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THE INFLUENCES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
BY LUKE FORSTER.
Isaiah xliv. 3.— 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 thine offspring.
THE Scriptures not only declare the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit, but abound with promises of his influence to men. As the unhappy state of our fallen nature renders that influence absolutely necessary to the production and maintenance of all holy principles and dispositions, it should be to us a matter of grateful praise that we are encouraged to expect its bestowment.
There is no subject which has greater claims on the devout attention of mankind, than the agency of the Spirit of Promise. The Scriptures attach to this supreme importance, and shew, that it should have a very prominent part in preaching the gospel. It is this, indeed, which renders the gospel perfectly adapted to sinners. Whatever pardons it might announce, or whatever titles it might confer, without this it would not fully meet their dismal condition;-it would not shew how the deep defilement of their nature could be removed :-it would leave them the victims of a spiritual disease, which would keep them miserable on earth, and make them feel, even amidst the splendours of the celestial world, the pains of perdition. Happily, however, it is not thus deficient; for while it tells sinners of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, it informs them also of the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, and thus meets them in the broadest view of their aggravated guilt and moral impurity. In attempting to give a general view of the work of the Spirit, I remark in the first place, that,
I. The Holy Spirit is a distinct agent in the scheme of redemption.
The Scriptures represent each of the Divine persons in the Godhead as performing a distinct part in the work of redemption. The Father is spoken of as originating the plan of salvation; the Son as coming into the world in obedience to the Father, to offer the sacrificial atonement for sin which that plan required; and the Spirit, as acting in functionary subordination to the Son, as he does to the Father, to carry into full effect the great purposes of saving grace. The Father contrives—the Son executes—the Spirit applies: or, to use the phraseology that is often employed on this subject, all the blessings of salvation come from the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit.
The work which this Divine Agent performs consists in quickening the soul from spiritual death, and in effecting that great spiritual transformation of its views, principles, and dispositions, which is included in regeneration. Through the illumination he imparts he enables the soul to discern, in a clear and piercing light, its real character, and to perceive the glory and suitableness of the gospel;he excites a relish for the truth as it is in Jesus, and for the blessings which its salvation includes ;—he arouses the conscience, subdues the obstinacy of the will, and calls into exercise all the principles which unite in forming a holy character ;-he purifies the affections which were grovelling and depraved; and imparts strength, liberty, and comfort;—he induces new susceptibilities of impression; so that the soul takes its character from that mould of doctrine into which it is delivered, feels the ennobling influence of the means of grace, and is thus led forward, in a manner corresponding with its rational nature, to a preparation for the holy joys and employments of heaven. Such is the work of the Divine Spirit, which every man must experience, or be lost for ever. Had we but a deep sense of its necessity and importance, we could never read the inspired volume without imploring his illumination, never enter the house of God depending for all advantage on intellectual excitement and gratification, and never approach the throne of grace without earnestly supplicating his influence. That we have great encouragement to do this will appear if we consider, that,
II. The promise of the Divine Spirit to secure the grand purposes of redemption forms a prominent and interesting part of revelation.
Except the promise of a Saviour, there is not one more frequently repeated in the Scriptures than the promise of the Holy Spirit. In the first chapter of Proverbs, Jehovah says, in addressing scorners
who delight in scorning, and fools who hate knowledge, —“Turn ye at my reproof, I will pour out my Spirit unto you.” In succeeding times the same promise was often renewed with great emphasis of reiteration : “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 thine offspring. “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, 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 an 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. “ And it shall come to pass afterwards that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh," Joel ii. 28. “It is expedient for you 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. “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
God having given the promise of the Spirit, as the leading promise of the Christian dispensation, uniformly imparts his influences in connexion with the preaching of the gospel, and thereby accomplishes his purposes of grace. It is this circumstance which supplies ministers with the greatest encouragement to preach the gospel, and mankind with the most powerful inducement to attend it. The reasons which are often advanced to prevent the preaching of the gospel to the impenitent, and which are generally drawn from their moral indisposition to embrace it, which no reasoning can destroy, and their hardened rebellion, which no eloquence can soften and disarm,—are all swept away by the promise of the Holy Spirit to carry divine truth with triumphant energy to those who hear it. The word of God shall not return to him void : when it is faithfully preached, the Holy Spirit will make it the instrument of accomplishing the high purposes of redeeming mercy.
III. Every person who believes the gospel receives the Divine influence which it promises, and becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit, in which he habitually resides.
The apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, exhorted sinners to repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, and they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. And Paul, in addressing the Ephesians, speaks of them as being sealed by the Spirit on their believing in Christ; and of their receiving him then, in his gracious influences, as the earnest of the promised possession. When the Saviour promised the Spirit to his disciples, he said that he should dwell in them, and abide with them for ever. An inspired writer, describing the characteristic difference between a true Christian and a carnal and unrenewed man, employs a similar phraseology: “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his.” Every believer is called a temple, yet not a temple without a divinity. “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which
ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Here, indeed, the body is said to be his temple, to shew how the whole nature of a believer is brought under his influence. “He dwells in the body to restrain and subdue its corruptions, to maintain a gracious ascendency over the whole man, and to purify him, by his secret and powerful energies, from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.” Hence, Christian brethren, you will see the propriety, and I hope, feel the force, of those scriptural exhortations which require you to exercise a powerful and unceasing control over your appetites, as well as your passions ; to devote every member of the body, as well as every faculty of the mind, to the service of God; and to guard, with most jealous and vigilant care, against every thing which would grieve that Holy Spirit who has made you his temples. I have hastened to the fourth general observation on this subject, to which I invite your most serious attention, that,
IV. The happiness and usefulness of believers require them to seek a most copious effusion of the influences of the Spirit.
True happiness consists in the image and enjoyment of God. If we are pure in heart we shall see God: if we are spiritually-minded we shall have life and peace; but if, on the contrary, we become carnally-minded and ungodly, our peace and happiness will be destroyed. It is merely necessary to connect with this the fact that no holiness can be obtained but through the Holy Spirit, to perceive that our happiness requires us to seek his influences. We might as well expect to see the plains covered with verdure, and teeming with abundance, when neither rain nor dew descended upon them, as to find a soul spiritually prosperous and happy, on which Divine influences are not most copiously shed.
1. The Spirit promotes the happiness of believers by gradually advancing their sanctification.
Their perfect deliverance from the defilement of sin is a gradual work, effected by a great variety of moral means, whose efficiency
depends on the influence we are considering. The strong inbred corruptions over which every Christian mourns can be subdued by no influence but that which is divine. As these are overcome, the elements of misery are destroyed; and that kingdom is more firmly established which consists in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. If you wish, therefore, to be freed from these corruptions, and to enjoy that pure felicity which increases as they are weakened, and is perfected when they are destroyed, you must seek a copious effusion of Divine influence on the soul.
2. The Holy Spirit promotes the happiness of believers by making them increasingly the objects of Divine complacency.
God was well pleased with the work of his Son. The children of men once heard him proclaim his approbation of it from “the excellent glory;" but the eternal Father views, with a joy no less sublime,- with a satisfaction no less ineffable,—the work of his Spirit. It is with delight he sees that advancing in the souls of his once defiled and apostate children. He regards them with greater complacency as he sees them increasing in spiritual excellence, and reflecting back upon himself, with growing brightness, his own holy and lovely image.
There is nothing in man which God beholds with such complacent delight as the effects of his Spirit's operation on the heart. He sees all the creations of genius, all the stores of erudition, all the discoveries of scientific and philosophic minds, all the stupendous plans formed by minds of sublimest power for increasing the resources and perpetuating the glory of mightiest nations; but none of these can render a soul so much the object of his ineffable apprabotion as the deep humility, the pungent contrition, the ardent love, the strong faith, those earnest desires for his image and his smiles which are found in that soul, and in that alone in which the work of his Spirit is advancing. It is not the outward condition of men which determines the measure of Divine favour, and therefore of true happiness, which they enjoy : God looks at the soul; and though it should inhabit a body worn down by age, emaciated by disease, wasted by poverty and toil, yet if it be adorned with the graces of his Spirit, he will lift upon it the light of his countenance and bless it with the heaven of his smile. If then you wish to be happy in the enjoyment of Divine favour, you must seek the influences of the Spirit in their largest measure, to make you the worthy objects of it.
3. The Holy Spirit promotes the happiness of believers by preserving them from temptation, and habitually disposing them to seek communion with God.