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“ be born again.” “Except a man be born again, “ of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see," "he “ cannot enter into, the kingdom of God.” For the baptism of water is no more, than ‘an outward • and visible sign of an inward and spiritual
grace;' and that “inward and spiritual grace is 'a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righte'ousness : for, being by nature born in sin, and 'the children of wrath, we are hereby' (by the new birth unto righteousness) made the children
of grace.' And, to ascribe this change of our condition to the outward sign, preserves indeed the form of godliness, but denies the power of it. If then we, though natives of a christian country, are born in sin and the children of wrath ;' as we are expressly taught by our Church-Catechism; we must as much need the quickening influences of the Holy Spirit, as they did to whom Christ and his apostles first preached the Gospel.
The same divine Agent is spoken of in Scripture as the Spirit of truth and wisdom, as the Author and Giver of all spiritual knowledge, and as illuminating the mind with the light of divine truth. “ I will pray the Father, and he shall give you an“ other Comforter, that he may abide with you for “ ever, even the Spirit of truth.” “ He shall teach “ you all things, and bring all things to your re“ membrance, whatever I said unto you.” “He “ will guide you into all truth.” Thus St. Paul prays in his epistle to the Ephesians, that
" John, xiv. 16–26
“ the God and Father of our Lord Jesus “ Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto “ you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the “ knowledge of him; the eyes of your under“ standing being enlightened, that ye may know “ what is the hope of his calling,” &c. He certainly did not mean to pray, that the Spirit of prophecy should be given to them all; but that they might all be enabled by the divine illumination of the Spirit, to understand aright the revelation given them in the Old Testament, and by the preaching of the apostles.
In like manner, our church teaches us to pray not only that the LORD would please to illumi' nate all bishops, priests, and deacons, with the • true knowledge and understanding of his holy ' word;' but that he would grant us, by the same Spirit which was poured out on the apostles, “to • ave a right judgment in all things.' And it is remarkable that in the short collects, for the king and royal family and clergy, similar petitions are inserted; “Replenish him with the grace of thy • Holy Spirit. • Endue them with thy Holy 'Spirit;' “Send down on them the healthful Spirit ' of thy grace.'
And indeed, if notwithstanding external advantages, “ we be by nature the children of wrath “ even as others.” If “our understanding be “ darkened, being alienated from the life of God, “ through the ignorance that is in us, because of
“ the blindness of our hearts:" it is certain that we need this inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, even as much as they did to whom the gospel was first preached; not to reveal new doctrines, but to free our minds from the effects of our various prejudices and corrupt passions, that we may discern spiritual things, and understand the nature and glory of revealed truth.
“When Ile,” says our Lord of the promised Comforter, “is come, he will convince the world “ of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John xvi. 8.) These are part of the effects which follow from his divine illumination. When freed from the power of our proud and carnal prejudices, we are led to scriptural views of the perfections, law, and government of God, and our relations and obligations to him ; we begin to form a right judgment of ourselves, our past conduct, and the present disposition of our hearts. This produces a conviction of our sinful state and character, an enquiry after the way in which man may be justified before God, and a serious expectation of the future judgment. And when this conviction is rendered deep and permanent, it prepares the soul for understanding and welcoming the revelation of the gospel, “submitting to the righteousness of “ God,” and “counting all but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ” and his salvation. Nay, the want of this conviction is the grand reason why the peculiar doctrines of christianity are so much neglected, despised, or perverted, by men called Christians. If then, the Holy Spirit be given us for this purpose, we shall soou feel and act as they did, at the day of Pentecost, who hearing St. Peter's discourse, “ were “pricked in their heart and said, - Men and bre“thren what shall we do?" And when further instructed in the gospel, “they gladly received the " word, and were baptized ; and the same day there “ were added to them about three thousand " souls.""
Thus our Lord adds, “He, the Spirit of truth, “shall glorify ine; for he shall receive of mine "and shall shew it unto you. All things that “ the Father hath are mine; thereiore said I, he "shall take of mine and shall shew it unto you.” Hence we learn, that it is one grand part of the office performed by the Holy Spirit, to give us high and honourable apprehensions of Christ; to render him glorious in our eyes and precious to our hearts; to endear to us his person, his love, his salvation ; to excite in us fervent desires after the blessings which lie bestows, and to fill us with admiring adoring love and gratitude to him.-Now can it be questioned, whether these views and affections are as necessary for us, as for the primitive Christians ? And are not men’s low thoughts of this glorious Saviour, and their scanty expectations from him, and the disrepute into which ; Acts ïi. 2 John xvi, 14, 15.
warm affections towards him are fallen, evident effects of the neglect, nay, contempt, with which the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is generally treated?
“I will,” saith the Lord by his prophet, “pour “ upon the house of David and the inhabitants of “ Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication, “and they shall look upon me whom they have :“ pierced and mourn.'” Hence we learn that
true repentance, faith in a crucified Saviour, and a heart prepared for fervent prayer, are the effects of the Spirit being poured out upon any people; and surely it is as necessary that we should mourn over our sins and be humbled for them, and by faith look unto Christ, and lift up our hearts in prayer; as it was that the Jews of old should. Indeed the expression “praying by the Spirit,” or “pray“ing in the Holy Ghost,” is commonly used in the New Testament, however at present, not unfrequently treated with profane ridicule. It certainly does not mean praying extempore, (as some imagine;) for men may learn to pray in this manner, without the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit; and he very often enables those who use a form to lift up their hearts with fervency unto God. In short, whatever words be used, we never pray spiritually, except as the Holy Spirit enables us truly to desire the blessings we implore, and so to exercise faith in in the promises of God through JESUS CHRIST, as to expect that our
Zech. xii, 10.