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PORTRAIT OF ST. PAUL.
THE TRUE MINISTER BELIEVES AND PREACHES THE THREE
GRAND PROMISES OF GOD, TOGETHER WITH THE THREE
We have seen, in the preceding chapters, that believers are saved by a lively faith and a joyful hope which mutually serve to excite and increase in their souls the superior grace of charity. Now, this faith and this hope must necessarily have for their foundation some promise of God. A promise already accomplished is embraced by faith alone; but a promise whose accomplishment is protracted is equally the object of faith and of hope. He, therefore, who is appointed by Christ a preacher of the everlasting gospel is solicitous to obtain clear ideas of the great promises of God. He is constantly engaged in meditating upon their past or future accomplishment, in order to maintain in his own heart those inestimable graces with which he is desirous to animate the souls of others. Observe the order in which he considers, embraces, and preaches them.
Under the dispensation of the Father, the grand promise was that which respected the external manifestation of the Son. The original promise, as made to Adam, was expressed in the following terms: "The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent." Gen. iii. 15. As the Messiah was to descend from Abraham, according to the flesh, the same promise was thus renewed to that patriarch : “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Genesis xii. 3. In the days of Moses it was repeated to all Israel as follows: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet, from the midst of thee, of thy brethren; unto him shall ye hearken.” Deut. xviii. 15. David and the other prophets powerfully confirmed this prophecy; and Malachi thus recapitulates the promises which had been given before his time: “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in ; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi iii. l. “ Unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth,” out of your present obscure dispensation, “and grow up," in spiritual strength, “as calves of the
, stall.” Malachi iv. 2. Thus speaks the last of the prophets under the dispensation of the Father.
Immediately upon the accomplishment of these promises, while the dispensation of the Son was but darkly opened by his precursor, another promise was given for the exercise of faith and hope, under this new economy, respecting the full manifestation of the Holy Ghost, as a Spirit of truth and love. Behold this grand promise, as announced by John the baptist : “ I am not the Christ; I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord.” John i. 20, 23. “I baptize
“ you with water unto repentance,” as a preparation for the spiritual kingdom and baptism of the Messiah ; " but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear;" he shall introduce a more spiritual dispensation, and administer a more efficacious baptism; for “ he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire," shedding abroad those gifts and graces of his Spirit which shall penetrate and purify your hearts as metals are penetrated and purified by material fire. Matt. iii. 11. This promise is of so great importance that it was thought necessary to be repeated by the four evangelists.
Our Lord, continuing the dispensation which his fore
runner had opened, “ made and baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus himself baptized not” with water, “but his disciples." John iv. 1, 2. The baptism
2 which he was about to administer was as far superior to the baptism of John, and that of his own disciples, as the water of which he spoke to the woman of Samaria was superior to the water of Jordan, or that of Jacob's well. “ Whosoever shall drink of the water that I shall give him," said he to that inquiring woman,—whosoever shall come to my baptism, and let down his vessel into the inexhaustible fountain of my grace,
-“ shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water,” a source of righteousness, peace, and joy, springing up into everlasting life.” John iv. 14.
In order to strengthen the hope of those who had been baptized with water, our Lord publicly ratified the promise which had been so frequently repeated to them by John the baptist : “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him ” in every age “should receive. For the Holy Ghost was not yet” fully “given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” John vii. 37, 39. An inestimable promise this, which deserves to be deeply engraven on the hearts of those who are merely acquainted with Christ according to his exterior appearance in the world. Observe here the method by which the blessed Jesus endeavours to prepare all such, in every country and in every period, for his manifestation in the Spirit: “ If you love me, keep my commandments," be faithful to the present dispensation of my gospel, “and I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.
At that day," when ye shall experience the fulness of his presence, “ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” For “ he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” John xiv. 15—23. By comparing these words with the
seventeenth and twenty-sixth verses of the same chapter, it is evident, that by this spiritual manifestation of the Father and the Son, nothing less can be intended than the full measure of that Holy Spirit " which proceedeth from the Father," John xv. 26, and which is expressly called “the Spirit of his Son." Galatians iv.
Our Lord, who knew the stupidity of those who were under the inferior dispensation of his gospel, and how “slow of heart” they were “to believe” what either the prophets or himself had spoken, judged it expedient to repeat the grand promise of the Spirit again and again. “ When the Comforter is come,” said he, “whom I will send unto you from the Father, he shall testify of me.” John xv. 26. “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” John xvi. 7. “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you.” Luke xxiv. 49.
The abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit was termed by our Lord “the promise of the Father," for two reasons: first, because, coming to instruct mankind how to worship the Father“ in spirit and in truth,” it became him to refer all things to that Father; and this he was strictly and constantly accustomed to do. Secondly, be
“the Father of lights” is to be considered as the author of “every good and perfect gift.” It was he who
so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son” to die for the world; and from him proceeds that Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ still continues to shed abroad among his faithful followers.
The Father had already promised, under the law, that he would grant unto his people a general outpouring of his Spirit, under the reign of the Messiah. The memorable prophecy of Joel, as
. quoted by St. Peter, is generally known; and the following promises equally merit the attention of believers : “In that day, I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.” Zechariah xii. 10.
6 I will pour water upon
him that is thirsty, and foods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring." Isaiah xliv. 3. "I will sprinkle clean water upon you,
shall be clean. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.” Ezekiel xxxvi. 25, 27. “I will give them one heart: I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh.” Ezekiel xi. 19. That man must be prejudiced to an extreme degree who perceives not that these gracious prophecies began to receive their accomplishment upon the day of pentecost, when the multitude of them that believed were heart and one soul.”
The last day our risen Saviour passed upon earth was employed in strengthening the faith of his disciples with respect to this promise. After having assembled them together, “h commanded them that they should wait for the promise of the Father, which,” continued he, “ye have heard of
For John truly baptized with water," and ye have done the same, by my direction ; “but
shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Acts i. 4, 5.
After the grand promise under the dispensation of the Son was in part accomplished, when the disciples were filled with faith and with the Holy Ghost, another promise was given to exercise their faith, to fix their attention, and to perfect their patience,-the promise of Christ's second coming to gather his wheat into the garner, and to burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew ii. 12. “This same Jesus," said the angels who appeared to the disciples on the day of their Master's ascension, “ This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts i. 11. This important promise was afterwards repeated by St. Paul and the other apostles: “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that obey not the gospel ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired