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OF IMMEDIATE REVELATION, AND THE INFLUENCES
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Man, merely by his natural faculties, never could have acquired a knowledge of God, or of the means of obtaining his approbation. And consequently there was a necessity for a Revelation, both of his will and his attributes. This Revelation was afforded in the very beginning of time, and became more and more clear, till the full introduction of that Dispensation, which is spoken of as marking “ the last days;" and consequently in which there is to be no change.
It is unnecessary to enumerate particular examples of Immediate Revelation in the patriarchal ages, and during the Legal Dispensation ; or to show that, on the introduction of the Gospel Dispensation, Divine Revelation was more remarkably afforded than under the Law: for all the various denominations professing the Christian Religion, will readily accede to this position. It will also be granted, I apprehend, that the influence which regulated the lives of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, was of the same Spirit which opened to their minds a knowledge of future events.
I take it therefore for granted, that Immediate Revelation, and the perceptible influences of the Holy Spirit,
were enjoyed from the earliest periods of human society, to the introduction of the Gospel Dispensation; and that, at this important era, it was more eminently experienced than at any previous time. The first enquiry then will be, whether this favour is continued to the church, or not.
The Society of Friends believe that it is; and they think they are supported in this belief by the testimony of Scripture, as well as by individual experience.
In order therefore to decide, whether Immediate Revelation was only a circumstance which attended the introduction of the Gospel Dispensation, or was really an essential part of that Dispensation itself, we shall examine, first, a few of the prophecies which related to it, and then some of the testimonies which are to be found of their fulfilment. Isaiah, who has been called the evangelical prophet, from his clear prophecies relating to the Messiah and the nature of his kingdom, says;
- For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground : I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” xliv. 3. In speaking of the coming and sufferings of Christ, he says; “ So shall He sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at Him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” lii. 15. And after that clear prediction of the sufferings and death of Christ, and the accession of the Gentiles which should follow, he
says; “ And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” liv. 13. And in connexion with the same prophecy, he says;
66 Incline your ear, and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live: and I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
even the sure mercies of David. Behold! I have given Him for a Witness to the people, a Leader and Commander to the people.” lv. 3, 4. “ For thus saith the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose Name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit ; to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” lvii. 15. “ As for Me, this is my
Covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.” lix. 21. “Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine Everlasting Light, and thy God thy glory.” lx. 19, 20. “ Behold! the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt:...... But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.” Jer. xxxi. 31–34. This is called an Everlasting Covenant. Jer. xxxii. 40. Ezek. xvi. 60, and xxxvii. 26. Heb. xiii. 20.
The prophet Ezekiel also, in speaking of the
blessings of Christ's kingdom, says ;“ A new heart also will I give you; and a new Spirit will I put within you: And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes; and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.
“ And it shall come to pass afterwards, [or, as the apostle Peter expressed it, ' in the last days,'] that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids, in those days, will I pour out my Spirit.” Joel ii. 28, 29.
If these prophecies apply to the Gospel Dispensation, which I apprehend will not be called in question, they certainly apply to this Dispensation as its permanent characteristics, and not as mere circumstances attending its introduction.
The testimony of our Lord Himself, and of the apostles and evangelists, very fully corroborates and confirms the prophecies that went before ; and still maintàins the same doctrine, of the permanent nature of this trait in the character of the New Dispensation, and of the necessity that it should be so.
Both the prophets and apostles represented the legal dispensation as inferior to that of the Gospel in divers respects, and, in a particular manner, in the greater effusion of the Holy Spirit, and consequently a more eminent degree of Immediate Revelation. For the old covenant was to give way to one more excellent," and “established upon better promises ;" Heb. viii. 6; in which the access to God should be more easy, the lation of his will be immediate, and this glorious privi
lege be placed within the reach of “all," " from the least to the greatest."
When our Lord had risen from the dead, and was giving his disciples that general commission for publishing his doctrines, He said ; “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth : “ and lo, I am alway with you, even unto the end of the world.” Matt. xxviii. 18, 20. These declarations of our Lord, were not confined in their application to those who were then present; but we may adopt the language of the apostle, that “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope.” Rom. xv. 4. And therefore, as firmly as we believe in the power of our Lord and Saviour, so firmly we may be assured, on the same authority, of his presence with his servants through all ages.
Previous to his crucifixion, and in order to prepare them for that event, and for a clear understanding of the nature of the dispensation which He introduced, He impressed on their minds, in a remarkable manner, this very doctrine which we hold, of the Holy Spirit: its sensible influences on the mind, and its revealing operations : “ And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He
for EVER.” John xiv. 16. Here is clearly set forth the
permanence of this favour to the true believers. It was not to be a transient thing, afforded for a limited period, but to abide with his disciples for ever. He proceeds :“Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall