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forts of religion are to Christians, the anticipations and foretastes of the happiness, which awaits them in heaven,
(1.) The virtues of the Christian temper, which are called the fruits of the Spirit, are to believers an earnest of their inheritance, because they are, in part, a fulfilmeni of the promise, which conveys the inheritance. They receive the promise of the Spirit, as well as of eternal life, through faith. “ Ask and ye shall receive," says our Lord ; “ seek and ye shall find for your heavenly Father giveth the holy Spirit to them who ask him.” Now if you sensibly experience the benefit of communion with God ; if you find, that by attendance upon him in prayer, hearing the word and other ordinances, your faith is enlivened, your worldly affections subdued, your zeal in duty warmed, and your virtuous resolutions strengthened, then you see that promise fulfilled, which insures to you the benefit of attending on these means ; and God's performance of this promise is an earnest, that he will do all that he has spoken, and will withhold no good thing which he bas promised.
(2.) The graces of the Spirit are an earnest of the inheritance, as they are preparatives for it. If you educate a son for a particular employment, this is to him an earnest and token of your intention to put him into that employment : So God's granting you his Spirit to sanctify and prepare you for glory, is a pledge of his gracious purpose of bringing you to glory.
His making you meet to be partakers of the inheritance, is an earnest that he will in due time put you in posses. sion of it. But,
(3.) The sealing and sanctifying influence of the Spirit' is especially called an earnest of the inherita ance, because it is a part of the inheritance given bem forehand.
In the religious life there are some sensible pleasures, which the Christian considers as earnest of the Vol. III.
superior plcasures reserved for him in the heavenly. state. “ Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”-"Great peace have they who love God's law, and nothing shall offend them."
Those tempers in which religion consists, such as love and devotion toward God, benevolence and good will to our fellow creatures, gratitude to benefactors and submission to the divine government, are pleasant and delightful.“ The good man is satisfied from himself.” And from his present experience he justly concludes, that when these tempers shall be wrought to their perfection in the future world, his joy will be full. There he shall know God as he is, and love him with enlarged and lively powers. There his benevo. lence, purged from every degree of malice and envy, will rise to its proper height, and spread unconfined. There the wonders of Providence and of grace, un. folded to his view, will awaken new sentiments of grat. itude and admiration. A great part of his present unhappiness proceeds from the irregularity of his temper
- from unruly passions--inordinate affections and the working of sin in his members. Hence he knows, that when his present disorders are rectified, and the principles of holiness are perfected, the pleasures of religion will be pure, and no sorrow will be mingled with them.
While he rejoices in the testimony of his conscience, which daily witnesses to his godly sincerity, he thinks how his joy will be heightened, when love shall be made perfect, and his heart shall no more re. proach him.
While he experiences the pleasures of that hope, which enters within the vail, he infers, how vastly these pleasures must be improved, when he shall enter within the vail himself, and enjoy what hope now antici. pates. The satisfaction, which attends his hours of - fervent devotion, is an earnest of the unspeakably greater delight, which he will find in the devotions of heavo
en, where this sinful flesh will no more obstruct, nor worldly cares divert his spiritual exercises.
Thus the believer has in himself an earnest of the inheritance which is reserved for him, and an evidence of the divine original of the religion which he has re. ceived. The Apostle John says, “He who believeth on the Son, hath the witness in himself.'
The Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession.
When we actually possess the inheritance, the earnest will no longer be needed. An earnest supposes the object to be unpossessed : This, enjoyed in its fulness, supersedes the earnest.
" When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part will be done away.--We who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body; for we are saved by hope ! But hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for ? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait ; and the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
1. Our subject teaches us, that all the operations of the divine Spirit on the minds of men, are of a holy nature and tendency. - The Spirit of promise, which works in believers, is called the holy and good Spirit, in distinction from the Spirit which works in the children of disobedience, and which is called an evil and unclean Spirit. If the Spirit is holy, we may conclude, that all his operations tend to holiness, and that the works which he produces are of a holy nature. By this mark we are to judge, whether we are led by the Spirit of God." They who are after the Spirit, mind the things of the Spirit. If we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfil the lusts of the
Hesh."-" They who are sensual have not the Spirit.” The fruits of the Spirit and the works of the flesh, stand opposed to each other. We are never to ascribe to the divine Spirit any thing, but what is agreeable to the divine character.“ Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man ; but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.”—“Do not err, my beloved brethren ; every good gift and every perfeci gift, cometh down from above, from the Father of lights.” Good we are to ascribe to him ; but not evil, moral evil. This is contrary to his nature, and therefore is never the effect of his operation and influence. He is always the same Holy Being. “ With him is no variableness, or shad, ow of turning.”
If we would know by what Spirit we are guided, we must compare his operations with the precepts of the gospel. By the gospel we are called to meekness, humility, peaceableness, charity, sobriety, contentment, truth and righteousness : And these are the fruits of the Spirit. Now if we find, that the Spirit which is in us operates to passion, pride, contention, selfconfidence, uncharitableness and contempt of others, we may certainly conclude, that it is not the Spirit of God.
By this rule we are to judge of all impressions, excitations and impulses, which at any time we feel. If we find ourselves strongly impelled to a particular action, we are not at once to conclude, that the impulse is divine, and thence infer that the action is our duty. We are first to examine, whether the action itself is holy and virtuous ; and we are to conclude the inward motion prompting us to it, to be from above, or from beneath, according as the conduct in question appears to agree, or disagree with the word of God. We are not to make our own feelings the standard of right and wrong, but to try our feelings by the sober sentiments of reason, and the sure dictates of divine revelation.
2. Our subject strongly encourages humble souls to apply to God for the needful influences of his grace.
The Spirit of God is called the holy Spirit of proniise. It is one of those blessings, which God has promised to the church. It was promised under the Old Testament; but more fully under the gospel. This is a' ministration of the Spirit. Where God sends his gospel, he gives the Spirit to accompany it ; and “the Spirit is received in the hearing of faith.”—“The Spirit is shed forth abundantly through Jesus Christ, that being justified by faith we may be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”—“Ask and ye shall receive," says our Lord" for your heavenly Father will give the holy Spirit to them who ask him.” On the foot of this promise, believers may come boldly to God's throne ; and even sinners, under an awakening sense of their guilt and impotence, may come with humble hope to obtain his grace. This is the voice of divine wisdom, “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and ye scorners, delight in scorning ? Turn ye at my reproof: Behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you : I will make known my words unto you." If God has already given them his Spirit to convince them of sin, they may thence collect hope, that he will grant his Spirit to carry their conviction into effect. " Whosoever hath,” or improveth what he hath, “to him shall be given." Let none imagine, that the prayers, the reformations and endeavors of awakened sinners, are abomination to God; for he who hath wrought them to these things is God, who hath given them the convincing and awakening influences of his Spirit. And the work of his Spirit--the fruit of his operation on the hearts of men, is not abomination. To call it by this name is not to ascribe righteousness, but wickedness to our Maker.
3. It appears, that we can have no conclusive evi. dence of a title to heaven, without the experience of a holy temper.