42. On the Importance
And did Jesus say to his disciples, "you know not what manner of spirit you
are of," when, in their zeal for the honor of their Master, they wanted fire
to descend upon the unbelieving Samaritans? Then, Oh my soul, look well to
yourself! Search deep into your principles of action, the ground of your
obedience. Weigh well your motives in the balance of your sanctuary. Examine
your intentions. Behold and see what manner of spirit you are of. Among the
twelve disciples, I find a traitor. Among the early Christians, an Ananias
and Sapphira. In the judgment day, many will produce their wonderful works,
to whom Jesus will say, "I never knew you." How important, then, is
self-knowledge, the result of divine teaching and self-examination!
In the common business of life, those thrive best who examine most into
their concerns. When a tradesman neglects his accounts, he will soon have a
painful account to give. Negligence and bankruptcy are like substance and
shadow; the latter follows closely upon the former. These remarks are still
more important when transferred to our eternal concerns.
Oh! then, before it be too late, give me grace, blessed Redeemer, to examine
well what manner of spirit I am of, lest I should remain in error until that
awful period, when, standing before your dread tribunal, every spirit shall
be made manifest of what sort it is.
With all sincerity of heart, I would inquire:
1. When I attend the ordinances of the Gospel, in what spirit do I attend
them? Do I come into the house of God as a poor beggar would go to the
dwelling of the rich, for bread to eat and clothing to put on? Is it the
bread of life and the garment of salvation, which I earnestly crave at the
throne of grace? Do I go as a poor debtor who has nothing to pay—as a guilty
criminal, on whom the sentence of death has been passed, that my debts may
be canceled through the blood of Jesus, and my soul delivered from the curse
of the law? Do I go, as one who is full of a sore disease, to the great
Physician for health and cure, for the gift of the Holy Spirit, to renovate
my corrupted nature?
Do I go to the house of God, as my exceeding joy, to hear the glad tidings
of salvation, to learn the way of righteousness, and to sing the praises of
the Lord? Or do I go in a spirit of formality, for the sake of being thought
religious; from mere custom and habit, and in a spirit devoid of devotion
2. When I give to the poor, in what spirit do I give? Have I considered all
my property as a trust committed to my care by the Almighty Proprietor of
the universe, to whom I must one day give a strict account of my
stewardship? Do I view the poor as the Lord's bankers; remembering who has
said, he that has pity on the poor; lends unto the Lord, and that which he
has given, will he pay again? Do I esteem the pious poor, rich in faith and
heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to those who love him, as
brethren, whose necessities it is not only my duty, but my pleasure to
relieve, consistently with the claims and necessities of my own family?
Do l relieve them for the sake of Christ, because they belong to him, with a
single eye to his glory; and as unobserved by others as circumstances will
admit? Or do I relieve the poor through public institutions only that my
name may be enrolled, and my beneficence made known to the world; thus
loving the praise of men, more than the praise of God?
Are my charities confined to the body; or do I seek the spiritual good, as
well as the temporal benefit of my fellow-creatures?
3. When I discourse among religious friends upon the truths of the Gospel,
in what spirit do I discourse upon them? Is it from a heart-felt conviction
of the sweetness, richness, and vastness of these mysteries ? Is it with a
view to mutual edification, to provoke one another to love and to good
works, to stimulate to exertion in the cause of Christ, and to excite others
to greater usefulness? Is it from a pure desire that Christ may be
glorified; that his name may be honored, and his righteousness exalted?
Is it from a principle of love, that I converse with others on the
preciousness of Jesus, the work of the Spirit, and the joys of heaven? Or do
I speak of these things in a spirit of spiritual pride, to make a display of
my religious knowledge, to be thought wise, and to be esteemed a saint?
4. When I perform the daily duties of my worldly calling, in what spirit do
I perform them? Is it with a view to glorify God in them, and to obtain an
honest livelihood, through the divine blessing on my labors, that I may
thereby provide for my family, and have enough to give to him that is in
Or is it from a covetous desire of wealth for its own sake, that I may vie
in splendor with my richer neighbors; have a greater opportunity of
gratifying my pride; of gaining the appellation of opulent; and raising my
family in the world?
5. When the religion of Jesus is traduced, and the Gospel dispensation
derided by carnal men, in what spirit do I hear these things? Do I pray that
the Lord would convince them of their errors, and convert them by his grace?
Do I labor to do them good, if opportunity will permit, by speaking a word
for Christ, and exhorting them in a spirit of meekness and love?
Or, with the disciples of old, do I secretly pray for vengeance to overtake
them, like the enemies of Elisha; forgetting that I am a partaker of the
same evil nature with themselves; and if made to differ in any measure, most
humbly, yet gracefully acknowledge with the apostle, "By the grace of God, I
am what I am?"
6. When reviled for righteousness sake, in what spirit do I treat my
persecutors? Do I return good for evil—blessing for cursing—kindness for
abuse? Do I bear them on my heart before God in prayer; and earnestly
implore, like my passionate Savior when nailed to the cross, "Father,
forgive them, for they know not what they do?" Or do I resent their injuries
by sourness of temper, irritation of spirit, retaliation of wrongs;
returning, when possible, evil for evil?
"Almighty Savior! you who are the author and finisher of faith, give me a
right spirit; a purity of intention; a principle of love; that all my
thoughts, words, and actions may be regulated according to your will. With
true humility of heart, may I ever study to advance the spiritual welfare of
my fellow-creatures, by exhortations, prayers, influence, and example. Do
not allow the enemy of souls to fill me with high notions of my own
excellence; but ever keep me low in my own eyes. Preserve me from spiritual
pride, the bane of all true godliness. In the lowly attitude of deep
contrition, may I daily come to your bleeding cross for renewed forgiveness
and renewed strength. There may love and gratitude fill my heart, until,
passing through the gates of death into the celestial city, my soul shall be
forever dedicated to your service and glory."
Ah! Who can tell the joy,
Which reigns within the breast,
Where heavenly dews of grace descend,
And Jesus is the guest.
Like some sweet summer rose,
It sheds a fragrance round
Though still, alas! the noxious thorn
Of nature may be found.
A bright celestial day
Pours light and warmth within
Yet still a cloud too often obscures
Its beams, through inbred sin.
Here is the seat of war,
Where sin and Satan rage;
The conqueror is the dying saint,
Who, fighting, quits the stage.
Blest Jesus, to my soul
Your grace and strength impart;
Til, clothed in perfect righteousness,
I see you as you art.