« AnteriorContinuar »
in which the glory of God and the good of souls are most eminently concerned ; and without the knowledge of which the first will be altogether useless : for when God designed the glorious work of recovering fallen man, he appointed two great means thereof: The one was, • the giving his Son for them; and the other was, the giving his Spirit to them.' And hereby a way was opened for the manifestation of the glory of the whole blessed Trinity ; which is the utmost end of all the works of God. Hereby, the love, grace, and wisdom of the Father, in the projection of the whole; the love, grace, and condescension ofīthe Son, in the execution of the plan of salvation ; with the love, grace, and power of the Spirit, in the application of all to the souls of men, were made gloriously! conspicuous. Hence, from the first entrance of sin, there were two general heads of the promises of God concerning salvation. The one respected the sending his Son to take our nature, and to suffer for us therein ; the other related to the giving his Spirit, to make the fruits of his incarnation, obedience, and sufferings effectual to us. The great promise of the Old Testament, was that of the coming
of the Son of God' in the flesh; but when that was accomplished, the principal remaining promise of the New Testament respects the coming of the Holy Spirit. Hence the doctrine of his person, work, and grace, is the peculiar subject of the New Testament; and a most eminent object of the Christian's faith. And this must be insisted upon, as we have to do with some who will scarcely allov." him to be of any consideration in these matters.
1. It is of great moment, that when Jesus Christ was about to leave the world, he promised to send his Holy Spirit to his disciples, to supply his absence. Of what use the presence of Christ was to them, we may in some measure conceive ; for their hearts were filled with sorrow on the mention of his departure. Designing to relieve them, he makes this promise; assuring them therehy of greater advantage than the continuance of his bodily presence among them. ' I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him ; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you, I will not leave you comfortless, I will
come unto you ;' that is, by his Spirit. · These things I have spoken unto you, being present with you ; but the Comforter, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things. It is expedient for you that I go away ; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come. When he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.--He will guide you into all truth-and shew you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shew it unto you.' John xiv. 15, 16. This was the great legacy which Jesus bequeathed to his sorrowful disciples; and because of its importance, he frequently repeats it, enlarging on the benefits they should thereby receive. • It is in vain pretended, that only the apostles or primitive Christians were concerned in this promise ; for though it was made to them in a peculiar manner, yet it belongs to believers universally, and to the end of time. As far as it respects his gracious operations, what Christ prayed for his apostles, he prayed for them also which should believe on hiun through their word.' John xvii. 20. And his promise is, that wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, there he would be in the midst of them ;' (Matt. xxviii. 20.) which he is no otherwise than by his Spirit. And this one consideration is sufficient to evince the importance of the doctrine : for is it possible that any Christian should be so careless as not to enquire what Christ has left us to supply his absence, and at length to bring us to himself ? He who despises these things, has neither part nor lot in Christ himself; for • if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.' Rom. viii. 9.
2. The great work of the Holy Ghost in the dispensa tion of the gospel, is another evidence to the same purpose. Hence the gospel itself is called « The ministration of the Spirit, in opposition to that of the law, which is called • The ministration of condemnation, and of death.' 2 Cor. iii. 68. The ministry of the Spirit is either that ministry which the Spirit makes effectual, or that ministry whereby the Spirit in his gifts and graces is communicated to men. . And this alone gives efficacy to the gospel. Take away the Spirit from the gospel, and you render it' a dead letter; of no more use to Christians than the Old Testament is of to the Jews. It is therefore a mischievous imagination, proceeding from ignorance and unbelief, that there is no more in the gospel than what is contained under any other doctrine or declaration of truth ; that it is nothing but a book for men to exercise their reason upon. This is to separate the Spirit from it, which is in truth to destroy it; and to reject the Covenant of God, which is, that his word and Spirit shall go together. Isa. lix. 21.
We shall therefore prove, that the whole efficacy of the ministry of the gospel depends on the promised ministry of the Spirit, with which it is accompanied. If therefore we have any concern in the gospel, we have a signal duty before us in the present subject.
3. There is not onė spiritual good from first to last communicated to us, but it is revealed to us, and bestowed on us, by the Holy Ghost. He who never experienced the special work of the Spirit upon him, never received any special mercy from God. How is it possible ? For what. ever God works in us, is by his Spirit; he therefore who has no work of the Spirit on his heart, never received either mercy or grace from God. To renounce therefore the work of the Spirit, is to renounce all interest in the
of God. 4. There is not any thing done by us that is holy and acceptable to God, but it is an effect of the Spirit's opera. tion. Without him we can do nothing ;' (John xv. 5.) for without Christ we cannot ; and by him alone is the grace of Christ communicated. By him we are regenerated; by him we are sanctified ; by him we are cleansed; by him we are assisted in every good work. Surely then, we ought to inquire into the cause and spring of all that is good in us.
5. God assures us that the only remediless sin is the sin against the Holy Ghost. This alone may convince us how necessary it is to be well instructed in what concerns him. Thus saith our Lord, All sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme ; but he that skall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness.' Mark iii. 28, 29, and Matt. xii. 32. This is that “ sin unto death,' whose remission is not to be prayed for. 1 John v. 16. For he having undertaken to make effectual to us the great
remedy in the blood of Christ for the pardon of our sins ; if he, in the prosecution of that work, be despitefully used and blasphemed, there can be no relief or pardon for that sin. For, whence should it arise ? For as God' has not another Son to offer another sacrifice for sinsso that he by whom his sacrifice is despised, can have none remaining for him ; neither has he another Spirit to make that sacrifice effectual to us, if the Holy Ghost be rejected. This therefore is a tender place. We cannot be too diligent in our inquiries after what God has revealed concerning his Spirit; seeing there may be a more fatal miscarriage in an opposition to him than human nature is capable of in any other instance.
Secondly. The deceits which have abounded in all ages of the Church, under pretence of the name and work of the Holy Spirit, make the study of this doctrine exceed. ingly necessary. Had not these things been excellent in themselves, they would not have been so often counterfeited. According to the value of things, so are they liable to abuse ; and the more excellent any thing is, the more pernicious is the abuse of it. In all the world there is nothing so vile as that which pretendeth to be God, and is not; nor is any thing else capable of so pernicious an abuse. For instance :
The most signal gift of the Spirit under the Old Testament, was that of PROPHECY. This was deservedly in great reputation, as having the impression of God's authority upon it, and of his nearness to man; besides, the prophets had the conduct of the minds and consciences of men; for they spake in the name of the Lord, and by his authority. Hence many pretended to this gift who were not inspired by the Holy Spirit; 'but were really actuated by an unclean and lying spirit; for it is highly probable that when men falsely pretended to Divine Inspiration, the Devil employed them to effect his own designs. But thesc vain pretensions cast no contempt on the real gift of the Holy Ghost, but rather increased its lustre ; for God Hever more honoured his true prophets than when there were many false ones : nor shall any false pretences to the Spirit of grace render him less dear to believers, or lessen the use of his gifts in the church.
It has been thus also under the New Testament. The Gospel was at first declared from the immediate revelation of the Spirit; preached by his assistance; made effectual by his power; and often accompanied by miracles. These things being acknowledged by all, those who had any false opinions to broach, could devise no better way to answer their ends than by pretending to immediate revelations of the Spirit. Hence the apostle Peter says, • There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you.'
Hence is that blessed caution and rule of the apostle John: · Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many
prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know we the Spirit of God: Every Spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God.' } John iv. 1, 2. Christians are here cautioned, not to give credit to every doctrine pretended to be of immediate revelation, but to try the spirits themselves. False teachers are called false prophets and spirits, in allusion to the false prophets of old, who fathered their predictions on divine inspiration ; but who were really actuated by the Devil himself. Hence we are directed to: try their pretensions, not by putting them on extraordinary works for their confirmation ---but by the doctrine that they teach. Let their doctrine be examined by the Scriptures, and if it be agreeable thereto, it may be safely received; but if it be contrary to Scripture, whatever authority is pretended, it must be instantly rejected. It is necessary also that we have a clear conviction of some fundamental principles. Thus, because strange imaginations about the person and mediation of Christ abounded in those days, the apostle directs believers to try the spirits by this fundamental principle :- That Jesus Christ is come in the flesh;' which contains a confession both of his person and mediation. They were to demand of all new teachers, Do you confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh ? and if they made not this confession, they never stood to consider their other pretences, but turned away from them, not bidding them God-speed. And thus it is the duty of all believers still to try the spirits ; and those who would deprive them of this liberty, would make brutes of them instead of Christians. And this caution is peculiarly necessary when there are real and eminent effu