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instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." In Britain, in America, in India, in Africa, in fact, in every part of the globe where the gospel is preached, sinners are converted, and saints are meetened for heaven; but in no other part of the world are there any pooofs that the saving influences of the Spirit are bestowed. To neglect the preaching of the gospel is, in a very fearful sense, to place yourselves beyond the reach of the Spirit; to slight the very means in connexion with which his influences have, through all ages, and in all climes, been imparted; to avoid the sphere on which they descend ; and thus to shew that ye neither value nor desire them.
In addition to the means already specified for obtaining the mised Spirit, we must mention fervent and importunate prayer.
The Scriptures assure us that it is the fixed and irreversible purpose of God to give the Holy Spirit to all who seek him by urgent and believing supplication: “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? Ask, then, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh, receiveth : and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” They who desire a proof of the efficacy of prayer in procuring an extraordinary effusion of Divine influence, should peruse the first three chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.
You are fully aware, brethren, that the use of the means which I have mentioned, cannot profit us apart from the spirit in which we attend to them. They must be employed with a deep sense of our need of Divine aid. We must habitually cherish the conviction that without the Spirit we can do nothing. That conviction we must gradually deepen by enlarging our views of the defilement of our nature, our spiritual impotency, and the variety and magnitude of the works which we have to perform. This conviction of the necessity of Divine influence must be connected with a high sense of its value, and an ardent desire for its bestowment; while the purpose for which we should desire and implore it, should be to fit us for greater usefulness in the church of Christ, and to enable us more efficiently to promote his glory. These means, thus employed, will be successful. Nothing prevents the fulfilment of the promise in the text, but our apathy and unbelief. There is a connexion, as certain and close between our exertions and prosperity in the kingdom of grace, as there is in the kingdom of providence. I therefore accord with the bold statements of a writer on this subject, who affirms, “ that if we attempt great things, and expect great things, God is under an absolute, not a conditional, engagement to accomplish great things. He has not reserved to himself the right of withholding the influence which shall fully correspond with the faith and labours of his people. He is faithful, and cannot deny himself. If we had but faith as a grain of mustard seed, success beyond our most sanguine expectations would follow all our efforts to obtain the influence of the Holy Spirit, and to promote the Divine glory.” These sentiments lead me to observe, that
VII. If we have not the influences of the Holy Spirit, or if we do not possess them in an eminent degree, we are not merely unfortunate, but guilty
When we decline in religion, when we do not feel its power, and enjoy its blessings, we are disposed to consider ourselves rather as unfortunate than criminal ; deserving pity, and not condemnation. In the same light we are apt to regard the churches that are in a languishing state, the scenes of animosity and schism; and not unfrequently are they spoken of as if their unhappy condition called only for lamentation and sympathy. But never is a backsliding Christian, or an unprosperous church, free from the heinous sin of grieving the Holy One, and causing him to withhold the influences on which their happiness and success depend. Many, alas ! have attempted to blunt the stings of a guilty conscience, by tracing all that was deplorable in their spiritual state to the sovereign and inscrutable purposes of God. Hence it is that “ spiritual pride” is so often connected with spiritual poverty. Hence it is that so many, instead of afflicting their souls under a load of guilt, speak complacently of their resignation while" under a cloud.” And hence it is we so seldom see individuals or churches, whose spiritual condition is wretched and perilous, humbling themselves in deep contrition and abasement before God, seeking that, for the sake of his Son, he would revive his work, and in wrath (which their sins have kindled) remember mercy.
I mean not to deny that sovereignty has any thing to do with the bestowment of Divine influence, but I am of the opinion of those who believe that sovereignty is exercised in reference to those influences which are consolatory, rather than those which humble and sanctify. We never read in Scripture of a decree that any individual shall stand in the midst of spiritual fruitfulness, like Mount Gilboa, on which neither rain nor dew descended : we never read of cherubim, with flaming sword, appointed to guard the approach to the fountain of spiritual blessings : on the contrary, we are commanded to have the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit,
to live in the Spirit, and to walk in the Spirit. Where is the consistency of these commands with the character of God? where their significance, if we cannot obtain such a measure of Divine influence as will meet all our exigencies, or if there be not an established and immutable connexion between our obedience and spiritual prosperity ? Suppose then that we are destitute of the Spirit, or that we have only a small measure of his influence, where is the reason of that to be found ? In God ?-No: he has promised to pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; to give his Spirit to those that ask him. He is faithful, and cannot deny himself. The reason is found in ourselves : it must be traced to a sinful state of the heart, and a criminal neglect of the means of grace. Which of us can look up to God, and, with his hand upon his heart, declare that he is not guilty here? Have we sought the Holy Spirit as God directed us ? have we cherished those deep and constant desires for his influence which its vast importance demands? have we watched over our appetites and passions, our tempers and conversation, our motives and actions, as those whose hearts were filled with trembling and dismay at the thought of grieving him? have we yielded our minds to the constant influence of the doctrines of grace ? have we been faithful to our vows, and tried the very last efficacy of prayer ? No; " verily we are guilty :” to us belong shame and confusion of face; on our conscience is the sin of throwing away opportunities for spiritual improvement and usefulness that will never more return. We have neglected and grieved a Divine Friend, to whom we owed a debt of gratitude, which through eternity we cannot repay. Holy Spirit! leave us not under thine eternal displeasure ; fill us with thine influences ; inflame our hearts with those desires which thou only canst satisfy; destroy our corruptions; and dwell with us, in our families and in our churches, for ever!
Happy shall I be, dear brethren, if, through the blessing of God, this subject should excite amongst us a greater attention to the work of the Holy Spirit. Let it give a character to our thinking and conversation. Let our petitions for his influences in the closet, at the domestic altar, and in the house of prayer, be more earnest and copious .“ Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find.” The great Howe suggests that we are offered spiritual things only on such God-like terms as these. Had he said, Ask for riches, and
you shall have them ; ask for health, and it shall be given you; ask for 'fame, and you shall obtain it; which of us would to-morrow find poor, afflicted, and obscure ? And, but that we value these things above spiritual blessings, to-morrow would find us affluent, vigorous, and renowned in the kingdom of grace. Amen.
BY ROBERT PHILIP.
HEB. ii. 10.—It became him, for whom are all things, and by
whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
THERE is, perhaps, nothing we understand better, in the conduct of others, than what is becoming or unbecoming in their spirit and deportment. We are almost eagle-eyed to discover, and eaglewinged to catch, whatever is worthy or unworthy of a man's rank and character. And, in general, we are not far wrong, in these prompt and summary decisions on what is becoming and consistent.
This almost instinctive sense of propriety in human conduct might, if wisely employed, enable us to judge wisely of what is becoming in the Divine conduct. For, if we expect wise, good, and great men to act up to their character and avowed principles, we may well expect that the infinitely wise, great, and good God will do nothing unbecoming his character and supremacy. When, therefore, He says that it “ became” him to save sinners, only by the blood of the Lamb, it surely becomes us to search in his character and salvation, not for reasons why redemption could not, or should not, be by atonement; but for reasons why it is so. Now, upon the very surface of the case, it is self-evident that an infinitely wise God would neither do too much nor too little for the salvation of man. Less than enough would not become his love; more than enough would not become his wisdom.
It is, however, said by some, and suspected by more, that an atonement for sin is unnecessary, and, therefore, untrue ; that it would be unjust to lay the punishment of the guilty on the head of the innocent; and, therefore, that Christ did not suffer nor die for others.
This reasoning is as ruinous to its own object as it is fallacious in itself. For Christ did suffer and die in agony, and in ignominy: and if not for others, then, for what? Either Christ's innocence, or God's justice, must be impeached and given up, if the death of the cross was not a sacrifice for sin. Those, therefore, who allow that Christ himself was sinless, and that he suffered, cannot prove that God is just: for to inflict, or allow the infliction of suffering and death on a being perfectly innocent, is flagrant injustice.
The other objections against the atonement may all be as triumphantly answered ; and that by a process of reasoning neither abstract nor abstruse. They have only to be brought fully under the light of eternal glory, as that is revealed in the Bible, in order to be annihilated : for false or superficial views of heaven lie at the foundation of them all.
I. Bringing many sons to glory is God's chief and final object, in all the mercy and grace which he exercises towards man.
Now glory, as a place, is the heaven where God himself dwells and reigns, visibly and eternally. It is his own special temple, resplendent with his presence, and vocal with his worship. It is his own central throne, from which he surveys and rules the universe.
Again, glory, as a state of character, is likeness to the God of heaven ;-it is to bear the image of his spotless holiness, and to breathe the spirit of his perfect love. This is the glory to which God proposes to bring many sons. Now this heaven is so unlike our earth,—where God is altogether invisible, and man so unholy and unloving,—that, to say the least, a very great change for the better must take place in men, before they can be fit for such glory. There are some things in this heaven which are not very agreeable to the natural mind of man ; such as universal and everlasting spirituality and harmony. And then there are in it none of the things which man likes most; such as sensual gratifications and secular honours. Such being the sober facts of the case, (and they are solemn and obvious facts,) it surely“ becomes ” God to take care, that this heaven, which is to be his own eternal temple and throne, shall not be disgraced nor disturbed by the presence of unholy or alienated inhabitants. Were it only for the sake of the innumerable company of angels which are in it, it becomes him “for” whom all angels are obedient and harmonious, and " by ” whom they are all perfectly happy, to take care that neither their bliss nor their