Imagens da página

stores our souls, and leads us in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

2. Since fallen man is corrupt and perverse; since his natural inclinations, if not checked in their operation, will infallibly lead him, under some form or other, into the vanities of the world and the sins of the flesh; and since it is the great purpose of the Christian system to recover him from this lost condition, and to bring him into conformity with the will of God, we may rest assured that the true voice of Christ in the heart will conduct us in the path of daily self-denial. And such, undoubtedly, is the experience of all those persons who have committed themselves to the guidance of this inward Monitor. They find that he leads them through the "strait gate," and by the “narrow way,” and that, in order to follow him, it is indispensably necessary for them to resist their own desires, and to mortify those perverted selfish principles which constitute the character of the natural man.

When our Lord declared that, if any man would come after him, he must take


his cross and follow him—(the cross being the instrument employed for the infliction of capital punishment)-he might perhaps intend to impress upon his immediate followers that, in order to be his disciples, they must be willing even to die for his name's sake. Such a doctrine was well adapted to the circumstances in which these persons were placed: but, in that spiritual sense of which our Lord's words are obviously capable, it will be found to coincide with the experience of every real Christian. None can follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,” without being conformed to his sufferings -without bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus—without dying themselves to the lusts of the world, the sins of the flesh, and the pride of life. “We are buried with Christ by baptism unto death,

that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life;" Rom. vi, 5. But let us not fear this death, or shrink from the cross of Christ: He who imposes it, in order to our highest good, will render it more than tolerable; and it is the



our souls who magnifies in our view the pain and difficulty of bearing it. To the dependent, simple, yet decided, Christian, the yoke of Jesus becomes easy, and his burden light.

3. Those who resist and grieve their heavenly Guide, and quench that delicate flame of light with which he condescends to visit them, gradually envelope themselves in gross darkness. They become incapable of the instructions of their Divine Monitor, and thus they continually form a lower and a lower standard respecting right and wrong. On the contrary, the Spirit of Christ, as it is closely followed and scrupulously obeyed, rectifies, illuminates, and quickens, the faculties of the conscience. Our perceptions of good and evil become more and more just and lively; and, at the same time, our apprehension of spiritual things is enlarged and strengthened. Thus is accomplished, in the experience of his followers, the promise of the Lord Jesus, that “unto every one that hath shall be given;" Matt. xxv, 29. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day;" Prov. iv, 18.

4. Since the inward manifestations of divine light in the soul, if attended to, lead invariably into the practice of Christian virtues; and since those virtues are clearly described and enjoined in the Holy Scriptures, (especially in the New Testament,) it is plain that these two practical guides to righteousness will ever be found in accordance with one another. The law written in the book, and the law written in the

heart, have proceeded from the same Author: the only standard of both these laws is the will of God; and the former corresponds with the latter, as the image in the mirror corresponds with its original. It ought, however, to be remarked, that the written law, for the most part, consists in general directions. Now, the inward manifestations of the Spirit of Christ, while they confirm the principles on which those general directions are founded, will instruct us how to apply them in our daily walk, and under all the various circumstances and exigencies of life. For example, the outward law declares, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The inward law will not only inculcate the same rule, but will point out, to the obedient followers of Christ, in what manner,

and on what occasion, this love is to be brought into action.

5. It is worthy, in the last place, of particular observation, that the monitions of the Holy Spirit within us, direct an exact, comprehensive, and unmixed, obedience to the will of God. How imperfect is the obedience of those persons, who acknowledge only the written law, and who, in the application of that law to the various incidents and occasions of human life, are accustomed to seek no other direction than that of their own reason, and to depend upon no other strength than that of their own wills! While in the secret of their hearts there dwells a spirit of rebellion against that Lord who would lead them into self-mortification; how readily can they plead excuses and urge the doctrine of expediency in opposition to the dictates of truth! Notwithstanding their professed regard to the Scriptures, how soon does their moral sense degenerate, and how easily do they learn to “call evil good, and good evil;” to put “darkness for light, and light for darkness;" to put “ bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Isa, v, 20. In such unsound.


professors of religion there is no full coming outno effectual emancipation from that which is evil in the sight of God.

It may, moreover, be questioned whether something of the same kind of imperfection may not be detected in the experience even of seriously-minded Christians; who, while their dependence is mainly placed on the grace of God, are not fully believing in the light of Christ, as it is inwardly revealed to the soul. I am, in some measure, aware of the depth of human iniquity, and know how difficult it is to escape from its secret influence; but, I believe that Christians would not be so much perplexed as they often are, with a sense of imperfection and sin in the performance of their various religious duties, were that performance less of themselves, and more of God; were it less dictated by the activity of their own minds, and derived with greater simplicity from the Fountain of all good. Great as is our own infirmity; deep as is our natural defilement; it is certain that the inward Guide, of whom we are speaking, is entirely holy, and he still upholds to his followers the very highest standard of action—" Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.He commands them to be of clean hands, and to refrain completely from every thing which his own light has made manifest to be evil. He admits of no excuses; he sacrifices his law to no apparent expediency; he is satisfied with no mixed obedience; and when he calls us into active duties, and more especially into religious services, he is ever ready to assist us in our humble endeavour to offer unto the Lord an “offering in righteousness”—even a pure offering.

Such are the tests, and such are the fruits, of the perceptible guidance of the Holy Spirit in the soul. In reverting to the course of argument adopted in

the present disquisition, the reader will recollect, that the doctrine of such perceptible guidance rests upon the authority of Scripture; being clearly declared by the prophet Jeremiah, by the apostles John and Paul, and by our Lord himself that the dictates of the Spirit, which lead into truth, are totally distinct from the dictates of the human imagination, which lead into enthusiasm ;-that the two principles are to be distinguished, first, by the mode of their operation, and, secondly, by the fruits which they produce that the dictates of the Spirit operate in a gentle manner on the waiting and prostrate soul--that the fruits of the Spirit are the “peaceable fruits of righteous

—that these fruits afford a substantial evidence of the divine origin of that guiding principle which leads to the production of them--and, lastly, that this general argument is greatly strengthened, when we come to trace some particular characteristicks in the practical operation of the principle in question; for, as it is closely followed, it is ever found to lead to the humiliation of men, and to the exaltation of Christ; to the denial of self, and to the bearing of the cross ; to the increase of moral and spiritual light; to the confirmation and right application of the divine law, as it is recorded in the Holy Scriptures, and to a very exact fulfilment of that law.


Before I dismiss the subject of the perceptible guidance of the Spirit, it is necessary for me, somewhat more distinctly than I have hitherto done, to advert to the outward religious points which distinguish the Society of Friends. The principal of them may be enumerated as follows: -their disuse of all typical observances in the worship of God: their refusal to recognize any ministry in connexion with divine

« AnteriorContinuar »