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those expressions, which speak so strongly of the value and benefit, and efficacy of the death of Christ; of its sacrifioial, expiatory, and atoning nature. We
e may be assured, that these expressions mean something real; refer to something real; though it be something, which is to take place in that future dispensation, of which we have been speaking. It is reasonable to expect, that, when we come to experience what that state is, the same experience will open to us the distinct propriety of these expressions, their truth, and the substantial truth which they contain, and likewise shew us, that however strong and exalted the terms are, which we see made use of, they are not stronger nor higher than the subject called for. But for the present we must be, what I own it is difficult to be, content to take up with very general notions, humbly hoping, that a disposition to receive and acquiesce in what appears to us to be revealeri, be it more or be it less, will be regarded as the duty which belongs to our subsisting condition, and the measure of information, with which it is favoured : and will stand in the place of what, from our deep interest in the mat. ter, we are sometimes tempted to desire, but which, 'nevertheless, might be unfit for us, a knowledge, which not only was but which we perceived to be, fully adequate to the subject.
There is another class of expressions, which, since they professedly refer to circumstances that are to take place in this new state, and not before, will, it is likely, be rendered quite intelligible by our experience in that state; but must necessarily convey, very imperfect information until they be so explained. Of this kind are many of the passages of Scripture, whieh we have already noticed, as referring to the changes, which will be wrought in our mortal nature, and the agency of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the intervention of bis power, in producing those changes, and the nearer similitude wbich our changed natures and the bodies, with which we shall then be clothed, whi
bear to his. We read “that he shall change our vile body, that it may be like his glorious body." A momentous assurance, no doubt: yet in its par. ticular signification, waiting to be cleared up by vur experience of the event. So likewise are some other particular expressions relating to the same event, such as being “unclothed,' - clothed upon,'
1," "the dead in Christ rising first;” “meeting the Lord in the air;" “ they that are alive not preventing those that are asleep,” and the like. T'hese aro all most interesting imitations; yet to a certain degreeobscure. They answer the purpose of ministering to our hopes and comfort and admonition, which they do witholt conveying any clear ideas : and this, and not the satisfaction of our curiosity, may be the grand purpose, for the sake of which intimations of these things were given at all. But then, in so far as they describe a change in the order of nature, of which change we are to be the objects, it seems to follow, that we shall be furnished with experience which will discover to us the full sense of this language. The same remark may be repeated concerning the first and second death, which are expressly spoken of in the revelations, and as I think alluded to and supposed in other passages of Scripture in which they are not named.
The lesson, inculcated by the observation here pointed out, is this ; that, in the difficulties which we meet with in interpreting Scripture, instead of being too uneasy, under them, by reason of the obscurity of certain passages, or the degree of darkness, which hangs over certain subjects, we ought first to take to ourselves thuis safe and consoling rule, namely, to make up for the deficiency of our knowledge by the sincerity of our practice; in other words, to act up to what we do know, or at least earnestly to strive so to do. So far as a an holds fast to this rule, he has a strong ground comfort under every degree of ignorance, or ev. of errors. And it is a rule applicable to the rich d to the poor, to the educated and to the unedu
cated, to every state and station of life ; and to all the differences, which arise from different opportunities of acquiring knowledge. Different obligations may result from different means of obtaining information ; but this rule comprisesall differences.
The next reflection is, that in meeting with dif. ficulties, nay very great difficulties, we meet with nothing strange, nothing but what, in truth, might reasonably have been expected beforehand. It was to be expected, that a revelation which was to have its completion in another state of existe ence, would contain many expressions, which referred to that state ; and which on account of such reference, would be made clar and perfectly intelligible only to those, who had experience of that state, and to us after we had attained to that experience; whil-t, however, in the mean time, they may convey to us enough of information, to admonish us in our conduct, to support our hope, and to incite our endeavours. Therefore the meeting with difficulties, owing to this cause, ought not to surprise us, nor to trouble us over much. Seriousness, nay even anxiety, touching every thing, which concerns our salvation, no thoughtful man can help; but it is possible we may be distressed by doubts and difficulties more than there is any occasion to be distressed.
Lastly; Under all our perplexities, under all the misgivings of mind, to which even good men (such is the infirmity of human nature) are subject, there is this important assurance to resort to, that we have a protection over our heads, which is constant and abiding; that God, blessed be his name, is forevermore; that Jesus Christ our Lord is the same yesterday, to-cay, and for ever; that like as a traveller by land or sea, go where he will always sees, wheu he looks up, the same sun; so in our journey through a varied existence, whether it be in our present state, or in our next state, or in the awful passage from one to the other: in the world in which we live, or in the country which we seek; in the hour of death, no less than
in the midst of health, we are in the same upholding hands, under the same sufficient and unfailing support.
IN THREE PARTS.
(PART 1.) Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 1 Cor.iii.16. THERE are ways of considering the subject of spiritual influence, as well as a want of considering it, which lay it open to difficulties and to misconceptions. But if the being liable to misapprehension and to misrepresentation be thought an objection to any doctrine, I know of no doctrine, "which is not liable to the same : nor any which has not, in fact, been loaded at various times with great mistakes.
One difficulty, which has struck the minds of some, is, that the doctrine of an influencing Spirit and of the importance of this influence to human salvation, is an arbitrary system, making every thing to depend not upon ourselves, nor upon any exertion of our own, but upon the gift of the Spirit. It is not for us, we allow, to canvass the gifts of God: because we do not, and it seems impossible that we should, sufficiently understand the motive of the giver. In more ordinary cases, and in cases more level to our comprehension, we seem to acknowledge the difference between a debt and a gift. A debt is bound, as it were, by known rules of justice ; a gift depends upon the motive of the giver, which often can be known only to himself. To judge of the propriety either of granting or withholding that to which there no claim, which is, in the strictest sense, a fa
which, as such, rests with the donor to beis to him seemeth good, we must have the I motives, which presented themselves to ad of the donor, before us. This, with re.
spect to the divine Being, is impossible. Thereföre, we allow that, either in this, or in any other matter, to canvass the gifts of God is a presúmption not fit to be indulged. We are to receive our portion of them with thankfulness. We are to be thankful, for instance, for the share of health and strength which is given us, without inquiring why others are healthier and stronger than ourselves. This is the right disposition of mind, with respect to all the benefactions of God Al. mighty towards us.
But unsearchable does not mean arbitrary. Our necessary ignorance of the motives, which rest and dwell in the Divine mind in the bestowing of his grace, is no proof that it is not bestowed by the justest reason. And with regard to the case at present before us, viz. the gifts and graces of the Spirit, the charge against it of its being an arbitrary system, or, in other words, independent of our own endeavours, is not founded in any doctrine or declaration of Scripture. It is not arbitrary in its origin, in its degree, or in its final success.
First ; It is not arbitrary in its origin ; for you read that it is given to prayer:
ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask it;'but whether we will ask it or not, depends upon ourselves. It is proposed, you find, as a subject for our prayers ; for prayer, not formal, cold, heartless, transitory, but prayer from the soul, prayer earnest and persevering; for this last alone is what the Scripture means by prayer. In this, therefore, it cannot be said to be arbitrary, or independent of our endeavours. On the contrary, the Scripture exhorts us to a striving in prayer for this best of all gifts.
But it will be asked, is not the very first touch of true religion upon the soul, sometimes at lcast, itself the action of the Holy Spirit ? Tbis, therefore, must be prior to our praying for it.