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Christ to his Apostles, which announced the Holy Spirit as a Paraclete, an Advocate, or Comforter, as a Spirit of Truth, who should guide them into all truth; as a witness and a judge to convince and condemn the ungodly, as well as to enlighten and sanctify the elect.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities. How signally was this truth exemplified at the first majestic advent of the Paraclete! which transformed the simple, timid, hesitating fishermen of Galilee, into the wise, and eloquent, and fearless preachers of the Gospel; which gave them boldness to speak the Word, and a wisdom superior to all the gifts or attainments of human genius and learning, which none of their adversaries were able to gainsay ; before which the traditionary lore of the Scribe, and the subtle philosophy of the Grecian disputant, became as foolishness. In the case of those holy men, the help of the Spirit was signal, and unquestionable ; and it was extraordinary. The strong arm of his power was visibly interposed to strengthen and uphold the pillars of Christ's Church, which would otherwise have tottered and fallen under a weight too great for human energies to bear, what time the storm fell upon them, “and the flood came and beat against them.” And the tokens of his help were, not only the lambent tongues of fire, and the gift of languages, and the signs and wonders wrought in the name of Jesus ; but the rapid growth and progress of the Gospel, and the sanctity of those who professed it; and the provision made for the establishment and perpetuity of the visible Church of Christ : effects, to which the infirmity of human nature, with all the aids and appliances of human wisdom and ingenuity, would have been utterly inadequate.
But the office of the Spirit, in this respect, surely did not terminate with the first and most urgent necessities of the Church of Christ. If the dangers and difficulties, which beset its infancy, required the miraculous display of his protecting power, in order that all men might read, in characters distinctly traced by the Spirit, this is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes ;' was that protecting power to be altogether withdrawn when the infancy of the Church was passed? 'The necessity of the case did not permit it. Although the Church, which was planted by the Apostles, was so firmly rooted in the world, by the power and testimony of the Holy Spirit, as to be secure from extirpation, it
1 Ps. cxviii. 23.
was not exempt from dangers, and calamities, and trials. Sin was still powerful in the nature of mankind, and in the world; the enemies of Christ still continued to be active, and to bruise the heel of Him who had crushed the head of the great adversary. The Church, therefore, required the continued support and aid of the Holy Spirit, in such manner as was suited to its necessities at different times; not always a special and miraculous infusion of his gifts, but always a constant and unfailing distribution of them to the several members of the Church, as each had need.
But more than this, the Spirit had been promised, an abiding and a sanctifying Spirit, even unto the end. When Peter assured the multitude, assembled on the day of Pentecost, that whosoever repented, and was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, should receive the Holy Ghost, he added, For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off ; even as many as the Lord our God shall call. The Spirit then, the Comforter, was not all at once withdrawn from the Church of Christ, when by his powerful agency its foundations had been securely laid. The work of edification, the building up of God's
? Acts ii. 39.
household, was still to be done; a great and arduous work; a work of ages; to which the piety and wisdom of the most pious, and the wisest, would have been utterly and for ever incompetent. The tempering and moulding of each constituent part; the cementing of the whole together in the bond of unity; the building up of the edifice according to the strict and unbending rule of faith ; the diffusion through the whole of the principle of evangelical harmony and holiness—this surely was a work, surpassing human wisdom to devise, and human strength to accomplish; a work, worthy of the continued superintendence and aid of Him, who had commenced it in the mighty demonstrations of his power.
Although by his meritorious obedience, and death upon
the Son of God purchased universal redemption for mankind, and placed them in a capacity to be saved ; so that all, who should repent and believe in him, were to be translated from a state in which they were subject to the wrath of God, to one in which they are the objects of his favour; yet the nature itself of man was not thereby changed. Its inherent and inherited corruption still remained; for, as our Article expresses it, “this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated.” The act of faith, by which a believer applies to himself the benefits, or privileges, purchased for him by the death of Christ, does not of itself purify the soul, nor do away the taint of sin; but it enables the soul to receive those gifts and graces of the Spirit of sanctification, which in its natural state it could neither receive, nor effectually desire. Thus the atonement which was made by a crucified Redeemer, far from rendering unnecessary the intervention of the Holy Spirit, did in effect render it indispensable to all believers; because it rendered it available to them. But for that atonement, they would have been incapable of spiritual gifts; by it they are made fit to be a habitation and temple of the Holy Ghost.
It is to be feared, that this important distinction is not sufficiently understood by the generality of Christian professors: that they are not sufficiently alive to the peculiar office, which the Holy Spirit performs in the work of man's salvation, after the first foundation has been laid. But if there be one point of belief more practically important than another, it is this; that the great privilege to which we are entitled, by the terms of our baptismal covenant, is that of seeking and obtaining the effectual aid of the Spirit ;