Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

the one talent because you have not five. The greatest saints had once a weak beginning. Let the closet share in the duties of the day; search the scriptures; read the experience of eminent Christians; exercise yourself in hymns and spiritual songs, and your faith and love will abundantly increase.

This peculiar sensation of the divine favor being a prominent feature in Christian experience, and an indispensible qualification for heaven, it must not be passed over without a proper train of reflections. It is wholly owing to men's ignorance of this subject, that the state of the nominal and genuine Christian are so frequently confounded.

In discussing the doctrine of the Spirit, I am aware of treading the ground, and moving in a sphere, where many think that nothing but fanaticism occurs. They contend for a rational religion, and seem to dread enthusiasm as the last of evils. But, with me, it is a decided point, that we cannot be made partakers of the divine nature without a divine influence: and the Holy Spirit acting on our mind and senses, we may be as conscious of the divine as of human operations. For example, Des Cartes began his system of philosophy with this axiom; Ego cogo, ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. Conscious of thought, he was conscious of existence. Just so we know that we have an understanding by our understanding; and we know that there is a sun by the light of the sun. Just so, St. Paul knew the things of God by the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. ii. 12. The philosopher and the apostle lay down similar propositions, and draw similar conclusions. The force of argument is equally clear in both; for the works of grace never recede from the profoundest scrutiny of the human mind. Let us trace its characteristics.

1. This comfort is not a mere warmth of the passions and affections, or a momentary transport of natural joy. If so, it would ebb and flow with the tide of our pleasing and painful occurrences; and it is so far from doing this, that God often visits us with a manifestation of his love when the mind is not particularly engaged

with any object. This is a good argument for concluding, that this comfort is no reflex act, but altogether divine. So it is considered by a poet, whom the irreligious world have not presumed to charge with enthusiasm.

[ocr errors]

"What nothing earthly gives or can destroy,
The soul's calm sun-shine, and the heart-felt joy.”

POPE'S ETHIC EPISTLES.

2. It is preceded by a suitable degree of repentance and humiliation for sin, and by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. To this there is no exception; the soul must renounce its sin, and implore forgiveness, before it can possibly receive this approving smile from God, Acts ii. 38, 39. xix. 6. Fasting and prayer, humility and self-denial, happily tend to prepare the heart for grace; but an act of faith is the most acceptable sacrifice we can present to God.

3. When this comfort is given in a clear and powerful manner, it instantly changes our sorrow into joy, and our sighs and complaints into songs of salvation. It reverses all our fears and discouragements, occasioned by the evils which we suffer. Though our outward man perish, our inward man is renewed day by day. When my heart and my flesh faileth, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

66

4. It has a powerful effect in sanctifying the heart, and all its affections. The soul is filled with divine simplicity and holy love. It hates all sin, and cannot bear a thought which is contrary to the will of God. It delights in loving and serving him with all its powers, and accounts no labors too severe, if sinners may be converted to him. The regenerate man is now in his right mind, he is clothed with humility, and seated at the feet of Christ.

5. It is given in various degrees. While the seeker is engaged in religious exercise, a gracious promise viving hope, attended with this divine comfort, moment, enkindles his heart. This we usually

drawings of the Father's love. But when

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

the heart is so replenished with the love of God, that its sensations can scarcely be concealed, we term it the direct witness of the Spirit, that we are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, Rom. viii. 15, 16. 6. This divine comfort is mostly transient. Heaven does not seem too profuse of its choicest favors. It is proper to remark this, that the young convert may not sink into despondency whenever it is withdrawn. The causes, however, he should diligently examine, that he may avoid them in future, and with humility entreat the Lord to restore him to the joy of his salvation. "In my prosperity I said, my mountain is strong, I shall never be moved. Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. Lift thou upon me the light of thy countenance. Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

39

7. This comfort is known to none but the regenerate, and it cannot be expressed but by analogy. Hence, it is frequently called fire, because it has a cheering effect on the soul, in some sort similar to the effect of fire on the body, when we return from the cold. It refines our dross, and consumes our sin. It is called the earnest of our inheritance, and the first fruits of the Spirit, because as the earnest is really part of the price, and as the first fruits are really part of the harvest, so this comfort is a genuine foretaste of heaven. In the same manner are those scriptures to be understood, which speak of it by the analogy of wine and love.

Now, the natural man, however wise and learned, cannot extend his ideas beyond the letter of scripture; but here more is intended than language can convey. These inexpressible delights of divine comfort are carefully marked by the sacred writers. The word of God is sweeter than honey or the honey-comb : the peace of God passeth all understanding: the love of Christ passeth knowledge: the joy in the Holy Ghost is unspeakable and full of glory. If God has been pleased, in this way, to manifest himself unto us as he does not to the world, may he ever enable us to hold the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.

8. It increases in our hearts till it has consumed our sin, and restored us to the image of God. It frequently happens that the young convert really thinks his warfare is completely past, though but just begun. His heart may now, not unaptly, be compared to a garden, properly dressed and sown : it seems perfectly free from weeds, because they do not appear: but in a little time they spring up, and if not eradicated soon over-run the ground. So it is with the latent evils of the human heart, pride, fretfulness, and unbelief. If these be not well subdued, and rooted up on their first appearance, they reduce the soul to a wilderness state. To this effect we are cautioned in the sacred scriptures. "Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies. If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Let grace reign through righteousness, and be the power of God unto an endless life."

The life of God in the soul is inseparably connected with a progress in faith and holiness. We cannot remain at one stay in divine attainments. The Christian resembles a boat, which gains on the stream by rowing, but when the oars cease, it is carried back by the flood. Fresh supplies of grace must be derived every moment from God, the source of all felicity. The backslider can no more satisfy his soul with the recollection of past experience, than cattle can drink at exhausted pools. The river of life must flow through the heart with a constant stream, and glad

the habitation of God. It is the end of divine predestination, or the order of God in the kingdom of grace, that we should be conformed to the image of his Son. "Leaving, therefore, the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on to perfection."

There was no virtue which the apostles were more solicitous their children should acquire, than a maturity in Christian holiness. It was the ultimate object fall their addresses, and lay nearcst to their heart in

ion. "For this cause," says Paul to the Ephe"I bow my knee unto the Father of our Lord Christ; that he would grant you, according to

the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." When writing to the Thessalonians he prays for the same blessing: "and the very God of peace sanctify you wholly and I pray God, that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that hath called you, who also will do it."

:

9. This farther work of grace is frequently spoken of as already attained by many of the established believers. Our old man is crucified with Christ. Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. I live not, but Christ liveth in me. The law of the Spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death. We have known and believed the love that God hath unto us. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. In this last and remarkable passage, St. John seems to consider divine love as a fire which converts every thing into its own substance. This cannot imply less than the total destruction of pride, anger, selfishness, and fear. "There is no fear in love: perfect love casteth out fear he that feareth is not made perfect in love." If the roots of sin still remain alive in the believer, he cannot be said to be dead with Christ, and crucified to the world.

10. We may further observe, that this advanced state of Christian holiness, is attained by faith. Our hearts are purified by conversing with divine objects. “All we, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to

« ForrigeFortsett »