« PoprzedniaDalej »
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, mercy.
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 gifts 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 Peter 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 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 upon the dry ground: I will pour my SPIRIT upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring: "Isa. xliv, 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 afterwards (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 prophecy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, and also upon the servants, and upon the handmaids in 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 sufficiT ent precision, first, by the general declaration of the apostle Paul, that the ceremonies of 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 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.
Now, even on a very cursory examination of these, and many other corresponding passages of the New Testament, it is impossible for us not to perceive that the influence thus promised, and thus bestowed, was entirely divine—that it came, and ever must come, from God himself, who imparts the celestial gift to his degenerate children, in the character both of an omnipotent Sovereign, and of a tender, adopting, Parent. The Comforter, who was to be sent to the disciples after the death, resurrection, and ascension, of their Lord, and, who was to "testify" unto them of Christ, is declared by Jesus, to be the Spirit of Truth which proceedeth from the Father; (John xv, 26;) and the promise of his coming is emphatically described as the PROMISE OF THE FATHER: Luke xxiv, 49: Acts i, 4.
Whether, therefore, the effect of a spiritual influence is traced in the diffusion of those gifts which are exercised by some of the Lord's servants, for the conversion of mankind, and for the benefit of the church; or in the peace, the love, and the purity, of all the members of the body of Christ, the children of the kingdom are still destitute of any thing whereof they can boast. Such an influence appertains not to the unregenerate nature of man, and although it acts upon the ereature, who is required and graciously enabled to cooperate with it, it is nevertheless exclusively and supernaturally the GIFT OF GOD.
II. As God the Father is himself the fountain from which the Holy Spirit flows, for the instruction, the regeneration, and the salvation, of his fallen children, so it is a clear and
frequent doctrine of Holy Writ, that this incomparable blessing is derived to mankind, through Jesus Christ. "For we ourselves also," says the apostle Paul to Titus," were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared; not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life :" iii, 3—7.
The Son or Word of God, by whom all things were made, is that "true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world"-the light which "shineth in darkness" though “the darkness comprehended it not." "In him was light, and the light was the life of men:" John i, 4, 5. 9. "I am the light of the world," cried Jesus, "he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life:" John viii, 12. When we regard our Saviour in the character of the Incarnate One, who publicly revealed the will of the Father, and the doctrines of Divine Truth, we may gratefully acknowledge that, even in this respect, he was the light of mankind, the light of the world. But the analogy of Scripture affords substantial evidence that these expressions comprehend a further meaning, and that Christ is also the light of his rational creature, man, because it is by him, or through his intervention and mediation, that the soul of man is spiritually enlightened. "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the FACE OF JESUS CHRIST :" 2 Cor. iv, 6. Jesus Christ is made unto us of God, "wisdom" as well as "righteousness:" 1 Cor. i, 30. He is himself the "wisdom of God:" ver. 24. "In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!" Col. ii, 3.
Now, as Jesus is the internal illuminator, so he is also the spiritual quickener of mankind. "The last Adam (was made) a quickening Spirit:" 1 Cor. xv, 45. This doctrine I conceive to have been plainly alluded to by our Saviour, in that memorable conversation, in which he presented himself to the attention of his followers, and of the Jews, as the Bread of God-the Bread of Life: see John vi. "For the Bread of God," said the Holy One of Israel," is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth LIFE unto the world; (ver. 33 ;). . . . the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the