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ON THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:
MINISTERS AND MESSENGERS OF THE SEVERAL BAPTIST CHURCHES
[WRitten IN 1809.]
WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The subject to which we would invite your attention on the present occasion, is the Influence of the Spirit; which it is not our design to discuss in a doctrinal manner, (taking it for granted you are already established in the belief of a divine agency on the soul, and have a competent acquaintance with its nature and effects,) but rather with a view to assist you in making a suitable improvement of what you already acknowledge and believe. Assuming it on the ground of revelation for an undoubted fact, that there is an operation of the Holy Ghost, to which the regeneration and growth in holiness of every christian is to be primarily imputed, and that without it nothing can be done or attained to any important purpose in religion; we request your candid attention to a few hints respecting the most likely method of securing and perpetuating that blessed influence. To this we are the more encouraged, by remarking the numerous cautions, warnings, and advices, with which the menVOL. I. F F
tion of this subject is joined in the sacred writings; sufficient to show that the doctrine of which it treats is a practical doctrine, not designed to supersede the use of means, or the exercise of our rational powers; but rather to stimulate us to exertion, and teach us how to exert them aright. If ye live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit. Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, by which ye are sealed to the day of redemption. The Spirit, we must remember, is a most free agent, and though he will not utterly forsake the work of his hands, he may be expected to withdraw himself, in a great measure, on being slighted, neglected, or opposed; and as our holiness and comfort depend entirely upon him, it is important for us to know, what deportment is calculated to invite, and what to repel his presence. 1. If we would wish for much of the presence of God by his Spirit, we must learn to set a high value upon it. The first communication of spiritual influence, is, indeed, imparted without this requisite; for it cannot be possessed in any adequate degree except by those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. I am found of them that sought me not. But in subsequent donations, the Lord seems very much to regulate his conduct by a rule, that of bestowing his richest favours where he knows they are most coveted, and will be most prized. The principle whence divine communications flow, is free, unmerited benignity; but in the mode of dispensing its fruits, it is worthy of the supreme Ruler to consult his majesty, by withholding a copious supply, till he has excited in the heart a profound estimation of his gifts. No words are adequate to express the excellence and dignity of the gift of the divine Spirit. While Solomon was dedicating the temple, his great soul appears to have been put into a rapture at the very idea, that he whom the heaven of heavens could not contain, should deign to dwell with man upon the earth. How much more should each of us be transported when he finds the idea realised, by his own heart having become the seat of the divine presence . There are two considerations drawn from scripture, which assist us in forming a conception of the magnitude of this blessing. The first is, that it is the great promise of the christian dispensation, and stands in nearly the same relation to us, that the coming of the Messiah did to pious Jews. They waited for the consolation of Israel in the birth of Christ ; and now that event is past, we are waiting in a similar manner, for the promise of the Spirit, of which the church has hitherto enjoyed but the first fruits. To this, the Saviour, after his resurrection, pointed the expectation of his apostles, as emphatically the promise of the Father, which they were to receive at the distance of a few days; and when it was accomplished at the day of Pentecost, we find Peter insisting on it as the most illustrious proof of his ascension, as well as the chief fruit that converts were to reap from their repentance and baptism. Repent and be baptized, said he, every one