Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XVII.

THE PROPERTIES OF THE SPIRIT'S INFLUENCE.

We have already discoursed upon the personality and nature of the Holy Spirit; we have also endeavoured to learn from Scripture what purposes his influence is designed to effect. It remains now that we should explain, in order to prevent enthusiasm, the properties of his operation; and that we should also expose the impious, though too prevalent error of denying the reality of his agency upon the hearts of them that believe.

First then, This influence of the Holy Ghost is secret, and discernable only by its fruits. The Spirit is not to be conceived of as using violence or constraint on man, but as acting in a way similar to what we observe in the established course of nature. Accordingly, the prophets, the apostles, and the Son of God, refer us to the growth of the vegetable world for the illustration of the Spirit's influence. As the juices of the earth are first absorbed by the root, from whence they gradually ascend the trunk, and thence are diffused to the branches, producing blossoms and fruits to the admiration of every spectator, though the most penetrating eye cannot discern how; so it is with the agency of the Spirit. The life of holiness in the soul of one born of the Spirit appears in his actions, discourse, desires, affections, and most secret thoughts. Every one that diligently observes him can perceive the excellent fruits of this life, but the Author of it is invisible, and the method by which it has been produced and maintained is incomprehensible.

Secondly; Though the Spirit's influence is secret, silent, and not to be observed but by its fruits, yet it is most powerful in the effects produced. The new creature in Christ Jesus, is born to conflict, toil, and labour. Born for fight, and intended for victory; but not at present formed to enjoy, so much as to act. A power, therefore, proportioned to the difficulties with which a Christian has to struggle, and to the enemies with whom he has to contend, must be continually supplied. And this

nor

is granted : “ Whosoever is born of God, overcometh the world;" the love of its pleasures cannot corrupt him, the fear of its frowns dismay him; he marches on in the strength of God, and will not be turned out of the path of his duty. But the influence by which such a victory is maintained, must be full of energy; and those who stand in this condition, must be “ kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”

Thirdly, The influence of the Holy Ghost is always exactly correspondent to the written word, and preserved and increased in the use of the means of grace. He makes no new revelations, but gives success and efficacy to what is already revealed. He accomplishes no other change in the habits, sentiments, and feelings of the soul, than what the sacred oracles point out, and such as to unprejudiced reason must appear excellent and desirable. 'He works by means apt and suitable in themselves for the maintenance and increase of holiness, though his influence is entirely distinct in itself from those means. As the life of the body, though upheld by a divine power from moment to moment, is not maintained miraculously, but in the use of food, rest and sleep; so the soul of the regenerate, who walks in the Spirit and lives in the Spirit

, • desires the sincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby;" he prays and watches; and by the use of his enlightened sanctified reason, he avoids what would endanger his soul, and chooses that by which it can be profited.

Fourthly, The influence of the Holy Ghost is various in the degrees of its communication and operation. All who are the blessed partakers of the Holy Ghost, not only differ from others who share the same privilege, but from themselves at different seasons, in the degree of benefit they receive. Some have much more light and joy, strength and vigour, than others; and there is often a quick succession of peace and trouble, of tranquillity and conflict. But this variety respecting those who are under the government of the same Spirit, is generally owing to the different degrees of watchfulness, diligence and fidelity in the use of the talents already committed to their care.-The Spirit, we are taught, is often “grieved," and in a degree - quenched” by carelessness, neglect, and

[merged small][ocr errors]

much more by a fall into some known sin. In such cases the paternal justice of God requires that proper rebukes should be given; that his children, feeling their own deadness and uncomfortable thoughts, may be more vigilant for the time to come, and avoid all undutiful deportment. For the same reason, in order to encourage and reward the zealous obedience of those who more carefully and faithfully adhere to God, studying to serve him with their whole hearts; the Father and Son will abundantly manifest their favour to them by the Holy Spirit, and come and make their abode with them.

We have now explained with sufficient copiousness the nature of the Holy Spirit's influence: it remains only that we should conclude this subject with a remark upon the impiety of the opinions but too fashionable in the present day, which vilify his gracious operation as the chimera of a heated brain, and the reverie of enthusiasts. To cover the impiety of such opinions, it is common to urge the bold and shameless pretences of enthusiasts to the influence of the Holy Ghost, and to appeal to our ignorance of any such influence on our own minds. Arguments these as frivolous and vain, as the opinion they are urged to justify is impious in the sight of God. For what can possibly be conceived more weak than to ridicule and explode a doctrine merely because it has been abused to purposes totally opposite to its real tendency? If there is any force in this argument, we must renounce the use of reason, no less than the belief of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. For what can be more hurtful to society, what more injurious to the honour of God and the wellbeing of man, than that licentiousness which many of the loudest declaimers upon the excellence of reason have recommended in her name? If the foolish jargon used by wild visionaries, who falsely lay claim to the Spirit's influence, to sanction their nonsense, cover their pride, or screen their villany or lewdness, will justify the total denial of any operation of the Spirit on the hearts of the faithful: then surely we must also allow that the execrable blasphemies uttered against God's most holy word, by those who pique themselves on being eminently rational, would vindicate the suppression of the exercise of the rational faculty; or at least would give ground to represent it as mischievous in itself, and ever to be suspected. But does not every intelligent person in this case distinguish the use from the abuse of reason? Surely, then, reason, candour, and the authority of the Almighty, require you to judge in the same way concerning the work of the Spirit; and not to condemn the genuine offspring of the Holy Ghost, by confounding it with the base counterfeit that may

in some points slightly resemble it. And whoever refuses to be at the pains of examining by scripture marks and evidences, before he determines what is the work of the Spirit, it is plain that the corruption of his heart has filled him with enmity to the doctrine of the Spirit's influence; and therefore, with criminal rashness, he confounds things which are essentially different,—the spirit of delusion with the Spirit of truth.

The other argument urged by many with an air of confidence against the influence of the Holy Ghost on the heart, is as frivolous; namely, their ignorance of any such operation upon their own minds. “We experience," exclaim the careless and the proud, the gay and the voluptuous, “nothing of this kind; therefore argue as you please concerning it, we cannot believe it to be any thing more than the creature of imagination.” But what palpable absurdity is this! In every other instance you

would condemn it as weak reasoning. Were a man to tell you that he would never believe that there is in another any excellency superior to what he himself possesses, because he does not experience it, would you not think his stupidity too great to deserve an answer? We do not esteem brutes capable of judging of the properties of man; nor one man in some instances, more capable of judging of the perfections of another. Such as have exercised themselves with success in philosophical studies, are conscious of pleasure in them, to which others are absolute strangers. Now, should a clown, in the grossness of his ignorance and the narrowness of his understanding, scoff at the mention of such pleasures, and be confident there was no reality in them, surely it would be accounted a piece of folly too gross to need a formal confutation. But the difference between the spiritual man, and the man who apprehends no more than what his own reason can teach him, is much greater than what subsists between the most

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

illiterate peasant, and the most renowned philosopher. The difference between those that are born after the Spirit, and those that are born only after the flesh, is described in Scripture by these strong terms: “a passing from a state of death to life; out of darkness into marvellous light;" it implies the exercise of the faculties and affections of the mind with esteem, frequency, and light, on what before was neglected, despised, abhorred. For men therefore to say, We will not admit there is now any operation of the Holy Ghost on the soul, because we feel not his influence on our own, is to make their knowledge the measure of all reality; the folly and fallacy of which is obvious. They may know indeed how the case is with themselves; that there is no such thing as the work of the Holy Ghost on their hearts: no enlightening of their understanding; no change in their own affections, no desire of nearer and still nearer approach to God, no thirsiing after his presence, no heavenly joy and consolation in Christ Jesus. This all men, who are destitute of repentance and faith in Jesus, may with the greatest truth affirm of themselves, for the Scripture declares it of them. But positively and confidently to assert that this must be the case with all others likewise, is to reject the essential difference on earth between the heirs of salvation and the children of the wicked one. It is impudently to deny the work of the Spirit, and the life maintained by him; though in Scripture there is a clear, full, and distinct account of this work, and of the life produced in the soul by him, of its nature and operations, its pains and enjoyments, its declensions and revivals. To deny therefore the reality of these things, is to lie against the Holy Ghost, and to prove manifestly that you have no share in him. lie against him; because if there be no work and operation of the Holy Ghost, then the Scriptures, which holy men of old wrote through his inspiration, and which give a particular account of his continual presence and influence with the church, are no better than a fabulous tale. And it proves that you have no share in him, since

you

could not speak with malicious words against this divine Agent, who impresses the truth of God on the heart, unless you were yourself, alas! “ earthly, sensual, having not the Spirit.'

* See Prayer the 7th.

is to

« PreviousContinue »