Page images


This influence is not under human controul.

Proposition III.

The influence and operation of this Divine Spirit are not always accessible and waiting upon the creature's pleasure, but only accessible through patience, watching, and prayer. For this influence is frequently withdrawn from the righteous themselves, to prove their faith, allegiance, and necessary dependence upon God alone; and it is withdrawn also from the disobedient even as an accuser, after they have repeatedly slighted its reproofs and rebelled against its laws.

It is generally agreed that the Gift of the Spirit is a free gift-an act of grace-bestowed liberally upon all that ask it in a right disposition of mind. It is also universally diffused among men, though in many nations and in many minds, we have lamentable proof, that it is grievously oppressed. But, as the original seed was freely sown in the hearts of all men, so every accession to its power and influence, however small, is rightly termed a free gift, or renewed visitation,-in Scripture, a renewing of the Holy Spirit, because it is dispensed in unconstrained bounty from God himself. Therefore, as it is a free gift, so its sensible influence, for many wise

purposes, may be occasionally withdrawn. And, accordingly, it appears to be consistent with the will of Providence, that no mortal should enjoy its uninterrupted effusion, so as not to stand in need of renewed supplies: whether it be that the present life is incompatible with such a moral paradise; or that the human soul, while clothed with mortality, is unable to bear such a continued display of divine favour, lest it should be exalled above measure. The petition for daily bread, which, applied to spiritual support, is the renewing of the Holy Spirit, is an exercise, with which no living mortal, however dignified before the Lord, can dispense. For, if it were otherwise, he would be independent of heavenly food-and this is not more possible than that he should be independent of outward food ;—and he would be living as it were out of the Divine Harmony, which requires that God should be all in all-not only the Creator, but the Preserver, and Nourisher of his true Seed.

"No man," it is said, "hath power over the Spirit to retain the Spirit."* Though it is also declared that "he that asketh, receiveth." Therefore, the influence and operations of the spirit are not under the controul of man, but entirely subject to the will of God. And until it can be proved that the natural abilities can lawfully interfere in spiritual things, so as to make true spiritual growth and increase, it must remain an incontrovertible truth, that the Spirit of the Lord in the soul of man can alone direct the path of

* Eccles. 8. 8.

[ocr errors]

the just, and is his only sufficient guide and teacher in the way of Holiness.

David himself, dignified as he was, petitions the Almighty not to take his Holy Spirit from him. "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit."*

If it be demonstrated from Scripture, that the only way in which the favour, notice, or counsel of the Supreme Being, in other words, the evidence of Divine Truth, can be obtained or communicated to his creature, is by a special act of Grace, freely given, or vouchsafed to the repeated petitions and applications of his children; it is clear that the effusions of his love and the influence of his spirit are not always accessible to man, and to be ensured by the exercises of the understanding in obedience to the activity of the will.

By what mysterious operation this Divine gift is communicated or withheld, we are ignorant; and have nothing to do with the metaphysical question whether it be a part of the mind itself as one of its attributes, or a casual unconnected visitant. It is sufficient that we know the fact, that the good are not always able to rejoice under its influence, and that the wicked do not always feel the stings of conscience, being hardened against its reproofs.

* Ps. 51. 10. 12.

The true adopted child of Grace, in other words, of the Heavenly Father's love and bounty, stands nearly in the same state of dependance, in which the outward creation is placed with regard to the immediate care of Divine Providence. No man, by his natural powers, can command the sun to shine, or the rain to fall, upon the earth. His reason indeed enables him to provide imperfectly in their absence, and he may have many contrivances and substitutes: for he may have artificial light and heat, as well as artificial cisterns, for temporary use. But these will all be partial and inefficient: and, for the growth of his seed, to complete the joy of harvest, he must wait the Lord's time, both for the quickening ray, and for the refreshing dew.

In like manner, no human being, with all the powers of the most expanded intellect, can, by reasoning, procure the influence of a single ray of divine light upon the soul. Man has provided himself, notwithstanding, with many substitutes-with secondary and inferior helps-in his own will and wisdom. But attempts to reach heaven in this way are as futile now, as was the tower of Babel formerly.

Now, if the righteous, or they, who, in simplicity and sincerity, endeavour to perform their duties, cannot always command this influence; how is it possible that those who build upon the success of their own reasonings and inquiries for an advancement in true Religion, can hope to secure the blessing? Will these argue that they can do without it?

Admitting that there is such an influence; it must come in its own way: speculative Reason cannot bring it. If they deny such an influence, then Reason must be their God or the power in which their confidence is placed; and no argument from Scripture can make an impression. If they admit such an influence, yet bring themselves to believe and act as though they can do without it; then they set up an authority for themselves, while God hath established an authority for others; and flatter themselves that their own is what preserves the world from error, and that insisted upon in Revelation, is what deceives the multitude, and leads its simple-hearted votaries into nothing but Enthusiasm.

If God is pleased, in order to try the faith and love of his children, to withdraw his light even from them for a season, and to leave them as in the darkness and shadow of Death, can we conceive that he will impart it to the proud, and to those who in the confidence of their own sufficiency will admit nothing else but human wisdom for their guide and counsellor? But it is to be observed, that although the memory, what if I say the intellect, may be stored with traditional truths from the fountain of revelation itself, which some may plead as their sufficient help; yet these truths, excellent as they are, must imbue the mind with their own spirit, and impregnate it with their own virtue, before they can nourish the pure seed of God in the soul, and produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit in life and conduct. The history of mankind

« PreviousContinue »