In order that we may worthily prepare ourselves for the reception of the Holy Pentecostal Spirit: we must give place to the first motions of the Holy Spirit inciting us to repentance and the amendment of our lives, and make it our cordial endeavour, with the divine assistance, to obey, immediately and without any delay, the salutary suggestions of the Spirit, when he announces himself to us, and carry them into effect in the best manner possible. Of this we have an instance in those who first believed on the Lord. For “when the day of Pentecost was fully come: they were all with one accord, in one place.” And in the 14th verse of the former chapter, it stands still more expressly: “They all continued together, with one accord, in prayer and supplication.” They were therefore immediately obedient to the voice of their dear Saviour; they met together unanimously, and sought, by prayer and supplication, to prepare themselves for the reception of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when it pleases God to call us to himself, by the operation of his Spirit: we must immediately obey, and not confer long upon it with flesh and blood, but be ready, not only to listen to the divine will, but also to fulfill it.
The first operation of the Holy Spirit is to produce fear and reproof. This Christ himself teaches us, when he thus speaks, in the 16th chapter of John, “But when the Spirit, the Comforter, is come, he will reprove the world” (verse 8.) This is his first work in the hearts of those, who are to be prepared for the reception of the holy Pentecostal Spirit. Hence, my dearest friends! it is of no avail, to wish to receive the Holy Spirit with an unchanged heart. The gift of the Holy Spirit to repent must precede, before a man can be capable of receiving the precious Holy Spirit. In the first chapter of the Book of Wisdom, it is expressly said, that the Holy Spirit, who teaches right things, departs from the ungodly; that wisdom is so just, that it cannot let the blasphemer go unpunished. Therefore, we hope in vain to have the Holy Spirit, eventually on our death-bed, as a Comforter, unless we have previously received and accepted him as a reprover, a corrector, and as a preacher of repentance, into our hearts. The dear disciples of our Lord, and the believers certainly did not come, as it were, with unwashen hands, to the day of Pentecost. They had already frequently felt the motions and operations of the Holy Spirit in their hearts; they had been, from the very commencement, obedient to the voice of the dear Saviour, and the call of his Spirit, when at the outset of their conversion, he said to them, “Follow me,” they forsook all, and followed him. In this manner, these dear believers had already learnt their lesson; before the day of Pentecost arrived. Thus it must be also with us. We must, certainly, first submit ourselves to the reproving office of the Holy Spirit; we must let the truth be told us to our face, and our misery and deep depravity be thoroughly laid open by him to our view, if we are desirous of partaking of his sweet influences, his consolations, and his indwelling life in our hearts. For light and darkness cannot have fellowship with each other. On which account it is therefore highly necessary, that the Holy Spirit, as a Spirit of judgment and burning, as he is called in Isaiah, and as a sharp and pungent hyssop, should previously lay hold of and purify the heart, and render it capable and fit for his blissful indwelling. The soul ought, therefore, for this reason, to pay diligent attention to the first motions of the Holy Spirit, revere his salutary admonitions, and make it her serious endeavour, strictly to obey them. Now whether the Holy Spirit reproves us for small things or great: we must immediately be ready to receive his corrections with cordiality, and filially submit to them. If it be his will that we deny ourselves, and divest ourselves of our carnal-mindedness, together with all selfishness, lust, and love of the world: we must not lightly pass over it, and think that all this, in due time, will come of itself: we will wait for it until we have experienced the Pentecostal day; we will then be more fit for such virtuous exercises. No, my dearest friends! this is not what is meant, nor is it effected in such a manner. We must strive, particularly at the commencement, to co-operate with the divine assistance. ‘Work, while it is called today, says the Saviour, for the night cometh, when no man can work.’ When the individual, either from inattention and slothfulness, gives no heed to the first gracious motions of the Holy Spirit, or else suffers them to pass over, under a variety of specious pretences, without co-operating with them in the smallest degree—this is the only reason why the individual often remains, his life long, an unmortified and self-willed creature, and is entirely unfit for the reception of the Holy Spirit.
But there are also many souls, who suffer themselves to be restrained from this co-operation, by the specious pretence, as if by so doing, they were seeking to establish their own righteousness, and as it were, infringe upon the Lord’s rights; but although it be true, that the man, by his own working, easily goes astray, and his first operations are coupled with much infirmity; yet still we must not lay our hands in our lap, but faithfully, and as far as we are able, co-operate with the grace, which prevents us, and seek to carry into effect the divine requirements. He that will not commence doing good, until he is perfectly fit and competent for it, will never attain to it. We must, first of all, learn our letters, before we can read. In the same manner, we must first of all act as children, in the school of the Holy Ghost, before we can attain to the age of maturity, and show ourselves in the capacity of fathers. Let us, therefore, in filial confidence upon the divine assistance, simply do, as weak children what we are able; at the same time earnestly entreating God, that he would perform, in and through us, what we are unable to do; if we cannot repeat our lesson perfectly, let us at least stammer it out: and as often as like weak children, we fall and stumble, let us again strengthen our feeble knees, and commence our course anew: and the Lord will most assuredly offer us his aiding hand, and bring us to the object we have in view.
Now if we thus truly co-operate with him, and are, at the same time, conscious of our utter inability in every point of view, so that even though we do our best, we are still unable to make any considerable progress: yet even this is a praiseworthy favour, inasmuch as our great infirmity is thus openly manifested to us, and by the lively feeling of our insufficiency, we are so much the more impressively incited heartily and anxiously to sigh, ‘Lord, help my weakness, my infirmity, and my total inability to that which is good!’ O let us, therefore, by divine grace, faithfully, and in childlike simplicity, work together with God, and not doubt that he will assist us, as far as he finds us sincere, and place us in a situation to be acceptable to him in all things.