Page images
PDF
EPUB

government maintained; the interruptions of it immediately perceived, bitterly deplored, and soon recovered; sin rejected and repelled; and this not so much with an increase of confidence in our strength, as of reliance upon the assisting grace of God; when we find ourselves touched with the love of our Maker, taking satisfaction in his worship and service; when we feel a growing taste and relish for religious subjects and religious exercises; above all, when we begin to rejoice in the comfort of the Holy Ghost ; in the prospect of reaching heaven; in the powerful aids and helps which are given us in accomplishing this great end, and the strength and firmnesss and resolution which, so helped and aided, we experience in our progress: when we feel these things, then may we, without either enthusiasm or superstition, humbly believe that the Spirit of God hath been at work within us. External virtues good actions will follow, as occasions may draw them forth; but it is within that we most look for the change which the inspiration of God's Spirit produces.

With respect to positive external good actions, we have said that they must depend in some measure upon occasions and abilities and opportunities, and that they must wait for opportunities; but, observe, it is not so with the breaking off of our sins, be they what they will. That work must wait for nothing. Until that be effected, no change is made. going on in a known sin, has any right to say that the Spirit of God has done its office within him. Either it has not been given to him, or, being given, it has been resisted, despised, or, at least, neglected. Such a person has either yet to obtain it by prayer, or, when obtained, to avail himself duly of its assistance. Let him understand this to be his condition.

The next duty, or rather disposition, which flows

No man,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

from the doctrine of spiritual influence is humility. There never was a truer saying than that pride is the adversary of religion; lowliness and humility the tempers for it.-Now religious humility consists in the habit of referring everything to God. From one end of the New Testament to the other, God is set forth and magnified in his agency and his operations.

In the greatest of all businesses, the business of salvation, He is operating, and we cooperating with him. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” and why? "for it is God that worketh in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure.” He is not superseding our endeavours (the very contrary is implied by commanding us to exert them), but still nothing is done without him. If we have moral strength, we are strong in the inward might of the Holy Ghost: consequently all boasting, all vanity, all self-sufficiency, all despising of others on the score of moral and religious inferiority, are excluded. Without the grace of God, we might have been as the worst of them. There is, in the nature of things, one train of sentiment belonging to him who has achieved a work by his own might and power and prowess; and another to him who has been fain to beg for succour and assistance, and by that assistance alone has been carried through difficulties which were too great for his own strength and faculties. This last is the true sentiment for us. It is not for a man whose life has been saved in a shipwreck by the compassionate help of others, it is not for a man so saved, to boast of his own alertness and vigour, though it be true that, unless he had exerted what power and strength he was possessed of, he would not have been saved at all.

Lastly, this doctrine shuts the door against a most general, a most specious, and a most deceiving excuse

[ocr errors]

for our sins; which excuse is, that we have striven against them, but are overpowered by our evil nature, by that nature which the Scriptures themselves represent as evil; in a word, that we have done what we could. Now until, by supplication and prayer, we have called for the promised assistance of God's Spirit, and with an earnestness, devotion, perseverance, and importunity, proportioned to the magnitude of the concern; until we have rendered ourselves objects of that influence, and yielded ourselves to it, it is not true “ that we have done all that we can.” We must not rely upon that excuse ; for it is not true in fact. If, experiencing the depravity and imbecility of our nature, we see in this corruption and weakness an ex. cuse for our sins, and, taking up with this excuse, we surrender ourselves to them : if we give up or relax in our opposition to them and struggles against them, at last consenting to our sins, and falling down with the stream, which we have found so hard to resist; if things take this turn with us, then are we in a state to be utterly, finally, and fatally undone. We have it in our power to shut our eyes against the danger ; we naturally shall endeavour to make ourselves as easy and contented in our situation as we can ; but the truth, nevertheless, is, that we are hastening to certain perdition. If, on the contrary, perceiving the feebleness of our nature, we be driven by the perception, as Saint Paul was driven, to fly from deliverance from our sins, to the aid and influence and power of God's Spirit, to seek for Divine help and succour, as a sinking mariner calls out for help and succour, not formally, we may be sure, or coldly, but with cries and tears and supplications, as for life itself; if we be prepared to cooperate with this help, with the holy working of God's grace within us, then may we trust, both that it will be given us (yet in such manner as to God shall seem fit, and which cannot be limited by us), and also that the portion of help which is given, being duly used and improved (not despised, neglected, put away), more and more will be continually added, for the ultimate accomplishment of our great end and object—the deliverance of our souls from the captivity and the consequences of sin.

XXVI.

SIN ENCOUNTERED BY SPIRITUAL AID.

IN THREE PARTS.

(Part I.)

[ocr errors]

ROMANS, vii. 24. O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me

from the body of this death ? Before we can explain what is the precise subject of this heavy lamentation, and what the precise meaning of the solemn question here asked, we must endeavour to understand what is intended by the expression, “the body of this death,” or, as some render it, “this body of death.”

Now let it be remembered that death, in Saint Paul's Epistles,' hardly ever signifies a natural death, to which all men of all kinds are equally subjected ; but it means a spiritual death, or that perdition and destruction to which sin brings men in a future state. “The wages of sin is death ;” not the death which we must all undergo in this world; for that is the fate of righteousness as well as sin ; but the state, whatever it be, to which sin and sinners will be consigned in the world to come. Not many verses after our text, Saint Paul says, “carnal-mindedness is death :”

:" “to be carnally minded is death,” leads, that is, inevitably, to that future destruction which awaits the sinful indulgence of carnal propensities, and which destruction is, as it were, death to the soul. The

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »