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The Gift of the Spirit
[Ess. XI. ous bodily and mental endowments, by which we are, qualified for occupying our own rank in the scale of creation. Nevertheless, between these endowments, such as the faculties of reason, reflection, memory, and speech, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, there is this essential distinction-that the former belong to the constitution of our nature, and, as such, are received by generation and inheritance; while the latter is a heavenly boon-freely offered indeed to all who are willing to receive it—and yet not inherent in our nature, but imparted supernaturally by the Lord of all things, when, where, and as he pleases.
Nothing is more clearly revealed in Holy Writ than that essential principle of our religion, that in us, that is to say, in our flesh (or natural man), " there dwelleth no good thing,"-that by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, for it is "the gift of God," that "it is God who worketh" in us "to will and to do of his good pleasure," that the influence by which alone we are enabled to produce the acceptable fruits of righteousness is not of our spirit, but of the Spirit of JEHOVAH,—that it is he who sheds that influence on his unworthy children, according to his sovereign will, his own free, unmerited, unrestricted
There is scarcely a passage in Scripture, relating to the Spirit, which may not be said to involve a proof of the absolute freedom and divine origin of the gift of it. The subject is never treated of in the Bible on any other principle. Nevertheless, it may not be improper for us, in reference to the present point, to examine, first, the language of ancient Hebrew prophecy, and, secondly, some of the declarations of Jesus Christ and his apostles.
That the servants of God, before the coming of Christ, were the children of grace, and were actuated,
in their life and conversation, by the Holy Spirit, is evident from the tenor of their history; and that many of them received those extraordinary spiritual endowments, which fitted them for the peculiar office of prophets, may be proved, not only by that history, but by the express doctrine of the apostle, that these "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" 2 Pet. i, 21. But, among the prophecies which they were thus led to utter and to record, there are not a few from which we learn, that the dispensation of Christianity was to be attended by a yet more abundant and extensive effusion of the Spirit of God, both as the sanctifier of the souls of men and as the imparter of those peculiar gifts which are directed to the establishment and enlargement of the church of God. And these promises were all issued in the name of our Heavenly Father, who alone is described, by his inspired servants, as the author and dispenser of this sacred and powerful influence-a remark which applies, with equal exactness, to the spirit of grace, and to the spirit of prophecy.
The former is promised, as the most conspicuous privilege of the Christian church, the children of Israel by faith, in the following memorable passage : "The palaces shall be forsaken: the multitude of the city shall be left, &c. &c.;" (in other words, the church of God shall continue desolate) "until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field, and the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance for ever :” Isa. xxxii, 14-17. It cannot, with any reason, be doubted, that the application of this prophecy is to the times of the Messiah, which the ancient Hebrews
Prophecies of the Spirit.
[Ess. XI. were instructed to expect as the times of restoration; and soon afterwards, the same promise was repeated by the evangelical prophet, as follows: "Thus saith the Lord that made thee and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee, Fear not, O Jacob my servant, and thou Jesurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods the dry ground: I will pour my SPIRIT Upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring:" Isa. lxiv, 2, 3. Nor was it to be merely for the refreshment of the weary, but more especially for the regeneration and purification of the vile and sinful, that the Spirit of God was to be imparted. "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you,” said Jehovah to his people, by the prophet Ezekiel, ❝ 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 a 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 :" Ezek. xxxvi, 25—27.
In these prophecies there is a clear description of the effusion of a divine influence for the production of spiritual consolation and moral righteousness; and that effusion is attributed to no other source than the spontaneous mercy of our Heavenly Father. In language not dissimilar it is declared, that he would also in the last days-that is, in the days of Christianity-pour forth of his Spirit in the distribution of gifts for the use and edification of the church-" and it shall come to pass afterward (or in the last day: see Acts ii, 17) that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, and also upon the servants, and upon the handmaids in
Types of the Spirit.
those days will I pour out my Spirit :" Joel ii, 28, 29 comp. Isa. lix, 21; Ezek. xi, 19; xxxvii, 12—14; Zech. xii, 10, &c.
Such was the frequent language of inspiration before the coming of Christ, and it is not to be forgotten that these prophecies respecting the Spirit were accompanied by a variety of typical ordinances (imposed on the Jews" until the time of reformation") which were evidently shadows of the essential doctrine of a spiritual influence, just as the sacrificial rites of the law were the shadows of the essential doctrine of atonement by the death of Christ. This fact is established with sufficient precision, first, by the general declaration of the apostle Paul, that the ceremonies of the Jewish law (in which he specifically includes "divers washings") were "a shadow of good things to come;" and secondly, by the frequent use which, in declaring the operations of the Spirit, the sacred writers have made of metaphorical expressions derived from those ceremonies. The holy oil so commonly poured forth on individuals who were destined to occupy important stations in the civil and religious polity of the Jewish theocracy was an admirable type of that divine "unction," without which (under the Christian dispensation more especially) none can be prepared and sanctified for the work and service of God; and the clean water in which the defiled Israelites were commanded on many occasions to wash their clothes and bathe their flesh, afforded a simple, yet very significant, representation of that pure Spirit of truth and righteousness, which is ever found sufficient to purify the soul of the believer in Jesus. from the stain and pollution of sin.
The prophecies and types which we have now been engaged in considering were not, in their full measure, accomplished during the life of Jesus Christ on earth. So long as he continued personally with his
The Great Promise of God,
[Ess. XI. disciples, those more plentiful effusions of the Divine Spirit, which are evidently alluded to by the prophets as one leading distinction of the Gospel dispensation, were not required for the instruction and help of the infant church; and it was on this ground that Jesus declared to his followers the expediency of his leaving them. "It is expedient for you," said he, "that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you:" John xvi, 7. And, on a previous occasion, when he made mention of the "rivers of living water," which were to flow for the strength and refreshment of all believers in him, he spake (as the apostle assures us) of the "Holy Ghost," which "was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified:" John vii, 39. In point of fact, as the Messiah himself was the principal object of expectation held out to the ancient Hebrews, during the continuance of the law, so the promise which chiefly distinguished the introduction of the Gospel was the promise of the Holy Ghost.
After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, this promise began to receive its fulfilment. The Spirit was poured forth in abundance on the whole company of the disciples, and, while their mouths were opened in the miraculous exercise of the prophetic gift, their hearts were inflamed and purified, and filled with the love of God and man. Thus were the earliest followers of Jesus "baptized with the Holy Ghost," and a similar experience, as far as it is required either for the salvation of souls, or for the order and maintenance of the church on earth, is ordained to be, in every age, the help and consolation of true believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. "The promise is unto you," cried Peter to the surrounding multitude, "and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call:" Acts ii, 39.