Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion to yield to his revelations, to obey his guidance and motions, and give up ourselves to his sanctifying work : this is believing in the Holy Ghost.

And then by this you may easily see what it is to be baptised into the name of the Holy Ghost; for it is but the obsignation of this our faith on our part, and receiving of Christ's obsignation of the promise of the Holy Ghost on his part. We do not only, by baptism, profess to believe that there is a Holy Ghost, but we profess to believe the truth of his witnessing to Christ and his doctrine, and to trust our souls on his teaching and revelation, and take him for our Guide and Sanctifier; and to believe on him, as that Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ, in his bodily absence, hath sent to supply his room, and to be, as it were, the soul of his church, and actuate every true believer. I know none that more fully opens the sense of the Scripture and primitive church, concerning believing in the Holy Ghost, than Tertullian, de Prescript., where he citeth the creed, or foundation of religion, which the church believed and professed in those times, and by which the orthodox were known from all heretics, Christum misisse vicariam vim Spiritus sancti qui credentes agat; having spoken of Christ's own working miracles before. Every word of it deserveth consideration.

1. He speaks of the Holy Ghost as sent into the world, and not only as proceeding from the Father and the Son before the world was made.

2. He speaks of him as sent by Christ, and so flowing from him, the Head, to his members, and testifying to him.

3. To show the manner of his indwelling and working, he calls it vim Spiritus sancti, the power or active force of the Holy Ghost, because, essentially, he is every where, but he is not pleased every where to exercise or manifest his force; and he chooseth this phrase rather than an habit or an act; and I conceive it more fit than either to signify that which we receive from Christ, called by the name of the Holy Ghost; for the habit and act are but the effects of this force of the Holy Ghost. By this force he moveth the soul to action so effectually that it produceth a habit; and he saith, not the substance, or person, or essence of the Holy Ghost is sent or given, but the force or energy.

4. He calls it vicariam vim, to show that this Spirit is sent from Christ, the Head, upon his personal departure from the earth, and ascending to heaven to supply the room of his bodily presence, both in testification, and in sanctification, and consolation of his people, as he told his disciples : “I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart I will send him to you.” (John xvi. 7.) It is not expedient for the body that the head be contiguous to every member, but rather that it join locally only to the highest part of the body, and send forth the animal spirits into the whole body; and the life and motion of the feet and hands, that stand remotest from the head, is yet an infallible mark, both that there is a head, and that it conveyeth spirits to those members, and those members have a conjunction and communion with the head : so is it most expedient that Christ, our Head, should be bodily present in heaven, but send his Spirit to his lowest and remotest members; and he that feeleth or seeth the certain effects of this Spirit, is mad if he doubt of the life and efficacy of the Head; so that this Spirit is instead of Christ's personal presence, even as the magistrate is in the stead of the sovereign, through the body of the commonwealth. Nor doth this intimate any personal inequality between the Son and the Holy Ghost, but only a subserviency in operation.

5. The office that Tertullian and the primitive church here giveth the Spirit, is' ut credentes agat, to actuate believers, as the soul actuates the body: not that man's soul is merely passive herein, as the body is to the soul; for the soul is of a more active nature, being itself a spirit; but as to the spirituality, and holy and heavenly manner of action, it comes from this Spirit. It actuated the first church after Christ with a force extraordinary, by miracles, prophecies, healing, languages, &c., and it still actuateth the whole body of Christ, according to their necessity, for the perfecting of them in the application of Christ's blood and merits.

6. It is especially the eminent degree of the Spirit which is here meant, that is given to believers after their faith; and therefore he saith, qui credentes agat. Though, as i have said, the Spirit of prophecy that foretold of Christ was Christ's Spirit too, and so is the Spirit that bringeth men to Christ, by causing them to believe. Yet this is but the Spirit moving without, and knocking at the door first, and making his way into the soul, and then he dwelleth in the soul afterwards. Sure I am the Scripture speaks of giving the Holy Ghost upori and after believing frequently, and that must be some gift eminently, and by an excellency called the Holy Ghost. Yet even that Spirit

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

which is given to believers, may be said to be given to unbelievers also, though not in the sense as he is given to believers ; yet in a lower sort he may be said to be given or propounded to them, not only as it moveth at the hearts of unbelievers, (though not effectual to sanctification,) but also as its workings in believers, discovered in the fruits, are an objective means to convince unbelievers. So saith Paul “ If an unbeliever come in, he will fall down and say, God is in you of a truth.” (1 Cor. xiv. 25.) And Christ himself promising the Spirit to his disciples, saith, that the same Spirit shall reprove the world of sin, pf righceousness, and of judgment, (John xvi. 8,) but he is sent to dwell in believers only,“ 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.” (John xiv. 16.) Yet he addeth, “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you.” To show them that when the Spirit hath done all his work, Christ will return personally, and do the rest of his work also, which shall be the bringing them yet a greater comfort than that of the Spirit.

The first work was to be done by Christ on the cross in satisfying, and by Christ on the earth in preaching and working miracles, and giving an example of holiness to his followers. There was so great comfort in this, that his disciples grieved to think of leaving him. The second work is to be done in heaven by Christ mediating, and on earth by the Spirit whom he will send to his church. By this shall the benefits of his former works, even of his death and satisfaction, be applied : and therefore this is yet a more comforting work to believers, because it brings that mercy near us that before was far off, and that to our hearts, and into our possession, in part, which before was in the hands of Christ, and in a conditional promise : and there fore the Holy Ghost, that performeth this work, is called a Comforter. The third and last work is by Christ returning to his church again : when the Holy Ghost hath done his works on our hearts, and perfected them, then will Christ sentence them to life everlasting, and present them perfect and spotless to his Father, and bid them enter into the joy of their Lord. This is the most comfortable work of all which he here frequently also promiseth. In the mean time the Holy Ghost is his substitute, as it were. “ These things have I spoken while I am present

with you ; but the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you. “But when the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” (John xv. 25, 26.) So that the work of the Spirit is first to be Christ's witness; and then, secondly, to be his Agent in the souls of believers ; and therefore Christ is said to dwell in them by his Spirit; (Rom. viii. 11 ; 1 Cor. iii. 18.); and they are said to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, which dwelleth in them. (1 Cor. iii. 16. 17 ; 2 Tit. i. 14.) And he that hath not the Spirit of Christ, is said to be none of his. (Rom. viii. 9.) So that I conclude the Spirit, by extraordinary works formerly, and by holy actuating the church to the end, is Christ's great witness to the world : and thus we believe in the Holy Ghost, and thus we are baptised into him : for, as to believe in Christ, and to be baptised into him, respecteth him, not only as God, nor only as God and Man, according to his nature, but also as Redeemer, according to his office; and that with a special applicatory respect unto ourselves; so also the same may, and must be said of our believing in the Holy Ghost, and being baptised into his name.

So much for that use.

5. Hence we may perceive also what it is to sin against the Holy Ghost; I mean that sin which is especially so called, and is the unpardonable sin. I dare not be too bold in such a controverted point. But it seemeth to me to be the total rejection of this great testimony of Jesus Christ given to the world, when men see or hear this testimony fully, and are convinced of the matter of fact, that such a Spirit the Lord Jesus did send into his Church at first, working these miracles, and prophecies, and tongues, which we read of, and see also the effects of this Spirit in the holiness of Christ's doctrine, and his people's lives, and yet will not believe that this Spirit is divine ; but when they have no other shift or means, they blasphemously say, it is the spirit of the devil, or by the power of the devil, that these things were wrought. This is Athanasius's opinion, and this seemeth punctually agreeable to that text of Scripture where Christ mentioneth this sin. I shall say the less of this now, because I have before told you my judgment of it. Only observe, that it is not temptations or motions to this sin that is unpardonable ; nor every sinful attendance to such temptations, or hearkening or inclining to them. But it is when the temptation so far takes, that the sin is prevalent against the contrary witness and motions; and when men do conclude fully and resolvedly, that the Spirit of Christ is the spirit of the devil. This sin is therefore unpardonable because incurable : for the Spirit will not stay with such a soul, but leave them remediless; as Christ hath sent no greater remedy of unbelief, than the witness of his Spirit. Therefore, they that totally reject this have no remedy left for their cure: for the Spirit may follow them, and solicit them, till such a total blasphemous rejection. Even as when Christ himself is totally rejected by apostacy, sinners are left hopeless because helpless, and helpless because there remaineth no sacrifice for their sin, when the only Sacrifice which was once offered for them is rejected. (Heb. x. 16.) Whether it be only this objective testimony of the Spirit, whose refusal is the sin against the Holy Ghost, or whether also the total rejecting of the effective testimony of the Spirit of Christ, when its motions come to so high a degree, be the sin against the Holy Ghost, I will not now determine: but the former methinks is clear. Only one great doubt here lieth in the way.

Object. If that be so, then the conversion of the Jews may seem hopeless or desperate, because to this day they confess the miracles of Jesus Christ, and the other workings of his Spirit, but maintain that he did these by the help of the devil.

Sol. To which I answer,

1. It is God's great mercy to his church which made Christ's workings, nay, his apostles, so publicly and eminently miraculous, that all these enemies of his truth do confess thein, and maintain the infallible medium of the christian faith, while they deny the conclusion ; which one would think should much confirm all Christians in the faith.

2. I Answer, that as it is with the papists, so it is with the Jews, they be not all of one mind : the leaders have grosser principles than most of the common people do entertain.

3. And consider, may not that be one reason why the Jews are yet uncalled? Why all nations flock in to Christ wherever the gospel yet came into the world, though God hath suffered the sword of the Turk to deter many countries from Christianity again, and only Jews continue uncured, except now and then two or three that come in; may not that sin against the Holy Ghost cause the commonness of obstinate, incurable infidelity ? It is worth the observing.

« PreviousContinue »