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spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of righteousness and peace here, a kingdom of glory hereafter.
The diffusion of the Spirit into every righteous breast is the mark which the Lord has given of the universality of the heavenly gift. It is our personal concern to "try the spirits whether they be of God;" and it is not a difficult examination of ourselves to determine the question; because, "every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God'." The distinction here is of the most awful nature: because the coming of Christ involves all the holy and indispensable doctrines of the religion of Christ; it involves faith in the most spiritual sense of the word, and comprehends obedience to the laws of God in every instance, as a special fruit of the Spirit, which speaks its own language; for "if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his "."
That the ordinary influence of the Spirit is as much a work of God as the creation itself, is evident from the very nature of the communication. Man, being compounded of body and soul, required something essential for the support and well-being of both. Temporal accommodation is accordingly supplied for the one; spiritual graces are offered by a benignant Creator to the other. This distinction is so beautifully illustrated by the pious Doddridge, that I add his
11 John iv. 2, 3.
2 Rom. viii. 9.
words. "Do we acknowledge that it was the voice of God that first commanded the light to shine out of darkness, and that it was worthy a Divine agency to produce so beautiful a creation as the sun, to gild the whole face of the world, and to dress the different objects around us in such a various and vivid assemblage of colours? And shall we not allow it to be much more worthy of him, to lighten up a benighted soul, and to reduce its chaos into harmony and order? Was it worthy of God to form the first principles, even of the vegetative life, in the lowest plant or herb, and to visit with the refreshing influences of the rain and sun, the earth wherein those seeds are sown? And is it not much more worthy of him, to implant the seed of the Divine life, and to nourish it from time to time by the influence of his Spirit?-Did it suit the Divine wisdom and mercy, to provide for sustaining our mortal lives, for healing our wounds, and recovering us from our diseases? And shall it not much more suit him to act as the great Physician of souls in restoring them to ease, to health, and vigour? They must be dead, indeed, to all sense of spiritual excellency, who do not see how much more illustriously God appears, when considered as the Author of grace than merely as the Author of nature 1."
If there were no revelation to show us the peculiar graces of the Gospel, the very effects of them in the
Serm. VII. On Regeneration.
breast of the convinced and converted Christian, would evidence themselves. There is indeed no visible miracle to arrest the attention, no new discovery to interest the mind, but there is something within the conscience to assure us that we are attempting to conquer a deceitful world, and that the path of righteousness which we have chosen, under the Divine promise, is the path of pleasantness and peace. From hence we travel forward, like the father of the faithful, from the wilderness of Haran to the land of Canaan; we look back triumphantly on the horrors of the desert which we have escaped, and occupy the good land which the hand of mercy has allotted to us.
It is evident then, that a divine influence on the mind is absolutely necessary to make it truly religious, and indeed, it cannot be religious without it. The temple of the Lord is built; but the temple of the Lord requires consecration to apply it to its proper use. Man is the temple of the Holy Ghost; but if man rejects the holy inhabitant, his house becomes the residence of devils. If we do not accede to this principle which places within our breast a sacred communication of the fruits of our holy faith, an assurance of salvation through a crucified Saviour, and the evidence of this salvation by an effusion of the Spirit of God, what is this, but to quench the Spirit so graciously bestowed, and to reject the Gospel which is the manifestation of the Spirit, and the power of God unto salvation?
Under these circumstances, a transformation or renovation of the mind becomes indispensably requi
We cannot go on as we are; if we do not grow better, we must grow worse. This is the case in every sublunary change. To stand still is to increase the danger; for the mind that is indolent of its own safety, retrogades in proportion to its unwillingness to go forward. How general is this supineness in the habits of men! not of men who court wickedness as an agreeable indulgence, for these have a decided character; but of those, I am sorry to say, who have no character at all, who balance between good and evil as if they had no choice; and indeed no choice they have, they require to be placed on the brink of a precipice to make them move.
But a change must come, or they are lost. When our blessed Lord heard Nicodemus talk wisely as a Rabbi, but ignorantly as a learned Jew, his direction was short and indispensable, “marvel not that I said unto you, ye must be born again;" a complete renovation is necessary both by the laver of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. The cleansing operation of the Spirit, is indeed an heavenly gift, not communicated by the rushing of a mighty wind, not by a sudden or distinguishable impulse; although the conscience is open to surprise, and may be arrested at a moment when least suspected; but by an ordinary influence, by a silent miracle, of which we can only be conscious by its salutary effects on our own hearts.
If we are in any degree sanctified by the ordinary divine influences of the Spirit, we must consider ourselves, through the grace of God, in an hopeful condition. But we must not rest here. In our pilgrim state, we must press forward to the object of our search; and pray, that "he who hath begun a good work in us, will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ'.' If we are not sanctified, our state is indeed deplorable; nothing that is good can flow from a polluted heart; nothing will be available, but a new creation through the merits and mercies of a benignant Saviour. And let no man deceive himself on so great a question of salvation; for, if the influence of the divine Spirit be not universal in the soul, every action of our lives will have a tendency to promote our destruction.
"Now the God of Peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen "."
1 Phil. i. 6.
2 Heb. xiii. 20, 21.