Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

throws the whole truth of the gospel, and the sole foundation that the ministry of it is built upon.

2. The like may be spoken with respect unto duties to be performed by virtue of our general vocation. Such are the duties of parents and masters of families. I know not how far any are gone in ways of profaneness, but hope none are carried unto such a length, as to deny it to be the duty of such persons to pray with their families as well as for them. The families that call not on the name of the Lord are under

his curse. And if this be their duty, the performance of it must be by the aid of the Spirit of God, by virtue of the general rule we proceed upon.

Fourthly, The benefit, profit, advantage, and edification of particular persons, of families, but especially of the church in its assemblies in and by the use and exercise of this gift, are such and so great, as that it is impious not to ascribe it to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Men are not of themselves, without his especial aid, authors or causers of the principal spiritual benefit and advantage which the church receiveth in the world. If they are so, or may be so, what need is there of him or his work for the preservation and edification of the church? But that it hath this blessed effect and fruit, we plead the experience of all who de sire to walk before God in sincerity, and leave the determination of the question unto the judgment of God himself: nor will we at present refuse in our plea, a consideration of the different conditions as to a holy conversation, between them who constantly in their life and at their death give this testimony, and theirs by whom it is opposed and denied. We are none of us to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, nor of any effect of his grace. It must therefore be said, that the experience which believers of all sorts have of the spiritual benefit and advantage of this ability, both in themselves and others, is not to be moved or shaken by the cavils or reproaches of such who dare profess themselves to be strangers thereunto.

Fifthly, The event of things may be pleaded in evidence of the same truth. For were not the ability of praying a gift of him who divideth to every one according unto his own will, there would not be that difference as to the participation of it among those who all pretend unto the faith of the same truth, as there is openly and visibly in the world. And if it were a matter purely of men's natural abilities, it were impos

I

sible that so many, whose concern it is in the highest degree to be interested in it, should be such strangers to it, so unacquainted with it, and so unable for it. They say, indeed, it is but the mere improvement of natural abilities with confidence and exercise. Let it be supposed for once, that some of them at least have confidence competent unto such a work, and let them try what success mere exercise will furnish them withal. In the mean time, I deny that without that illumination of the mind, which is a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost, the ability of prayer treated of is attainable by any. And it will be a hard thing to persuade persons of any ordinary consideration, that the difference which they do or may discover between men as to this gift and ability, proceeds merely from the difference of their natural and acquired abilities, wherein, as it is strenuously pretended, the advantage is commonly on that side which is most defective herein.

Some perhaps may say, that they know there is nothing in this faculty but the exercise of natural endowments with boldness and elocution, and that because they themselves were expert in it, and found nothing else therein, on which ground they have left it for that which is better. But for evident reasons we will not be bound to stand unto the testimony of those men, although they shall not here be pleaded. In the mean time, we know that from him which hath not, is taken away that which he had. And it is no wonder if persons endowed sometimes with a gift of prayer proportionable unto their light and illumination, improving neither the one nor the other, as they ought, have lost both their light and gift also. And thus suitably unto my design and purpose, I have given a delineation of the work of the Holy Ghost, as a spirit of grace and supplication, promised unto and bestowed on all believers, enabling them to cry, 'Abba Father.'

[ocr errors]

CHAP. IX.

Duties inferred from the preceding discourse.

THE issue of all inquiries is, how we may improve them unto obedience in the life of God. For if we know them, happy are we if we do them, and not otherwise. And our practice herein may be reduced unto these two heads; 1. A due and constant returning of glory unto God on the account of his grace in that free gift of his, whose nature we have inquired into. 2. A constant attendance unto the duty which we are graciously enabled unto thereby. And,

1. We ought continnually to bless God, and give glory to him, for this great privilege of the spirit of grace and supplication granted unto the churcha. This is the principal means on their part of all holy intercourse with God, and of giving glory unto him. How doth the world, which is destitute of this fruit of divine bounty, grope in the dark, and wander after vain imaginations, whilst it knows not how to manage its convictions, nor how at all to deal with God about its concerns? That world which cannot receive the spirit of grace and truth, can never have ought to do with God in a due manner. There are by whom this gift of God is despised, is reviled, is blasphemed; and under the shades of many pretences do they hide themselves from the light in their so doing. But they know not what they do, nor by what spirit they are acted. Our duty it is to pray that God would pour forth his Spirit even on them also, who will quickly cause them to look on him whom they have pierced and mourn.

And it appears two ways how great a mercy it is to enjoy and improve this privilege: (1.) In that both the psalmist and the prophet pray directly in a spirit of prophecy and without limitation, that God would 'pour out his fury on the families that call not on his name;' Psal. lxxix. 6. Jer. x. 25. And, (2.) in that the whole work of faith in obedience is denominated from this duty of prayer. For so it is said, that 'whosoever

a Τίς οὐκ ἂν ἐκπλαγείη καὶ θαυμάσειε τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ φιλανθρωπίαν, ἣν εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐπιδεικνυται τοσαύτην τιμὴν ἀνθρώποις χαριζόμενος, ὡς καὶ προσευχῆς ἀξιῶσαι καὶ ὁμιλίας τῆς ἡοῦφυτα θεῷ γὰρ ἀληθῶς λαλοῦμεν τῷ καιρῷ τῆς προσευχῆς. Chrysost. Hom. 67. de Prec. 1.

shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved;' Rom. x. 13. For invocation or prayer in the power of the spirit of grace and supplications, is an infallible evidence and fruit of saving faith and obedience; and therefore is the promise of salvation so eminently annexed unto it; or it is placed by a synecdoche, for the whole worship of God and obedience of faith. And it were endless to declare the benefits that the church of God, and every one that belongeth thereunto, hath thereby. No heart can conceive that treasury of mercies which lie in this one privilege, in having liberty and ability to approach unto God at all times according unto his mind and will. This is the relief, the refuge, the weapons, and assured refreshment of the church in all conditions,

C

(2.) It is a matter of praise and glory to God, in an especial manner, that he hath granted an ampliation of this privilege under the gospel. The spirit is now poured forth from above, and enlarged in his dispensation both intensively and extensively. Those on whom he is bestowed, do receive him in a larger measure than they did formerly under the Old Testament. Thence is that liberty and boldness in their access unto the throne of grace, and their crying Abba Father,' which the apostle reckons among the great privileges of the dispensation of the Spirit of Christ, which of old they were not partakers of. If the difference between the Old Testament state and the New, lay only in the outward letter and the rule thereof, it would not be so easily discerned on which side the advantage lay; especially, methinks it should not be so by them, who seem really to prefer the pomp of legal worship before the plainness and simplicity of the gospel. But he who understands what it is, not to receive the spirit of bondage to fear,' but to receive the 'spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba Father,' and what it is to serve God in 'the newness of the Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter,' understands their difference well enough. And I cannot but admire that some will make use of arguments, or a pretence of them, for such helps and forms of prayer as seem not compliant with the work of the spirit of supplication before described, from the Old Testament, and the practice of the church of the Jews before the time of our Saviour, though indeed they can prove nothing from thence. For do they not acknowledge that there is a more plentiful effusion of the

·

Spirit on the church under the New Testament than of the Old? To deny it, is to take away the principal difference between the law and the gospel. And is not the performance of duties to be regulated according to the supplies of grace? If we should suppose that the people being then carnal, and obliged to the observation of carnal ordinances, did in this particular stand in need of forms of prayer, which indeed they did not, of those which were merely so, and only so; nor had, that we know of, any use of them; doth it follow, that therefore believers under the New Testament, who have unquestionably a larger portion of the spirit of grace and supplication poured on them, should either stand in need of them, or be obliged unto them? And it is in vain to pretend a different dispensation of the Spirit unto them and us, where different fruits and effects are not acknowledged. He that hath been under the power of the law, and hath been set free by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, knows the difference, and will be thankful for the grace that is in it.

·

6

Again, It is extensively enlarged, in that it is now communicated unto multitudes; whereas of old it was confined unto a few. Then the dews of it only watered the land of Canaan, and the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh; now the showers of it are poured down on all nations, even all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.' In every assembly of mount Zion, through the world, called according to the mind of Christ, prayers and supplications are offered unto God, through the effectual working of the spirit of grace and supplication, unless he be despised. And this is done in the accomplishment of that great promise, Mal. i. 11. For from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts.' Prayer and praises in the assemblies of the saints, is the pure offering and that sacrifice which God promiseth shall be offered unto him. And this oblation is not to be kindled without the eternal fire of the spirit of grace. No sacrifice was to be offered of old, but with fire taken from the altar. Be it what it would, if it were offered with strange fire, it was an abomination; hence they

« VorigeDoorgaan »