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When any man of a thoughtful, serious temper considers the great decay of practical religion in this nation, and, at the same time, calls to mind the contempt which has been, for many years, cast on the Holy Spirit and his operations, he must readily conclude that this is the grand cause of the corruptions and abominia tions which abound among us. The Spirit has been grieved and offended, and he, in a great measure, is withdrawn and gone; it is therefore no wonder that the religion of the closet and the family is so much neglected, and that public ordinances are of so little benefit to such as in a formal way engage in them.
There is scarce any method which could be taken to affront the Holy Spirit, but has been fallen into, by some or other, in our present day of darkness. The errors formerly held and propagated by the Arians and Macedonians, have been revived, and eager attempts have been made to rob him of his true divinity, and to make him pass for one of the creatures; and some, who would not be reckoned among his enemies, have gone so far, as to recommend it to Christians, to worship
him directly, only occasionally, as prudence and expedience may require, and not to bind it on their own consciences, or upon others, as a necessary thing. The detestable heresy of Sabellius has been raked out of the ashes; for some have denied the Spirit's real Personality, and have pleaded, that he is only a divine power, the active, or the intelligent effective power of God, personalized by some idioms of speech. These oppositions made to the scripture-doctrine of the Holy Spirit's supreme Deity and real Personality, are as outrageous insults as can well be offered him; and the treatment which he
meets with, from the before-mentioned enemies of the truth, must be highly provoking to him.
It must be likewise owned, that the Holy Ghost has high affronts put upon him, by many who do not profess to run the dreadful length of denying his real Personality and divine glory: His work, as a regenerating, converting, sanctifying Spirit, is too commonly denied; and what can only be brought about in a soul dead in trespasses and sins, by his efficacious grace, or by his illuminating the dark mind, bending the stubborn will, and purifying the corrupt affections, is, by many, ascribed to the will and power of the fallen creature, in the whole or in part. It must be acknowledged, that a great wound has been inflicted on practical religion, by the weak and profane ridicule, used by one sort of those who call themselves Christians, as to praying by the Spirit; and the effect of this is such, that he may justly make a considerate man afraid of bantering such a sacred thing; for fervent prayer is almost lost among those who have run the aforesaid length. It would be well, if, when we look nearer home, we could say,
that undue contempt has not been cast on the Spirit's operations. His motions, as a quickener, a convincer, an instructor, and a comforter, are frequently bantered, by such as would not be thought to throw off all regard to the Christian institution; his sealing up believers to the day of redemption, or his witnessing with their spirits, that they are the children of God, is treated with grimace, by some who pretend the Bible is their religion; all that profess to depend on his aid and conduct, are ridiculed as enthusiasts, by such as do not in words deny the authority of scripture. It must with sorrow be said, for though it is a sad truth, it is a real fact, that it has been too common for the Holy Spirit to be left out in preaching upon duty; and it has been too general a thing, to neglect putting such as are pressed to regard their salvation, on keeping up in their minds, a continual sense of their being able to do nothing aright, without his aid and assistance.
Since matters are come to such a sad pass, it certain
ly is the duty of those who have the honour of the Spirit at heart, as the consequence of their having heard his voice, and felt his power, to stand up in vindication of the glory of that almighty agent, who sanctifies, and conducts to the land of uprightness, all the elect of God: Accordingly that late learned judicious divine, the excellent Mr. Hurrion, undertook to discourse of the Holy Spirit's Divinity, Personality, Procession, Office, external and extraordinary Works, and his inward Work on the souls of men. He chose to deliver his thoughts on these great subjects, in that ancient lecture which is carried on at Pinners-hall; which Sermons he proposed to publish, in case he should be spared to finish this work; which he was so desirous of doing, that he said, as I have been told, that if once he eould complete his design, he could say, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.
He was frequently interrupted in his course of preaching by illness, and he had the greatest difficulties to encounter in the composing his discourses, arising from his bad habit of body; however, his delight in the important subject of them was such, that he surmounted obstacles that were seemingly insuperable, and continued labouring the great points he had undertaken to state and defend, when he was scarce able to move about. The last Sermon was preached, not three months before he was dismissed from labour to rest.
Some months before he was taken from us, he told me, that in case of death, which he soon expected, his Sermons on the Deity and Personality of the Spirit should be left to my care, to be published if I saw fit; he hoped to get them transcribed, but in case he should not, he directed me to make two or three alterations in the method, and to add, if I could conveniently, the passages of the ancients, to which he had only referred. He had not then finished his Sermons on the Spirit's external and extraordinary Works, and there was prospect that he would ever do it; but it pleased God to revive him a little, and he went through that part of his design. He did not get any of them transcribed, only he new composed some parts of the five first discourses, and made them much larger than they were at first.
It pleased God that his desires and our wishes were not answered, as to his going through with his whole design: He purposed to discourse on the work of the Spirit in reproving and convincing sinners, and infusing common grace and gifts into some of them; on his work in and upon the redeemed of the Lord, in their union with Christ, justification and adoption, in their regeneration, conversion, and sanctification, in their consolation, perseverance, and growth in grace; on his witnessing to, sealing, leading, and guiding them; on his enabling them to mortify sin, to vanquish temptation, and to bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness; on: his assisting them in prayer, and making intercession for them; and on his raising them from the dead, and giving them eternal life. This would have been a work of labour and time, and it was earnestly wished by several, that it might have been performed by so able and judicious a divine; but it pleased him, in whose hand our times are, 'not to give life and opportunity for this service. He had made some entrance upon it; he had preached one excellent Sermon on the Spirit's convincing sinners, but as he did not finish that part of his main subject, it cannot be published.
When after his decease the Sermons were put into my hands, though they were not revised by the author, yet I found they were every way worthy to be published. I knew that he was very desirous to print them, and especially those in which some notice is taken of Dr. Watts's Dissertations, whose tenets he looked upon to be of a dangerous tendency, and therefore opposed them with an uncommon zeal: However, being sensible how little agreeable discourses of this nature are to the gust of the present age, I was uncertain what reception they might meet with, and so I was not forward to publish them; but I was so earnestly solicited, by many of those who had a value for my