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PNEUMATOLOGIA OR A DISCOURSE CONCERNING THE HOLY SPIRIT
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WHEREIN AN ACCOUNT IS GIVEN OF HIS NAME, NATURE, PERSONALITY, DISPENSATION, OPERATIONS, AND EFFECTS; HIS WHOLE WORK IN THE OLD AND NEW CREATION IS EXPLAINED; THE DOCTRINE CONCERNING IT VINDICATED FROM OPPOSITIONS AND REPROACHES.
THE NATURE ALSO AND NECESSITY OF GOSPEL HOLINESS; THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRACE AND MORALITY, OR A SPIRITUAL LIFE UNTO GOD IN EVANGELICAL OBEDIENCE AND A COURSE OF MORAL VII1TUES, ARE STATED AND DECLARED. Search the Scriptures, etc. — JOHN 5:89.
Ek tw~n qei>wn grafa~n qeologou~men ka\n qe>lwsin oiJ ejcqroi< ka\n mh> — CHRYSOSTOM LONDON: 1674.
THE year 1674 saw issuing from the press some of the most elaborate productions of our author. Besides his own share in the Communion controversy, he published in the course of that year the second volume of his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and another folio of equal extent and importance, the first part of his work on the Holy Spirit; for what is generally known under the title of “Owen on the Holy Spirit,” is but the first half of a treatise on that subject. The treatise was completed in successive publications: — “The Reason of Faith,” in 1677; “The Causes, Ways, and Means of Understanding the Mind of God,” etc., in 1678; “The Work of the Holy Spirit in Prayer,” in 1682; and, in 1693, two posthumous discourses appeared, “On the Work of the Spirit as a Comforter, and as he is the Author of Spiritual Gifts.” From the statements of Owen himself, in various parts of these works, as well as on the authority of Nathaniel Mather, who wrote the preface to the last of them, we learn that they were all included in one design, and must be regarded as one entire and uniform work. In Owen’s preface to the “Reason of Faith,” he expressly states, “About three years since I published a book about the dispensation and operations of the Spirit of God. That book was one part only of what I designed on that subject. The consideration of the work of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of illumination, of supplication, of consolation, and as the immediate author of all spiritual offices and gifts, extraordinary and ordinary, is designed unto the second part of it.” Uncertain, as he advanced in years, whether he should be spared to finish it, Owen was induced to issue separately the treatises belonging to the second part, according as he was able, under the pressure of other duties, to overtake the preparation and completion of them. They are now for the first time collected, and arranged into the order which, it is believed, the author would have made them assume, had he lived to publish an edition comprehending all his treatises on the Holy Spirit in the form and under the title of one work. No other liberty, however, is taken with the treatises than simply to number the four of them which were published separately, and which are contained in the next volume, as so many additional books, continuing and completing the discussion of the subject which had been begun and so far prosecuted in the five previous books embraced in this volume. To all of them the general designation PNEUMATOLOGIA is equally applicable. Thus arranged and seen in its full proportions, the work amply vindicates the commendation bestowed on it, as the most complete exhibition of the doctrine of Scripture on the person and agency of the Spirit “to be found in any language.” As no author had previously attempted to treat “of the whole economy of the Holy Spirit, with all his adjuncts, operations, and effects,” Owen urges the circumstance in extenuation of any want of system and lucid order in his work. If such an attempt had never previously been made, it is equally true that no successor has been found in this walk of theology who has ventured to compete with Owen in the fall and systematic discussion of this great theme. Treatises of eminent ability and value have appeared on separate departments of it; but in the wide range embraced in this work of Owen, as well as in the power, depth, and resources conspicuous in every chapter, it is not merely first, but single and alone in all our religious literature.
The work, as we may gather from various allusions in it, was written in opposition to the rationalism of the early Socinians, especially as represented by Crellius; to the mysticism of the Quakers, a sect which had grown into notoriety within thirty years before the publication of this work; and to the irreligion of a time when the derision of all true piety was the passport to royal favor. That, during the religious fervors of the commonwealth, fanaticism of various kinds should appear, is no more strange than that when genuine coin is in circulation, attempts should be made to utter what is counterfeit and base. Against such fanaticism it was natural that a reaction should ensue, and certain divines pandered to the blind prejudice of the times succeeding the Restoration, by sarcastic invective against all that was evangelical in the creed of the Puritans and vital in personal godliness. Samuel Parker, in his infamous subserviency to the malice of the Court against dissent, and even against the common interests of Protestantism, distinguished himself in this assault upon the doctrines of grace and the distinctive principles of the Christian faith.
Owen accordingly administers to him a rebuke in terms as severe as the calm dignity of his temper ever allowed him to employ in controversy; but the prominent aim in his whole work is to discriminate the gracious operations of the Spirit in the hearts of believers from the excesses of fanaticism on the one hand, whether as it appeared in the ruder sects of the age, or in the more genial mysticism of the Quaker, elevating his subjective experience of a spiritual light to co-ordinate authority with the objective revelation of God in the word; and, on the other hand, from the morality which, springing from no gracious principle, scarcely brooked an appeal to the only divine code for the regulation of human conduct.
This comprehensive treatise abounds in more than Owen’s usual prolixity; — a feature of the work which may, perhaps, be explained by the consciousness under which the author seems always to labor that he is prosecuting an argument with opponents, rather than dealing with the conscience in a treatise on practical religion. He moves heavily, as if he were panoplied for conflict rather than girt for useful work. As he proceeds, however, the interest deepens; weighty questions receive clear elucidation; practical difficulties are judiciously resolved; and momentous distinctions, such as those between gospel holiness and common morality, and between natural and moral inability, are skillfully given. Indeed, many points which he brings out with sufficient precision, when stripped of the wordiness which encumbers them, are found to be identical with certain modes in the presentation of divine truth which have been deemed the discoveries and improvements of a later theology. No work of the author supplies better evidence of his pre-eminent skill in what may be termed spiritual ethics, — in tracing the effect of religious truth on the conscience, and the varied phases of human feeling as modified by divine grace and tested by the divine word; and his reasonings would have been reputed highly philosophical if they had not been so very scriptural.
It is in reference to the following work that Cecil, an acute and rather severe judge of books and authors, has observed, “Owen stands at the head of his class of divines. His scholars will be more profound and enlarged, and better furnished, than those of most other writers. His work on the Spirit has been my treasure-house, and one of my very first-rate books.” A good abridgment of it by the Reverend G. Burder has appeared in more than one edition.
In 1678, Dr. Clagett, preacher to the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, and one of his Majesty’s chaplains in ordinary, in “A Discourse concerning the Operation of the Holy Spirit,” etc., attempted “a confutation of some part of Dr. Owen’s work on that subject.” Mr. John Humfrey, in his “Peaceable Disquisitions,” having animadverted on the spirit in which Clagett had dealt with Owen, Clagett published another volume, and promised a third on the opinions of the Fathers respecting the points at issue. The manuscript of this last volume was lost in a fire which consumed the house of a friend with whom it had been lodged. Henry Stebbing published, in 1719, an abridgment of the first two volumes. The principles of the work are not evangelical; a tone of cold pedantry pervades it; and the author seems as much influenced by a desire to differ from Owen as to discover the truth in regard to the points on which they differed.
TheFIRST BOOK of the treatise is devoted to considerations of a general and preliminary nature. The promise of spiritual gifts contained in Scripture is examined; and occasion is hence taken to illustrate the importance of sound views on the doctrine of the Spirit, from the place it holds in Scripture; from the abuses practiced under his name; from certain pretenses that were urged to inward light, inconsistent with the claims of the Spirit of God; from many dangerous opinions which had become prevalent respecting his work and influence; and from the opposition directly offered to the Spirit and his work in the world, chap. 1. The name and titles of the Holy Spirit are next considered, 2. The evidence of his divine nature and personality follows, from the formula of our initiation into the covenant, Matthew 28:19; from the visible sign of his personal existence, Matthew 3:16; from the personal properties ascribed to him; from the personal acts he performs; and from those acts towards him on the part of men which imply his personality. A short proof of his Godhead, from the divine names he receives, and the divine properties ascribed to him, is appended to the argument in illustration of his personality, 3. The work of the Spirit in the old creation, in reference to the heavens, to the earth, to man, and to the continued sustentation of the universe, is fully explained, 4. The dispensation of the Spirit is illustrated in reference to the Father as giving, sending him, etc., and in reference to his own voluntary and personal agency as proceeding, coming, etc., v.
In theSECOND BOOK, the peculiar operations of the Holy Spirit under the old testament, and in preparation for the new, are considered, such as prophecy, inspiration, miracles, and other gifts,1. The importance of the Holy Spirit in the new creation is proved by the fact that he is the subject of the great promise in sacred Scripture respecting new testament times, 2.
As it bore on himself, in framing his human nature,3.; sanctifying it in the instant of conception, filling it with the needful grace, anointing it with extraordinary gifts, conveying to it miraculous powers, guiding, comforting, and supporting Christ, enabling him to offer himself without spot unto God, preserving his human nature in the state of the dead, raising it from the grave, and finally glorifying it; and, 2. As he secures, throughout successive ages, a sound and explicit testimony to the person and work of Christ,4. General considerations are urged regarding the work of the Spirit in the new creation, as it relates to the mystical body of Christ, — all believers,5.
TheTHIRD BOOK is occupied with the subject of regeneration as the especial work of the Spirit; it is shown not to consist in baptism merely, or external reformation, or enthusiastic raptures, 1. The operations of the Spirit preparatory to regeneration are exhibited, such as illumination, conviction, etc., 2. Two important chapters of a digressive character follow, in which the condition of man by nature is stated, as spiritually blind and impotent, 3. and as spiritually dead, 4. The true nature of regeneration is next illustrated, — first negatively, under which head it is proved not to consist in any result of moral suasion, moral suasion being defined, and the extent of its efficacy being fixed.
No change which it can effect can be viewed as tantamount to regeneration, because, — 1. It leaves the will undetermined; 2. Imparts no supernatural strength; 3. Is not all we pray for when we pray for efficient grace; 4. And does not actually produce regeneration or conversion.
Regeneration is then considered positivel y, as implying all the moral operation which means can effect, and not only a moral but a physical immediate operation of the Spirit, and the irresistibility of this internal efficiency on the minds of men. After explanations to the effect that the Holy Ghost in regeneration acts according to our mental nature, does not act upon us by an influence such as inspiration, and offers no violence to the will, three arguments in support of this view of regeneration are given, — from the collation of faith by the power of God, from the victorious efficacy of internal grace as attested by Scripture, and from the nature of the work itself as described in various terms of Scripture, “quickening,” “regeneration,” etc., and also from the terms in which the effect of grace on the different faculties of the soul is represented, 5. The manner of conversion is then explained in the instance of Augustine, the account by that eminent father of his own conversion being selected to illustrate both the outward means of conversion, and the various degrees and effects of spiritual influence on the human mind,6.
TheFOURTH BOOK discusses the doctrine of sanctification, which is exhibited as the process completing what the act of regeneration has begun.
A general view is then given of the nature of sanctification, as consisting, 1. In external dedication; and, 2. In internal purification, 1. Its progressive character is unfolded, 2. and that it is a gracious process, extending to believers only, is proved,3. Sanctification, so far as it relates to the removal of spiritual defilement, is illustrated; and that man cannot purge himself from his natural pravity is proved,4. It is shown how the Spirit and blood of Christ are effectual to the purgation of the heart and conscience, the Spirit efficaciously, the blood of Christ meritoriously, faith as the instrumental cause, and afflictions as a subordinate instrumentality, 5. The positive work of sanctification follows, embracing evidence of two propositions: 1. That the Spirit implants a supernatural habit and principle enabling believers to obey the divine will, and differing from all natural habits, intellectual or moral; and, 2. That grace is requisite for every act of acceptable obedience. Under the first proposition four things are considered, — the reality of the principle asserted; its nature in inclining the will; the power as well as the inclination it imparts; and, lastly, its specific difference from all other habits,6. Under the second proposition the acts and duties of holiness are reviewed, and proof supplied of the necessity of grace for them, 7. The nature of the mortification of sin, as a special part of sanctification, is considered; directions for this spiritual exercise are given; particular means for the mortification of sin are specified; and certain errors respecting this duty corrected, 8.
TheFIFTH BOOK simply contains arguments for the necessity of holiness, — from the nature of God,1. from eternal election,2.; from the divine commands, 3.; from the mission of Christ,4.; and from our condition in this world,5.— ED.
TO THE READERS.
AN account in general of the nature and design of the ensuing discourse, with the reasons why it is made public at this time, being given in the first chapter of the treatise itself, I shall not long detain the readers here at the entrance of it. But some few things it is necessary they should be acquainted withal, and that both as to the matter contained in it and as to the manner of its handling. The subject-matter of the whole, as the title and almost every page of the book declare, is, the Holy Spirit of God and his operations. And two things there are which, either of them, are sufficient to render any subject either difficult on the one hand, or unpleasant on the other, to be treated of in this way, both which we have herein to conflict withal: for where the matter itself is abstruse and mysterious, the handling of it cannot be without its difficulties; and where it is fallen, by any means whatever, under public contempt and scorn, there is an abatement of satisfaction in the consideration and defense of it.
Now, all the concernments of the Holy Spirit are an eminent part of the “mystery” or “deep things of God;” for as the knowledge of them doth wholly depend on and is regulated by divine revelation, so are they in their own nature divine and heavenly, — distant and remote from all things that the heart of man, in the mere exercise of its own reason or understanding, can rise up unto. But yet, on the other hand, there is nothing in the world that is more generally despised as foolish and contemptible than the things that are spoken of and ascribed unto the Spirit of God. He needs no furtherance in the forfeiture of his reputation with many, as a person fanatical, estranged from the conduct of reason, and all generous principles of conversation, who dares avow an interest in His work, or take upon him the defense thereof. Wherefore, these things must be a little spoken unto, if only to manifest whence relief may be had against the discouragements wherewith they are attended.
For the first thing proposed, it must be granted that the things here treated of are in themselves mysterious and abstruse. But yet, the way whereby we may endeavor an acquaintance with them, “according to the measure of the gift of Christ unto every one,” is made plain in the Scriptures of truth.
If this way be neglected or despised, all other ways of attempting the same end, be they never so vigorous or promising, will prove ineffectual. What belongs unto it as to the inward frame and disposition of mind in them who search after understanding in these things, what unto the outward use of means, what unto the performance of spiritual duties, what unto conformity in the whole soul unto each discovery of truth that is attained, is not my present work to declare, nor shall I divert thereunto. If God give an opportunity to treat concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to understand the Scriptures, or the mind of God in them, the whole of this way will be at large declared.
At present, it may suffice to observe, that God, who in himself is the eternal original spring and fountain of all truth, is also the only sovereign cause and author of its revelation unto us. And whereas that truth, which originally is one in him, is of various sorts and kinds, according to the variety of the things which it respects in its communication unto us, the ways and means of that communication are suited unto the distinct nature of each truth in particular. So the truth of things natural is made known from God by the exercise of reason, or the due application of the understanding that is in man unto their investigation; for “the things of a man knoweth the spirit of a man that is in him.” Neither, ordinarily, is there anything more required unto that degree of certainty of knowledge in things of that nature whereof our minds are capable, but the diligent application of the faculties of our souls, in the due use of proper means, unto the attainment thereof. Yet is there a secret work of the Spirit of God herein, even in the communication of skill and ability in things natural, as also in things civil, moral, political, and artificial; as in our ensuing discourse is fully manifested. But whereas these things belong unto the work of the old creation and the preservation thereof, or the rule and government of mankind in this world merely as rational creatures, there is no use of means, no communication of aids, spiritual or supernatural, absolutely necessary to be exercised or granted about them. Wherefore, knowledge and wisdom in things of this nature are distributed promiscuously among all sorts of persons, according to the foundation of their natural abilities, and a superstruction thereon in their diligent exercise, without any peculiar application to God for especial grace or assistance, reserving still a liberty unto the sovereignty of divine Providence in the disposal of all men and their concerns.
But as to things supernatural, the knowledge and truth of them, the teachings of God are of another nature; and, in like manner, a peculiar application of ourselves unto him for instruction is required of us. In these things also there are degrees, according as they approach, on the one hand, unto the infinite abyss of the divine essence and existence, — as the eternal generation and incarnation of the Son, the procession and mission of the Holy Spirit, — or, on the other, unto those divine effects which are produced in our souls, whereof we have experience. According unto these degrees, as the divine condescension is exerted in their revelation, so ought our attention, in the exercise of faith, humility, and prayer, to be increased in our inquiries into them. For although all that diligence, in the use of outward means, necessary to the attainment of the knowledge of any other useful truth, be indispensably required in the pursuit of an acquaintance with these things also, yet if, moreover, there be not an addition of spiritual ways and means, suited in their own nature, and appointed of God, unto the receiving of supernatural light and the understanding of the deep things of God, our labor about them will in a great measure be but fruitless and unprofitable: for although the letter of the Scripture and the sense of the propositions are equally exposed to the reason of all mankind, yet the real spiritual knowledge of the things themselves is not communicated unto any but by the especial operation of the Holy Spirit.
Nor is any considerable degree of insight into the doctrine of the mysteries of them attainable but by a due waiting on Him who alone giveth “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of them;” for “the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God,” and they to whom by him they are revealed. Neither can the Scriptures be interpreted aright but by the aid of that Spirit by which they were indited; as Hierom affirms, and as I shall afterward fully prove. But in the use of the means mentioned we need not despond but that, seeing these things themselves are revealed that we may know God in a due manner and live unto him as we ought, we may attain such a measure of spiritual understanding in them as is useful unto our own and others’ edification. They may, I say, do so who are not slothful in hearing or learning, but “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
Wherefore, the subject of the ensuing discourses being entirely things of this nature, in their several degrees of access unto God or ourselves, I shall give no account of any particular endeavors in my inquiries into them, but leave the judgment thereof unto the evidence of the effects produced thereby: only, whereas I know not any who ever went before me in this design of representing the whole economy of the Holy Spirit, with all his adjuncts, operations, and effects, whereof this is the first part (the attempt of Crellius in this kind being only to corrupt the truth in some few instances), as the difficulty of my work was increased thereby, so it may plead my excuse if anything be found not to answer so regular a projection or just a method as the nature of the subject requireth and as was aimed at.
In the first part of the whole work, which concerneth the name, divine nature, personality, and mission of the Holy Spirit, I do but declare and defend the faith of the catholic church against the Socinians; with what advantage, with what contribution of light or evidence, strength or order, unto what hath been pleaded before by others, is left unto the learned readers to judge and determine. And in what concerns the adjuncts and properties of His mission and operation, some may, and I hope do, judge themselves not unbeholden unto me for administering an occasion unto them of deeper and better thoughts about them.
The second part of our endeavor concerneth the work of the Holy Spirit in the old creation, both in its production, preservation, and rule. And whereas I had not therein the advantage of any one ancient or modern author to beat out the paths of truth before me, I have confined myself to express testimonies of Scripture, with such expositions of them as sufficientiy evidence their own truth; though also they want not such a suffrage from others as may give them the reputation of some authority.
The like may be said of what succeeds in the next place, concerning His work under the New Testament, preparatory for the new creation, in the communication of all sorts of gifts, ordinary and extraordinary, all kind of skill and ability in things spiritual, natural, moral, artificial, and political, with the instances whereby these operations of this are confirmed. All these things, many whereof are handled by others separately and apart, are here proposed in their order with respect unto their proper end and design.
For what concerns His work on the head of the new creation, or the human nature in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have been careful to keep severely under the bounds of sobriety, and not to indulge unto any curious or unwarrantable speculations. I have, therefore, therein not only diligently attended unto the doctrine of the Scripture, our only infallible rule and guide, but also expressly considered what was taught and believed in the ancient church in this matter, from which I know that I have not departed.
More I shall not add as to the first difficulty wherewith an endeavor of this kind is attended, arising from the nature of the subject treated of. The other, concerning the contempt that is cast by many on all these things, must yet be farther spoken unto.
In all the dispensations of God towards his people under the Old Testament, there was nothing of good communicated unto them, nothing of worth or excellency wrought in them or by them, but it is expressly assigned unto the Holy Spirit as the author and cause of it. But yet, of all the promises given unto them concerning a better and more glorious state of the church to be afterward introduced, next unto that of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, those are the most eminent which concern an enlargement and more full communication of the Spirit, beyond what they were or could in their imperfect state be made partakers of. Accordingly, we find in the New Testament, that whatever concerns the conversion of the elect, the edification of the church, the sanctification and consolation of believers, the performance of those duties of obedience which we owe unto God, with our conduct in all the ways thereof, is, in general and particular instances, so appropriated unto him, as that it is withal declared that nothing of it in any kind can be enjoyed or performed without his especial operation, aid, and assistance; so careful was God fully to instruct and to secure the faith of the church in this matter, according as he knew its eternal concernments to lie therein. Yet, notwithstanding all the evidence given hereunto, the church of God in most ages hath been exercised with oppositions either to his person, or his work, or the manner of it, contrary unto what is promised and declared concerning them in the word of truth; nor doth it yet cease so to be. Yea, though the contradictions of some in former ages have been fierce and clamorous, yet all that hath fallen out of that kind hath been exceeding short of what is come to pass in the days wherein we live; for, not to mention the Socinians, who have gathered into one head, or rather ulcerous imposthume, all the virulent oppositions made unto His deity or grace by the Photinians, Macedonians, and Pelagiaus of old, there are others, who, professing no enmity unto his divine person, yea, admitting and owning the doctrine of the church concerning it, are yet ready on all occasions to despise and reproach that whole work for which he was promised under the Old Testament, and which is expressly assigned unto him in the New.
Hence is it grown amongst many a matter of reproach and scorn for any one to make mention of his grace, or to profess an interest in that work of his, as his, without which no man shall see God, if the Scripture be a faithful testimony; and some have taken pains to prove that sundry things which are expressly assigned unto him in the gospel as effects of his power and grace are only filthy enthusiasms, or at least weak imaginations of distempered minds. Neither is there any end of calumnious imputations on them by whom his work is avowed and his grace professed. Yea, the deportment of many herein is such as that, if it were not known how effectual the efforts of profaneness are upon the corrupted minds of men, it would rather seem ridiculous and [to] be despised than to deserve any serious notice: for let any avow or plead for the known work of the Spirit of God, and it is immediately apprehended a sufficient ground to charge them with leaving the rule of the word to attend unto revelations and inspirations, as also to forego all thoughts of the necessity of the duties of obedience; whereas no other work of his is pleaded for, but that only without which no man can either attend unto the rule of the Scripture as he ought, or perform any one duty of obedience unto God in a due manner.
And there are none of this conspiracy so weak or unlearned but are able to scoff at the mention of him, and to cast the very naming of him on others as a reproach. Yea, it is well if some begin not to deal in like manner with the person of Christ himself; for error and profaneness, if once countenanced, are at all times fruitful and progressive, and will be so whilst, darkness and corruption abiding on the minds of men, the great adversary is able, by his subtle malice, to make impressions on them. But in these things not a few do please themselves, despise others, and would count themselves injured if their Christianity should be called in question.
But what value is there in that name or title, where the whole mystery of the gospel is excluded out of our religion? Take away the dispensation of the Spirit, and his effectual operations in all the intercourse that is between God and man; be ashamed to avow or profess the work attributed unto him in the gospel, — and Christianity is plucked up by the roots. Yea, this practical contempt of the work of the Holy Spirit being grown the only plausible defiance of religion, is so also to be the most pernicious, beyond all notional mistakes and errors about the same things, being constantly accompanied with profaneness, and commonly issuing in atheism.
The sense I intend is fully expressed in the ensuing complaint of a learned person, published many years ago: “In seculo hodie tam Perverso prorsus immersi vivinus miseri, in quo Spiritus Sanctus omnino ferme pro ludibrio habetur: imo in quo etiam sunt qui non tantum corde toto eum repudient ut factis negent, sed quoque adeo blasphemi in eum exsurgant ut penitus eundem ex orbe expulsum aut exulatum cupiant, quum illi nullam in operationibus suis relinquant efficaciam; ac propriis vanorum habituum suorum viribus, ac rationis profanae libertati carnalitatique suae omnem ascribant sapientiam, et fortitudinem in rebus agendis. Unde tanta malignitas externae proterviae apud mortales cernitur. Ideoque pernicies nostra nos jam ante fores expectat,” etc.
Herein lies the rise and spring of that stated apostasy from the power of evangelical truth, wherein the world takes its liberty to immerge itself in all licentiousness of life and conversation; the end whereof many cannot but expect with dread and terror.
To obviate these evils in any measure; to vindicate the truth and reality of divine spiritual operations in the church; to avow what is believed and taught by them concerning the Holy Spirit and his work who are most charged and reflected on for their profession thereof, and thereby to evince the iniquity of those calumnies under the darkness and shades whereof some seek to countenance themselves in their profane scoffing at his whole dispensation; to manifest in all instances that what is ascribed unto him is not only consistent with religion, but also that without which religion cannot consist, nor the power of it be preserved, — is the principal design of the ensuing discourses.
Now, whereas the effectual operation of the blessed Spirit in the regeneration or conversion of sinners is, of all other parts of this work, most violently opposed, and hath of late been virulently traduced, I have the more largely insisted thereon. And because it can neither be well understood nor duly explained without the consideration of the state of lapsed or corrupted nature, I have taken in that also at large, as judging it necessary so to do; for whereas the knowledge of it lies at the bottom of all our obedience unto God by Christ, it hath always been the design of some, and yet continueth so to be, either wholly to deny it, or to extenuate it unto the depression and almost annihilation of the grace of the gospel, whereby alone our nature can be repaired. Designing, therefore, to treat expressly of the reparation of our nature by grace, it was on all accounts necessary that we should treat of its depravation by sin also.
Moreover, what is discoursed on these things is suited unto the edification of them that do believe, and directed unto their furtherance in true spiritual obedience and holiness, or the obedience of faith. Hence, it may be, some will judge that our discourses on these subjects are drawn out into a greater length than was needful or convenient, by that continual intermixture of practical applications which runs along in them all. But if they shall be pleased to consider that my design was, not to handle these things in a way of controversy, but, declaring and confirming the truth concerning them, to accommodate the doctrines treated of unto practice, and that I dare not treat of things of this nature in any other way but such as may promote the edification of the generality of believers, they will either be of my mind, or, it may be, without much difficulty admit of my excuse.
However, if these things are neglected or despised by some, yea, be they never so many, there are yet others who will judge their principal concernment to lie in such discourses as may direct and encourage them in the holy practice of their duty. And whereas the way, manner, and method of the Holy Spirit, in his operations as to this work of translating sinners from death unto life, from a state of nature unto that of grace, have been variously handled by some, and severely reflected on with scorn by others, I have endeavored so to declare and assert what the Scripture manifestly teacheth concerning them, confirming it with the testimonies of some of the ancient writers of the church, as I no way doubt but it is suited unto the experience of them who have in their own souls been made partakers of that blessed work of the Holy Ghost. And whilst, in the substance of what is delivered, I have the plain testimonies of the Scripture, the suffrage of the ancient church, and the experience of them who do sincerely believe, to rest upon, I shall not be greatly moved with the censures and opposition of those who are otherwise minded.
I shall add no more on this head but that, whereas the only inconvenience wherewith our doctrine is pressed is the pretended difficulty in reconciling the nature and necessity of our duty with the efficacy of the grace of the Spirit, I have been so far from waiving the consideration of it, as that I have embraced every opportunity to examine it in all particular instances wherein it may be urged with most appearance of probability. And it is, I hope, at length made to appear, that not only the necessity of our duty is consistent with the efficacy of God’s grace, but also, that as, on the one hand, we can perform no duty to God as we ought without its aid and assistance, nor have any encouragement to attempt a course of obedience without a just expectation thereof, so, on the other, that the work of grace itself is no way effectual but in our compliance with it in a way of duty: only, with the leave of some persons, or whether they will or no, we give the pre-eminence in all unto grace, and not unto ourselves. The command of God is the measure and rule of our industry and diligence in a way of duty; and why anyone should be discouraged from the exercise of that industry which God requires of him by the consideration of the aid and assistance which he hath promised unto him, I cannot understand. The work of obedience is difficult and of the highest importance; so that if anyone can be negligent therein because God will help and assist him, it is because he hates it, he likes it not. Let others do what they please, I shall endeavor to comply with the apostle’s advice upon the enforcement which he gives unto it: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.”
These things, with sundry of the like nature, falling unavoidably under consideration, have drawn out these discourses unto a length much beyond my first design; which is also the occasion why I have forborne the present adding unto them those other parts of the work of the Holy Spirit, in prayer or supplication, in illumination with respect unto the belief of the Scriptures and right understanding of the mind of God in them, in the communication of gifts unto the church, and in the consolation of believers; which must now wait for another opportunity, if God in his goodness and patience shall be pleased to grant it unto us.
Another part of the work of the Holy Spirit consisteth in our sanctification, whereon our evangelical obedience or holiness doth depend.
How much all his operations herein also are by some despised, what endeavors there have been to debase the nature of gospel-obedience, yea, to cast it out of the hearts and lives of Christians, and to substitute a heathenish honesty at best in the room thereof, is not unknown to any who think it their duty to inquire into these things. Hence I thought it not unnecessary, on the occasion of treating concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, to make a diligent and full inquiry into the true nature of evangelical holiness, and that spiritual life unto God which all believers are created unto in Christ Jesus. And herein, following the conduct of the Scriptures from first to last, the difference that is between them and that exercise of moral virtue which some plead for in their stead did so evidently manifest itself, as that it needs no great endeavor to represent it unto any impartial judgment. Only, in the handling of these things, I thought meet to pursue my former method and design, and principally to respect the reducing of the doctrines insisted on unto the practice and improvement of holiness; which also hath occasioned the lengthening of these discourses. I doubt not but all these things will be by some despised; they are so in themselves, and their declaration by me will not recommend them unto a better acceptation. But let them please themselves whilst they see good in their own imaginations; whilst the Scripture is admitted to be an infallible declaration of the will of God and the nature of spiritual things, and there are Christians remaining in the world who endeavor to live to God, and to come to the enjoyment of him by Jesus Christ, there will not want sufficient testimony against that putid figment of moral virtue being all our gospel holiness, or that the reparation of our natures and life unto God doth consist therein alone.
In the last place succeeds a discourse concerning the necessity of holiness and obedience. Some regard, I confess, I had therein, though not much, unto the ridiculous clamors of malevolent and ignorant persons, charging those who plead for the efficacy of the grace of God and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, as though thereby they took away the necessity of a holy life; for who would much trouble himself about an accusation which is laden with as many convictions of its forgery as there are persons who sincerely believe those doctrines, and which common light gives testimony against in the conversations of them by whom they are received, and by whom they are despised? It was the importance of the thing itself, made peculiarly seasonable by the manifold temptations of the days wherein we live, which occasioned that addition unto what was delivered about the nature of evangelical holiness; seeing “if we know these things, happy are we if we do them.” But yet, the principal arguments and demonstrations of that necessity being drawn from those doctrines of the gospel which some traduce as casting no good aspect thereon, the calumnies mentioned are therein also obviated. And thus far have we proceeded in the declaration and vindication of the despised work of the Spirit of God under the New Testament, referring the remaining instances above mentioned unto another occasion.
The oppositions unto all that we believe and maintain herein are of two sorts: — First, Such as consist in particular exceptions against and objections unto each particular work of the Spirit, whether in the communication of gifts or the operation of grace. Secondly, Such as consist in reflections cast on the whole work ascribed unto him in general. Those of the first sort will all of them fall under consideration in their proper places, where we treat of those especial actings of the Spirit whereunto they are opposed. The other sort, at least the principal of them, wherewith some make the greatest noise in the world, may be here briefly spoken unto:-- The first and chief pretense of this nature is, that all those who plead for the effectual operations of the Holy Spirit in the illumination of the minds of men, the reparation of their natures, the sanctification of their persons, and their endowment with spiritual gifts, are therein and thereby enemies to reason, and impugn the use of it in religion, or at least allow it not that place and exercise therein which is its due. Hence, some of those who are otherwise minded affirm that it is cast on them as a reproach that they are rational divines; although, so far as I can discern, if it be so, it is as Hierom was beaten by an angel for being a Ciceronian (in the judgment of some), very undeservedly. But the grounds whereon this charge should be made good have not as yet been made to appear; neither hath it been evinced that anything is ascribed by us unto the efficacy of God’s grace in the least derogatory unto reason, its use, or any duty of man depending thereon. I suppose we are agreed herein, that the reason of man, in the state wherein we are, is not sufficient in itself to find out or frame a religion whereby we may please God and be accepted with him; or if we are not agreed herein, yet I shall not admit it as a part of our present controversy, wherein we suppose a religion proceeding from and resolved into supernatural revelation. Neither is it, that I know of, as yet pleaded by any that reason is able to comprehend all the things in their nature and being, or to search them out unto perfection, which are revealed unto us; for we do not directly deal with them by whom the principal mysteries of the gospel are rejected, because they cannot comprehend them, under a pretense that what is above reason is against it. And it may be it will be granted, moreover, that natural reason cannot enable the mind of a man unto a saving perception of spiritual things, as revealed, without the especial aid of the Spirit of God in illumination. If this be denied by any, as we acknowledge our dissent from them, so we know that we do no injury to reason thereby, and will rather suffer under the imputation of so doing than, by renouncing of the Scripture, to turn infidels, that we may be esteemed rational. But we cannot conceive how reason should be prejudiced by the advancement of the rational faculties of our souls, with respect unto their exercise towards their proper objects, — which is all we assign unto the work of the Holy Spirit in this matter; and there are none in the world more free to grant than we are, that unto us our reason is the only judge of the sense and truth of propositions drawn from the Scripture or proposed therein, and do wish that all men might be left peaceable under that determination, where we know they must abide, whether they will or no.
But the inquiry in this matter is, what reasonableness appears in the mysteries of our religion when revealed unto our reason, and what ability we have to receive, believe, and obey them as such. The latter part of this inquiry is so fully spoken unto in the ensuing discourses as that I shall not here again insist upon it; the former may in a few words be spoken unto. It cannot be, it is not, that I know of, denied by any that Christian religion is highly reasonable; for it is the effect of the infinite reason, understanding, and wisdom of God. But the question is not, what it is in itself? but what it is in relation to our reason, or how it appears thereunto? And there is no doubt but everything in Christian religion appears highly reasonable unto reason enlightened, or the mind of man affected with that work of grace, in its renovation, which is so expressly ascribed unto the Holy Spirit in the Scripture; for as there is a suitableness between an enlightened mind and spiritual mysteries as revealed, so seeing them in their proper light, it finds by experience their necessity, use, goodness, and benefit, with respect unto our chiefest good and supreme end. It remains, therefore, only that we inquire how reasonable the mysteries of Christian religion are unto the minds of men as corrupted; for that they are so by the entrance of sin, as we believe, so we have proved in the ensuing treatise. And it is in vain to dispute with any about the reasonableness of evangelical faith and obedience until the state and condition of our reason be agreed [on].
Wherefore, to speak plainly in the case, as we do acknowledge that reason, in its corrupted state, is all that any man hath in that state whereby to understand and to judge of the sense and truth of doctrines revealed in the Scripture, and, in the use of such aids and means as it is capable to improve, is more and better unto him than any judge or interpreter that should impose a sense upon him not suited thereunto; so, as to the spiritual things themselves of the gospel, in their own nature, it is enmit y against them, and they are foolishness unto it. If, therefore, it be a crime, if it be to the impeachment and disadvantage of reason, to affirm that our minds stand in need of the renovation of the Holy Ghost, to enable them to understand spiritual things in a spiritual manner, we do acknowledge ourselves guilty thereof. But otherwise, that by asserting the efficacious operations of the Spirit of God, and the necessity of them unto the discharge of every spiritual duty towards God in an acceptable manner, we do deny that use and exercise of our own reason in things religious and spiritual whereof in any state it is capable, and whereunto of God it is appointed, is unduly charged on us, as will afterward be fully manifested.
But it is moreover pretended, that by the operations we ascribe unto the Holy Spirit, we expose men to be deceived by satanical delusions, [and] open a door to enthusiasms, directing them to the guidance of unaccountable impulses and revelations; so making way unto all folly and villainy. By what means this charge can be fixed on them who professedly avow that nothing is good, nothing duty unto us, nothing acceptable unto God, but what is warranted by the Scripture, directed unto thereby, and suited thereunto, which is the alone perfect rule of all that God requires of us in the way of obedience, but only [by] ungrounded clamors, hath not yet been attempted to be made manifest; for all things of this nature are not only condemned by them, but all things which they teach concerning the Holy Spirit of God are the principal ways and means to secure us from the danger of them. It is true, there have been of old, and haply do still continue among some, satanical delusions, diabolical suggestions, and foul enthusiasms, which have been pretended to proceed from the Spirit of God, and to be of a divine original; for so it is plainly affirmed in the Scripture, both under the Old Testament and the New, directions being therein added for their discovery and disprovement. But if we must therefore reject the true and real operations of the Spirit of God, the principal preservative against our being deceived by them, we may as well reject the owning of God himself, because the devil hath imposed himself on mankind as the object of their worship. Wherefore, as to enthusiasms of any kind, which might possibly give countenance unto any diabolical suggestions, we are so far from affirming any operations of the Holy Ghost to consist in them, or in any thing like unto them, that we allow no pretense of them to be consistent therewithal. And we have a sure rule to try all these things by; which as we are bound in all such cases precisely to attend unto, so hath God promised the assistance of his Spirit, that they be not deceived, unto them who do it in sincerity. What some men intend by impulses, I know not. If it be especial aids, assistances, and inclinations unto duties, acknowledged to be such, and the duties of persons so assisted and inclined, and these peculiarly incumbent on them in their present circumstances, it requires no small caution that, under an invidious name, we reject not those supplies of grace which are promised unto us, and which we are bound to pray for; but if irrational impressions, or violent inclinations unto things or actions which are not acknowledged duties in themselves, evidenced by the word of truth, and so unto the persons so affected in their present condition and circumstances, are thus expressed, as we utterly abandon them, so no pretense is given unto them from anything which we believe concerning the Holy Spirit and his operations: for the whole work which we assign unto him is nothing but that whereby we are enabled to perform that obedience unto God which is required in the Scripture, in the way and manner wherein it is required; and it is probably more out of enmity unto him than us where the contrary is pretended. The same may be said concerning revelations. They are of two sorts, — objective and subjective. Those of the former sort, whether they contain doctrines contrary unto that of the Scripture, or additional thereunto, or seemingly confirmatory thereof, they are all universally to be rejected, the former being absolutely false, the latter useless. Neither have any of the operations of the Spirit pleaded for the least respect unto them; for he having finished the whole work of external revelation, and closed it in the Scripture, his whole internal spiritual work is suited and commensurate thereunto. By subjective revelations, nothing is intended but that work of spiritual illumination whereby we are enabled to discern and understand the mind of God in the Scripture; which the apostle prays for in the behalf of all believers, Ephesians 1:16-19, and whose nature, God assisting, shall be fully explained hereafter. So little pretense, therefore, there is for this charge on them by whom the efficacious operations of the Spirit of God are asserted, as that without them we have no absolute security that we shall be preserved from being imposed on by them or some of them.
But, it may be, it will be said at last that our whole labor, in declaring the work of the Spirit of God in us and towards us, as well as what we have now briefly spoken in the vindication of it from these or the like imputations, is altogether vain, seeing all we do or say herein is nothing but canting with unintelligible expressions. So some affirm, indeed, before they have produced their charter wherein they are constituted the sole judges of what words, what expressions, what way of teaching, are proper in things of this nature. But, by anything that yet appears, they seem to be as unmeet for the exercise of that dictatorship herein which they pretend unto, as any sort of men that ever undertook the declaration of things sacred and spiritual. Wherefore, unless they come with better authority than as yet they can pretend unto, and give a better example of their own way and manner of teaching such things than as yet they have done, we shall continue to make Scripture phraseology our rule and pattern in the declaration of spiritual things, and endeavor an accommodation of all our expressions thereunto, whether to them intelligible or not, and that for reasons so easy to be conceived as that they need not here be pleaded.