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appears, that this Spirit dwells in CHRIST; that he has the power of dispensing it to the world, and that it was actually imparted to his Apostles ; but as the mi. raculous operations of the Holy Spirit have ceased, it
necessary to explain this circumstance, and shew, in what manner the promise of the Father, made by the prophets in the Old Testament, “ that he would pour out His Spirit upon all fesh;" and that of the Son, “ that the COMFORTER or ADVOCATE, whom he would send unto the world, should abide with his followers for ever ;" were fulfilled. To give a proper idea of this, we must consider what our Lord taught concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit in his discourses. From them it appears, that it was part of the great plan designed by infinite wisdom and goodness for the eternal happiness of men; that the Messiah, in reward of his perfect obedience to the Divine will, should be invested with the power of sending down the Holy Spirit, as an Advocate to plead his cause to the world, and as a Guide to the Apostles in the promulgation of the Gospel, and to his followers in general, in the exercise of those duties which the Christian religion enjoins. We have seen, in the history of the Acts of the Apostles, in what a wonderful manner the Holy SPIRIT was an Advocate in the cause of Christ, by endowing the Apostles, who were ignorant illiterate men, with the gift of tongues ; enabling them to perform miracles, and suggesting to them such powerful arguments as were calculated to convince the world that Jesus was no impostor, but really the Mussiah, the Son of God; that though he had been condemned as a malefactor, he was an innocent and holy person ; and that he was actually raised from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God, and possessed of Divine power,
We have also seen that the Holy SPIRIT was a Guide to the Apostles, leading them into the knowledge of all truths necessary for them to be acquainted with. By the inspiration of the Holy SPIRIT, their minds were cleared from many erroneous notions, which they, in their Lord's life-time, entertained ; and instructed in a variety of particulars, which without divine aid, they could not have comprehended. They were also, on account of their fuith, endued with invincible fortitude.
The miraculous operations of the Holy Spirit were not confined to the Apostles and preachers of the Gospel, but were also extended to their hearers. The minds of the best men were at that time so blinded by prejudices of various kinds, that, without the assistance of the Holy Spirit to open their understandings, even those who had been converted by our Lord's miracles and discourses, and believed him to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Great PROPHET, could not have comprehended all the truths of the Gospel: neither could they, unless endued with strength from above, have had fortitude sufficient to resist the allurements of the world, and adhere to their Christian profession, under the dangers and sufferings which attended it.
We perceive then, that in the first age of Christianity, the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit and his visible aid, were necessary to its propagation ; byt when it was fully established, and the church furnished with a written rule both for faith and practice, and the fury of persecution abated, these miraculous operations might with propriety be withheld, because there was no longer any need of them; since Christianity might be maintained by human and ordinary means, and, in a great measure, by its own rational force and power upon the . minds of men.
The promises of the Father and the Son, which extended to all who should at any time embrace the Christian profession, relate to the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit,his gentle influence on the minds of men, by which he insensibly helps the infirmities of human nature, enlightens the understanding, and rectifies the will.
Without such a divine Guide, the atonement of CHRIST would have been ineffectual to man's salvation ; for man would not have been able to perform the conditions required of him, nor even to have understood all things which concern his fuith and obedience. 'Tis the graci, ous influence of God's Holy Spirit in us, which secures all the other blessings and benefits of the Gospel, and conducts us safely through all the difficulties of a Christian course : all our strength and sufficiency are from him; to his blessed aids we owe all good inclinations, our beginning, our progress, and our perseve. rance in goodness and virtue. His gracious influence first disposes men to embrace and entertain the Gospel, and on their doing so with sincerity, constantly abides with them; unless he is provoked to withdraw himself, which may, and frequently does happen; for the influences of the Holy SPIRIT do not controul the will of man; that still remains free, and every one has it in his
power to follow or resist them. The influence and assistance of the Holy SPIRIT, in his ordinary operations, are indeed so gentle and secret, that it is impossible to distinguish between his immediate suggestions, and the dictates of human reason : but whoever will consider the infirmities of human nature, and at the
same time recollect the comfort he has received under affliction, and the fortitude with which he has resisted temptation, when he has prayed for divine support and assistance, must ascribe these happy effects to the aid of the Holy SPI IT.
In the history of the Acts of the Apostles, we learn, that the gift of the Holy SPIRIT was usually bestowed after baptism ; and it is for this reason, that the children of Christian parents are usually baptized in their early infancy, from a persuasion, that their blessed SAVIOUR will receive them into his flock, and send down the HOLY SPIRIT, to dispose their tender minds for the reception of those divine truths, which their parents, or, in case of their failure, those who solemnly answer for them at the font, are under an indispensable obligation to teach them, as soon as they are capable of receiving them. We are informed, indeed, that Cornelius, and other Gentile converts with him, received the gift of the Holy Spirit previous to their being baptized; but in this case it appears to have been bestowed as a reward for extraordinary piety, and also to furnish Peter with an argument for removing the scruples of those Jewish Christians who thought it unlawful to initiate Gentiles into the church of CHRIST.
There is no doubt but that the prophets, and other holy men under the Mosaic dispensation, experienced the extraordinary operations of the HOLY SPIRIT; and that all, who “ feared God and worked righteousness," whether Jews or Gentiles, were assisted by his ordinary influence: but till after our LORD's ascension, it was nol poured out on all flesh; that is to say, the effects of the Holy SPIRIT were not so visible, nor did he communicate himself to the world in so extraordinary a degree, because the state of mankind did not require it, before the coming of CHRIST; and during our LORD'S
life-time and conversation with his disciples, bis presence supplied all other defects; but when he left them, they were, as he calls them, orphans; therefore, it was requisite that, upon his departure, the Comforter or Advocute should come, to abide with them for ever. It was also proper, that after his ascension, our LORD should give them some visible token of the
and dignity to which he was advanced: besides, the Apostles had the greatest occasion that could be for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, on account of their own natural defi. ciencies, and the opposition and persecution they were likely to meet with – difficulties not to be surmounted by natural means. It was also highly requisite, that the minds of men should be prepared for the reception of the Gospel, by some signal testimony of the divine presence attending the first publication of it.
From these observations we may understand, that by the gift of the Holy Spirit is meant, an immediate in. fluence and operation of the SPIRIT OF GOD upon the minds of men-inrcard power, strength, and assistance communicated to Christians, enabling them to become such kind of persons as the Gospel requires them to be; and that there is an absolute necessity for the aid of the Holy Spirit, to rescue us from the power and dominion of sin, to raise us to a new life, to engage us in a holy course, and to fortify our resolutions against the allurements of the world, and enable us to persevere and patiently to continue in doing and suffering the Will of God. Let us now consider by what means we can obtain this inestimable gift, and how we may know that we are really in possession of it.
The means of obtaining the Holy Spirit, are prayer, baptism, and repentance. There is no cause to doubt, but that the prayers of those who dedicate their children to Christ in their early infancy, are accepted