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come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto you." John xvi, 7.
The sentiments of the Church of England on this doctrine are very clearly expressed. Thus, in the 13th Article it is said, “Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God.” In the Sermon, or Homily for Rogation Week, it is said, "that we may boldly come in prayer, and call upon Almighty God as our Father, it is by this Holy Spirit which maketh intercession for us with continual sighs.” Hence we find in the Liturgy various prayers expressly for the aid of the Holy Spirit. “Grant that thy Holy Spirit may, in all things, direct and rule our hearts." “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee.''
These, with many other similar passages which might be brought, shew the mind of our Reformers on this subject.
Having shewn the necessity of the Spirit's aid, I would now endeavour, in some measure, to explain how this aid is given. The Scriptures express it generally under the terms helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us, &c.
The Holy Spirit HELPS OUR INFIRMITIES.—The original expression for helpeth, (ouverte de pe Bavetar,) implies that the Spirit takes upon himself a part of the burden by which our infirinity is weighed down, and not only succours us in a slight degree, but effectually relieves us by bearing himself, as it were, the burden with
* Collect, 19th Sunday after Trinity. + Collect before Communion Service. See also Art. 10, 11; 2d Collect at Evening Prayer ; 5th Sunday after Easter ; 13th after Trinity. The Petitions, “Endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit.” “ Take not tby Holy Spirit from us."
The image is taken from one who sets his shoulders and lifts with us at the same load. It is not said that we shall be wholly delivered in this world from our moral siknesses; it is sufficient cause for thankfulness that we are assured of assistance under them. Even a renewed soul cannot of itself raise its affections and desires after heavenly things. We find the remains of our corrupt nature an oppressive load, but if we ask and diligently seek for the aid of the Spirit, that burden under which we are ready to sink, will be removed, and our hearts raised in prayer to God; the Spirit will relieve us in our necessities. Preston, in his treatise called “ The Saint's Exercise," thus illustrates the subject : “ A fountain has always an aptness to pour forth water, but cannot if it be stopped by mud, stones, or other impediments : so in prayer, the spirit is willing, (to pray or do other duties, but the flesh is weak. Yet here the Holy Ghost helps our infirmities, removing stoppages from the fountain, taking away carnal impediments, and stirring up the regenerate part, whereby we are able to make a spiritual prayer unto God.”
The Holy Spirit enlightens the understanding, to shew us what we need; and sanctifies the heart, so that we desire what is really good for us. He removes our natural ignorance and blindness. We know not our sinfulness and unbelief; but the Holy Spirit convinceth us of sin, because we believe not in Christ. John xvi. 9. He thus shews us our great and alarming danger, and inclines us earnestly to seek deliverance.
Our Lord says to the Apostles, “ The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John xiv, 26. We may therefore reasonably conclude that the Holy Spirit acts upon our minds after this manner, bringing the declarations, the threatenings, and the promises of the word of Christ to our recollection : and thereby producing in us a desire to obey his word, escape his displeasure, and obtain his favour.
The enlightening and sanctifying influences of the Spirit are of great importance as to prayer, being needful in preparing our hearts for holy intercourse with God, and for desiring those things which will glorify Him, and really benefit our own souls.
We know not what to pray for as we ought. St. James affirms, “Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, to consume it on your lusts.” This being so, the “Holy Spirit maketh intercession for us, according to the will of God.” Rom. viii, 27. He directs and guides our minds to right ends in asking, and the Lord knows the mind of the Spirit. He approves and accepts the prayer made under his influence.
THE INTERCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT differs from that of Christ. Our Lord intercedes in heaven, separate and apart from us, by himself, at the throne of glory. The Holy Spirit intercedes in, and with our hearts, at the throne of grace. The gift and intercession of the Holy Spirit is the fruit and effect of the intercession of Christ, who, “ when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and received this gift for men, yea, even for the rebellious.”
Christians have, then, the intercession, the additional interposition of the Holy Spirit; like a powerful and able advocate, who takes up our sinking cause ; urges our necessities, and our pleas, with power, earnestness, and perseverance; and places them with strong and irresistible effec in such a light, that it is evident the suit is obtained and the request granted. Thus the Spirit maketh intercession for us, suggesting to us, and offering up in us, those desires, arguments and pleas, which would otherwise never have arisen in our minds.
“ The Holy Spirit,” says one of the reformers, “ excites within us confidence, desires and sighs, to the conception of which our native powers were altogether inadequate.” There are pious persons of very poor attainments in other respects, without learning or human acquirements, in the very lowest stations of life, who, asking for the aid of the Holy Spirit, can with the greatest propriety of expression, the deepest reverence, and an uninterrupted fluency of words, pour out their souls to God, and edify their families, and their neighbours. Indeed, have not those who entirely decry the assistance of the Holy Spirit, as given to believers in our days, reason to fear lest they should be guilty of the sin of blasphemy against him?
There is a distinction, not improperly made, between the gift and the grace of prayer, though perhaps the more just distinction would be between the talent of elocution and the spirit of prayer. Some have a natural or acquired power of a great command of words, and a full flow of language, which enables them to pray with facility, and so far it is very desirable; and I doubt not, with Dr. Watts, that “there is the ordinary assistance of the Spirit required, even to the attainment of this holy skill or ability to pray." But men may have this talent, and yet have none of the real feeling of want, desire, resignation, peace, hope, joy, &c. which form the essence of true prayer, and without which the best expressions are of little worth. The right spirit of prayer is not merely to be able to press God with the most proper words and urgent vehemence; this is talent and elocution. True prayer is a higher thing, the special gift of the Holy Ghost; not so much a matter of the lips, as of the heart. He has the most of this gift, who has “the most enlightened apprehension of the God to whom he speaks; the deepest sense of his own wants; the most eager longings after grace, the most fervent desires of supplies from heaven; and, in a word, whose heart sends up the strongest cries to the Father of Mercies." Hence many may have much of the spirit of prayer who have but a small degree of the power of utterance.
Much, indeed, of the work of the Spirit, is secret. We know not various particulars connected with it. We know it rather by its effects, than by its mode of operation. “ The wind bloweth where it listeth, and 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.” We experience its power, and that is sufficient. The Christian knows that he has often knelt down averse to prayer, dead, dull, stupid ; almost without desiring the blessings for which he ought to ask. And yet, with all his weakness, after looking for the aid of the Spirit, after praying as did David, “Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” (Ps. li, 15.) and persevering in asking, seeking, and knocking, (Matt. viii, 7.) he has, in such a remarkable way, experienced the presence of God, as to fill him with joy unspeakable, and a hope full of glory. He has, in these cases, sometimes found an unction, an enlargement of expression, so far beyond any thing that he had previously calculated on, or could expect, accompanied by such lively and vehement desires and thirstings after God, and holiness, and glory, as convincingly and evidently to his mind, marked the agency and