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the gospel: all other difficulties will vanish or be surmounted; and “the earth be filled with the
knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”
The various abuses, divisions, scandals, and false doctrines, which prevail among such as shew more regard to scriptural Christianity, will not be counteracted; nor will that revival of the power of godliness in our congregations, which every friend of evangelical truth must ardently desire, be effectually introduced, “ till the Spirit be poured upon “ us from on high.” So that this is the grand desideratum: the only adequate remedy for all the evils we witness or hear of, in the church and in the world. Till our prayers, in this respect be answered, we shall see on every side most lamentable disorders, which we cannot rectify; and few in comparison will be found, who have ability or zeal for making such arduous attempts: but this expected event will raise up and qualify instruments for every kind of service; dispose the minds of multitudes cordially to unite in vigorous exertions; and render their endeavours rapidly and extensively successful.
IV. Then I proceed to point out some instructions, more immediately arising from the subject.
How ignorant must they be, as to the very first
principles of Christianity, who treat our professed dependence on the Holy Spirit, and experience of his sacred influences, with supercilious contempt! A Jew of old, would not have been more profanely absurd, in ridiculing the expectation of a Messiah as fanaticism. Even if uninspired men could, by their superior talents, improve upon the oracles of God, (as some of them seem arrogantly disposed to think they can) this would no more supersede the necessity of divine influences, than modern improvements in agriculture render the fertilizing showers and the genial warmth of the sun unnecessary. Even the preaching of Him, “who spake as never
man spake,” was rendered effectual by the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit; without which, Paul would have planted, and Apollos watered in vain. No wonder then, that such teachers as deny, deride, explain away, or even keep out of sight, the promised influences of the Holy Spirit, harangue the people in weekly lectures, from year to year, without witnessing or even expecting, any great effect. While men depend on their own rationality, ingenuity, or eloquence, and dishonour the divine Spirit; we may be sure that the Lord will frown upon the presumptuous attempt, and blast all their vain endeavours. Indeed no man is warranted to expect success, even in preaching the pure gospel of Christ; except as he simply relies on the Holy Spirit to assist and prosper his labours, uses the proper means of obtaining his
powerful co-operation, and explicitly gives him all the glory.
“ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he “is none of his.” Unless, therefore, we possess some evidence in our own hearts, that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit, we cannot, without manifest presumption, expect that the Judge of the world will, at the last day, own us as his true disciples: but this cannot be known to us, except by the effects produced on our views, dispositions, affections, and conduct. Humiliation for sin, faith, love of Christ and his people, compassion for sinners, a spiritual mind, and an habitual aim to glorify God and do good to men, are the genuine effects produced by the Spirit of God dwelling in us. Can it then be rational to overlook those scriptures which speak on these subjects? or to expect the eternal felicity promised to Christians, while destitute of those things which are declared essential to Christianity?
Again, would we prosper in our own souls, or succeed in endeavouring to do good in our families, connexions, and situations; we must adhere to the doctrines and precepts of scripture; pray with fervent importunity for the influences of the Spirit; and be very careful not to grieve him, or to quench that sacred fire which he kindles in the believing heart. If we have hitherto been remarkably unsuccessful; we should seriously enquire, on what account the Lord contends with us? And especially
we should examine, whether we have not depended on our own supposed abilities, or sought our own honour; instead of relying simply on the Holy Spirit, with a readiness of mind to ascribe to him all the glory of every successful attempt?
They who would enjoy the benefit of an able and faithful ministry, should be instant in prayer for their pastors. If this were more attended to, we should doubtless be enabled to set forth the true ' and lively word of God, both by our preaching
and living,' with far greater effect; and should be in all respects much more useful.-But our fervent supplications should not be confined to those, with whom we are more immediately connected; for we ought to pray continually for the "pouring “ out of the Spirit from on high,” upon every part of the visible church, and upon all orders and descriptions of men throughout the world. This should constitute a prominent part of our daily prayers, in our closets and families; and enter particularly into the various circumstances, in which mankind are placed. We ought to intreat the Lord, to render all his ministers faithful, holy, and successful; to send forth labourers into his harvest; to unite all Christians in the bonds of brotherly love; to prosper all means used for the conversion of Jews, Mahometans, Pagans, or infidels; and to “ fill the earth with truth and righ“teousness."
We shall not probably live to witness this glorious scene: yet the Lord may bless some means which we use, in making way for that grand triumph of his cause. Thus David zealously prepared materials for the temple, though assured it would not be built in his day. If we have little else in our power, either to serve our generation, or to sow seed for the good of posterity; we may perform an important service by our persevering prayers: and whenever the Lord shall “ “his Spirit from on high,” to make his gospel victorious over all opposition; his people will certainly go forth to meet him with their united fervent supplications.