« VorigeDoorgaan »
stand for almost nothing in your mind; are these mere figurative expressions; and are you to believe there is no real immediate operation of the spirit of God on the soul? Have a care, that through fear of enthusiasm, you do not refine away all your faith, and all the substance of Christianity into a mere practical system of morals, to be attained unto by human aid only.
But here perhaps you are disposed to ask in your turn, do you want me to tell the precise time when the spirit of God began to operate? Must I be able to cite as evidence of it some extraordinary agitations of body, swoonings, trances and the like? I answer no. However some well meaning people may rely on these as evidences that the mighty power of God has come upon them; yet sober and rational Christians will look upon them as the effects of a warm imagination ; or of a set design to impose on the unwary; and in either case pretty sure to produce spiritual pride, and overweening cončeit of superior sanctity, a temper altogether repugnant to that of true and real Christianity ; the spirit of which is humility, reverence towards God, and condescension towards men.
And can you find no medium between the languid excitements of mere morality, however rational, and the extravagant fervours of a wild enthusiasm ? Is there no room for warm devotion and fervid piety without deserting order and reason? When you consider the awful majesty of God being every where present, but most with his people when they assemble for his worship, do you discern no reasons for strong emotions of reverence? When you contemplate what he has done for you by sending his Son to redeem you from sin and misery, do you see no cause for lively sentiments of gratitude to glow in your heart? When you call to mind, as your faith requires, that he sends his Holy Spirit to be intimately present with your spirit, to invigorate every good and holy emotion, how can you be otherwise than deeply affected? But when you also recollect that he is a God of order and not of confusion, how can you choose but take heed to your ways that you offer not the sacrifice of fools ? How can you fail to chastise the disorderly sallies of enthusiasm into the sober, yet warm effusions of true piety? How should you be still, and know that he is God!
True Christian piety ought to be ardent; but it should glow with the steady light of the sun, and not with the sudden and irregular flashes of lightning. It shou
It should blaze towards heaven, but without crackling and noise, without smoke and sparks. Religion is a still, small voice speaking from the heart, and addressing the understanding as well as the affections. Can you produce these testimonies, that you have the spirit of God, that you have received the Holy Ghost? I require no more. It is a proof that will bear examination. It will endure and bring forth fruits. It is evidence of a religion seated and grounded in the heart, that will stand before temptation, that will not wither in the evil day, nor fade when calamity comes. Such a religion, if you have it, will be the solace of your own heart, and a blessing to those about you.
But perhaps you hesitate to believe, or altogether deny that there is any such thing as an operation of the spirit of God on the soul, and
yet profess to be a Christian. Because you cannot comprehend and explain every minute particular of the manner, you are disposed, perhaps, to ask, how can these things be? With the Bible before you, you forget that the wind bloweth where it listeth, and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth, Suppose you cannot explain the manner, how the thing is, no more can you a thousand other things that daily take place, and which you firmly believe, nay, you know to be facts, Can you give any account of the union between soul and body? Can you tell how you think and act ? Do you know how the grass grows? In short, after all your great wisdom, what do you know about things, save that God has so ordained they should be, and so they are? Will you then doubt in this single case, because you cannot bring God's ways down to a level with your own limited understanding ? yet what mighty difficulty do you find in conceiving of this matter? May not God who is the pure essence of all spiritual perfection, be present to the spirit of man, and influence its motions, without using his bodily organs? It is stupidity and folly in the extreme, to say he cannot. And to say that a God of mercy and goodness, of wisdom and power, seeing our infirmities, and knowing our wants, would not interpose with his Spirit, is not only folly, but impiety, as tend. ing to impeach his moral perfections.
Or again, do you fear the charge of enthusiasm ? And does this make hesitate to admit to the full extent, so undoubted a doctrine of the Gospel, as that of the divine influence on the soul? This doctrine has to be sure been abused, to the great scandal of pure Christianity, and the grief of rational and sober believers in the gospel of truth. But what then? So has every other truth contained in the word of God, or written in the hearts of men. Take care that your faith be rational : let it sink deep into your heart, and command all your affections: let it make you earnest and engaged, devout and serious in prayer and praise. Think of the divine presence and aid, in which you believe ; call it often to mind, and let a holy awe seize your soul in every act of devotion, in public and private, in the house of God, and in your family. Let the same confidence in the divine aid inspire you with resolution in the discharge of your duties to men. Let them all be the effects of a determined principle, that you will not submit to temptations, knowing that through God you can do all things. Be charitable and kind towards all men. Towards gainsayers, be not haughiy and overbearing, but meek and gentle. In all things be a pattern of goodness, and no matter how much zeal you exhibit in the cause of religion. If this must be called enthusiasın, it is the enthusiasm of the saints in Heaven, who worship before the lamb, casting their crowns before him, and ascribing to him salvation, and honour, and power; and saying, thou art worthy, for thou wast sluin and hast redeemed us by thy blood from every nation. Thou last created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
EXPOSITION OF THE ARTICLES OF THE CHURCH.
of the Holy Ghost. * The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of
one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.”
THE third person in the Holy Trinity is called the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, and often the Spirit only. Frequent mention is made in the Old Testament of the Spirit of God, as at the creation of the world the Spirit of God is said to have moved upon the face of the waters...Gen. i. 2. And when the prophets received any supernatural power or knowledge, or any impression was made upon their minds for a particular purpose, it is generally ascribed to the spirit of God.
St. John has recorded, that Christ, not long before his crucifixion, said to his disciples, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truih....John xiv. 16. And in the following passage our Saviour speaks of the office of the Holy Spirit as having a close and necessary connection with his own personal ministry, and as being of the highest importance to the complete execution and accomplishment of the great scheme of human redemption. I tell you the truth; it is expedi. ent for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send him unto you, and he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you....John xvi. 7. Agreeably to this promise and declaration, on the day of Pentecost, and a few days after the ascension of our Saviour into Heaven, the Holy Ghost descended visibly upon the Apostles, and instantaneously communicated to them the power of speaking a great variety of languages, enabled them to work miracles in confirmation of the doctrines which they were to preach, and furnished them with zeal and resolution, and with every other quality necessary to the effectual discharge of their ministry.
But besides these great gists communicated to the Apostles and others, and these particular interpositions for important purposes at the first promulgation of Christianity, and which are, for the sake of distinction, called by modern divines the extraordinary operations of the Spirit, there are other communications of a more general nature, which are called the ordinary operations of the Spirit. These consist in causing a change and renewal of men's minds, and in affording them inward and secret assistance to become good and virtuous. The
fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance ....Gal. v. 22, 23. St. Peter, in his sermon upon the day of Pentecost, said, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost ; for the promise is unto yois, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call...Acts ii. 38, 39. - It is evident that the influence of thie Spirit spoken of in these passages must be common to all Christians, and cannot mean the extraordinary and miraculous communications, which were the portion of the very few, and continued but for a short time ; and hence we derive this comfortable and important assurance, that the Spirit of God co-operates with our sincere endeavours after righteousness, and assists us in all our virtuous exertions.
In this Article the Holy Ghost is spoken of as proceeding from the Father and the Son. That the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father, we learn from the express authority of St. John, whose words are, The Spirit of Truth which proceedeth from the Father...John xv. 26 ; and as Christ in the same verse says, I will send the Spirit ; and St. Paul tells the Galatians, that God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, we infer that the Spirit proceeds from the Son also ; and indeed the union between the Father and the Son is such, that we cannot conceive how the Spirit can proceed from the one without at the same time proceeding from the other. But we must acknowledge that the procession of the Holy Ghost, although to be believed as being asserted in scripture, is far beyond our comprehension ; and in subjects of this kind we cannot be too cautious and diffident in what we say and think.
In the explanation of the latter part of the first Article, which relates to the doctrine of the Trinity, it was proved from several texts of scripture, that the Holy Ghost is both a person and God. The following passages prove separately the divinity of the Holy Ghost, as asserted in this Article ; and are also proofs of his spersonality. St. Peter, in punishing Ananias and Sapphira, uses the expressions, lying to the Holy Ghost, and lying to God, as equivalent. Christ himself calls the Holy Ghost another Comforter, to be sent in his stead, or to supply his absence. In these and several other passages, the Holy Ghost is plainly spoken of not merely as a quality or operation, but as a person; and the powers attributed to him are such that they can belong only to a divine person ; if, therefore, the Holy Ghost be God, as well as the Father and the Son, and there be but one God, it follows that the Holy Ghost “is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God."
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
ESSAY ON INFIDELITY.....VO. VI. THEY loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil, is a maxim of him who know what was in man, and needed not that any one should teach him. This maxim was most certainly just as applied to those of whom it was spoken ; and we have reason to think it equally true of some men still. Yet to say that all, who renounce the gospel as the guide of life, and a light to lighten their footsteps into a future world, act on this principle, would doubt. less be saying too much; for there are some, whom, from the tenor of their lives, we ought not to suppose so perverse in their disposi. tions. But when we consider how corrupt is the human heart, that it is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it? Frequently
pot at all its possessor, there is too much reason to believe, and it is not therefore wrong to say, that men of perverse desires thinking, and thinking truly, that religion imposes a restraint on their inclinations, obliges them to be just and upright, humble and meek, to forgive injuries and affronts, to forbear revenge, and to be sober and temperate in the gratification of all their passions; they resist this restraint, and fly from it, by renouncing allegiance to the authority by which it is imposed. Pride of singularity, a desire to be thought superior to vulgar prejudices and superstitions, must come in for another share in the cause that produces infidelity : While there are no less evident reasons for believing, that many are really imposed on by fallacious reasoning ; by having taken a wrong view of the ground on which a judgment should be formed; not intending to go wrong, they have erred from want of knowing how to go right.
Their error is that of the judgment, and not of the heart and passions. Such need only just and correct information, and they will be set right.
Whoever duly considers what human nature is, in what situation a great proportion of mankind are of necessity placed; how they are occupied in pursuits foreign from improvement of the mind in learned research, and weighing the force of arguments, must see that they are compelled in a great measure to take first impressions, and be content with little more than a superficial view of subjects that fall under their contemplation. In religion they must depend either on what they deem a revelation from God, or the instruction of men, in whom they place confidence. Hence they are ever liable to be imposed on by false and partial representations of facts. An appeal to their feelings, interests and passions, is sure to make a strong impression, and have an abiding effect; an impression and effect not readily removed, but by an appeal to the same set of propensities, by interesting the same feelings on the other side. If infidels have been telling men, in their books, that the Christian system is injurious to their present welfare, (which is certainly true of many that have been published and circulated within the last fifty years) let them be shewn that the statement is not true; or if true in some degree, yet that the evils are counterbalanced by much greater good. The imposing declamation and address of these books have had, and are having, an effect on the minds of some injurious to the cause of truth, virtue, and religion ; and the course pursued in these essays seems the most likely to oppose that influence. The confirmed Christian has indeed much better reasons to give of the hope that is in him. But they are reasons not adapted to the nature of the objection. When it is once seriously believed that our religion is the cause of great and sore evils, self-interest takes the alarm, and all that can be said of the fulfilment of prophesy, of miracles, of the internal excellency of the gospel, of its sublime morality, goes for nothing; and we may say that these arguments ought not to prevail against the conviction of such evils, as have been alledged by infidel writers; and which have shaken the faith of some. To such these essays are addressed; for such they are primarily intended. And if, by falling into the hands of any such, they should remove their doubts and misapprehensions,