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by its own rational force and power upon the minds of men.
The promises of the Father and the Sun, which extended to all who should at any time embrace the Christian profession, relate to the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit,his gentle influence on the minds of men, by which he insensibly helps the infirmities of human nature, enlightens the understanding, and rectifies the will.
Without such a divine Guide, the atonement of CHRIST would have been ineffectual to man's salvation; for man would not have been able to perform the conditions re. quired of him, nor even to have understood all things which concern his faith and ebedience,
'Tis the graci. ous influence of God's Holy Spirit in us, which secures all the other blessings and benefits of the Gospel, and conducts us safely through all the difficulties of a Christian course : all our strength and sufficiency are from him; to his blessed aids we owe all good inclinations, our beginning, our progress, and our perseverance in goodness and virtue. His gracious infuence first disposes men to embrace and entertain the Gospel, and on their doing so with sincerity, constantly abides with them; unless he is provoked to withdraw himself, which may, and frequently does happen; for the influences of the Holy Spirit do not controul the will of man ; that still remains free, and every one has it in his power to follow or resist them. The influence and assistance of the Holy SPIRIT, in his ordinary opera. tions, are indeed so gentle and secret, that it is impossible to distinguish between his immediate suggestions, and the dictates of human reason : but whoever will consider the infirmities of human nature, and at the same time recollect the comfort he has received under affliction, and the fortitude with which he has resisted temptation, when he has prayed for divine support and assistance, must ascribe these happy effects to the aid of the HOLY SPIRIT.
In the history of the Acts of the Apostles, we learn, that the gift of the Holy SPIRIT was usually bestowed after baptism ; and it is for this reason, that the children of Christian parents are usually baptized in their early infancy, from a persuasion, that their blessed SAVIOUR will receive them into his flock, and send down the Holy Spirit, to dispose their tender minds for the re. ception of those divine truths, which their parents, or, in case of their failure, those who solemnly answer for them at the font, are under an indispensable obliga. tion to teach them, as soon as they are capable of receiving them. We are informed, indeed, that Cornelius, and other Gentile converts with him, received the gift of the Holy Spirit previous to their being baprized; but in this case it appears to have been bestowed as a reward for extraordinary piety, and also to furnish Peter with an argument for removing the scruples of those Jewish Christians who thought it unlawful to ini. tiate Gentiles into the church of Christ.
There is no doubt but that the prophets, and other holy men under the Mosaic dispensation, experienced the extraordinary operations of the Hour Spirit; and that all, who “ feared God and worked righteousness," whether Jews or Gentiles, were assisted by his ordinary influence : 'but till after our Lord's ascension, it was not poured out on all flesh; that is to say, the effects of the Holy Spirit were not so visible, nor did he communicate himself to the world in so extraordinary a degree, because the state of mankind did not require it, before the coming of CHRIST; and during our LORD's
life-time and conversation with his disciples, his presence supplied all other defects; but when he left them, they were, as he calls them, orphans; therefore, it was re. quisite that, upon his departure, the Comforter or Advocate should come, to abide with them for ever. also proper, that after his ascension, our LORD should give them some visible token of the
and dignity to which he was advanced : besides, the Apostles had the greatest occasion that could be for the gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT, on account of their own natural defi. ciencies, and the opposition and persecution they were likely to meet with-difficulties not to be surmounted by natural means. It was also highly requisite, that the minds of men should be prepared for the reception of the Gospel, by some signal testimony of the divine pre. sence attending the first publication of it.
From these observations we may understand, that by the gift of the Holy Spirit is meant, an immediate influence and operation of the SPIRIT OF God upon the minds of men-inward power, strength, and assistance communicated to Christians, enabling them to become such kind of persons as the Gospel requires them to be; and that there is an absolute necessity for the aid of the Holy Spirit, to rescue us from the power and domi- nion of sin, to raise us to a new life, to engage us in a holy course, and to fortify our resolutions against the 'allurements of the world, and enable us to persevere and patiently to continue in doing and suffering the Will of God. Let us now consider by what means we ·can obtain this inestimable gift, and how we may know that we are really in possession of it.
The means of obtaining the Holy SPIRIT, are prayer, baptism, and repentance. There is no cause to doubt, but that the prayers of those who dedicate their children to Christ in their early infancy, are accepted
for them; and that, during their years of ignorance, they are regarded as members of his church; but as soon as children are capable of committing actual sin, they must implore for themselves the assistance of the Holy Spi. Rit, and prepare for ratifying the vow made in their name at their baptism, by a public profession of their faith in CHRIST.
We may know that the Spirit dwelleth in us, if we find in our minds an ardent desire to do the will of GoD-a preference of eternal things to worldly pursuits -a sincere belief of the truths of Christianity-a perfect love and charity for all mankind-consolation under affictions and a fervent hope of salvation through the mercy of God; for these are the FRUITS or effects of the SPIRIT, as we find them described in the Epistles of St. Paul and the other Apostles.
How thankful ought mankind to be, for the wonder. ful goodness of God, in bestowing such an inestimable gift upon them! How grateful should every individual be to Christ, for directing it to themselves in parti. cular! Let us, then, keep our minds constantly pre. pared to comply with the motions and suggestions of the Holy Spirit, by leading a life of obedience and righteousness; and take heed, that we do not, by any wilful disobedience to the revealed will of God, trans. mitted to us in the Scriptures, resist his Holy Spirit; but since he vouchsafes to dwell in ús, let us do nothing that is unworthy of so Divine and heavenly a guest. Let the thoughts of his presence fill our hearts with a con. tinual awe and reverence of him, and engage us effec. tually to cleanse ourselves from every evil inclination. Let us earnestly implore the assistance of the Holy
Spirit, and continually depend upon him for his grace and assistance, in an humble sense of our own weak.
ness and fickleness, and the inconstancy of our best purposes and resolutions. If we thus pray, we shall certainly obtain; but we must pray, and we must also act; for God does not force the will, He only inclines and aids it by the suggestions and motions of the HOLY Spirit. If we comply and co-operate with him, we shall be happy; if we resist and rebel against him, the grace of God is offered us in vain, and our ruin and destruction is of ourselves.
Having seen in what manner our Lord's predictions, relating to the descent of the Holy Spirit on those who adhered to him, were fulfilled, let us now enquire concerning the fate of those who rejected the Gospel in the first age of the church *.
OUR LORD'S PREDICTIONS CONCERNING THE PUNISH.
MENT OF THE JEWS, AND THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.
And as he went out of the Temple, one of his disa ciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here.
And Jesus said unto him, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.
* To supply the deficiencies of these Annotations relating to the HOLY SPIRIT, I must beg leave to refer my readers to the excellent series of discourses on the subject, by Archbishop Tillotson, in his ad vol. folio edition, from whence they are chiefly extracted. I could not offer every argument that occurred to me, without making many extracts from the Epistles; and this I was unwilling to do, as the texts are capable of a fuller and more satisfactory explanation in their proper places.