The Operations of the Holy Spirit
Thomas Charles, 1838
The salvation of fallen man is wholly, from beginning to end, the work of God. The Father, Son, and Spirit have jointly engaged in covenant, and by promises, to accomplish this stupendous work. In this gracious engagement there could have been no other motive but divine love, ascribed peculiarly to the Father, though not to the exclusion of the Son and Spirit. The love of each person is the love of the divine nature common to each; it must therefore be the same in each.
The Father "so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son." The Son loved us, and gave himself for us. And the apostle beseeches the Romans, that "for the love of the Spirit, they would strive together with him."
This free love engaged them in their respective undertakings—the Father to elect, the Son to redeem the elect, and the Spirit to sanctify the redeemed. But this love is particularly ascribed to the Father, because as he is in all things the first mover, so also in redemption.
The salvation of man, and all the blessings it includes, proceed from the love of the Father, through the grace of the Son, and by the operations of the Spirit. The Spirit graciously reveals and applies the love of the Father, and the grace of the Son—which otherwise would never have profited us, any more than light can profit a blind man, or food a dead man—we have no eyes to see the one, nor appetite to feed on the other.
The Spirit is promised as the gift of the Father and of the Son—he therefore voluntarily comes in the name and by the authority of both. The same love which influenced the Son, when he "took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient even unto death," influences the Spirit in his condescension and undertaking as a Comforter and Sanctifier. He is infinitely free in all his operations. Our unworthiness has no more influence on him in what he does, than it had on Christ's coming to redeem the world. Christ died for the ungodly—and the Holy Spirit comes to, abides with, and sanctifies the ungodly. He comes into the heart, when it is nothing but filth, a hellish scene of all abominations and iniquities, a horrid darkness, a miserable confusion, like the world in its original chaotic state. He so loves his people committed to him, that he abides and dwells with them forever, acting with authority and power, according to his own pleasure, as their various circumstances may require. He prepares and strengthens them for every event, reveals to them what they must needs know; in the time and way most fit, inclines their hearts in the way and degree he pleases, and controls all their inward enemies.
As Christ is head over all things to the church in the outward world, ordering and directing all things, in the way most conducive to his own glory and to the real good of his people; so the Holy Spirit dwells in them, putting forth the exceeding greatness of his power in renewing, supporting, comforting; and restoring righteousness, joy, and peace. Every avenue of the soul, every one of its faculties is under his eye and over-ruling direction and control. Every rebel within, every worldly and sensual lust, and every filthiness of the spirit—he observes, restrains, and gradually subdues. He brings these by various means out of their lurking places, strips them of their false appearances, and exposes them to view in all their guilt and deformity.
The Spirit's work shall now be considered; as the work of Him who leads us into all truth, particularly respecting ourselves and God—of Him who convinces of sin and of righteousness.
I. The Spirit convicts of SIN.
"When the Spirit comes," says our Savior, "he will reprove the world of sin". Sin is already in the world, but the world sees it not. "Every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually." As every imagination, and every thought is only evil—there is nothing within us, by which evil can be discovered and condemned; for it will neither discover nor condemn itself. It is light alone which can discover the hidden things of darkness; but within us, in our natural state, there is no light. We are "darkness", and we "sit" in darkness, contented and satisfied with the state in which we are—we see not the evil of our darkness, nor seek any deliverance out of it.
There are indeed, as to most, some gleams of natural light remaining in the conscience, which may be strengthened and improved by education, instruction, and example; but at best they are but faint, and the knowledge they convey, is merely intellectual, floating in the head, vague, uncertain, and unaffecting; the heart continuing still as dark and unknown as ever. This natural light never did nor can reveal sin to be sin—to be what it really is, "exceeding sinful." Both the discovery it makes of sin, and the sentence it passes on it, are unfruitful and useless—it neither truly humbles us on its account, nor causes us to flee from it. It may make us fearful and uneasy; but it will not make us repent and turn from sin, to the living God.
But when the Spirit enters the heart, with the looking-glass of the law, as it were, in his hand, and shows sin in this mirror, then we see it to be sin; to be "exceeding sinful;" far beyond all imagination sinful, so that the mind is overwhelmed with the vastness of its guilt.
Sin is in general within us, without the law. So the apostle says, "I was alive without the law once;" that is, he was alive in sin and self-confidence, without any spiritual knowledge of or attention to the law, which condemns sin. But the law may also be with us—in our hands and in our heads; and we yet, not knowing its extent and spirituality, continue ignorant of the true nature of sin. It is holding a mirror before us in the dark, which cannot reveal our wrinkles and deformities. We may imagine, because we see no sin, that we have none. The truth is, we have no light to see our true nature.
But when we view ourselves in the looking-glass of the law by the light of the Spirit, then we see what we are, how corrupt and deformed; we then see sin to be sin, that it is exceeding sinful. "When the commandment thus comes, and sin is beheld by the light of the Spirit—then sin revives, and appears in a far different light to our mind; and we feel it by its power working, and by the authority of the law condemning; for the strength of sin is the law.
Not only some gross outward sins are discovered, but the Spirit enters the deepest recesses of the heart with the law, as it were, in his hand. He goes from chamber to chamber, searches every corner, discovers, tries and condemns secret lusts and spiritual filthiness, totally unknown and unthought of before. And as these secret lusts are discovered and condemned, the curse due to each is awfully pronounced, with divine authority, in the name of the eternal God.
And as our sins are thus gradually discovered, and brought to light, as to their number, nature, and guilt—the soul sees condemnation still enlarging before it, the curses of the law sound louder and more terrible, and the scene becomes exceedingly dreadful—every sin appears far greater than was ever before thought of, and their number becomes infinitely increased!
The individual would willingly turn his eyes from such wretchedness, would extinguish the light which discovers it, or would by some means take a brighter view of these dreadful objects—but all he can do is fruitless. He would forget his sins; but he cannot. He would excuse and palliate his offences, or seek some goodness to balance them; but this also is impossible. The law comes still more home; and light, clearer and brighter, shines upon the mind, discovering and condemning every evil thought, every sinful imagination. He may and will resist these convictions; "for the flesh lusts against the Spirit"—but it will be "hard to kick against the goads," when the Spirit works effectually, making known the exceeding greatness of his power in enlightening the understanding to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin!
When the Spirit thus works—then what discoveries does He make! What infinite guilt does He show to be in every spot and stain of sin! With what horror and amazement does the awakened sinner view his own pride, seeing it as comprehending all the atheism and enmity against God, which actuate the inhabitants of Hell!
Envy, malice, and revenge, the natural offspring of pride, he now sees to be the very temper and dispositions of the Devil himself!
He now sees and feels the force of the command, "You shall not covet;" and by it lust is made known to him in all its greatness and guilt.
His careless neglect and disregard of God, in what light does he view it now! To live without thoughts of God—the Spirit within us condemns as practical atheism. To think of him at all without the profoundest reverence and the deepest humility, without supreme love and submission, appears not much better.
When the Spirit shows sin to be sin, every frame of mind unsuitable to the divine majesty and purity, is exceedingly felt and lamented. Shame, sorrow, and indignation, the deepest self-abasement and abhorrence—now weigh down the soul, and humble it to the dust. Yes, there is a sort of infinity in the abasement of the soul, when the Spirit shows sin to be sin; he would still be more humble, and sink, were it possible, still deeper; he grieves, because he cannot grieve more; he abhors himself, because he cannot be still more detestable in his own sight. He sees an infinity of evil in sin, which he cannot fully comprehend, any more than he can the holiness of the law, or the greatness of God, against whom it is committed. He would therefore desire that his sorrow, humility, and self-abasement, should bear some proportion to it.
This is not a frame of mind which is only once known, when the sinner is first awakened; but is in an increasing degree his frame of mind, as he grows in holiness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit. So far is this sense of sin from being inconsistent with his comforts—it heightens his joys, sweetens his consolations, and effectually promotes holiness. Without this, all imagined joy and peace is a delusion; and all imagined holiness has no existence but in the pride and darkness of our own deceived hearts.
This is the only frame of mind that can fit us to receive blessings from Christ, and to walk humbly with him, who "fills the hungry with good things, but sends the rich empty away", who "gives grace to the humble, but sees the proud afar off". This conviction of sin is, while in this world—forever deeper, clearer, and more abiding, as the believer enjoys nearer communion with God, and grows in faith, love, and peace. And without the continual communion of the Spirit, thus with us, walking humbly with God is impossible.
II. The Spirit reveals CHRIST in the fullness of his merits, and the sufficiency of his grace.
"He shall glorify me," says Christ, "for he shall receive of mine, and show it unto you". "All things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said, that he shall take of mine, and show it unto you." Those things which the Father's love has prepared, and which Christ by his condescension and death has procured—the Spirit receives, takes and shows unto us.
He first shows unto us our own things, our sins, "he brings to light the hidden things of darkness, and makes manifest the counsels of the heart."
Then he takes the things of God and of Christ, and shows them to us in all their glory and excellency, and enables us by faith to receive them.
The Scriptures are express on the point, that without the Spirit we can neither know nor receive the things of God. We can no more know them, than we can know each others' thoughts without communicating them. "For no man," says the apostle, "knows the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him—even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God." Even when they are proposed to us, and we have an intellectual knowledge of them, they cannot be spiritually received; but they will ever be foolishness to us, until the Spirit shows them in their own glory and true light, and opens the heart to receive them.
"The natural man," as the apostle declares, "receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The things of the Father and of the Son are here called the things of the Spirit, because he takes of them, shows them to us, and enables us in his light to spiritually discern them.
This points out to us the way and means by which the Spirit comforts and sanctifies his people—he leads them into a clearer knowledge and into a more steadfast belief of the eternal love of the Father, and of the fullness and ability of Christ to save. He reveals the things of the Father and of the Son unto us. The Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God. The whole mind and will of the Father, he thoroughly knows and fully comprehends. And when we have received the Spirit of God, then we know the things that are freely given us by God, for the Spirit reveals them unto us.
He reveals them as originally the things of the Father; but he takes them as they are the things of Christ also, and shows them as coming to us in no other way but through him. He leads us to the source of all spiritual blessings—divine love. He also gives us a clear view of the channel through which they are conveyed to us—the atonement and righteousness of Christ. Thus he teaches us all things, "as the truth is in Jesus". He shows pardon, reconciliation, and grace—as they are in Jesus. These are the things of Christ which he takes; and he shows and teaches them as they are in Him, in all their infinite fullness and glory.
By his light we see the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, are enabled to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The Spirit also shows grace and truth—the things of Jesus as they dwell in him, in fullness great and equal to the dignity of the Person in whom they dwell. Hence it is, that "no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit". None can behold his glory as the only-begotten of the Father, but in this divine light. Without a spiritual apprehension of the dignity of his person—the fullness of grace and truth dwelling in him, must be forever unknown.
Thus the believer has a regular and complete view of divine things, given him as they are revealed in Scripture. There is no deficiency in any material part, no disorder, no confusion, but a beautiful connection and regularity. He sees them in their source, in the channel through which they are conveyed, in their dependence and influence. And when the Spirit thus shows them, they are sure to have the desired effect, and carry full conviction to the mind.
It is the demonstration of the Spirit and of power—it is, as if the sun shone at midnight with meridian splendor. The objects before unseen, become visible as they are, in all their glory. We clearly and distinctly see what before we could only feel after in darkness.
Together with this divine light—life and power are communicated to revive, comfort, and fructify the dead and barren soul. There is "the demonstration of the Spirit and power"—so that what we see clearly, and we feel effectually working with the power of the divinity. When the Spirit shows the love of the Father, and sheds this love abroad in the before unbelieving and disconsolate heart—it is with such clearness and power, that all the sense of sin, guilt, and unworthiness, and the clear view of the just vengeance due to sin, shall not be able to raise a doubt within us. By the clear evidence of the Father's love and good-will, the Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, so that we are able to cry out, "Abba, Father!" In this case, sin and Satan, pleading against us, are overpowered, and conscience and the law are silenced, being satisfied.
Similar also is the view which the Spirit gives of the person, righteousness, and grace of Christ.
The person of Christ, though before "without form or loveliness"—is now altogether lovely. The believer sees him to be such a Savior as he needs—one of infinite dignity, majesty, and power. He sees the obedience unto death of such a dignified person, forming a divine righteousness, perfect and consummate, amply sufficient to justify the most guilty, and deliver from condemnation those obnoxious to ruin! On Christ's righteousness, he rests with confidence, being fully persuaded of the Savior's ability to keep that which is committed to him, and to save to the uttermost.
The fullness of grace also, which is in Jesus to sanctify and support the soul, in opposition to every inward corruption and outward temptation, appears to partake of the infinity of Christ himself. His grace is a source that cannot be exhausted—an ocean that knows no bounds.
These things of Jesus, when thus showed, and thus seen in the light of the Spirit—effectually comfort the soul. Though the burden of sin and guilt was before intolerable—though innumerable evils had compassed him about, and his iniquities had taken such hold of him, that he was not able to look up, and his heart failed him—the things of Jesus, thus seen, bring him effectual relief, so that he is surprised and astonished at so unexpected, so suitable, and so full a deliverance!
The gloom of despair and the cloud of God's wrath, disappear—and he has "beauty, for ashes; the oil of joy, for mourning; and the garment of praise, for the spirit of heaviness".
Thus the Spirit is with us, as our comforter and advocate—pleading within us, with divine light and energy, our cause; answering every demand of the law, and every accusation of a guilty conscience, of sin, and of Satan.
He takes of the things of Jesus, and shows them to us. Until this is the case, we have nothing but our own things to produce and oppose to these bold and forcible accusations. No marvel then if they are never silenced, and we can obtain no comfort—for our own things only strengthen and confirm still more the accusations laid against us—but alas! they cannot show them to us, they cannot cause them to shine in their glory in our hearts, any more than they can cause the sun to shine at midnight.
But when the Spirit shows them and bears witness with our spirit, the dispute is at once at an end; peace is restored, and joy in the Holy Spirit abounds. And when the things of Christ are thus by the Spirit shown to us, and he by them pleads our cause against all accusers, to secure to believers their actual saving interest in them, and the sure accomplishment of all the promises, he seals them to the day of redemption. They are sealed now, "whereby," says the Apostle, "you are sealed."
The things of Christ, the blessings of pardon, reconciliation, and grace—are made sure and certain to them in particular, the free grant of them having the seal of Heaven annexed to it. And they are sealed also "to the day of redemption"—whereby the promises and blessings included in them are irrevocably confirmed, and the accomplishment of them, is made certain and infallible—until they are in the full enjoyment of the purchase made for them by Christ, when he obtained for them eternal redemption.
By the same means by which the Spirit within us comforts our souls—he also sanctifies them. True spiritual comfort and holiness are inseparable. Neither of them can be alone—where one is, there the other is also. They are effects of the same cause, and produced by the same means.
This work of the Spirit in teaching, comforting, and sanctifying, is aptly and beautifully set forth by the simile of anointing: "You have an anointing from the Holy One; and you know all things", "the anointing which you have received from him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you—but as the same anointing teaches you all things, and is truth and is no lie." It is an allusion to the Judaic anointings, by which persons and things were set apart and consecrated to any office or service which the Lord appointed.
Persons were thereby appointed and consecrated to offices—when at the same time they were endowed and qualified with the gifts requisite for the discharge of those offices. In allusion to this custom, true believers are said to have an anointing from the Holy One, and to know all things.
Things dedicated to the service of the Lord were also by holy oil consecrated for this purpose, and were ever afterwards regarded sacred and holy.
This sets forth the Spirit as the sanctifier, separating God's people from the unholy mass of the world, to be a peculiar people, zealous for good works.
There was also the oil of joy and gladness, to give a cheerful countenance to the sorrowful. So does the Spirit fill us with joy in believing.
The anointing therefore from the holy One—teaches, comforts and sanctifies his people. Those things which he teaches them are the means of their comfort and of their sanctification. The things of Jesus are still the materials with which he works, to produce every holy and desirable effect within the soul—for he is made to us of God—wisdom, righteousness, and also sanctification.
This will at once appear abundantly evident, if we consider the different parts of holiness enumerated by the Apostle as the fruits of the Spirit. "The fruit of the Spirit", he says, "is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." "The fruit of the Spirit", he says in another place, "is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth." All these are the different constituent parts of holiness, the different lineaments of the image of God restored on the soul. But they are no where to be found but where the Spirit dwells and abides.
We may as well expect fruit without a tree to bear it—as look for these graces where the Spirit is not. Without the Spirit changing the inward man and abiding within us—no waterings, no skill or application, can ever produce these fruits. There is this which materially distinguishes these graces from all other gifts of the Spirit—these sanctifying graces are fruits produced by the Spirit, as from a root dwelling and abiding within them; while the gifts of the Spirit are only the works and effects of his operations on men, and not fruits of his producing in them. The fruit proves that the tree is made good, and has life and vigor in it to bring forth fruits; but the gifts only show, that they is formed and shaped for a particular use; and may, when the end is answered, become useless and unprofitable.
But how does the Spirit within us, produce these fruits? Is it not by taking of the things of the Father and Son, and showing them to us?
How is love to God produced, but by his love being shed abroad in our hearts? "We love him—because he first loved us." The brightness of his love shining, by the Spirit, upon our dark and barren hearts, can alone produce this heavenly fruit. And without the things of Christ being shown—what peace, what joy can there be for a guilty sinner? Without the righteousness, merits and grace of Christ being revealed—we may as well expect to hear the voice of melody in the mansions of eternal misery—as to find spiritual peace and joy in the sinner's heart. But when the love of the Father and the grace of the Son are shown to us—then, and not until then, love, joy, and peace, are produced.
Unsound professors, who have no root in themselves and therefore can produce no fruit of any sort, may and do receive the word sometimes with joy—like Herod who "did many things and heard John gladly." But this empty and temporary joy differs as much from true joy—as mere blossoms do from the fruit. Like blossoms, it is unsubstantial and short-lived; the least severity of weather puts an end to its mirthful appearance—and having no root, it soon vanishes. But true joy is a real fruit, solid, substantial, refreshing, and nourishing. It revives, strengthens, and establishes the soul.
Whatever is a fruit of the Spirit, has a flavor and relish in it, which nothing else, however similar, can ever have. This true spiritual joy Christ calls his joy; "that my joy," he said to his disciples, "might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." It is his joy materially as the cause of it. It is a joy in believing in the Lord by the Holy Spirit. "The meek shall increase his joy in the Lord".
So also, if there is true long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, etc. in the world—they are all the fruits of the Spirit; and they are no where to be found but in the believer's heart.
Without the appearance, indeed, of these, in good breeding and civility of manners, the world could not go on without utter confusion, dissensions, and misery—but the fruits themselves grow nowhere but where the Spirit of God dwells and abides. They are alone produced by his enabling us by faith to see the riches of God's goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering to us unworthy and offending sinners. The mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and long-suffering—are only put on, when we perceive the greatness of Christ's mercies towards us. We forbear and forgive—only when and as Christ has forgiven us. It is when we see what debtors we are to him, and how freely and undeservedly we must obtain forgiveness—that we forbear with others. As he has forgiven us—so we forgive others. And the more lively sense we have by the Spirit of his continual long-suffering and continual forgiveness to us—the more ready we shall be to forbear and forgive one another.
Thus all the graces of the Spirit essentially differ from any semblance that may be of them in the world. They have a different, even a divine root—and are produced in a very different manner.
"We all," says the Apostle, including all believers until the end of time, "we all, with open face, beholding, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord—are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord." The Spirit is the great agent who effects this change, by showing to us the glory of the Lord in the face of Christ—and we are changed into the same image—the same mercy, the same compassion, the same goodness and grace—which by faith we see in him exercised towards us. These graces are produced in us by the Spirit, and exercised by us towards others.
We may vainly pride and please ourselves with some semblences of these graces—but we may be well assured, that nothing will be found to be real fruits of the Spirit, which are not produced by these effectual means, and in this way of holiness. If we have seen by the light of the Spirit, the glory of the Lord—then we must be proportionably changed into the same image, and by no other means can the change be produced!
The Spirit dwelling in our heart, as the implanter and former of every grace—is the pledge of our inheritance, which God has given to assure us of the entire accomplishment of all his promises, and of the full possession of the inheritance itself. And as the fruits produced by this divine agent are a proof and pledge—so they are also a part of the harvest which is to follow. So these fruits must precede the harvest. He who has not the first-fruits, can have no ground to expect that a harvest will ensue. Where these first-fruits of the Spirit are not, there the Spirit himself cannot be, as a pledge of our heavenly inheritance. If God has not given us a pledge of future glory—then our expectations are certainly groundless, and will in the end be disappointed.
Those who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, are feeding here in the wilderness on the grapes of yonder Canaan, the land of their inheritance—and by the taste they have here, they know the excellency of the country to which they are traveling. They groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of their body, and for the full enjoyment of that country, where they shall reap their full harvest in joy for evermore. While here, they still go on from strength to strength, feeding on these fruits; the Spirit daily helping their infirmities in the midst of their inward and outward troubles, giving them strength in weakness, light in darkness, wisdom and grace to support them until they appear before God in Zion.
Thus we have seen what the work of the Spirit: he convinces of sin, making it to appear sin, even exceedingly sinful—and he also takes of the things of Jesus, and shows them to us, by which means he effectually comforts and sanctifies our souls. He is thus with his people during the whole of their pilgrimage, still humbling them more in the dust, and still bringing the things of Jesus before their enlightened eyes with increasing glory.
Those who have had the things of Jesus shown them by the light of the Spirit, still long to see them more clearly. They see greater glory, yes, riches of glory, after which they stretch, and to which they would attain. And when they obtain their desire, they rest not, but would still go on to greater glory. They dig deeper and deeper into the unsearchable riches of Christ, and would comprehend more fully what they find which still surpasses knowledge—the love of the Father and the grace of the Son, in their greatness and infinity. They find an excellency in the knowledge of Christ, in comparison with which all other things are but loss and dung. This excellency is what they daily study to make progress in—to go on from glory to glory. This knowledge of Christ with them never grows old, or stale—but is always new, refreshing and more glorious.
From what has been said—
I. The necessity and importance of having the Spirit appear evident.
The Spirit is the life and soul of all true religion, the conveyer of all spiritual consolation, the implanter and nourisher of every grace and holy disposition Without him, whatever we are, we have only a name to live, and are indeed dead while we live. We can no more live spiritually, in fellowship with God, without the Spirit, than we can live a natural life without breathing. His light, life, and energy, are every moment wanted to enable us to see and feel spiritual things, or to produce any holy fruits of righteousness, From him only can we receive light; and unless he continues to shine daily upon us, our light will be turned unto darkness, our comforts will cease, and the graces of the Spirit will wither and die away. We may have a natural or intellectual knowledge of the things of God, by the exercise of our reasoning faculties; but to discern spiritual things spiritually, we can no more do without his continual agency, than a blind man can see the light of the sun. The Scriptures, without the Spirit, are at best only a dead letter, unefficacious and unanimating; and we have, in our best frames, only the form of godliness without its power.
Are we sensible of this? Are we looking to the Father, and praying earnestly for the Spirit of his Son to dwell in us, and to work effectually all his good pleasure in our hearts? Are we renouncing our own wisdom, becoming fools, that we may be wise? Is it not evident that we must be converted and become like children in this respect, humbly submitting in everything to be taught of God? Is the Spirit daily within us, convincing us of sin, and taking of the things of Christ, and showing them to us in still clearer light, and with more transforming efficacy? Are we going on from strength to strength, and also from glory to glory, seeing new glories and excellencies in Christ and him crucified? There is no other means of comfort and sanctification provided by the Father, nor any possible way of walking humbly with God.
O pray earnestly that God take not his Holy Spirit from us! Though he take away all your outward comforts, and make you as poor and as afflicted as Job—yet the Holy Spirit, being within you, can bring you effectual peace and comfort. Let him make the cross ever so heavy, empty you from vessel to vessel, cause you to be destitute, afflicted, and tormented, still the Holy Spirit, being within you, can until your hearts with joy unspeakable and full of glory. "Peace I leave with you," says Christ; "my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you." The world cannot give peace and joy, without removing the cross and the affliction, the cause of our trouble—but not as the world gives, give I unto you, says Christ; he gives peace in the midst of trouble, while it still continues; the Spirit within us causes us to glory in tribulation, to rejoice under the cross, and to triumph even in death. This is a blessing, which, we are sure, God never did, nor ever will, deny to any one that asks it of him, "If you being evil," says Christ, "know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him." To them that ask him, be they who they will, he is surely given willingly and freely. "Ask and you shall have," is his gracious declaration—and those who seek this blessing, he will never send empty away. O seek earnestly, and plead this promise, and you are sure to succeed. "Although the fig-tree should not blossom, neither fruit be on the vine; though the labor of the vineyard should fail, and the field should yield no meat; though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls; "yet ask, and you shall have a blessing, that will amply supply the want of all these things, and your hearts shall rejoice, and your joy no man, no devil, can take from you.
II. From what has been said—we see how great is the sin of grieving the Spirit.
Next to the unpardonable sin, this doubtless is the most aggravated, and the most provoking to God.
The unpardonable sin is a deliberate and final rejection of the Spirit in all his gracious operations as a comforter and sanctifier; which includes a virtual rejection of the whole economy of redemption—of the love of the Father and of the grace of the Son, which the Spirit comes to reveal and seal to us.
"Do you not know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16
"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:30
The grieving of the Spirit partakes also, in some degree, of the same rebellion and guilt—and we grieve Him, when we take little or no notice of his amazing condescension and love, in coming freely and willingly to be our comforter and sanctifier; when we study to make no returns of love by bringing forth, in a holy walk and conduct, the fruits of the Spirit; and when, it may be, by careless neglect and unwatchfulness, we fall into those habits and those courses which he abhors. He cannot pass by unnoticed, the unkindness and ingratitude thereby shown; but he is grieved and greatly displeased—though in this, there is no willful rejection of the Spirit—yet there is a great disregard, and an undervaluing of his consolations; especially if we fall into such courses after long and abundant experience of his comforts.
He is grieved, because he loves us and has our happiness much at heart—for to promote our holiness and happiness is the object of the office he exercises towards us. When we put obstructions in his way, as he discharges his office, and we still promote our own misery—how is the Spirit of love grieved!
Let us therefore, above all things, attend to his motions, and beware of a barren and unfruitful profession of religion, and of defiling by secret indulgences—the temple and habitation of the Spirit. "If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy''—what awful words! How should they make every believer tremble before God, and cause him to take more earnest heed to the frame of his heart, and to his outward conduct and conversation.
Defile his temple, who dwells with us as our comforter—how unworthy—how base a conduct! Shall we, who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, by our negligence, sin and folly—grieve him who is come on purpose to comfort us? How deservedly then do we walk in darkness and have no light. Shall we grieve him, without whom we cannot live, cannot think one good thought, nor breathe one good desire! Shall we grieve him, whose presence in the soul is Heaven, and whose absence is a Hell of corruption, darkness, and misery! Is it possible that we should make such base returns for such love, and be such enemies to our own happiness! Alas! what is man! In what dust and ashes ought even the best of us to lie down before him!
Shall we not rather take notice of his love and his kindness, and thankfully receive all our comforts from his hands, and observe his love and grace in every refreshing thought put into our minds? Yes, shall we not carefully watch and promote all his strivings and motions within us, and cheerfully comply with them, however self-denying and contrary to flesh and blood?
When he convinces of sin—let us set our hearts mightily against it. When he speaks comfort—let us hear him as the Lord our Comforter, making known the riches of love and grace in the Father and the Son, to our souls. And when we have no comfort, "walking in darkness and having no light," let us honor him by looking to and waiting for him only, for our light in darkness, our joy in sorrow, and our peace in trouble.