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Those means (I speak of the ordinary and acknowledged means of grace) are chiefly theseprayer-reading and hearing the Holy Scriptures— the holy sacraments of the Christian Church: these are the usual channels through, and by which the Holy Spirit works His work of mercy in converting the soul; and to these you have all free access; they are the instruments which God puts into your hands, to enable you to draw down His Holy Spirit upon your hearts, and therefore if your conscience tells you that you are yet without the Comforter, the fault must rest with yourselves. Either you have neglected prayer; and how many are chargeable with this grievous error! or you have not opened your Bible; or you have not set sufficient store by those two holy ordinances of our religion, baptism, and the supper of the Lord. Till your practice in all these respects be altered, you cannot wonder that you are left disconsolate; you cannot be surprised if God withhold his best and most precious gift from those who are at no pains to seek it from Him faithfully. "Ask and you shall have, knock and it shall be opened unto you," is the promise made to us by Christ in the Gospel, and we know that His promise is sure. But if we will not ask, if we will not knock, if we know nothing of the blessedness of regular and earnest prayer, then is the promise made of none effect
Say not, my brethren, that you desire to pray, but know not how; say not that you are ignorant, and so cannot pray. Do not seek to excuse your negligence by such pretence as this; but rather set yourselves in earnest to learn: do as David did: fall low on your knees before the throne of the Almighty; lift up your hands to God, and then your voice will not long be dumb; the Spirit Himself will help your infirmities, and will teach you how to pray aright for His succour.
To conclude: let me, then, exhort you, my brethren, as you care to obtain the blessed aid of the Holy Spirit, to be diligent in the exercise of prayer and let your foremost petition ever be this, "that God would give you grace to know what things you ought to do, and power faithfully to perform the same." But do not stop here: do not neglect the other means of grace. Be attentive to the study of the Holy Scriptures: read, mark, learn its wholesome lessons: listen to them, not as many do, without caring to understand them, without considering what they teach; but listen with the earnestness of men who know their value, who know that the Bible contains the word of God: His very voice speaking by the mouth of His holy prophets, evangelists, and apostles. Listen with your hearts as well as with your ears, and you will soon find great comfort and support from its sacred
pages-you will find this to be a true saying of St. Paul's in his second epistle to Timothy, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness"-able to make you "wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
Lastly. Make a due and reverent use of Christ's holy sacraments. There are no greater means of grace than these and none so little regarded. When I say this, I speak particularly of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. That of Holy Baptism has not yet, thanks be to God, fallen into disuse. Yet surely it is strange, strange to a degree almost unaccountable, that the same persons who observe the one sacrament, scruple not to neglect the other! Were they not both, let me ask you, were they not both ordained by Christ Himself? Are they not both generally necessary to salvation ? Indeed, my brethren, you can scarcely be aware how great an hindrance you throw in the way of your salvation, by continuing year after year to absent yourselves from the Lord's table. You thus deprive yourselves wilfully of that spiritual sustenance which you so much need to keep you from sinking under the load of earthly cares and earthly troubles by which, I well know, your lot at present is beset.
Would that I could bring you to see this holy ordinance in its proper light! would that I could make you understand that the sacrament is not a thing to be put off till old age, and then taken as a charm to smooth the rugged path of death-but a thing for present use and observance; an act of faith which every mature Christian is bound to render to his Lord; an act of faith, which almost more than any other is calculated to advance our progress in true religion; because it brings before us in the liveliest manner the sacrifice of our great Redeemer; because, under the symbols of bread and wine, "Jesus Christ is evidently set forth crucified amongst us." Surely, my brethren, it is against all reason that we cheer our souls with the hope of being saved from eternal death, through the merits of that mighty Saviour, so long as we are bold enough to refuse obedience to His most express commands. So long as, though bidden ever so lovingly, we cast His words behind us, and will not do this in remembrance of Him.
Consider, I beseech you, what I have been saying: remember, that if you really desire the renewing influences of the Holy Ghost, you must look for Him in the way in which He is promised: in those means of grace just enumerated in prayer: in reading and hearing the Bible: and in the holy sacraments. You must look for Him in the use, not of one only, but of all.
Take them all three together; prayer uttered in the spirit of earnest supplication; the words which God addresses to you in the Bible: The bread of life, and the cup of salvation, which Christ has prepared for you at His table: put their value to the test by a sincere, and devout, and frequent use of them; and in due time you will reap the benefit of such a practice. You will be able at length to answer with humble but heartfelt confidence, the question in the text-you will be able to say, Blessed be God, we have received the Holy Ghost.
Whitsunday, 1847, May 31.