« PreviousContinue »
II. Prove that all real Christians have the Spirit of Christ, and to show for what purposes they have him. So necessary is this to salvation, that St. Paul declares in our text, that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his ;" that is, he is no Christian.
It is one of the most dangerous errors of this day, to maintain that the influences of the Spirit are not now to be expected, and that they were confined to the days of the apostles, when they had power to work miracles. In consequence of this wicked notion, all that is said of Conversion, Regeneration, and Consolation, is out of date; and poor ignorant souls are lulled asleep in carnal security, contentedly resting in the form of godliness without the power; while they are taught by their blind leaders, to call all true, vital, and heart-felt religion, nonsense and enthusiasm.
But it would be peculiarly absurd and inconsistent for any member of the Church of England thus to deny the work of the Spirit, because that church strongly maintains the necessity of it in many parts of the Common Prayer Book. In the collects you may recollect these petitions: "Grant unto us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good." In another place, "Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity." In the Communion service she prays, "Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit." Observe also the prayer for the King; "Replenish him with the grace of thy Holy Spirit ;" and for the Royal Family, "Endue them with thy Holy Spirit." In the XIIIth Article of the Church, it is affirmed, that "Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are not pleasant to God." Every Clergyman at his ordination, is asked by the Bishop this question: "Do
you trust that you are moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office?" To which the minister replies, "I trust so. And in the Collect for WhitSunday, the Church thus prays—“ God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of the Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit, to have a right judgment in all things; and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort." Also in the Collect for the Sunday after Ascension-day, "We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thy Holy Ghost to comfort us." You see, then, my brethren, that the Church of England strongly maintains the continuance of the work of the Spirit, as necessary to all true ministers and Christians. How then do any affirm, that his influences have ceased 1700 years?
our faith must not rest on the authority of men, let us search the Scriptures to prove that the work of the Spirit on the heart is absolutely necessary to true godliness.
We freely grant, indeed, that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were confined to the first ages. Who now pretends to the gifts of tongues, or the power of working miracles? We do not plead for infallibility, or knowledge of future events, or ability to know any thing not revealed in the Bible. It is for the sanctifying influences of the Spirit we plead. The apostles and first Christians received from the Spirit not only the miraculous powers just mentioned, but light in their understandings, conviction of sin in their consciences, and faith and love to Christ in their hearts. "They purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit;" "they abounded in hope by the Holy Ghost;" they had "joy in the Holy Ghost;"-"the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost." Through the same Spirit they "mortified the deeds of the body," and cried, "Abba, Father." The Spirit was "the
earnest of their heavenly inheritance; and all their holy tempers, affections, and actions, are called "fruits of the Spirit." Are not all these things as necessary to us as they were to them? Corrupt nature is just the same now as then, and needs the same power to change it. Grace is also just the same now as it was then, and is derived from the same source. This alone is enough to prove the necessity of the Spirit's work.
Observe also, that our blessed Lord promised that his Spirit should abide and continue with the church, instead of his bodily presence. So he speaks, John xiv. 18. "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." Observe, he was promised to abide with the church for ever; not with the apostles only, for he was to be "given to all who should believe ;" and that, not for two or three hundred years, but for ever; all the time of Christ's absence from earth, until he shall come the second time to judgment. But this will more fully appear by considering the purposes for which the Spirit is given.
All men are by nature dead in trespasses and sins;" dead to God and spiritual things, as a corpse in the grave is dead to the affairs of this world. Now, "it is the Spirit that quickeneth," John vi. 63. The word of Christ in the gospel is employed for this end. "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God;" but it is by the Spirit's power that the dead soul is quickened to hear it. The word is brought home to the heart, and is then heard, "not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God." Oh, that the word may now be heard among us in this manner! There is but one word in Scripture for the air which the body breathes, and for that grace which is the breath of our spiritual life; and, therefore, when our blessed Lord breathed upon the apostles, he at the same time explained the meaning of what he did, by
saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost;" and hence it is called inspiration, or breathing in; for it is the gracious office of the Holy Ghost to act upon the soul, as breath does on the body.
The Spirit of God is called "the Spirit of truth." No man knows the truth in a saving manner, but by his teaching. A scholar may know the letter of it, but no human learning can give its true meaning. St. Paul affirms, 1 Cor. ii. 14, "The natural man (that is, the rational man) receiveth not the things. of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned." And he says, verse 12, "We have received the Spirit of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God;" -that is, we have been taught and enlightened by him, that we might have a true and saving knowledge of the great and glorious blessings of the Gospel; and, indeed, no other teaching is sufficient for the purpose. It is well said, in one of the Homilies, "Man's human and worldly wisdom and science is not needful to the understanding of the Scripture; but the revelation of the Holy Ghost, who inspireth the true meaning unto them, that, with humility and diligence, search therefore." This is great comfort to poor people, who are apt to say, they are no scholars, and therefore cannot understand the Bible. Pray, my friends, for the Holy Spirit, and you will then understand it better than the most learned man in the world who has not the Spirit.
Again, the Spirit is given to every real Christian to "reprove or convince of sin." We are by nature ignorant of God's holy law, and therefore of sin, which is the transgression of the law. "We are
alive without the law," as St. Paul once was; but when the commandment comes home to the conscience by the power of the blessed Spirit, then we
are deeply sensible of our lost and ruined condition; of the sins of our life; sins of omission as well as of commission; of the sins of our heart; and of the sins of our nature; but the Holy Spirit convinces us especially of the great sin of unbelief, in rejecting Christ, and neglecting his precious sal
Again, it is by the power of the Spirit, that we are enabled to believe to the saving of the soul. If we see the need of salvation, it is by his grace; if we see the way of salvation, it is by his teaching; if we are made willing to be saved in that way, it is by his power. Faith is the gift of God. We believe by the operation of the Spirit; and, indeed, it is a great thing to believe. To receive cordially the whole testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ-in the view of our sin and misery, as children of wrath, to believe that Christ can and will save us with a heavy burden of guilt on the conscience, to cast that burden on the Lord, and so find rest to our soulsto renounce our own works and merits, and trust alone to the righteousness of Christ-this is a great work; a work that none can perform but by the "Spirit of faith."
The Spirit of Christ is also called "the Spirit of holiness;" for he is the author of that "holiness, without which no man can see the Lord." Believers are "chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth." Regeneration is the beginning of a new and spiritual life. Sanctification is the work of the Spirit in preserving and increasing that life. All true Christians are saints, as you may see in several of the Epistles which were written to the saints; and though, through the folly and wickedness of many, that name is become a term of reproach, let all men know, that if we are not saints, we cannot be saved.
Another purpose for which believers have the