« PreviousContinue »
pentance, to encourage our hope of mercy and help us to apply for it, and to strengthen us for renewed obedience. We do not pretend to know that our sins are pardoned; except as we are conscious that we hate and abhor them, and humbly trust in Christ to deliver us from them. We infer our interest in the love of God as our heavenly Father, from our love to him as his adopted children; and from an habitual desire of living to his glory, obeying his commandments, and doing good to our brethren for his sake.
Surely no man, who professes to reverence the scriptures will call this enthusiasm! We disclaim all pretensions to predict future events, or to discover things unknown to others by any immediate revelation from God; yea, we protest against them, as derogatory to the holy scriptures and a disgrace to the gospel; and even the incautious language of some well-meaning persons, meets with decided disapprobation from others, who hold most of the same doctrines; because it is capable of being perverted, or misunderstood.
These remarks having been premised, I observe, that as all spiritual religion is produced by the influences of the Holy Spirit, and every degree of success attending the gospel of Christ must be ascribed to a few drops, as it were, of this fertilizing rain; so, there are seasons, in which the Spirit is poured from on high in copious showers, upon some favoured spots of the Lord's vineyard. This was most remarkably the case on the day of Pentecost, and for a considerable time afterwards: and though the effects were gradually diminished; yet neither the communication of miraculous gifts, nor the abundant converting and
sanctifying influences accompanying the preaching of the gospel, ceased, till perhaps more than two centuries afterwards. Such an outpouring of the Spirit attended the labours of the reformers, in the time of Luther, and for many years after his death. Nor has our land been left wholly destitute of this special benefit during the present century: and some places seem yet to be favoured with it in a considerable degree. In short, they, who are conversant with the records of the church, ancient or modern, will recollect various seasons, when, in different places, the Spirit of God was poured upon his people from on high: and all these should be considered as earnests of more abundant blessings, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought into the church; and the Jews "shall "look to him whom they have pierced," uniting penitent tears with believing supplications.*
II. We proceed to consider more particularly the nature and effects of this promised blessing.
In order to elucidate the subject, we must advert to the present state of the church and of the world. If we look among the constituted ministers of religion; we cannot but perceive, that vast numbers consider their profession, in great measure, as a secular employment, and pursue their worldly interests by it, like other orders in the community; without any proportionable earnestness in seeking the salvation of of souls, and the advancement of genuine Christianity. Many indeed are very learned and ingenious: but
alas! they embrace and contend for doctrines, which certainly were deduced from a very different source, than the sacred scriptures. Others preach several of the great truths of the gospel, but seem little concerned to apply them to the hearts and consciences of mankind; or to excite them by fervent exhortations and a bright example, to "adorn the doctrine of God our "Saviour in all things." A few indeed appear to be honestly and simply engaged in the most useful work of their sacred function: yet perhaps the skilfulness, boldness, self-denial, diligence, zeal, and faithfulness, even of this remnant, fall much beneath the degree which "men of like passions" have at more favoured seasons been known to display.
These things should not be considered as a censure of modern times: for the case has been nearly the same, in almost every age and part of the church. No external appointment to the ministry, no engagement or mode of worship, can, by its own efficacy, dethrone the selfishness of the human heart; or induce the carnally-minded to act from pure motives, and to delight in the spiritual service of the Redeemer. But when "the Spirit shall be poured upon us "from on high;" we may expect, that such ministers, as have feebly sought the glory of God in the salvation of souls, will feel their hearts enlarged with more abundant zeal and love; and that a vast accession will be made to their wisdom, and knowledge of Christ and his holy doctrine. They will probably be to a great degree delivered from the fear of men ; raised above the love of the world; emancipated from a bigotted regard to systems and parties; filled with
most tender compassion to perishing sinners, and fervent love to their brethren; occupied with realizing views of eternal things; prepared for perilous and self-denying services; and disposed cordially to unite with their fellow-labourers in promoting the common cause; without regard to competition, personal interest, or reputation.
Those who have preached the truths of the gospel, without application or animation, will then probably feel and insist upon their practical tendency, and manifest it in their own conduct. Some, who have been adverse to the truth, will be won over to preach the faith which once they opposed: loiterers and hirelings will be converted into faithful, diligent, able, and disinterested pastors: many labourers will be sent forth into the vineyard; and every one who partakes of these fertilizing showers, will "take heed to the mi"nistry which he hath received of the Lord, that he " fulfil it."
The change which took place, even in the apostles themselves, after the descent of the Holy Ghost, with the conduct of the primitive ministers of the gospel, and the exhortations addressed to them in the New Testament, abundantly warrant these expectations.
If we next survey the mass of peoplé called Christians, and observe their disposition and conduct: we shall readily understand what effects would be produced by the pouring out of the Spirit upon us. Let us, for instance, consider the inhabitants of this city, and their behaviour in respect of the Lord's day, the public worship, and the preaching of the gospel. We
shall in this review see cause to lament, that vast multitudes retire into the country for irreligious recreation, or employ the holy sabbath in travelling; that crowds assemble in places of intemperate indulgence, or frivolous amusement; and that many spend part of the day in adjusting some worldly business, and the residue in sloth or festivity. A few, compared with the whole immense number, attend at the several places of publick worship; the majority of whom, it is to be feared, having paid their weekly tribute, think no more about it; being "as a man who dream"eth that he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is "empty." Others frequent the places where the word of God is preached, with considerable regularity; but continue hearers only, and not doers. In short, few comparatively scem to receive the "gospel, not as the "word of man, but as-the word of God, which effectually worketh in them that believe;" or "to "worship him in spirit and truth :" and even these sce cause to lament their want of zeal and fervency; and too often manifest a languor and a defect in earnestness and activity, where the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind are concerned.
But if the Spirit were poured upon us from on high" the hearts of such persons would expand with holy affections, and be filled with divine consolations. They would become fervent in every religious duty, and earnest in prayer for their ministers and brethren, and for a blessing on every attempt to propagate the gospel; they would bestow pains to impress the instructions of scripture on the minds of their children, relatives, and servants; to recommend