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strength of nature, will give the best argument against the necessity of grace in order to salvation. For if men are naturally inclined to virtue and holiness, they will not want grace to make them so. But this has never yet been the case; and if we may judge of those who shall be after us, by ourselves, and those who have lived before us, this never will be
Now the works of the Spirit are described to us in many places of Scripture. They are in the text set forth to be 'pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.' The Apostle to the Galatians, chap. v. 22. reckoning up the fruits of the Spirit, places them in this order; 'love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;' and continuing his account, though varying his style, he adds, and they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.'
Were the manners of any people to be described in this language, there is no one so little acquainted with human nature, but that he would suspect the truth of the relation. Where must we go, to the east or to the west, to find a people pure and peaceable, full of mercy and good works, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, crucifying the flesh and the affections and lusts thereof? No history has yet presented us with such an idea of mankind. But if we look into the account which the same Apostle gives of the works of the flesh, we shall find too great a correspondence between them, and the historical accounts of all nations: they are, 'adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.' These works we know where to find, and are sure of not mistaking in what country soever we seek them. You see the difference between the works of nature and grace and tell me, was it a work unworthy of God to send his Spirit to make the difference? If you think it not yet so sufficiently made as to answer the pretensions of the gospel, yet you must own that here is a work worthy of God to undertake; and that if we have not the
Spirit already to produce these effects, it were much to be wished that we had: so that natural reason shall be forced to give this testimony to the gospel, that the help it proposes is the thing in the world the most to be desired, the most honorable for God to give, the most advantageous for man to receive. If you ask us what evidence we have to show, that we have received this promise of the gospel; it were well indeed if we had more evidence than we have, and that every man naming the name of Christ were a living testimony of the Spirit of God working in him; and yet I trust we have enough to show that the promises of God are not in vain. The Spirit is given to be a principle of religion, and not of force and mechanism; and consequently it must be maintained to be consistent with the freedom of man's will, without the supposition of which it is impossible to have any notion of religion: and if many, who by their profession of Christianity are intitled to the promise of the Spirit, do show no signs of the power of God working in them, they will be so many proofs indeed that the grace of God is not irresistible: but no better argument can be drawn from their case to show that the pretences to grace are mere fiction, than may be drawn from the unreasonable actions of the generality of men to show that reason itself is a fiction, and that there is no such governing principle in mankind.
We have indeed the fullest proof that there is such a thing as reason and natural understanding in men; and therefore the abuse of reason creates no suspicion against the being of it: but the Deist sees no proof of the reality of grace in any; the effects we ascribe to it, and which are the only visible evidences for its reality, are no other than what reason prescribes; and wherever they are found, he claims them as the work of reason, and demands of us to show on what ground we ascribe them to any other principle. If men are meek, and charitable, and good, void of partiality and hypocrisy, they are but what their reason tells them they should be; and since these virtues flow from the dictates of reason, by what right do we impute them to another principle? The Apostle to the Romans has taught us the resolution of this difficulty: 'I
delight,' says he, in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.' That the dictates of reason are just and right, St. Paul acknowleges; but right as they are, we gain little by them but the conviction of sin and guilt; for there is another principle in the members warring against this principle of reason, or law of the mind, which brings us under the slavery of sin. This state afforded him so little comfort, notwithstanding the goodness of his reason to distinguish rightly between virtue and vice, that he exclaims in the bitterness of his soul, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Under these agonies he saw no help in nature, no assistance to be had from reason; and therefore he flies to the arms of Christ for shelter, and owns him for his only Redeemer from this captivity to sin: I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.' And having found this safe retreat, he goes on in another strain: There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit: for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.'
You see how the Apostle founds the necessity of grace: not in this, that we want reason to show us the difference between good and evil, and to direct us in our duty; but in this, that the light of reason is too weak a restraint on the inclinations to evil, which are become natural to man. These inclinations overpowering reason, bring in the slavery of sin and death. We become slaves by departing from the law of reason; we are freed from slavery by grace: grace therefore is given to restore us to the obedience of reason. So far is it from being an objection to the reality of grace, that the works of grace are works of reason, that the very best evidence we can have that the grace of God is in us, is this, that we live up to the pure and sincere dictates of reason. We ascribe it not to grace, that we know our duty; but this we ascribe to it, that we are able to perform it. And on this state of the case it appears
that the evidence which Christians can make to themselves and others, that the Spirit of God dwelleth in them, must arise from their works of love and obedience.
This trial, though it may prove in the end a severe one, since the love of many is grown cold, we can by no means refuse. For how shall we refuse to stand trial by the rule laid down by our Saviour, By their fruits,' says he, 'you shall know them;' and by his Apostle St. John, 'This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments?' To the same purpose our Lord speaks in the fifteenth of St. John, comparing himself to a vine, and his Father to an husbandman: I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.'
Unbelievers may have many objections to make against the operations of the Holy Spirit, which need not affect or disturb the faith and hope of a Christian. But when they object to us the want of evidence in the works of Christians, they raise a difficulty which every believer is bound to answer for himself, or to quit his pretensions to the hopes and promises of the gospel. The confidence of some, that they have the Spirit of God, though they have nothing but their own confidence to allege in proof of it, is a conceit unknown to the churches of God: the gospel is a stranger to it, and it was taught in some other school than that of Christ.
If you would know whether the Spirit of Christ be in you of a truth, you have a plain rule in the text to examine yourself by. The Apostle St. James speaks of two sorts of wisdom, the one earthly, sensual, devilish;' the fruits of which are, envyings, strife, confusion, and every evil work:' the other heavenly, which is pure and peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, without hypocrisy.' It is no hard matter for a man to know to which class he belongs; the characters are bold, and easily distinguished; the difference is so great between confusion and peace, strife and gentleness, envy and mercy, every evil work and every good work, that we cannot easily mistake in applying these marks. Search therefore your own hearts, for thence
must come the resolution, whether the Spirit of Christ dwell in you or no. How the Spirit cometh, or how it goeth, we know Our Saviour, in his discourse with Nicodemus, compares the influence of the Spirit to the blowing of the wind, 'Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.' How the new birth and regeneration is performed, he only can tell who performs it; but the effects of it every man may see, they are as discernible as the noise of the winds, though in their cause and spring as secret, and altogether as far removed from human sight.
As the fruits of the Spirit are the only evidence we can have of the Spirit, so the end of giving the Spirit is the producing these good fruits. Sanctification, regeneration, and all other terms by which the operation and work of the Spirit in believers are denoted, signify to us that the Spirit is given to redeem us from sin, and to render us a people acceptable to God, zealous of good works. And surely it is no small commendation of the gospel, that the things in it which seem most mysterious, have the plainest use, and are introduced to promote such ends as must appear to the most prejudiced mind to be honorable to God and advantageous to mankind. We offer you, on the terms of the gospel, the gifts of the Holy Ghost in virtue of this offer we call you to holiness and obedience. What design or contrivance have you to suspect? If any thing is to be gained by your being virtuous, the advantage will be all your own. Nay, suppose that you are deceived into goodness, yet for you at least it will be a happy deceit; and, I think, no unhappy one for the rest of the world. Who will suffer by men's becoming gentle and peaceable? If there were more of this spirit in the world, it would be a much happier place than it is: for the strife and confusion, and all the miseries which we see and hear, have their rise from that wisdom which is earthly and sensual.
From what has been said arises this plain conclusion: that the true way of judging whether the Spirit of God be in us, is to consider our own deeds. Righteousness and holiness are the only certain marks of regeneration. Other distinctions which men have invented are rather marks of their spiritual