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Meditations on the Person, Work, and Covenant Offices
of God the Holy Spirit
by J. C. Philpot
The glorious truths connected with the Deity, Personality, and Covenant Offices of the blessed Spirit, which have thus far engaged our thoughts and employed our pen, are in themselves so deep and yet so full, and in their application to the experience of the living family of God so varied and yet so comprehensive, that the nearer we approach the close of our Meditations upon them, the more sensibly do we feel the vastness and difficulty of the subject which we have undertaken to consider, and our own inability to unfold it in any way becoming its divine blessedness. But as we are already in sight of the goal, for with this paper we shall close our present Meditations, we feel that we must not now halt in our course, but, with such ability as the Lord may give, still speed our way onward, sustained by the hope that we are so running, not as uncertainly, but, with his gracious help whom we are seeking to honor, may win the coveted prize the high privilege of bringing some glory to God and communicating some profit to his people.
But as we approach the terminus of our labors we are pressed also by another consideration the difficulty of crowding into our remaining narrow compass what still remains before us of the gracious operations of the blessed Spirit upon the hearts of the saints of God.
Some of these we have already considered, and broke off rather abruptly in our last paper, while contemplating his divine operation as a Spirit of grace and supplications. And O how deeply indebted are we to this most holy and blessed Spirit for this part of his covenant work; for how true are the words of the Apostle, "We know not what we should pray for as we ought." (Rom. 8:26.) How often do we find and feel this to be our case. Darkness covers our mind; ignorance pervades our soul; unbelief vexes our spirit; guilt troubles our conscience; a crowd of evil imaginations, or foolish or worse than foolish wanderings distract our thoughts; Satan hurls in thick and fast his fiery darts; a dense cloud is spread over the mercy seat; infidelity whispers its vile suggestions, until, amid all this chaos, such confusion and bondage prevail that words seem idle breath, and prayer to the God of heaven but empty mockery.
In this scene of confusion and distraction, when all seems going to the wreck, how kind, how gracious is it in the blessed Spirit to come, as it were, to the rescue of the poor bewildered saint, and to teach him how to pray and what to pray for. He is therefore said "to help our infirmities," for these evils of which we have been speaking are not willful, deliberate sins, but wretched infirmities of the flesh. He helps, then, our infirmities by subduing the power and prevalence of unbelief; by commanding in the mind a solemn calm; by rebuking and chasing away Satan and his fiery darts; by awing the soul with a reverential sense of the power and presence of God; by presenting Jesus before our eyes as the Mediator at the right hand of the Father; by raising up and drawing forth faith upon his Person and work, blood and righteousness; and, above all, by himself interceding for us and in us "with groanings which cannot be uttered." When the soul is favored thus to pray, its petitions are a spiritual sacrifice, and its cries enter the ears of the Lord Almighty, for "He who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (Rom. 8:27; James 5:4; 1 Peter 2:5.)
3. Another covenant office of the blessed Spirit is to work repentance in the heart of the child of God. Our blessed Lord, when he ascended up on high, received gifts for men. (Psalm 68:18; Eph. 4:8.) Now the main gift which he received was "the promise of the Holy Spirit," (Acts 2:33,) which he sheds abroad in the heart of his people. Being, therefore, "exalted to be a Prince and a Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins," (Acts 5:31,) by shedding abroad the Spirit he gives repentance, for his gracious operations break, soften, and melt the heart. He thus fulfils the promise--"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." (Ezek.36:26.) This "new spirit" is a broken spirit, a soft, tender spirit, and is therefore called "a heart of flesh," as opposed "to the heart of stone," the rocky, obdurate, unfeeling, impenitent heart of one dead in sin, or dead in a profession. And how is this soft, penitent heart communicated? "I will put my Spirit within you." (Ezek. 36:27.)
The same divine truth is set forth in that gracious promise to which we have already referred--"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." (Zech. 12:10.) But what is the immediate effect of the pouring out of the Spirit of grace and supplications? A looking to him whom they have pierced, a mourning for him as one mourns for an only son, and a being in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. This is evangelical repentance, as distinguished from legal; godly sorrow working repentance to salvation not to be repented of, as distinct from the sorrow of the world which works death.
These two kinds of repentance are to be carefully distinguished from each other, though they are often sadly confounded. Cain, Esau, Saul, Ahab, Judas, all repented; but their repentance was the remorse of natural conscience, not the godly sorrow of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. They trembled before God as an angry Judge--but were not melted into contrition before him as a forgiving Father. They neither hated their sins nor forsook them, loved holiness nor sought it. Cain went out from the presence of the Lord; Esau plotted Jacob's death; Saul consulted the witch of Endor; Ahab put honest Micaiah into prison; and Judas hanged himself. How different from this forced and false repentance of a reprobate is the repentance of a child of God that true repentance for sin, that godly sorrow, that holy mourning which flows from the Spirit's gracious operations. This does not spring from a sense of the wrath of God in a broken law, but of his mercy in a blessed gospel; from a view by faith of the sufferings of Christ in the garden and on the cross; from a manifestation of pardoning love; and is always attended with self-loathing and self-abhorrence, with deep and unreserved confession of sin and forsaking it, with most hearty, sincere, and earnest petitions to be kept from all evil, and a holy longing to live to the praise and glory of God.
4. But as the Lord's people are for the most part a poor and afflicted people, and the entrance into the kingdom of heaven is through much tribulation, another covenant office of the blessed Spirit is to comfort the family of God. Our gracious Lord, therefore, in that heavenly discourse in which he sought to console his sorrowing disciples on the eve of his own sufferings and death, promised to send them, after his departure, the Spirit of truth as a Comforter--"And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him; but you know him, for he dwells with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:16, 17.) And again--"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me." (John 15:26.)
As our divine Lord so graciously unfolded to his mourning disciples who this Comforter should be, what he should be to them, and what he would do in and for them, we will devote a few moments' consideration to the words which then fell from his lips, as they have so important a bearing on the point which we are now considering. The very name, then, by which the Lord called him, "the Comforter," shows at once what he is to the Church of God, and that he is sent to comfort afflicted saints. He was to be "another Comforter," therefore distinct from, or he could not be another, and yet equal to the Comforter whose bodily presence they were about to lose, or he could not fill his place, or be to the disciples what their Lord and Master had been.* Nor would he ever leave them, or withdraw from them his spiritual, as their Lord was about to withdraw his bodily presence, but would "abide with them forever." No, more, he was "to dwell with them, and be in them." Thus though they would lose the unspeakable happiness of having their dear Lord and Master continually in their midst; though they would no more see his face in the flesh, no longer witness his marvelous works, or hear his gracious words; though they would sustain the seemingly irreparable bereavement of his daily company, of his wise and affectionate counsel, and of his ever-shielding power, without which they would be but as sheep among wolves, yet all would be made up to them by the indwelling presence and unutterable consolations of the promised Comforter.
Nor would they even lose the best part of their Master's presence, or even be deprived of their customary sight of Him whom they loved; for he adds, "I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you see me. Because I live, you shall live also." (John 14:18, 19.) He himself would come to them; not indeed in his bodily, but in his spiritual presence in the manifestation of his love, in the personal abode which he would make in their hearts. The world would see him no more. It had seen only his bodily form, and that it hated and despised. No eyes had it to behold his glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
It only saw the poor, despised Nazarene the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, who, in its eyes, had neither form nor loveliness. When, then, he went up on high to sit down at the right hand of the Father, the world saw him no more. Its last look of him was on the cross, when it said by the mouth of its representatives, in mocking scorn--"He saved others; himself he cannot save; if he be the King of Israel, let him come now down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him; for he said, I am the Son of God." (Matt. 27:42, 43.) The next sight the world will have of him will be in judgment, when thousands and tens of thousands will call on the rocks and mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. But he promised that his disciples should see him by his personal manifestations, as from tine to time he should reveal himself to their souls.
* How clear and striking a testimony did the Lord thus give to those two points which we have considered in our previous Meditations the Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit. To comfort the disciples as Jesus had comforted them, he must be equal to Jesus, or he could not take his place. If the Son, therefore, be God, the Holy Spirit must be God. But he was to be another Comforter, therefore distinct from Jesus; and must comfort them as a Person, for an influence may comfort, but it must be a Person to be a Comforter.
But they and they only? Have we no interest in these gracious promises? Is there now no Comforter for us? Does Jesus never come to us? Do we never see him by the eye of faith and in the light of his own manifestations? Does he not still live? Is he not still "our life?" (Col. 3:4.) Is he not still at the right hand of the Father? And does not the promise still hold good, "Because I live, you shall live also?" The faith, the hope, and the love which deal with these promises, which are sustained by them and spring out of them, form the very life and power, cream and marrow, unction and savor of all our religion, unless we have a name to live and are dead.
5. Connected, then, with these promises of the Lord on the eve of his sufferings and death, are also other covenant offices of the blessed Spirit. Thus he is to "glorify" Jesus, according to the promise--"He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." (John 16:14.) He glorifies Jesus by taking of the things which are his and showing them to the soul; for as everything which belongs to Jesus is unspeakably glorious, whatever he makes known of him shines forth in all the reflection of his glory. Thus he takes of his glory as the eternal and only-begotten Son of God, reveals and manifests it to the soul as the most blessed and essential truth, shines on the various passages of holy writ which speak of it, illuminates the eyes of the understanding to see their meaning, bears them home upon the heart to believe their sure testimony, and seals them on the conscience with an invincible energy to feel their weight and power, so that we cry out in faith, "You are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel." (John 1:49.)
He also takes of his eternal Deity as one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the glorious Trinity, and holding up his divine Person to the eye of faith, bows the soul down with softening, humbling, dissolving power to worship and adore him as verily and truly God over all, blessed forever.
He takes also of his sacred and suffering humanity, reveals it to the soul in all its purity and holiness as the body prepared for him by the Father, and which he assumed into union with his divine Person when, under the sacred overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, he took part of the flesh and blood of the children in the Virgin's womb. He discovers to the believing heart the perfection of that nature; its intimate and indissoluble union with the Person of the Son of God; how in and by it he obeyed the law which we had broken, bore its curse, endured its penalty, and by his sacrifice, blood-shedding, and death reconciled us into God.
He shows also to the eye of faith the glorious Person of Jesus as Immanuel, God with us, as the Mediator, the only Mediator between God and men. He anoints the eyes of the understanding to see him equal with the Father in his eternal Deity, and yet allied to man in his sacred humanity, and thus a most suitable and all-sufficient Arbitrator who can lay his hand upon them both. (Job 9:33.) He shows him to the eye of faith as sitting on his throne of grace as the great High Priest over the house of God, interceding for and sympathizing with his dear people, bearing their names deeply cut on his heart and worn on his shoulder, and thus their all-prevailing Advocate with the Father. He thus inspires them with holy boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he has consecrated for them through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, melting away and dissolving their guilty doubts and fears by bringing them to the blood of sprinkling, which speaks better things than the blood of Abel. (Heb. 10:19, 20; 12:24.)
He thus takes of that precious blood, applies it to and sprinkles it upon the guilty conscience of the approaching worshiper, and thus purges it from guilt, filth, and dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:14.) He shows the trembling child of grace how this great High Priest, having put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, is gone up on high, there to present within the veil the merit of that precious blood which he shed here below for ruined sinners. He thus strengthens and encourages the timid believer to look unto and hang upon this once suffering but now glorified High Priest; and as he trusts in his name and confides in his blood and righteousness, rests on his heavenly grace and cleaves to his risen power, light, life, and feeling, liberty and love descend into his bosom as if borne upon the wings of the descending Dove, enabling him to rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
6. Thus it is also that the blessed Spirit takes of the dying love of Jesus, reveals and makes it known to the soul with a divine unction and power, and sheds it abroad in the heart of the saint of God. He thus communicates to him the strongest and noblest of all feelings, the warmest and most enduring of all affections, and the surest and most unfailing of all motives, constraining him by the sweetest and most powerful of all constraints to live to his glory, as the Apostle so forcibly urges--"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (2 Cor. 5:14, 15.)
7. He also breathes into the soul at the same time and by the same divine power and influence love to the brethren; for when the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, (Rom. 5:5,) it invariably produces love to God's children, as John, himself so full of this loving spirit, so plainly declares--"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and every one that loves him that begat loves him also that is begotten of him." (1 John 5:1.) Love to the brethren is, indeed, a choice and unfailing fruit of the Spirit; (Gal. 5:22;) a proof of divine teaching; (1 Thess. 4:9;) an evidence of the new birth; (1 John 3:14; 4:7;) an abiding in the light; (1 John 2:10;) a fulfilling of the law; (Gal. 5:14; 1 Tim. 1:5;) and a keeping of the new commandment of our most gracious Lord. (John 13:34.) Who, then, but the Holy Spirit can put us into personal possession of a grace like this?
8. He takes also of the promises of Christ, for they are "all Yes and Amen in him," (2 Cor. 1:20,) and applies them to the heart of the poor, tried, tempted, exercised family of God, to comfort them in trouble, to support them in the furnace of tribulation, to deliver them out of temptation, to cheer their fainting spirits on the bed of sickness and languishing, and bear them up as on angels' wings in the very prospect of death and eternity.
9. He takes also of the ordinances of Christ Baptism and the Lord's Supper, sets their truth and divine institution before our eyes, opens to us their nature and obligation, their object and intention, shows us the Lord's precept and example in them, and constrains us, not as a matter of hard bondage or legal duty, but by the sweet constraints of heavenly love to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, in all obedience to his revealed will and word. He thus leads into the ordinances, not forces; (Rom. 8:14;) draws, not drives; (Song 1:4; Jer. 31:3;) enlarges and persuades, not shuts up and drags; (Gen. 9:27, marg.;) is a Spirit of liberty, not of bondage (2 Cor. 3:17;) is "a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and might, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord," to guide, admonish, and instruct the living family of God; for the same Spirit which rested on Jesus without measure rests on his people in measure, dividing to every man severally as he will. (Isa. 11:2; 1 Cor. 12:11.)
The ordinances of God's house are thus, by the light of his teaching and the life of his revelation, seen and felt to be not carnal duties, or immaterial observances, obsolete relics of a past dispensation, as some now consider them, mere toys for children but far too low and legal for advanced believers; but, on the contrary, are viewed by the enlightened eye as spiritual institutions, and the obedience rendered to them as serving God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Rom. 7:6.)
10. As connected with this spiritual obedience, the blessed Spirit takes also of the precepts of the gospel, shows their beautiful and harmonious connection with the promises, removing from them all trace of legality and hard service; shines upon them with rays and beams of heavenly light; commends them to our conscience as glorifying to God, and the only path of obedience in which we can safely, happily, and holily walk in the Church and in the world, as well as in all the varied relationships of life. He teaches us also the danger of neglecting or slighting the preceptive part of the word of truth; shows us that it is as much a part of inspired Scripture as the doctrinal or experimental portions, and bears the same impress of a divine revelation of the mind and will of God; brings to our mind and memory the many sad slips and falls we have made, and the guilt we have brought on our own consciences from disregarding or breaking the wise and holy precepts of the gospel; discovers the grace which shines through, and the liberty which is to be found in them; (Psalm 119:32, 45;) gives us to see the awfully hardened state of those preachers and professors who despise them, and effectually separates us in heart and spirit from their assembly. (Gen. 49:6.) He grants us also to see that the same power which enables us to believe enables us to obey; that the misery of disobedience is as great, or greater than the misery of unbelief; and that as there is a divine sweetness in trusting the promise, so there is a divine sweetness in performing the precept.
11. He also plants and maintains in living exercise the fear of God in the bosom; makes and keeps the conscience alive and tender; shows the evil of sin, and gives grace to flee from it; discovers and breaks to pieces the snares of Satan; imparts honesty, uprightness, and godly sincerity; tries the thoughts and searches the inmost spirit.
12. He opens also the ear to receive instruction, and listen to the voice of the heavenly Shepherd; sanctifies the lip, and guides the tongue when to speak and when to keep silence; unlocks the hand to minister to the necessities of the saints; bends the knee in the chamber, in the family, and in the house of prayer; and guides the feet into the ways of truth and peace. Thus, is there a good thought in our heart? the blessed Spirit gives it; a good desire in our soul? He inspires it; a good word in our lips? he dictates it; a good work in our hands? he performs it. We are the clay and he the Potter; and what we are in grace we only are as the work of his hand. (Isa. 64:8.) All our spiritual and experimental knowledge, be it small or great; all our faith, be it weak or strong; all our hope, be it slender or firm; all our love, be it little or much all, all are his gift and work. In a word, from him is all our fruit found, and in him all our fresh springs are. (Hosea 14:8; Psalm. 87:7.)
Not that we mean he is all this to us and all this in us to the exclusion of the Father and the Son. On the contrary, it is by his indwelling in us that the Father dwells in us--"No man has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit." (1 John 4:12, 13.) And what is true of the Father is true of the Son, for he also dwells in us by the Spirit--"And he who keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us." (1 John 3:24.)
13. But there is one peculiar feature of this most holy and blessed Teacher and Comforter which the Lord mentioned to his disciples, that is very noteworthy--"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come." (John 16:13.) "He shall not speak of himself." There is something peculiarly gracious in this feature of the Holy Spirit that, if we may use the expression, he does not glorify himself by speaking of himself in the same direct, personal manner as the Father and the Son speak of themselves. Thus the Father speaks of himself all through the word; and the Son speaks of himself in scripture after scripture; but the Holy Spirit, though he speaks in the Scripture, for by his divine inspiration the whole was written, yet does not speak of himself in a positive, direct manner, nor call upon us in a clear, personal way to believe in, worship, and adore him. But his office and work are to testify to our conscience and bear witness to our spirit of both the Father and the Son.
Thus as a Spirit of adoption he enables the soul to cry, "Abba, Father," and so testifies of the Father. As a Spirit of revelation he manifests to the soul the glorious Person of Christ, and thus testifies to the Son. But he does not in a personal manner manifest himself, or testify of himself. How, then, do we know him? By his operations, his influences, his teachings, his consolations, his sealings, his softenings, meltings, humblings, waterings, enlargings, openings, liberatings, strengthenings, and enablings. The Lord therefore said to his disciples, "But you know him, for he dwells with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:17.) Thus we know his indwelling by the light he gives to see our evidences clear and bright; by the life which he diffuses into the soul, to renew and revive our drooping graces; by the submission which he imparts in affliction and tribulation to the sovereign will of God; by the meekness which he bestows under the chastening rod; by the gracious confidence which he will not allow us to cast away; by the holy boldness which he grants before the enemies of truth; by the zeal which he kindles in the heart for the truth as it is in Jesus, and for the glory of God; by the suitable words which he brings to the mind in defense of the gospel; and by the power which he gives to speak them forth with an authority which silences, if it does not convince the adversary. Thus, though the blessed Spirit does not speak of himself, he makes himself effectually known by his indwelling power and grace.
O blessed Teacher, holy Comforter, gracious Intercessor, and heavenly Witness, come and take up your abode in our heart; there reveal and form Jesus, the hope of glory; there shed abroad the love of God; there bear your divine testimony to our sonship; there cry, "Abba, Father;" there teach and sanctify and bless, that we and all our readers in whom you have wrought your work of grace may be "filled with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 15:13.) And O that he would fill as if with heavenly dew and impregnate with holy unction these Meditations on his Person and Offices, which we have put forth in his blessed name, that they may instruct and edify, strengthen, encourage, and comfort that part of the living family of God into whose hands they may come.
14. Here we would willingly pause, but we feel that we cannot close our Meditations on the Covenant Offices of the blessed Spirit without briefly naming one of great importance to the Church of Christ, and one which at this present day we seem especially to need his raising up and qualifying, equipping and sending forth living servants of Christ to be pastors after his own heart, to feed the Church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood. This is expressly mentioned among the gifts which the risen Son of God received and gave to his body, the Church--"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:11, 12.)
When we look around and see how the Lord is taking one and another of his aged servants home, and laying others aside by sickness or infirmity, how suitable the prayer that the Lord of the harvest would raise up laborers and send them into the harvest, for truly the harvest is great and the laborers few. Gloomy indeed is the present prospect, and dark the cloud that seems to be hanging over the churches. Pastors are continually being removed, and no men of sufficient gifts or grace seen raised up to take the charge of the widowed churches, much less to become permanently fixed over new and rising causes. But we cannot enlarge on this subject, though we have had many thoughts upon it, and may some day give them utterance, for our page warns us to come to a close.
Here then, for the present, we conclude our Meditations; and may the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Israel's Triune Jehovah, rest upon them, and rest upon us, and upon all who, with us, desire to walk in his fear and live to his glory. Amen.
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