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is an intelligent, and the latter an unintelligent agent, it is obvious, that the former is the efficient and the latter the instrumental cause. From the text, then, we deduce the following proposition:
IN THE WORK OF SANCTIFICATION, THERE IS AN EFFICIENT AGENCY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND AN INSTRUMENTAL AGENCY OF divine
In the present discourse it will be our object,
I. To prove this proposition, and,
II. To deduce some practical inferences.
First, then, the proof.
1. The first class of arguments which we adduce, will be drawn from the Scriptures.
The former part of the proposition is conclusively proved by the following passage from the gospel of St. John. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The meaning of this passage is plain and can scarcely be mistaken. It is evidently this: as the natural offspring partakes of the corrupt and depraved nature of the natural parent, so the offspring of the Spirit, or those born of the Spirit, partake of the holy nature of the Spirit. The immediate and efficient agency of the Spirit, in fitting the soul for future felicity, is here unequivocally declared. That this is the case in every instance, without any exception, is expressly asserted, in another place, by the same evangelical writer. These are his words: " except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God." That is, no one without baptism by water can be admitted into his visible kingdom; and no one without regeneration by the Spirit, can be admitted into his invisible kingdom. Were there no other passages in the Bible by which the same doctrine is taught, these would be conclusive. How can a different conclusion be drawn? Will it be said that the words are figurative? What if we admit, that they are not to be taken in a strictly literal sense. Still, they are full of meaning, and teach us important truth. And what is this truth? Surely nothing less than that a radical transformation of moral character, wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit, is indispensable in every son and daughter of our race, to the attainment of salvation. That none without such a work of the Spirit of God in the soul, can finally be saved. But will any objector resort to another subterfuge and deny the existence of the Holy Spirit as a personal being? Let him remember first, that the word is written as a proper name, having a capital letter for its initial, and must therefore be intended to represent a personal Being. Second, that the properties of intelligence and action ascribed to the Spirit, can belong to none but a personal Being. But if this does not satisfy the objector, let him say what the word does mean. Will he tell us it means a divine attribute? Let us then substitute this phrase in its place. The passages above will
then read, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," and that which is born of a divine attribute is a divine attribute; or, if you choose, of the nature of a divine attribute. 66 Except a man be born of water," and of a divine attribute, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Are we baptized in the name of a divine attribute? Does Paul pray that the communion of a divine attribute may be with the church? Does he exhort men not to resist a divine attribute?. not to quench a divine attribute? not to grieve a divine attribute? Are Christians exhorted to be filled with a divine attribute? to walk in a divine attribute? But enough. Hundreds of passages might readily be adduced, in which the substitution of the term attribute, or any other term, would render the sense equally unmeaning and absurd. And what, let me ask, does the objector gain, by rejecting a glorious truth on account of its mysterious nature, and adoptting in its stead, a palpable absurdity? He gets rid of no difficulty, he solves no mystery-on the other hand, he throws the damps and darkness of night, on a subject beaming with glorious, though incomprehensible truth. What is this, but to "darken counsel by words without knowledge?" We envy him not his heartless, lifeless, useless system; but pity his want of experimental acquaintance with the illuminating, converting, and sanctifying, power of the Holy Spirit.
Although we consider the point already proved; yet, as we would present a blaze of overwhelming and irresistible evidence, we must be indulged in adducing a few more passages.
We are told by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, that " God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the spirit. So, then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
Believers are here said to "walk after the Spirit;" that is, they yield to his influence-follow his guidance. They are said "to be after the Spirit" that is, to have his moral impress-to participate of his holy nature to mind the things of the Spirit; that is, to yield attention and obedience to the things which he teaches and enjoins. They are in the Spirit, and the Spirit is in them. As we are surrounded by the air and receive a portion of it within us by inhalation, so the Spirit by his special presence is in and around his sanctified ones. To" have the Spirit;" that is, to have communion with him-to enjoy the sensible manifestation of his real and favorable presence. Now could all this be said, if the Spirit by a real and immediate agency, had nothing to do in the formation of the Christian character? Could believers be said to "walk after the Spirit," to " mind the things of the Spirit," to be" after the Spirit," to be "in the Spirit," to "have the Spirit," and to "have the Spirit dwelling in them," if the Spirit had no agency in their sanctification? I can conceive of but two ways in which a contrary conclusion can possibly be drawn. The one is, that the word Spirit means, holy nature, in opposition to the carnal nature. The other is, that it means the word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit.
But these suppositions are both completely refuted by a single passage from the same chapter. "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. By quickening their mortal bodies is evidently meant, raising them from the dead at the final judgment. Here, then, we find the same word, and evidently used in the same sense, accompanied by an attribute which could belong to none but a divine Personage. It is the attribute of omnipotence, for nothing less can raise the dead. The same agent, then, that was just before represented as being with them, dwelling in them, leading and guiding them, is now represented prophetically, as raising them from the dead. "He that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. That the expression means a real, intelligent, personal, and divine ́agent, we think is incontrovertibly established; and this being true, every other supposable meaning of the term, must be erroneous. That the Spirit is ever present with the people of God, and exerts an immediate and effectual agency in carrying on in them the work of sanctification, is, in these passages clearly taught.
But again, suffer me for a moment to call your attention to a few of the declarations of our Savior to his disciples: "I will pray the Father," says he, "and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. The Comforter which is the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. When he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth. He shall receive of mine and show it unto you." Grant that these passages refer primarily to his immediate disciples and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit; still as a line of distinction is drawn between the world and those who were to receive the gift of the divine Comforter, and as he was to abide with them for ever, there can be no reason to doubt, that all the disciples of Christ in every future period were included in the promise, and that the guiding, the teaching, the admonishing, and consoling influence of this divine and heavenly visitant was pledged to them, as his miraculous power was pledged to his immediate followers.
Another passage clearly establishing the point under consideration, is found in the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians. "But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Again, in Ephesians, "That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.
To be washed, to be sanctified, to be strengthened in the inner man, are terms denoting the process by which the soul is fitted for heaven, and this is said here to be done by the Spirit. Christians are said farther to be "led by the Spirit," to be "sealed by the Spirit," to "pray in the Spirit," to have "the fellowship of the Spirit," to "worship God in the Spirit," to " possess love in the Spirit." They are said to be "builded together as a temple of God through the Spirit." Admonition
is given against grieving the Spirit, quenching the Spirit, resisting the Spirit. Most of the Christian graces and duties may be found we apprehend in some of the above expressions in which the agency of the Spirit, in the formation of the one, and the performance of the other, is asserted or clearly implied. His awakening influence upon the impenitent, in the last quoted passage, is also, plainly implied.
Lest we should be tedious, we desist from farther quotations. We have selected but a few, out of a great variety of passages, which might be adduced to establish the truth under consideration. We now consider the position which we assumed, as fully established, viz., that in the work of sanctification, there is an immediate and efficient agency of the Holy Spirit. We come now to the other part of the proposition, which is, that in the same work, there is an instrumental agency of divine truth.
St. Paul seems to consider this as a plain and admitted doctrine, when he says to the Romans, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." This declaration is general; it intimates no limitation-speaks of no exception. On the other hand, the contrary declaration seems to be expressed in the interrogatory sentence introduced in the same connection. "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” How shall any, at any time, in any place, believe savingly in Christ, in whom alone is salvation, when they have never heard of him? The power of God to work a miracle for this purpose, Paul does not deny; nor will any, I suppose be disposed to deny it; but he teaches plainly by inference, that a miracle for such a purpose, is not to be expected. That God has adopted a different method, that he has chosen the ordinary channels of communication to the mind, as those through which he has seen proper to impart his grace and salvation. He has ordained in the scheme of redemption, that to be saved we must believe, to believe we must hear, to hear we must have an exhibition of evangelical truth. There is no infringement upon the common functions of the mind or senses. Truth is presented, and by the divine assistance already stated, elicits attention, convinces, persuades.
The same truth is clearly taught in the exhortation to the Ephesian Christians, to take the "sword of the Spirit which is the word of God." A sword is an instrument of defence and of victory. But without one to wield it, it would be only a useless piece of polished metal; and without a sword, the most skilful warrior would be weak and powerless. It would be only by a miracle, that he could gain the victory over an armed and embattled host, or defend himself from their hostile attacks. So, without the instrumentality of the word of God, the Holy Spirit must work a miracle to convert and sanctify the sinner. That is, he must operate upon him in a manner contrary to the established laws of mind. On the other hand, the word without the agency of the Holy` Spirit, would be but a dead letter, without any saving efficacy in any instance; just like a sword without a warrior to wield it. Such an interpretation, we think the structure of the phraseology not only justifies, but suggests as the plain and obvious meaning.
Our Savior compares the word, to seed sown in different kinds of
soil; some was devoured by the birds, some withered by drought, some was choked by thorns, and some bringing forth fruit. This doubtless represents the different state of mind under which divine truth is addressed to men. Unless the soil is prepared by some agency, it will be unproductive, and the seed and the labor of the cultivator will be lost. Onthe other hand, however good, and however well prepared the soil, unless the seed is properly sown, there can be no produce. The application is easy, and needs no comment.
Again, in his address to his disciples as he was about to leave them, he uses this language, "Now are ye clean, through the word which I have spoken unto you." That the word is here represented as the outward means, or instrumental agent in their cleansing or sanctification, is too plain to require a moment's consideration. In his last prayer in their behalf, which we have on record, we have this remarkable language," sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." That the word of God, here called by way of eminence, the truth, as being infinitely above all other truth, is represented as the means of their sanctification, none can doubt for a moment. God the Father to whom the petition is addressed is indicated as the author of the work. This at first view, may seem to involve the subject in some obscurity; since to the first Person of the Trinity, is never ascribed the office of sanctification. A key to the solution is found in the repeated declarations, that the Spirit should proceed from the Father, that the Father should send the Spirit, &c. The Father in sending the Spirit is the author, the Spirit is the efficient agent, and the word is the instrumental means, of this glorious work of preparing the soul for eternal bliss. Paul tells the Ephesians, that "Christ loved the church, that he might cleanse and sanctify it with the washing of water by his word." St. James tells us, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." And St. Peter, "seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." Nothing can be more obvious than the sense of these passages. They are plain as if written with a sunbeam. They show beyond all doubt, that divine truth, or the word of God is the instrumental agent in the conversion and sanctification of the soul. The number of passages proving the same doctrine, is numerous beyond what any one who has not examined the Scriptures for this purpose would naturally suppose, and might be introduced to almost any extent. But if those introduced do not convince, we should despair of producing conviction.
It may be objected that Cornelius was converted without any knowledge of Bible truths. This however is a mistake. Hear Peter; he will correct the error and set all right: "The word," says hehe is addressing Cornelius and his company-" the word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ, (he is Lord of all,) That word I say ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached." We have here Peter's own declaration that Cornelius had previously been favored with a knowledge of gospel truth. There is