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JAMES iii. 17.
The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are distinguishable into two kinds, being either extraordinary, and peculiar to some times and persons; and given, not for the fanctification of the men on whoin they are bestowed, but for the edification of the church, which is the body of Christ : or they are common to all times of the Gospel, and necessary to perfect the man of God in every good work; and therefore tendered to all who undertake the conditions of Christianity, according to the promise of God made through Christ Jesus. Of the first fort were those wonderful gifts bestowed on the Apostles, and first planters of Christianity, by which they were enabled to convey the knowledge of the salvation of God to men of all languages, and to convince the world by figns, and wonders, and mighty works, of the truth of their mission ; and that the word by them spoken was the word of life, proceeding from him, whose power was made ufe of in confirmation of it.
That the gifts of this sort conveyed no fanctify. ing grace to the receiver, is evident from what St. Paul has taught us, 1 Cor. xiii. Though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as founding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing. The supposition here made, that the exercise of these gifts may confist with a want of charity, i. e. with the want of the moral qualifications of a Christian, warrants the conclusion, that these gifts do not convey the fanctifying grace of the Gospel ; and that they are given, not for the sake of the receivers, but for the sake of others, who through their ministry are to be converted to the knowledge of the truth. For this reason they were given, and for some time continued in the primitive church, to make way for the acknowledg. ment of Christ, and for the conviction of unbelievers; and may be again renewed, whenever God shall think fit visibly to interpose in the farther
propagation of his Gospel in the heathen world.
It is manifest then, that the Scripture ascribes to the Spirit of God a twofold operation in the work of the Gospel. The first is that already mentioned, and is the supplying and furnishing motives of credibility, and proper means to establish the doctrine and faith. The second is that now to be considered in explaining the words of the text, to wit, the affording assistance and strength to al), who undertake
the conditions of the Gospel, to perform them, and to render a service worthy of the Gospel, and acceptable to our God and Saviour.
The wisdom mentioned in the text is described to - be the wisdom that is from above, that is, which is given or communicated from above. And in the first
chapter the Apostle instructs us how to obtain it: If 'any of you lock wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth
to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him : but let him ask in faith. And soon after he shews us upon what grounds his advice stands : Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
The instruction given, that we should ask this wisdom in faith; the reason assigned to support this faith, that with God is no variableness, neither Madow of turning ; do sufficiently shew, that the wisdom which we are encouraged to ask for is no other than the grace promised under the Gospel: for the declaration of God's purpose to give this wisdom, which is no where declared but in the Gospel, must be supposed, before the immutability of his purpose can be alleged as a ground of hope and assurance to obtain the good gift by the prayer of faith.
By the word wisdom then in the text we must understand the grace of God promised in the Gospel, and considered in Scripture as the ruling and governing principle in the disciples of Christ : that principle of holiness by which they are enabled to mortify the deeds of the flesh; by which they do no fin, and are alive to righteousness : elsewhere spoken of as the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them, and by which their mortal bodies are quickened ; and described as so necessary to a Christian, that the Apostle to the Roinans has affirmed, If any man have not the Spirit of Chrif, he is none of his.
This grace is called wisdom upon the fame account that the fear of the Lord is said to be the beginning of wisdom; because the wisdom of man confifteth in the obedience of God, in whose hand are the issues of life and death, and not upon the account of any degrees of knowledge, either sacred or civil, which it is supposed to convey. The fruits ascribed to this wisdom in the text are all moral qualifications: it is pure, and peaceable, and gentle, full of mercy, and the like; of the learning and knowledge which proceed from it, we read nothing. The knowledge of mysteries, and things facred, may be reckoned among the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and are mentioned as such by St. Paul in the passage of his Epistle to the Corinthians already alleged : but he speaks of them as not necessarily inferring charity, and consequently as distinct gifts from that grace, or wisdom, which is pure, and peaceable, and full of mercy.
The gifts of the Spirit, considered with respect to the Author of them, and the motives inducing him to bestow them, are properly styled the grace of God; for of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, and of his own will it is that he enableth us to run the course that is set us : so that our confidence is, to use the language of St. Paul, that he which hath begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. But, considered with respect to their influence on the receiver, they are, by St.