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408

Chapter XVI.

Showing How The Holy Spirit Operates In Our Souls.

I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.Isa. 44:3.

If after a drought and dearth of three years and a half (such as happened in the time of Elijah, 1 Kings 17:1; 18:45), it should please God to send rain upon all the earth, one man's field only excepted; he would truly have reason to think that God was angry with him, and that his case was most deplorably miserable. But how much more miserable and unhappy is he, who, though hungering and thirsting, like a parched ground, after faith, charity, and all Christian graces, yet cannot receive one drop of spiritual consolation in the inward ground of his soul!

2. But if this ever happen, it is not God's fault, for he is ready “to pour out his Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28), but man's, who prepareth not his heart to receive it. The best preparation to receive this holy guest, is to turn our hearts by faith and prayer from the world unto God, as the Apostles did at Pentecost (Acts 2:4); and whensoever God shall find us thus prepared, he will forthwith visit us with all the fulness of spiritual blessings. On the other hand, if the heart be full of the world, there will be no room for the Spirit of God to enter; for where the one is, the other cannot be. As in nature there is no vacuum, so it is in the spiritual world. Let this then be thy care, and this thy chief concern, not to fix thy heart upon any creature, either inwardly or outwardly, not on the love of thyself, nor upon thine own will, but upon God alone; assuring thyself, that this is the most noble and useful exercise for thee. As the finest work of the most skilful workman may be broken and destroyed by a heedless child; so it often happens with the works and gifts of God, which men destroy by their rash and unadvised management. Thus they break and deface the most noble designs and operations of the Spirit of God within them; they attribute that to themselves which is the work of God, and patch their own vile rags upon the fine linen of Christ's righteousness. For it is most certain that we are “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10), and by consequence can do nothing but what is unprofitable. And, in the same degree, as God is more noble than man, so the works of the Divine Spirit are more noble and precious than those of the human spirit. Hence it follows, that if thou wouldest have God to operate more eminently in thee, thou must surrender all the passions, affections, and powers of thy soul, to be possessed, governed, and directed by Him. For unless the creature be entirely still, thou canst not hear the voice of God. Think not then that every inward motion which thou perceivest, is the work of God; whereas some are merely the product of thy own flesh and blood. Take heed therefore to thyself, and learn to distinguish well, lest thou ascribe to God the very operations of the devil.

3. But in order to the more perfect operation of the Holy Ghost in thee, there are two rules proper to be observed: first, that thou turn away 409 thine heart from the world, the creatures, thyself, and thine own will and affections, that so this Holy Spirit may have room to act freely; secondly, to receive all crosses and afflictions as coming from the hand of God, without any respect or reference to the creatures, and to embrace them as preparations for receiving more plentiful communications of divine grace and blessing. Suppose, for instance, thou wert engaged in some good work or act of devotion, and some intimate friend should break in upon thee with abusive and reproachful language; if thou couldest bear this with silence and patience, thou mightest be assured that that was the work of the Holy Spirit, in order to prepare thee for greater blessings. But if wicked thoughts be suggested to thee, by the devil, yet satisfy thyself that they do thee no harm, because they are involuntary. Lastly, if thou art engaged in any worldly calling or profession, see that thou perform thy duty in it with thine eye fixed upon the glory of God, and the good of thy neighbor. By this means all thy works shall be wrought in God, and his Spirit.

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