SOME OBSERVATIONS FROM DISCOURSES CONCERNING THE SPIRIT
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Some observations and inferences from discourses foregoing concerning the Spirit — The contempt of the whole administration of the Spirit by some — The vain pretense of the Spirit by others — The false spirit discovered.
This process being made, I should now show immediately, how we hold the communion proposed with the Holy Ghost, in the things laid down and manifested to contain his peculiar work towards us; but there are some miscarriages in the world in reference unto this dispensation of the Holy Ghost, both on the one hand and the other, in contempt of his true work and pretense of that which is not, that I cannot but remark in my passage: which to do shall be the business of this chapter.
Take a view, then, of the state and condition of them who, professing to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, do yet condemn and despise his Spirit, as to all its operations, gifts, graces, and dispensations to his churches and saints. Whilst Christ was in the world with his disciples, he made them no greater promise, neither in respect of their own good nor of carrying on the work which he had committed to them, than this of giving them the Holy Ghost. Him he instructeth them to pray for of the Father, as that which is needful for them, as bread for children, Luke 11:13. Him he promiseth them, as a well of water springing up in them, for their refreshment, strengthening, and consolation unto everlasting life, John 7:37-39; as also to carry on and accomplish the whole work of the ministry to them committed, John 16:8-11; with all those eminent works and privileges before mentioned. And upon his ascension, this is laid as the bottom of that glorious communication of gifts and graces in his plentiful effusion mentioned, Ephesians 4:8,11,12, — namely, that he had received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, Act 2:33; and that in such an eminent manner as thereby to make the greatest and most glorious difference between the administration of the new covenant and old.
Especially does the whole work of the ministry relate to the Holy Ghost; though that be not my present business to evince. He calls men to that work, and they are separated unto him, Acts 13:2; he furnisheth them with gifts and abilities for that employment, 1 Corinthians 12:7-10. So that the whole religion we profess, without this administration of the Spirit, is nothing; nor is there any fruit without it of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
This being the state of things, — that in our worship of and obedience to God, in our own consolation, sanctification, and ministerial employment, the Spirit is the principle, the life, soul, the all of the whole; yet so desperate has been the malice of Satan, and wickedness of men, that their great endeavor has been to shut him quite out of all gospel administrations.
First, his gifts and graces were not only decried, but almost excluded from the public worship of the church, by the imposition of an operose form of service, to be read by the minister; which to do is neither a peculiar gift of the Holy Ghost to any, nor of the ministry at all. It is marvelous to consider what pleas and pretenses were invented and used by learned men, — from its antiquity, its composure and approbation by martyrs, the beauty of uniformity in the worship of God, established and pressed thereby, etc., — for the defense and maintenance of it. But the main argument they insisted on, and the chief field wherein they expatiated and laid out all their eloquence, was the vain babbling repetitions and folly of men praying by the Spirit. When once this was fallen upon, all (at least as they supposed) was carried away before them, and their adversaries rendered sufficiently ridiculous: so great is the cunning of Satan, and so unsearchable are the follies of the hearts of men. The sum of all these seasonings amounts to no more but this, — “Though the Lord Jesus Christ has promised the Holy Ghost to be with his church to the end of the world, to fit and furnish men with gifts and abilities for the carrying on of that worship which he requires and accepteth at our hands, yet the work is not done to the purpose; the gifts he bestows are not sufficient to that end, neither as to invocation nor doctrine: and, therefore, we will not only help men by our directions, but exclude them from their exercise.”
This; I say, was the sum of all, as I could undeniably evidence, were that my present business, what innumerable evils ensue on this principle, in a formal setting apart of men to the ministry who had never once “tasted of the powers of the world to come,” nor received any gifts from the Holy Ghost to that purpose; of crying up and growing in an outside pompous worship, wholly foreign to the power and simplicity of the gospel; of silencing, destroying, banishing, men whose ministry was accompanied with the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit, — I shall not need to declare. This is that I aim at, to point out the public contempt of the Holy Ghost, his gifts and graces, with their administration in the church of God, that has been found even where the gospel has been professed.
Again: it is a thing of most sad consideration, once to call to mind the improvement of that principle of contempt of the Spirit in private men and their ways. The name of the Spirit was grown a term of reproach. To plead for, or pretend to pray by, the Spirit, was enough to render a man the object of scorn and reproach from all sorts of men, from the pulpit to the stage. “What! you are full of the Spirit; you will pray by the Spirit; you have the gift: let us hear your nonsense;” — and yet, perhaps, these men would think themselves wronged not to be accounted Christians.
Christians! yea, have not some pretending themselves to be leaders of the flock, — yea, mounted a story or two above their brethren, and claiming a rule and government over them, — made it their business to scoff at and reproach the gifts of the Spirit of God? And if this were the frame of their spirit, what might be expected from others of professed profaneness? It is not imaginable to what height of blasphemy the process in this kind amounted. The Lord grant there be nothing of this cursed leaven still remaining amongst us! Some bleatings of ill importance are sometimes heard. Is this the fellowship of the Holy Ghost that believers are called unto? Is this the due entertainment of him whom our Savior promised to send for the supply of his bodily absence, so as we might be no losers thereby? Is it not enough that men should be contented with such a stupid blindness, as, being called Christians, to look no farther for their comfort and consolation than moral considerations common to heathens would lead them, when one infinitely holy and blessed person of the Trinity has taken this office upon him to be our comforter, but they must oppose and despise him also? Nothing more discovers how few there are in the world that have interest in that blessed name whereby we are all called. But this is no place to pursue this discourse. The aim of this discourse is, to evince the folly and madness of men in general, who profess to own the gospel of Christ, and yet condemn and despise his Spirit, in whomsoever he is manifested. Let us be zealous of the gifts of the Spirit, not envious at them.
From what has been discoursed we may also try the spirits that are gone abroad in the world, and which have been exercising themselves, at several seasons, ever since the ascension of Christ. The iniquity of the generation that is past and passing away lay in open, cursed opposition to the Holy Ghost. God has been above them, wherein they behaved themselves presumptuously. Satan, whose design, as he is God of this world, is to be uppermost, not to dwell wholly in any form cast down by the providence of God, has now transformed himself into an angel of light; and he will pretend the Spirit also and only. But there are “seducing spirits,” Timothy 4:l; and we have a “command not to believe every spirit, but try the spirits,” 1 John 4:1; and the reason added is, “Because many false prophets are gone out into the world;” — that is, men pretending to the revelation of new doctrines by the Spirit; whose deceits in the first church Paul intimateth, 2 Thessalonians 2:2; calling on men not to be “shaken in mind by spirit.” The truth is, the spirits of these days are so gross, that a man of a very easy discerning may find them out and yet their delusion so strong, that not a few are deceived. This is one thing that lies evident to every eye, — that, according to his wonted course, Satan, with his delusions, is run into an extreme to his former acting.
Not long since, his great design, as I manifested, was to cry up ordinances without the Spirit, casting all the reproach that he could upon him; — now, to cry up a spirit without and against ordinances, casting all reproach and contempt possible upon them. Then, he would have a ministry without the Spirit; — now, a Spirit without a ministry. Then, the reading of the word might suffice, without either preaching or praying by the Spirit, — now, the Spirit is enough, without reading or studying the word at all. Then, he allowed a literal embracing of what Christ had done in the flesh; — now, he talks of Christ in the Spirit only, and denies him to be come in the flesh, — the proper character of the false spirit we are warned of, 1 John 4:1. Now, because it is most certain that the Spirit which we are to hear and embrace is the Spirit promised by Christ (which is so clear, that him the Montanists’ paraclete, yea, and Mohammed, pretended himself to be, and those of our days affirm, who pretend the same), let us briefly try them by some of the effects mentioned, which Christ has promised to give the Holy Ghost for: — The first general effect, as was observed, was this, — that he should bring to remembrance the things that Christ spake, for our guidance and consolation. This was to he the work of the Holy Ghost towards the apostles, who were to be the penmen of the Scriptures: this is to be his work towards believers to the end of the world. Now, the things that Christ has spoken and done are “written that we might believe, and believing, halve life through his name,” John 20:31; they are written in the Scripture. This, then, is the work of the Spirit which Christ has promised; — he shall bring to our remembrance, and give us understanding of the words of Christ in the Scripture, for our guidance and consolation. Is this, now, the work of the spirit which is abroad in the world, and perverteth many? Nothing less. His business is, to decry the things that Christ has spoken which are written in the word; to pretend new revelations of his own; to lead men from the written word, wherein the whole work of God and all the promises of Christ are recorded.
Again: the work of the Spirit promised by Christ is to glorify him: “He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you,” John 16:14. Him who was to suffer at Jerusalem, who then spake to his disciples, it was to make him glorious, honorable, and of high esteem in the hearts of believers; and that by showing his things (his love, kindness, grace, and purchase) unto them. This is the work of the Spirit. The work of the spirit that is gone abroad, is to glorify itself, to decry and render contemptible Christ that suffered for us, under the name of a Christ without us; which it slights and despiseth, and that professedly. Its own glory, its own honor, is all that it aims at; wholly inverting the order of the divine dispensations. The fountain of all being and lying in the Father’s love, the Son came to glorify the Father. He still says, “I seek not mine own glory, but the glory of him that sent me.” The Son having carried on the work of redemption, was now to be glorified with the Father. So he prays that it might be, John 17:1, “The hour is come, glorify thy Son;” and that with the glory which he had before the world was, when his joint counsel was in the carrying on the Father’s love. Wherefore the Holy Ghost is sent, and his work is to glorify the Son. But now, as I said, we have a spirit come forth whose whole business is to glorify himself; whereby we may easily know whence he is.
Furthermore: the Holy Ghost sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts, as was declared, and thence fills them with joy, peace, and hope; quieting and refreshing the hearts of them in whom he dwells; giving them liberty and rest, confidence, and the boldness of children. This spirit whereof men now boast is a spirit of bondage, whose utmost work is to make men quake and tremble; casting them into an un-son-like frame of spirit, driving them up and down with horror and bondage, and drinking up their very natural spirits, and making their whole man wither away. There is scarce any one thing that more evidently manifesteth the spirit whereby some are now acted not to be the Comforter promised by Christ, than this, — that he is a spirit of bondage and slavery in them in whom he is, and a spirit of cruelty and reproach towards others; in a direct opposition to the Holy Ghost in believers, and all the ends and purposes for which, as a spirit of adoption and consolation, he is bestowed on them.
To give one instance more: the Holy Ghost bestowed on believers is a Spirit of prayer and supplication; as was manifested. The spirit wherewith we have to do, pretends the carrying men above such low and contemptible means of communion with God. In a word, it were a very easy and facile task, to pass through all of the eminent effects of the Holy Ghost in and towards believers, and to manifest that the pretending spirit of our days comes in a direct opposition and contradiction to every one of them. Thus has Satan passed from one extreme to another, — from a bitter, wretched opposition to the Spirit of Christ, unto a cursed pretending to the Spirit; still to the same end and purpose.
I might give sundry other instances of the contempt or abuse of the dispensation of the Spirit. Those mentioned are the extremes whereunto all other are or may be reduced; and I will not farther divert from that which lies directly in my aim.