Daily Reading for September 12 • John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York, 1830
As the influences of the Divine Spirit are not irresistible, neither are they sensible—they are not to be distinguished from the acts of our own minds—we know them only by their fruits. The Holy Spirit enlightens the understanding, regulates the will, and purifies the affections. All this holy change in our souls is produced by a powerful indeed, but, except as to its effects, imperceptible agency. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth.” We know the operation of the wind only by its effects. In like manner, according to this analogy, which our blessed Lord employed, the operations of the Holy Spirit are inscrutable, and to be known only by their fruits. This is a standard of judgment which cannot deceive us. The possession of the fruits of the Spirit is an infallible evidence of his sanctifying presence in our souls. By no other criterion can we determine whether we are led by the Spirit. No fervour of feeling is to be trusted but that which animates our love, our confidence, our hope in our God and Saviour; and these are among the principal fruits of the Spirit.
The Scriptures of truth lay down the infallible standard—“The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Let us test ourselves by this standard. Are our hearts animated and enlivened by supreme love to God and by love to mankind, by holy joy in the divine mercy and favour? Redeemed from all wrathful passions, are our souls the seat of peace? Are we long-suffering under the evils and provocations of the world, gentle and easy to be entreated? Does the principle of goodness inspire and animate all our actions? Is our intercourse with our fellow-men regulated by fidelity? In our tempers, in our conversation, and in our conduct, are we meek and lowly? And does temperance regulate the indulgence of our lawful appetites and passions? The soul, where these graces reign, must be the seat of that Divine Spirit whose agency alone can produce them. We are not then to expect any sensible demonstration of his presence, any overwhelming illumination or display of his power. When we crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts—when we are transformed by the renewing of our minds—when love to our God and Saviour, and love to our fellow-men, are the ruling principles of our hearts—when we study in all things to keep a conscience void of offence, and in simplicity and godly sincerity to have our conversation in the world—then we may be assured that we are led by the Spirit of God; and then we may rejoice in his holy comfort, in his all-powerful guidance and protection.
From the sermon “The Importance of Being Partakers of the Holy Ghost” by John Henry Hobart, quoted in Parochial Sermons: The Posthumous Works of the Late Right Reverend John Henry Hobart, D.D., Volume 3 (New York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1832). Found at http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/jhhobart/parochial/31.html.