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The disciples, like common men, were full of natural fears and infirmities. They readily imbibed the sadness of this parting scene; but were not readily animated by those lively hopes, which the promises of Jesus were intended to inspire. Once more, therefore, our Saviour brings before them his promise of the gift of the Spirit.
This he does in a way of friendly and convincing argument: showing the disciples that they would be gainers, not losers, by his own departure from them. “It is expedient for you, that I go away.” -You think it more desirable that I should stay: nay, you deem it even necessary to your wellbeing and spiritual happiness. Reflect, however, that “if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto
We are often tempted to imagine, that, had we seen Christ in the flesh, our knowledge of divine things must have been wonderfully enlarged, and our affections irresistibly attracted by his discourses. Is there not good cause, however, for believing that possibly the case might have been otherwise ? Might not some of us have remained as blind, and as far from conversion, as multitudes of the Jews did? Moreover, we have Christ's word for it, that a blessing far superior to his bodily presence, even the gift of his Holy Spirit, shall be imparted to those, who earnestly pray for that gift. Do we imagine that the countenance and voice of Jesus would have wrought upon our feelings, with the joy and
force of an irresistible charm ? Oh, rather let us yield to the gracious influences of his Spirit, leading us to surrender our best affections to God! Do we fancy that we should have been enraptured while listening to Him, who spake as never man spake? Far more deeply let the still small voice of the Spirit penetrate our hearts ! The Holy Ghost is to be our Teacher! By means of the inspired word of God, the Spirit shall open our understandings, win our affections, and give light and life and
to the soul.-Let us then accustom ourselves to make much of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit: it is a doctrine of the very highest importance. We live under the dispensation of the Spirit. As Jesus was quitting his disciples, he gradually unfolded to them this truth: we, who possess it more fully than the disciples on that evening did, should aim at walking in the Spirit, and living in the Spirit. We shall thus honour our ascended Lord, and continually advance in holiness and comfort.
Let those who “mourn in Zion” be affectionately reminded not to grieve this good Spirit; which they may do, by undervaluing or neglecting his heavenly consolations. When troubles from within and from without are multiplied, sorrow soon fills the heart. But have we forgotten the Holy Ghost, the Comforter? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened; or are the consolations of God small with us? The Saviour seems gently to expostulate, as he did on that evening with his disciples, saying to
“ Know ye not, whither your Advocate is gone, and how he is pleading for you at God's right hand ?” What if Jesus deprive us of one comfort? Shall we not believe in him as able to send others, even greater, in the place of that which is taken away? What we need is, increase of faith; a lively hope, supported by the Lord's assurance, “Lo, I am with you always !” In this sure word of promise let us rest : and may “ the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost !”
THE SPIRIT, CONVINCING * THE WORLD.
John xvi. 8.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Our Lord here speaks more fully and distinctly, than he had previously done, concerning the work of the Spirit. He was shortly to quit, not his disciples only, but the world: he explains therefore, what was to be the work of the Holy Ghost in after times, when sent in his name, and on his behalf.
66 When he is come :" that is, as soon as that wonderful event shall have taken place, the descent of the Holy Ghost, at the day of Pentecost. On that day, and from that day forward, you will discern his mighty working, by signs which it will be impossible to mistake.
* It is well understood by Critics, that the word here translated “reprove,” signifies “ To convince,” in the largest sense of that term.
The Holy Spirit hath indeed exerted his influences in all ages. Various proofs of this doctrine occur in the Old Testament. Thus, even before the flood, the Lord declares, “ My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” And to go still further back; when Abel by faith offered an acceptable sacrifice, there is no doubt that it was the Spirit who wrought in him that faith. David also prays, 6 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” The first martyr Stephen rebukes the Jews of his time, saying, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” And St. Peter declares of the writers of the books of the Old Testament, “ Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” From these and similar passages, it is evident, that the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, did work in the Church of God, and on the hearts of men, long before the ministry of Christ on earth.
But on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit was to descend more sensibly, and to act more extensively; commencing a work in the world and in the Church, which was to continue to the very end of time. How the Spirit may affect those individuals, who have not a clear knowledge of Revelation, we are not informed : but that He does, in some way and to a certain degree, work on all men, is apparent from the verse just quoted, where he is spoken of as striving “with man:” that is, with the whole human race in general. Our present meditation, however, being on the prophetic words of Jesus, we shall limit our considerations to such persons, as enjoy the light of the Gospel.
Let us at present consider these two points : the Nature, and the Extent of the working of the Spirit: “ He will reprove (or convince) the world.”
1. First, as to the Nature of this work— What is it to convince" ?
Amongst men, we are accustomed to say that we convince a person, when we bring him over to our opinion by reasonable arguments or statements. We, as it were, overcome him, and
him along This is, convincing him. It is true, some persons seem determined not to be convinced : no statement of facts, and no persuasiveness of reason seems to produce any effect on them. They are obstinate. They appear to be in love with their own prejudices. And yet, in dealing with such persons, if we bring proofs which ought to have the effect of persuading them, we may fairly be said to convince; although they, in their perverseness, may refuse to acknowledge themselves convinced.
When we not ouly convince a person, but prove something, wherein he is faulty, we are said to 66 convict” him. The words are nearly the same, and so is the idea: only that convicting implies some fault or blame attaching to the person convicted: whereas “to convince,” may imply simply