« PreviousContinue »
“selves never so pleasant, and its still greater disposi“tion to grow faint, when the actions continually to be “ repeated arę burdensome to flesh and blood; when he "compares the necessity of perseverance with the dif“ficulty of it, the prevalence of things present and sen
sible with the weakness wherewith those objects affect us that are absent and spiritual; when, I say, a
considering man puts all these things together, he “ cannot but be convinced, that narrow is the path that " leads unto everlasting life, and that without ILLUMI“ NATIon from the Spirit of God, he shall not be able " rightly to discern it; that strait is the gate which opens " an entry into heaven; and that he cannot, by the force of “ his own natural strength, without new power given " him from above, and the secret influences of God's “ Holy Spirit, adding force and energy to his own en“ deavours, force his way through it. Conscious, there"fore, of his own weakness, he will acknowledge the “ necessity of God's grace; and being ready to sink " through his own natural weight, unless supported by " foreign help, he will cry out with St. Peter, Save me, “ Lord, or ELSE I perish.
“Some philosophers of old flattered the pride and “ vanity of men, by teaching them that they wanted “ nothing to make them virtuous, but only a firm and " steady resolution of being so; that this resolution they " themselves were masters of, and might exert at their "own pleasure. They confidently boasted that their “ happiness was a thing wholly in their own power; " that they need not ask of the gods to be virtuous, nor “consequently to be happy, since they could be so with“out their aid or concurrence, or even in despite of " them. The Pelagians afterwards raised their here“ sies upon the principles which these heathen philoso“phers had first broached; they engaged in the quarrel " of depraved nature against divine grace: all our disor
“ ders they would have to be the effects not of sin but of “ nature; all our evil inclinations seemed to them capacable of being subdued by our own unassisted reason; “and they did not think the succour of any supernatu“ ral grace necessary either for the combating of vice, or “ the maintenance of their integrity and virtue. But the “ sober Christian hath learned from the scriptures to “ speak and to think more humbly of himself, and more “ becomingly and magnificently of God; we are there “ taught that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think,
much less to do, any thing as of ourselves, but that our “ sufficiency is of God; that it is God, which worketh 6 within us both to will and to do of his good pleasure; " that it is by the Spirit we must mortify the deeds of the 166 body, if we would live; that it is God, who, by his Spi“ rit, makes us perfect in every good work to do his will, « working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, « The humble and devout Christian being thus satisfied
of the necessity of God's grace, both from his own “ experience and from the scriptures, and being assured “ of the vitAL INFLUENCES of this spirit from the proa « mises made to him in the gospel, will not be over-cu6 rious to inquire into the secret and inconceivable man“ ner of its operation. He will choose rather to FEEL 66 these influences, than to understand or explain them, “ and will not doubt of that power, which, though he “ cannot give an account of as to the manner of its « working, he plainly perceives to be great and marvel« lous from its mighty and wonderful effects: for when, « in reading the holy scriptures, he finds the veil of dark6 ness removed from before his UNDERSTANDING; when “ those clouds of ignorance that had overcast his mind, are “ presently dispersed; when the doubts under which he « had for some time laboured are on a sudden cleared; « when such pious thoughts as were wont to pass tran66 siently are long dwelt upon, so as to leave behind them
" deep and lasting impressions; when these are sug“ gested to him without his seeking, and are urged and “pressed upon him so importunately, that he cannot “ choose but listen unto them; when, from a calm and “ serious consideration of the state of his own soul, the « odiousness and danger of sin, the beauty and necessi“ty of holiness, he is led to make good and pious resolu" tions of serving God with greater purity for the time " to come; when he finds a sudden impulse upon his spi'" rits, rouzing him up to the performance of some im* portant duty which he had before neglected; or an « unexpected check, stopping him in the midst of his "“ course, when he is rushing on blindly and impetuKously to the commission of some heinous sin; when “ in his devotions he finds his attention fixed, his affec« tions inflamed, and his heart melted within him; when, « while the voice of God's minister preaching the saving “ truths of the gospel sounds in his ears, he is sensible “ of an INWARD VOICE speaking with greater force and « efficacy to his soul, to his understanding, and to his ** heart: when, under the pressure of any grievous af
“fliction, he feels unexpected joy and comfort; when 27. “ light rises up in the midst of darkness; when there is
"" given unto him beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mouri“ ing, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; “ upon all these and the like occasions he is sensible of “ the presence and aid of God's Holy Spirit, whose " grace alone is sufficient to all these purposes, and “ whose strength is thus made perfect in his weakness.
« How the operation of God's Holy Spirit is consistent « with the freedom of our own wills; how far we are “passive and how far active in those good thoughts, “ words, and works, which are wrought in us by the " influence of this Holy Spirit, the practical Christian “doth not much trouble himself to inquire. Whatso“ ever is good in him, that he devoutly ascribes not unto
“ himself, but unto the grace of God which was afforded
far on his own strength, as not humbly to acknowledge “ that it is God alone who works in him both to will and to “ do, nor so far depends on the grace of God to save “ him, as to forget that he is required to work out his 66 own salvation—if lastly, at his approaches to the holy
altar, he doth prepare himself for the reception of the « blessed sacraments with as much care, diligence, and « scrupulosity, as if the benefits he there expects did “ entirely depend upon the disposition he brings along “ with him, and his own fitness to communicate, and " yet at the same time, not trusting on his own imper
"fect righteousness, but on God's infinite mercy, he
doth there, with faith, with humility, with reverence, " address himself to that blessed Spirit, who is the "giver of every good and perfect gift, that he may be “ filled with his grace and heavenly benediction.”
I cannot but hope that these opinions of a classical scholar, a man adorned with all elegant and polite learning, as well as with philosophy; a man, whose habits of life and social connections tended to remove him from all contagion of enthusiasm, will have great weight with the elegant and polite part of the world, in recommend. ing the neglected or exploded doctrine of grace. No man needs blush to entertain the religious sentiments of Bishop Smalridge; nor can folly or fanaticism be reasonably imputed to divines like him, whose minds were enriched with all the stores of science, and polished with all the graces of ornamental literature.
Human learning highly useful, and to be pursued with all
Diligence, but cannot, of itself, furnish Evidences of Christianity completely satisfactory, like those which the Heart of the good Christian feels from the divine Influence: with the opinion of Doctor Isaac Watts..
EARNING should be the handmaid of religion. She must not take upon her the office of a judge or arbitress. Her employment is highly honourable and useful, though subordinate. Let learning be cultiyated, and continue to flourish and abound. Religion is the sun to the soul; the source of light and the cherisher of life. But because there is a sun, must there be no inferior lights? God has made the moon and the stars also, and pronounced that they are good.