Page images
PDF
EPUB

but abide with the church absolutely unto the consummation of all things. He is now given in an eternal and unchangeable covenant; Isa. lix. 21. and he can no more depart from the church, than the everlasting, sure covenant of God can be abolished.

But it may be objected, by such as really inquire into the promises of Christ, and after their accomplishment, for the establishment of their faith ; whence it is, that if the Comforter abide always with the church, that so great à number of believers do in all ages spend, it may be, the greatest part of their lives in troubles and disconsolation, having no experience of the presence of the Holy Ghost with them as a Comforter. But this objection is not of force to weaken our faith as unto the accomplishment of this promise. For,

1. There is in the promise itself, a supposition of troubles and disconsolations thereon to befal the church in all ages. For with respect unto them it is that the Comforter is promised to be sent. And they do but dream who fancy such a state of the church in this world, as wherein it should be accompanied with such an assurance of all inward and outward satisfaction, as scarce to stand in need of this office or work of the Holy Ghost. Yea, the promise of his abiding with us for ever as a Comforter, is an infallible prediction that believers in all ages shall meet with troubles, sorrows, and disconsolation.

2. The accomplishment of Christ's promises doth not depend as to its truth upon our experience, at least not on what men sensibly feel in themselves under their distresses, much less on what they express with some mixture of unbelief. So we observed before from that place of the prophet concerning the church; Isa. xli. 27. that her way was hidden from the Lord, and her judgment passed over from her God. As she complained also, ' The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me;' chap. xlix. 14. But yet in both places God convinceth her of her mistake, and that indeed her complaint was but a fruit of unbelief. And so it is usual in great distresses, when persons are so swallowed up with sorrow, or overwhelmed with anguish, that they are not sensible of the work of the Holy Ghost in their consolation.

ercised! How vigorously and sharply these things are se on upon their spirits, according unto all advantages inward and outward, that their spiritual adversaries can lay hold upon? It will be manifest how necessary it was that their consolation should be intrusted with him with whom infinite power doth always dwell. And if our own inward or outward

peace seems to abate of the necessity of this consideration, it may not be amiss by the exercise of faith herein, to lay in provision for the future, seeing we know not what may befal us in the world. And should we live to see the church in storms, as who knows but we may, our principal supportment will be, that our Comforter is of almighty power, wonderful in counsel, and excellent in operation.

Fourthly, This dispensation of the Spirit is unchangeable. Unto whomsoever he is given as a Comforter, he abides with them for ever. This our Saviour expressly declares in the first promise he made of sending him as a Comforter in a peculiar manner. John xiv. 16. ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.' The moment of this promise lieth in his unchangeable continuance with the church. There was indeed a present occasion rendering necessary this declaration of the unchangeableness of his abode. For in all this discourse, our Saviour was preparing the hearts of his disciples for his departure from them, which was now at hand. And whereas he lays the whole of the relief which in that case he would afford unto them, upon his sending of the Holy Ghost, he takes care not only to prevent an objection which might arise in their minds about this dispensation of the Spirit, but also in so doing to secure the faith and consolation of the church in all ages. For as he himself, who had been their immediate, visible comforter during the whole time of his ministry among them, was now departing from them, and that so, as that the heavens were to receive him until the time of the restitution of all things, they might be apt to fear that this Comforter who was now promised unto them might continue also only for a season, whereby they should be reduced unto a new loss and sorrow. To assure their minds herein, our Lord Jesus Christ lets them know that this other Comforter should not only always continue with them unto the ends of their lives, work, and ministry,

but abide with the church absolutely unto the consummation of all things. He is now given in an eternal and unchangeable covenant; Isa. lix. 21. and he can no more depart from the church, than the everlasting, sure covenant of God can be abolished.

But it may be objected, by such as really inquire into the promises of Christ, and after their accomplishment, for the establishment of their faith ; whence it is, that if the Comforter abide always with the church, that so great a number of believers do in all ages spend, it may be, the greatest part of their lives in troubles and disconsolation, having no experience of the presence of the Holy Ghost with them as a Comforter. But this objection is not of force to weaken our faith as unto the accomplishment of this promise. For,

1. There is in the promise itself, a supposition of troubles and disconsolations thereon to befal the church in all ages. For with respect unto them it is that the Comforter is promised to be sent. And they do but dream who fancy such a state of the church in this world, as wherein it should be accompanied with such an assurance of all inward and outward satisfaction, as scarce to stand in need of this office or work of the Holy Ghost. Yea, the promise of his abiding with us for ever as a Comforter, is an infallible prediction that believers in all ages shall meet with troubles, sorrows, and disconsolation.

2. The accomplishment of Christ's promises doth not depend as to its truth upon our experience, at least not on what men sensibly feel in themselves under their distresses, much less on what they express with some mixture of unbelief. So we observed before from that place of the prophet concerning the church; Isa. xli. 27. that her' way was hidden from the Lord, and her judgment passed over from her God. As she complained also, ' The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me;' chap. xlix. 14. But yet in both places God convinceth her of her mistake, and that indeed her complaint was but a fruit of unbelief. And so it is usual in great distresses, when persons are so swallowed up with sorrow, or overwhelmed with anguish, that they are not sensible of the work of the Holy Ghost in their consolation.

3. He is a Comforter unto all believers at all times, and on all occasions wherein they really stand in need of spi-, ritual consolation. But yet if we intend to have experience of his work berein, to have the advantage of it, or benefit by it, there are sundry things required of ourselves in a way of duty. If we are negligent herein, it is no wonder if we are at a loss for those comforts which he is willing to administer. Unless we understand aright the nature of spiritual consolations, and value them both as sufficient and satisfactory, we are not like to enjoy them, at least not to be made sensible of them. Many under their troubles suppose there is no comfort but in their removal: and know not of any relief in their sorrow, but in the taking away of their cause. At best they value any outward relief before internal supports and refreshments. Such persons can never receive the consolation of the Holy Spirit unto any refreshing experience. To look for all our comforts from him, to value those things wherein his consolations do consist, above all earthly enjoyments, to wait upon him in the use of all means for the receiving of his influences of love and grace, to be fervent in prayer for his presence with us, and the manifes. tation of his grace, are required in all those towards whom he dischargeth this office. And whilst we are found in these ways of holy obedience and dependence, we shall find him a Comforter, and that for ever.

These things are observable in the office of the Holy Ghost, in general, as he is the Comforter of the church, and the manner of his discharge thereof. What is farther considerable unto the guidance of our faith, and the participation of consolation with respect hereunto, will be evident in the declaration of the particulars that belong thereunto.

CHAP. III.

Unto whom the Holy Spirit is promised and given as a Comforter ; or

the object of his acting in this office. We have considered the promise of Christ to send the Holy Spirit to be the Comforter of the church, and unto that end to abide with them for ever. The nature also of that office and work in general, which hereon he undertakes and dischargeth, with the properties of them, have been declared. Our next inquiry is, unto whom this promise is made, and towards whom it is infallibly fulfilled. How, and unto what ends, in what order, as unto his effects and operations, the Holy Spirit is promised unto any persons and received by them, hath been already declared in our former Discourses, book 4. chap. 3. We shall, therefore, here only declare in particular, who he is promised unto and received by, as a Comforter. And this is to all, and only unto, believers ; those who are actually so. All his operations required unto the making of them so to be, are antecedent hereunto. For the promise of him unto this end, wherever it is recorded, is made directly unto them, and unto them it is confined. Immediately it was given unto the apostles ; but it was not given unto them as apostles, but as believers and disciples of Christ, with a particular respect unto the difficulties and causes of disconsolation which they were under, or should meet withal, upon the account of their being so. See the promises unto this purpose expressly, John xiv. 16, 17. 26. xv. 26. xvi. 7, 8. And it is declared withal that the world, which in that place is opposed unto them that do believe, cannot receive him; chap. xiv. 17. Other effectual operations he hath upon the world, for their conviction, and the conversion of many of them. But as a Spirit of consolation he is neither promised unto them, nor can they receive him, until other gracious acts of his have passed on their souls. Besides, we shall see that all his actings and effects as a Comforter, are confined unto them that believe, and do all suppose saving faith, as antecedent unto them.

And this is the great fundamental privilege of true believers, whereby, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

« PreviousContinue »