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that asks him? And is not this the very thing you want, that you may understand the truth as it is revealed in Scripture, and be preserved from every delusion?
Even they, who by the grace of God, have surmounted these first hindrances, and are seriously endeavouring to walk with God, through Christ Jesus, in all his holy ways, find great weakness and imperfection in their endeavours: sin yet dwells within them; darkness and uncertainty oppress them; they are liable to many discouragements, and harassed by many temptations; in short, they feel, painfully feel, their need of more complete sanctification, of clearer views, and a more established judgment; of greater strength against temptation, and of consolation under trials; indeed of every thing for which the Holy Spirit is here promised.
Now, if this be the case with you, I need not endeavour to prove, but only to remind you, that the promise is exactly what you want; and in proportion, as you experience its accomplishment, your light, and strength, and holiness, and joy will be augmented; you will be endued with wisdom, walk at liberty, obtain victories, abound in hope, and anticipate the felicity of heaven.
And now, in attempting a short application of this important subject, I would observe, that while a man continues hardened in pride, or disposed to Vol. II.
scoff at these subjects, or to revile those who speak upon them; it cannot be expected he will pray for the Holy Spirit. Yet we must not limit the exhortations and invitations of the Gospel. We therefore call even on such characters as these, in the words of Wisdom, or of CHRIST, “How long, “ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity, and scorn“ers delight in your scorning, and fools hate “ knowledge ? Turn you at my reproof. I will “pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known “ my words unto you." But take heed that “ you “refuse not him that speaketh,” lest he should be at length provoked to add ; “ Because I called and “ye refused; therefore ye shall eat of the fruit of “your own ways, and be filled with your own “ devices.”
Our business, however, my brethren, is to pray for you: and we call on you all to pray for your. selves, for each other, for the unconverted part of the congregation ; for your children, servants, relations and neighbours, that “the Spirit of life in “ Christ Jesus may make you free from the “ power of sin and death."
But suppose a person convinced, that he must be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit, though not conscious that any change has been begun : for a man's understanding may be convinced by argument, that “without holiness no man shall “ see the Lord,” or enjoy a holy heaven, though he be still entirely destitute of holiness. He may
see the doctrine exemplified in some neighbour, friend, or relative; and admire, though he dislikes, the charge. And he may also have uneasy apprehensions, that without a similar change he cannot be happy. Let then, I say, such an one not give way to temptation, not indulge prejudice, not smother his convictions, not quench the Spirit who is striving with him by these means: but let him without delay lift up his heart to God, and plead the promise of the text: let him go home, retire to his closet, fall low on his knees, and earnestly and importunately renew the same request; beseeching God to give him his Holy Spirit, that he may be made wise, holy, and happy, by bis new creating grace. Let him persevere in this course, and he will find his mind open, his heart soften, and his dislike to spiritual employments give place to pleasure and satisfaction in them: for his nature being changed, he will then enjoy that element in which he could not live before.
We cannot go too low, in thus bringing the subject home to the hearts and consciences of sinners. From the first rising desire of knowing the way of salvation, and obtaining the favour of God, through all subsequent difficulties, perplexities, and trials; this promise should be depended on, and pleaded in earnest prayer: and we may without hesitation assure you, that thus you will find light and comfort, and relief, in every possible case. “If any man will do the will of
“ God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it “ be of God, or whether men speak of them“ selves.” If, therefore, you desire to know and do the will of God, but are perplexed by the discordant opinions of those you converse with: prac'tise what you now consider as your duty, and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you“ in the midst of “the paths of judgment;" and you shall not pray in vain.
Perhaps some of you are convinced, that certain parts of your conduct should be altered; this or the other interest or indulgence given up, or self-denial exercised: but your passions are strong, and habits are not easily conquered; you form resolutions and break them; and at length you are ready to think “repentance, and works meet for “ repentance,” in your peculiar circumstances, at present impracticable. This, I apprehend, is no uncommon case ; and many neglect religion on this ground, waiting perhaps for a more favourable opportunity, or thinking the difficulties in the way will excuse their conscious and persevering disobedience. But my fellow sinners, instead of thus “giving place to the devil,” you should, without delay, avail yourself of that effectual assistance, which is proposed in the words before us ; and while you pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to be given you, and then attempt to follow the dictates of your consciences; though you must still feel how strong your sinful passions and
temptations are, how weak your resolutions, how deceitful your hearts, and how painful and difficult it is, at first especially, to deny yourself, to cut off the right hand, to crucify the flesh, and to cease to do evil, and to learn to do well; you will also find that it is practicable by divine grace. “With man it is impossible; but with God all “things are possible.”
If then in general, you are convinced that repentance, faith in the Son of God, a new heart and newness of life, are essential to salvation, you must rely upon the Holy Spirit, to enable you to attain unto them. If you are called to resist any particular temptation, you must act in the same dependence. If you would attend on the ordinances of God with profit and comfort, and rise superior to the coldness and formality of which we all have too much reason to complain, you must beg of your heavenly Father, for the sake of his beloved Son, to bestow upon you the Holy Spirit of love, and zeal, and gratitude: and if you find difficulty in thus praying, your only effectual way will be to beg of him to teach and enable you to pray as you ought, by the Spirit of grace and supplication helping your infirmities.
Are you disconsolate, either through inward distress or outward trials? Remember the words of the apostle, “Be not drunk with wine, wherein ” is excess; but be ye filled with the Spirit.” Seek not exhilaration and relief from care and sorrow,