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heart; and he gratefully confesses that the hand, which bestowed it, must be divine. He approaches the throne of grace without fear; for he knows in whom he hath believed, and relies upon the intercession of the Almighty Spirit. Impressed with the conviction of these great truths, he can joyfully take up the words of the Psalmist: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me bezide the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Surely, goodness and shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever 1.
1 Psalm xxiii.
THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT CONTRASTED WITH THE WORKS OF THE FLESH.
It is possible, that an inquiry of no small interest may here not unnaturally suggest itself.
I. Dissatisfied in a measure with the preceding discussion, some one may still perhaps be inclined to ask: How am I to know, whether my understanding, my will, and my affections, have indeed been acted upon by the Holy Spirit of God?
The question is a most important one, yet, I trust, by no means unanswerable. Would we solve it satisfactorily, we must resort to Scripture.
1. Some attempt to reduce the whole of the influences of the Spirit to a mere external decorum; and profanely decry as enthusiasm the belief in that supernatural change of heart, the necessity of which is so strongly inculcated by our Saviour.
As if it were probable, that the diabolical sins of envy, hatred, and malice, sins perfectly compatible with outward decency, did not render a man just as much a child of hell, as the more glaring turpitude of drunkenness, fornication, and dishonesty.
2. On the other hand, some would persuade us, that almost the whole of religion consists in warm and lively feelings; so that, unless our souls are perpetually (as it were) in the third heaven, we know but little of the nature of the Spirit's influences or of the privileges of genuine Christianity. Hence they are obviously led to imagine, that, if sensible comforts abound, they may safely conclude themselves at peace with God; but that, if they be withdrawn, they have no longer any right to believe themselves his children.
Thus the favour of the Almighty, of him who knoweth neither change nor shadow of turning, is supposed to be as variable and irregular as the human temperature. The frequent coldness and languor of our devotions, the perpetual wandering of our thoughts
from divine subjects, and the indifference with which we too often contemplate the redeeming goodness of our Lord, are indeed sad proofs of the corruption of our nature, and afford ample cause for humility and contrition but there is no reason to think, that they are marks of unregeneracy or tokens of God's rejection and abiding displeasure. His covenant is built upon a surer foundation than either our feelings or our faithfulness: feelings, which are subject to incessant variation; and faithfulness, which the very best of us must own to be but too unfaithful.
3. God willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and stedfast1.
1 Heb. vi. 17.
This is the great charter of the Christian, on which he builds the hope of his salvation. God hath sworn, that he will never forsake the heirs of promise; but that he will be with them in every trial, and will safely conduct them to the very end of their pilgrimage. Therefore, with faithful Abraham, they believe even against hope and in despite of their natural feelings. They may be cast down, but they are not destroyed; and, in the midst of all their difficulties, they trust that a life is hid for them with Christ in God'. Faith is not the evidence of things seen, but of things unseen: consequently, if our religious state was to be decided by our feelings, the very foundation of faith would be overturned; and we should have sensible demonstration of that, which we are required to believe, simply because God has promised it.
II. The same question however may still be asked: How am I to know, whether I have been renewed by the Holy Ghost? How can
1 Coloss. iii. 3.