« PreviousContinue »
4. May not God cause this generation of the Jews, whom he means to convert, to be free from this sin, which else would hinder their conversion, and which hath hindered the conversion of so many of their predecessors.
5. And the rather, because, indeed, we cannot say it is most of the Jews that are now guilty of it; for though the generality confess the miracles of Christ and his disciples, blessed be God for it, yet we read and hear but of few of them that lay this upon a diabolical power, and so blaspheme the Holy Ghost : but most of them have a foolish fable, that Christ had found out the right pronunciation of the ineffable name, and by the power of that, did all his miracles; and they think, if any other could find out that name, he might do the like; I mean, that nomen Tetragrammaton, which we call Jehovah : so that I see not any cause that men have of discouragement, in any attempt for the conversion of any Jew, as if they all or most did now lie under that unpardonable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
There is none, besides Jews, on earth, that I am more afraid of, with respect to this sin, than some that lately were professors of religion amongst us, and now are turned to deny Scripture and Christianity, and make a derision of the word of God : especially those of them that are convinced of the matter of fact, and judge all to be done by the power of Satan: but I hope there are but few of those. The Lord teach
believer to take heed of any thing that is like this sin, or that hath any tendency to it; and to tremble at every temptation that way, and speedily fly from it: for it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, who hath said, “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay;" for our God is a consuming fire: and doubtless, Christians and all others have need to be very careful what entertainment they give also to the Spirit's motions within them; lest by unkind neglects, and frequent repulses, they grieve and expel him, that should convince and enlighten them, sanctify and comfort them; and then they will be left to be filthy still, and comfortless for ever.
I might have added somewhat here more fully, to show you what it is to resist the Spirit, and what to quench and grieve the Spirit, and what for the Spirit to depart from men : but you may gather thus much from what hath been said.
Doctrine II. Having done with the main doctrine, which I intended from VOL, XX,
this text, I shall , add a few words of that which lieth next before us.
That doctrine, religion, and way, in which the Spirit of Christ is given, is the only true doctrine, religion, and way to salvation; and, therefore, every one that would certainly know the true doctrine, religion, and way to salvation, should inquire by which religion or way it is, that he or others have received the Spirit of Christ.
Here I must first give you some explicatory cautions for the right understanding of this part; secondly, give you the reason of it for confirmation; thirdly, apply it.
1. He that is capable of making use of this rule, must be a man that either hath the Spirit himself, or else seeth the clear effects of it in others, or is convinced of the truth of Scripture report of these effects. Those churches that the apostles wrote to, had the Spirit themselves, some of them for miracles, and some for sanctification; and those that had it not for miracles, could frequently see these miracles wrought by others that had it. Those, therefore, now, that either have the Spirit of sanctification or common illumination, or live among
those that have it, and are able to discern the Spirit by its effects, are capable of making use of this rule of judging of doctrine and religion by the Spirit : but those that neither have the Spirit, nor live among those that have it; or if they do, yet are not able to discern it by its holy effects in men's speeches and conversations, nor yet do believe Scripture reports of the former workings of the Spirit. These can never come by the means to know the true doctrine and religion : for being ignorant of the means, they must be ignorant of the conclusion and end.
2. He that is capable of making right use of this rule, must be sure that he take not that for the Spirit which is not; and so mistake a delusion, or melancholy fancy, and confident selfconceitedness, or distempered passion, for the Spirit of God : otherwise, a man will not only lose the use of this rule of trying and knowing the true religion by the Spirit, but he will be carried likely to a false, by this false means.
Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light to deceive; and his ministers transform themselves into ministers of light. (2 Cor. xi. 14.) And therefore every spirit that bringeth light, or seemeth to do so, is not this Spirit of God; nor is every minister that preacheth light a minister of this Spirit of Christ. Those that inwardly are ravening wolves, yea, grievous wolves, devouring the flock, shall yet come in sheep's clothing, with
seeming innocency and fair pretences. (Matt. vii. 15 ; Acts xx. 29.) And they that creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with iniquity, ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth, shall have a form of godliness. (2 Tit. iii. 5, 6.) If one of Montanus's disciples, or one of our ranters, should take their strange satanical delusions or possessions for the Spirit of Christ as they do, no wonder if they be enemies to the true religion : for that Spirit comes not by Christ's doctrine, nor leads to his way and end : and it is a duty of great moment to try the spirits.
3. You must carefully understand, that this rule is no further to be extended to any doctrine, or trial of it, than it can well be proved that this doctrine was the means of conveying the Spirit : and, therefore, that it reacheth not to every circumstance or accident of that doctrine, and every manner of delivery, or every qualification of the instruments that deliver it. We are certain that the first church received the Spirit by the preaching of the faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law; and therefore, we are certain the christian religion is the true religion, and not the Jewish ceremonies; and consequently, that every part of Christ's doctrine is true : for if Christ be proved once true in his main testimony, that he is the Son of God and Saviour of the world, then is it impossible but that all is true which is his doctrine. So clear is this, that Mahomet himself, in his Alcoran, confesseth it, (for God would have his truth have the confession of enemies also,) and therefore he feigneth, that though Jesus taught nothing but truth, yet his disciples depraved his doctrine. And how? Forsooth, by blotting out Mahomet’s name, whom Christ promised to send as the comforter. As if the former Christians had any reason to blot out his name, or the latter in his own days could have done it undiscerned, when no Bible then in the church had his name in it. But to pass by these foolish adversaries; I say, it is a good argument, the christian doctrine is true, because by it the Spirit was and is given.
But now you cannot argue for the goodness of the preacher, or for such or such an accidental manner of preaching, or for such a man's opinion in other smaller things, that these are certainly of Christ, because you received the Spirit by that man's doctrine, or such a manner of preaching. For example : if Judas say, by his preaching men received the Spirit, therefore I am a true believer; this is no good argument: or if Peter should have argued, by my preaching men received the Spirit : therefore my dissembling, or my denying Christ, was good; this is ill arguing. So, perhaps, men may receive the Spirit from a minister's preaching that hath an ill method, or an ill delivery or gesture ; it will not follow that the Spirit is a witness to these faults of his : nor may you
I received the Spirit hy such a method of preaching, therefore that is the only method. For it was not the method, or delivery, or gesture of the man, but the christian doctrine by which you received the Spirit : men of divers ways and opinions about inferior things, may yet all preach the same christian doctrine, by which the Spirit may be conveyed. A presbyterian, or independent, or episcopal man, as they are now termed, may none of them
doctrine men received the Spirit, therefore these opinions are true.' No man ever received the Spirit by the preaching for episcopacy, or presbytery, or independency, as such, or in these parts wherein they differ from others, and whence they have their names: the like may be said of some other such controversies. Yet this must be acknowledged, that if God do ordinarily bless one way of preaching, or one sort of men to be his instruments for conveying the Spirit more than all others, it is a very probable mark, that he favoureth that very way of preaching, and sort of men. Plain preachers, and zealous, are often more blessed to be instruments in this work, than cold or dull, or daubers, or quaint-wordy preachers. Hence, we may well argue thus : Most men receive the Spirit by plain, zealous preachers, and few by dull or daubing ones, and therefore God approveth the former more than the latter. Yet here you must take heed of a mistake, by stretching this rule further than ever God intended it, or the nature of it will bear. As if one should argue thus :
Presbyterians succeeded more than episcopal or independent : or independent succeeds more than presbyterian or episcopal : therefore, God more approveth of them ;' it is not a certain argument; for, perhaps, the reason of God's approbation may be from something else, wherein they differ, that is of greater moment than these parts. Perhaps, most of this or that opinion may be more godly, zealous, conscionable preachers, and therefore may be more successful ; whereas, if the other were such, they might succeed too, for all their opinion. Yet this may be granted, that if God ordinarily give up the men of one judgment to wicked lives, and their doctrine doth more harm than
good; or though their lives be good, yet God useth not to bless their doctrine to the saving of souls, and ordinarily useth to bless the doctrine of others, and that both to the sanctifying of themselves and their hearers ; this is a strong probable argument that God favoureth not that opinion which bringeth forth no better fruits. You see, then, in what sense this Spirit must be received.
Reason. That doctrine, religion, and way in which the Spirit is given, must needs be the true doctrine, religion, and way to salvation, because God will not bless any other with such noble success. It is the end and use of God's own doctrine and way to convey the Spirit to his people; and he that hath appointed means of his own to that end, will not bless others, but his own thereto.' It is the highest honour of his own ordinances, which he will not give to any other : the Spirit will not ride in any chariot, but what is of God's own making; the conveying of the Spirit is the chiefest seal that any doctrine can have ; and, therefore, God will not set his seal to any falsehood. So that I need no more proof of this.
Quest. But do not our divines ordinarily teach that we must try the Spirit by the doctrine, and not the doctrine by the Spirit.
Answ. This is a great question, and because it is much tossed, and of great use for these times, I will speak to it the more exactly, though briefly.
1. You must distinguish between the doctrine of Scripture, and the doctrine delivered now by particular men.
2. You must distinguish between the Spirit that hath already sealed the christian doctrine, and the particular spirits that now men have, or pretend to have.
1. The first doctrine delivered to the church and to Adam by God himself, needed no other witness, he having the certainty of sense and knowledge that it was of God.
2. This doctrine he delivered down to his posterity, which they received, till Moses' time, by tradition, and needed no new testimony for the sealing of it, but only a hand or mouth still to report and deliver it.
3. When God added a new system of doctrines by Moses, there was a necessity of some new means for to discover the truth of it : and here the people had, first, for the moral law, its clear agreement with the law of nature written in them. 2. For the whole they had, partly the voice of God, and the sight of the