THE GENERAL WAYS OF THE SAINTS' ACTING IN COMMUNION
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The general ways of the saints’ acting in communion with the Holy Ghost.
As in the account given of the acting of the Holy Ghost in us, we manifested first the general adjuncts of his acting, or the manner thereof; so now, in the description of the returns of our souls to him, I shall, in the first place, propose the general acting of faith in reference to this work of the Holy Ghost, and then descend unto particulars. Now, there are three general ways of the soul’s deportment in this communion, expressed all negatively in the Scripture, but all including positive duties. Now these are, — First, Not to grieve him. Secondly, Not to quench his motions.
Thirdly, Not to resist him.
There are three things considerable in the Holy Ghost: —
1. His person, as dwelling in us; 2. His acting by grace, or his motions; 3. His working in the ordinances of the word, and the sacraments; — all for the same end and purpose.
1. Not to grieve him, in respect of his person dwelling in us.
2. Not to quench him, in respect of the acting and motions of his grace.
3. Not to resist him, in respect of the ordinances of Christ, and his gifts for their administration. Now, because the whole general duty of believers, in their communion with the Holy Ghost, is comprised in these three things, I shall handle them severally: —
1. The first caution concerns his person immediately, as dwelling in us. It is given, Ephesians 4:30, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.” There is a complaint, Isaiah 63:10, of them who vexed or grieved the Spirit of God; and from thence does this caution seem to be taken. That it is the person of the Holy Ghost which is here intended, is evident, —
(1.) From the phrase, or manner of expression, with a double article, “To Pneuma to Hagion”, — “That Holy Spirit;” and also, —
(2.) From the work assigned to him in the following words, of “sealing to the day of redemption;” which, as has been manifested, is the work of the Holy Ghost. Now, whereas this may be understood of the Spirit in others, or in ourselves, it is evident that the apostle intends it in the latter sense, by his addition of that signal and eminent privilege which we ourselves enjoy by him: he seals us to the day of redemption.
Let us see, then, the tendency of this expression, as comprising the first general rule of our communion with the Holy Ghost, — “Grieve not the Spirit.”
The term of “grieving,” or affecting with sorrow, may be considered either actively, in respect of the persons grieving; or passively, in respect of the persons grieved. In the latter sense the expression is metaphorical. The Spirit cannot be grieved, or affected with sorrow; which infers alteration, disappointment, weakness, — all incompatible with his infinite perfections; yet men may actively do that which is fit and able to grieve any one that stands affected towards them as does the Holy Ghost. If he be not grieved, it is no thanks to us, but to his own unchangeable nature.
So that there are two things denoted in this expression: — First, That the Holy Ghost is affected towards us as one that is loving, careful, tender, concerned in our good and well-doing; and therefore upon our miscarriages is said to be grieved: as a good friend of a kind and loving nature is apt to be on the miscarriage of him whom he does affect. And this is that we are principally to regard in this caution, as the ground and foundation of it, — the love, kindness, and tenderness of the Holy Ghost unto us. “Grieve him not.”
Secondly, That we may do those things that are proper to grieve him, though he be not passively grieved; our sin being no less therein than if he were grieved as we are. Now, how this is done, how the Spirit is grieved, the apostle declareth in the contexture of that discourse, verses 21-24. He presseth to a progress in sanctification, and all the fruits of regeneration, verses 25-29. He dehorts from sundry particular evils that were contrary thereto, and then gives the general enforcement of the one and the other, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God;” that is, by coming short of that universal sanctification which our planting into Christ does require. The positive duty included in this caution, of not grieving the Holy Spirit, is this, — that we pursue universal holiness with regard unto, and upon the account of, the love, kindness, and tenderness, of the Holy Ghost. This is the foundation of our communion we have in general. When the soul considers the love, kindness, and tenderness of the Holy Ghost unto him; when he considers all the fruits and acts of his love and goodwill towards him; and on that account, and under that consideration, because he is so concerned in our ways and walkings, to abstain from evils, and to walk in all duties of holiness, — this is to have communion with him. This consideration, that the Holy Ghost, who is our comforter, is delighted with our obedience, grieved at our evils and follies, being made a continual motive to, and reason of, our close walking with God in all holiness, is, I say, the first general way of our communion with him.
Here let us fix a little. We lose both the power and pleasure of our obedience for want of this consideration. We see on what account the Holy Ghost undertakes to be our comforter, by what ways and means he performs that office towards us; what an unworthy thing it is to grieve him, who comes to us on purpose to give us consolation! Let the soul, in the whole course of its obedience, exercise itself by faith to thoughts hereof, and lay due weight upon it: “The Holy Ghost, in his infinite love and kindness towards me, has condescended to be my comforter; he does it willingly, freely, powerfully. What have I received from him! in the multitude of my perplexities how has he refreshed my soul! Can I live one day without his consolations? And shall I be regardless of him in that wherein he is concerned? Shall I grieve him by negligence, sin, and folly?
Shall not his love constrain me to walk before him to all well-pleasing?” So have we in general fellowship with him.
2. The second is that of 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Quench not the Spirit.”
There are various thoughts about the sense of these words. “The Spirit in others, that is, their spiritual gifts,” say some; but then it falls in with what follows, verse 20, “Despise not prophesying.” “The light that God has set up in our hearts,” say others; but where is that called absolutely “To Pneuma”, — “The Spirit?” It is the Holy Ghost himself that is here intended, not immediately, in respect of his person (in which regard he is said to be grieved, which is a personal affection); but in respect of his motions, acting, and operations. The Holy Ghost was typified by the fire that was always kept alive on the altar. He is also called a “Spirit of burning.” The reasons of that allusion are manifold; not now to be insisted on. Now, the opposition that is made to fire in its acting, is by quenching.
Hence the opposition made to the acting of the Holy Ghost are called “quenching of the Spirit,” as some kind of wet wood will do, when it is cast into the fire. Thence are we said, in pursuance of the same metaphor, “anadzoturein”, — to “stir up with new fire,” the gifts that are in us. The Holy Ghost is striving with us, acting in us, moving variously for our growth in grace, and bringing forth fruit meet for the principle he has endued us withal. “Take heed,” saith the apostle, “lest, by the power of your lusts and temptations, you attend not to his workings, but hinder him in his goodwill towards you; that is, what in you lies.”
This, then, is the second general rule for our communion with the Holy Ghost. It respects his gracious operations in us and by us. There are several and various ways whereby the Holy Ghost is said to act, exert, and put forth his power in us; partly by moving upon and stirring up the grace we have received; partly by new supplies of grace from Jesus Christ, falling in with occasions for their exercise, raising good motions immediately or occasionally within us; — all tending to our furtherance in obedience and walking with God. All these are we carefully to observe and take notice of, — consider the fountain whence they come, and the end which they lead us unto. Hence have we communion with the Holy Ghost, when we can consider him by faith as the immediate author of all supplies, assistance, and the whole relief we have by grace; of all good acting, risings, motions in our hearts; of all strivings and contending against sin.
When we consider, I say, all these his acting and workings in their tendency to our consolation, and on that account are careful and watchful to improve them all to the end aimed at, as coming from him who is so loving, and kind, and tender to us, we have communion with him.
This is that which is intended, — every gracious acting of the blessed Spirit in and towards our souls, is constantly by faith to be considered as coming from him in a peculiar manner; his mind, his goodwill is to be observed therein. Hence, care and diligence for the improvement of every motion of his will arise; thence reverence of his presence with us, with due spiritual regard to his holiness, does ensue, and our souls are wonted to intercourse with him.
3. The third caution concerns him and his work, in the dispensation of that great ordinance of the word. Stephen tells the Jews, Acts 7:51, that they “resisted the Holy Ghost.” How did they do it? Why, as their fathers did it: “As your fathers did, so do ye.” How did their fathers resist the Holy Ghost? Verse 52, “They persecuted the prophets, and slew them;” their opposition to the prophets in preaching the gospel, or their showing of the coming of the Just One, was their resisting of the Holy Ghost. Now, the Holy Ghost is said to be resisted in the contempt of the preaching of the word; because the gift of preaching of it is from him. “The manifestation of the Spirit is given to profit.” Hence, when our Savior promiseth the Spirit to his disciples, to be present with them for the conviction of the world, he tells them he will give them a mouth and wisdom, which their adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist, Luke 21:15; concerning which, in the accomplishment of it in Stephen, it is said that they “were not able to resist the Spirit by which he spake,” Acts 6:10. The Holy Ghost then setting up a ministry in the church, separating men thereto, furnishing them with gifts and abilities for the dispensation of the word; the not obeying of that word, opposing of it, not falling down before it, is called resisting of the Holy Ghost. This, in the examples of the wickedness of others, are we cautioned against. And this inwraps the third general rule of our communion with the Holy Ghost: — in the dispensation of the word of the gospel, the authority, wisdom, and goodness of the Holy Ghost, in furnishing men with gifts for that end and purpose, and his presence with them, as to the virtue thereof, is to be eyed, and subjection given unto it on that account. On this reason, I say, on this ground, is obedience to be yielded to the word, in the ministerial dispensation thereof — because the Holy Ghost, and he alone, does furnish with gifts to that end and purpose. When this consideration causeth us to fall low before the word, then have we communion with the Holy Ghost in that ordinance.
But this is commonly spoken unto.