« AnteriorContinuar »
in me, out of his belly (or heart) shall flow rivers of living waters. This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive." This promise is not confined to believers of the first century, or to the age of miracles; it is as much a promise to believers at large, as any other in the New Testament. A similar promise is made in John iv. 14.
The Holy Spirit is said to dwell in believers. I Cor. iii. 16, and vi. 19: "The Spirit of God dwelleth in you;"—" your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost." This is spoken to the whole body of Corinthian Christians, without a single hint that the blessing was intended to be confined to them, or the Christians of that age only. Were we to admit that expressions of this kind respecting the Spirit must be confined to the first believers, we should be obliged to admit the same restriction as to all the privileges, tempers, and duties of Christians in general. And indeed, those who deny the work of the Spirit do generally give up all the essentials of the Gospel; and leave us nothing but a systemof mere morality,—a refined heathenism, graced with the name of Christ. And we may seriously "advise persons to be cautious of confining the Spirit to primitive times, lest they confine heaven to primitive times, and so miss of it themselves; for indeed there is no going to heaven without receiving the Holy Spirit."
This will appear still more clearly, if we consider for what purposes he is given to the church; we shall then see that there is always the same occasion for his gracious influences as there was at first.
The whole dispensation of the Gospel is called The ministration of the Spirit, 2 Cor. iii 8. The whole business of gospel-salvation, from first to last, is in the hands of the Spirit. Not only at first, but in all ages, he calls, qualifies, and assists the ministers of the gospel in preaching it; and all its efficacy in the world is from the power of his grace.
Illumination is his work. No truth of the gospel is rightly understood but by his teaching. He was promised as "the Spirit of Truth," who was to "glorify Christ," by " showing the things of Christ to men." This is fully proved by those words of St. Paul, 1 Cor. ii. 14 :—" The natural man (that is, every man by nature) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned:" that is, they are known only by the teaching of the Spirit in the use of the word. Now, as all real Christians are illuminated and taught of God, it is evidently necessary that they should all have the Spirit; and if the Spirit be not given, then no man in the world knows, or can know, the things of God.
Again: All real Christians are praying persons; but no man knows "how to pray, nor what to pray for," without his assistance: and therefore it is mentioned, Rom, viii. 26, as the common privilege of all believers, that" the Spirit itself helpeth our intimities" in this duty; which shows that all Christians in all ages need the influence of the Spirit.
Our Saviour, in his discourse with Nicodemus (John iii. 3.) strongly insisted on the necessity of regeneration, or the new birth; solemnly declaring, that "unless a man be born again, or born of the Spirit, he could not be saved." This then shows that every Christian must needs have the Spirit; for he is the author of that inward change, without which no man is inwardly a Christian.
Sanctification is also the privilege of all true believers; they are elect according to the fore-knowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit." 1 Peter i. 2. No man can be saved who is not sanctified; and no man can be sanctified but by the Spirit. The Holy Ghost was promised '' to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment;" but will any person say, it is less necessary now to be convinced of sin &c. than at first? Can there be any repentance without it? Certainly not: and if not, then the Spirit is necessary as ever.
He is also called the Spirit of Faith.—He is the Comforter, the Seal, the Witness, the First Fruits of Heaven. No man, then, can have faith in Christ, spiritual joy and comfort, nor any evidence for heaven, unless he have the Holy Spirit. This might be more abundantly proved from a great number of texts and arguments; but the narrow limits of a short sermon forbid.*
* Have ye received the Holy Ghost? said St. Paul to some early disciples.—We ask the same question. Have ye received the Holy Ghost? We have proved the necessity of his sacred influences ;—do we know any thing of them by experience? Remember what the Scripture says, (Rom. viii. 9.) "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And how awful must their portion be who are not his! The whole world is under the dominion either of the good Spirit of God, or that evil Spirit, "who worketh in the hearts of all the children of disobedience." It is therefore of the greatest importance for us to consider under whose influence we act. "If we sow to the flesh we shall reap corruption ; if we sow to the Spirit we shall of the Spirit reap eternal life." By our fruits are we known. "The fruits of the Spirit are love, and joy, and peace, and goodness, and meekness, and temperance." "The works of the flesh are adultery, fornication, hatred, drunkenness, &c. and they who do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
* The necessity of Divine Influences is displayed in a very pleasing manner by Mr. T. Williams, in his book called " An Historic Defence of Experimental Heligion, as supported by the authority of Scripture, and the experience of the wisest and best men in all ages," &c—(See New Ed. 12mo. 7s.)
What does our conduct say? O conscience be faithful, give a true verdict! Does it appear that you are a stranger to his grace, in enlightening the mind, renewing the will, convincing of sin, leading the soul to Christ, and sanctifying the whole man Know, then, that your state is deplorable and dangerous :—may you be sensible of it; and if you are, you will earnestly pray to God to give you his Spirit, which he has promised to them that ask him.
To those who know the Lord, the effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost will appear exceedingly glorious. Such persons will rejoice to think that his gracious influence is still continued in the church: above all,they will be continually desirous to experience it. All the light, love, peace, joy, and consolation, to be found in the religion of Jesus, spring from his constant operations. Honour then this blessed Spirit by seeking hisdaily assistance. When you pray, read,hear, or perform any spiritual action, seek his help. Thus shall you be filled with all joy and peace in believing;" thus shall the love of God be shed abroad in your hearts; thus shall you " abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost;" and having this experience, you possess "the seal of God and the earnest" of heaven; "for he that hath wrought for us the self same thing is God, who hath also given us of his Spirit." This is the grand evidence of our being Christians indeed; and "hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given of his Spirit"
To the blessed Spirit of all grace,—to Jesus Christ the only Saviour,—and to the Father of mercies, the one covenant God of our salvation, be glory in all the churches, world without end. Amen.
"Let thy kind Spirit in my heart
For ever dwell, O God of Love!
Sweet earnest of the joys above!"
Acts X. 38. Who went about doing good.
THE apostle Peter said this of our Lord Jesus Christ. The occasion of his saying it shows us, that the Spirit of God works upon the minds of men, and inclines them to serve him, even before they know how to serve him in a right manner. In this case they are very glad and thankful to be taught the will of God. Do you, brethren, wish to know how you may please God, and become " wise to salvation?" If we did not wish to do you good, we should not come to you. The Lord is altogether good, and is always doing good. We may surely hope he will do us good now, if we are truly desirous of knowing his will.
We find, from this chapter, that the words of the text were spoken by Peter to Cornelius, who was an officer in the Roman army, and had been brought up
* This discourse was composed by Mr. Greatheed, solely for the use of some persons who visited the villages near Newport-Pagnell, Bucks, and who read written or printed sermons to the people, and before the publication of the first volume of Village Sermons ; consequently without any intention of its publication for the press. But it appears in this volume by the particular desire of Mr. Burder, who wishes it to stand as a token of his unfeigned respect for the Author, and a memorial of their mutual friendship. VOL. IV. K