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Spirit who helps and supports us, as a nurse bears in her arms the tender and feeble infant.'
The word rendered, help, in the text is one of peculiar strength. It implies that the Spirit takes upon himself a large part of the burden by which our infirmity is weighed down, and not only succours us in a slight degree, but effectually relieves us by dividing, as it were, the burden with us. The image is taken from one who sets his shoulder to another's, and lifts with him at the same load. Let this consideration then encourage us! What, if it is not said in Scripture that we shall be wholly delivered in this world from our moral sicknesses; is it not much that we are effectually assisted under them? Shall we despair, whilst we have such an helper? :: The image here employed may also teach us that we are not to relax our exertions, whilst looking for the gracious aid of the Spirit, but rather to increase them. The idea of help,' seems to imply that we are ourselves making all possible efforts, and that, whilst making them, the Spirit relieves us under our infirmities. It is true indeed, that all which is good in us is the fruit of the preventing grace of God; but it appears to be intimated in the expression before us, that, in the ordinary course of our duty in prayer, 'we are to put forth and stir up to the utmost the grace of God which is in us, in dependence on this almighty aid,
The particular manner in which this help is afforded is by the Spirit MAKING INTERCESSION FOR US, that: is, so sanctifying our affections and exciting our desires, that we are enabled to pour out our minds to God in fervent effectual intercession and prayer. This seems to be the meaning of the term Intercession in this place, as it is obviously explanatory of the previous general expression of helping our infirmities, and stands opposed to our not knowing what to pray for as we ought; and as it is connected with those unutterable desires in prayer which the text proceeds to describe.
The intercession of the Spirit, then, is not to be understood of his acting the part of a mediator between God and man on our account, before the throne of the Majesty on high, but of his relieving our infirmities, as the Illuminator and Comforter of the faithful, in our rem ligious addresses and duties. Christ is the only Mediator and Advocate with the Father; the Spirit is our Sanctifier and the assister of our weaknesses here. The office of Christ is immediately before the throne of God, the agency of the Spirit is more directly with the church. The intercession of Christ is without us, that of the Holy Ghost is within us. The intercession of Christ is meritorious, the intercession of the Spirit is gracious and supporting Christ intercedes, and the Spirit is given ; the Holy Ghost intercedes, and we implore the benefits of the Saviour's death. By the intercession of Christ all the obstacles to our salvation are removed, as they respect our offended God; by the intercession of the Spirit all the difficulties are taken away which arise from our own frail and corrupt hearts.. Christ pleads above, the Spirit pleads below. By the one we are taught to pray, by the other our prayers are accepted. Accordingly the Holy Ghost was of old promised as a Spirit of grace and of supplications : and, because we are sons, God is said to have sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, (or as it is in the 8th chapter of the Romans, whereby we cry), Abba, Father. Gal. iv. 6. This last expression will precisely explain the term Intercession before us : for, as by the blessed Spirit crying in our hearts, Abba, Father, is obviously meant his enabling us so to cry; in like manner his making intercession for us, is designed to describe his enabling us to intercede and pray for ourselves.
The aid which we derive from this gracious assistance of the Holy Spirit will further appear, if we attend to the last words of our text, WITH GROANINGS WHICH CANNOT BE UTTERED. These groanings-these heart-felt supplications are the effect of the gracious movement of the divine Spirit on our hearts. Ardent importunity and fervent desires in prayer are the fruit of his intercession. · There would appear to be a reference in these words, to what the Apostle had just before' spoken of the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain together for deliverance *. In this earnest longing the true Christian largely partakes. Ourselves also, adds the Apostle, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. And in this, the Spirit itself helpeth our infirmities, making intercession for us with groanings not to be uttered, filling us with desires and pantings of the whole soul after God, which no words can adequately express.
Sin has disordered all the creation. "A curse mingles with every pleasure; the irrational creatures are subjected to vanity; and the uncon
* The whole passage is very remarkable--so remarkable, that the full and satisfactory explanation of it has hitherto presented a difficulty to the greatest Divines. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope; because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves; waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body, Rom. viii. 19-23.
verted mass of mankind may be said to wait, as it were, with piteous and touching misery, for the manifestation of the sons of God. But Christians especially, who have an actual and spiritual sense of all the evil around them, who see the full malignity and mischief of sin, and who have already some pledge and earnest of the future deliverance, labour as in strong pangs to accelerate the promised rescue; and, when thus employed, the Holy Spirit prompts their desires and intercedes for them by those sighs and breathings which he excites after the redemption to which he seals them, and for the enjoyment of which they therefore long with intense faith and ferveney *,
These unutterable groanings will be better understood, if we consider the general state of difficulty and conflict in which the Christian, in consequence of sin, is involved. For, what are all the infirmities of the sincere Christian, what are all his defects in prayer, what all his trials in this earthly tabernacle, but the effect of that general state of ruin into which man's sin has plunged both bimself, and the whole creation, so to speak, with which he stan Is connected? The aid therefore of the blessed Spirit is seen chiefly in the humble but fervent ex, pression of these painful feelings. The Chris
* See Whitby in loc,