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The Holy Spirit, employing the pen of the sacred authors, did not change, but sanctify their temperature. It was his pleasure that they should speak in the language used in their own time; and avail themselves of those forms of speech, without which they would neither have been heard nor understood.
they delighted in amplitude and hyperbole. | obstruct the perception of three persons in the words we have read? Can they obstruct our perceiving the Father, to whom all things belong; the Son, who participates in all things which belong to the Father: the Holy Spirit, who receives and reveals those things to the church? I ask again, whether by this propriety of thought, and precision of argument, we can understand an action of Providence, from what is ascribed to the Holy Spirit? And whether, without offering violence to the laws of language, one may substitute for the term spirit, the words action and Providence, and thus paraphrase the whole passage; "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when this action of Providence is come, even this action of Providence, it will guide you into all the truth; for it shall not speak of itself; but whatsoever it shall hear, that shall it speak; for it shall receive of mine, and shall show them unto you." We frankly confess, my brethren, nothing but the reluctance we have to submit our notions to the decision of Supreme Wisdom can excite an apprehension, that a distinct person is not designated in the words we have cited. And, when it is once admitted, that the Holy Spirit sent to the church is a divine person, can one, on comparing the words of our text with those we have quoted, resist the conviction, that the same Spirit is intended in both these passages?
In the class of those, who, under a pretext of not admitting imaginary mysteries, reject such as are real, we arrange those divines, who deny the agency of this adorable person on the heart, in what the apostle calls, unction, seal, and earnest: those supralapsarian teachers, who suppose, that all the operation of the Holy Spirit on the regenerate, consists in enabling him to preach; that he does not afford them the slightest interior aid, to surmount those difficulties which naturally obstruct a compliance with the grand design of preachThe Scriptures assert, in so many places, the inefficacy of preaching without those aids, that no doubt can, in my opinion, be admissible upon the subject. But, if some divines have degraded this branch of Christian theology, by an incautious defence, to them the blame attaches, and not to those who have established it upon solid proof. Those divines, who, by a mode of teaching much more calculated to confound, than defend, orthodox opinions, have spoken of the unction of the Spirit, as though it annihilated the powers of nature, and as though they made a jest;—yes, a jest, of the exhortations, promises, and threatenings addressed to us in the Scriptures:Those divines, if there are such, shall give an account to God for the discord they have occasioned in the church, and even for the heresies to which their mode of expounding the Scriptures has given birth.
I shall cite one single passage only from the sixteenth chapter of the gospel by St. John; "When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and show it unto you." I challenge here, this propriety of thought, and precision of argument, of which" the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou the persons we attack make a profession, I had hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell almost said a parade, to say whether these can whence it cometh, and whither it goeth," John
You, however, brethren, embrace no doctrines but those explicitly revealed in the Scriptures;-you, who admit the agency of the Holy Spirit on the heart, unsolicitous to define its nature. You, who say with Jesus Christ,
2. Let us reduce the metaphor to precision, and the figure to truth. But under a notion of reducing it to truth, let us not enfeeble its force; and wishful to reject imaginary inysteries, let us not destroy those which are real. This second caution is requisite in order to supersede the false glosses which have been attached to the text. Two of these we ought particularly to reject;-the one on the word Spirit;-the other on the words, seal, unction and earnest, which we have endeavoured to explain.
Some divines have asserted, that the word Spirit, ought to be arranged in the class of metaphors designed to express, not a person of the Godhead, but an action of Providence; and that we should attach this sense to the term, not only in this text, but also in all those we adduce to prove, that there is a divine person distinct from the Father and the Son, called the Holy Spirit.
We have frequently, in this pulpit, avowed our ignorance concerning the nature of the divine essence, if I may be allowed the expression. We have often declared, that we can determine nothing concerning God, except what we are obliged to know from the works he has created, and from the truths he has revealed. We have more than once acknowledged, that even those truths, which we trace from reason and revelation, are as yet very imperfect; and that the design of the Scriptures, when speaking of God, is less to reveal what he is, than the relation in which he stands to us. Hence I conceive, that the utmost moderation, and deference of judgment; and, if I may so speak, the utmost pyrrhon-ing. ism, on this subject, is all that reasonable men can expect, from the philosopher and the divine.
When we find in the Scriptures, certain ideas of the Divinity;-ideas, which have not the slightest dissonance to those afforded by his works; ideas, moreover, clearly expressed and repeated in a variety of places, we admit them without hesitation, and condemn those, who, by a false notion concerning propriety of thought, and precision of argument, refuse their assent. Now, it seems to me, that they fall into this mistake who refuse to acknowledge, in the texts we adduce, a declaration of a Divine Person.
iii. 8. You, who especially admit, that the more conscious we are of the want of grace, the more we should exert our natural gifts; that, the more need we have of interior aids, the more we should profit by exterior assistance, by the books we have at hand, by the favourable circumstances in which we may be providentially placed, by the ministry which God has graciously established among us! Fear not to follow those faithful guides, and to adopt precautions so wise; under a pretext of reducing metaphors to precision, never enfeeble their force; and, under a plea of not admitting imaginary mysteries, never reject the real. This was our second rule.
And here is the third. In addresses to society in general, what belongs to each should be distinguished. St. Paul here addressed the whole church: but the whole of its numerous members could not have been in the same situation. Hence, one of the greatest faults we commit in expounding the Scriptures, and especially in expounding texts which treat of the agency of the Spirit, is, the neglecting to distinguish what we had designed. This is one cause of the little fruit produced by sermons. We address a church, whose religious attainments are very unequal. Some are scarcely initiated into knowledge and virtue; others approach perfection; and some hold a middle rank between the two. We address to this congregation certain general discourses, which cannot apply with equal force to all; it belongs to each of our hearers, to examine how far each argument has reference to his own case. Apply now to the words of our text the general maxim we have laid down; you will recollect the ideas we have attached to the terms used by the apostle, to express the agency of the Holy Spirit on the heart. We have said that these terms, unction, seal, earnest, excite three ideas. And we can never understand those Scriptures, which speak of the operations of the Holy Spirit, unless those three effects of the divine agency are distinguished. Every Christian hr not been confirmed by the Spirit of God in all those various ways. All have not received the threefold unction, the threefold seal, the threefold earnest. To some the Holy Spirit has confirmed the first, availing himself of their ministry for the achievement of miracles, or by causing them to feel that a religion, in favour of which so many prodigies have been achieved, could not be false. To others, the second confirmation was added to the first; at the moment he carried conviction to the mind, he sanctified the heart. With regard to others, he communicated more; not only persuading them that a religion, which promises celestial felicity, is true; not only enabling them to conform to the conditions on which this felicity is promised, but he also gives them foretastes here below.
me to brevity? We shall, therefore, speak of the nature and reality of the Spirit's agency on the heart, so far only as is necessary to furnish matter for our third head, on which we are now entering; and which is designed to trace the dispositions that favour, and such as retard, the operations of the Spirit: a most important discussion, which will develop the causes of the anniversary of Pentecost being unavailing in the church, and point out the dispositions for its worthy celebration.
What we shall advance on this subject, is founded on a maxim, to which I solicit your peculiar attention; namely, that every motion of the Spirit on the heart of good men, requires correspondent co-operation; without which his ag.ncy would be unavailing. The refusal to co-operate is called in Scripture, "quenching— grieving-resisting-and doing despite to the Spirit." Now, according to the style of St. Paul, this quenching-grieving-resistingand doing despite to the Holy Spirit, is to render his operation unavailing.
Adequately to comprehend this maxim, and at the same time to avoid a mistaken theology, and a corrupt morality, concerning the agency of the Spirit, make the following reflection: that the Holy Spirit may perhaps be considered in one of these three respects; either as the omnipotent God; or as a wise lawgiver: or as a wise lawgiver and the omnipotent God, in the same character. Hence the man on whom he works, may perhaps be considered, either, as a physical, or a moral being; or as a being in whom both these qualities associate. To consider the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration as the omnipotent God, and the man for whose conversion he exerts his agency, as a being purely physical: and to affirm that the Holy Spirit acts solely by irresistible influence, man being simply passive, is, in our opinion, a morality extremely corrupt. To consider the Holy Spirit simply as a lawgiver, and man merely as a moral being, capable of vice and virtue; and to affirm, that the Holy Spirit only proposes his precepts, and that man obeys them, unassisted by the divine energy attendant on their promulgation, is to propagate a theology equally erroneous. But, to consider the Holy Spirit as the omnipotent God, and legislator in the same character, and man as a being both moral and physical, is to harmonize the laws moral and divine, and to avoid, on a subject so exceedingly controverted, the two equally dangerous rocks, against which so many divines have cast themselves away.
II. and III. I could better explain my sentiments, did I dare engage, in discussing the second part of my subject, to illustrate the nature, and prove the reality of the Spirit's agency on the heart. But how can I attempt the discussion of so vast a subject in one discourse, when so many considerations restrict
The adoption of this last system (which is here the wisest choice,) implies an acknowledgment, that there are dispositions in man which retard, and dispositions which cherish, the successful agency of God on the heart. What are these? They regard the three ways, in which we said the Holy Spirit confirms to the soul the promises of " 'immortality and life." These he confirms, first, by the persuasion he affords, concerning the truth of the gospel; causing it to spring up in the heart on review of the miracles performed by the first Christians. Secondly, he confirms them by the inward work of sanctification. Thirdly, he confirms them by foretastes of celestial de
light, communicated to some Christians, even here below. Each of these points we shall resume in its order.
First, the gift of miracles was a seal, which God affixed to the ministry of the first heralds of the gospel. Miracles are called seals: such is the import of those distinguished words of Christ; "Labour not for the meat that perisheth; but for that meat which endureth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him hath the Father sealed," John vi. 27. The seal which distinguished Jesus Christ, was the gift of miracles he had received of God, to demonstrate the divine authority of his mission: so he himself affirmed to the multitudes; "The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness that the Father hath sent me," John v. 36.
The inference, with regard to the Lord, is of equal force with regard to the disciples. The miraculous endowments, granted to them, sanctioned their mission; as the mission of the Master was sanctioned by the miraculous powers with which it was accompanied. What seal more august could have been affixed to it? What demonstrations more conclusive can we ask of a religion which announces them to us, than all these miracles which God performed for its confirmation? Could the Deity have communicated his omnipotence to impostors? Could he even have wished to lead mankind into mistake? Could he have allowed heaven and earth, the sea and land to be shaken for the sanction of lies?
As there are dispositions which retard the agency of the Spirit, who comes to impress the heart with truth, so there are others which favour and cherish his work. With regard to those which retard, I would not only include infidelity of heart, whose principle is malice; I would not only include here those eccentric men, who resist the most palpable proofs, and evident demonstrations, and think they have answered every argument by saying, "It is not true. I doubt, I deny."-Men that seem to have made a model of the Pharisees, who, when unable to deny the miracles of Christ, and to elude their force, ascribed them to the devil. This is a fault so notorious, as to supersede the necessity of argument. But I would also convince you Christians, that the neglect of studying the history of the miracles we celebrate to-day, is an awful source of subversion to the agency we are discussing. Correspond, by serious attention and profound recollection, to the efforts of the Holy Spirit in demonstrating the truth of your religion. On festivals of this kind, a Christian should recollect and digest, if I may so speak, the distinguished proofs which God gave of the truth of Christianity on the day whose anniversary we now celebrate. He should say to himself: "I wish to know, whether advantage be taken of my simplicity, or whether I am addressed as a rational being; when I am told, that the first heralds of the gospel performed the miracles, attributed to their agency."
"I wish to know, whether the miracles of the apostles have been narrated, (Acts ii.) and inquire whether those holy men have named the place, the time, the witnesses, and circum
stances of the miracles: whether it be true that those miracles were performed in the most public places, amid the greatest concourses of people, in presence of Persians, of Medes, of Parthians, of Elamites, of dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea, in Cappadocia, in Lybia; among Cretes, Arabs, and Jews.
"I wish to know, in what way these miracles were foretold; whether it be true, that these were the characteristics of evangelical preachers, which the prophets had traced so many ages before the evangelical period; and whether we may not give another interpretation to these distinguished predictions: 'Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come,' Hag. ii. 5, 6. I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy. Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, fire, and pillars of smoke," Joel ii. 28-30.
"I wish to know, how these miracles were received; whether it be true, that the multitudes, the myriads of proselytes, who had it in their power to investigate the authenticity of the facts, sacrificed their ease, their reputation, their fortune, their life, and every comfort which martyrs and confessors have been accustomed to sacrifice: I wish to know, whether the primitive Christians made these sacrifices on embracing a religion chiefly founded on a belief of miracles.
"I wish to know, in what way these miracles were opposed; whether it be true, that there is this distinguished difference between the way in which these facts were attacked in the first centuries, and in the present. Whether it be true, that instead of saying, as our infidels assert, that these facts were fabulous, the Celsuses, the Porphyrys, the Zosimuses, who lived in the ages in which these facts were recent, took other methods to evade their force; attributing them to the powers of magic, or confounding them with other pretended miracles."
This is the study to which we should proceed; wo be to us if we regard it as a tedious task, and excuse ourselves on inconsiderable pretexts! Is there any thing on earth which should interest us more than those important truths, announced by the apostles; and especially those magnificent promises they have delivered in the name of God? Mortal as we all are, merely appearing on the stage of life, most of us having already run the greater part of our course, called every moment to enter into the invisible world, destined there to destruction, or eternal existence, is there a question more interesting than this? "Is it for destruction, or eternal existence, I am designated by my Maker? Are the notions I entertain of immortality; of pleasures for evermore at God's right hand; fulness of joy around his throne; of intimate intercourse with the adorable Being; of society with angels, with archangels, with cherubim and seraphim; for ages, millions of ages, an eternity with the blessed God, are the notions I entertain, realities, or
chimeras?" No, my brethren, neither in a coun-
marks of the love we describe;-a man who, rapt up in his own sufficiency, and in the ideas he forms of his own grandeur, sees nothing worthy of himself in the religion God has prescribed, would, however, converse with his Maker, and receive his benefits, but who shuts his door against his neighbours, abandons them in their poverty, trouble, and obscurity;—such a man, far from being a Christian, has not even a notion of Christianity. At the moment he congratulates himself with being distinguished from the rest of mankind by the seal of God, he has only the seal of the devil,-inflexibility and pride.
2. If there are dispositions which retard, and cherish, the first agency of the Holy Spirit On these days I would, my brethren, require on the heart, there are also dispositions which concerning charity, marks more noble, and retard and cherish the second. The Holy tests more infallible, than alms and good offices: Spirit, we have said in the second place, con- I would animate you with the laudable ambifirms to us the promises of the gospel, by com- tion of carrying charity as far as it was carried municating the grace of sanctification. What by Jesus Christ. To express myself in the lansuccess can be expected from his gracious ef- guage of Scripture, I would animate you to forts to purify the heart, while you oppose the love your neighbour as Jesus Christ has loved works? Why have those gracious efforts hither- you. In what way has Jesus Christ loved you? to produced, with regard to most of you, so What was the grand object of his love to man? little effect? Because you still oppose. Desi-It was salvation. So also should the salvation rous to make you conscious of the worth of of your neighbours be the object of your love. holiness, the Holy Spirit addresses you for that Be penetrated with the wretchedness of people purpose in the most pointed sermons. In pro"without hope, without God in the world," portion as the preacher addresses the ear, the Eph. ii. 12. Avail yourselves of the prosperity Holy Spirit inwardly addresses the heart, of your navigation and commerce, to send the alarming it by that declaration, "The unclean gospel into districts, where creatures made in shall not inherit the kingdom of God," 1 Cor. the image of God, know not him that made vi. 10. But you have opposed his gracious them, but live in the grossest darkness of the work; you have abandoned the heart to irregu- pagan world. lar affection; you have pursued objects calculated to inflame concupiscence, or enkindle it with additional vigour.
Be likewise impressed with the wretchedness of those, who, amid the light of the gospel, have their eyes so veiled as to exclude its lustre. Employ for the great work of reformation, not gibbets and tortures, not fire and fagot, but persuasion, instruction, and every means best calculated for causing the truth to be known and esteemed.
Be touched with the miseries of people educated in our own communion, and who believe what we believe; but who through the fear of man, through worldly-mindedness, and astonishing hardness of heart, are obstructed from following the light. Address to them the closest exhortations. Offer them a participation of your abundance. Endeavour to move them towards the interests of their children. Pray for them; pray for the peace of Jerusalem; pray that God would raise the ruins of our temples: that he would gather the many scattered flocks; pray him to reinvigorate the Christian blood in these veins, which seems destitute of heat and circulation. Pray him, my fellowcountrymen, that he would have pity on your country, in which one prejudice succeeds another. Be afflicted with the affliction of Joseph, be mindful of your native land.
3. We have said lastly, that the Holy Spirit confirms the promise of celestial felicity, by a communication of its foretastes here below to highly-favoured souls. On this subject, I seem suspended between the fear of giving countenance to enthusiasm, and of suppressing one of the most consolatory truths of the Christian religion. It is, however, a fact, that there are highly-favoured souls, to whom the Holy Spirit confirms the promises of celestial happiness, by a communication of its foretastes here on earth.
The Holy Spirit, desirous to humble the heart, exhibits the most mortifying portraits of your weakness, your ignorance, your dissipation, your indigence, your mortality and corruption, a train of humiliating considerations in which your own character may be recognised. But you have opposed his work; you have swelled your mind with every idea calculated to give plausibility to the sophisms of vanity; you have flattered yourselves with your birth, your titles, your dignities, your affected literare, and imaginary virtues. Improve this thought, my brethren, confess your follies; yield to the operations of grace, which would reclaim you from the sins of the age, and make you partakers of the divine purity, in order to a participation of the divine felicity. Practise those virtues which the apostles so strongly enforced in their sermons, which they so highly exemplified in their lives, and so powerfully pressed in their writings.
Above all, my brethren, let us follow the emotions of that virtue which is the true test, by which the Lord knows his own people, I mean charity: such are the words of Christ, which we cannot too attentively regard; "This is my commandment that ye love one another," John xv. 12. When I speak of charity, I would not only prompt you to share your superfluities with the indigent, and to do good offices for your neighbours. But a man, who, when celebrating the anniversary of a day in which God's love was so abundantly shed upon the church, in which the Christians became united by ties so tender, feels reluctance to afford these slight
By foretastes of celestial happiness, I mean | which attracts the heart, and the heart of the the impression made on the mind of a Christian, of the sincerest piety, by this consolatory thought; "My soul is immortal: death, which seems to terminate, only changes the mode of my existence: my body also shall participate of eternal life; the dust shall be reanimated, and its scattered particles collected into a glorious form."
By foretastes of celestial happiness, I mean, the unshaken confidence a Christian feels, even when assailed with doubts,-when oppressed with deep affliction, and surrounded with the veil of death, which conceals the objects of his hope: this assurance enables him to say, "I know in whom I have believed, and I am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day," 2 Tim. i. 12. "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God," Job xix. 25, 26. "O God, though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil," Ps. xxii. 4. "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is on my right hand, I shall not be moved,"
Ps. xvi. 8.
By foretastes of celestial happiness, I mean, the delights of glorified saints in heaven, which some find while dwelling on earth; when far from the multitude, secluded from care, and conversing with the blessed God, they can express themselves in these words, "My soul is satisfied with marrow and fatness, when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate upon thee in the night watches," Ps. lxiii. 5, 6. "Our conversation is in heaven," Phil. iii. 20.
By foretastes of celestial happiness, I mean, the impatience which some of the faithful feel, to terminate a life of calamities and imperfections; and the satisfaction they receive every evening on reflecting that another day of their pilgrimage is passed; that they are one step nearer to eternity. "In this tabernacle we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven," 2 Cor. v. 2. "My desire is to depart, and to be with Christ," Phil. i. 23. Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why do his coursers proceed so slow? "When shall I come and appear before God," Ps. xl. 2.
My brethren, in what language have I been speaking? How few understand it! To how many does it seem an unknown tongue! But we have to blame ourselves alone if we are not anointed in this way, and sealed by the Holy Ghost; and if we do not participate in these foretastes of eternity, which are the genuine earnests of heaven. But ah! our taste is spoiled in the world. We have contracted the low habits of seeking happiness solely in the recreations of the age. Most, even of those who conform to the precepts of piety, do it by constraint. We obey God, merely because he is God. We feel not the unutterable sweetness in these appellations of Father, Friend, and Benefactor, under which he is revealed by religion. We do not conceive that his sole object, with regard to man, is to make him happy. But the world,—the world,—is the object VOL. II.-40
best amongst us.
Let us then love the world, seeing it has pleased God to unite us to it by ties so tender. Let us endeavour to advance our families, to add a little lustre to our name, and some consistency to what is denominated fortune. But O! after all, let us regard these things in their true light. Let us recollect that, upon earth, man can only have transient happiness. My fortune is not essential to my felicity; the lustre of my name is not essential to my felicity; the establishment of my family is not essential to my felicity; and, since none of these things are essential to my happiness, the great God, the Being supremely gracious, has without the least violation of his goodness, left them in the uncertainty and vicissitude of all sublunary bliss. But my salvation, my salvation, is far above the vicissitudes of life. "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be moved; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed," Isa. liv. 10. "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished," Isa. li. 6. May God indulge our hope, and crown it with success. Amen.
THE FAMILY OF JESUS CHRIST.
MATTHEW xii. 46-50.
While he yet talked to the people, behold his mother, and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, behold, thy mother, and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother, and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
HE "said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children," Deut. xxxiii. 9. So Moses said of the tribe of Levi. Was it to reproach, or applaud? Following the first impression of this sentence, it contains undoubtedly a sharp rebuke, and a deep reproach. In what more unfavourable light could we view the Levites? What became of their natural affection, on disowning the persons to whom they were united by ties so tender, on plunging their weapons in the breasts of those who gave them birth?
But raising the mind superior to flesh and blood, if you consider the words as connected with the occasion to which they refer, you will find an illustrious character of those ministers of the living God; and one of the finest panegyrics which mortals ever received.
Nature and religion, it is admitted, require us to love our neighbour, especially the mem