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SERMON XXVI.

The Nature and Manner in which the Holy Spirit may

be supposed to operate upon us: and the Marks and Tokens of such Operation.

ROMANS viii. 14.

As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. OUR present high festival", which is of ancient standing in the

Church of Christ, is peculiarly dedicated to the honour of the Holy Spirit, a Divine Person, partner with the Father and the Son, in the one eternal, all-glorious Godhead. Divine wisdom has vouchsafed herein to apprise us of the relation we bear to each Person, and the dependence we have upon them all, that we also (among other creatures) may pay our dutiful homage and adoration accordingly.

All the Persons of the Godhead are represented, in sacred Writ, as jointly concurring in our creation and preservation, and jointly contributing, in mysterious order, to our redemption and final salvation : but the present occasion obliges me to confine myself chiefly to what concerns the third Person, his presence with us, and his kind offices towards us.

He is set forth, in the New Testament, as our Comforter, abiding among usb, and as dwelling in usc: and that, not with respect to our souls only, but even our bodies also, these tabernacles of clay: for they likewise have the honour to be considered as the sacred

a Whitsunday

b John xvi. 7. xiv. 16.

ci Cor. iii. 16.

temple wherein he is pleased to resided. They are thereby sanctified, for the present, and sealed also, for the time to come : “ sealed unto the day of” their “ redemptione;" that is to say, marked out, and insured for a happy and joyful resurrection to life eternal. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they

are the sons of God;" and therefore, (as soon after follows in the same chapter,)“ if children, then heirs, and joint heirs with “ Christ—that we may be glorified togetherf.” In discoursing further, it will be proper to shew,

1. What it is to be led by the Spirit; or what it is that the Holy Spirit does for the furthering our salvation.

II. How and in what manner he may be supposed to act, or operate.

III. By what marks or tokens it may be seen that he does operate upon us, and that we are led by him.

IV. What is the use and improvement which we are concerned to make of the whole.

I. As to the first particular, which relates to the Spirit's leading us in our way to salvation, it is observable, that our blessed Lord, taking his solemn leave of his disciples, a little before his Passion, consigned them, as it were, over to the care and guidance of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who would “guide them into all “ truth," and would “abide with them," and with the Church after them, “ for everh.” He repeated the same promise to them a little before his ascension into heaven, as appears from the history of Acts i. 5, 8.

This, however, is not to be so understood, as if the Holy Ghost were now our sole conductor, exclusive of the other two Divine Persons : for our blessed Lord, in the very same place where he promises to send the Comforter to “abide with us for ever,"" promises also, that the Father and himself shall make the like abode with good Christians. “If any man love me," says he,"my

Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make “ our abode with him.” Elsewhere he promises to his disciples his own spiritual presence, to continue with them, as long as the Church or the world should last. • Lo, I am with you alway,

even unto the end of the world. Amenk.” From all which it

d

1

Cor. vi. 19. h Johın xiv, 16.

e Eph. iv. 30. i John xiv. 23.

g John xvi. 13

i Rom. viii. 17.
k Matt. xxviii. 20.

is plain, that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, are equally present to good men in all ages of the Church; and that when our Lord spake of his departing, and leacing the world, he meant it barely of his bodily absence: and because, from the time of his ascension, he was to be present, only in a spiritual and invisible way, as a spirit, and together with the Holy Spirit; therefore he considered his Church from thenceforwards as being peculiarly under the guidance of the Holy Ghost; though, strictly speaking, it is under the spiritual guidance of all the three Persons. Hence it is, that such spiritual guidance (which often goes under the name of grace, in the New Testament) is sometimes ascribed to the Father, sometimes to the Son, and sometimes to the Holy Ghost, as it is the common work of all; and may be indifferently and promiscuously attributed to any of them singly, or to all of them together. So we find mention made, more than once, of the " grace of our Lord Jesus “ Christ;” and of the “grace of God,” meaning God the Father : and yet the Holy Ghost is emphatically and eminently styled “the Spirit of grace,” as being, some way or other, more immediately concerned in the work of grace, and thereby uniting true believers both with the Father and the Son.

Now, for the clearer conception of what grace means, in this emphatical sense, and of what the Holy Spirit does in the work of grace upon the minds of the faithful; we may distinctly consider it under its several views or divisions.

1. There is a kind of illuminating or enlightening grace given, as often as the Holy Spirit conveys and instils good thoughts, wholesome counsels, or salutary instructions ; opening the understanding to receive and embrace them. To this head belongs what the Psalmist says; “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may “ behold wondrous things out of thy law l.” And in the New Testament it is recorded, that the “ Lord opened the heart of “ Lydia, that she attended unto the things which were spoken “of Paul m.” It is the Spirit that gives us true light, and likewise gives it reception.

2. There is also a kind of sanctifying grace, when the Holy Spirit of God rectifies the heart, inclines the will, and meliorates the affections : for it is “ God that worketh in us both to will " and to do of his good pleasure ";" as St. Paul testifies. This

1 Psalm cxix. 18.

m Acts xvi. 14.

n Philip. xi. 13.

sanctifying grace is commonly distinguished into three parts or branches, called preventing, assisting, perfecting; being considered, first, as laying the early seeds of that spiritual life; next, as contributing to its growth and progress; and lastly, as adding the finishing hand to it.

3. There is one peculiar work of the Spirit, which, though it may be reduced to one or other of the three heads, of preventing, assisting, or perfecting grace, (as before mentioned,) may yet deserve some special notice here; and that is, the grace

of true devotion, attended with deep compunction of heart. St. Paul speaks of it in the Epistle to the Romans, in these words: “The

Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we " should pray for as we ought : but the Spirit itself maketh “ intercession for us with groanings which cannot be utteredo." That is to say, the Holy Spirit of God, working within, sometimes strikes the mind of good men with such ardency of devotion, and such vehement compunctions, that their hearts are too full to utter what they think; and so, for the present, they are not able to vent the pious breathings of their souls in any other way than that of sighs and groans. The Holy Spirit is the impulsive cause of all such religious ardours, such strong convulsions of godly remorse or godly affection; it is the work of God upon the humble minds.

These few hints may suffice to give you some general idea of the work of grace, or of what the Holy Spirit does for the furthering the spiritual life here, in order to our salvation hereafter.

II. The next inquiry is, how, or in what manner, he may be conceived to operate, and to effectuate what he does?

In this inquiry we ought to proceed with all becoming modesty and reverence; since we are not able perfectly to unfold the mysterious workings of the tremendous Deity upon the spirit of man. But one thing we are certain of, in the general, that whatever is ordinarily done of this kind, is done in a gentle, moral, insinuating way, and not by mechanical, irresistible impulses, such as would take away human liberty, or reduce men to a sort of intelligent clockwork, or reasoning machines : for, upon that supposition, every good work, word, or thought would be so entirely God's, that no part of it would be ours; and so all our virtue would be mere force upon us, (and therefore no virtue of ours at all,) and there would be no room left for the numberless exhortations to well doing which Scripture so much abounds with, nor for any proper title to future rewards. It is manifest therefore that the operations of God's Holy Spirit upon us only prepare us for godliness, or incite us and enable us thereto; the rest must come from ourselves. Accordingly, Scripture always supposes that, notwithstanding any the strongest interpositions of grace, men are still left capable of resisting the Holy Spirit P, and grieving the Holy Spirit9, and even quenching the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit moves and inclines only, and does not compel: he leads and conducts as many as will be led and conducted by him ; but does not so forcibly attract them as to overrule all stubborn resistance or reluctant perverseness. God has provided no remedy for malicious wickedness and proud obstinacy: but in such cases, the Holy Spirit commonly retires and withdraws, leaving the incorrigible and incurable to themselves, and to their own certain destruction.

o Rom. viii. 26.

ху

VOL. V.

If we may presume to be a little more particular upon so awful a subject, it seems that the Holy Spirit of God works upon the minds of men by proper applications to their reason and conscience, to their hopes and fears; suggesting to them what is right and good, and laying before them, in a strong light, the happiness which they may attain to by obedience, and the misery consequent upon disobedience. And I may add, that one very considerable article of Divine wisdom and goodness lies in the providential ordering all human affairs in such a manner, as may most fitly serve the purposes of grace; not preserving good men altogether from temptations, (for how then should they improve in virtue, without the exercise proper for it?) but so restraining, limiting, and governing the temptations, that they shall not press harder or continue longer than may best answer the end and design of God's permitting them. Let this suffice, , in the general, with respect to the ordinary methods of grace, and the manner of the Spirit's operating. It consists partly in the outward direction of all sublunary affairs, and partly in inward and gentle applications to the minds of men, suited to the times, seasons, and circumstances before provided.

There have been instances of other methods of grace, which

P Acts vii. 51.

9 Ephes. iv. 30.

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