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Logos, that "true Light which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world."
5. Conscience. "For the Gentiles," saith St. Paul, " which have not the law, [written by prophets and apostles,] are a law unto themselves; their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts accusing, or else excusing one another," Rom. ii, 14, 15.
6. Enoch, Noah, and all the holy patriarchs who lived before the flood.
7. All those pious persons who have inculcated the fear of God, and published the traditionary promise which was given to our first parents.
8. The prophets and priests among the Jews, together with the sacred poets and true philosophers among the ancient heathens.
9. Those priests who, among Jews, Mohammedans, and modem Pagans, recommend, with sincerity, holiness and the fear of God.
And, lastly, all those preachers of Christendom, who, blind to the dispensations of the Son and the Spirit, fall back into Gentilism, delivering only such moral essays as have been abundantly exceeded by philosophers of old.
As this dispensation has ever had, and still continues to have, its celebrated preachers; so it has frequently had, and may yet continue to have, its confessors and martyrs. If it were possible to come at the history of all those who have been eminently distinguished by their piety under this economy, and who have nobly suffered in the cause of godliness, we might probably discover many an Abel, and many a Zacharias, many an Aristides, and many a Socrates, in every nation under heaven. In company with these amiable and honourable characters, the evangelical pastor is constantly observed, so far as they proceed in the high way of truth; but he advances far beyond them when he would associate with the preachers of the Son's dispensation.
The heralds of truth, under this dispensation, are,
1. The priest, Zacharias, who announced the accomplishment of the promise which was made to the patriarchs, Luke i.
2. The angel who first brought down the tidings of the Messiah's birth, in company with the multitude of the heavenly host, who attended him upon that extraordinary occasion.
3. Those Jewish priests, who directed the Magi from Jerusalem to the city in which Christ was born.
4. Those celestial voices which declared, upon Mount Tabor and on the banks of Jordan, that Jesus was the beloved Son of the Father.
5. John the Baptist, who proclaimed Christ come in the flesh, and endeavoured to prepare the penitent for the dispensation of the Spirit.
6. Those seventy disciples who were commissioned by our Lord to preach the Gospel.
And, lastly, all those teachers of the present day who, like Apollos in the beginning of his ministry, perceive nothing beyond that inferior dispensation, of which an outward baptism is considered as the seal.
Under the dispensation of the Spirit, the preachers are,
1. The apostles, who entered upon their excellent ministry after being first miraculously endued with power from on high.
2. All those ministers of the Gospel who, after receiving into their own hearts " the Spirit of adoption," Rom. viii, 15, proclaim the coming of that Spirit to those who have already experienced " repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," Acts xx, 21. Such ministers alone may be said to proclaim the spiritual kingdom of God; and these alone can experimentally direct believers to the absolute fulfilment of every Gospel promise. The teachers of this day, instead of proclaiming the grand promise of Christianity, unhappily renounce that promise; imagining that it merely respected the first followers of Jesus, or, at most, that it was confined to the earliest ages of the Christian Church. Far from publishing the Gospel in its abundant plenitude, these unskilful evangelists are not able to preach all that imperfect Gospel which in Scripture language is called "the baptism of John," Acts xviii, 25. John publicly announced the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and far from despising such baptism himself, he openly declared that he had "need to be baptized of Christ," Matt- iii, 14. Nevertheless, John was put to death before the promise of the Father was fully accomplished; and on this account our Lord declared that the "least in the kingdom of heaven, [that is, the lowest under the dispensation of the Spirit, should be accounted] greater than he," Matt, x, 11. Yea, even the soldiers of Cornelius, after the Spirit had descended upon them, were assisted to publish the mysteries of that kingdom with greater clearness, and with a more lively conviction, than the forerunner of Jesus had ever done.
That prophet doubted before his death, as well as all the apostles before the day of pentecost . But under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the great truths of the Gospel are demonstrated by the power of an internal evidence, which leaves in the heart no more room for doubt than a mathematical demonstration leaves room for hesitation in the mind. Farther: John the Baptist barely intimated the necessity of a spiritual baptism: but the most illiterate among the centurion's servants could say, "Christ has baptized me with the Holy Ghost and with fire; and the promise, which he hath already fulfilled to me, who am a poor Gentile, he will as gloriously accomplish in favour of others, since the promise is given 'to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,'" Acts ii, 39. Thus, under this sublime dispensation, every faithful servant of the Lord is enabled to prophesy out of the fulness of his heart, and to speak the wonderful works of God. Thus also, every zealous minister, persevering in his pursuit after evangelical truth, becomes, at length, of the same society with those who were the first and most effectual preachers of the everlasting Gospel.
The dispensation of the Holy Spirit is now in force, and the minister who preaches this dispensation cannot justly be esteemed an enthusiast.
To reject the Son of God manifested in the Spirit, as worldly Christians are universally observed to do, is a crime of equal magnitude with that of the Jews, who rejected Christ manifested in the flesh. Nevertheless, in vain has the Apostle Paul informed us, that "Jesus Christ is a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec," Heb. vii, 17; "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," Heb. xiii, 8. In vain has John the Baptist declared, that " he shall baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire," Matt, iii, 11. In vain has Christ himself made a gracious ofl'er of this baptism to all nations, Matt. xxviii, 19. In spite of all these declarations, our incredulity still seeks out some plausible reason for rejecting the dispensation of the Spirit.
So long as those perilous times shall continue which were foretold by St. Paul, 2 Tim. iii, 1, so long we may expect to behold multitudes of erring professors, who, like the ancient Pharisees, not only refuse to enter into the kingdom of God themselves, but resolutely withstand all those who are striving to enter in. These faithless Christians, resembling the timorous spies of old, are constantly prepared to discourage every persevering Israelite, by raising evil reports of their promised rest. Attached to this present degenerate world, as the wife of Lot was attached to her polluted city, they are ever insinuating, that there is little danger to be apprehended in their present situation. And as for that full dispensation of the Spirit, concerning which so many excellent things are spoken, they confidently assert, that it cannot be expected in the present time, without giving way to the highest presumption and folly. On these accounts it becomes absolutely necessary that the true minister should stand prepared to give every man a solid answer, "that asketh a reason of the hope that is in him," 1 Pet. iii, 15.
That the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were peculiarly necessary to the apostles, and that they were actually put in possession of such gifts, we readily allow. But, at the same time, we consider those gifts as entirely distinct from the Spirit itself. When the Spirit of grace takes the full possession of a particular person, he may, if the edification of the Church requires it, bestow upon that person some extraordinary gift in an instantaneous manner: as the prince, who honours any subject with an important commission, invests him with sufficient power for the execution of such commission. But the presents of a prince do not always demonstrate his actual presence; since it is very possible for a prince to lodge with one of his subjects, upon whom he has conferred no inestimable favour, while he makes a magnificent present to another, whom he has never condescended to visit in person. Thus the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary the mother of Jesus, together with several other holy women, as well as upon the apostles, with whom they continued in earnest supplication and prayer: nevertheless, it does not appear that any one of them received even the gift of tongues. On the other hand, we are well assured, that many persons, who never received the Spirit of holiness, were yet outwardly distinguished by several extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost. The first king of Israel gave rise to that memorable proverb, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" 1 Sam. x, 12. Jonah, though he possessed neither the faith nor the charity which are common to many Christians of this age, was yet commissioned to visit Nineveh with an extraordinary message from heaven. And we are informed that Judas was endued with the power of performing miracles, as Balaam had before been honoured with the gift of prophecy. But, notwithstanding these external appearances, we may rest assured, that neither Saul, nor Balaam, nor Judas, had fully experienced that happy estate which the meanest among the primitive Christians was permitted to enjoy. When, therefore, we assert, that every sincere believer becomes a " temple of the Holy Ghost," 1 Cor. vi, 19; it is not to be understood by such expression, that they have received the power of working miracles: since in this sense St. Paul himself was not always replenished with the Spirit. But it should rather be understood, that the same Spirit of humility, of zeal, of faith, and of charity, which so eminently dwelt in Christ, continually flows from him to the meanest of his spiritual members, as the sap is known to pass from the trunk of a vine into the least of its branches, John xv, 5.
The Old and New Testament sufficiently prove, that the special influences of the Spirit are to be universally experienced by the faithful in every age. Isaiah promises this invaluable blessing to those who are athirst for God, Isaiah xliv, 3. Ezekiel announces the same blessing, in a variety of passages, to all those who enjoy the privileges of the new covenant. The Prophet Joel more directly promises the extraordinary eflusion of the Holy Spirit, to " the young and the old [among the people of God; to] their sons and their daughters, their servants and their handmaids," Joel ii, 28, 29. John the Baptist expressly repeats the same promise to all those who partake of his inferior baptism, Luke iii, 16 Our Lord invites every believer freely to come and receive the long-expected blessing, John vii, 37, 39. St. Peter unreservedly offers it to the truly penitent, Acts ii, 38; and St. Paul every where declares that it is the common privilege of Christians to "be filled with the Spirit," Eph. v, 18; 1 Cor. vi, 19. Nay, he even intimates, that the name of Christian should be refused to those who have not received the promise of the Father, Rom. viii, 9. These few passages abundantly testify, how strangely those professors deceive themselves, who confidently affirm that the Holy Spirit was promised to the apostles alone.
Revelation is no sooner admitted, but reason itself confirms the very truth for which we contend. Why was the Holy Spirit to be poured out in its full measure upon the first followers of Christ? If in order to their sanctification; have we less need of holiness than the apostles had? If it was to shed abroad in their hearts the love of God; is that love less necessary for us than for them? If to make intercession for them with groanings which cannot be uttered; were the apostles supposed to stand in greater need of such intercession than all other men? Lastly, if the Holy Ghost was given, that believers might be enabled to cry out, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, persecution, or death? O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory 1 Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ,"—if so, then it should seem, that the apostles alone were called to suffer and die in a manner so perfectly worthy of Christians.
The more we meditate upon the Scriptures of truth, the more we shall be convinced that the experience of real Christians, and the reason of natural men, coincide with that sacred volume, in demonstrating that the grand promise of a Comforter must respect every sincere believer, as well as the first disciples of Jesus. To reject, then, this precious gift, is to trample under foot the pearl of great price, and to despise the Redeemer himself in that spiritual appearance, which is of far greater importance to us than his outward manifestation in Judea. Farther: to insinuate among Christians, that.the promise of Christ's spiritual coming is no longer in force, is to enervate the glorious Gospel of God, and to maintain in his Church that detestable lukewarmness, which will ultimately prove the ground of its condemnation. It is to surpass the Jews in their obstinate rejection of our only Lord and Saviour. There was no need, says the incredulous Jew, that the Messiah should sutler and die for our sins: nor is there any need, says the carnal Christian, that the Saviour should come in a spiritual manner to reign in my heart. The one destroys the body, the other the soul, of Christianity; and both are equally strangers to the renovating power of the Gospel.
The true minister, struck with the magnitude of this sin, so general in the present day, incessantly labours for the restoration of those who are deeply plunged in so destructive an error.
The evangelical pastor defends the dispensation of the Spirit against all opposers.
Whatever dispensation of grace the true minister announces, he is constrained, with St. Paul, to brandish his spiritual weapons on the right hand and on the left. If he publishes the dispensation of the Father, he finds it necessary to defend its important truths against the daringly prolime on the one hand, and on the other against the vainly superstitious. When he preaches the dispensation of the Son, he has still greater occasion to arm himself, in every part, in defence of the doctrine he maintains. On the left hand he is attacked either by Deists, who wholly disclaim all ideas of a Saviour; or by Socinians, who despoil that Saviour of his greatest glory; and on the right he is assailed by ill-instructed Christians, who, under pretence of exalting the Son, look down with contempt upon the dispensation of the Father; not considering that by this error they oppose one principal design of Christ's appearing, which was, that we might worship the Father in spirit and in truth. But it is chiefly with respect to the third dispensation that the Christian preacher is constrained to wield, without ceasing, that "sword of the Spirit," and that "shield of faith," Eph. vi, 16, 17, with which St. Paul was so anxious to see every Christian armed. As this doctrine is abundantly more elevated than the preceding dispensations, so it stands more exposed to the shafts of innumerable enemies. On the left it is incessantly attacked by carnal professors, and on the right by fanatical zealots. These two classes of adversaries, though continually at war with each other, unhappily agree in opposing, either directly or indirectly, the progress of this glorious dispensation, obliging the faithful minister with equal intrepidity to combat both.
Observe the grand argument with which carnal Christians carry on this opposition. "The Comforter," say they, "which was graciously promised to our Lord's first disciples, was undoubtedly received by those highly-favoured missionaries, and conducted them into all the truths of the Gospel. From this Divine Spirit they received continual assistance in spreading that Gospel, and by him they were endued with those miraculous gifts which served as so many incontestable marks of their sacred mission. But as Christianity is at this time firmly established in the world, the letter of the Holy Scriptures is now abundantly sufficient for every purpose; and there is no longer any necessity for that baptism