« PrécédentContinuer »
in us, and our complying with that act in an obedient and ready conformity thereunto. For, wherever the Spirit of God is, it is not idle and ineffectual; but it is still directing and inclining unto good: and, whosoever is led by that Spirit yields himself to the motions and guidance: Acti agimus; as the old word is.
In all leading therefore, and so in this, there must be a hand to guide, and a foot to follow : good motions, on God's part; and motions in good, on ours: both these must go together; else, there is no leading by the Spirit of God. It is not enough, that good thoughts are injected into us by the Holy Spirit: yea, it is so far from availing us, as that a man is so much the worse for those good motions he entertains not, as the motions are more excellent and
But those good injections must be received, embraced, de ighted in, and followed home in a constant and habitual practice; with a resolute rejection and detestation of the contrary.
Besides that spirit of our mind, Eph. iv. 23. which lodgeth in every breast, every man is led by some spirit or other. One is led by a spirit of error, i Tim. iv. 1. and seduction, in matter of understanding: another, by the spirit of giddiness; Isaiah xix. 14. into wild fancies, and brain-sick imaginations: another is led by the spirit of bondage, to slavish fears and afflictive horrors; as in the next verse to my Text: another, by the spirit of the world; 1 Cor. ii. 12: another, and indeed all these, by the unclean spirit, as he is usually stiled in the Gospel: others, which are all the regenerate, are led by the Spirit of God. When our Saviour said to his too-fiery disciples, Ye know not of what spirit ye are, he implies, that of some spirit they must needs be. Now there are those, that pretend to be led by ihe Spirit of God, and are not. St. Paul could, upon good warrant, say, I irust I have the Spirit of God: that trust was, however he modestly expresses it, no less than a certain knowledge; but a Zidkijah, on the other side, in a false presumption, can say, Which way went the Spirit of God from me, to speak to thee?
I remember, in the History of the Anabaptists of Munster, one of those illuminated companions of John Becold and Cnipperdoling is said to have killed his own natural brother in the face of his parents; and professed to do it, upon a revelation from the Spirit, the night before. And what heresies and prodigious opinions have been set on foot, and maintained to the death, under pretence of the dictation and warrant of God's Spirit, who can be ignorant? Let us therefore enquire, how a man may know, whether he be truly led by the Spirit of God.
(1.) The Spirit of God leads no man but in a Right Way: and what is that, but the way of God's commandments? All other ways are ways of our own, oblique and crooked, as deviating from the straight line of righteousness. In them, either we lead ourselves, or Satan leads us: If any man be tempted, let him not say, that he is templed of God: God moves to holy duties, to just and charitable actions; and none but them: for he cannot be contrary to himself. Is there any of us therefore, that is carried on in a
course of uncleanness, excess, disobedience, oppression, or any other sin whatsoever? Alas! we are led by a contrary spirit, in the dark ways, that lead to death and hell. It were blasphemy, to father these sinful mis-leadings upon the Holy Spirit of God
(2.) God's Spirit leads no man but by a Ju Rule. That rule is the word of truth. In all matter of judgment, that must direct us. Uncertain and variable traditions, private and ungrounded revelations, which are any way cross to this recorded will of God, are the deceitful guides of the spirit of error. If, then, any frantic or superstitious person shall pretend any other direction, than God hath given us in his revealed will; well may I say of him, as St. Paul dares say of an angel from heaven, if any such could be guilty of that offence, Let him be Anathema.
(3.) God's Spirit leads his Sweetly and Gently: disponit omnia suaviter ; not in a blustering and hurrying violence, but by a leisurely and gracious inclination. So, in Elijah's vision, there was fire, wind, earthquake; but God was in none of them: these were fit preparatives for his appearance; but it was the still soft voice, wherein God would be revealed; 1 Kings xix. 12. Those, that are carried with a heady and furious impetuousness and vehemence of passion in all their proceedings, which are all rigoar and extremity, are not led by that Good Spirit; which would be stiled the Spirit of Meekness: who was pleased to descend, not in the form of an eagle, or any other fowl of prey; but in the form of a meek and innocent dove.
(4.) God's Spirit leads on in a Constant Way of Progression from grace to grace, from virtue to virtue; like as the sun arises, by degrees, to his full meridian: whereas passion goes by sudden flashes, like lightning; whereof the interruptions are as speedy and momentary, as the eruptions. The very word of leading implies a continuance; neither can they be said to be led on, that make no proceedings in their way: if either, therefore, we go backward or stand still in goodness, if we promove not from strength to strength, we have no ground to think we are led by the Spirit of God.
(5.) Flesh and Spirit are ever opposite one to the other; and go still contrary ways, and lead to contrary ends: If ye walk after the flesh, ye shall die; saith our Apostle.' Nature and Grace, which have their hands in this manuduction both ways, stand in perpetual opposition to each other. If, therefore, we be led by our sensual appetite, to do and affect that, which is pleasing to corrupt na ture, we are led by that blind guide, the flesh; and if the blind lead the blind, it is no marvel if both of them fall into the pit of perdition: but, if we mortify our evil and corrupt affections, crossing and curbing our exorbitant and sinful desires, and bringing them forcibly under the subjection of God's Spirit; now, we may be assured to be led by the Spirit of God.
Other particulars of discovery might be urged, whereby we might easily judge of our own condition: but these are enow, whereby we may try ourselves, our guides, and ways. It is clear then, to sum up these proofs of our estate, that only they, who walk in the
ways of God's commandments; who are directed by the revealed will and word of God; who are sweetly inclined by the gracious motions of bis Spirit; who go on in a constant fashion through all the degrees of grace and obedience; who restrain their own natural desires and alfections, submitting themselves wholly to the government of the Holy Ghost: only they, I say, are led by the Spirit of God.
Five sorts of men there are, therefore, who, what challenge so ever they may pretend to make, are not led by the Spirit of God.
(1.) Those, that go on in a Known Evil Way. Lead me, O Lord, in the ways of thy righteousness; saith the Psalmist. Lo, they are only the paths of righteousness, in which God leads us: the rest are false ways, as the Psalmist justly calls them; which every good heart, and much more the Holy God, utterly abhors. Woe is me, that I have lived to see those days, wherein any, that looks with the face of a Christian, should maintain, that sins are no sins to the faithful, and that he is the holiest man, that can sin the boldlyest, and with the greatest freedom from reluctancy! Did ever any man look for heaven in hell, before? Did ever any seek for the greatest good, in the worst of evils? This is not heresy, but mere devilism; wherewith yet, it seems, some ungrounded souls are woefully tainted. God be merciful to them; and reclaim them, ere it be too late, from so damnable an impiety!
(2.) Those, that are led by their own Vain Imaginations and Illusive Dreams, in the ways of error; raising unto themselves new and wild opinions and practices, without any warrant from the written word of God.
(3.) Those, that are carried by Passion and Distemper, though even in good ways; turning a religious heat into fury and unchari
(4.) Those, that make No Progress at all in good; but either decay
grace, or thrive not. (5.) Those, that Humour, and Sooth up Corrupt Nature; car: ing only to fulfil the lusts of their own flesh.
All these, whereof God knows there are too many in the world, yea in the Church of God making a fair flourish of Christianity, are nothing less than led by the Spirit of God; and, therefore, can lay no claim to the state or title of the Sons of God.
III. Which is inferred, in the CONNEXION OF THIS QUALIFICATION WITH THE PRIVILEGE; being the third head of our Discourse: So many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the Sons of God.
The Spirit of God, is God: neither is mention made here of the Spirit only, as by way of exclusion of the other persons. No; what onie doth, all do; according to the old maxim. All the external works of the Trinity are indivisible. It is good reason then, that God should lead his own; and so he doth.
But here it will be fit for us to enquire, How far this leading of God's Spirit will argue and evince this sonship; and whether every conduct thereof will do it.
There is a work of the Spirit of God at large: The Spirit of God fills all the world, saith the Wise Man; Wisdom i. 7: not so yet, as was the error of P. Abailardus in Bernard, That God's Spirit is anima mundi: as the God of the World, not as “ the soul of the world:” as in the state of the first Tohu and Bohu, the Spirit of God fluttered upon the waters, as it were to hatch the creature which should be produced; Gen. i. 2; so doth he still fill the word for the preservation of this universe: but, in this all, he works in man especially ; There is a spirit in man; saith Elihu, in Job xxxii. 8. and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding ; yet this is not the leading of this Holy Spirit, that we are in hand with. Lower than this, there are certain common graces wrought in men by the Spirit of God; as some general illuminations in the knowledge of divine things; some good moral dispositions; some restraints of evil inclinations and actions: which yet will never reach to evince our sonship to God: how easily were it for me, to name you divers heathens, which have been eminent in all these; and yet, for ought we know, never the nearer to heaven! Yet, lower; there are some special gifts of the Spirit, which we call Charismata ; rare endowments bestowed upon some men; excellent faculties of preaching and praying; power of miraculous workings, as no doubt Judas did cast out devils as well as the best of his fellow-apost.es; gifts of tongues and of prophecy, and the like: which do no more argue a right to the sonship of God, than the Manuary's infused skil of Bezaleel and Aholiab could prove them saints. Yet, lastly, there may be sensible operations of the Spirit of God upon the soul, in the influences of holy motions into the heart, in working a temporary faith, and some fair progress in a holy profession; and yet 110 sonship: the world is full of such glow-worms, that make some sheir of spiritual light from God; when they have nothing in them, but cold crudities, that can serve for nothing but deceit.
Will ye then see, What leading of the Spirit can evince us to be the Sons and Daughters of God? know then, that, if we will hope for a comfortable assurance hereof, we must be efficaciously led by his sanctifying Spirit; first, in matter of Judgment; secondly, in our Dispositions; and, thirdly, in our Practice.
1. For matter of JUDGMENT: ye remember what our Saviour said to his disciples; When the Spirit of Truth is come, he will lead you into all trulh; John xvi. 13: that is, into all saving and necessary truths; so as to free us from gross ignorance or main error. Whosoever, therefore, is enlightened with the true and solid knowledge of all those points of Christian doctrine which are requisite for salvation, is, in that first regard, led by the Spirit; and, in this behalf, hath a just title to the sonship of God: as, contrarily, those, that are grossly and obstinately erroneous in their judgment of fundamental truths, let them pretend to never so much holiness in heart or life, shall in vain lay claim to this happy condition of the Sons of God.
2. For our DISPOSITION, secondly. If the Holy Spirit have wrought our hearts to be right with God in all our affections; if we
do sincerely love and fear him; if we do truly believe in him, receiving him as not our Saviour only, but as our Lord; if our desires be unteigned towards him; if, after a meek and penitent self-dejection, we can find ourselves raised to a lively hope and firm confidence in that our Blessed Redeemer; and shall continue in a constant and habitual fruition of him: being thus led by the Spirit of God, we may be assured that we are the Sons of God; for flesh and blood cannot be accessary to these gracious dispositions.
3. Lastly, for our PRACTICE, it is a clear word, which we hear God say by Ezekiel, I will put my Spirit into the midst of you; and will by it cause you to walk in my statutes, and keep my laws; Ezek. xxxvi. 27. Lo, herein is the main crisis of a soul led by the Spirit of God, and adopted to this heavenly sonship. It is not for us, to content ourselves to talk of the laws of our God, and to make empty and formal professions of his Name. Here must be a continued walk in God's statutes: it will not serve the turn for us, to stumble upon some acceptable work; to step aside a little into the paths of godliness, and then draw back to the world. No, my Beloved: this leading of God's Spirit must neither be a forced angariation, as if God would feoff grace and salvation upon us against our wills; nor some sudden protrusion to good; nor a mere, actual, momentary, transient conduction, for a brunt of holiness and away, leaving us to the sinful ways of our former disobedience, and to our wonted compliances with the world, the devil, and the flesh: but must be in a steady, uninterrupted, habitual course of holy obedience; so as we may sincerely profess, with the man after God's own heart, My soul haih kept thy testimonies, and I love them exceedingly; Psalm cxix. 167.
Now then, Dear Christians, lay this to heart seriously; and call yourselves sadly to this trial. What is the carriage of our lives? What obedience do we yield to the whole Law of our God? If that be entire, hearty, universal, constant, perseverant, and truly conscientious; we have whereof to rejoice; an unfailing ground to pass a confident judgment upon our spiritual estate, to be no less than happy. But, if we be willingly failing in the unfeigned desires and endeavours of these holy performances, and shall let loose the reins to any known wickedness; we have no part nor portion in this blessed condition.
Mark, I beseech you, how fully this is asserted to our hands: In this, saith the Beloved Apostle, the children of God are manifest, and the children of the Devil; whosoever doth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother; 1 John iii. 10. Observe, i pray you, what test we are put to. Ye hear him not say “Whoso talks not holily,” or, “Whoso professes not godliness:" in these, a hypocrite may exceed the best saint: buto l'hosoever doth not righieousness. Withal, see, what a clause the Disciple of Love superadds to the mention of all righteousness, neither he that loves not his brother : surely, the Spirit of God is a Loving Spirit; Wisdom i. 6: and St. Paul hath the like phrase; Rom. xv. 30.
To let pass, then, all the other proofs of our guidance by the