« PreviousContinue »
fore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.' This is the progress of these things. If those whom we are concerned in, as children or other relations, fall into evil ways, we are at first grieved; and this grief is attended with pity and compassion, with an earnest endeavour for their recovery; but, if, notwithstanding all our endeavours, they persist in their froward ways, then we are vexed with them; which includes an addition of anger and indignation to our former grief and sorrow. Yet in this posture of things we cease not to attempt their cure for a season, which, if it succeed not, but they continue in their obstinacy, then we resolve to treat with them no more, but to leave them to themselves:-and thus it is in the dealings of the Holy Spirit with us; and woe be to us when he shall depart from us! So when the old world would not be brought to repentance by the dispensation of the Spirit of Christ in the preaching of Noah, 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20. God said, That his Spirit should give over, and not always 'contend with man.' Gen. vi. 3.-Now, the cessation of his operations comprizes three things:-1, A total removal of the means of grace, as to all the ways of revealing the mind of God; or as to the efficacy of the word, even where the outward dispensation of it is continued, so that hearing, they shall hear, but not understand;'-for it is by the word that he strives with men. 2, A forbearance of all chastisement, out of a gracious design to heal and recover them. 3, A giving them up to themselves, or leaving them to their own ways.
The consideration of these things is incumbent upon us. It is our wisdom and duty to consider the ways and degrees of the Spirit's departure from provoking sinners, as well as those of his approach unto us, with love and grace. David on his sin feared nothing more than that God should take his Holy Spirit from him;' and this fear should influence us to the utmost watchfulness against sin; for though he should not utterly forsake us, which as to those who are true believers is contrary to the tenor, promise, and grace of the new covenant, yet he may so withdraw his presence from us, as that we may spend the remainder of our days in dark
Let him therefore that standeth,
ness and sorrow.
Let us beware of the very entrances of the course described. Have there been any such evils in us as have grieved the Spirit?-as we love our souls, let us take care that we do not vex him by a continuance in them. Has he been grieved by our negligence as to duties, by our indulgence to any lust, or by our conformity to the world?-let not our continuance therein make it his vexation. Remember, that while he is but grieved, he continues to supply us with all due means for our recovery. He will do so when he is yet vexed; but with such a mixture of anger as shall make us know that what we have done is an evil and a bitter thing: but have any proceeded further, and continued long to vex him, and refused his instructions, when accompanied perhaps with sore afflictions or inward distresses?-Let such souls rouse up themselves to lay hold on him, for he is ready to depart,-it may be, for ever!-and
We may do well to consider the miserable condition of those who are thus utterly forsaken by him. When we see a man who has lived in a plentiful manner, brought to extreme want, seeking his bread in rags, from door to door, the spectacle is sad, though we know he brought this misery on himself by profusion or debauchery: but how sad it is to think of a man who had once great light and conviction, made an amiable profession, was adorned with useful gifts, and held in estimation on this account, -now despoiled of all his ornaments, having lost light, and life, and gifts, and profession, and lying as a poor withered branch on the dunghill of the world!—and the misery hereof will be increased, when we consider that the Spirit of God is not only departed from him, but is become his enemy, and fights against him, whereby he is devoted to irrecoverable ruin!
ON SPIRITUAL GIFTS.
HE Second Part of the Dispensation of the Spirit for the
of Spiritual Gifts to the members of it, as their places and stations therein may require. By his work of saving grace, he makes all the elect living stones;' and by his communication of spiritual gifts, he builds those stones into a temple for the habitation of the living God;-he unites them into one mystical body, under the Lord Christ, as a head of influence, by faith and love; and he unites them as an organical body under him, as a head of rule, by gifts and spiritual abilities. Their nature is one and the same by grace; their use is various by gifts. Every one is a part of the body of Christ, by the same animating Spirit of grace but one is an eye, another a hand, another a foot in the body, by virtue of peculiar gifts ;- For unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ.' Eph. iv. 7.
These gifts, indeed, are not saving, sanctifying graces, nor were the most extraordinary and miraculous such; yet they are not to be despised: they are the powers of the world to come,' by which the kingdom of Christ is preserved and propagated; and though they are not grace, yet they are the means by which all grace is ingenerated and exercised; and therefore they are frequently mentioned in the Scripture as the peculiar privilege of the New Testament; and we are exhorted earnestly to seek them, especially such as are the most conducive to edification. 1 Cor. xii. 31.
The signal promise of the communication of these gifts is recorded, Ps. lxviii. 18. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for men ;'-and these words are applied by the apostle to that communication of spiritual gifts from Christ, whereby the Church was founded and edified, Eph. iv, 8. And whereas it is foretold in the Psalm that Christ should receive gifts, that is, to bestow them on men; so he did this, by receiving the Spirit, who is the immediate author of them all, as Peter declares, Acts ii. 23: Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Fa
ther the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear,'-namely, the miraculous gifts conferred on the apostles at the day of Pentecost.
The general name of these endowments is daara; so the apostle renders лn, Eph. iv. 8. from Ps. lxviii. 18. Dona, Gifts-that is, free and undeserved effects of divine bounty; hence called the gift of God, John iv. 10.
The gifts of the Holy Ghost,' Acts x. 45.- The gift of Christ,' Eph. iv. 7.- The heavenly gift,' Heb. vi. 4. -all expressing the freedom of their communication on the part of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
With respect to their special nature, they are called spirituals, or spiritual gifts, 1 Cor. xiv. 1. and 1 Cor xii. 31. They are not natural, nor moral, but spiritual endowments; their author is the Holy Spirit; their nature is spiritual, and the objects about which they are exercised are spiritual things.
With regard to the manner of their communication, they are called, Heb. ii. 4. Distributions, or Partitions of the Holy Ghost, because they are of various kinds; not at any time given to any one person, but variously distributed to men for the advantage of the Church. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?' &c. 1 Cor xii. 16, &c.
Extraordinary Offices and Gifts.
THERE are four things which constitute an extraordinary officer in the Church of God;-1. An extraordinary call to an office, such as none other can have, by virtue of any law or constitution whatever ;-2. An extraordinary power communicated to persons so called, enabling them to perform the duties to which they are called; -3. Extraordinary gifts for the exercise of that power; -4. Extraordinary employment, as to its extent and measure, requiring extraordinary zeal, labour, and self-denial. All these must concur in those offices which we call extraordinary.
Thus it was with the apostles, prophets, and evangelists, at the first: They were extraordinary teaching officers, 1 Cor. xii. 28. and Eph. iv. 11. There were also per
sons endowed with gifts of miracles, healing and tongues: besides these, there were prophets also, who had a temporary extraordinary ministry in the Church, Eph. iv 11.; and the exercise of their ministry is declared, Acts xiii. I. These were placed in the second rank of officers next the apostles, between them and the evangelists. They received immediate revelations from the Holy Spirit in matters relating to the present duty of the Church, as Acts xiii. 2. They also predicted future events; as Agabus, Acts xxi. 10, 11. These officers Jesus Christ granted to his Church for a season, as its first planting; and their whole qualification with spiritual gifts was the immediate work of the Holy Ghost. It was my design to manifest how vain is the pretence of some to a kind of succession to these officers, who have neither an extraordinary call, gifts, nor employments, but who are pleased to assume to themselves an extraordinary power over the churches and disciples of Christ, such as neither evangelists, nor prophets, nor apostles themselves ever claimed; but this matter of power is fuel to the proud ambitious minds of Diotrephists; and, as now circumstanced, with other advantages, is useful to the corrupt lusts of men; and therefore it is no wonder if it be pretended to, and greedily sought, by such as have neither call to the ministry nor gifts for it but we must return to the consideration of extraordinary spiritual gifts.
These were of two sorts :-First, Such as exceeded all the powers and faculties of men's minds :-such was the' gift of miracles, of healing, and the like. These did notconsist in any faculty always resident in the persons who possessed them, but were an effect of immediate and extraordinary influence transiently affecting their minds.All extraordinary officers had these gifts.
Secondly, They were such as consisted in extraordinary improvements of the faculties of the minds of men; such as wisdom, knowledge, utterance, &c. Now, where these were bestowed, as on the apostles and evangelists, they differed only in degree from those which are ordinary and still continued. All these gifts, of both kinds, are expressly and distinctly enumerated by our apostle in one place, 1 Cor. xii. 7-11. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal;- For to every one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to