Obrazy na stronie
[ocr errors]

are its guides, rulers, and overseers. Rom. xii. 8. 1 Cor. xii. 28. 1 Tim. v. 17. 1 Thess. v. 12. Heb. xiii. * 17. This rule is spiritual, and has nothing in common with the administration of the powers of this world. It belongs to the kingdom of Christ, which is "not of this world:" and the design of this rule is purely the edification of the church,-the increase of the faith and obedience of all its members, mortification of sin, fruitfulness in good works, the consolation of believers, and the recovery of backsliders. Hence it appears what is the nature of those qualifications, and of that skill which is necessary in those by whom this rule is administered; and these we affirm to be a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost. If it were only skill in the civil or canon law (an acquaintance with the rules of certain courts, proceeding litigiously by citations, mulcts, coercions, or imprisonments) I should readily acknowledge that no gift of the Holy Spirit was requisite; but the nature of it being what we have declared, it is impossible that it should be performed aright without divine assistance. It is the Holy Ghost who makes the elders of the church its overseers or bishops (Acts xx. 28); and what he calls any man unto, that he qualifies him for, by suitable gifts.

There are also gifts which respect duties only, and which are given to all the members of the church, in a great variety of degrees, according to their places and conditions. The Spirit of grace quickens, animates, and unites the whole body of the church in and to Jesus Christ; and furnishes all its members with spiritual abilities for its edification. Every individual needs these on his own account; and they are needed by most men for the discharge of relative duties; as in families, for the worship of God and the instruction of children and servants. Also every member of a church needs some spiritual gift to fill up his place therein. 1 Pet. iv. 10. Believers are to admonish one another, to exhort one another, and to build up one another in their most holy faith: and it is the loss of those spiritual gifts which has occasioned such a neglect of these duties, that they are scarcely heard of

among the generality of Christians. Yet, blessed be God, we have an experience of the continuance of this dispensation of the Spirit, in the eminent abilities of a multitude of private Christians. By some, I confess, they have been abused, some have presumed upon them beyond their proper time, some have been puffed up, and some have used them in a disorderly manner (all which miscarriages befell the primitive churches also); yet I had rather have the order, spirit, and practice of those churches which were planted by the apostles, with all their inconveniences, than the carnal peace of others in their open degeneracy from others in the all those things.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The same may be said of other vicious and depraved
habits of mind, by which they are sometimes excluded,
after they have been, in some measure, received.
Prayer is also a principal means for their attainment.
The apostle directs to this, when he exhorts to covet
the best gifts; for this desire is to be expressed only
by prayer. Diligence in the things about which these
gifts are conversant, is also necessary. I mean, par-
ticularly, study and meditation on the word of God,
with the use of means for attaining the knowledge of
his mind therein; for it is in this course that, usually,
the Holy Spirit comes in, and affords his aid for fur-
nishing the mind with these spiritual endowments.
The improvement of these gifts depends on their faith-
ful use.
It is trade alone that increases talents; and
it is exercise, in a way of duty, which increases gifts.
Without this, they will first wither, and then perish !
By neglect hereof are they lost every day; in some
partially, in others totally; and in some to a contempt,
hatred, and blasphemy of what themselves had receiv-
ed. Lastly, The natural endowments of men, with
elocution, memory, and judgment, improved by read-
ing, learning, and diligent study, enlarge and adorn
these gifts where they are received.

[ocr errors]


OUR present enquiry is, How may we attain a right perception of the mind of God in the Scripture, in opposition to ignorance, errors, mistakes, and all false apprehensions, so as to perform, in a right manner, all the duties therein required of us?

In answer to this enquiry, I shall consider, 1st, The principal efficient cause; and, 2dly, All the means, internal and external, appointed of God for the purpose proposed.

As to the first of these,-it is the Holy Spirit of God alone; for there is a special work of the Spirit on the minds of men, communicating spiritual wisdom, light,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

and understanding unto them, necessary to their dis cerning aright the mind of God in his word. Hereby we do not understand any new or immediate prophetica inspirations; nor do we depend on the authoritative interpretation of any church whatever; nor do we believe that, in the mere exercise of our natural reason, however externally helped, we can attain this knowledge; but that there is a special work of the Spirit in the supernatural illumination of our minds; and by this alone we obtain a full assurance of understanding in the knowledge of the mystery of God."

The whole of our assertion is comprised in the pray er of the Psalmist (Ps. cxix. 18) "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wonderful things out of thy law." In the law of God, that is in the revelation of God's will in the Scriptures, there are wonderful things -things that have such an impression of divine wis dom and power upon them, that they are justly the objects of our admiration: these it is our duty to behold, to discern, to understand. We are not able of ourselves to do this, without divine assistance; there fore, the Psalmist prays that God would "open his eyes," uncover, unveil them. There is a sacred light in the word; but there is a covering,-a veil on the eyes of men, so that they cannot behold it aright. Now the removal of this veil is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit.

The meaning of the Psalmist will better appear, if we consider the communication of the grace he prayed for unto others :-" Then opened he their understandings, that they might understand the Scriptures." Luke xxiv. 55. A needless work, if some men may be believed! But Christ thought not so. The truths concerning him were revealed "in the law, the prophets, and the psalms,"-ver. 44. These were constantly read; and the persons referred to were probably well skilled in the literal sense of those Scriptures; yet they could not rightly understand these wonderful things until Christ opened their minds.

There is another eminent passage to this purpose (Eph. i. 17, &c.) "That the God of our Lord Jesus

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto you the
spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of
him; the eyes
the eyes of your understanding being enlighten-
ed," &c. Now, if men would acquiesce, by faith, in
what is here declared, we need not plead the cause any
further: for the expressions of the truth here used are
more emphatica spiritual understanding than any
we can find out.

It is not a new, immediate, external revelation that is here prayed for. Believers are not directed to look for such a revelation as their guide; but there is an internal, subjective revelation, whereby we are enabled to discern the things already revealed in the word; and the Holy Spirit is here called "The Spirit of Revelation," causually, as he is the author, a principal ef'ficient cause of it; so, in his communication to Christ himself, he is called "The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Knowledge, that should make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord." Isa. xi. 2, 3.

What the Psalmist (Ps. cxix.) calls, in general, "wonderful things," the apostle particularizes "the hope of God's calling, the riches of his glory,—the exceeding greatness of his power in believers." These are the wonderful things proposed to us in the Scripture; and we can have no understanding of them but as they are revealed to us: and the reason why some men judge it to be so easy to comprehend them is, because they do not think there is any thing great, wonderful, or glorious in them. They therefore love to corrupt and debase them, that they may suit their own low carnal apprehensions. This is the principle that works effectually in the whole system of Socinianism.

Concerning these things, the apostle prays that the Ephesians might "know them." It is said of "the natural man" (1 Cor. ii. 14) " he cannot know them;" that is by the use of outward means alone; but the apostle prays, with peculiar solemnity and earnestness, that they might understand them; but what reason was there for this earnestness? Were not the Ephesians rational men? Probably, they were as wise and learn

« PoprzedniaDalej »