« السابقةمتابعة »
uneducated, to every state and station of life; and to all the differences which arise from different opportunities of acquiring knowledge. Different obligations may result from different means of obtaining information ; but this rule comprises all differences.
The next reflection is, that, in meeting with difficulties, nay, very great difficulties, we meet with nothing strange, nothing but what, in truth, might reasonably have been expected beforehand. It was to be expected that a revelation, which was to have its completion in another state of existence, would contain many expressions which referred to that state ; and which, on account of such reference, would be made clear and perfectly intelligible only to those who had experience of that state, and to us after we had attained to that experience ; whilst, however, in the mean time, they may convey to us enough of information to admonish us in our conduct, to support our hopes, and to incite our endeavours. Therefore the meeting with difficulties, owing to this cause, ought not to surprise us, nor to trouble us overmuch. Seriousness, nay, even anxiety, touching everything which concerns our salvation, no thoughtful man can help; but it is possible we may be distressed by doubts and difficulties more than there is any occasion to be distressed.
Lastly, under all our perplexities, under all the misgivings of mind to which even good men (such is the infirmity of human nature) are subject, there is this important assurance to resort to, that we have a protection over our heads which is constant and abiding ; that God, blessed be his name, is for evermore; that Jesus Christ our Lord is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; that, like as a traveller by land or sea, go where he will, always sees, when he looks up, the same sun; so, in our journey through
a varied existence, whether it be in our present state, or in our next state, or in the awful passage from one to the other; in the world in which we live, or in the country which we seek; in the hour of death, no less than in the midst of health ; we are in the same upholding hands, under the same sufficient and unfailing support.
OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE IN GENERAL.
IN THREE PARTS.
1 Corinthians, iii. 16.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that
the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. There are ways of considering the subject of spiritual influence, as well as a want of considering it, which lay it open to difficulties and to misconceptions. But, if the being liable to misapprehension and to misrepresentation be thought an objection to any doctrine, I know of no doctrine which is not liable to the same : nor any, which has not, in fact, been loaded at various times with great mistakes. :
One difficulty, which has struck the minds of some, is, that the doctrine of an influencing Spirit, and of the importance of this influence to human salvation, is an arbitrary system, making everything to depend, not upon ourselves, nor upon any exertion of our own,
the gift of the Spirit. It is not for us, we allow, to canvass the gifts of God: because we do not, and it seems impossible that we should, sufficiently understand the motive of the Giver. In more than ordinary cases, and in cases more level to our comprehension, we seem to acknowledge the difference between a debt and a gift. A debt is bound, as it were, by known rules of justice: a gift depends upon
the motive of the giver, which often can be known only to himself. To judge of the propriety either of granting or witholding that to which there is no claim, which is, in the strictest sense, a favour, which, as such, rests with the donor to bestow as to him seemeth good, we must have the several motives which presented themselves to the mind of the donor before us. This, with respect to the Divine Being, is impossible. Therefore, we allow that, either in this, or in any other matter, to canvass the gifts of God is a presumption not fit to be indulged. We are to receive our portion of them with thankfulness. We are to be thankful, for instance, for the share of health and strength which is given us, without inquiring why others are healthier and stronger than ourselves. This is the right disposition of mind with respect to all the benefactions of God Almighty toward us.
But unsearchable does not mean arbitrary. Our necessary ignorance of the motives which rest and dwell in the Divine mind, in the bestowing of his grace, is no proof that it is not bestowed by the justest reason. And with regard to the case at present before us, viz. the gifts and graces of the Spirit, the charge against it of its being an arbitrary system, or, in other words, independent of our own endeavours, is not founded in any doctrine or declaration of Scripture. It is not arbitrary in its origin, in its degree, or in its final success.
First, it is not arbitrary in its origin; for you read that it is given to prayer.
“If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask it ;" but whether we will ask it or not depends upon ourselves. It is proposed, you find, as a subject for our prayers ; for prayer, not formal, cold, heartless, transitory, but prayer from the soul,
prayer earnest and persevering ; for this last alone is what the Scripture means by prayer. In this, therefore, it cannot be said to be arbitrary, or independent of our endeavours. On the contrary, the Scripture exhorts us to a striving in prayer for this best of all gifts.
But it will be asked, is not the very first touch of true religion upon the soul, sometimes, at least, itself the action of the Holy Spirit ? This, therefore, must be prior to our praying for it. And so it may be, and not yet be arbitrarily given. The religious state of the human soul is exceedingly various. Amongst others, there is a state in which there may be good latent dispositions, suitable faculties for religion ; yet no religion. In such a state the spark alone is wanting. To such a state the elementary principle of religion may be communicated, though not prayed for. Nor can this be said to be arbitrary. The spirit of God is given where it is wanted; where, when given, it would produce its effect; but that state of heart and mind, upon which the effect was to be produced, might still be the result of moral qualification, improvement, and voluntary endeavour. It is not, I think, difficult to conceive such a case as this.
Nevertheless, it may be more ordinarily true that the gift of the Spirit is holden out to the struggling, the endeavouring, the approaching Christian. When the penitent prodigal was yet a great way off, his Father saw him. This parable was delivered by our Lord expressly to typify God's dealing with such sinners as are touched with a sense of their condition. And this is one circumstance in it to be particularly noticed. God sees the returning mind; sees every step and every advance towards him, “though we be yet a great way off;" yet at a great distànce; though much remains to be done, and to be attained, and to