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operation of the Holy Spirit; we may feel its effects, as we may perceive the effects of the wind, but are as much strangers to its manner of coming upon us, as we are strangers to that exact point from whence the wind begins to blow, and where it will cease.
The Spirit of God is like the nature of God, too high for our conceptions, whilst we are in these dark houses of clay. But our blessed Saviour has, in some degree, helped our conceptions in this mat. ter, by the manner of his giving the Holy Spirit to his disciples. And he breathed on them, and said unto them, receive the Holy Ghost. Now by this ceremony of breathing, we are taught to conceive of the communications of the Holy Spirit, with some likeness to breath or wind, that its influences come upon us in some manner, most like to a gentle breathing of the air. Representations of this kind are only made in compliance with the weakness of our apprehensions, which not being able to conceive things as they are in their own nature, must be instructed, by comparing them to such things as our senses are acquainted with. Thus the wisdom and knowledge that is revealed from God is compared to light, not because light is a true representation of the wisdom of God, but because it serves best to represent it to our low capaeities. In like manner the influences of the Holy Spirit are set forth by the ceremony of breathing upon us; not because breath, or air, or wind, are true representations of the gifts of the Spirit, but because they are the properest representations that yet fall within our knowledge.
But that which is most necessary for us to know, and of which we are su iliciently informed in Scripture, is the absolute necessity of this divine assista
We are used to consider those only as inspired persons, who are called by God to some extraordinary designs, and act by immediate revelation from
him. Now as inspiration implies an immediate revelation from God, in this sense there have been but few inspired persons; but inspiration, as it signifies an invisible operation, or assistance and instruction of God's Holy Spirit, is the common gift and privilege of all Christians; in this sense of inspiration they are all inspired persons. Know ye not, saith St. Paul, that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you ? St. John likewise, Hereby know we that he dwelleth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us: for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God. Again, Now if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ he is Rom. vii. 11. none of his. From these, and many other passages of the like nature, it is undeniably plain, that the life which we now live, is a life in and by the Spirit of God, and that they are only sons of God, who are led by this Spirit. Now this Doctrine plainly proves the necessity of a constant self-denial; for it must be necessary that we deny ourselves all those tempers and ways of life, which may make God withhold his grace from us; and likewise all those enjoyments and indulgences which may make us less able and less disposed to improve and co-operate with those degrees of divine grace, that are communicated to us.
Our blessed Saviour saith, If any man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father John xiv. 23. will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. This teaches us how we are to invite the good Spirit of God to dwell in us: we are to prepare ourselves for the abode of this divine Guest, by loving Christ, and keeping his commandments: whence we also learn, that the Spirit of God does not equally risit all persons in all ways of life, but that we must prepare ourselves for his presence.
We are also told, that God resisteth the proud, but giveth the grace unto the humble. This also explains
to us the method of divine grace, that it is bestowed to the state and temper of persons; that there are some dispositions which separate us from the Spirit of God, and others that procure to us a larger share of its gifts and graces. We are also here taught to consider pride, not only as a sin that has its particular guilt, but it has this certain effect, that it extinguishes the divine light, deprives us of God's Spirit and leaves us to sink under the corruption and weight of our nature.
We are to consider humility also, not only as it is a reasonable duty, and proper to our state; but as it qualifies and prepares us for larger degrees of divine grace, such as may purify and perfect our souls in all manner of holiness. All instances therefore of pride are to be avoided, all sorts of humility to be practised, not only for their own sakes, but as necessary preparations for divine grace, that we may be fit temples for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. . Now seeing we are none of Christ's, if the Spirit of Christ be not in us, seeing we are only so far Christians, as we are renewed by the Holy Ghost; nothing can be more necessary to true piety, than that we form every part of our lives with regard to this Holy Spirit.' That we consider all our tempers, pleasures, cares, designs, and ways of life, whether they be such as suit with the wisdom and heavenly guidance of the Holy Spirit. This doctrine shows us to ourselves in a new point of view, and may serve to teach us several truths, which we should otherwise not so readily apprehend.
When we are left to consider our duty with relation to the express commandments of God, there are many ways of life, which we think ourselves at liberty to follow, because they seem to be no plain breach of
any commandement. But we are to look to a farther rule, and to consider our pleasures and cares, our designs and endeavours, not only whether they are according to the letter of the law, but whether they are according to the Spirit of God; for if they are contrary to the Spirit of God, if they suit not with his secret inspirations, they are as truly to be avoided, as if they were contrary to some express commandment. For we are assured from Scripture, that they only are the sons of God, who are led by the Spirit of God; and none can be said to be led by the Spirit of God, but they whose lives are according to it, whose actions, cares, and pleasures, hopes and fears, are such as may be said to be guided by the motions of the Holy Ghost.
We are therefore to consider ourselves as inspired persons, that have no knowledge or wisdom, but what comes from God, and that this wisdom will no. longer dwell with us, than so long as we act and conduct ourselves conformably to it. So that we must not vainly deceive ourselves in saying, where is the harm of such indulgences, or such vanities and idle amusements? But must consider, whether they are such as are conformable to a lite that is to. be directed by the Holy Ghost, whether they will invite his assistance, and make him delight to dwell with us. In this manner must we examine and try all our ways of life, as well our cares as our pleasures, and all our tempers and inclinations. * For unreasonable cares, as well as unreasonable pleasures, are equally contrary to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and equally separate us from him. People often think their designs and diversions innocent, because they are not sinful in their nature, but they should also consider whether they are not vain and foolish, and unsuitable to the state and condition of a Christian. For a life of folly, and vanity, and trilling designs, is no more living by the Spirit of God, than a life of gross sins is keeping the commandments. So that the safest rules to judge of our actions by, is to consider them with relation to that Spirit, by which we are to be guided. Is this design, or this diversion, according to the
wisdom of the Spirit of God? Am I in these things improving the secret inspiration of the Holy Ghost ? Am I here governed by a wisdom from abore? Are these ways such as I can truly say, that I am led into them by the Spirit of God? Do I allow myself in them, because they serve to set forth the glory of God, and are agreeable to the condition of a disciple of Christ? Are they good proofs that the Spirit of God dwelleth in me, and that by thus sowing to the Spirit, I shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life? This is the rule of perfection, by which Christians are to regulate their thoughts, words, and actions; for we are called by God to a state of purity and holiness, to act by the motions of his Holy Spirit, and make no other use of ourselves, or the world we are in, than such as is conformable to that dignity of life, and state of glory to which we are called. 'i'he spirit of our religion is to be the spirit of our lives, the constant principle of all our tempers and inclinations, which is to render us reasonable, and wise, and holy, in all our progress through the world.
The renewal of our hearts by the Spirit of God consists in new thoughts, and new desires, in filling our minds with great and sublime truths, and in giving us desires and inclinations, hopes and fears, cares and pleasures suitable to them.
This is being born of the Spirit: hence appears a plain reason of an universal self-denial, because the spirit of the world, and the spirit of our corrupt hearts, is in a state of contrariety to this Spirit and wisdom which is from above. So that it is to be the main business and labour of our lives, to contradict those motions of our hearts, and those tempers of the world, which are contrary to this Spirit, which is to be the principle of our new life in Christ.
We must therefore deny ourselves all those ways of life, all cares and enjoyments which too much