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he makes it their office to comfort them that mourn. But all their ministrations are only instrumental. It is the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, who teaches you all things, and brings all things to your remembrance. Therefore when the hearts of the disciples were troubled at the thoughts of losing their Lord, he dwells on the work of the Holy Spirit as a comforter-I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth: I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you. Indeed, all his purifying and sanctifying influences are calculated to produce this effect; the fruit of the Spirit being love, joy, and peace, must console and gladden. What a cheering and delightful effect of the Gospel is here! Christian reader, all your joy and peace in believing, and all your abounding in hope, is through the power of the Holy Ghost. He applies the blood of Christ, as shed for sinners, with power to your conscience; he gives you the full assurance of hope; he causes you to rejoice in the Lord. When you are burdened by sin, when you are desponding under a sense of your guilt and weakness, when you are ready to sink under your own unprofitableness and deadness, then the Holy Spirit can and does revive and console by some sweet promise, and cheer the heart by bringing before us the love of our Heavenly Father, and the bowels of compassion in our gracious Redeemer. Like the gentle and tender dove, the Holy Spirit comes down and lights upon us, and soothes, and tranquillizes, and gladdens. He kindles a holy fire, and yet fills us with inexpressible meekness, kindness, and gentleness. O the blessed state of that mind in which the Holy Ghost ever reigns, and which he ever replenishes!
(3.) The work of the Spirit through hearing, is also
compared to AN IMPRESSION MADE BY A SEAL. In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation; in whom after that ye believed ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise: (Eph. i, 13.) sealed unto the day of redemption. The end of sealing is to mark for one's own, by stamping an impression similar to the seal. Thus God's children are by his Spirit made like him in holiness, and receive the assurance that they belong to God, and shall partake of the heavenly inheritance. Eph. i, 14. The blessed Spirit, when truly received, produces all holy dispositions. He humbles the proud heart. He makes the word powerful like a hammer, to break in pieces that which is hard. Jer. xxiii, 29. The great and exceeding precious promises received by faith, fill the heart with love to God, and love to man, and we become partakers of the divine nature. The same Spirit gives a cleansing and sanctifying power to the word, (Eph. v, 26.) and fills the believing hearer with full assurance of hope and joy in the Holy Ghost. The statutes become the rejoicing of the heart, and our heritage for ever. These, and similar holy and happy graces and tempers, are the marks of this Divine seal. O that every reader may be able to discern them in his own soul!
Such being the gracious character of the work of the Spirit, how invaluable is HEARING THE TRUTH AS
ONE OF THE ORDINARY AND APPOINTED MEANS BY WHICH GOD CONVEYS THIS INESTIMABLE GIFT! This is the way in which God bestows his grace. We receive the promise of the Spirit by the hearing of faith; it is that divinely-instituted plan, with which God's power concurs. It has been observed by Maclaurin, that there are two great principles of
Christianity, distinguishing it from all other religious.
1. That the knowledge of Christ Jesus, the doctrine of God's grace, is the means of turning our souls to God, and of cleansing us from our filthiness and our idols. And then, 2. That though that doctrine be an ree excellent means of turning us to God; that it is but a Be sel means, that it is but an instrument; the efficacy of it
depends upon the manifestation of the power of God, be that exceeding greatness of power that raises souls from
the dead." Both these principles are brought before eef us, when we are told that the first Christian teachers pra went to Antioch preaching the Lord Jesus. And the merkand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord. Acts xi, 20, 21. This teaches us a most important practical lesson as to what we should expect and desire in hearing. Let us not attend a public ministry from curiosity, custom, love to a favourite preacher, or the mere alarms of conscience; but let us go in obedience to the will of God, Ghoping to obtain conversion if unconverted, and growth in grace if we have obtained mercy: in short, expecting to receive divine succour and strength in the way of God's appointment. O Christian reader, if you would derive profit in hearing, we beseech you mainly to look for God's help and blessing! No preacher in the world can do you good without God's special grace. While you go to hear, say with the Psalmist, Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. We are ever too forgetful of Him, from whom every good comes. We, poor and insufficient creatures, form a sad estimate of the need and value of his grace. Let us then, if we really desire spiritual blessings, look more to the Lord, the Spirit, and come to the Christian assembly, hear while in that assembly, and return
from it, in the spirit of prayer. Thus hearing the sermons, though poor in themselves, will be blessed to our spiritual and eternal good.
Thus they of old received the Holy Spirit. Cornelius is directed to send for Peter, who preaches the Gospel to him and those with him; and while Peter was speaking, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. The Apostle Paul appeals to the Galatians, This only would I learn of you; received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Wisdom is described as calling men from sin and ignorance, saying, Turn you at my reproof; behold, I will pour out my Spirit upon you, I will make known my words unto you. God honours the ministry of the word, and the doctrines of salvation, by making them the appointed means of communicating his grace, the very channel through which the waters of life flow down to us.
But do you question whether you may now hope to receive this gift, or ask whether it is still bestowed? We reply, God has declared that he will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him. He has graciously promised, It shall come to pass in the last days, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh, a promise belonging to the whole period of the Christian Dispensation, aud embracing in the comprehensive terms, all flesh, the whole human race, as St. Peter tells the Jews; the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Do you allege your unworthiness? Remember that the blessing is BESTOWED FREELY. True it is, it cost our Saviour much. He shed his most precious blood, rose from the dead, and ascended on high, that he might receive this gift for the rebellious also. Ps. lxviii,
18. But we obtain it most freely. The very expression, I will pour out of my Spirit, shews how freely it is given to us, even as freely as the clouds pour out the rain that refreshes and fructifies the earth. As free as the light of heaven, as free as the air we breathe, as free as the water we drink, so freely is this gift granted to all that seek. The invitation of Christ, with reference to this very gift, is, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.
Do you still doubt whether you are included? Remember that THERE IS NO RESTRICTION THE PROMISE. No blessing is more unreservedly, and unrestrictedly, more expressly and decidedly promised, than the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord appeals to the universal, and the strongest feelings of mankind, the love of parents to their children, and then adds, How much more shall your Heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him. The promise includes, as we have just said, all flesh. Acts ii, 17. None need shut themselves out from so great a benefit. It belongs to the old; Seek ye the Lord while he may be found. It belongs to the young; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. High and low, rich and poor, converted and unconverted, all need, and all may be benefited by the communications of this divine gift.
Would you then, Christian reader, largely receive this divine assistance? use the means of grace only as the means, and not the end. Be much in reading the Holy Scriptures, and give a diligent attendance to the preaching of the Gospel, still looking upward for that divine unction by which these means shall be made a real blessing. Remember too, that this Holy Spirit, like his emblem, the tender dove, is easily driven away.