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upon them, were assisted to publish the mysteries of that kingdom with greater clearness, and with a more lively conviction, than the forerunner of Jesus had ever done.
That prophet doubted before his death, as well as all the apostles before the day of pentecost. But under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the great truths of the
, gospel are demonstrated by the power of an internal evidence, which leaves in the heart no more room for doubt than a mathematical demonstration leaves room for hesitation in the mind. Further : John the baptist barely intimated the necessity of a spiritual baptism ; but the most illiterate among the centurion's servants could
say, Christ hath baptized me with the Holy Ghost and with fire ; and the promise, which he hath already fulfilled to me, a poor gentile, he will as gloriously accomplish in favour of others, since the promise is” given “to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts ii. 39. Thus, under this sublime dispensation, every faithful servant of the Lord is enabled to prophesy out of the fulness of his heart, and to speak the wonderful works of God. Thus also every zealous minister, persevering in his pursuit of evangelical truth, ranks, at length, with the first and most effectual preachers of the everlasting gospel.
THE DISPENSATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOW IN FORCE,
AND THE MINISTER WHO PREACHES THIS DISPENSATION
CANNOT JUSTLY BE ESTEEMED AN ENTHUSIAST.
To reject the Son of God manifested in the Spirit, as worldly Christians are universally observed to do, is a crime of equal magnitude with that of the Jews, who rejected Christ manifested in the flesh. Nevertheless, in vain has the apostle Paul informed us, that “ Jesus Christ is a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek ;" Heb. vii. 17; “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Heb. xiii. 8. In vain has John the baptist declared, that “he shall baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Matt. iii. 11. In vain has Christ himself made a gracious offer of this baptism to all nations. Matt. xxviii. 19. In spite of all these declarations, our incredulity still seeks out some plausible reason for rejecting the dispensation of the Spirit.
So long as those perilous times shall continue which were foretold by St. Paul, 2 Tim. iii. 1, so long we may expect to behold multitudes of erring professors, who, like the ancient pharisees, not only refuse to enter into the kingdom of God themselves, but resolutely withstand all those who are striving to enter in. These faithless Christians, resembling the timorous spies of old, are constantly prepared to discourage every persevering Israelite, by raising evil reports of their promised rest. Attached to this present degenerate world, as the wife of Lot was attached to her polluted city, they are ever insinuating, that there is little danger to be apprehended in their present situation ; and as for that full dispensation of the Spirit, concerning which so many excellent things are spoken, they confidently assert, that it cannot be expected in the present time without giving way to the highest presumption and folly. On these accounts, it becomes absolutely necessary that the true minister should stand prepared “ to give every man a” solid “ answer, that asketh a reason of the hope that is in him.” 1 Peter iii. 15.
That the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were peculiarly necessary to the apostles, and that they were actually put in possession of such gifts, we readily allow. But, at the same time, we consider these gifts as entirely distinct from the Spirit itself. When the Spirit of grace takes the full possession of a particular person, he may, if the edification of the church requires it, bestow upon
person some extraordinary gift, in an instantaneous manner ; as the prince who honours any subject with an important commission invests him with sufficient power for the execution of such commission. But the presents of a prince do not always demonstrate his actual presence; since it is very possible for a prince to lodge with one of his subjects, upon whom he has conferred no inestimable favour, while he makes a magnificent present to another, whom he has never condescended to visit in person. Thus the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary the mother of Jesus, together with several other holy women, as well as upon
apostles, with whom they continued in earnest supplication and prayer; nevertheless, it does not appear, that any one of them received even the gift of tongues. On the other hand, we are well assured, that many persons who never received the Spirit of holiness were yet outwardly distinguished by several extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost. The first king of Israel gave rise to that memorable proverb, “ Is Saul also among the prophets ?” 1 Sam. x. 12. Jonah, though he possessed neither the faith, nor the charity, which are common to many Christians of this age, was yet commissioned to visit Nineveh with an extraordinary message from heaven. And we are informed, that Judas was endued with the power of performing miracles, as Balaam had before been honoured with the gift of prophecy. But, notwithstanding these external appearances, we may rest assured, that neither Saul, nor Balaam, nor Judas, had fully experienced that happy estate which the meanest among the primitive Christians was per mitted to enjoy. When, therefore, we assert that every sincere believer becomes a “temple of the Holy Ghost;" 1 Cor. vi. 19; it is not to be understood by such expression, that they have received the power of working miracles; since, in this sense, St. Paul himself was not always replenished with the Spirit. But it should rather be understood, that the same spirit of humility, of zeal, of faith, and of charity, which so eminently dwelt in Christ, continually flows from him to the meanest of his spiritual members, as the sap is known to pass from the trunk of a vine into the least of its branches. John šv. 5.
The old and new testament sufficiently prove, that the special influences of the Spirit are to be universally experienced by the faithful in every age. Isaiah promises this invaluable blessing to those who are athirst for God. Isaiah xliv. 3. Ezekiel announces the same blessing, in a variety of passages, to all those who enjoy the privileges of the new covenant. The prophet Joel more directly promises the extraordinary effusion of the Holy Spirit to “ the young and the old” among the people of God; to “their sons and their daughters, their servants and their
handmails." Joel ii. 28, 29. John the baptist expressly repeats the same promise to all those who partake of his inferior baptism. Luke iii. 16. Our Lord invites every believer freely to come and receive the long-expected blessing. John vii. 37–39. St. Peter unreservedly offers it to the truly penitent; Acts ii. 38; and St. Paul every where declares, that it is the common privilege of Christians to “be filled with the Spirit.” Eph. v. 18; 1 Cor. vi. 19. Nay, he even intimates, that the name of Chris. tian should be refused to those who have not received the promise of the Father. Rom. viii. 9.
These few passages abundantly testify, how strangely those professors deceive themselves who confidently affirm that the Holy Spirit was promised to the apostles alone.
Revelation is no sooner admitted, but reason itself confirms the very truth for which we contend. Why was the Holy Spirit to be poured out in its full measure upon the first followers of Christ? If in order to their sanctification, have we less need of holiness than the apostles had ? If it was to shed abroad in their hearts the love of God, is that love less necessary for us than for them? If to make intercession for them “ with groanings which cannot be uttered,” were the apostles supposed to stand in greater need of such intercession than all other men ? Lastly: if the Holy Ghost was given that believers might be enabled to cry out, “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, persecution, or death? O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ :"_if so, then, it should seem, that the apostles alone were called to suffer and die in a manner so perfectly worthy of Christians.
The more we meditate upon the scriptures of truth, the more we shall be convinced that the experience of real Christians and the reason of natural men coincide with that sacred volume in demonstrating, that the grand promise of a Comforter must respect every sincere believer, as well as the first disciples of Jesus. To reject, then, this precious gift is to trample under foot the pearl of great price, and to despise the Redeemer himself, in that spiritual appearance which is of far greater importance to us than his outward manifestation in Judea. Further: to insinuate among Christians, that the promise of Christ's spiritual coming is no longer in force, is to enervate the glorious gospel of God, and to maintain in his church that detestable lukewarmness which will ultimately prove the ground of its condemnation. It is to surpass the Jews in their obstinate rejection of our only Lord and Saviour. There was no need, says the incredulous Jew, that the Messiah should suffer and die for our sins: nor is there any need, says the carnal Christian, that the Saviour should come in a spiritual manner to reign in my
heart. The one destroys the body, the other the soul, of Christianity; and both are equal strangers to the renovating power of the gospel.
The true minister, struck with the magnitude of this sin, so general in the present day, incessantly labours for the restoration of those who are deeply plunged in so destructive an error.
THE EVANGELICAL PASTOR DEFENDS THE DISPENSATION OF
THE SPIRIT AGAINST ALL OPPOSERS.
WHATEVER dispensation of grace the true minister announces, he is constrained, with St. Paul, to brandish his spiritual weapons on the right hand and on the left. If he publishes the dispensation of the Father, he finds it necessary to defend its important truths against the daringly profane, on the one hand, and on the other, against the vainly superstitious. When he preaches the dispensation of the Son, he has still greater occasion to arm himself on every part, in defence of the doctrine he maintains. On the left hand he is attacked either by deists, who wholly disclaim all ideas of a Saviour; or by Socinians, who despoil that Saviour of his greatest glory; and on the right he is assailed by ill-instructed Christians, who, under pretence of exalting the Son, look down with contempt upon the dispensation of the Father, not considering, that by this error they oppose one principal design of Christ's appearing, which was that we might worship the Father in spirit and in truth. But it is chiefly with