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Verse 2. This only would I learn of you. I would ask this of you: retaining still the language of severe reproof. The design here, and in the following verses, is to prove to them that the views which they had at first embraced were correct, and that the views which they now cherished were false. To show them this, he asks them the simple question, by what means they had obtained the exalted privileges which they enjoyed? Whether they had obtained them by the simple gospel, or whether by the observance of the law? The word "only" here, monon, implies that this was enough to settle the question. The argument to which he was about to appeal was enough for his purpose, he did not need to go any further. They had been converted. They had received the Holy Spirit. They had had abundant evidence of their acceptance with God; and the simple matter of inquiry now was, whether this had occurred as the regular effect of the gospel, or whether it had been by obeying the law of Moses?

Received ye the Spirit. The Holy Spirit. He refers here, doubtless, to all the manifestations of the Spirit which had been made to them, in renewing the heart, in sanctifying the soul, in comforting them in affliction, and in his miraculous agency among them. The Holy Spirit had been conferred on them at their conversion, Ac 10:44; 11:16; and this was to them proof of the favour of God, and of their being accepted by him.

By the works of the law. By obeying the law of Moses or of any law. It was in no way connected with their obeying the law. This must have been so clear to them that no one could have any doubt on the subject. The inestimably rich and precious gift of the Holy Spirit had not been conferred on them in consequence of their obeying the law.

Or by the hearing of faith? In connexion with hearing the gospel, requiring faith as a condition of salvation. The Holy Spirit was sent down only in connexion with the preaching of the gospel. It was a matter of truth, and which could not be denied, that those influences had not been imparted under the law, but had been connected with the gospel of the Redeemer. Comp. Ac 2. The doctrine taught in this verse is, that the benefits resulting to Christians from the gift of the Holy Spirit are enough to prove that the gospel is from God, and therefore true. This was the case with regard to the miraculous endowments communicated in the early ages of the church by the Holy Spirit; for the miracles which were wrought, the knowledge of languages imparted, and the conversion of thousands from the error of their ways, proved that the system was from heaven; and it is true now. Every Christian has had ample proof, from the influences of the Spirit on his heart and around him, that the system which is attended with such benefits is from heaven. His own renewed heart; his elevated and sanctified affections; his exalted hopes; his consolations in trial; his peace in the prospect of death, and the happy influences of the system around him in the conversion of others, and in the intelligence, order, and purity of the community, are ample proof that the religion is true. Such effects do not come from any attempt to keep the law; they result from no other system.. No system of infidelity produces them; no mere system of infidelity can produce them. It is only by that pure system which proclaims salvation by the grace of God, which announces salvation by the merits of the Lord Jesus, that such effects are produced. The Saviour promised the Holy Spirit to descend after his ascension to heaven to apply his work; and everywhere, under the faithful preaching of the simple gospel, that Spirit keeps up the evidence of the truth of the system by his influences on the hearts and lives of men.

{a} "Received" Eph 1:13 {b} "or by" Ro 10:17

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