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OF SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE IN GENERAL.
IN THREE PARTS.
1 Cor. 111. 16.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and
that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
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;
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 comprehensia : the difference between a : 2. bound, as it were, by knowis depends upon the motive of the re be known only to himself. TT 11La car either of granting or withb vang twa i : 2: is no claim (which is, in the 1145 de which, as such, rests with the IT ini him seemeth good), we must hasz ar which presented themselves to the Ta. before us.
This, with respect to titi: impossible. Therefore we allow, ita :: or in any other matter, to canvass the great presumption not fit to be indriged. Ver: ceive our portion of them with thacus. to be thankful, for instance, for the sms and strength which is given us w others are healthier and stronger Erte is the right disposition of mind, benefactions of God Almighty to
But unsearchable does not ca ce necessary ignorance of the most 1:1: 7-5 II: dwell in the Divine mind in the as grace, is no proof that it is not bes: recrureason. And with regard to the 23 us, viz. the gifts and graces of the SEI É -_agetest it, of its being an arbitrary TIL I 1 : words, independent of our own esim. 2 3.founded azş doctrine or declaratie de ces It is not arbitrary in its origin, in its dege, at
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.
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 least, itself the action of the Holy Spirit—this, therefore, must be prior to our praying for it? · And so it
And so it may be, and not yet be arbitrarily given. The religious state of the human soul is exceedingly various. Amongst others, there is a state in which there may be good latent dispositi xs, suitable faculties for religion, yet no religion. In such a state, the spark alone is wanting. To such a state, the elementary principle of religion may be communicated, though not prayed for. Nor can this be said to be arbitrary. The Spirit of God is given where it is wanted; where, when given, it would produce its effect : but that state of heart and mind, upon which the effect was to be produced, might still be the result of moral qualification, improvement, and voluntary endeavour. It is not, I think, difficult to conceive such a case as this.
Nevertheless it may be more ordinarily true, that the gift of the Spirit is holden out to the struggling, the endeavouring, the approaching Christian. When the penitent prodigal was yet a great way off, his father saw him. This narable was delivered by our
Lord expressly to typify God's dealing with such sinners as are touched with a sense of their condition. And this is one circumstance in it to be particularly noticed. God sees the returning mind-sees every step and every advance towards him, “ though we be yet a great way off”-yet at a great distance ; though much remains to be done, and to be attained, and to be accomplished. And what he sees, he helps. His aid and influence are assisting to the willing Christian, truly and sincerely willing, though yet in a low and imperfect state of proficiency; nay, though in the outset, as it were, of his religious progress. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart;" Psalm xxxiv. 18. But in all this there is nothing arbitrary.
Nor, secondly, is the operation of the Spirit arbi. trary in its degree. It has a rule, ana ius rule is this: “Whosoever hath, to him shall be giv and he shall have more abundance; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.” Now of this rule, which is expressed under some, but under no great difference of phrase, in all the first three Gospels, I have first to observe, that though it carry the appearance of harshness and injustice, it is neither the one nor the other, but is correctly and fundamentally just. The meaning is, that whosoever uses, exercises, and improves the gifts which he has received, shall continue to receive still larger portions of these gifts ; nay, he who has already received the largest portion, provided he adequately and proportionably uses his gifts, shall also in future receive the largest portion. More and more will be added to him that has the most : whilst he who neglects the little which he has, shall be deprived even of that. That this is the
sound exposition of these texts is proved from hence, that one of them is used as the application of the parable of the talents, concerning the meaning of which parable there can be no doubt at all : for there, he who had received, and, having received, had duly improved, ten talents, was placed over ten cities; and of him the expression in question is used—“whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.” On the contrary, he who had received one talent, and had neglected what he had received, had it taken from him ; and of him the other part of the expression is used—“whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. But there is a point still remaining, viz. whether this Scripture rule be applicable to spiritual gifts. I answer that it is so applied, more especially to spiritual knowledge, and the use which we make thereof: “ Take heed how
ye hear : unto you that hear shall more be given ; for he that hath, to him shall be given, and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.” So stands the passage in Mark; and substantially the same, that is, with a view to the same application, the passage stands in Matthew and Luke. I consider it, therefore, to be distinctly asserted, that this is the rule with regard to spiritual knowledge. And I think the analogy conclusive with regard to other spiritual gifts. In all which there is nothing arbitrary.
Nor, thirdly, is it arbitrary in its final success. “Grieve not the Spirit of God.” Therefore he may be grieved.
“ And hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace,” Heb. x. 29. Therefore he may be despised. Both these are leading texts upon the subject. And so is the following—" And his grace, which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain,” i Cor. xv. 10. There