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does not listen to them as new and strange, nor reject them as absurd; but kindly receives them as suggested by his Spirit, and agreeable to his will; He that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Let, then, the sense of your infirmities lead you to a more entire reliance on the Holy Spirit, God afflicts us with trouble, and awakens us to a sense of our misery, not that we should pine away with grief, but that we should seek his grace and obtain relief by prayer. And the safest state?
of mind in which we can be, is that of humility under our deficiencies, and eager desire after greater attainments in devotion, and every other Christian duty.
II. BUT WHAT SHALL I SAY TO THOSE, WHOM THIS WHOLE ARGUMENT MUST CONVICT OF LIVING WITHOUT PRAYER ? Such are assuredly without God and without Christ. Prayer is the breath, as it were, of the soul. When Paul was struck to the earth by the Saviour, on his way to Damascus, the first evidence of his conversion was, Behold, he prayeth! And in every age, the first indication of spiritual life is prayer. And yet you continue strangers, in fact, to this holy exercise. You are contented with the offering of the lips, without any movement of the affections. You join in the public prayers of
the church, but you never confess your sins
prayer, though you call yourselves Christians. And as to your closet, you are strangers there; or at best a few formal words suffice to satisfy your consciences, You never pray with feeling, with importunity, with constancy, with spirituality ; that is, you never pray'at all.
at all. Witness your reluctance to secret devotion. Witness your indifference in it. Witness your frequent omission of the duty. Witness your entire unconsciousness of all those infirmities which the best Christian most knows and laments, because he is most in earnest about his salvation. Witness your ignorance of the work of the Holy Spirit, and your contempt of the doctrine of his grace. Witness your reliance on your own understanding and your own powers for serving God. Allow an honest appeal to be made to your conscience. Would you not treat with ridicule a humble Christian who should speak, with whatever sobriety, of the help and intercession of the Holy Spirit in prayer, and of the groanings that cannot be uttered, which flow from it? Then surely your hearts must be wrong before God. Surely all is yet to be begun in you as to religion. And it must begin at this point-THE WORK AND ILLUMINATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Prostrate, then, yourselves in contrition before the throne of mercy. Ask of God that gift of his Holy Spirit which he has promised to all that seek it. Be once in earnest, and you will soon perceive 'the unnumbered diseases and infirmities of your soul. The aid of the Holy Ghost will then appear to you the most desirable and suitable of all blessings. What you now despise or disregard, you will then value abové all price, and seek with intense solicitude. Nor shall you seek it in vain. It is the gracious office of the Holy Spirit to help your infirmities, He will condescend to teach you and to guide you in the ways of repentance, justification, holiness, obedience, and joy; he will be to you a comforter and sanctifier, will intercede in your heart here, and prepare you for eternal glory hereafter,
2 PETER, 1. 4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
The manner in which the privileges of the Christian are connected with the possession of boliness in every part of the Bible, is very remarkable. The corrupt heart of man sometimes attempts to separate the two, but the Sacred Scriptures constantly exhibit them in union with each other. The plan of salvation is altogether holy in its design and in its tendency. The death of Christ was a most solemn display of the justice and righteousness and purity of God. Repentance implies a hatred and renunciation of all sin. Faith is a spiritual and holy prin
ciple. The blessed Spirit of God is the author and source of sanctification. The commands of God are holy, just, and good. His threatenings are designed to guard us against transgression, and to evince his abhorrence of iniquity. His promises also, as we learn in the text, are glven us with the express intention of rescuing us from the corruption of the world, and making us partakers of a divine nature. This latter point is the more remarkable, because it might at first sight be thought, that the promises of God were rather calculated to promote our consolation than our obedience. But these are in fact inseparable. In communicating joy, they increase our willing subjection to the divine precepts. This will appear as we consider the
passage to which our attention is now to be directed. In doing this, we shall point out, * I. The excellency of the divine promises., II. The design for which they are given.
We will consider,
The promises of Scripture are generally declarations which God has made of bis intention to bestow blessings upon his faithful people. Under the Old Testament dispensation, to which the Apostle refers, the promises mainly related to the future advent of the Messiah. All other blessings pointed to this, or were included in it. The promises, collectively taken, were fre