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Of the gifts of the Spirit with respect unto doctrine, worship, and rule — how attained and improved.
There remain yet two things to be spoken unto with respect unto the gifts which the Holy Ghost bestows on the ministers of the gospel, to qualify them unto their office, and to enable them unto their work; and these are, — I. What they are; II. How they are to be attained and improved.
I. In our inquiry after the first, or what are the gifts whereby men are fitted and enabled for the ministry, we wholly set aside the consideration of all those gracious qualifications of faith, love, zeal, compassion, careful tender watchfulness, and the like, whereon the holy use of their ministry doth depend; for our inquiry is only after those gifts whereon depends the very being of the ministry. There may be a true ministry in some cases where there is no sanctifying grace; but where there are no spiritual gifts, there is no ministry at all. They are, in general, abilities for the due management of the spiritual administrations of the gospel, in its doctrine, worship, and discipline, unto the edification of the church. It is not easy, nay, it may be, unto us it is not possible, to enumerate in particular all the various gifts which the Holy Ghost endows the ministers of the gospel withal; but whereas all the concerns of the church may be referred unto these three heads, of doctrine, worship, and rule, we may inquire what are the principal spiritual gifts of the Holy Ghost with respect unto them distinctly.
The first great duty of the ministry, with reference unto the church, is the dispensation of the doctrine of the gospel unto it, for its edification. As this is the duty of the church continually to attend unto, Acts ii. 42, so it is the principal work of the ministry, the foundation of all other duties, which the apostles themselves gave themselves unto in an especial manner, chap. vi. 4. Hence is it given in charge unto all ministers of the gospel, Acts xx. 28; 1 Pet. v. 2; 1 Tim. i. 3, iv. 13, 16, v. 17; 2 Tim. iv. 1–3; — for this is the principal 509means appointed by Christ for the edification of his church, that whereby spiritual life is begotten and preserved. Where this work is neglected or carelessly attended unto, there the whole work of the ministry is despised. And with respect unto this ministerial duty there are three spiritual gifts that the Holy Ghost endoweth men withal, which must be considered:—
1. The first is wisdom, or knowledge, or understanding in the mysteries of the gospel, the revelation of the mystery of God in Christ, with his mind and will towards us therein. These things may be distinguished, and they seem to be so in the Scripture sometimes. I put them together, as all of them denote that acquaintance with and comprehension of the doctrine of the gospel which is indispensably necessary unto them who are called to preach it unto the church. This some imagine an easy matter to be attained; at least, that there is no more, nor the use of any other means, required thereunto, than what is necessary to the acquisition of skill in any other art or science. And it were well if some, otherwise concerned in point of duty, would but lay out so much of their strength and time in the obtaining of this knowledge as they do about other things which will not turn much unto their account. But the cursory perusal of a few books is thought sufficient to make any man wise enough to be a minister; and not a few undertake ordinarily to be teachers of others who would scarcely be admitted as tolerable disciples in a well-ordered church. But there belongeth more unto this wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, than most men are aware of. Were the nature of it duly considered, and withal the necessity of it unto the ministry of the gospel, probably some would not so rush on that work as they do, which they have no provision of ability for the performance of. It is, in brief, such a comprehension of the scope and end of the Scripture, of the revelation of God therein; such an acquaintance with the systems of particular doctrinal truths, in their rise, tendency, and use; such a habit of mind in judging of spiritual things, and comparing them one with another; such a distinct insight into the springs and course of the mystery of the love, grace, and will of God in Christ, — as enables them in whom it is to declare the counsel of God, to make known the way of life, of faith and obedience, unto others, and to instruct them in their whole duty to God and man thereon. This the apostle calls his “knowledge in the mystery of Christ,” which he manifested in his writings, Eph. iii. 4. For as the gospel, the dispensation and declaration whereof is committed unto the ministers of the church, is the “wisdom of God in a mystery,” 1 Cor. ii. 7; so their principal duty is to become so wise and understanding in that mystery as that they may be able to declare it unto others; without which they have no ministry committed 510unto them by Jesus Christ. See Eph. i. 8, 9, iii. 3–6, 18, 19; Col. iv. 3. The sole inquiry is, whence we may have this wisdom, seeing it is abundantly evident that we have it not of ourselves. That in general it is from God, that it is to be asked of him, the Scripture everywhere declares. See Col. i. 9, ii. 1, 2; 2 Tim. ii. 7; James i. 5, 1 John v. 20. And in particular it is plainly affirmed to be the especial gift of the Holy Ghost, He gives the “word of wisdom,” 1 Cor. xii. 8; which place hath been opened before. And it is the first ministerial gift that he bestows on any. Where this is not in some measure, to look for a ministry is to look for the living among the dead. And they will deceive their own souls in the end, as they do those of others in the meantime, who on any other grounds do undertake to be preachers of the gospel. But I shall not here divert unto the full description of this spiritual gift, because I have discoursed concerning it elsewhere.
2. With respect unto the doctrine of the gospel, there is required unto the ministry of the church skill to divide the word aright; which is also a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost: 2 Tim. ii. 15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Both the former clauses depend on the latter. If a minister would be accepted with God in his work, if he would be found at the last day “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,” — that is, such a builder of the house of God as whose work is meet, proper, and useful, — he must take care to “divide the word of truth,” which is committed unto his dispensation, “rightly,” or in a due manner. Ministers are stewards in the house of God, and dispensers of the mysteries thereof; and therefore it is required of them that they give unto all the servants that are in the house, or do belong unto it, a meet portion, according unto their wants, occasions, and services, suitable unto the will and wisdom of their Lord and Master: Luke xii. 42, 43, “Who is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” for this giving of provision and a portion of meat unto the household of Christ consists principally in the right dividing and distribution of the word of truth. It is the taking out from those great stores of it in the Scripture, and, as it were, cutting off a portion suitable unto the various conditions of those in the family. Herein consists the principal skill of a scribe furnished for the kingdom of heaven with the wisdom before described; and without this, a common course of dispensing or preaching the word, without differencing of persons and truths, however it may be gilded over with a flourish of words and oratory, is shameful work in the house of God. Now, unto this skill sundry things are required:— (1.) A sound judgment in general 511concerning the state and condition of those unto whom any one is so dispensing the word. It is the duty of a shepherd to know the state of his flock; and unless he do so he will never feed them profitably. He must know whether they are babes, or young men, or old; whether they need milk or strong meat; whether they are skilful or unskilful in the word of righteousness; whether they have their senses exercised to discern good and evil, or not; or whether his hearers are mixed with all these sorts; — whether, in the judgment of charity, they are converted unto God, or are yet in an unregenerate condition; — what probably are their principal temptations, their hinderances and furtherances; what is their growth or decay in religion. He that is not able to make a competent judgment concerning these things, and the other circumstances of the flock, so as to be steered thereby in his work, will never evidence himself to be “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” (2.) An acquaintance with the ways and methods of the work of God’s grace on the minds and hearts of men, that he may pursue and comply with its design in the ministry of the word. Nothing is by many more despised than an understanding hereof; yet is nothing more necessary to the work of the ministry. The word of the gospel as preached is “vehiculum gratiæ,” and ought to be ordered so as it may comply with its design in its whole work on the souls of men. He, therefore, who is unacquainted with the ordinary methods of the operation of grace fights uncertainly in his preaching of the word, like a man beating the air. It is true, God can, and often doth, direct a word of truth, spoken as it were at random, unto a proper effect of grace on some or other; as it was when the man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: but ordinarily a man is not like to hit a joint who knows not how to take his aim. (3.) An acquaintance with the nature of temptation, with the especial hinderances of faith and obedience, which may befall those unto whom the word is dispensed, is in like manner required hereunto. Many things might be added on this head, seeing a principal part of ministerial skill doth consist herein. (4.) A right understanding of the nature of spiritual diseases, distempers, and sicknesses, with their proper cures and remedies, belongeth hereinto. For the want hereof the hearts of the wicked are oftentimes made glad in the preaching of the word, and those of the righteous filled with sorrow; the hands of sinners are strengthened, and those who are looking towards God are discouraged or turned out of the way. And where men either know not these things, or do not or cannot apply themselves skilfully to distribute the word according to this variety of occasion, they cannot give the household its portion of meat in due season. And he that wants this spiritual gift will never 512divide the word aright, unto its proper ends, 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. And it is lamentable to consider what shameful work is made for want hereof in the preaching of some men; yea, how the whole gift is lost, as to its power, use, and benefit.
3. The gift of utterance also belongeth unto this part of the ministerial duty, in the dispensation of the doctrine of the gospel. This is particularly reckoned by the apostle among the gifts of the Spirit, 1 Cor. i. 5; 2 Cor. viii. 7. And he desires the prayers of the church that the gift may abide with himself, and abound in him, Eph. vi. 19. And he there declares that the nature of it consists in the “opening of the mouth boldly, to make known the mysteries of the gospel;” as also Col. iv. 3. Now, this utterance doth not consist in a natural volubility of speech, which, taken alone by itself, is so far from being a gift of the Spirit, or a thing to be earnestly prayed for, as that it is usually a snare to them that have it, and a trouble to them that hear them; nor doth it consist in a rhetorical ability to set off discourses with a flourish of words, be they never so plausible or enticing; much less in a bold corrupting of the ordinance of preaching by a foolish affectation of words, in supposed elegancies of speech, quaint expressions, and the like effects of wit, — that is, fancy and vanity. But four things do concur hereunto:— (1.) Παῤῥησία, or “dicendi libertas.” The word we translate “utterance” is λόγος, that is, speech; but that not speech in general, but a certain kind of speech, is intended, is evident from the places mentioned, and the application of them. And it is such a speech as is elsewhere called παῤῥησία, — that is, a freedom and liberty in the declaration of the truth conceived. This a man hath when he is not, from any internal defect, or from any outward consideration, straitened in the declaration of those things which he ought to speak. This frame and ability the apostle expresseth in himself: 2 Cor. vi. 11, “O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.” A free, enlarged spirit, attended with an ability of speech suited unto the matter in hand, with its occasions, belong to this gift. (2.) So also doth boldness and holy confidence. So we often render παῤῥησία, wherein this utterance doth much consist. When the Spirit of God, in the midst of difficulties, oppositions, and discouragements, strengtheneth the minds of ministers, so as that they are not terrified with any amazement, but discharge their work freely, as considering whose word and message it is that they do deliver, [this] belongs to this gift of utterance. (3.) So also doth gravity in expression, becoming the sacred majesty of Christ and his truths, in the delivery of them. He that speaks is to “speak as the oracles of God,” 1 Pet. iv. 11, — that is, not only as to truth, preaching the word of God and nothing else, but doing it with that gravity and soundness of speech which become 513them who speak the oracles of God; for as we are to deliver “sound doctrine,” and nothing else, Tit. i. 9, so we are to use “sound speech, that cannot be condemned,” chap. ii. 7, 8. (4.) Hereunto, also, belongs that authority which accompanieth the delivery of the word, when preached in demonstration of these spiritual abilities. For all these things are necessary that the hearers may receive the word, “not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God.”
These are the principal spiritual gifts wherewith the Holy Ghost endows the ministers of the church with respect unto the effectual dispensation of the word, or the doctrine of the gospel, which is committed unto them; and where they are communicated in any such degree as is necessary unto the due discharge of that office, they will evidence themselves to the consciences of them that do believe. The dispensation of the word by virtue of them, though under great variety from the various degrees wherein they are communicated, and the different natural abilities of them that do receive them, will be sufficiently distinguished and remote from that empty, wordy, sapless way of discoursing of spiritual things, which is the mere effect of the wit, fancy, invention, and projection of men destitute of the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and the mysteries of the gospel.
The second head of duties belonging unto the ministerial office respects the worship of God. By the worship of God here, I understand only that especial part thereof whereof himself is the immediate object: for, absolutely, the preaching and hearing of the word is a part of sacred worship, as that wherein we act the obedience of faith unto the commands of God, and submit ourselves unto his institutions; and, indeed, as unto those that hear, it is God declaring himself by his word that is the immediate object of their worship. But the dispensation of the word which we have considered is the acting of men, upon the authority and command of God, towards others. But, as was said, by that we inquire into, I intend that alone whereof God himself was the immediate object. Such are all the remaining offices and duties of the church, those only excepted which belong to its rule. And this worship hath various acts, according to the variety of Christ’s institutions and the church’s occasions: yet, as to the manner of its performance, it is comprised in prayer; for by prayer we understand all the confessions, supplications, thanksgivings, and praises, that are made unto God in the church, whether absolutely or in the administration of other ordinances, as the sacraments. Wherefore, in this duty, as comprehensive of all the sacred offices of public worship, as the glory of God is greatly concerned, so it is the principal act of obedience in the church. This, then, as to the performance of it, depends either on the natural abilities of men, or on the aids and operation of the Holy Ghost. By the natural abilities 514of men, I understand not only what they are able of themselves in every instance to perform, but also whatever assistance they may make use of, either of their own finding out or of others’; and by the aids of the Holy Ghost, I intend an especial spiritual gift bestowed on men to this purpose. Now, to suppose that the whole duty of the church herein should consist in the actings of men in their own strength and power, without any especial assistance of the Holy Spirit, is to exclude the consideration of him from those things with respect whereunto he is principally promised by our Lord Jesus Christ. But what concerneth this gift of the Holy Ghost hath been at large handled by itself already, and must not here be again insisted on taking for granted what is therein sufficiently confirmed, I shall only add, that those who have not received this gift are utterly unfit to undertake the office of the ministry, wherein it is their duty to go before the church in the administration of all ordinances, by virtue of these abilities. In things civil or secular, it would be esteemed an intolerable solecism to call and choose a man to the discharge of an office or duty whose execution depended solely on such a peculiar faculty or skill as he who is so called hath no interest in or acquaintance with; and it will one day appear to be so also in things sacred and religious, yea, much more.
Thirdly, The rule of the church belongeth unto the ministers of it. God hath established rule in the church, Rom. xii. 8; 1 Cor. xii. 28; 1 Tim. v. 17; 1 Thess. v. 12; Heb. xiii. 7, 17. I dispute not now of what sort this ministry is, nor whether the rule belong unto one sort alone. It is enough unto my present design that it is committed by Christ unto the ministers of the church, which are its guides, rulers, and overseers. Nor shall I at present inquire into the particular powers, acts, and duties of this rule; I have done it elsewhere. I am only now to consider it so far as its exercise requireth an especial ministerial gift to be communicated by the Holy Ghost. And in order thereunto the things ensuing must be premised:— 1. That this rule is spiritual, and hath nothing in common with the administration of the powers of the world. It hath, I say, no agreement with secular power and its exercise, unless it be in some natural circumstances that inseparably attend rulers and ruled in any kind. It belongs unto the kingdom of Christ and the administration of it, which are “not of this world.” And as this is well pleaded by some against those who would erect a kingdom for him in the world, and, as far as I can understand, of this world, framed in their own imaginations unto a fancied interest of their own; so it is as pleadable against them who pretend to exercise the rule and power of his present kingdom after the manner of the potestative administrations of the world. When our Saviour forbade all rule unto his disciples after the manner 515of the Gentiles, who then possessed all sovereign power in the world, and told them that it should not be so with them, that some should be great and exercise dominion over others, but that they should serve one another in love, the greatest condescension unto service being required of them who are otherwise most eminent, he did not intend to take from them or divest them of that spiritual power and authority in the government of the church which he intended to commit unto them. His design, therefore, was to declare what that authority was not, and how it should not be exercised. A lordly or despotical power it was not to be; nor was it to be exercised by penal laws, courts, and coercive jurisdiction, which was the way of the administration of all power among the Gentiles. And if that kind of power and rule in the church which is for the most part exercised in the world be not forbidden by our Saviour, no man living can tell what is so; for as to meekness, moderation, patience, equity, righteousness, they were more easy to be found in the legal administrations of power among the Gentiles than in those used in many churches. But such a rule is signified unto them, the authority whereof, from whence it proceedeth, was spiritual; its object the minds and souls of men only; and the way of whose administration was to consist in a humble, holy, spiritual application of the word of God or rules of the gospel unto them. 2. The end of this rule is merely and solely the edification of the church. All the power that the apostles themselves had, either in or over the church, was but unto their edification, 2 Cor. x. 8. And the edification of the church consists in the increase of faith and obedience in all the members thereof, in the subduing and mortifying of sin, in fruitfulness in good works, in the confirmation and consolation of them that stand, in the raising up of them that are fallen, and the recovery of them that wander, in the growth and flourishing of mutual love and peace; and whatever rule is exercised in the church unto any other end is foreign to the gospel, and tends only to the destruction of the church itself. 3 In the way and manner of the administration of this rule and government two things may be considered:— (1.) What is internal, in the qualifications of the minds of them by whom it is to be exercised: such are wisdom, diligence, love, meekness, patience, and the like evangelical endowments. (2.) What is external, or what is the outward rule of it; and this is the word and law of Christ alone, as we have elsewhere declared.
From these things it may appear what is the nature, in general, of that skill in the rule of the church which we assert to be a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost. If it were only an ability or skill in the canon or civil law, or rifles of men; if only an acquaintance with the nature and course of some courts, proceeding litigiously, by citations, 516processes, legal pleadings, issuing in pecuniary mulcts, outward coercions, or imprisonments, — I should willingly acknowledge that there is no peculiar gift of the Spirit of God required thereunto. But the nature of it being as we have declared, it is impossible it should be exercised aright without especial assistance of the Holy Ghost. Is any man of himself sufficient for these things? Will any man undertake of himself to know the mind of Christ in all the occasions of the church, and to administer the power of Christ in them and about them? Wherefore the apostle, in many places, teacheth that wisdom, skill, and understanding to administer the authority of Christ in the church unto its edification, with faithfulness and diligence, are an especial gift of the Holy Ghost, Rom. xii. 6, 8; 1 Cor. xii. 28. It is the Holy Ghost which makes the elders of the church its bishops or overseers, by calling them to their office, Acts xx. 28; and what he calls any man unto, that he furnisheth him with abilities for the discharge of.
And so have we given a brief account of those ordinary gifts which the Holy Ghost communicates unto the constant ministry of the church, and will do so unto the consummation of all things, having, moreover, in our passage manifested the dependence of the ministry on this work of his; so that we need no addition of pains to demonstrate that where he goeth not before in the communication of them, no outward order, call, or constitution is sufficient to make any one a minister of the gospel.
There are gifts which respect duties [of private believers] only. Such are those which the Holy Ghost continues to communicate unto all the members of the church in a great variety of degrees, according to the places and conditions which they are in, unto their own and the church’s edification. There is no need that we should insist upon them in particular, seeing they are of the same nature with them which are continued unto the ministers of the church, who are required to excel in them, so as to be able to go before the whole church in their exercise. The Spirit of the gospel was promised by Christ unto all his disciples, unto all believers, unto the whole church, and not unto the guides of it only. To them he is so in an especial manner, with respect unto their office, power, and duty, but not absolutely or only. As he is the Spirit of grace, he quickens, animates, and unites the whole body of the church, and all the members of it, in and unto Christ Jesus, 1 Cor. xii. 12, 13. And as he is the administrator of all supernatural gifts, he furnisheth the whole body and all its members with spiritual abilities unto its edification, Eph. iv. 15, 16; Col. ii. 19. And without them, in some measure or degree, ordinarily, we are not able to discharge our duty unto the glory of God; for, —
5171. These gifts are a great means and help to excite and exercise grace itself, without which it will be lifeless and apt to decay. Men grow in grace by the due exercise of their own gifts in duties. Wherefore, every individual person on his own account doth stand in need of them with respect unto the exercise and improvement of grace, Zech. xii. 10. 2. Most men have, it may be, such duties incumbent on them with respect unto others as they cannot discharge aright without the especial aid of the Spirit of God in this kind. So is it with all them who have families to take care of and provide for; for ordinarily they are bound to instruct their children and servants in the knowledge of the Lord, and to go before them in that worship which God requires of them, as Abraham did, the “father of the faithful.” And hereunto some spiritual abilities are requisite; for none can teach others more than they know themselves, nor perform spiritual worship without some spiritual gifts, unless they will betake themselves unto such shifts as we have before on good grounds rejected. 3. Every member of a church in order according to the mind of Christ possesseth some place, use, and office in the body, which it cannot fill up unto the benefit and ornament of the whole without some spiritual gift. These places are various, some of greater use than others, and of more necessity unto the edification of the church; but all are useful in their kind. This our apostle disputes at large, 1 Cor. xii. 12–20, etc. All believers in due order do become one body, by the participation of the same Spirit and union unto the same Head. Those who do not so partake of the one Spirit, who are not united unto the Head, do not properly belong to the body, whatever place they seem to hold therein. Of those that do so, some are as it were an eye, some as a hand, and some as a foot; all these are useful in their several places, and needful unto one another. None of them is so highly exalted as to have the least occasion of being lifted up, as though he had no need of the rest, for the Spirit distributeth unto every one severally as he will, — not all unto any one, save only unto the Head, our Lord Jesus, from whom we all receive grace according to the measure of his gift; nor is any so depressed or useless as to say it is not of the body, nor that the body hath no need of it, But every one in his place and station concurs to the unity, strength, beauty, and growth of the body: which things our apostle disputes at large in the place mentioned. 4. Hereby are supplies communicated unto the whole from the Head, Eph. iv. 15, 16; Col. ii. 19. It is of the body, that is, of the church under the conduct of its officers, that the apostle discourseth in those places. And the duty of the whole it is to “speak the truth in love,” every one in his several place and station. And herein God hath so ordered the union of the whole church in itself, unto and in dependence on its 518Head, as that through and by not only the “supply of every joint,” (which may express either the officers or more eminent members of it,) but the “effectual working of every part,” in the exercise of the graces and gifts which the Spirit doth impart to the whole, the body may “edify itself” and be increased. Wherefore, — 5. The Scripture is express that the Holy Ghost doth communicate of those gifts unto private believers, and directs them in that duty wherein they are to be exercised. 1 Pet. iv. 10. “Every man,” that is, every believer, walking in the order and fellowship of the gospel, is to attend unto the discharge of his duty, according as he hath received spiritual ability. So was it in the church of Corinth, 1 Cor. i. 5–7, and in that of the Romans, chap. xv. 14, as they all of them knew that it was their duty to “covet the best gifts;” which they did with success, 1 Cor. xii. 31. And hereon depend the commands for the exercise of those duties which, in the ability of these gifts received, they were to perform. So were they all to “admonish one another,” to “exhort one another,” to “build up one another in their most holy faith.” And it is the loss of those spiritual gifts which hath introduced amongst many an utter neglect of these duties, so as that they are scarce heard of among the generality of them that are called Christians. But, blessed be God, we have large and full experience of the continuance of this dispensation of the Spirit, in the eminent abilities of a multitude of private Christians, however they may be despised by them who know them not! By some, I confess, they have been abused: some have presumed on them beyond the line and measure which they have received; some have been puffed up with them; some have used them disorderly in churches and to their hurt; some have boasted of what they have not received; — all which miscarriages also befell the primitive churches. And I had rather have the order, rule, spirit, and practice of those churches that were planted by the apostles, with all their troubles and disadvantages, than the carnal peace of others in their open degeneracy from all those things.
II. It remains only that we inquire how men may come unto or attain a participation of these gifts, whether ministerial or more private. And unto this end we may observe, — 1. That they are not communicated unto any by a sudden afflatus or extraordinary infusion, as were the gifts of miracles and tongues, which were bestowed on the apostles and many of the first converts That dispensation of the Spirit is long since ceased, and where it is now pretended unto by any, it may justly be suspected as an enthusiastic delusion; for as the end of those gifts, which in their own nature exceed the whole power of all our faculties, is ceased, so is their communication, and the manner of it also. Yet this I must say, that the infusion of spiritual light into the mind, which is the foundation of all gifts, as 519hath been proved, being wrought sometimes suddenly or in a short season, the concomitancy of gifts in some good measure is oftentimes sudden, with an appearance of something extraordinary, as might be manifested in instances of several sorts. 2. These gifts are not absolutely attainable by our own diligence and endeavours in the use of means, without respect unto the sovereign will and pleasure of the Holy Ghost. Suppose there are such means of the attainment and improvement of them, and that several persons do, with the same measures of natural abilities and diligence, use those means for that end, yet it will not follow that all must be equally partakers of them. They are not the immediate product of our own endeavours, no, not as under an ordinary blessing upon them; for they are χαρίσματα, arbitrary largesses or gifts, which the Holy Spirit worketh in all persons severally as he will. Hence we see the different events that are among them who are exercised in the same studies and endeavours; some are endued with eminent gifts, some scarce attain unto any that are useful, and some despise them, name and thing. There is, therefore, an immediate operation of the Spirit of God in the collation of these spiritual abilities, which is unaccountable by the measures of natural parts and industry. Yet I say, 3. That ordinarily they are both attained and increased by the due use of means suited thereunto, as grace is also, which none but Pelagians affirm to be absolutely in the power of our own wills; and the naming of these means shall put an issue unto this discourse.
Among them, in the first place, is required a due preparation of soul, by humility, meekness, and teachableness. The Holy Spirit taketh no delight to impart of his especial gifts unto proud, self-conceited men, to men vainly puffed up in their own fleshly minds. The same must be said concerning other vicious and depraved habits of mind, by which, moreover, they are ofttimes expelled and cast out after they have been in some measure received. And in this case I need not mention those by whom all these gifts are despised; it would be a wonder indeed if they should be made partakers of them, or at least if they should abide with them.
Secondly, Prayer is a principal means for their attainment. This the apostle directs unto when he enjoins us earnestly to desire the best gifts; for this desire is to be acted by prayer, and no otherwise.
Thirdly, Diligence in the things about which these gifts are conversant. Study and meditation on the word of God, with the due use of means for the attaining a right understanding of his mind and will therein, is that which I intend. For in this course, conscientiously attended unto, it is that, for the most part, the Holy Spirit comes in and joins his aid and assistance for furnishing of the mind with those spiritual endowments.
520Fourthly, The growth, increase, and improvement of these gifts depend on their faithful use according as our duty doth require. It is trade alone that increaseth talents, and exercise in a way of duty that improveth gifts. Without this they will first wither and then perish. And by a neglect hereof are they lost every day, in some partially, in some totally, and in some to a contempt, hatred, and blasphemy of what themselves had received.
Lastly, Men’s natural endowments, with elocution, memory, judgment, and the like, improved by reading, learning, and diligent study, do enlarge, set off, and adorn these gifts where they are received.
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