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take up the daily cross to our natural inclinations? to deny ourselves the pleasures of sense, or the allurements of interest, when they are inconsistent with purity? The deficient practice of all mankind, while they have not their dependence on Divine aid, is a clear answer to these questions; for however fair the outward conduct may appear, if the source of action---the heart, be not purified, which it can only be through the operation of Divine power, it only wants the storms of temptation to overthrow the fabric: and, as the nature of sin is the same in all, though its modi. fications may be various, so we are all equally in need of this assistance the learned with the ignorant—the philosopher with the peasant.
Persons possessed of good natural dispositions, and placed in situations favourable to regular conduct, may have a sort of habitual morality, which leaves us nothing to accuse them of; but let them not suppose themselves secure on that account. That virtue which is not the effect ofprinciple is of very uncertain duration, and we are all required to improve our talents and advantages. We ought also to remember, that Christianity goes upon the necessity of a change of our nature and affections, as the only sure means of producing conduct, consistent with the purity of its precepts, under all circumstances; even where our private interests and inclinations may be opposed to it. The work of religion, if properly undertaken, is sure in its end, but it is of gradual, and sometimes, from the prevalence of our iusts, of painful operation; and is our minds are sufficiently awakened to the subject, nobe will find time for idleness or seif-security.
*In those sublime and instructive conversations
* Jobu xiv. 15-27. xv. xvi. 1-14, and xvii.
which our Saviour had with his disciples, a short time previous to his suffering, as well as in that ever-memorable prayer he offered up for them, he has shown that the great purpose of his mission was to reveal the way of Truth, and to establish a spiritual communion and communication with himself and the Father, through the Holy Spirit, for our help and direction in the way of righteousness. The necessity of keeping ир
this communication, in order to the production of Fruit, is beautifully, and incontrovertibly set forth, in the parable of the Vine and the Branches. This Spirit, he also declared, was to lead into all truth, and to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment; thus comprehending every thing that can relate to salvation, or the knowledge of God. These declarations are in themselves decisive, and as they are elucidated by the Apostles, they become further confirmed. The manner in which they have reasoned on the operations of the Spirit, and declared its effects, clearly show, that to it was attributed their progress in the Christian life. For though some had extraordinary gifts for the service of the Church, as appears by 1 Cor. chap. xii. yet these being for specific purposes, could not be expected to be possessed by all. But the Apostle says, “a manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” This shows its general intention with respect to mankind at large. And the extraordinary gifts he enumerates, had ultimately the same tendency, by an unusual display of Divine power, to strike conviction on the mind of the most unenlightened, as well as to remove the opposition and prejudices of the Jews, who had become so much attached to the ritual of the law, that it was with difficulty they would admit the evidences
of a religion, so pure and spiritual as Christianity.
It is remarkable, in the chapter just named, as well as in that which immediately follows, how earnestly the Apostle recommends them to covet the best gifts, in contradistinction to those which were extraordinary; and concludes by showing what he calls “ a more excellent way,” pointing out the possession of Charity, as comprehending the substance of Christianity, to be a transcendent object of attainment; without which, all other qualifications, how extraordinary soever, are of no value: and in continuation, in the next chapter, the xivth he shows, by a course of strong and clear reasoning, the superiority of the gift of prophecy, or speaking to edification, exhortation, and comfort, over that of speaking with tongues; which further confirms the opinion, that the direct and permanent object of spiritual gifts, was 'the establishment of righteousness. It is therefore quite consistent with sound reason to conclude, that after Christianity was firmly established, the miraculous gists would be withdrawn; an opinion, which is without detriment to the continuation of those çifts, which remain to be necessary in the constitution of a Christian church. Hence gospel ministry, as well as other qualifications for the spiritual service of the church, must continue to be derived from the same source; and is therefore not dependent on human learning or attainments, though our usefulness may be increased by the possession of them. Nor let any one suppose, that this opinion leads to enthusiasm or self-exaltation. Spiritual gifts are not at our command, and no man receives them, who is not promoting the work of redemption in his own mind; and as every step he takes in advance, must be preceded
and followed by a perception of his own imperfection and unworthiness, it must have a constant tendency to produce humility, meekness, and gentleness: and if these effects are not produced such a person is deceiving himself. Å due degree of earnestness and fervency in our religious duties, is, however very proper; and must necessarily follow an advancement in the knowledge and love of God.
It appears, therefore, that those who ascribe pride or enthusiasm to a belief in this doctrine, have a mistaken view of it. Perhaps they have never examined the writings of the Evangelists and Apostles with sufficient attention; or have been misled by a strong attachment to pre-conceived opinions, which may have been inculcated in early youth.
It is not unusual for such persons to ask for definitions and explanations on this subject, which from its nature cannot be given.
We may be very sure of a thing which we feel, though we may fail in defining that feeling to the satisfaction of another, who is not inclined to admit it. Our own experience teaches us, bow slowly we admit an outward fact, when the mind is fore closed against it; much more things of a less tangible nature. To such persons it may be observed, that those impressions which are not received into the mind, through the medium of the outward senses, are not in their nature capable of explanation, except by their effects; in the same way, as many of our common feelings can only be explained, by a reference to similar feelings in others. We feel the influence of the Spirit of Truth, reproving us for the evil of our thoughts and conduct, and constraining us to aspire after greater purity of life and manners;
and humbling us under a sense of our weakness and imperfections; and having this feeling, we know that it exists, although the exact way of its operation may be difficult to define, to those who are indisposed to acknowledge the same infuence. We also find it conformable to those descriptions of its nature and effects, which we meet with in the New Testament. Our Saviour's words to Nicodemus seem to confirm these remarks :“ The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Those therefore, who would deprive Christianity of its spiritual character, would deprive it of what is, its distinguishing and superior recommendation. For, from this cause alone can arise that uniform and exemplary morality, which is the possession only of inward worth, and of a mind purified on Christian principles. '*Any person who will attentively read the New Testament, must be convinced, if plain evidence will do it, that the religion taught by Christ is spiritual in its nature, and must therefore have a spiritual ministration.t It cannot be supposed, when we consider those pathetic illustrations of the paternal regard of our Creator, which have been given by Christ in his discourses, that our Almighty parent would require from us, a degree of purity which he would not enable us to attain. Indeed, there is no adequate reason, unless the fault be on our part, why the effusion of the Holy Spirit should be attended with less power now, miraculous gifts apart, than it was in the days of the primitive Christians. Though all men have sufficient illumination to guide their
* Romans, viii. 1-17. 1 Cor. ii. 9-16. - Galat. v. 16-26.
+ Coios, i. 21-29.