« הקודםהמשך »
This was the finishing stroke of the création : the perfe&ioni both of the moral and material world. And so near did man resemble his divine Original, that God could not but rejoice and take pleasure in his own likeness : And therefore we read, that when God had finished the inanimate and brutish part of the creation, he looked upon it, and beheld it was good ; but when that lovely, God-like creature man was made, bear hold it was very good.
Happy, unspeakably happy must man needs be, when thus a partaker of the divine nature. And thus might he have still continued, had he continued holy. But God placed him in a fate of probation, with a free grant to eat of every tree in the garden of Eden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil : the day he should eat thereof, he was surely to die; that is, not only to be subject to temporal, but spiritual death; and consequently, to lose that divine image, that spiritual life God had not long since breathed into him, and which was as much his happiness as his glory.
These, one would imagine, were eafy conditions for a finite creature's happiness to depend on. But inan, unhappy man, being reduced by the devil, and desiring, like him, to be equal with his Maker, did eat of the forbidden fruit; and thereby became liable to that curse, which the eternal GOD, who cannot lie, had denounced against his disobedience,
Accordingly we read, that soon after Adam had fallen, he complained that he was naked; naked, not only as to his body, but naked and destitute of those divine graces which before decked and beautified his soul. The unhappy mutiny and disorder which the visible creation fell into, the briars and thorns which now sprung up and overspread the earth, were but poor emblems, lifeiefs representations of that confufion and rebellion, and those divers lusts and passions which sprung up in; and quite overwhelmed the soul of man immediately after the fall. Alas! he was now no longer the image of the invisible God; but as he had imitated the devil's fic, he became as it were a partaker of the devil's nature, and from an union with, funk into a state of direct enmity against God.
Now in this dreadful disordered condition, are all of us brought into the world : for as the foot is, such must the
branches be. Accordingly we are told, “ That Adam begat a fon in his own likeness ;” or, with the same corrupt nature which he himself had, after he had eaten the forbidden fruit. And experience as well as scripture proves, that we also are altogether born in fin and corruption; and therefore incapable, whilft in such a state, to hold communion with God. For as light cannot have communion with darkness, so God can have no communion with such polluted sons of Belial.
Here then appears the end and defign why CHRIST was manifest in the flesh; to put an end to these disorders, and to restore us to that primitive dignity in which we were at first created. Accordingly he shed his precious blood to satisfy his Father's justice for our fins; and thereby also he procured for us the Holy Ghost, who thould once more re-instamp the divine image upon our hearts, and make us capable of living with and enjoying the blefled God.
This was the great end of our Lord's coming into the world; nay, this is the only end why the world itself is now kept in being. For as soon as a fufficient number are sanctified out of it, the heavens shall be wrapped up like a fcroll, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth, and all that therein is, shall be burnt up.
This sanctification of the Spirit, is that new birth mentioned by our blessed LORD to Nicodemus, “ without which we cannot fee the kingdom of God.". This is what St. Paul calls being “ renewed in the spirit of our minds;" and it is the spring of that holiness, without which no man shall fee the LORD.
Thus then, it is undeniably certain, we must receive the Holy Ghost ere we can be stiled true members of CHRIST'S myftical body. I come in the
- Second place to lay down some fcriptural marks, whereby We may easily judge, whether we have thus received the Holy Ghoft or not. And the
First I Mall mention, is, our having received a spirit of prayer and supplication ; for that always accompanies the fpirit of grace. No sooner was Paul converted, but “behold he prayeth.” And this was urged as an argument, to convince Ananias that he was converted. And God's eleet are also faid to “ cry to him day and night.”
And since one great work of the Holy Spirit is to convince us of sin, and to set us upon seeking pardon and renewing grace, through the all-fufficient merits of a crucified Redeemer, whosoever has felt the power of the world to come, awakening hin from his fpiritual lethargy, cannot but be always crying out, “ LORD, what wouldst thou have me to do?” Or, in the language of the importunate blind Bartimeus, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon me.”
The blessed Jesus, as he received the Holy Ghost without measure, so he evidenced it by nothing more than his frequent addresses at the throne of grace. Accordingly we read, that he was often alone on the mountain praying ; that he rose a great while before day to pray : nay, that he spent whole nights in prayer. And whosoever is made partaker of the fame Spirit with the holy Jesus, will be of the same mind, and delight in nothing so much, as to “ draw nigh unto God," and lift up hoiy hands and hearts in frequent and devout prayer.
It must be confessed, indeed, that this spirit of fupplication is often as it were sensibly lost, and decays, for some time, even in those who have actually received the Holy Ghost, Through spiritual dryness and barrenness of foul, they find in themselves a liftlesness and backwardness to this duty of prayer ; but then they efteem it as their cross, and fill persevere in seeking Jesus, though it be forrowing: and their hearts,. notwithstanding, are fixed upon God, though they cannot exert their affections so strongly as usual, on account of that spiritual deadness, which God, for wise reasons, has fuffered to benumb their souls.
But as for the formal believer, it is not so with him : no; be either prays not at all, or if he does enter into his closet, it is with reluctance, out of custom, or to satisfy the checks of his conscience. Whereas the true believer can no more live without prayer, than without food day by day. And he finds his soul as really and perceptibly fed by the one, as his body is nourished and supported by the other. А
Second scripture mark of our having receiyed the Holy Ghost; is, Not committing fin.
" Whosoever is born of God, (says St. John) finneth not, neither can he fin, because his feed remaineth in him.”
Neither can be fin. This expression does not imply the im. poffibility of a christian's finning: for we are told, that "s in many things we offend all :" It only means thus much; that a man who is really born again of God, doth not wilfully commit fin, much less live in the habitual practice of it. how shall he that is dead to fin, as every converted person is, live any longer therein ?
It is true, a man that is born again of God, may, through surprize, or the violence of a temptation, fall into an act of sin : witness the adultery of David, and Peter's denial of his Master. But then, like them, he quickly rises again, goes out from the world, and weeps bitterly; washes the guilt of fin away by the tears of a fincere repentance, joined with faith in the blood of Jesus Christ; takes double heed to his ways for the future, and perfects holiness in the fear of God.
The meaning of this expression of the Apostle, that “a man who is born of God, cannot commit fin,” has been * fitly illustrated, by the example of a covetous worldling, to the general bent of whose inclinations, liberality and profuseness are directly opposite : but if, upon fome unexpected, fudden occasion, he does play the prodigal, he immediately repents him of his fault, and returns with double care to his niggardliness again. And so is every one that is born again: to commit fin, is as contrary to the babitual frame and tendency of his mind, as generosity is to the inclinations of a miser; but if at any time, he is drawn into fin, he immediately, with double zeal, returns to his duty, and brings forth fruits meet for repentance. Whereas, the unconverted finner is quite dead in trespasses and fins : or if he does abstain from gross acts of it, through worldly selfish motives, yet, there is some right eye he will not pluck out; some right-hand which he will not cut off; fome specious Agag that he will not sacrifice for God; and thereby he is convinced that he is but a mere Saul: and consequently, whatever pretenfions he may make to the contrary, he has not yet received the Holy Ghoft. A
Third mark whereby we may know, whether or not we have received the Holy Ghost, is, Our conqueft over the world.
* Law's Christian Perfection,
66 For whosoever is born of God, (says the Apostle) overcometh the world.”. By the world, we are to understand, as St. John expresses it, “ all that is in the world, the luft of the eye, the luft of the Aelh, and the pride of life :" And by overcoming of it, is meant, our renouncing these, so as not to follow or be led by them: for whosoever is born from above, has his affections set on things above: he feels a divine attraction in his soul, which forcibly draws his mind heavenwards, and as the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so doth it make his foul to long after the enjoyment of his God.
Not that he is so taken up with the affairs of another life, as to neglect the business of this : No; a truly spiritual man dares not stand any day idle; but then he takes care, though he laboureth for the meat which perisheth, first to secure that which endureth to everlasting life. Or, if God has exalted him above his brethren, yet, like Mofes, Joseph, and Daniel, he, notwithstanding, looks upon himself as a stranger and pilgrim upon earth : having received a principle of new life, he walks by faith and not by sight; and his hopes being full of immortality, he can look on all things here below .as vanity. and vexation of spirit : In short, though he is in, yet he is not of the world, and as he was made for the enjoyment of God, so nothing but God can satisfy his soul.
The ever-blessed JESUS was a perfect instance of overcoming the world. For though he went about continually doing good, and always lived as in a press and throng; yet, wherevet he was, his conversation tended heavenwards. In like man. ner, he that is joined to the Lord in one spirit, will so order his thoughts, words, and actions, that he will evidence to all, that his conversation is in heaven.
On the contrary, an unconverted man being of the earth, is earthy; and having no spiritual eye to discern spiritual things, he is always seeking for happiness in this life, where it never was, will, or can be found. Being not born again from above, he is bowed down by a spirit of natural infirmity: the serpent's curse becomes his choice, and he eats of the dust of the earth all the days of his life. A
Fourth scripture mark of our having received the Holy Ghost, is, Our loving one another.