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as much more valuable : And yet, says he, shew I unto you a more excellent way. What that more excellent way was, he immediately lets them know in the next chapter ; namely, the holy dispositions, which the Spirit produces by his sanctifying grace ; one of which he singles out suitably to his present occasion, charity. And he gives a very plain reason for this preference ; because the most excellent gifts of the Spirit might be without this grace; and if they were so separated, they would not turn to their final account. If a man could speak with the tongue of men and of angels; if he had the gift of prophecy; and understood all mysteries and all knowledge, and had all faith, that is, to work miracles; this might be without charity, or the other graces of the Spirit, and if so, a man would be nothing after all ; or if any thing, only as “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,” 1 Cor. xiii. 1, 2. If he were enabled by such gifts to be pleasing or profitable to others; yet whatever agreeable sound he might make in their ears, he would have no more share in relishing the harmony, than a musical instrument hath. Such gifts may aggravate men's condemnation, but can never of themselves bring them to heaven. The apostle seems to speak mainly of the participation of these extraordinary gifts when he says, Heb. vi. 4, 5, 6. “It is impossible for those, who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,” that is, as I think, the miraculous powers displayed in the evangelical state, which the same apostle declares to be the world to come, whereof he spake, chap. ii. 5. “If these (says he,) shall fall away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” It was next to impossible, that is, extremely difficult to recover such, if they should become apostates, because they had such evidences for Christianity already, as could hardly be out-done; and yet they might leave their hearts unchanged. These things therefore were not the operations of the Spirit, which were most valuable then : but his direct agency as a Spirit of holiness. And it was plainly the apostle's intention in the text to direct the Ephesians to this latter kind of his influences; if we consider what effect he intimates their being filled with the Spirit, would have upon them, in the words - L
following the text. “Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ : submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God,” ver. 19, 20, 21. Which is in ef. fect to say, “Be filled with the Spirit, that so you may be disposed to all the acts of devotion toward God, and to perform them in a spiritual manner, as unto God; and that you may be formed also to behave aright towards men.” Now they would be furnished by these things by the sanctifying influences, not by the gifts of the Spirit. And therefore the apostle must be understood of the former. These operations were necessary to any spiritual good, in fallen creatures from the beginning. We find some promises of them under the Old Testament, and good men then sometimes expressly praying for them. But they were reserved for a fuller discovery under the New. When Christ engaged in his public ministry, he directed the eyes of his followers to the blessed Spirit as the fountain of spiritual good, and encouraged them to hope and ask for his grace from their heavenly Father, Luke xi. 13. And as his gracious agency will be still needed for the same purposes to the end of time, we should still have a constant eye to it. , 3. The genuine fruits, which the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit tend to o in us, must also be taken in, as a part of the object of pursuit here recommended to us; and indeed as that, for the sake of which his influences are to be desired. All his gracious operations tend to make us like God, and happy in God; they have that effect, as far as they are complied with ; and they are only desirable in order to that ; and as far as any fallen creatures arrive at true holiness or well-grounded comfort, they owe it principally to his having been at work in them. Hence the new nature in us, or a holy and heavenly disposition, is often called in scripture the Spirit; not only because such a temper is more suitable to the nobler part of ourselves, our souls; but also because it is the effect of the agency of the blessed Spirit of God. The words of the text, may as properly be rendered, Be filled by or through the Spirit, as be filled with him. As if it were said, be filled by means of the Spirit; not directly specifying
with •what, and yet sufficiently intimating that: Be filled with that, with which the good Spirit of God is used to fill souls. And what should that be, but his own fruits? Now "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," Gal. v. 22, 23. Or, as in Eph. v. 6. "The fruit of the Spint, is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth." To be filled with the Spirit then, and to be filled with all holy qualities and well grounded consolations thereupon, are one and the same thing. . .
Having thus stated the meaning of the Spirit, I proceed to consider,
II. What is implied by our being filled with the Spirit. And it imports both a greatness in his agency, and a largeness in our participation.
1. It supposes a sufficiency and fulness in the blessed Spirit and 'his influences, every way to fill our souls: to supply all our spiritual wants, and to help all our infirmities.
Not that we are to expect from him the discovery of any new truths distinct from those which he has already revealed in the Scriptures. He promised indeed to guide the apostles into all truths; even such truths as were not before revealed, the many things which Christ had to say to them, but they could not bear till after his ascension, John xvi. 12, 13. But this was a promise peculiar to them; and fully accomplished before the canon of scripture was completed. Nor does he move men to any thing as their duty, which was not already made so by the word of God. His agency is only to be considered, as in a way of powerful assistance to the due consideration, apprehension, and belief of the mind of God as already revealed in scripture. We have no other way to distinguish his influences from delusion of fancy, or the irregular inclinations of our own hearts, or the suggestions of the devil, but by trying their agreement with the revelation already made of truth and duty. Every good thought is of God, 2 Cor. iii. 5. Everv motion to that which is good, we justly conceive to be from the Spirit. But every thought, every motion, which varies from the rule of goodness, or cannot be supported by clear reason or revelation; must necessarily proceed from another original. The Spirit's agency is always agreeable to his word, and bv his word.
Nor are we to apprehend his influence to be perceiveable by itself; but we know it to be from him purely by revelation. We believe his agency in all the good we find in ourselves, because the scripture ascribes it to him. He works upon us, in and by the natural actings of our own minds, and usually in a very familiar way; so that we should not be able to distinguish his agency, from our own, if we were not assured by revelation, from whom every good motion in fallen creatures hath its rise; that “every good and perfect gift comes from above,” James i. 17. and all good things in the sphere of grace by the Spirit. Therefore the two evangelists, Matthew and Luke, make these two expressions to be of the like import. Our heavenly Father's giving us such good things, and his giving us his Holy Spirit, Matt. vii. 11. compared with Luke xi. 18. because he gives us all such good things by his Spirit. But his acting is in a way so connatural to the actings of our own faculties, that we should not be able merely by feeling to discern from whence it came, or that it had any other rise than from our own spirits, if the scripture did not point us to the Spirit of all grace as the fountain of it. This seems to be Christ's meaning, when he represents to Nicodemus the operations of the Spirit by an allusion to the wind, John iii. 8. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof; but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” He acts really and powerfully upon the minds of men, and they are conscious of the good motion, but could not of themselves know the original of it.
But though his agency be always suitable to the rational nature he has given us; yet it is of that general extent through all our faculties; and of that powerful and sufficient influence, that it is every way fit to relieve us under all inward necessities and weaknesses which attend us in our fallen state, and against all the outward snares, oppositions and discouragements we can meet with in the way to heaven. It is sufficient to recover a dead sinner to life; to enable a Christian to do or to bear all things, to which he is called ; in a word, to begin and to perform a good work in him to the day of Christ.
He is called in general “the Spirit of grace,” Zech. xii. 10. Heb. x. 29. The person promised and eminently com
mumciated under the gospel, to apply the fruits of divine grace to men. There is scarce any want of considerable importance to our spiritual interests, wherein we do not find particular mention of his agency in Scripture. He is moving many ways in the minds of sinners, while they remain estranged from God, to restrain them from evil, and to make way for saving good; which may be intended by his striving with them, Gen. vi. 8. The gospel where it comes, is more or less to all, a “ministration of the Spirit,” 2 Cor. iii. 8. He is the author of regeneration, John iii. 5, 6. And he has made signal examples of such a change in the greatest sinners, Tit. iii. 3, 4, 5. 1 Cor. vi. 11. He has washed Ethiepians white. His operations for producing sanctification in general, both in the beginning and progress of it; and his influence upon the several graces and virtues in particular, of which sanctification consists, are often mentioned. His gracious aids in religious exercises, his seasonable supplies in our various exigencies, Rom. viii. 26, 27. Phil. i. 19. He is also stiled the Comforter. And many ways are expressed, whereby he is so to particular Christians. By “witnessing with their spirits, that they are the children of God,” Rom. viii. 16. “Enabling them to cry, Abba, Father,” Gal. iv. 6. “ Sealing them to the day of redemption,” Eph. iv. 30. “Shedding abroad God's love in their hearts,” 2 Cor. v. 5. Enabling them to “wait for the hope of righteousness through faith,” Gal. v. 5. And granting them suitable supports under their sufferings, 1 Pet. iv. 14. If after all, these things should not comprehend every spiritual good desirable, yet we may extend our view to all that God has promised, and expect it to be communicated by the Holy Spirit. For it is by him alone, that we can be filled with all the fulness of God that is communicable to us, Eph. iii. 19. Whatever spiritual blessings we find prayed for in scripture to Christians in ordinary cases, were actually to be given by the Spirit, though he should not be particularly mentioned in the prayer. And in the way of duty, according to our wants, we may expect the like. Finally, whatever is needful for us in every case and circumstance, to furnish us for any service or trial or conflict appointed us, the Spirit hath it to give, and we are encouraged