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tion in the conduct of those who hold the doctrine of which we treat, I am uncertain ; accounts are different: but at any rate the objection lies, not against the doctrine, but against a defective apprehension of it. For, in confirmation of all which we have said, we may produce the example of Saint Paul. No one carried the doctrine of spiritual influence higher than he did, or spoke of it so much; yet no character in the world could be farther than his was from resting in feelings and sensations. On the contrary, it was all activity and usefulness. His whole bistory confirms what he said of himself, that, in labours, in positive exertions both of mind and body, he was above mea
It will be said, perhaps, that these exertions were in a particular way, viz. in making converts to his opinions ; but it was the way in which, as he believed, he was promoting the interest of his fellow-creatures in the greatest degree possible for him to promote them; and it was the way also which he believed to be enjoined upon him by the express and particular command of God.
Had there been any other method, any other course and line of beneficent endeavours, in which he thought he could have been more useful, and had the choice been left to himself (which it was not), the same principle, the same eager desire of doing good would have manifested itself with equal vigour in that other line. His sentiments and precepts corresponded with his example. “Do good unto all men, especially unto them that are of the household of Christ.” Here doing is enjoined. Nothing less than doing can satisfy this precept. Feelings and sensations will not, though of the best kind. “Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour with his hands, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” This is carrying active beneficences as far as it can go. Men are commanded to relieve the necessities of their poor brethren out of the earnings of their manual labour, nay, to labour for that very purpose : and their doing so is stated as the best expiation for former dishonesties, and the best proof how much and how truly they are changed from what they were. “Let him that ruleth, do it with diligence." This is a precept which canrot be complied with without activity. These instructions could not come from a man who placed religion in feelings and sensations.
Having noticed this objection (for it well deserved notice), I proceed to state the particular duties which relate to the doctrine of spiritual assistance. And the first of these duties is to pray for it. It is by prayer that it is to be sought; by prayer that it is to be obtained. This the Scriptures expressly teach. .
• How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ?” The foundation of prayer, in all cases, is a sense of want. prays in earnest, or to any purpose, for what he does not feel that he wants. Know then and feel the weakness of your nature.
Know the infinite importance of holding on, nevertheless, in a course of virtue. Know these two points thoroughly, and you can stand in need of no additional motive (indeed none can be added) to excite in you strong unweariềd supplications for Divine help; not a cold asking for it in any prescribed form of prayer, but cryings and supplications for it, strong and unwearied. The description, in the ‘Epistle to the Hebrews,’of our Lord's own devotion, may serve to describe the devotion of a Christian, praying as he ought, for the Spirit, that is, praying from a deep understanding of his own condition, a conviction of his wants and necessities. “He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death;
and was heard in that he feared.” This is devotion in reality
There are occasions also which ought to call forth these prayers with extraordinary and peculiar force.
Is it superstition? is it not, on the contrary, a just and reasonable piety to implore of God the guidance of his Holy Spirit, when we have anything of great importance to decide upon, or to undertake ; especially anything by which the happiness of others, as well as our own, is likely to be affected ?
It would be difficult to enumerate the passages and occasions of a man's life, in which he is particularly bound to apply to God for the aid and direction of his Spirit. In general, in every turn, as it may
be called, of life; whenever anything critical, anything momentous, anything which is to fix our situation and course of life; most especially anything which is likely to have an influence upon our moral conduct and disposition, and thereby affect our condition as candidates for heaven, and as the religious servants of God, is to be resolved upon, there and then ought we to say our prayers ; most ardently supplicating from our Creator and Preserver the grace and guidance of his Holy Spirit.
Is it not, again, a time for calling earnestly for the Spirit of God, and for a greater measure of that Spirit, if he be pleased to grant it to us, when we are recovering from some sin in which we have been betrayed ? This case is always critical. The question now is, whether we shall fall into a settled course of sinning, or whether we shall be restored to our former, and to better than our former, endeavours to maintain the line of duty. That, under the sting and present alarm of our conscience, we have formed resolutions of virtue for the future is supposed: but whether these resolutions will stand is the point now at issue.
And in this peril of our souls we cannot be too earnest or importunate in our supplications for Divine succour. It can never come to our aid at a time when we more want it. Our fall proves our weakness. Our desire of recovery proves, that, though fallen, we may not be lost. This is a condition which flies to aid and help, if aid and help can be had ; and it is a condition to which the promised support of the Spirit most peculiarly applies. On such an occasion, therefore,
. it will be sought with struggles and strong contention of mind, if we be serious in these matters ; so sought, it will be obtained.
Again ; Is it not always a fit subject of prayer that the Holy Spirit would inform, animate, warm, and support our devotions ? Saint Paul speaks of the cooperation of the Spirit with us in this very article. “ Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought : but the Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered.” The specific help here described is to supply our ignorance. But the words speak also generally of helping our infirmities, meaning, as the passage leads us to suppose, the infirmities which attend our devotion. Now these infirmities are not only ignorance, but coldness, wanderings, absence ; for all which a remedy is to be sought in the aid and help of the Spirit.
Next in order of time to praying for the Spirit of God, but still superior to it in importance, is listening and yielding ourselves to his suggestions. This is the thing in which we fail. Now, it being confessed that we cannot ordinarily distinguish at the time the sug- . gestions of the Spirit from the operations of our minds, it be asked, how are we to listen to them? The answer is, by attending universally to the admonitions within us.-Men do not listen to their consciences.
It is through the whisperings of conscience that the Spirit speaks. If men then are wilfully deaf to their consciences they cannot hear the Spirit. If hearing, if being compelled to hear the remonstrances of conscience, they nevertheless decide and resolve and determine to go against them : then they grieve, then they defy, then they do despite to, the Spirit of God. In both cases, that is, both of neglecting to consult, and of defying when they cannot help feeling the admonitions which rise up within them, they have this judgment hanging over their heads : “He that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” He that misuses or abuses the portion and measure of spiritual assistance, which is afforded him, shall lose even that.
The efficacy of the Spirit is to be judged of by its fruits. Its immediate effects are upon the disposition. A visible outward conduct will ensue; but the true seat of grace and of spiritual energy is in the heart and inward disposition. Whenever, therefore, we find religious carelessness succeeded within us by religious seriousness; conscience, which was silent or unheard, now powerfully speaking and obeyed; sensuality and selfishness, the two grand enemies of salvation, the two great powers of darkness which rule the natural man; when we find even these giving way to the inward accusing voice of conscience: when we find the thoughts of the mind drawing or drawn more and more towards heavenly things: the value and interest of these expectations plainer to our view, a great deal more frequent than heretofore in our meditations, and more fully discerned; the care and safety of our souls rising gradually above concerns and anxieties about worldly affairs; when we find the force of temptation and of evil propensities not extinct, but retreating before a sense of duty; self