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1 CORINTHIANS, iii. 16.

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"

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THERE are ways of considering the subject of spiritual influence, as well as a want of considering it, which lay it open to difficulties and misconceptions. . But if the being liable to misapprehension and to misrepresentation be thought an objection to any doctrine, I know of no doctrine, which is not liable to the same, nor any which has not, in fact, been loaded at various times with great mistakes.

One difficulty, which has struck the minds of some, is, that the doctrine of an influencing spirit, and of the importance of this influence to human salvation, is an arbitrary system, making every thing to depend, not

upon ourselves, nor upon any exertion of our own, but upon the gift of the Spirit. It is not for us, we allow, to canvass the gifts of God; because we do not, and it seems imposible that we should, sufficiently understand the motive of the Giver. In more ordinary cases, and in cases more level to our comprehension, we seem to acknowledge the difference between a debt and a gift. A debt is bound, as it were, by known rules of justice: a gift depends upon the motive of the giver, which often can be known only to himself. To judge of the propriety either of granting or withholding that to which there is no claim, which is, in the strictest sense, a favour, which, as such, rests with the donor to bestow as to him seemeth good, we must have the several motives, which presented themselves to the mind of the donor, before us. This, with respect. to the divine Being, is impossible. Therefore, we allow that, either in this, or in any other matter, to canvass the gifts of God is a presumption not fit to be indulged. We are to receive our portion of them with thankfulness. We are to be thankful, for instance, for the share of health and strength which is given us, without inquiring why others are healthier and stronger than ourselves. This is the right disposition of mind, with respect to all the benefactions of God Almighty towards us.

But unsearchable does not mean arbitrary. Our necessary ignorance of the motives, which rest and dwell in the divine mind in the bestowing of his grace, is no proof that it is not bestowed by the justest reason.

And with regard to the case at present before us, viz. the gifts and graces of the Spirit, the charge against it of its being an arbitrary system, or, in other words, independent of our own endeavours, is not founded in any doctrine or declaration of scripture. It is not arbitrary in its origin, in its degree, or in its final


› First, it is not arbitrary in its origin; for you read

that it is given to prayer. "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to them that ask it;" but whether we will ask it or not, depends upon ourselves. It is proposed, you find, as a subject for our prayers; for prayer, not formal, cold, heartless, transitory, but prayer from the soul, prayer earnest and persevering; for this last alone is what the scripture means by prayer. In this, therefore, it cannot be said to be arbitrary, or independent of our endeavours, On the contrary, the scripture exhorts us to a striving in prayer for this best of all gifts.

But it will be asked, is not the very first touch of true religion upon the soul, sometimes at least, itself the action of the Holy Spirit? This, therefore, must be prior to our praying for it. And so it may be, and not yet be arbitrarily given. The religious state of the human soul is exceedingly various. Amongst others there is a state, in which there may be good latent dispositions, suitable faculties for religion; yet no religion. In such a state the spark alone is wanting.

To such a state the elementary principle of religion may be communicated, though not prayed for. Nor can this be said to be arbitrary. The Spirit of God is given where it was wanted; where, when given, it would produce its effect; but that state of heart and mind, upon which the effect was to be produced, might still be the result of moral qualification, improvement, and voluntary endeavour. It is not, I think, difficult to conceive such a case as this.

Nevertheless it may be more ordinarily true, that the gift of the Spirit is holden out to the struggling, the endeavouring, the approaching christian. When the penitent prodigal was yet a great way off, his Father saw him. This parable was delivered by our Lord expressly to typify God's dealing with such sinners as are touched with a sense of their condition. And this is one circumstance in it to be particularly noticed. God sees the returning mind; sees every step and every advance towards him, "though we be ́yet a great way off;" yet at a great distance; though much remains to be done and to be attained, and to be accomplished. And what he sees, he helps. His aid and influence are assisting to the willing christian, truly and sincerely willing, though yet in a low and imperfect state of proficiency; nay, though in the outset, as it were, of his religious progress. "The Lord is nigh unto them, that are of a contrite heart," (Psalm xxxiv. 19.) But in all this there is nothing arbitrary.

Nor, secondly, is the operation of the Spirit arbitrary in its degree. It has a rule, and its rule is this. "Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath." Now of this rule, which is expressed under some, but under no great difference of phrase, in all the three first gospels, I have first to observe, that, though it carry the appearance of harshness and injustice, it is neither the one nor the other, but is correctly and fundamentally just. The meaning is, that whosoever uses, exercises, and improves the gifts, which he has received, shall continue to receive still larger portions of these gifts; nay, he who has already received the largest portion, provided he adequately and proportionably uses his gifts, shall also in future receive the largest portion. More and more will be added to him, that has the most: whilst he, who neglects the little which he has, shall be deprived even of that. That this is the sound exposition of these texts is proved from hence, that one of them is used as the application of the parable of the talents, concerning the meaning of which parable there can be no doubt at all; for there he, who had received, and having received, had duly improved, ten talents, was placed over ten cities; and of him the expression in question is used, "whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance." On the contrary, he, who had received one talent, and had neglected what he had received, had it taken from him: and of him the other part of the expression is used: "whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken

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