« PreviousContinue »
nias and Sapphira expired at the apostle's feet; and such a multitude of prodigies were then achieved, in order to give weight to the ministry of the first preachers of the gospel, that no one among us can be unacquainted with those extraordinary events. But good wishes, prayers, entreaties, are all we can now exert to insinuate into your hearts, and conciliate your attention.
What then! is the Holy Spirit, who once descended with so much lustre on the primitive Christians, refused to us ? What then! shall we have no participation in the glory of that day; shall we talk of the prodigies seen by the infant church, solely to excite regret at the darkness of the dispensation, in which it has pleased God to give us birth. Away with the thought! The change is only in the exterior aspect, not in the basis and substance of Christianity: whatever essential endowments the Holy Spirit once communicated to the primitive Christians, he now communicates to us. Hear the words we have read, He which stablisheth you with us, in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God ; who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearls. On these operations of the Holy Spirit in the heart, we now purpose to treat, and on which we shall make three kinds of observations.
I. It is designed to develope the manner in which this operation is expressed in the words of my text.
II. To explain its nature, and prove its reality.
III. To trace the disposition of the man who retards, and the man who furthers the operations of the Holy Spirit.
This comprises the outlines of our discourse.
I. We shall easily comprehend the manner in which St. Paul expresses the operation of the Holy Spirit, if we follow the subsequent rules.
1. Let us reduce the metaphor to its genuine import. St. Paul wished to prove the truth and certainty of the promises God had given the church by his ministry : All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, 2 Cor. i. 20. These are Hebrew modes of speech. The Jews say, in order to express the deceit of words, that there are men with whom yes is no, and no is yes; on the contrary, the yea of a good man is yea, and nay is nay. Hence the maxim of a celebrated Rabbin, “Let the disciples of the wise give and receive in fidelity and truth, saying, yea, yea ; nay, nay." And ii was in allusion to this mode of speech, that our Saviour said to his disciples, Let your yea be yea, and nay be nay; whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil, Matt. v. 37.
St. Paul, to prove that the promises God has gire en us in his word, are yea and amen; that is, sure and certain, says, he has established them in a threefold manner; by the anointing, the seal, and the earnest. These several terms express the same idea, and mark the diversified operations of the Holy Spirit, for the confirmation of the evangelical promises. However, if another will assert, that we are to understand different operations by these three terins, I will not controvert his opinion. By the unction, may be understood, the miraculous endowment.afforded to the apostles, and to a vast number
of the primitive Christians, and the inferences enilightened men would consequently draw in favour of Christianity. It is a metaphor taken from the oil poured by the special command of God, on the head of persons selected for grand achievments, and particularly on the head of kings and priests. It implied that God had designated those men for distinguished offices, and communicated to them the necessary endowments for the adequate discharge of their duty. Under this idea, St. John represents the gift of the Holy Spirit, granted to the whole church: Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things, 1 John, ii. 20.
By the scal, of which the apostle here says, God hath sealed us, the sacraments may be understood. The metaphor is derived from the usages of society in affixing seals to covenants and treaties. Under this design are the sacraments represented in the Scriptures. The term is found applied to those exterior institutions in the fourth chapter of St. Paul's epistle to the Romans. It is there said, that Abraham received the sign of circumcision, as a seal of the righleousness of faith. By the institution of this sign, to Abraham and his posterity, God distinguished the Jews from every nation of the earth; marked them as his own, and blessed them with the fruits of evangelical justification. This is its true import, provided the interior grace be associated with the exterior sign; I would say, sanctification, or the image of God'; purity being inculcated on us in the Scriptures by the symbol of a seal. This, in our opinion, is the import of that fine passage, so
distorted by the schoolmen ; The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his : let every one that nameth (or invoketh) the name of Christ depart from iniquity, 2 Tim. ii. 19. What is God's seal ? How does God know his own? Is it by the exterior badges of sacraments ? Is it by the circumcision which is in the flesh? No, it is by this more hallowed test, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
In fine, by the EARNEST of the Spirit, we understand those foretastes of heaven which God communicates to some of those he has designated to celestial happiness. An earnest is a deposit of part of the purchase-money for a bargain. St. Paul says, and in the sense attached to the term, We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burthened : not that we would be unclothed, but clothed, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God; who also kath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit, 2 Cor. V. 4, 5.
Whether, therefore, each of these terms, unction, seal, earnest, express the same thing ; and I think it could be proved, by several texts of Scripture, in which they are promiscuously used ;-or, whether they convey three distinct ideas ;--they all indicate that God confirms to us the evangelical promises in the way we have described.
This is the idea, my brethren, we should attach to the metaphors in our text. In order to comprehend the Scriptures, you should always recollect, that they abound with these forms of speech. The sa
cred writers lived in a warm climate ; whose inhabitants had a natural vivacity of imagination, very different from us who reside in a colder region, and under a cloudy sky ; who have consequently a peculiar gravity, and dulness of temperature. Seldom, therefore, did the men of whom we have been speaking, employ the simple style. They borrowed bold figures; they magnified objects; they delighted in amplitude and hyperbole. The Holy Spirit, employing the pen of the sacred authors, did not change, but sanctify their temperature. It was his pleasure that they should speak in the language used in their own time ; and avail themselves of those forms of speech, without which they would neither have been heard nor understood.
2. Let us reduce the metaphor to precision, and the figure to truth. But, under a notion of reducing it to truth, let us not enfeeble its force; and, while we would reject imaginary mysteries, let us not destroy those which are real. This second caution is requisite, in order to supercede the false glosses which have been attached to the text. Two of these we ought particularly to reject ;-the one on the word Spirit the other on the words, seal, unclion, and earnest, which we have endeavoured to explain.
Some divines have asserted, that the word Spirit, ought to be arranged in the class of metaphors designed to express, not a person of the Godhead, but an action of Providence; and that we should attach this sense to the term, not only in this text, but also in all those we adduce to prove, that there is a di