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husks; if treasuring up wrath and hastening the worst of deaths be entitled to that name. The greatest part, however, have the superadded misery of being entirely ignorant and insensible of their necessities; and therefore, will not ask supply. But if there are any so happy as to have their eyes opened to their true condition, and are sensible of their wants, this text is fraught with consolation to them. Some have such a sense of their needs, and see them to be so numerous, if not innumerable, that this in itself is apt to discourage them. But there is no alternative: either God must supply their wants, or they must eternally sink under the weight of them. Application to the creature for relief is wicked and vain. Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm. The creatures are broken cisterns, which neither have nor can contain water. God is the fountain of living waters. He is able to supply our every want. He has promised to do it, and he has revealed his promise that we may ask. The more numerous our wants are, and the deeper a sense we have of them, we should ask the oftener, and with the greater fervency. They will all be compensated by the Holy Spirit, and our heavenly Father will give Him to them that ask.
4. It is standing encouragement to all gospel hearers without exception. We may point it out as very applicable and comforting to different classes of gospel hearers; but it must not be confined to persons of any particular description whatever. Sinners without exception hearing the gospel stand in need of salvation, the Holy Spirit, and every saving blessing; and
these are set before them in the Gospel, and the Holy Ghost strives to take possession of their heart. What God offers, sinners may seek and take. If they seek and ask, they fall under the description in the last particular. If they do not ask they are most inexcusable.
Some object that the blessing here promised is suspended on the condition of asking. Supposing it were so, there cannot be an easier condition or lower terms. The beggar can ask when he can neither buy nor merit. All who are careless about asking, or consider the condition (as they call it) hard and impracticable, and on that account let it alone, are also careless about the Holy Spirit himself. A deep sense of need or great concern will make persons try to ask, without waiting to inquire whether they can ask in a right manner or not. But if it be still urged, that we are called to ask the Holy Spirit, and that we cannot ask any thing aright till he be in us. Though this be true, yet his help is not always to be expected, or depended upon prior to our aims at duty. The man who sits down determined to do nothing till the Spirit be poured from on high, awfully tempts the Lord. Beautiful and emphatic is the Divine direction, i Chron. xxii. 16, “ Arise, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee.” Though we cannot pray aright without the help of the Spirit, the obligation is still binding. Sinners appear to be in a sad dilemma: if they do not pray, they sin by omitting plain duty: if they do, their prayer is sin as performed in a wrong manner. Blessed be the Lord there is a third way.
They are neither under necessity to pray without the Spirit, nor to let it alone. They ought immediately to go to Christ and receive him; and receiving him the Holy Spirit will be given unto them.
If it be still objected, that it lessens the comfort when the Holy Spirit is promised only to them that ask, and asking made a condition; we would answer, that what is here promised on an apparent condition, is elsewhere promised in the most absolute manner, and without any condition, or the least appearance of it. Say, Arminians, on what condition is that promise suspended, Ezek. xxxvi. 25—28, “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” What is the condition of that precious promise, Zech. xii. 10, “ And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications?” Blessed be the Lord, the constant language of the covenant of promise is, I will, and
Let men say what they will, it is an unspeakable mercy that the Holy Ghost is promised. We need him. We should ask him; and it is an unfailing source of consolation that our heavenly Father will
give the Spirit to them that ask him. We shall now conclude with some practical improvement; and from this subject we may learn,
1. The true nature of believing prayer. It is not that low and despicable exercise which some affect to call it. Many look on such as are often employed in this duty, as possessed of a vulgar and dastardly spirit. This text places prayer in its true light. It is the application of the children of God to their Father, through Christ, for the Holy Spirit, the greatest of all blessings. Was it ever reckoned mean or improper for children to apply to their father for what they stood in need of? And must the children of God alone be charged with whim, vulgarity, and madness, because they apply regularly to God Almighty for what they need, crying Abba, Father! Viewing prayer in this light, we may safely conclude that the excuses commonly offered for neglecting this duty are not the true ones. Instead of neglecting it for want of time, knowledge, courage, &c. men evidently disregard that duty because they are ignorant of their true situation, insensible of their need of the Holy Spirit, and enemies to his person, and his great work of holiness: they neither know nor love God as their Father, nor are concerned about the salvation of their immortal souls: and on these accounts prayer is not congenial to their hearts.
2. The happiness of all who are possessed of the Holy Spirit. He is the greatest gift which God can bestow, and contains the most valuable treasure in heaven or earth. He is God equal with the Father. The man whose heart he inhabits, has a true and real
propriety in God; and, so to speak, has power over him for every thing that is for the real good of his soul. The comforting language of the new covenant is, “ I am thy God;" and the saint must be happy.
Besides, the Holy Spirit, where he is given, is a sure proof that many blessings have been already bestowed, and a certain pledge that every other shall be conferred in due season. He is a proof that the person in whom he dwells was chosen in Christ, and loved with an everlasting love; that he is justified, adopted, and born again. He is a pledge that all necessary grace, holiness, support, and comfort, shall be granted here; and that glory shall be conferred hereafter. He is the earnest of the inheritance, and an earnest of equal value with the whole.
3. The amazing power of indwelling sin. Nothing can break the power of unbelief, and other corruptions, but an omnipotent arm. The Holy Ghost alone can change the heart, quicken the dead soul, unite to Christ, implant or preserve faith, incline to prayer or any other duty, or bring to suitable performance. Naturally, sinners are without strength for duty, enemies to God, and under the power of Satan; and the Holy Spirit alone can strengthen for duty, reconcile the heart to God, and work their freedom from their foes. Therefore the Father has promised him, Christ has assured us that he will be given, and calls us to ask him.
4. That all, and especially dejected saints, should carefully consider the encouragement afforded in this text to prayer. Nothing is of greater importance to the Christian, than that his prayers be accepted, and