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flection, must tell him so ; anil if ever he come to be duly
sensible of it, and humbled on that account, lie will be so
far from excusing himself on the score of such inability,
that he will confess it as his guilt, take the blame entirely
to himself, justify God and his holy law, and implore the
influences of his Holy Spirit, to create a clean heart, and
renew a right spirit within him."* — Indeed, to vindicate
men on the plea of inabiliiy of this description, is to ex-
cuse them on account of that which, instead of being an
alleviation of their criminality, itself constitutes the very
essence of all their guilt.

'^dli/y Supposing the inability of man to be of this des-
cription, and to be, consequently, neither excusable in it-
self, nor any excuse for unbelief and rejection of the gos-
pel ; the difference produced by the grace of the Spirit of
God, when he makes any one a partaker of salvation,
leaves the case of others unaltered. The objection pro-
ceeds on the supposition, that there exists some kind of
claim, on the part of the guilty, for the exercise of Divine
clemency. But such a supposition is, on no account, and
in no degree, admissible. Persons, who persist in rebel-
lion, do not surely become more excusable than they were
before, because other rebels have been induced to lay down
their arms. If thry were without excuse when all were
lehels, their crime is neither altered in its nature, nor mit-
igated in its enormity, by the submission of some ; — even
although that submission has been the effect of distin-
guishing clemency on the part of their sovereign, extended
to such as had no more title to it than themselves ; — that
is, to such as Ipd, like them, no title to it at all. Where
vo claim exists in any, all may be left to suffer, or all may
be included in an act of mercy, or sovereign clemency may

* Dissertation on the Influences of llie Holy Spirit, by Archibald
TSI'Lean. Works, Vol. II. pa^e 110, 111.


freely select its objects. In the last of these cases, the
favour that is shown to some is an injury to none. The
criminal, who deserves to die, deserves not his punishment
the less, that another criminal is pardoned. This is a
subject, however, on the full illustration of whicli it is im-
possible at present to enter ; although I have deemed it
necessary thus to state my conviction respecting it ; be-
cause it is essentially connected with those vieAvs, which
seem to be so clearly taught in the Scriptures, with regard
to the sovereignty — the unshackled and unlimited free-
dom — of the grace of God, in the dispensation of those
Divine influences, which are indispensable to the salvation
of men.

I must conclude this discussion by observing, that the
hidden, unseen, mysterious nature of spiritual influence,
ought not to be urged as any argument against its reality.
On this and some other subjects, we are instructed, simply
to infer the operation of the cause from the existence of
the effects. How these effects are produced — the particu-
lar manner of the Holy Spirit's operation — we do not un-
derstand ; and we are expressly admonished of the vanity
of attempting to understand it : — " Marvel not that I said
unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth
where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but
canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth : so is
every one that is born of the Spirit."* We do not see
the wind itself ; — but we see and feel its effects. So it is,
as to every one that is born of the Spirit. His operation
is seci'et and unperceived. It is sometimes sudden and
sometimes gradual. But the reality of his influence must,
in every case, be determined, by its palpable results, in
the character of the person, who is the professed or ap-
parent subject of it. The effects of the wind are in pro-
portion to the degree of force with which it blows.
* John iii. 7, 8.


^^ Breathe but an air of heaven," and we perceive its in-
fluencc, in the stirring of the foliage, and in its grateful
and refreshing coolness to our bodily frame. Let the
tempest, again, rise ; — "vve hear its dreary bowlings, and
we witness its mighty power, in frightful desolations, on
land and on sea. liut in either case, the agent is invisi-
ble. It is only by its effects, that we can discover even
the direction in which it moves. "Whence itcometh, and
whither it goeth," we cannot tell. — " So is every one that
is born of the Spirit." Let the effects, as they are des-
cribed in the Scripture, be distinctly manifest : — and from
these we may infer the certainty of his previous operation.
Permit me to press, with earnestness, upon your atten-
tion, the unspeakable imj)ortance of that saving change of
which I have been endeavouring to sliow that the Holy
Spirit is the Author. Let not the declaration of the Sa-
viour, delivered with so much emphasis, be considered by
any of you, merely as an article of your professed creed,
but as a matter of fact, intinitely important and interesting
to all wlio hear me, and no less important and interesting
to myself: — ^^Except a man be born a^^ain, he cannot see
the kingdom of heaven.^' The question is not, Uo you
believe the doctrine of the necessity of regeneration ? — do
you hold it as an article of your speculative creed ? — But,
have you undergone the change of which the necessity is
thus declared ? — Have you been " born again ?" Multi-
tudes have regeneration in their professed creed, whose
hearts are strangers to the change which the word ex-
presses. I wish to impress you with the importance of the
question, whether yoii have been the subjects of this
cliangc, to pre[)are you for the subsequent part of this
subject, Avhich will exhibit a more detailed view of it»
nature ; that is, of what is implied in " having the Spirit
of Christ _;^' from which the impossibility stated in the


text will be manifest, of any man's being ChrisfSf who is
destitute of this Spirit.

Meantime, one of our chief encouragements, in contin-
uing to proclaim the gospel of salvation arises from the
assurance given us by " the God of all grace" himself,
that it shall not prove to all who hear it, " the savour of
death, unto death." — " Seek ye the Lord while he may
be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the
wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his
thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will
have mercy upon him, and to our Grod, for he will abun-
dantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord : for as
the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways
higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your
thoughts. For, as the rain cometh down, and the snow^
from heaven, and return not thither, but water the earth,
and make it to bring forth and bud, that it may give seed
to the sower, and bread to the eater ; so shall my word
be, that goeth forth out of my mouth : it shall not return
unto me void, but shall accomplish that which I please,
and pi'osper in the thing whereto I sent it."*

There are certain most benignant and animating decla-
rations, made by the blessed God in his word, — declara-
tions conceived in terms so striking, tliat were there no
other passages in the Bible, in proof of the doctrine of Di-
vine influence in the conversion and sanctification of men,
they would, of themselves, be sufficient to determine the
point. While 1 repeat these declarations, as a conclud-
ing evidence of the truth I have been endeavouring to es-
tablish — may God, in infinite mercy, by the energy of his
Holy Spirit, fulfil them, in the happy experience of all
present ! — " This shall be the covenant that I will make
Avith the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah,
* Isaiah Iv. 6 — 11.


After those clays, saith the Lord, I will put my law in
their inward parts, and write it in their hearts ; and I
will be their God, and they shall be ray people. And
they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and
every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord : for they
shall all know me, from the least of them, unto the great-
est of tliem, saith the Lord : for I will forgive their ini-
quity, and I will remember their sin no more."* " Then
will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be
clean ; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will
I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a
new spirit will I put within you ; and 1 will take away
the hifrd and stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give
you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you,
and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep
my judgments and do them.^'f

O that the Divine energy of the Spirit of grace may, by
the fulfilment of these "^ exceeding great and precious
promises," make it manifest, that the weapons of our war-
fare, which are not carnal, are mighty through God to
the pulling down of strong holds ; casting down imagina-
tions, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the
knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into sub-
jection to the obedience of Christ !"|

* Jer. xxxi. 33, 34. t Ezek. xixvi. 25—27. \ 2 Cor. x. 4, 5



Romans viii. 9.


I ENDEAVOURED, ill last Discoufse, to show, that by
" the Spirit of Christ,''^ in this solemn asseveration of the
apostle, we are not to understand his miraculous commu-
nications ; — because this would not only confine the say-
ing to the first age of the church, but, even with regard to
it, would render it manifestly untrue : — and, on the other
hand, that it could not signify the mind or disposition of
Christ — those holy tempers of soul which he possessed
and exemplified ; — because not only were these elsewhere
represented as the " fruits of the Spirit," but the language
of the context would by no means admit of such an inter-

I proposed, therefore, to treat, from this text, of the or-
dinary gracious influences of tlie Holy Spirit, as the true
and unequivocal evidences of a person's belonging to

In last Discourse, I confined myself to one point —
the necessity of the Spirit's influence to the accomplish-
ment of that saving change, which is represented in Scrip-


ture under the striking figures of a new birth, a resurree-
tion from death, a new creation. I was induced to do so,
not merely for the sake of giving compactness and unity
to the argument, but by a conviction, that, if this one point
were satisfactorily established, little difficulty would re-
main in admitting his continued agency, in the subsequent
progress of the Divine life in the soul.

I shall not attempt any recapitulation of the train of
reasoning then pursued ; but shall proceed immediately
to the remaining part of my subject.

I must begin, by pressing more particularly on your
attention, what was adverted to in the conclusion of the
former Discourse — the unspeakable importance of those
inquiries respecting our Christian profession, our present
state, and our future prospects, which are instantly and
forcibly suggested by the language of the text : — " If any
man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." — " He
is none of his P Think what this means. He is not one of
those, wlio are '* in Christ Jesus ;" not a genuine friend
and follower of the Redeemer ; not a subject of his grace,
an o])ject of his love, a partaker of his salvation : — but
one, who wants the characteristic mark of discipleship, —
the ^^ seal in his forehead ;'' and Avho, instead of being
acknowledged, received, and blessed, shall be disowned,
and banished, and cursed, at the great day ! — To be hisy
on the contrary. Me are taught by the context, is to have
an interest in his righteousness, and thus to be freed from
condemnation : — it is to be spiritually minded, which even
now is life and peace : — it is to have the good liope of a
resurrection to immortal life : — it is to be a child of God,
a partaker of his paternal love, and an heir of that glory,
with wiiich the heaviest suflerings of the present time arc
not worthy to be compared.* These opposite considera-
tions impart to this subject a degree of importance, such
♦ See verses J. 6. 11. 11— IS.


as ought to secure from all the most serious attention, and
the deepest concern.

In exact consistency with the views thus suggested by
the Immediate context, the Holy Spirit is, in other places,
represented as the pledge, the assurance, or earnest, of
" glory, and honour, and immortality." Thus, in a sub-
sequent verse of this very chapter : — " And not only tliey,
but ourselves also, who have the, first -fruits of the Spirit ^
even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the
adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."* By the
'^ first fruits of the Spirit,^^ are not meant here, I appre-
hend, the first, or earliest communications of the Spirit ;
but rather, the Spirit as the first-fruits, or earnest, of what
is at the same time specified as the great object of Chris-
tian hope and desire — " the adoption — the redemption of
our body." This is the simplest view of the meaning of
the phrase ; and it agrees not only with its connexion in
the chapter, but with the usual language of the New Tes-
tament on tlie same subject. A passage precisely parallel
occurs, Eph. i. 13, 14. — " In whom also, when ye be-
lieved, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise ;
which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemp-
tion of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his
glory." The " redemption of the purchased possession"
is the redemption of the people of God from the grave ;
the same event which the passage before us represents as
the object of their longing expectation : — and of this event,
and the subsequent everlasting possession of the heavenly.
" inheritance," the Holy Spirit is, in both passages, de-
clared to be the earnest, or the first-fruits. In like man-
ner, Paul says to the Corinthians : ^' Now he who stab-
lisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is
God ; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of
the Spirit in our hearts :" — and again ; ^[ Now he thai

* Verse 23,


liath wroMi^bl, us lor tlie self- same thing is God, who also
hath given unto us the earnest nf the Spirit.''*

Two inquiries, tiien, present themselves on this part ol'
the subject ; — A\'hat is meant by " having the Spirit ot"
Christ ?*^ — and, AV'hat is the legitimate, scriptural evi-
dence of the possession ?

In answer to the first of these inquiries, it may be ob-
served, that our '* having the Spirit of Christ" is obvious-
ly of equivalent import, with his ^' dwelling in us.'^ The
simple comparison of the preceding clause of the verse
with the latter, w Inch forms our text, is sufficient to show
this : " But yc arc not in the flesh, but in the Spirit ; if
so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you : now if any
man have nut the Spirit of Christ" — (the same Spirit, ob-
serve, called the Sjjivit of God in the one clause, and tiie
Spirit of Christ in the other) — ^* if any man have not the
Spirit of Christ," (that is, dwelling in himj " he is none
of his." Similar expressions are not uncommon in the
New Testament. " Know ye not that ye are the temple
of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you .^"f
^^ What ! know ye not that your body is tlie temple of the
Holy Ghost, which is in you, Avhicli ye have of God ?"J
— ^^ I will pray the Father, and he w ill give you another
Comforter, that he may abide with you forever : even the
Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it
seeth him not, ucitlier knoweth him : but ye know him :
for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in yon.^'^

Such expressions (especially those last quoted, from
the lips of Jesus himself) serve to throw a clear and sim-
pie light on an apostolic phrase, to which 1 liad occasion
formerly to re^er, in proof of the Divinity and Personality
of the Spirit — " the communion of the Holy Ghost.^^W —
The idea expressed by the W/ovi\ communion f or fellow-

* 2 Cor. i. 21, 22. V. 0. t 1 Cor. iii. 16. | vi. 19.

§ John xiv. Hi, ir. II 2 Cor. xiii. 13.


shipf accords precisely with that conveyed by our Sav-
iour's words — " that he may abide with you,^^ — *' he
dwelleth with yoii,^^ — " he shall he in you.'^ The apos-
tle wishes, in behalf of the Corinthian believers, the fulill-
ment of this gracious promise of their Lord. It is the
same word that is used,* when Christians are described
as having fellowship with the Father, and with the Son :
*^ That which we have seen and heard, declare we unto
you, that ye also may fellowship with us : and truly
our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus
Christ."! And in using this language, John seems evi-
dently to have had in mind the words of his Master,
as recorded by himself, in the same Discourse with those
formerly quoted in reference to the Holy Spirit, and in
immediate connexion with them : ^^ Jesus answered, and
said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words :
and my Father will love him, and we will come unto hinif
and make our abode with him.^^X

If our " having the Spirit of Christ," then, or his
" dwelling in us," is the evidence of our being his, and
the want of his Spirit, consequently, the evidence of the
contrary ; the second question before stated, immediately
presses upon our notice : " What is the evidence of our
having this Spirit ? — what are the conclusive indications
of his presence ? — how are we to know that he dwelleth
in us ?"

On this part of our inquiry, it may be proper, first of
all, to observe, that, what our Lord says to Nicodemus,
respecting the invisible secrecy of spiritual influence, is
just as applicable to the subsequent as to the first opera-
tions of the Divine Agent. — The residence of the Holy
Spirit in the soul is not to be ascertained by any thing of
the nature of direct and sensible impulse ; — as if his ope-
rations were to be felt within, like mechanical impressions.
* Mi-imioi. t 1 .Tolin i. 3. \ John xiv. 23.


Some notion of this kind, although not, perhaps, distinct-
ly avowed, has often given rise to much enthusiasm.
The Spirit is compared to Jive, on account of the power-
ful and purifying nature of that energy which he exerts
on the mind and heart. But it would be a false conclu-
sion, to infer from this comparison, that his energy must
be sensibly felt, in the same way as the heat of fire is per-
ceived when it aftects the body. From the language of
some on this particular subject, one would be apt to sus-
pect, if it were not previously known to be otherwise, that
they imagine some kind of materiality, both in the agent
himself, and in the mind that is the subject of his influence.

Neither is the evidence of the in-dwelling of the Spirit
to be sought for in sudden and violent emotions, the occa-
sional starts, and transient transports of feeling. These
are of a nature too unsteady and fluctuating, and, from the
influence of constitutional temperament, and various other
natural causes, too subject to mistake and delusion, to
form a satisfcictory proof, in a matter of such unspeakable

To the question, then, What is the proper evidence of
any man's " having the Spirit of Christ ?" I would an-
swer in general — The effects produced by his influence on
the character of all in whom he dwells.

Were I to pursue this subject at full length, I should
be led to an illustration of all the principles which form
the Christian character, in the whole of their extensive
and diversified operation ; — these, according to the Scrip-
tures, being all the result of Divine influence. The view
of the subject to lic presented in this Discourse, must, of
necessity, be more brief and general.

^^ When the Comforter is come," said Jesus to his dis-
ciples, " whom I will send unto you from the Father,
oven the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Fa-
ther, he shall testify of me .-'^ — " He shall glorify me :


for he shall take of mine and shall show it unto you."*
The first and great work of the Spirit then, is to testify of
Chnst ; — to show the truth concerning him to the 7nind :
and the gi'eat general design , and tendency, and effect, of
all his operations, is, to glorify him. For, even suppos-
ing that the words now quoted had reference to the inspi-
ration of his apostles, still it is an obvious conclusion from
them, that the sarte truth which he revealed by inspira-
tion, and attested by his miraculous energy, is the truth,
the excellence and glory of which (as we endeavoured to
show in last Discourse) he opens the understanding to dis-
cern. I wish this leading observation, respecting the na-
ture and principal design of the Spirit's operation, to be
kept in mind ; because it forms a kind of general principle,
throughout the subsequent illustrations.

Since ^* the vision and the prophecy" were closed, in
the isle of Patmos, the Spirit of God has imparted no new
revelations. The volume of inspiration was then com-
pleted; and the heavy displeasure of God denounced
against any one who should ever presume either to add
to, or to take away from its contents. Every pretension,
therefore, to communications from the Spirit, possessing
the same authority with the inspired records, is to be
treated as either pitiable delusion, or detestable imposture.

It is now the work of this Divine Agent, not to make
new discoveries of the mind of God, but to impart spirit-
ual discernment of what is already revealed ; particularly
concerning the person, character, and work of the Re-
deemer. And the very first effect of his illuminating in-
fluence, is, to bring the sinner, who is the subject of his
gracious operation, under a deep and abasing sense of his
guilt and unworthiness, to humble and simple reliance on
free mercy, through the righteousness and atonement of
Immanuel. The very first attitude in which such a sin-

^ .Tolm XV. 26. xvi. tf.


ner presents himself to our view, is — " standing afar off,**
not presuming '^ even to lift up bis eyes to heaven, but
smiting on bis breast, and saying, God be merciful to me,
11 sinner !"

Justification by free grace, through the righteousness of
Jesus Christ, I apprehend to be the very first principle of
the gospel ; — a principle, therefore, respecting which we
dare not speak in cjualitied or undecided terms. And if
this be indeed so fundamental a ])rinciple, it will necessa-
rily follow that dependence, for justification, on the free
grace of God, through the righteousness of Christ, must be
one of the first and most essential features of tlie Christian
character. If the first apparent effect of tiie Spirit's con-
verting energy is to bring the sinner to this dependence ;
it is also one of the permanent effects of his continued in-
fluence, that the mind is kept in this state ; — kept " look-
ing unto Jesus ;*' confiding in bis atoning sacrifice, as the
only ground of acceptance in the sight of God ; persisting
to renounce, — as forming no part of tbe meritorious foun-
dation of hope, — all that is felt, or said, or done, after
conversion ; just as, o^ conversion, all was, in this view,
renounced, that had been felt, or said, or done, before it.

Some of you, possibly, may be disposed to tliink, that
this is an effect, to the production of which Divine influ-
ence is not at all nc

Online LibraryRalph WardlawDiscourses on the principal points of the Socinian controversy → online text (page 27 of 36)