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prayer, and communion with our own souls. Here let our prayer be somewhat proportioned, in zeal and earnestness, to our consciousness of our manifold spiritual wants. If it be not so proportioned, we cannot yet have a due and an abiding sense of the infinite importance of spiritual things. Do we pray and not receive? do we pray, and are not the better, are not holier, wiser, happier, more and more spiritual for our prayer?
If that be so, let us instantly examine how we pray, and what we are in heart and manner of life when we pray.
We shall probably and quickly find, upon faithful self-examination, that we ourselves then prevent the efficacy of our own prayer. We either know not what we say; or we care not what we say; or we wilfully live in the practice of some secret sin, which we will not abandon; and so our prayer does not, cannot If God hath said, profit us. Ask and ye shall have, seek and ye shall find," and we find that though we ask, we do not have; that though we seek, we do not find; we may be certain that the evil is within ourselves, and that God never could have refused to fulfil His own express and most merciful promise, but for our own determined error of head or heart.
The last duty upon this important subject
is, that we do not " grieve the Holy Spirit," that is, do not resist Him by doing any thing which our conscience tells us that we ought not to do; or by leaving undone what our conscience tells us we ought to do. If we so grieve the Holy Spirit by determined habits of sin of any kind, or by omitting any of our known duties, there is a dreadful threat in Scripture, that the Holy Spirit may finally forsake us. We cannot then be saved. For, left to ourselves, our heart will become hardened as Pharaoh's was: sin will become the habit of the soul; and the soul will sin, until it perish eternally.
go on in
Upon this great point let us anxiously see that we are safe. Let us examine what we are in daily manner of life, in disposition, in temper, in the real desires and endeavours of our soul for good or for evil. Do we hearken to the voice of conscience, or do we resist conscience? Do we make poor excuses for continuing in any one known sin, against the voice of conscience? Do we strive to get rid of conscience, as Felix sent away Paul, with "Go thy way for this time: when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee?" Do we endeavour to excuse ourselves to our conscience in committing sin, or in leaving some duty unperformed, by the poor, and pitiful, and dangerous hope of repentance and amend
ment, sometime or other before we die! If so, then do we " grieve the Holy Spirit;" then are we in fearful danger of becoming so hardened in sin as not to care whether we sin or not, of renouncing altogether the long proffered mercy of God, and of making ourselves "Vessels of wrath fitted," by our own determined wickedness, "for destruction."
In the immediate, and close, and personal application of the whole matter of this day's solemn duties, let each of us examine his own soul. Let us ask our own hearts whether we are truly desirous that the Holy Ghost, who hath promised to be with His people to the end of the world, should dwell in us, should guide and govern us in all our ways? If we really think that this is our desire, let us examine our daily life, and see whether we shew that we have such a desire or not. This may easily be done. Those who are really under the direction and gracious influence of the Holy Ghost, are continually making progress in the spiritual life; it is what they seek after, and earnestly pray for, and honestly strive to obtain. Day by day they mortify some sinful desire, some sinful infirmity, and so, day by day, are gaining victory over the things which are contrary to the spirit.
By this test we must try ourselves. It is
the only safe test of our being led by the Holy Spirit. All other ways of judging of our spiritual condition are dangerous and deceitful. If we live boldly in open sin; if we live hy-pocritically holy, and really lead an unholy life, we cannot make progress, we are hourly losing ground in the spiritual life; the evil spirit is getting an easy victory over us, and God, in His sacred person of the Holy Ghost, we then wilfully resist; we are absolutely preparing for ourselves the utmost terrors reserved for those, who, with knowledge and better hopes before them, sin against their heavenly Father, Redeemer, Sanctifier. If such be our fearful present condition, and our own conscience tell us so, let us be at length persuaded to see our danger, and "flee from the wrath to come.
It may not yet be too late for us to receive all the consolations which religion only can give us. God, the Holy Spirit still waits to be gracious; but if we tempt Him by our sins to forsake us for ever, and He at last do forsake us, we know where our doom for eter
nity must be. Let us think seriously and profitably upon this awful consequence, before it be too late for us to think upon all. Let us love and serve Him as a friend, whom to provoke, is certain and eternal destruction of body and soul in hell. Let us
flee from our sins and be turned unto the Lord. The rich graces of the Holy Spirit will then shine more and more upon us. His comforts will refresh us; His peace will be with us; His strength will renew and comfort us, and His holy influence, through the Redeemer of our souls, will make us blessed. Religion will then indeed be the rule of our conduct, and through this only living faith in Jesus Christ, we shall experience that peace and joy, which heretofore we have lost or never known.