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though fallen, we may not be lost. This is a condition which flies to aid and help, if aid and help can be had; and it is a condition to which the promised support of the Spirit most peculiarly applies. On such an occasion, therefore, it will be sought with struggles and strong contention of mind, if we be serious in these matters. So sought, it will be obtained.
served notice,) I proceed to state the particular duties which relate to the doctrine of spiritual assistance. And the first of these duties is to pray for it. It is by prayer that it is to be sought; by prayer that it is to be obtained. This the Scriptures expressly teach. "How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" The foundation of prayer, in all cases, is a sense of want. No man prays Again: Is it not always a fit subject of prayer, in earnest or to any purpose for what he does not that the Holy Spirit would inform, animate, warm, feel that he wants. Know then and feel the and support our devotion? St. Paul speaks of weakness of your nature. Know the infinite im- the co-operation of the Spirit with us in this very portance of holding on, nevertheless, in a course article. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our inof virtue. Know these two points thoroughly, firmities, for we know not what we should pray and you can stand in need of no additional mo- for as we ought; but the Spirit maketh intercestive (indeed none can be added,) to excite in you sion for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." strong unwearied supplications for Divine help; The specific help here described is to supply our not a cold asking for it in any prescribed form of ignorance. But the words speak also generally prayer, but cryings and supplications for it, strong of helping our infirmities; meaning, as the pasand unwearied. The description in the Epistle sage leads us to suppose, the infirmities which atto the Hebrews, of our Lord's own devotion, may tend our devotion. Now these infirmities are not serve to describe the devotion of a Christian, pray-only ignorance, but coldness, wanderings, abing, as he ought, for the Spirit; that is, praying sence; for all which a remedy is to be sought in from a deep understanding of his own condition, the aid and help of the Spirit. a conviction of his wants and necessities. "He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death; and was heard in that he feared." This is devotion in reality.
Next in order of time, to praying for the Spirit of God, but still superior to it in importance, is listening and yielding ourselves to his suggestions. This is the thing in which we fail.
Now, it being confessed that we cannot ordinarily distinguish at the time the suggestions of the Spirit from the operations of our minds, it may be asked, how are we to listen to them? The answer is, by attending universally to the admonitions within us. Men do not listen to their consciences. It is through the whisperings of conscience that the Spirit speaks. If men then are wilfully deaf to their consciences, they cannot hear the Spirit. If hearing, if being compelled to hear, the remonstrances of conscience, they nevertheless decide, and resolve, and determine to go against them; then they grieve, then they defy, then they do despite to the Spirit of God. In both cases, that is, both of neglecting to consult, and of defying, when they cannot help feeling the admonitions which rise up within them, they have this judgment hanging over their heads: "He that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath." He that misuses or abuses the portion and measure of spiritual assistance which is afforded him, shall lose even that.
There are occasions also, which ought to call forth these prayers with extraordinary and peculiar force.
Is it superstition? is it not, on the contrary, a iust and reasonable piety to implore of God the guidance of his Holy Spirit, when we have any thing of great importance to decide upon, or to undertake; especially any thing by which the happiness of others, as well as our own, is likely to be affected?
It would be difficult to enumerate the passages and occasions of a man's life, in which he is particularly bound to apply to God for the aid and direction of his Spirit. In general, in every turn, as it may be called, of life; whenever any thing critical, any thing momentous, any thing which is to fix our situation and course of life; most especially any thing which is likely to have an influence upon our moral conduct and disposition, and thereby affect our condition, as candidates for heaven, and as the religious servants of God, is to be resolved upon; there and then ought we to say our prayers; most ardently supplicating from our Creator and Preserver the grace and guidance of his Holy Spirit.
Is it not, again, a time for calling earnestly for the Spirit of God, and for a greater measure of that Spirit, if he be pleased to grant it to us, when we are recovering from some sin into which we have been betrayed? This case is always critical. The question now is, whether we shall fall into a settled course of sinning, or whether we shall be restored to our former, and to better than our former endeavours to maintain the line of duty. That, under the sting and present alarm of our conscience, we have formed resolutions of virtue for the future is supposed; but whether these resolutions will stand, is the point now at issue. And in this peril of our souls we cannot be too earnest or importunate in our supplications for Divine succour. It can never come to our aid at a time when we more want it. Our fall proves our weakness. Our desire of recovery proves, that,
The efficacy of the Spirit is to be judged of by its fruits. Its immediate effects are upon the disposition. A visible outward conduct will ensue; but the true seat of grace and of spiritual energy is in the heart and inward disposition. Whenever, therefore, we find religious carelessness succeeded within us by religious seriousness; conscience, which was silent or unheard, now powerfully speaking and obeyed; sensuality and selfishness, the two grand enemies of salvation, the two great powers of darkness which rule the natural man-when we find even these giving way to the inward accusing voice of conscience; when we find the thoughts of the mind drawing or drawn more and more towards heavenly things; the value and interest of these expectations plainer to our view, a great deal more frequent than heretofore in our meditations, and more fully discerned; the care and safety of our souls rising gradually above concerns and anxieties about worldly affairs; when we find the force of temptation and of evil propensities not extinct, but retreating be
With respect to positive external good actions, we have said that they must depend in some measure upon occasions, and abilities, and opportunities, and that they must wait for opportunities; but, observe, it is not so with the breaking off of our sins, be they what they will. That work must wait for nothing. Until that be effected, no change is made. No man, going on in a known sin, has any right to say, that the Spirit of God has done its office within him. Either it has not been given to him, or being given, it has been resisted, spised, or, at least, neglected. Such a person has either yet to obtain it by prayer, or, when obtained, to avail himself duly of its assistance. Let him understand this to be his condition.
fore a sense of duty; self-government maintain- | vigour; though it be true, that unless he had exed; the interruptions of it immediately perceived, erted what power and strength he was possessed bitterly deplored, and soon recovered; sin rejected of, he would not have been saved at all. and repelled; and this not so much with an in- Lastly: This doctrine shuts the door against a crease of confidence in our strength, as of reliance most general, a most specious, and a most deceivupon the assisting grace of God; when we finding excuse for our sins; which excuse is, that we ourselves touched with the love of our Maker, have striven against them, but are overpowered by taking satisfaction in his worship and service; our evil nature, by that nature which the Scripwhen we feel a growing taste and relish for reli- tures themselves represent as evil; in a word, that gious subjects and religious exercises; above all, we have done what we could. Now, until by when we begin to rejoice in the comfort of the supplication and prayer we have called for the proHoly Ghost; in the prospect of reaching heaven; mised assistance of God's Spirit, and with an in the powerful aids and helps which are given us earnestness, devotion, perseverance, and importuin accomplishing this great end, and the strength, nity, proportioned to the magnitude of the conand firmness, and resolution, which, so helped and cern; until we have rendered ourselves objects of aided, we experience in our progress: when we that influence, and yielded ourselves to it, it is not feel these things, then may we, without either en- true, "that we have done all that we can.” We thusiasm or superstition, humbly believe that the must not rely upon that excuse; for it is not true Spirit of God hath been at work within us. Ex- in fact. If, experiencing the depravity and imbeternal virtues, good actions will follow, as occa-cility of our nature, we see in this corruption and sions may draw them forth; but it is within that weakness an excuse for our sins, and taking up we must look for the change which the inspiration with this excuse, we surrender ourselves to them; of God's Spirit produces. if we give up, relax in our opposition to them, and struggles against them, at last consenting to our sins, and falling down with the stream which we have found so hard to resist; if things take this turn with us, then are we in a state to be utterly, finally, and fatally undone. We have it in our power to shut our eyes against the danger; we naturally shall endeavour to make ourselves as easy and contented in our situation as we can; but the truth, nevertheless, is, that we are hastening to certain perdition. If, on the contrary, perde-ceiving the feebleness of our nature, we be driven by the perception, as St. Paul was driven, to fly for deliverance from our sins to the aid, and infiuence, and power of God's Spirit; to seek for Divine help and succour, as a sinking mariner calls out for help and succour, not formally, we may be sure, or coldly, but with cries, and tears, and supplications, as for life itself; if we be prepared to co-operate with this help, with the holy working of God's grace within us; then may we trust, both that it will be given to us, (yet in such manner as to God shall seem fit, and which cannot be limited by us,) and also that the portion of help which is given, being duly used and improved, (not despised, neglected, put away,) more and more will be continually added for the ultimate accomplishment of our great end and object, the deliverance of our souls from the captivity, and the conse quences of sin.
The next duty, or rather disposition, which flows from the doctrine of spiritual influence, is humility. There never was a truer saying than that pride is the adversary of religion, lowliness and humility the tempers for it. Now religious humility consists in the habit of referring every thing to God. From one end of the New Testament to the other, God is set forth and magnified in his agency and his operations. In the greatest of all businesses, the business of salvation, he is operating, and we co-operating with him. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;" and why? "for it is God that worketh in us to will and to do, according to his good pleasure." He is not superseding our endeavours, (the very contrary is implied by commanding us to exert them,) but still nothing is done without him. If we have moral strength, we are strong in the inward might of the Holy Ghost: consequently all boasting, all vanity, all self-sufficiency, all despising of others, on the score of moral and religious inferiority, are excluded. Without the grace of God, we might have been as the worst of them. There is in the nature of things, one train of sentiment belonging to him who has achieved a work by his own might, and power, and prowess; and another to him, who has been fain to beg for succour and assistance, and by that assistance alone has been carried through difficulties which were too great for his own strength and faculties. This last is the true sentiment for us. It is not for a man, whose life has been saved in a shipwreck by the compassionate help of others; it is not for a man, so saved, to boast of his own alertness and
SIN ENCOUNTERED BY SPIRITUAL AID.
O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver
Now, let it be remembered, that death, in Saint Paul's epistles, hardly ever signifies a natural death, to which all men of all kinds are equally
You see then what death is in the Scripture sense; in St. Paul's sense. "The body of this death." The phrase and expression of the text cannot, however, mean this death itself, because he prays to be delivered from it; whereas from that death, or that perdition understood by it, when it once overtakes the sinner, there is no deliverance that we know of. The "body," then, of this death," is not the death itself, but a state leading to and ending in the second death; namely, in misery and punishment, instead of happiness and rest, after our departure out of this world. And this state it is, from which St. Paul, with such vehemence and concern upon his spirit, seeks to be delivered.
subjected; but it means a spiritual death, or that |
Having seen the signification of the principal phrase employed in the text, the next, and the most important question is, to what condition of the soul, in its moral and religious concerns, the apostle applies it. Now in the verses preceding the text, indeed in the whole of this remarkable chapter, St. Paul has been describing a state of struggle and contention with sinful propensities; which propensities, in the present condition of our nature, we all feel, and which are never wholly abolished. But our apostle goes further: he describes also that state of unsuccessful struggle and unsuccessful contention, by which many so unhappily fall. His words are these: "That which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not: for the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. I find a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members."
This account, though the style and manner of expression in which it is delivered be very peculiar, is, in its substance, no other than what is strictly applicable to the case of thousands. "The good that I would, I do not; the evil which I would not, that I do." How many, who read this discourse, may say the same of themselves! as also, "what I would, that do I pot; but what I hate, that I do." This then is the case which St. Paul had in view. It is a case, first, which supposes an informed and enlightened conscience: "I delight in the law of God." "I had not known sin but by the law." "I consent unto the law that it is good." These sentiments could only be uttered by a man who was in a considerable degree at least, acquainted with his duty, and who also approved of the rule of duty which he found laid down.
Secondly: The case before us also supposes an inclination of mind and judgment to perform our duty. "When I would do good, evil is present with me: to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not.”
Thirdly: It supposes this inclination of mind and judgment to be continually overpowered. “I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members;" that is, the evil principle not only opposes the judgment of the mind, and the conduct which that judgment dictates, (which may be the case
with all.) but in the present case subdues and gets | since he had occasionally likewise endeavoured to the better of it: "Not only wars against the law bring himself to an obedience to this law, however of my mind, but brings me into captivity." unsuccessful his endeavours had been; above all, since he had sincerely deplored and bewailed his fallings off from it, he might hope, I say, that his was a case for favourable acceptance.
Fourthly: The case supposes a sense and thorough consciousness of all this: of the rule of duty; of the nature of sin; of the struggle; of the defeat. It is a prisoner sensible of his chains. It is a soul tied and bound by the fetters of its sins, and knowing itself to be so. It is by no means the case of the ignorant sinner; it is not the case of an erring mistaken conscience; it is not the case of a seared and hardened conscience. None of these could make the reflection or the complaint which is here described. "The commandinent which was ordained unto life, I found to be unto death. I am carnal, sold under sin. In me dwelleth no good thing. The law is holy; and the commandment holy, just, and good; but sin, that it might appear sin, (that it might be more conspicuous, aggravated, and inexcusable,) works death in me by that which is good." This lan
St. Paul saw it not in this light. He saw in it no ground of confidence or satisfaction. It was a state, to which he gives no better name than the body of death." It was a state not in which be hoped to be saved, but from which he sought to be delivered. It was a state, in a word, of bitterness and terror; drawing from him expressions of the deepest anguish and distress: "O, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
guage by no means belongs to the stupified in- EVIL PROPENSITIES ENCOUNTERED BY THE AID OF sensible sinner.
Nor, fifthly, as it cannot belong to an original insensibility of conscience, that is, an insensibility of which the person himself does not remember the beginning, so neither can it belong to the sinner who has got over the rebukes, distrusts, and uneasiness which sin once occasioned. True it is, that this uneasiness may be got over almost entirely; so that whilst the danger remains the same, whilst the final event will be the same, whilst the coming destruction is not less sure or dreadful, the uneasiness and the apprehension are gone. This is a case too common, too deplorable, too desperate; but it is not the case of which we are now treating, or of which St. Paul treated. Here we are presented throughout with complaint and uneasiness; with a soul exceedingly dissatisfied, exceedingly indeed disquieted, and disturbed, and alarmed, with the view of its condition.
Upon the whole, St. Paul's account is the account of a man in some sort struggling with his vices; at least deeply conscious of what they are, whither they are leading him, where they will end; acknowledging the law of God, not only in words and speeches, but in his mind; acknowledging its excellency, its authority; wishing also, and willing to act up to it, but, in fact, doing no such thing; feeling in practice a lamentable inability of doing his duty, yet perceiving that it must be done. All he has hitherto attained is a state of successive resolutions and relapses. Much is willed, nothing is effected. No furtherance, no advance, no progress, is made in the way of salvation. He feels indeed his double nature; but he finds that the law in his members, the law of the flesh, brings the whole man into captivity. He may have some better strivings, but they are unsuccessful. The result is, that he obeys the law of sin. This is the picture which our apostle contem-ence as to his salvation. And this descent into plated, and he saw in it nothing but misery: "O the depths of moral vileness and depravity began, wretched man that I am!" Another might have in some measure, with perceiving and confessing seen it in a more comfortable light. He might the weakness of his nature; and giving to this have hoped that the will would be taken for the perception that, most erroneous, that most fatal deed; that since he felt in his mind a strong ap- turn, the regarding it as an excuse for every thing; probation of the law of God; nay, since he felt a and as dispensing even with the self-denials, and delight in contemplating it, and openly professed with the exertions of self-government, which a to do so; Isince he was neither ignorant of it, nor man had formerly thought it necessary to exercise, forgetful of it, nor insensible of its obligation, nor and in some sort, though in no suflicient sort, had ever set himself to dispute its authority; nay, exercised.
O, wretched man that I am! who shall delirer me from the body of this death ?-Rom. vii. 24.
HE who has not felt the weakness of his nature, it is probable, has reflected little upon the subject of religion. I should conjecture this to be the case.
But then, when men do feel the weakness of their nature, it is not always that this consciousness carries them into a right course, but sometimes into a course the very contrary of what is right. They may see in it, as hath been observed, and many do see in it, nothing but an excuse and apology for their sins. Since it is acknowledged that we carry about with us a frail, not to call it a depraved, corrupted nature, surely, they say, we shall not be amenable to any severities or extremities of judgment for delinquencies to which such a nature must ever be liable; or, which is indeed all the difference there is between one man and another, for greater degrees or less, for more or fewer of these delinquencies. The natural man takes courage from this consideration. He finds ease in it. It is an opiate to his fears. It lulls him into a forgetfulness of danger, and of the dreadful end, if the danger be real. Then the practical consequence is, that he begins to relax even of those endeavours to obey God which he has hitherto exerted. Imperfect and inconstant as these endeavours were at best, they become gradually more languid and more unfrequent, and more insincere than they were before: his sins increase upon him in the same proportion: he proceeds rapidly to the condition of a confirmed sinner, either secret or open; it makes no differ
Spirit." There is now no condemnation : but of whom, and to whom, is this spoken? It is to them who first are in Christ Jesus; who, secondly, walk not after the flesh; who, thirdly, walk after the Spirit.
Now, I ask, was this St. Paul's way of considering the subject? Was this the turn which he gave to it? Altogether the contrary. It was impossible for any Christian of any age, to be more deeply impressed with a sense of the weakness of human nature than he was; or to express it more strongly than he has done in the chapter before us. But, observe; feeling most sensibly, and painting most forcibly, the sad condition of his nature, he never alleges it as an excuse for sin: he does not console himself with any such excuse. He does not make it a reason for setting himself at rest upon the subject. He finds no relief to his fears in any such consideration. It is not with him a ground for expecting salvation: on the contrary, he sees it to be a state not leading to salvation; otherwise, why did he seek so earnestly to be delivered from it?
And whence arises this alteration and improvement in our condition and our hopes; this exemp tion, or rather deliverance, from the ordinary state of man? St. Paul refers us to the cause. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Which words can hardly bear any other signification than this, viz. "That the aid and operation of God's Spirit, given through Jesus Christ, hath subdued the power which sin had obtained, and once exercised over me." With this interpretation the whole sequel of St. Paul's reasoning agrees. Every sentence almost that follows illustrates the And how to be delivered? that becomes the interpretation, and proves it to be the true one. next question. In order to arrive at St. Paul's With what, but with the operation and the comeaning in this matter, we must attend with some operation of the Spirit of God, as of a real, effidegree of care, not only to the text, but to the cient, powerful, active Being, can such expressions words which follow it. The 24th verse contains as the following be made to suit?" If so be that the question, "Who shall deliver me from the the Spirit of God dwell in you."-" If any man body of this death?" and then the 25th verse goes have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." on, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."-"If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from Now there is good reason to believe, that this the dead dwell in you."-"By his Spirit that 25th verse does not appear in our copies as it dwelleth in you."-"Ye have received the Spirit ought to be read. It is most probable that the of adoption." -"The Spirit itself beareth witness passage stood thus: the 24th verse asks, "Who with our spirit." All which expressions are found shall deliver me from the body of this death?" in the eighth chapter, namely, the chapter followThen the 25th verse answers, "The grace of ing the text, and all, indeed, within the compass God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Instead of a few verses. These passages either assert of the words "I thank God," put the words "The or assume the fact, namely, the existence and grace of God," and you will find the sense cleared agency of such a Spirit; its agency, I mean, in up by the change very much. I say, it is highly and upon the human soul. It is by the aid, thereprobable that this change exhibits what St. Paul fore, of this Spirit, that the deliverance so earnestly really wrote. In English there is no resemblance sought for is effected; a deliverance represented either in sound or writing between the two sen- as absolutely necessary to be effected in some way tences, "I thank God," and "The grace of God;" or other. And it is also represented as one of but in the language in which the epistle was writ- the grand benefits of the Christian dispensation, ten there is a very great resemblance. And, as 1" What the law could not do in that it was weak have said, there is reason to believe that in the through the flesh, God sending his own Son in transcribing one has been confounded with the the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, conother. Perhaps the substantial meaning may be demned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the same whichever way you read the passage: the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not but what is implied only in one way, is clearly after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Which pasexpressed in the other way. sage I expound thus: A mere law, that is, a rule merely telling us what we ought to do, without enabling us, or affording us any help or aid in doing it, is not calculated for such a nature as ours; "it is weak through the flesh;" it is ineffectual by reason of our natural infirmities. Then what the law, or a mere rule of rectitude, (for that is what any law, as such is,) could not do, was done under the Christian dispensation; and how done? The righteousness of the law, that is, the righteousness which the law dictated, and which it aimed, as far as it could, to procure and produce, is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; is actually produced and procured in us, who live under the influence and direction of the Holy Spirit. By this Holy Spirit we have that assistance which the law could not impart, and without which, as a mere rule, though ever so good and right a rule, it was weak and insufficient, farasmuch as it had not force or strength sufficient to produce obedience in those who acknowledged its authority.
The question, then, which St. Paul so earnestly and devoutly asks is, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" from the state of soul which I feel, and which can only lead to final perdition? And the answer to the question is, "The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Can a more weighty question be asked? Can an answer be given which better deserves to be thoroughly considered?
The question is, "Who shall deliver us?" The answer: "The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." The " grace of God" means the favour of God: at present, therefore, the answer stands in general terms. We are only informed, that we are rescued from this state of moral difficulty, of deep religious distress, by the favour of God, through Jesus Christ. It remains to be gathered from what follows, in what particularly this grace or favour consists. St. Paul having asked the question, and given the answer in general terms, proceeds to enlarge upon the answer in these words:" There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the
To communicate this so much wanted assistance, was one end and effect of Christ's coming. So it is intimated by St. Paul, "What the law