« AnteriorContinuar »
1. The manner of the Spirit's operation is secret anil mysterious. It is difficult, if not impossible, sully to explain it. We cannot in many cases distinguish between the motions of the Spirit, and those of our own minds, between the immediate suggestions of the Holy Ghost, and the dictates of our own reafon. For this reafon, our Saviour uses a sigure of speech expressive of indeterminate and incomprehensible operation: "The ** wind," fays he, " bloweth where it listeth, and thou "hearcst the found thereof, but canst not tell whence "it cometh, and whither it goeth: fo is every one "that is born of the Spirit." But we must not therefore deny the reality of this operation. We must not deny that God acts powersully upon the' mind, because we are unable sully to comprehend the manner of his operation. Are there not many things in the world which we know to be certain facts, and whichno man in his fenses will pretend to dispute, os which, however we cannot give any tolerable account? Are we not all os us sensible that our fouls are united to our bodies? Do we not seel the mutual influence which they have on each other? and yet, Which of us can pretend to fay injwhat this union consists? We are assured, both from reafon and revelation, that God works through all in the natural world, that his presence supports and animates the whole creation; and. yet we are strangers to. the manner of his agency; or, in the language of Solomon, "As we know not "the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow "in the womb of her that is with child; even fo we "know not the works of God who maketh all."
2. The manner of this operation, is likewise various and different. God is not consined to one uniformmethod in dispensing his grace; he is an insinitely wise and free agent, who has persect knowledge of the heart of man, and divides to every one severally as he wills. Many indeed, and various, are the means he is pleased to employ. Sometimes he awakens the conscience with awsul convictions of guilt; fometimes he melts the heart with the deepest anguish and sorrow; sometimes, again, he captivates the assections with delightsul views of the love of God; and at other time;, he carries on this work in such a silent and insensible manner, that it maybe almost impossible to say wheni; was begun, or how carried on. But whatever method he is pleased to employ, the efsect is invariablythe fame: an unseigned love to God, a cordial trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and a sincere affection to our brethren, are the genuine fruits of the Holy Spirit, in whatever manner they may be produced by him.
3. The manner of the Spirit's operation, is always
fersectly suitable to the operations of our own mines• t is a most dangerous mistake in religion, to thint, that the Spirit of God offers violence to the will; fcr this would be to destroy that liberty, which is the distinguishing glory of our nature, and renders us accountable for all our actions. ' ]Nb; whatever some may have salsely insinuated, nothing is more rational, nothing more consistent with the liberty of man, than the operation of the Holy Spiiit. This Blessed Agent acts really and powersully upon the mind, but he uses no force or compulsion his insluence is always consistent with the operations of our saculties, infomuch that it is often difficult to distinguish it from the rational exercise of our own thoughts; norcouU we of ourselves discover the source from which they proceeded, if we were not assured by Divine revelation, that the Holy Spirit is the author of thent/Bi
4. He enlightens the darkened mind, and makes it see the things of religion in their reality and importance. Formerly the mind was involved in thick darkness, being, as the apostle emphatically expresses it, "alienated from the lise of God, through the ign^"ranee that was in it, because os the blindness ot fl* "heart." But now, God %s, Let there be light; and immediately the clouds are dispersed, the day begins to dawn, and the day-star to arise; then thi mind is sixed in attention, its powers are awakened
• aiu and the man is brought to serious reflection. Things now appear to him in a different light from what they did before; he sees the native deformity of sin, and is fully convinced of its fearsul consequences. Once he entertained a fond opinion of his own merit and abilities; he imagined himself rich and increased in goods, and standing in need of nothing; but now he discerns the lurking corruption of his heart, that he. is poor, and miserable, and wretched, and naked, and blind. In a word, he has juster ideas of God, of Christ, and of the method of falvation which thegospel displays.
5. The Holy Spirit influences the mind to give alively and steady assent to the truths of religion. These truths seem no longer to be vain conceits, but things of which the mind is sirmly persuaded. It has obtained the knowledge of them by divine illumination, and they appear to it real and substantial, and worthy of its principal attention. Formerly, the sinner could not perhaps but affent to the evil of sin, and the vanity of the world, in his hours of retirement and serious reflection; but this assent was then wavering and inconstant, like the morning cloud, and the early dew which pafleth away: whereas now, his conscience is deeply impressed with a permanent and lively sense of sin; he seels its bitterness, and nothing can fatisfy his mind, but pardon and forgiveness. Formerly, he esteemed himself for his own fancied excellencies, and presumptuoufly despised the method of falvation presented to him in the gospel; but now, his .mind being come to the knowledge of itself, he values a Saviour above every thing else; or,in the language of the holy apostle, " what things "were gain to him, now he counteth loss for Christ; "yea, doubtless, he counteth all things but loss for "the excellency of the knowledge of his Lord and "Saviour."
6. The Holy Spirit likewise sets the mind at liberty from the prevailing influence of lust and vicious inclinations. Evil pallions formerly reigned in the heart; the will was difaffected to God and religion, while it was strongly attached to sin. Hence, reafon had not its proper influence; the best instructions were altogether ineffectual; and the motions of the Spirit were stifled in the foul. This deplorable state is emphatically represented in scripture, under the image of a stony heart, and a carnal mind. "The ** carnal mind," fays the apostle, " is enmity against '* God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither ** indeed can be." But now, Almighty grace interposing, this enmity of the heart is subdued, and the will difarmed of its prejudice and opposition. Thus the mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into a standing water, and the flinty rock into a springing well.
7. God, by his powersul renewing grace, gives a new direction to the will, and renders it obedient to the will of God. Having thus delivered the foul from the bondage of corruption, he restores it to the glorious liberty of the children of God; he excites in the mind those holy dispositions, and implants those divine qualities by which it is inwardly renewed and disposed to walk with God. This is expressed in scripture*, by giving men a new heart, and putting a new spirit within them ; the accomplishment os which, God claims as his own prerogative. Formerly, the Spirit met with the keenest opposition in the foul; all his strivings with it were ineffectual, and the sinner remained inflexibly wicked. But now, a mighty arm is revealed, the sceptre of his kingdom, and rod of his strength. All obstructions are removed; every high imagination is brought down; and sinners are made a willing people in the day of his power.
But surther, God not only works in his people to •will, but likewise to do, by affording them all necesfary sary assistance for performing the various duties of the Christian lise.
Having begun the good work in the foul, he does not accomplish it all at once, but carries it on by a gradual progress. The Spirit not only implants the feed of grace in the heart, but he waters it by his special influence, and makes it grow up to a ripeness for glory. Having lighted the divine flame in the foul, he does- not leave it to faint and die away, but is continually dispensing new supplies for its nourishment and strength. He excites such gracious disposition* as he has implanted in the heart; he communicates light and assistance suitable to the various wants of the Christian, and thus enables him to improve in virtue, to resifl the strongest temptations.; while he at the fame time enlivens every period of his lise with joy and comfort. In a word, this Blessed Spirit resides in the pious foul, and leads it on from strength to strength, till at last it appear before God in Zion. We proposed,
III. To offer fome reflections for illustrating the reafon in the text, " Os his own good pleasure."
1. God is under no constraint or necessity to concern himself for our happiness. He is insinitely great and glorious, independently happy in himself, and therefore can have no inducement, from sear or advantage, to entertain any affection for the fons of men. Justly indeed may we adopt the language of Eliphaz,Can a man be prositable unto God, as he "that is wise maybe prositable to himself? Is it anj "pleasure to the Almighty, that we are righteous,
or is it any gain to him, that we make our way j "persect (a)?" Our righteousness may indeed prosit men like ourselves, but-our goodness cannot extend to God, whose happiness is unalterably secured in the enjoyment of his own persections.
2. As God is under no obligation on his own part*' te work in us any thing spiritually good; so neither
2 D U (*) Job. »u. », 3.