« PoprzedniaDalej »
Church, lays hold on the benefits of that prevailing intercession, and is accepted in the beloved.' Justification, whensoever granted, must be perfect, because forgiveness cannot be partial; sanctification may be imperfect, and always is so till death; because till then in many things we offend all,' and still stand in need of fresh justification and forgiveness.
The first portion of sanctifying grace is given at baptism, which is the seal of justification, and the beginning of sanctification; inasmuch as the sinner, being then sacramentally buried with Christ into his death, arises with him in the power of his resurrection, justified from the guilt of sin through repentance and faith in his blood, and renewed unto holiness by the operation of his Spirit. This total renewal, at first conferred by the baptismal laver, is styled regeneration,' and answers, in things natural, to the birth of an infant. But then, as an infant, though born complete in all its parts, yet comes to its full stature and strength by slow and imperceptible degrees, by being supplied with proper kinds of food for its nourishment when in health, and proper medicines for its recovery when otherwise; so is it with the regenerate spirit of a Christian: while it is, as St. Peter calls it, 'a babe in Christ,' it must be fed with the milk of the word; when it is more grown in grace, with the strong meat of its salutary doctrines; when it is infirm, it must be strengthened by the comforts of its promises; and when sick, or wounded by sin, it must be recovered and restored by godly counsel and wholesome discipline, by penance and absolution, by the medicines of the words and sacraments, as duly and properly administered in the Church, by the lawfully and regularly appointed delegates and representatives of the Physician of souls. This gradual and complex work of our sanctification is carried on, through our whole lives, by the Spirit of God, given, in due degree, and proportion, and season, to every individual for that purpose. When we are troubled with erroneous opinions, he is the Spirit of truth; when assaulted with temptations, he is the Spirit of holiness; when dissipated with worldly vanity, he is the Spirit of compunction; when broken with worldly sorrow, he is the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. It is he who, after having regenerated us in our baptism, confirms us by the imposition of hands; renews us to repentance, when we fall away; teaches us, all our life long, what we know not; puts us in mind of
what we forget; stirs us up, when we are dull; helps us in our prayers; relieves us in cur infirmities; consoles us in our heaviness; gives songs of joy in the darkest night of sorrow; seals us to the day of our redemption; and raises us up again in the last day; when that which was sown in grace, shall be reaped in glory; and the work of sanctification in spirit, soul, and body, shall be completed.
What, therefore, remains, but that we show forth the thankfulness of our hearts by the holiness of our lives, and live as becometh those whom Christ, having redeemed by his most precious blood, hath sanctified with his most holy Spirit. Seeing Christ our Saviour hath bestowed such a gift upon his Church, let us never provoke him to take it from us. As it is a gift, let us always be forward to acknowledge as much; not attributing to nature what is due to grace, or robbing the Holy Ghost to adorn reason. As, though a gift, it is given to every man to profit withal, let us have that day continually in our thoughts, when an account of our profiting will be required; and let us never forget, that the same fire burns for the unprofitable and unbeliever; for him who neglects this gracious gift, and for him who rejects it. Since, by the ascension of Christ, the heavens have been opened, and the Holy Dove has been sent down upon the earth, let us not give sleep to our eyes, or slumber to our eyelids, till we have prepared in our hearts a habitation for him. Let pride depart, that it drive not away the spirit of humility; let anger be put from us, that we quench not the spirit of meekness; and let not that which is unchaste, be named or thought of, that we grieve not the Spirit of purity. So shall we be meet entertainers of this heavenly guest, and to every one of us will be given the gift of Christ."
But as there are different measures of this gift, let every one take care, that he think not more highly of himself, or arrogate more to himself, than he ought; but let him know himself, his station, and his abilities, and think and act soberly, according as God has dealt the measure to him. The God who sent the Spirit, is a God of order; and from the beginning has appointed divers orders in the Church,' and set different officers in different posts. Let every man, therefore, in his own order, do the work allotted him. Let not the layman take upon him the office of a deacon; nor the deacon intrude into the function of the priest; nor the priest usurp the autho
rity of the bishop; much less fancy himself invested with the œcumenical commission of an apostle. Good men have had occasion to lament the calamities, that have been brought upon the Church, from age to age, through a neglect of this important consideration; a consideration, on which is suspended the felicity of every society in heaven and earth. When the soul of the learned, the pious, the incomparable Hooker was about to take her flight to the regions of everlasting harmony and love, a friend asked him, What might then be the subject of his contemplations? He replied, that he was meditating the number and nature of angels, and their blessed obedience and order, without which peace could not be in heaven--and O that it might be so on earth! With our endeavours let us add our prayers to his, that our eyes might behold Jerusalem, a city at unity in itself, a city, on this account, equally conspicuous for beauty and strength,-to its friends appearing fair as the moon,' -to its spiritual adversaries terrible as an army with banners.' [BISHOP HORNE.]
Acrs i. 8.But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you,
If we consider the apostles of Christ, to whom these words were spoken, in their public character, we find that, as apostles, they were appointed to convert, and to instruct and guide those whom they had converted. That they might perform these duties, they had a promise of assistance from the Holy Ghost, who is said, in the New Testament, to be the dispenser of all the gifts and helps, necessary both for the promulgation of the gospel, and for the sanctification of believers; concerning which different gifts I shall now discourse: and, first, I shall consider the miraculous gifts, which the holy Spirit conferred upon the disciples.
I. Our Lord, intending to establish his religion in the world, made choice of instruments, in appearance most unequal to
the accomplishment of that end: that, in the establishment of the gospel, the immediate assistance of God, and the power of the Holy Ghost, might the more manifestly appear. Christ, at his ascension, commanded the apostles to go and teach all people.' This they seemed not capable of performing upon many accounts; particularly, because they understood not the language of foreign nations, and had neither leisure, nor opportunity, nor perhaps a genius, to learn them. The Holy Ghost, therefore, conferred upon them the knowledge of the languages. A great concourse of people from different and remote places was present at this miracle, and all heard the apostles speaking in their tongues. Thus began the promise of divine assistance to be fulfilled, and a way was opened for the publi cation of Christianity, which immediately had its effect, and converted three thousand persons.
The gift of tongues was a miracle, in which there could be no deceit and illusion. The apostles were well known: they had always dwelt in Judæa: their manner of life, the circumstances of their education, the meanness of their condition, were notorious. Several things concurred to show, that they could not have acquired this knowledge in an ordinary way. If they had learned languages by the help of men, that would surely have been discovered; if we should say, by their own sagacity and industry, that is too improbable to be supposed; and whether without or with the assistance of others, the labour of some years would scarcely have been sufficient.
This was also a miracle, new and singular in its kind, and therefore adapted to affect the Jews in a particular manner. They would probably be most moved by wonderful works, of which the fewest instances had been known. This was a power which neither Moses, nor the Prophets, nor John the Baptist had received, nor had Christ himself during his ministry ever exercised it. And moreover, it was not only the speaking new languages, but teaching sacred truths in a new and effectual manner. We hear them speak,' say the multitude, the wonderful works of God.' This doubled the miracle; and was all that a reasonable person could desire for his satisfaction and
The gift of tongues was of particular service to Christianity. For, at the time of Pentecost, there was a great resort of Jews and proselytes, from various and remote countries. The gift
of tongues, conferred upon the disciples, served to convince and convert many of these persons; and they were serviceable in carrying Christianity with them to their several abodes. Afterwards, the Ethiopian eunuch, Cornelius the Roman centurion, Sergius Paulus the proconsul, Dionysius the Areopagite, and others, were converted. By these persons, and by the travels of the apostles and of their disciples, Christianity was established in the Roman empire, and in the east; and then the Greek tongue, which was so generally spread, together with human industry in learning other languages, might be sufficient to carry the gospel as far, and as soon, as providence intended-and accordingly, the gift of tongues seems to have been of no long continuance in the Church.
The apostles were to be witnesses of the things which they had heard and seen. It was, therefore, necessary that they should produce sufficient proof of their veracity, and of their divine mission: for it was not to be expected, that men should give credit to obscure and unknown persons, and believe what they attested, only because they confidently asserted it. But the Holy Ghost bare witness to them, by enabling them to perform various miracles, publicly and frequently.
The apostles were sent to instruct the world in divine truths, and to preach a doctrine amiable to unprejudiced hearers, but opposite, in many things, to the opinions, in which the Jews and Gentiles had been educated. That they might perform this, they had a promise from Christ, that they should be endued with a wisdom and with a strength of reason, which none of their adversaries should be able to withstand. And, indeed, without divine assistance they were not qualified for so high an office. But the divine Spirit wrought a sudden change in their minds, enabled them to recollect all that Christ at various times had said to them, and taught them to persuade, to convince, and to triumph over all opposition.
The apostles were to teach all necessary truths. This they were not able to perform; for some of those truths they knew not, or they were not disposed to believe. Christ says to them,
I have many things to say to you; but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.' The truths which they were at that time unfit to receive, seem to have been these:-That the kingdom of Christ was spiritual; that he came not to conquer the