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motives, and has superadded new ones, of infinite weight. We wonder not at others living in sin, but ye cannot live in sin.
True believers are represented as being born of God, as renewed by the Holy Spirit, and have the promise of his continual assistance. They are his workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them. Let us then walk, not as other Gentiles walk. Christ has promised you eternal felicity : and has displayed the nature of that future state of happiness : not like a Mahometan paradise, but a state of perfect purity, where nothing that defileth can enter. Walk worthy of him that has called you to his kingdom and glory. If others debase themselves, do not ye do so, ye have learned Christ.
Secondly: Point out some distinguishing criteria by which the genuine gospel may be known from a spurious Christianity, and sincere believers be discriminated from formal or hypocritical professors.
For the former part of the discourse, we considered the Apostle as opposing Christianity to heathenism : but now we are to notice the difference between true Christians, and those who have erroneous, defective, or merely speculative notions of the gospel ; according to the plain import of the next verse.
Ye have not so learned Christ, as to be capable of living like heathens, if so be that ye have heard him, and been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus. Too many nominal Christians entertain false notions of the gospel; or enter not thoroughly into its meaning; or only give a cold, superficial assent: such may indulge themselves in sin. But ye (I trust, my brethren,) have not so learned Christ as to think the Son less a friend to righteousness than the Father, any more than the Father is less a friend to sinners than the Son : the undivided Trinity unite in design, and true believers unite in design with God. Ye have not so learned Christ as to think meanly of that law, which he magnified and made honorable : you think meanly of your own obedience, because it is so defective, and comes not nearly to the standard of duty; but you do not think meanly of obedience itself. If so, you could not think highly of
Not so, as
Christ's obedience. You have not so learned Christ, as to imagine yourselves released from obligation to personal obedience, on account of his having obeyed in your stead. You have not so learned Christ, as to think the less evil of sin, on account of his sacrifice. Nothing can display its malignity so much as Christ's death. And nothing mortifies sin like a sight of his cross. as if he were a partial Saviour. Either, to allow you a hand in meriting salvation; or, to save from punishment only, and not from sin. Not so, as to suppose that his office may be divided, or that he will act as a priest for those, who would not have him to reign over them as a king. Not so, as if his followers might divide the tables of the law, and think themselves Christians, because they have piety without honesty, or honesty without piety. to think yourselves excusable in sloth and inactivity, if not in positive sinful indulgence. Not so, as if the promise of perseverance superceded the necessity of persevering. Ye have not so learned Christ, as if you knew enough already, und had no more to learn. Or, as if you had attained enough already, now you hope you are safe, are well thought of by others, and are received into a church. want to know Christ better, and to be more devoted to him.
You have not so learned Christ, as if it were enough that you hold the doctrines of grace; despising others, as though you had made yourself to differ, though you say you did not. Or, as if all your humility consisted in calling yourself hard names, while you expect others to admire you for so doing. Ye have not so learned Christ, as if faith would dry up repentance, and as if sorrow for sin were all poor legal stuff, which you have now out grown and done with. Not so, as if you were authorized to neglect relative duties, as parents, children, masters, servants, rich,
Nor have you so learned Christ, as if you might send a man to prison for a hundred pence, while you suppose you have been forgiven ten thousand talents.
There may be found false-hearted professors, whose conduct would lead us to suppose that they had so learned Christ; and some will so twist and pervert doctrines, which
they express by evangelical terms, as if the gospel gave encouragement to such conduct. But, oh! beware of a false · faith, and a spurious gospel ; try doctrines whether they are according to godliness. Try preachers. Above all, try yourselves.
ON GRIEVING THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Eph. iv. 30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed
unto the day of redemption.
Of all the cautions or admonitions contained in the word of God, this is one of the most extensive, the most important, and most endearing. We cannot conceive it possible, that the blessed God, speaking in the language of men, should express himself in terms more condescending, or fuller of tenderness than these. The Apostle, who, as a wise master builder, had been clearly stating the doctrines of grace, in the former part of this Epistle, proceeds in the latter part to illustrate their holy tendency, by exhorting believers to guard against every sinful temper and practice, and to be holy in all manner of conversation. Meanwhile, he perpetually intermixes the most evangelical motives, to excite both to universal holiness, and to particular duties. And thus, in our text, he uses an argument the most delicate and refined, yet the most touching and influential, that can affect every sentiment of gratitude and affection, of honor and justice, and true self-interest in a believing heart.
You will, I trust, never find me disposed to make a sinner's corrupt disposition the rule and measure of his duty, or to intimate, that bad men are excusable in the neglect of all that is spiritually good ; but while I represent all men as under obligations to love God and obey his will, I may consistently admit, that special favors enhance our obligations, and call for new exercises of gratitude and holy affection ; and that the language of our text, which implies special
privileges, as well as demands a correspondent return, is to be considered as immediately addressed to true believers, and indeed, to them alone. Others may sin against the Holy Spirit, may rebel, and vex or provoke him, but they are not said to grieve him, that is an expression that denotes special love. Persons are not used to grieve for the faults of enemies, but to be provoked or incensed.
First: Let us consider the privilege implied in the language of the Apostle, or notice the special obligations of believers to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the invaluable friend of every true believer, by whom he is sealed to the day of redemption.
Surely the text strongly intimates the personality of the Holy Spirit. I allow, the language is somewhat figurative, but not so much so, as fairly to admit us to conclude, that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but merely a quality: the power of God; or the tendency of Providence to promote the good qualities of the heart; or even the sanctifying influence of the Father. Our Lord's language in John xiv. 15, 16. is very inconsistent with this idea ; and so is the form of baptism, and the apostolic benediction.
At the same time, the greatness of the work here attributed to the Holy Spirit, strongly indicates his divinity : who, but a Divine Person, can conquer human obstinacy, renew the heart, bow the will, regenerate the soul, sanctify it, and seal it to the day of redemption. Surely then, he is not a mere creature, or super-angelic spirit.
If, indeed, his sealing consisted, as some have supposed, in bare suggestion, or immediate testimony to a fact, an angel seems quite sufficient for that: he might, by divine commission, whisper to our souls, we are the children of God. But I apprehend, that the seal of the Spirit consisted in somewhat much more noble and excellent.
The seal of the Spirit, I conceive, consists in the impression of the divine image on the soul; really conforming us to God, in the temper of our minds. Without this, no immediate witness would be valid; and with it, it is unnecessary; for God cannot deny himself, nor the soul that is one in affection and disposition with him. This is truly a super
natural and divine work. It requires, indeed, the finger of God, to engrave his image on the soul, where it was totally effaced : to renew the resemblance of his moral perfections, and transform us into the likeness of his dear Son.
This is the best proof of the love of the Spirit, as it is a greater evidence of love to confer an inestimable benefit upon us, than barely to tell us we are loved. This seal is the best proof of our relation to God. They are his jewels, who bear his own image and superscription. They are his children, no doubt, who partake of his Spirit. A truly childlike temper
is the best evidence we are born of God. Therefore the same blessed work is called the witness of the Spirit. When the exercises of love are strong, it casts out fear; making it clear and evident to our consciences, that we are born of God.
Believers are here said to be sealed to the day of redemption, as the Spirit is the earnest of the promised inheritance; the best proof of heirship; the preparation for, and foretaste of eternal happiness. His vital, sanctifying influences insure everlasting blessedness.
The last day is here called the day of redemption, because then all saints shall be put in full possession of that glorious inheritance which has been prepared for them by the Redeemer. Then soul and body shall be made perfectly blessed, in the full enjoyment of God, to all eternity. And now, their spiritual life is a pledge of eternal life. Their joy in the Holy Spirit is an earnest of everlasting joy. His illuminations are pledges of the inheritance of the saints in light. His sanctifying influences prepare them for, and will issue in, perfect holiness and happiness.
Secondly: Let us notice the consequent duty, or the danger and evil of grieving the Holy Spirit.
If we have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and he hath done such great things for us, surely we should be careful, agreeably to the charge in the text, not to grieve him. We must not infer from hence, that the Holy Spirit can suffer pain, and be made really unhappy; any more than Amos iii. 16. or Ezek. vi. 9. can be understood literally. But shall his greatness and excellence, his dignity and divinity, which