Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

years of fulfilling the commandment. As to the former, the supplication, that the infant may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration; and further, that the water may be sanctified to the mystical washing away of sin (that is, a purification from the innate, inherent depravity or degeneracy incurred by original sin, infecting human nature), it is through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, in whose name he is baptized, or (as the words just quoted express) by the working of regeneration, and the renewal of the Holy Ghost, that the creature is restored to favour. And as to those who are arrived to years of maturity to act, and understand; what work of acceptable righteousness can the best perform, that proceeds not from the grace of God, and gift of the Spirit? After the fall of man from his first state of purity, he forfeited the protection of this good Spirit-he lost the benefit of his help; it was as impossible he could renew himself, as make himself; he was necessarily become a child of wrath, and must have remained so, but for God's mercy through Christ. For the sake of what He engaged to do, and did, God promised to repair man's nature, and that by the operation or gifts of his Holy Spirit, whereby we are born again, and by baptism become children of grace; i. e. of mere mercy and free favour. By this Holy Spirit, then, we are united to Christ; for by one Spirit (saith the Apostle) we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and that body is Christ. (1 Cor. xii. 13.) And we have this further proof of our union with him by the Spirit that abideth in us, because, by keeping his commandments, we are sure that he dwelleth in us. (1 John, iii. 24.) It is he who enables us to persevere in every truly religious undertaking ; for we are not sufficient of ourselves to do any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. By him are the eyes of our understanding opened, that we may see the truth ; for we must feel and confess, that the natural man desireth not the things of the Spirit of God, nor can he, for they are spiritually discerned. As far, therefore, as we are conscious we do earnestly thirst after those good things, we have this comfortable evidence that the Spirit of the Lord is with us. And by this divine gift it was that Christ opened the eyes of the Apostles, that they might understand the Scriptures. (Luke, xxiv. 45.) By him the Lord touched the heart of the devout Lydia, that she attended unto the things that were spoken by St. Paul; and from a deep sense of the need of this supernatural aid, the holy Psalmist so earnestly exclaims (Psalm cxix. 18), Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may see the wondrous things of thy law.

That our unregenerated will is averse from

the pursuits of holiness, our own sad experience must abundantly testify; and the Apostle, who knew what only could incline us to the safe course, exhorts us to an industry that should evince even fear and trembling, lest we fall short of salvation, because it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil. ii. 13.) Our own corrupted will is at enmity with God; therefore we need the aid of his good Spirit to correct it, and stir up pure inclination. Moreover, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to settle us in the faith of Christ ; for by grace we are saved through faith ; and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God. Faith is the instrument, or means, which God, in his wisdom, hath provided to build us up in Christ; and this too is produced in us by favour of the Holy Ghost. In consequence of this principle in us, he enables us to fulfil our duty; for, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God: and that we may continue steadfast in the same, he strengthens us against falling into temptation ; for God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it. In short, it is from the care and help of this divine Person, that we are brought through all dangers, which either our own weakness, or the cunning and malice of the devil, may raise against us, to draw us off from serving God; for he hath so far sealed or assured us, by giving this earnest of the Spirit in our hearts, and thus comforting us, that He who hath begun a good work in us will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. i. 6.)

But here a very essential question presents itself ; viz. what share of power we have to forward the work of our salvation ? since, through the degeneracy of our nature, and the pollution of our sins, it is certain, that of ourselves we are not sufficient for any good. It is by the grace of the Holy Spirit alone, that we are either disposed to will, or enabled to do, those things which God and our duty require of us. But still, that grace inust not be understood as absolutely over-ruling or controlling our freedom of acting. As free agents, we have a choice proposed, as had our first parents. I have set life and death before you (saith the Lord); CHOOSË LIFE : ye cannot of yourselves bring forth fruit acceptable in my pure sight; but I have shown you the way, and afforded you the means, and promised you the aid both how to will and to do. I have not put any irresistible check on your obtaining power, but have positively commanded you to ask, seek, and knock, that ye may receive what is needful for you. Therefore, although every good motion, in a strict sense, cometh of God's good Spirit, and the ability to close with it, likewise ; yet it is

left to us to employ the grace, by the exercise of such endeavours as the rules of the Gospel point out to us; for the Scripture tells us it is possible to resist and grieve God's Holy Spirit (Eph. iv. 30); which if we do, we show a preference of our own depraved will, and consequently must not expect his assistance.

The necessity of God's grace to stir up good purposes in us, does not free us from diligence, and labour, and watchfulness, to close with them : but the gift is graciously bestowed on weak and imperfect creatures, in order to assist and perfect the endeavours they are capable of making, having their natures so renewed ; and to enable them to do that which, without it, they would never have been able to perform. Still, they may oppose and reject their greatest happiness, or they could not be proper objects of reward or punishment. But this difficulty will be easily removed, by considering, lastly, by what means we may obtain the aid of the Holy Spirit. And here, as in all cases, where our own obscure reason is not equal to guide and determine safely, we must have recourse to that unerring rule, the inspired word of God. In the blessed Gospel, which is the history of every grace we can receive, and of every hope we can expect, we are taught that fervent prayer to God for his grace, will prevail upon him to bestow it. Here, then, is one endeavour

« ZurückWeiter »