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God can, if he please, gire that tact and quality to his communications, that they shall be perceived to be divine communications at the time. And this probably was very frequently the case with the prophets, with the apostles, and with inspired men of old. But it is not the case naturally; by which I mean, that it is not the case according to the constitution of the human soul. It does not appear, by experience, to be the case usually. What would be the effect of the influence of the divine Spirit being always or generally accompanied with a distinct notice, it is difficult even to conjecture. One thing may be said of it, that it would be putting us under a quite different dispensation. It would be putting us under a miraculous dispensation ; for the agency of the Spirit in our souls distinctly perceived is, properly speaking, a miracle. Now miracles are instruments in the hand of God of signal and extraordinary effects, produced upon signal and extraordinary occasions. Neither internally nor externally do they form the ordinary course of his proceeding with his reasonable creatures. .
And in this there is a close analogy with the course of nature, as carried on under the divine government. We have every reason, which Scrip. ture can give us, for believing, that God frequently interposes to turn and guide the order of events in the world, so as to make them execute his purpose: yet we do not so perceive these interpositions, as, either always or generally, to distinguish them from the natural progress of things. His providence is real, but unseen. We distinguish not between the acts of God and the course of nature. It is so with the Spirit. When, therefore, we teach that good men may be led, or bad men converted, by the Spirit of God, and yet they themselves not distinguish his holy influence; we teach no more than what is conformable, as, I think, has been shewn to the frame of the human mind, or rather to our degree of acquaintance with that frame; and also analogous to the exer
OF THE SPIRIT.
that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you ?--1 Cor.
that the Su ii. 16.
190 ON THE INFLUENCE manent habit and course of life (a thing of com tinuance) resulting from an inward change (which might be a thing produced at once.).
In the mean time it may be true, that the more ordinary course of God's grace is gradual and successive; helping from time to time our endear. ours, succouring our infirmities, strengthening our resolutions, “ making with the temptation a way to escape," promoting our improvement, assisting our progress; warning, rebuking, encouraging, comforting, attending us, as it were, through the different stages of our laborious advance in the road of salvation.
And as the operations of the Spirit are indef. nite, so far as we know, in respect of time, so are they likewise in respect of mode. They may act, I and observation affords reason to believe that they do sometimes act, by adding force and efficacy to instruction, advice, or admonition. A passage of Scripture sometime strikes the heart with won derful power; adheres, as it were, and cleaves to the memory, till it has wrought its work. Ao in pressive sermon is often known to sink very deep. It is not, perhaps, too much to hope, that the Spirit of God should accompany his ordinances, prov. ded a person bring to them seriousness, humility and devotion. For example, the devout receiving of the holy sacrament may draw down upon us the gift and enefit of divi
e grace, or increase our measure of it. This, as being the most solemo act of our religion, and also an appointment of the religion itself, may be properly placed for it; but every species of prayer, provided it be earnest; every act of worship, provided it be sincere, mas participate in the same effect; may be to us the occasion, the time, and the instrument of this greatest of all gifts
In all these instances, and in all, indeed, that relate to the operations of the Spirit, we are to judge, if we will take upon us tojudge atall (which I do not see that we are obliged to do,) not only with great capdour and moderation, but also with
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As all doctrine ought to end in practice, and all sound instruction lead to right conduct, it comes, in the last place, to be considered, what obliga. tions follow from the tenet of an assisting grace and spiritual influence; what is to be done on our part in consequence of holding such a persuasion ; what is the behaviour corresponding and consistent with such an opinion; for we must always bear in mind, that the grace and Spirit of God no more take away our freedom of action, our personal and moral liberty, than the advice, the ad. monitions, the suggestions, the reproofs, the expostulations, the counsels of a friend or parent would take them away. We may act either right or wrong, notwithstanding these interferences. It still depends upon ourselves which of the two we will do. We are not machines under these impressions: nor are we under the impression of the Holy Spirit. Therefore there is a class of duties, relating to this subject, as much as any other, and more, perhaps, than any other important.
And, first, I would apply myself to an objection,
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Perhaps there is no subject whatever, in which we ought to be so careful not to go before our guide, as in this of spiritual influence. We ought neither to expect more than is promised, nor to take upon ourselves to determine what the Scriptures have not determined. This safe rule will produce both caution in judging of ourselves, and moderation in judging, or rather a backwardness in taking upon us to judge of others. The modes of operation of God's Spiritare probably extreme. ly various and numerous. This variety is intimated by our Saviour's comparing it with the blowing of the wind. We have no right to limit it to any particular mode, forasınuch as the Scriptures have not limited it: nor does observation enable us to do it with any degree of certainty.
The conversion of a sinner, for instance, may be sudden; nay, may be instantaneous, yet be both sincere and permanent. We hare no authority whatever to deny the possibility of this. On the contrary we ought to rejoice, when we observe in any one even the appearance of such a change. And this change may not only by possibility be sudden, butsudden changes may be more frequent than our observations would lead us to expect. For we can observe only effects, and these must have time to shew themselves in; while the change of heart may be already wrought. It is a change of heart, which is attributable to the Spirit of God, and this may be sudden. The fruits, the corresponding effects, the external formation, and external good actions will follow in due time. “I will take the stony heart out of their flesh; and will give them a heart of flesh.”* These words may well describe God's dealings with his moral creatures, and the operations of his grace : then follows a description of the effects of these dealings, of these operations, of that grace, viz. “that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and do them;" which represents a per
* Ezek, xi. 19.
192 ON THE INFLUENCE which belongs to this, namely, the practical part of the subject : which objection is, that the doctrine of spiritual influence and the preaching of this doctrine, causes men to attend chiefly to the feelings within them, to place religion in feelings and sensations, and to be content with such feelings and sensations, without coming to active duties and real usefulness; that it tends to produce a contemplative religion, accompanied with a sort of abstraction from the interests of this world, as respecting either ourselves or others; a sort of quietism and indifference, which contributes nothing to the good of mankind, or to make a man ser viceable in his generation ; that men of this de scription sit brooding over what passes in their hearts, without performing any good actions, o" well discharging their social or domestic obligation's, or indeed guarding their outward conduct with sufficient care. Now, if there be any foun. dation in fact for this charge, it arises from some persons holding this doctrine defectively; I mean from their not attending to one main point in the doctrine, which is, that the promise is not to those who have the Spirit, but to those who are led by the Spirit; not to those who are favoured with its suggestions, but to those who give themselves up to follow, and do actually follow, these sugges tions. Now, though a person by attending to his eelings and consciousness may persuade himself, that he has the Spirit of God, yet if he stop and rest in these sensations without consequential practical exertions, it can by no possibility be said of him, nor, one would think, could he possibly bring himself to believe, that he is led by the Spirit, that he follows the Spirit; for these terms ne cessarily imply something done under that influence; necessarily carry the thoughts to a course of conduct entered into and pursued in obedience to, and by virtue of, that influence. Whether the objection here noticed has any foundation in the conduct of those, who hold the doctrine of which we treat, I am uncertain ; accounts are different:
OF THE SPIRIT. 193 but at any rate the objection lies, not against the doctrine, but against a defective apprehension of it. For, in confirmation of all which we have said, We may produce the example of St. Paul. Noone carried the doctrine of spiritual influence higher than he did, or spoke of it so much; yet no character in the world could be farther than his was, from resting in feelings and sensations. On the contrary, it was all activity and usefulness. His whole history confirms what he said of himself, that in labour's, in positive exertions, both of mind and body, he was above measure. It will be said, perhaps, that these exertions were in a particular way, viz. in making converts to his opinions; but it was the way in which, as he believed, he was promoting the interest of his fellow-creatures in the greatest degree possible for him to promote them; and it was the way also, which he believed to be enjoined upon him by the express and par. ticular command of God. Had there been any other method, any other course and line of be. neficent endeavours, in which he thought he could have been more useful, and had the choice been left to himself (which it was not) the same principle, the same eager desire of doing good, would have manifested itself with equal vigour in that other line. His sentiments and precepts corresponded with his example. “Do good unto all men, especially unto them that are of the household of Christ." Here doing is enjoined. Nothing less than doing can satisfy this precept. Feelings and sensations will not, though of the best kind. Let him that stole, steal no more, but rather let him labour with his hands, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” This is carrying active be. Deficence as far as it can go. Men are commanded to relieve the necessities of their poor brethren out of the earnings of their manuel labour, nay to labour for that very purpose : and their doing so is stated as the best expiation for former dishonesties, and the best proof how much and how
ciple, the Self (which it and had them he could
ponded with his sentiments and in vigour in that
But at any rate the objection lies, not against the
doctrine, but against a defective apprehension of Et. For, in confirmation of all which we have said, we may produce the example of St. Paul. No one carried the doctrine of spiritual influence higher than he did, or spoke of it so much; yet no character in the world could be farther than his was, from resting in feelings and sensations. On the contrary, it was all activity and usefulness. His whole history confirms what he said of himself, that in labours, in positive exertions, both of mind and body, he was above measure. It will be said, perhaps, that these exertions were in a particular way, viz. in making converts to his opinions; but it was the way in which, as he believed, he was promoting the interest of his fellow-creatures in the greatest degree possible for him to promote them; and it was the way also, which he believed to be enjoined upon him by the express and par. ticular command of God. Had there been any other method, any other course and line of beneficent endeavours, in which he thought he could have been more useful, and had the choice been left to himself (which it was not the same priaciple, the same eager desire of doing good, would have manifested itself with equal vigour in that other line. His sentiments and precepts corresponded with his example. “Do good unto all men, especially unto them that are of the household of Christ.” Here doing is enjoined. Nothing less than doing can satisfy this precept. Feelings and sensations will not, though of the best kind. “ Let him that stole, steal no more, but rather let him labour with his hands, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” This is carrying active beDeficence as far as it can go. Men are command. ed to relieve the necessities of their poor brethren out of the earnings of their manuel labour, nay to labour for that very purpose : and their doing so is stated as the best expiation for former dishonesties, and the best proof how much and how truly they are changed from what they were.