« הקודםהמשך »
power which gives it a place among the realties of our being
By what process then shall we ascertain how much of the gospel is an absolute origination ; or how much is a mere adoption and authorization of pre-existing opinions ? Taking many other tests for granted, it may be suggested, that the amount of new truth contained in the gospel, or the degree of newness belonging to any one of its doctrines, may be conjectured from the number of errors which have sprung up around it. Truth is antecedent to error and the measure of it; as is the originality of a doctrine or system, in the same proportion will be the multiplicity of errors following. The whole tribe of error is parasitical, and can only grow by hanging its envenomed weight on the plants of truth. Let the doctrines of Christ be judged of in this way; the plants of the Lord's righthand planting, and the originality of his teaching will be apparent to all.
The doctrine of the agency of the Holy Spirit, is one of the most original which came from the lips of Christ; and one whose precise degree of originality is most marked and ascertainable. Referring to the records of the Old Testament, we learn the distinction of the Spirit in the unity of the Godhead; his personality and his divinity. We read of the same divine subsistence as daily replenishing the earth with life and beauty; as visiting and actuating the moral world at pleasure; and as promised to the church, with a frequency, particularity, and magnificence of language, which showed that the divine Promiser himself regarded the gift as indentical with a state of distinguished prosperity; and which led believers to mark it with supreme distinction, by calling it the promise.
Concerning the nature of the Holy Spirit, as a distinct and divine person, the teaching of Christ is clear and conclusive: nor can we conceive any thing more unwelcome, to those who shrink from applying the personal pronouns to the Divine Spirit, than the valedictory discourse of Christ to his disciples.* If I do not enlarge on this part of the subject then, let it be understoood, that I refrain not because Christ was silent on it ; for he, I repeat, was copious and explicit ; but because he had been greatly anticipated by the revelations of the Old Testament.
I. It is worthy of our earliest consideration, both from its native importance, and from the peculiar solemnity of the affirmation, that our Lord described the mission of the Holy Spirit as absolutely dependent on his own return to heaven. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away; for, if I go not away, the Spirit will not come unto you; but, if I depart, I will send him unto you. Now, admitting the impropriety of any arrangement which should have combined together the presence of the Spirit and the personal residence of Christ in permanent conjunction on earth, it may yet be inquired why the mission of the Spirit could not have taken place immediately before the ascension of Christ, as well as immediately after? If the inquirer be sincere, it would be sufficient to reply, 'Even so, Father: for so it seemeth good in thy sight.' The arrangement may have been founded on reasons of state ; reasons, which measure with the universe, as comprehensive as the divine government, and the issues of which are placed far in eternity. But many of the reasons for this arrangemen- are apparent;
* On the ineffable promanation or procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son, though it is ä truth which seems necessarily involved in certain parts of that discourse, I presume not to speak.
the Almighty evinced by it his reverence for order. He was evolving a plan of infinite magnitude, the unfolding of which had commenced at the fall; he had arrived at a vital part of it, a part on which he would have mankind in all
ages to fix their gaze; and he therefore caused it to unfold and pass before their eyes in slow and stately procession. He knew that man is easily distracted by multiplicity of objects; is extremely liable to place the cause for the effect, and the effect for the cause ; is taught most effectually by example; is prone to disregard a future good, so long as he can retain a present though inferior blessing: on all these accounts, therefore, the mission of the Holy Spirit was withheld until Christ had ascended to his appointed throne. The Almighty would signalize the enthronement of Chirst in the
eyes of the universe; would impress the minds of believers with the glorious reception which their Head had met with on his return to heaven; would enjoy the infinite satisfaction of hearing the first prayer
of that exalted Head for the promised Spirit; and thus demonstrate to them, at once and for ever, the certain prevalencey of his intercession; for if his first prayer succeeded in obtaining for us the great gift of the Spirit, how much more shall he secure for us every inferior good; God would show us in the most impressive manner, by placing the fact in the strong light of the mediatorial throne, that the connexion of the work of Christ with the gift of the Spirit is the absolute connexion of cause and effect.
*He spake of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive; for the Spirit was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified. Can we suppose that his ascension to heaven was a silent and private transaction? Shall an Elijah ascend in a chariot of fire ? shall the departed spirit of a Lazarus be conveyed by angels to Abraham's bosom ? and shall the Lord of angels himself return to his own dominions from the conquest of one world, and the redemption of another, unattended and obscure? No; The chariots of God, on the occasion, were twenty thousand, even thousands of angels.' At the point where he vanished from the view of mortals, he was joined by the rejoicing ranks of the cherubim and seraphim; he found them arranged to receive him; impatient to commence the celebration of his deeds, and to conduct him in triumph to his glorious throne. His appearance was the signal to begin the song: they called on earth to assist them in the mighty task, “Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord; to him that rideth
upon the heaven of heavens.' That was the moment when the universe became the vehicle of his glory; when he began to ride on the summit of creation; having all the events and revolutions of time for his chariot wheels. Hitherto, as man, he had inhabited the material parts of the creation; but now he relinquished these and took possession of the intelligent parts. He began to inhabit the praises of eternity: not merely the spiritual universe, but even the essence of that; the life of the spiritual universe, exhaling in the incense and fragrance of praise. He found himself enthroned far above all heavens, with the heights of creation for his footstool.
It had been predicted, and he himself had confirmed the expectation, that when he ascended up on high, he would give gifts unto men. But what gift can Christ bestow rich enough to signalize and grace his accession to the mediatorial throne ? had he collected together all the treasures of the earth, and multiplied them a thousand-fold, and then poured them out at the feet of his people, the gift would have been utterly inadequate to the greatness of the occasion; had all created good been accumulated upon them to the highest possible amount, it would only have disgraced
the greatness of the occasion. The unconfined benevolence of his heart impelled him to give something, (for it was the jubilee of heaven), and if he gave, he would be sure to bestow a gift worthy of himself, answerable to the magnitude of the occasion, honorable to the royalty of his grace. But if such is to be the character of the gift; the Spirit, the divine Spirit, the converting, enlightening, sanctifying, saving Spirit alone, must be the donation. Because he would give all gifts in one, he gave to them the Holy Spirit.
limited measure of this gift, indeed; the mere earnest of the Spirit; had been enjoyed under the Jewish dispensation : but the Spirit in his fulness was not then given, because the framework of that economy was too material to be inhabited and actuated by the Spirit; and because Jesus, for whose bestowment the gift was reserved, was not yet glorified. But, during the whole economy, the influences of the Spirit had been accumulating for that auspicious moment. Prayers had been daily ascending for the fulfillment of the promise ;' and, of all these earnest supplications, not one had been lost; each of them had been turned into the blessing sought for, and had added something to the treasures of divine influence. The church had been incessantly importuning God to hasten the impartation of the gift ; and, with profound satisfaction, he had beheld a stream of supplication flowing for ages into the same channel, without a moment's pause, swelling and rising, till it was ready to overflow and pour forth a healing flood of heavenly influence over the world. Nothing was wanting, but that Chrișt should add his intercession: Nothing was wanting, but that he should ascend his throne, and claim the gift of the Spirit, to pour it out upon his people.
• He ascended up on high, leading captivity captive, and