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every moment of its continuance.-That, from this view of our state and natural dependance, it is as certain, they will say,-We can do nothing without his help. But then they will add,-that it concerns us no farther as christians, than as we are men ;-the sanctity of our lives, the religious habits and improvements of our hearts, in no other sense depending upon GOD, than the most indifferent of our actions, or the natural exercise of any of the other powers he has given us. Agreeably with this,-that the spiritual gifts spoken of in scripture, are to be understood by way of accommodation, to signify the natural or acquired gifts of a man's mind, such as memory, fancy, wit, and eloquence,-which, in a strict and philosophical sense, may be called spiritual,because they transcend the mechanical powers 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 should 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, and 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 equipped 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 rewards. 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 endeavors of our own wills and concurrent influences of a gracious 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 convic
This hint leads to the true answer to the above misinterpretation of the text,-That we depend upon Gov 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 do and will, of his good pleasure.➡ It is true, though we are born ignorant,—we can make ourselves 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 confederacy 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 melaneholy instances of what man is, when God leaves him to himself,- -that he is even a thing of
Whether it was from a conscious expereince 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 ancients, acknowledges that nothing great and exalted can be achieved, sine divino afflatu ;-and Seneca to the same purpose, mulla mens 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 prac tical 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 hap pily predisposed, 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 enthusiastic extravagancies 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 opposite extreme, against which I have argued.-Now, if the dread of savoring 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 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 obedience 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 hath 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 hear"est 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 humble gratitude acknowledge the effect, unprompted by an idle curiosity to explain the cause.
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 "work out our own sal"vation 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 cooperate with the endeavors 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 blamable 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 demeanor, the natural result of an easy and self-applauding heart, studiously avoided as a 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