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ers of matter,—and proceed more or less from the rational soul, which is a spiritual substance.
Whether these ought, in propriety, to be called spiritual gifts, I shall not contend, as it seems a mere dispute about words ;-but it is enough that the interpretation cuts the knot, instead of untying it ; and, besides, explains away all kind of meaning in the above promises :—and the error of them seems to arise, in the first place, from not distinguishing that these spiritual gifts,-if they must be called so ;-such as memory, fancy, wit,--and other endowments of the mind, which are known by the name of natural parts, belong merely to us as men; and whether the different degrees, by which we excel each other in them, arise from a natural difference of our souls, or a happier disposition of the organical parts of us. They are such, however, as God originally bestows upon us; and with which, in a great measure, we are sent into the world. But the moral gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are more commonly called the fruits of the Spirit, cannot be confined within this description.-We come not into the world equipt with virtues as we do with talents ; if we did, we should come into the world with that which robbed virtue of its best title, both to present commendation and future reward. The gift of continency depends not, as these affirm, upon a mere coldness of the constitution,-or patience and humility from an insensibility of it ;-but they are virtues insensibly wrought in us by the endeavours of our own wills and concurrent influences of a gra. cious agent !-and the religious improvements arising from thence, are so far from being the effects of nature, and a fit disposition of the several parts and organical powers given us, that the contrary is true; -namely, that the stream of our affections and appetites but too naturally carries us the other way : —for this, let any, man lay his hand upon his heart and reflect what has passed within him in the several conflicts of meekness—temperance-chastity, and other self-denials, and he will need no better argument for his conviction.
This hint leads to the true answer to the above misrepresentation of the text-That we depend upon God in no other sense for our virtues, than we necessarily do for every thing else ; and that the fruits of the spirit are merely the determinations and efforts of our own reason, and as much our own accomplishments as any other improvements are the effect of our own diligence and industry.
This account, by the way, is opposite to the apostle's, who tells us," It is God that worketh in us “ both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.”- It is true, though we are born ignorant, we can make our. selves skilful ;-we can acquire arts and sciences by our own application and study. But the case is not the same in respect of goodness.-We can acquire arts and sciences, because we lie under no natural indisposition or backwardness to that acquirement: for nature, though it be corrupt, yet still it is curious and busy after knowledge.-But it does not appear that to goodness and sanctity of manners we have the same natural propensity.-Lusts within, and temptations without, set up so strong a confeder. acy against it, as we are never able to surmount by our own strength. However firmly we may think we stand, the best of us are but upheld, and graciously kept upright ; and whenever this divine assistance is withdrawn, or suspended,--all history, especially the sacred, is full of melancholy instances of what man is when God leaves him to himself, --that he is even a thing of nought.
Whether it was from a conscious experience of this truth in themselves, or some traditions handed from the scripture-account of it ;-or that it was, in some measure, deducible from the principles of reason ;-in the writings of some of the wisest of the heathen philosophers, we find the strongest traces of the persuasion of God's assisting men to virtue and probity of manners. One of the greatest masters of reasoning amongst the antients, acknowledges, that nothing great and exalted can be achieved, sine divino afflatu ;--and Seneca, to the same purpose, Nulla inens bona sine Deo ;-that no soul can be good without divine assistance.--Now whatever comments may be put upon such passages in their writings--it is certain, those in scripture can receive no other, to be consistent with themselves, than what has been given :-and though, in vindication of human liberty, it is as certain on the other hand,--that education, precepts, examples, pious inclinations, and practical diligence, are great and meritorious advances towards a religious state, yet the state itself is got and finished by God's grace; and the concurrence of his spirit upon tempers thus happily pre-disposed, and honestly making use of such fit means:and unless thus much is understood from them,--the several expressions in scripture, where the offices of the Holy Ghost, conducive to this end, are enumerated-(such as cleansing, guiding, renewing, comforting, strengthening, and establishing us) are a set of unintelligible words, which may
amuse, but can convey little light to the understanding.
This is all I have time left to say at present upon the first error of those, who, by too loose an interpretation of the gifts and fruits of the spirit, explain away the whole sense and meaning of them, and thereby render not only the promises, but the comforts of them too of none effect :-concerning which error, I have only to add this, by way of extenuation of it,—That I believe the great and unedifying rout made about sanctification and regeneration in the middle of the last century,—and the enthusiastick extravagances into which the communications of the spirit have been carried by so many deluded or deluding people in this, are two of the great causes which have driven many a sober man into the oppo• site extreme, against which I have argued.-Now, if the dread of savouring too much of religion in their interpretations, has done this ill service,-let us inquire, on the other hand, Whether the affectation of too much religion, in the other extreme, has not not misled others full as far from truth, and farther from the reason and sobriety of the gospel, than the first?
I have already proved, by scripture-arguments, that the influence of the Holy Spirit of God is necessary to render the imperfect sacrifice of our obedi. ence pleasing to our Maker.--He hath promised to “ perfect his strength in our weakness.”—With this assurance we ought to be satisfied ;-especially since our Saviour has thought proper to mortify all scrupulous inquiries into operations of this kind, by comparing them to the wind,“ which bloweth where “ it listeth ; and thou hearest the sound thereof, but
« canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it “goeth ;-so is every one that is born of the spirit.” -Let bumble gratitude acknowledge the effect, unprompted by an idle curiosity to explain the
We are told, without this assistance, we can do nothing;
;-we are told, from the same authority, we can do all, through Christ that strengthens us.--We are commanded to a work out our own salvation " with fear and trembling." The reason immediately follows : “ For it is God that worketh in you, both “ to will and to do, of his own good pleasure.". From these, and many other repeated passages, it is evident that the assistances of grace were not intended to destroy, but to co-operate with the endeavours of man,—and are derived from God in the same manner as all natural powers :-indeed, without this interpretation, How could the Almighty address himself to man as a rational being !-How could his actions be his own !-How could he be considered as a blameable or rewardable creature !
From this account of the consistent opinions of a sober-minded christian, let us take a view of the mistaken enthusiast :-See him ostentatiously clothed with the outward garb of sanctity, to attract the eyes of the vulgar !-See a cheerful demeanour, the natural result of an easy and self-applauding heart, studiously avoided as criminal. See his countenance overspread with a melancholy gloom and despondence, as if religion, which is evidently calculated to make us happy in this life as well as the next, was the parent of sullenness and discontent! --Hear him pouring forth his pharisaical ejaculations on his journey, or in the streets !--Hear him boast