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of others. The modes of operation of God's Spirit are probably extremely 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, forasmuch 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 have 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, but sudden 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 show themselves in; whilst 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. will take the stony heart out of their flesh; and will give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel, xi. 19.) 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 statues and keep my ordinances and do them ;" which represents a permanent habit and course of life (a thing of continuance), 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 endeavours, suc
couring our infirmities, strengthening our resolutions, “making with the temptations 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 indefinite, so far as we know, in respect of time, so are they likewise in respect of mode. They may act, and observation affords reason to believe that they do sometimes act, by adding force and efficacy to instruction, advice, or admonition. A A passage of Scripture sometimes strikes the heart with wonderful power; adheres, as it were, and cleaves to the memory till it has wrought its work. An impressive 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, provided 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 benefit of Divine grace, or increase our measure of it. This, as being the most solemn 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 ; may 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 to judge at all (which I do not see that we are obliged to do), not only with great candour and moderation, but also with great reserve and caution ; and as to the modes of Divine
grace, of its proceedings in the hearts of men, as of things
undetermined in Scripture, and indeterminable by us. In our own case, which it is of infinitely more importance to each of us to manage rightly, than it is to judge even truly of other men's, we are to use perseveringly every appointed, every reasonable, every probable, every virtuous endeavour to render ourselves objects of that merciful assistance which undoubtedly and confessedly we much want, and which, in one way or other, God, we are assured, is willing to afford.
ON THE INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT.
1 CORINTHIANs, iii. 16.
Know ye not that
not that ye are the temple of God, and that
the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 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 obligations 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 admonitions, the suggestions, the reproofs, the expostulations, the counsels of a friend or parent would take
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, 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 serviceable in his generation ; that men of this description sit brooding over what passes in their hearts, , without performing any good actions, or well discharging their social or domestic obligations, or indeed guarding their outward conduct with sufficient care. Now, if there be any foundation 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 suggestions. Now, though a person by attending to his feelings 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 necessarily 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 founda