great dangers, and to extraordinary trials : but still they were acts of choice, from which they had a natural power to refrain; and therefore they were virtues, which God promised to reward with an exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

4. Lastly; since the ordinary assistances of the Holy Ghost are promised to the faithful in all ages, we find, in this doctrine, proper motives to humility and to gratitude; to a sense of our own imperfections, which deprive us of all possibility of pleading any merits of our own; and to a sense of the divine goodness, which will add strength to our weakness, and support us in our Christian warfare. It is our duty, therefore, to pray to God, that he would give us his Spirit. It is our duty to purify our hearts from evil affections, and vicious habits, that we may be qualified to receive him. It is our duty to be thankful to this divine Guest, who condescends to be our guide and our comforter,--to be careful not to grieve and offend him by wicked actions, lest he should withdraw himself from us,to remember that he, who is a pure and holy Spirit, cannot dwell in polluted hearts, in temples that are not his own.

[ARCHDEACON JORTIN.)

[ocr errors]

SERMON LXXVII.

MONDAY IN WHITSUN-WEEK.

NATURE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Acts xix. 2.We have not so much as heard, whether there be any

Holy Ghost.
THE ignorance which these disciples profess, cannot, probably,
be found among us, who have been born in a Christian country,
It is presumed that every one who professeth the name of
Christ, from the first baptismal institution, acknowledgeth that
there is a Holy Ghost ; and the only question consists in this,
what that Holy Ghost is, in whose name we are baptized, and
in whom, according to our baptism, we profess to believe.

I. The Holy Ghost is a person. We are baptized in the name of the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost : We all confess that two of these, the Father and the Son, are persons : the Holy Ghost, therefore, who is, of the three, the third, is also a person as the other two. We are exhorted by the apostle • not to grieve the Spirit of God;' (Ephes. iv. 30.] but grief is certainly a personal affection, of which a quality is not capable. We are assured that the same “Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered ;'(Rom. viii. 26.) and we can understand what are interceding persons, but have no apprehension of interceding or groaning qualities. He revealeth the will of God, and speaketh to the sons of men, in the nature and after the manner of a person: 'for the Spirit said unto Peter, Behold three men seek thee : arise therefore and

get

thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them.' [Acts X. 19.] And the Holy Ghost said unto the prophets and teachers at Antioch, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.' [Acts xiii. 2.] We cannot better understand the nature of the Holy Ghost than by the description given by Christ who sent him: and he said thus to his disciples, · The Comforter,' or the advocate, • which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things:'[John xiv. 26.] ‘he shall testify of me ; and ye also shall bear witness.' [xv. 26, 27.]

20 2

« PreviousContinue »