THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
ROM. viii. 9.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
NOTWITHSTANDING the various distinctions which exist among men, there are only two of any real consequence in the sight of God: and these are mentioned by the Apostle Paul just before our text—"Those who live according to the flesh and set their minds on the things of the flesh, and (but) those who live according to the Spirit and set their minds on the things of the Spirit." verse 5.; that is, those people, who, remaining in the state they were born, regularly consult and relish, pursue and delight in worldly, sensual, and sinful things; or, on the contrary, those who being born again of the Spirit, are under his guidance and influence; and therefore pursue, regard, and love things that are of a spiritual and heavenly nature.
Every person here today belongs to one of these two classes; and nothing can be more important that to know which on it is; for on this depends our eternal all. He who is after the flesh "cannot please God," v. 8.; but is in a state of death, v. 6.; or, as it is in the text, "is none of Christ's," that is, not a member of his body, not a child in his family, not a subject of his kingdom; and dying in this state, Christ will not own him for his, nor adjudge him to eternal life at the great day. But if, by the grace of God, we have the Holy Spirit, and live under his gracious influences, it is a proof that we belong to Christ, and shall obtain eternal glory with him. How necessary is it then that we should be able to decide with certainty on this great question, and to know whether we belong to Christ or not. That we may be able to do this, let us pray to God to assist us while we,
I. Consider who the Spirit of Christ is.
II. Prove that all real Christians have the Spirit of Christ, and shew for what purposes; and,
III. Point out the evidence of our state arising from thence.
I. Let us consider who the Spirit of Christ is. The whole Scripture declares that "there is but one only living and true God;" but the Scripture clearly shews, that in the unity of the Godhead there are three (whom we call persons); thus, in 1 John v. 7. "there are three that bear record in heaven; the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one." They are generally called by the names, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; which names are not intended to describe their manner of subsistence among themselves (for that is a branch of knowledge above our capacity, and is not revealed); but the manner of their operations in the covenant of grace. To each of these divine persons particular attributes and works are ascribed, and each of them is expressly called God. The divine person we now speak of is the Holy Spirit; called in the same verse with our text "the Spirit of God." That he is properly called a Person appears from the personal properties and works ascribed to him. He is said to have Understanding or Wisdom, 1 Cor. ii. 10. Isa. ii. 3. He is said to have a Will, 1 Cor. xli. 11 . He is possessed of Power, Job xxxii. 4. He is said to teach us, John xiv. 26. 1 John. ii. 27, to lead—to guide—to convince—to renew—to speak—to shew —to call—and send ministers. This plainly proves that he is a person, and not merely a quality or property of Deity, as some have vainly pretended.
It is equally evident that he is a Divine Person, or truly and properly God, equal with the Father and the Son; for divine perfections are ascribed to him, as Eternity— Omnipresence— or being every where; and Omniscience, or knowing all things. The Holy Spirit is expressly called God. Ananias is said to lie to the Holy Ghost, Acts v. 3.; and in the next verse, St. Peter says to him, "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." The same person is intended in both verses, which plainly shews that the Holy Ghost is God. This also appears from the sin against the Holy Ghost; if he were not God, would blaspheming him be a sin, an unpardonable sin? But above all, consider the form of baptism. Our Lord commands his apostles to "disciple all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." So likewise in the usual form of benediction. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with you." In both these cases, the very same honours are ascribed to the Spirit as are given to the other divine persons; which would be blasphemy, if he were not a divine person, or truly and properly God.
He is called in our text the Spirit of Christ, not only because he proceeded from Christ, as well as from the Father, but because he was promised by Christ and sent by Christ. He was the Spirit of Christ in all the ancient prophets; and he now "testifies of Christ," " takes the things of Christ, and shews them unto us;" in a word, because the whole salvation of Christ is applied to the heart by his sacred influences. We are now, in the second place, to
II. Prove that all real Christians have the Spirit of Christ, and to shew for what purposes they have him. So necessary is this to salvation, that St. Paul declares in our text, that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his; that is, he is no Christian.
It is one of the most dangerous errors of this day, to maintain that the influences of the Spirit are not now to be expected, and that they were confined to the days of the apostles when they had power to work miracles. In consequence of this wicked notion, all that is said of Conversion, Regeneration, and Consolation, is out of date; and poor ignorant souls are lulled asleep in carnal security, contentedly resting in the form of godliness without the power; while they are taught by their blind leaders, to call all true, vital, and felt religion, nonsense and enthusiasm.
That any of the clergy of the Church of England should thus deny the work of the Spirit, is extremely absurd and inconsistent, because that church strongly maintains the necessity of it in many parts of the Common Prayer Book. In the collects you may recollect these petitions: "Grant unto us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be good." In another place, "Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity." In the communion service she prays, "Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit." Observe also the prayer for the King; " Replenish him with the grace of thy Holy Spirit;" and for the Royal Family, " Endue them with thy Holy Spirit." In the XIIIth Article of the Church, it is affirmed, that " Works done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are not pleasant to God." Every clergyman, at his ordination is asked by the Bishop this question: " Do you trust that you are moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office ?" To which the minister replies, " I trust so." And in the Collect for Whit-Sunday, the Church thus prays—" God, who, as at this time, didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people, by sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: Grant us, by the same Spirit, to have a right judgment in all things; and ever more to rejoice in his holy comfort. Also in the Collect for the Sunday after Ascension-day, " We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thy Holy Ghost to comfort us." You see then, my brethren, that the Church of England strongly maintains the continuance of the work of the Spirit as necessary to all true ministers and Christians. How then do any affirm, that his influences have ceased 1600 years? But as our faith must not rest on the authority of men, let us search the Scriptures to prove that the work of the Spirit on the heart is absolutely necessary to true godliness.
We freely grant, indeed, that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were confined to the first ages. Who now pretends to the gift of tongues, or power of working miracles? We do not plead for infallibility, or knowledge of future events, or ability to know anything not revealed in the Bible. It is for the sanctifying influences of the Spirit we plead. But the apostles and first Christians received from the Spirit not only the miraculous powers just mentioned, but also light in their understandings, conviction of sin in their consciences, and faith and love to Christ in their hearts. "They purified their souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit:" they "abounded in hope by the Holy Ghost;" they had "joy in the Holy Ghost:" " the love of God was shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost." Through the same Spirit they "mortified the deeds of the body;" and cried, “Abba Father." The Spirit was "the earnest of their heavenly inheritance;" and all their holy tempers, affections, and actions, are called "fruits of the Spirit." Are not all these things as necessary to us as they were to them? Corrupt nature is just the same now as then, and needs the same power to change it. Grace is also just the same now as it was then, and is derived from the same source. This alone is enough to prove the necessity of the Spirit's work.
Observe also, that our blessed Lord promised that his Spirit should abide and continue with the church, instead of his bodily presence. So he speaks, John xiv. 18, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." Observe, he was promised to abide with the church for ever ; not with the apostles only, for he was to be "given to all who should believe;" and that, not for two or three hundred years, but forever; all the time of Christ's absence from earth, until he shall come the second time to judgment. But this will more fully appear by considering the purposes for which the Spirit is given.
All men are by nature "dead in trespasses and sins;" dead to God and spiritual things; as a corpse in the grave is dead to the affairs of this world. Now "it is the Spirit that quickeneth," John vi. 63. The word of Christ in the gospel is employed for this end. "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God;" but it is by the Spirit's power that the dead soul is quickened to hear it. The word is brought home to the heart, and is then heard, "not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God." O, that the word may now be heard among us in this manner! “There is but one word in Scripture for the air which the body breathes, and for that grace which is the breath of our spiritual life; and therefore, when our blessed Lord breathed upon the apostles, he at the same time explained the meaning of what he did, by saying, ''Receive ye the Holy Ghost;” and hence it is called inspiration, or breathing in; for it is the gracious office of the Holy Ghost to act upon the soul, as breath does on the body."
The Spirit of God is called "the Spirit of truth." No man knows the truth, in a saving manner, but by this teaching. A scholar may know the letter of it, but no human learning can give its true meaning. St. Paul affirms, 1 Cor. ii. 14, "The natural man (that is, the rational man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned;" and he says, verse 12, "We have received the Spirit of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God;"— that is, we have been taught and enlightened by him, that we might have a true and saving knowledge of the great and glorious blessings of the gospel; and, indeed, no other teaching is sufficient for the purpose. It is well said in one of the Homilies, "Man's human and worldly wisdom and science is not needful to the understanding of Scripture, but the revelation of the Holy Ghost, who inspireth the true meaning unto them that with humility and diligence search therefore." This is great comfort for poor people, who are apt to say, they are no scholars, and therefore cannot understand the Bible. Pray, my friends, for the Holy Spirit, and you will then understand it better than the most learned man who has not the Spirit.
Again, the Spirit is given to every real Christian to "reprove, or convince of sin." We are by nature ignorant of God's holy law, and therefore of sin, which is the transgression of the law. We are "alive without the law," as St. Paul once was: but when the commandment comes home to the conscience by the power of the blessed Spirit, then we are deeply sensible of our lost and ruined condition: of the sins of our life; sins of omission as well as of commission; of the sins of our heart; and of the sin of our nature; but the Holy Spirit convinces us especially of the great sin of unbelief, in rejecting Christ, and neglecting his precious salvation.
Again, it is by the power of the Spirit, that we are enabled to believe to the saving of the soul. If we see the need of salvation, it is by his grace. If we see the way of salvation, it is by his teaching. If we are made willing to be saved in that way, it is by his power. Faith is the gift of God. We believe by the operation of the Spirit. And indeed it is a great thing to believe. To receive cordially the whole testimony of God concerning Jesus Christ. In the view of our sin and misery, as children of wrath, to believe that Christ can and will save us. With a heavy burden of guilt on the conscience, to cast that burden on the Lord, and so find rest to our souls. To renounce our own works and merits, and trust alone to the righteousness of Christ. This is a great work; a work that none can perform but by the "Spirit of faith."
The Spirit of Christ is also called "The Spirit of holiness;" for he is the author of that holiness, without which "no man shall see the Lord." Believers are "chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth." Regeneration is the beginning of a new and spiritual life. Sanctification is a work of the Spirit in preserving and increasing that life. All true Christians are saints, as you may see in several of the Epistles, which were written to the saints: and though through the folly and wickedness of many, that name is become a term of reproach, let all men know, that if we are not saints we cannot be saved.
Another purpose for which believers have the Spirit, is to assist them in all religious duties. "Without me, said Christ, ye can do nothing;" and St. Paul says, "We are not sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;" that is, we have it by actual supplies of the Holy Ghost. Christ is present, by his Spirit, "wherever two or three are gathered together in his name;" and if they get a blessing under the word preached, or in singing psalms or hymns, or in prayer, it is entirely from the influence of the Holy Ghost. He is said, Rom. viii. 28, to "help our infirmities in prayer;" and we read also of "praying in the Spirit, and of singing in the Spirit."
The Holy Ghost is also given to believers as a Comforter. Under this pleasing name, Jesus Christ promised to send him to his sorrowful disciples, and said he should always abide in the Church as a Comforter. Blessed be God, there is comfort in religion. The ways of God are pleasantness and peace, and none will deny it but those who never tried them. True happiness is found only in the way of faith, love, and obedience. The knowledge of sin forgiven; peace of conscience through the blood of Christ; a good hope through grace; victory over the fear of death: —are not these comfortable and blessed things? What can the world, or sin, propose of equal value? All these are from the gracious and powerful influences of the Spirit; and this leads us to the last thing proposed.
III. The evidence of our state, as it arises from having or not having the Spirit. Our text says, that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," consequently dying so must perish for ever without remedy. But the words imply a glorious truth, namely, that some persons do belong to Christ. Yes, they are his dear people, by the gift of the Father, by the purchase of his blood, and by the power of his Spirit, whereby they gave themselves up to him.
Having the Spirit, in the manner and for the purposes we have heard, is the grand proof of being in a state of salvation. These are called the sealed, 2 Cor. i. 22; Eph. i. 13, iv. 30. Valuable things are sealed, for the security of them and to denote whose property they are. Thus are believers sealed. God has given them his Spirit, he dwells in their souls; he quickens them; he enlightens them; he convinces them of sin; he enables them to believe in Christ; he sanctifies them; he helps them to pray; he comforts their hearts. This is God's seal—"There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus," and who prove they are in him by "walking after the Spirit." To be spiritually minded is life and peace. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Whoever has the Spirit has the sure earnest of heaven, 2 Cor. i. 22, Eph. i. 14; he becomes "a joint heir with Jesus Christ; he has the first fruits of the Spirit;" and both soul and body shall certainly be made happy for ever in the eternal world.
And now, my friends what do you think of these things? Seeing that having the Spirit of God determines our state, how is it with you? Have you the Spirit? It may be known. It ought to be known; for our all depends upon it. Heaven is ours if we have the Spirit. Hell will be ours if we die without him. Recollect a moment what has been said, and pray with David, "Search me, O Lord, and try my heart." You have heard for what purposes every believer receives the Spirit. He quickens the dead soul. Has he quickened you? Are you alive to God, or are you alive to sin and the world? He enlightens the mind and the truth. Do you know, distinguish, and love the truth of the gospel, or do you despise and hate it? He convinces of sin. Are you convinced and humbled for your iniquity ? or do you make light of it—perhaps boast of it? He is the author of faith. Do you believe in Jesus, or do you neglect his salvation? He sanctifies the soul. Is your soul sanctified by his grace, or are you still in sin? He helps the true Christian to pray. Do you know anything of his gracious help in prayer, or do you live without prayer, or, which is nearly as bad, content yourself with a lifeless form of bare words without the heart? The Spirit of God is a Comforter. Is your comfort or pleasure derived from him or from the vanities and vices of the world? May the Lord enable you to give a serious and honest answer to these enquiries. If, as it may be feared, some of you are without the Spirit, what is your case? You belong not to Christ; you are none of his. Tremble at the dreadful thought. Die you must; and you must come to judgment too. When you see him on the awful throne O how you will wish to belong to him, and to be owned by him. O then, be persuaded this moment, to lift up your heart to God, and say, Merciful God, give me thy Holy Spirit. He has promised to give him to those who ask. This blessed gift may yet be yours, and shall, if you sincerely desire it. “Ask then, and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened.” May God Almighty in compassion to your souls, enable you to do this.
And as to those who have obtained this greatest of blessings, who have the Holy Spirit, what more can be said to you? Survey the wondrous gift with grateful acknowledgment. What has God wrought! Deny not, from false humility, the heavenly benefit. Have you experienced those sacred effects of the Spirit, which have been so frequently mentioned? Here then is the broad seal of the Majesty of heaven, securing your relation to Christ, and your title to mansions of glory . Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; and having received the Spirit, take care to "walk in the Spirit ;" be careful not to "grieve the Spirit ;" and be concerned to bring forth "the fruits of the Spirit," which are by Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.