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The foundation of our communion with the Holy Ghost (John xvi. 1–7) opened at large — Παράκλητος, a Comforter; who he is — The Holy Ghost; his own will in his coming to us; sent also by Christ — The Spirit sent as a sanctifier and as a comforter — The adjuncts of his mission considered — The foundation of his mission, John xv. 26 — His procession from the Father twofold; as to personality, or to office — Things considerable in his procession as to office the manner of his collation — He is given freely; sent authoritatively — The sin against the Holy Ghost, whence unpardonable — How we ask the Spirit of the Father — To grieve the Spirit, what — Poured out — How the Holy Ghost is received; by faith — Faith’s actings in receiving the Holy Ghost — His abode with us, how declared — How we may lose our comfort whilst the Comforter abides with us.
The foundation of all our communion with the Holy Ghost consisting in his mission, or sending to be our comforter, by Jesus Christ, the whole matter of that economy or dispensation is firstly to be proposed and considered, that so we may have a right understanding of the truth inquired after. Now, the main promise hereof, and the chief considerations of it, with the good received and evil prevented thereby, being given and declared in the beginning of the 16th chapter of John, I shall take a view of the state of it as there proposed.
Our blessed Saviour being to leave the world, having acquainted his disciples, among other things, what entertainment in general they were like to find in it and meet withal, gives the reason why he now gave them the doleful tidings of it, considering how sad and dispirited they were upon the mention of his departure from them. Verse 1, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.” 223— “I have,” saith he, “given you an acquaintance with these things (that is, the things which will come upon you, which you are to suffer) beforehand, lest you who, poor souls! have entertained expectations of another state of affairs, should be surprised, so as to be offended at me and my doctrine, and fall away from me. You are now forewarned, and know what you have to look for. Yea,” saith he, verse 2, “having acquainted you in general that you shall be persecuted, I tell you plainly that there shall be a combination of all men against you, and all sorts of men will put forth their power for your ruin.” — “They shall cast you out of the synagogues; yea, the time comes that whosoever killeth you will think that he doth God service.” — “The ecclesiastical power shall excommunicate you, — they shall put you out of their synagogues: and that you may not expect relief from the power of the magistrate against their perversity, they will kill you: and that you may know that they will do it to the purpose, without check or control, they will think that in killing you they do God good service; which will cause them to act rigorously, and to the utmost.”
“But this is a shaking trial,” might they reply: “is our condition such, that men, in killing us, will think to approve their consciences to God?” “Yea, they will,” saith our Saviour; “but yet, that you be not mistaken, nor trouble your consciences about their confidences, know that their blind and desperate ignorance is the cause of their fury and persuasion,” verse 3, “These things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
This, then, was to be the state with the disciples. But why did our Saviour tell it them at this season, to add fear and perplexities to their grief and sorrow? what advantage should they obtain thereby? Saith their blessed Master, verse 4, “There are weighty reasons why I should tell you these things; chiefly, that as you may be provided for them, so, when they do befall you, you may be supported with the consideration of my Deity and omniscience, who told you all these things before they came to pass,” verse 4, “But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” “But if they be so necessary, whence is it that thou hast not acquainted us with it all this while? why not in the beginning, — at our first calling?” “Even,” saith our Saviour, “because there was no need of any such thing; for whilst I was with you, you had protection and direction at hand.” — “ ‘And these things I said not at the beginning, because I was present with you:’ but now the state of things is altered; I must leave you,” verse 4. “And for your parts, so are you astonished with sorrow, that you do not ask me ‘whither I go;’ the consideration whereof would certainly relieve you, seeing I go to take possession of my glory, and to carry on the work of 224your salvation: but your hearts are filled with sorrow and fears, and you do not so much as inquire after relief,” verses 5, 6. Whereupon he adjoins that wonderful assertion, verse 7, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
This verse, then, being the peculiar foundation of what shall afterward be declared, must particularly be considered, as to the words of it and their interpretation; and that both with respect to the preface of them and the asseveration in them, with the reason annexed thereunto.
1. The preface to them:—
(1.) The first word, ἁλλά, is an adversative, not excepting to any thing of what himself had spoken before, but to their apprehension: “I know you have sad thoughts of these things; but yet, nevertheless.”
(2.) Ἐγὼ τὴν ἀλήθειαν λέγω ὑμῖν, “I tell you the truth.” The words are exceedingly emphatical, and denote some great thing to be ushered in by them. First, Ἐγὼ, — “I tell it you, this that shall now be spoken; I who love you, who take care of you, who am now about to lay down my life for you; they are my dying words, that you may believe me; I who am truth itself, I tell you.” And, —
Ἐγὼ τὴν ἀλήθειαν λέγω, — “I tell you the truth.” “You have in your sad, misgiving hearts many misapprehensions of things. You think if I would abide with you, all these evils might be prevented; but, alas! you know not what is good for you, nor what is expedient. ‘I tell you the truth;’ this is truth itself; and quiet your hearts in it.” There is need of a great deal of evidence of truth, to comfort their souls that are dejected and disconsolate under an apprehension of the absence of Christ from them, be the apprehension true or false.
And this is the first part of the words of our Saviour, the preface to what he was to deliver to them, by way of a weighty, convincing asseveration, to disentangle thereby the thoughts of his disciples from prejudice, and to prepare them for the receiving of that great truth which he was to deliver.
2. The assertion itself follows: Συμφέρει ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἐγὼ ἀπέλθω, — It is expedient for you that I go away.”
There are two things in the words:— Christ’s departure; and the usefulness of it to his disciples:—
For his departure, it is known what is intended by it; — the withdrawing his bodily presence from the earth after his resurrection, the “heaven being to receive him, until the times of the restitution of all things,” Acts iii. 21; for in respect of his Deity, and the exercise of love and care towards them, he promised to be with them to 225the end of the world, Matt. xxviii. 20. Of this saith he, Συμφέρει ὑμῖν, — “It conduceth to your good; it is profitable for you; it is for your advantage; it will answer the end that you aim at.” That is the sense of the word which we have translated “expedient;” — “It is for your profit and advantage.” This, then, is that which our Saviour asserts, and that with the earnestness before mentioned, desiring to convince his sorrowful followers of the truth of it, — namely, that his departure, which they so much feared and were troubled to think of, would turn to their profit and advantage.
3. Now, although it might be expected that they should acquiesce in this asseveration of truth itself, yet because they were generally concerned in the ground of the truth of it, he acquaints them with that also; and, that we may confess it to be a great matter, that gives certainty and evidence to that proposition, he expresses it negatively and positively: “If I go not away, he will not come; but if I depart, I will send him.” Concerning the going away of Christ I have spoken before; of the Comforter, his coming and sending, I shall now treat, as being the thing aimed at.
Ὁ παράκλητος: the word being of sundry significations, many translations have thought fit not to restrain it, but do retain the original word “paracletus;” so the Syriac also: and, as some think, it was a word before in use among the Jews (whence the Chaldee paraphrast makes use of it, Job xvi. 20353353 מְלִיצַי רֵעָי, rendered in our translation, “My friends scorn me,” is in the Targum, to which Owen alludes, פְרַקְלִיטַי חֲבֵרַי, “My advocates are my friends.” The word is the Greek παράκλετοι, in Hebrew characters. — Ed.); and amongst them it signifies one that so taught others as to delight them also in his teaching, — that is, to be their comforter. In Scripture it hath two eminent significations, — an “advocate” and a “comforter;” in the first sense our Saviour is called παράκλητος, 1 John ii. 1. Whether it be better rendered here an advocate or a comforter may be doubted.
Look into the foregoing occasion of the words, which is the disciples’ sorrow and trouble, and it seems to require the Comforter: “Sorrow hath filled your hearts; but I will send you the Comforter;” — look into the next words following, which contain his peculiar work for which he is now promised to be sent, and they require he should be an Advocate, to plead the cause of Christ against the world, verse 8. I shall choose rather to interpret the promise by the occasion of it, which was the sorrow of his disciples, and to retain the name of the Comforter.
Who this Comforter is, our blessed Saviour had before declared, chap. xv. 26. He is Πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, “the Spirit of truth;” that is, the Holy Ghost, who revealeth all truth to the sons of men. Now, 226of this Comforter two things are affirmed:— (1.) That he shall come. (2.) That Christ shall send him.
(1.) That he shall come. The affirmative of his coming on the performance of that condition of it, of Christ going away, is included in the negation of his coming without its accomplishment: “If I go not away, he will not come;” — “If I do go (ἐλεύσεται), he will come.” So that there is not only the mission of Christ, but the will of the Spirit, in his coming: “He will come,” — his own will is in his work.
(2.) Πέμψω αὐτόν, — “I will send him.” The mystery of his sending the Spirit, our Saviour instructs his disciples in by degrees. Chap. xiv. 16, he saith, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter;” in the progress of his discourse he gets one step more upon their faith, verse 26, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name;” but, chap. xv. 26, he saith, “I will send him from the Father;” and here, absolutely, “I will send him.” The business of sending the Holy Ghost by Christ — which argues his personal procession also from him, the Son — was a deep mystery, which at once they could not bear; and therefore he thus instructs them in it by degrees.
This is the sum:— the presence of the Holy Ghost with believers as a comforter, sent by Christ for those ends and purposes for which he is promised, is better and more profitable for believers than any corporeal presence of Christ can be, now he hath fulfilled the one sacrifice for sin which he was to offer.
Now, the Holy Spirit is promised under a twofold consideration:— [1.] As a Spirit of sanctification to the elect, to convert them and make them believers. [2.] As a Spirit of consolation to believers, to give them the privileges of the death and purchase of Christ: it is in the latter sense only wherein he is here spoken of. Now, as to his presence with us in this regard, and the end and purposes for which he is sent, for what is aimed at, observe, — 1st. The rise and fountain of it; 2dly. The manner of his being given; 3dly. Our manner of receiving him; 4thly. His abiding with us; 5thly. His acting in us; 6thly. What are the effects of his working in us: and then how we hold communion with him will from all these appear.
What the Scripture speaketh to these particulars, shall briefly be considered:—
1st. For the fountain of his coming, it is mentioned, John xv. 26, Παρὰ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορεύεται, — “He proceedeth from the Father;” this is the fountain of this dispensation, he proceedeth from the Father. Now there is a twofold ἐκπόρευσις, or “procession” of the Spirit:—
(1st.) Φυσική or ὑποστατική, in respect of substance and personality.
(2dly.) Οἰκονομική or dispensatory, in respect of the work of grace.
227Of the first — in which respect he is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, proceeding from both eternally, so receiving his substance and personality — I speak not: it is a business of another nature than that I have now in hand. Therein, indeed, lies the first and most remote foundation of all our distinct communion with him and our worship of him; but because abiding in the naked consideration hereof, we can make no other progress than the bare acquiescence of faith in the mystery revealed, with the performance of that which is due to the person solely on the account of his participation of the essence, I shall not at present dwell upon it.
His ἐκπόρευσις or proceeding, mentioned in the place insisted on, is his economical or dispensatory proceeding, for the carrying on of the work of grace. It is spoken of him in reference to his being sent by Christ after his ascension: “I will send him which proceedeth,” — namely, “then when I send him.” As God is said to “come out of his place,” Isa. xxvi. 21, not in regard of any mutation in him, but of the new work which he would effect; so it follows, the Lord comes out of his place “to punish the inhabitants of the earth.” And it is in reference to a peculiar work that he is said to proceed, — namely, to testify of Christ: which cannot be assigned to him in respect of his eternal procession, but of his actual dispensation; as it is said of Christ, “He came forth from God.” The single mention of the Father in this place, and not of the Son, belongs to the gradation before mentioned, whereby our Saviour discovers this mystery to his disciples. He speaks as much concerning himself, John xvi. 7. And this relation ad extra (as they call it) of the Spirit unto the Father and the Son, in respect of operation, proves his relation ad intra, in respect of personal procession; whereof I spake before.
Three things are considerable in the foundation of this dispensation, in reference to our communion with the Holy Ghost:—
[1st.] That the will of the Spirit is in the work: Ἐκπορεύεται, — “He comes forth himself.” Frequent mention is made (as we shall see afterward) of his being sent, his being given, and poured out; [but] that it might not be thus apprehended, either that this Spirit were altogether an inferior, created spirit, a mere servant, as some have blasphemed, nor yet merely and principally, as to his personality, the virtue of God, as some have fancied, he hath ἰδιώματα ὑποστατικά, personal properties, applied to him in this work, arguing his personality and liberty. Ἐκπορεύεται, — “He, of himself and of his own accord, proceedeth.”
[2dly.] The condescension of the Holy Ghost in this order of working, this dispensation, to proceed from the Father and the Son, as to this work; to take upon him this work of a Comforter, as the Son did the work of a Redeemer: of which afterward.
[3dly.] The fountain of the whole is discovered to be the Father, 228that we may know his works in the pursuit of electing love, which everywhere is ascribed to the Father. This is the order here intimated:— First, there is the πρόθεσις of the Father, or the purpose of his love, the fountain of all; then the ἐρώτησις, the asking of the Son, John xiv. 16, which takes in his merit and purchase; whereunto follows ἐκπόρευσις, or willing proceeding of the Holy Ghost. And this gives testimony, also, to the foundation of this whole discourse, — namely, our peculiar communion with the Father in love, the Son in grace, and the Holy Ghost in consolation. This is the door and entrance of that fellowship of the Holy Ghost whereunto we are called. His gracious and blessed will, his infinite and ineffable condescension, being eyed by faith as the foundation of all those effects which he works in us, and privileges whereof by him we are made partakers, our souls are peculiarly conversant with him, and their desires, affections, and thankfulness, terminated on him: of which more afterward. This is the first thing considerable in our communion with the Holy Ghost.
2dly. The manner of his collation or bestowing, or the manner of his communication unto us from this fountain, is herein also considerable; and it is variously expressed, to denote three things:—
(1st.) The freeness of it: thus he is said to be given, John xiv. 16; “He shall give you another Comforter.” I need not multiply places to this purpose. The most frequent adjunct of the communication of the Spirit is this, that he is given and received as of gift: “He will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” That which is of gift is free. The Spirit of grace is given of grace: and not only the Spirit of sanctification, or the Spirit to sanctify and convert us, is a gift of free grace, but in the sense whereof we speak, in respect of consolation, he is of gift also; he is promised to be given unto believers.354354 Neh. ix. 20; John xiv. 16, vii. 39, xx. 22; Acts ii. 28, v. 32, viii. 15, x. 47, xv. 8, xix. 2; Rom. v. 5; 1 Cor. ii. 12, vi. 19, xii. 7; 1 Thess. iv. 8; 1 John iv. 13. Hence the Spirit is said to be received by the gospel, not by the law, Gal. iii. 2; that is, of mere grace, and not of our own procuring. And all his workings are called χαρίσματα, — “free donations.” He is freely bestowed, and freely works; and the different measures wherein he is received, for those ends and purposes of consolation which we shall consider, by believers, which are great, various, and inexpressible, arise from hence, that we have him by donation, or free gift. And this is the tenure whereby we hold and enjoy him, a tenure of free donation. So is he to be eyed, so to be asked, so to be received. And this, also, faith takes in and closes withal, in our communion with the Comforter:— the conjunction and accord of his will with the gift of Father and Son; the one respecting the distinct operation of the Deity in the person of the Holy Ghost; the other, the economy of the whole Trinity in the work of our salvation by Jesus Christ. Here 229the soul rejoiceth itself in the Comforter, — that he is willing to come to him, that he is willing to be given him. And seeing all is will and gift, grace is magnified on this account.
(2dly.) The authority of it. Thence he is said to be sent. Chap. xiv. 26, “The Father will send him in my name;” and, chap. xv. 26, “I will send him unto you from the Father;” and, “Him will I send unto you,” chap. xvi. 7. This mission of the Holy Ghost by the Father and the Son, as it answers the order of the persons’ subsistence in the blessed Trinity, and his procession from them both, so the order voluntarily engaged in by them for the accomplishment, as was said, of the work of our salvation. There is in it, in a most special manner, the condescension of the Holy Ghost, in his love to us, to the authoritative delegation of Father and Son in this business; which argues not a disparity, dissimilitude, or inequality of essence, but of office, in this work. It is the office of the Holy Ghost to be an advocate for us, and a comforter to us; in which respect, not absolutely, he is thus sent authoritatively by Father and Son. It is a known maxim, that “inæqualitas officii non tollit æqualitatem naturæ.” This subjection (if I may so call it), or inequality in respect of office, doth no ways prejudice the equality of nature which he hath with Father and Son; no more than the mission of the Son by the Father doth his. And on this authoritative mission of the Spirit doth the right apprehension of many mysteries in the gospel, and the ordering of our hearts in communion with him, depend.
[1st.] Hence is the sin against the Holy Ghost (what it is I do not now dispute) unpardonable, and hath that adjunct of rebellion put upon it that no other sin hath, — namely, because he comes not, he acts not, in his own name only, though in his own also, but in the name and authority of the Father and Son, from and by whom he is sent; and therefore, to sin against him is to sin against all the authority of God, all the love of the Trinity, and the utmost condescension of each person to the work of our salvation. It is, I say, from the authoritative mission of the Spirit that the sin against him is peculiarly unpardonable; — it is a sin against the recapitulation of the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit. And from this consideration, were that our present business, might the true nature of the sin against the Holy Ghost be investigated. Certainly it must consist in the contempt of some operation of his, as acting in the name and authority of the whole Trinity, and that in their ineffable condescension to the work of grace. But this is of another consideration.
[2dly.] On this account we are to pray the Father and the Son to give the Spirit to us. Luke xi. 13, “Your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” Now the Holy Ghost, being God, is no less to be invocated, prayed to, and called on, than 230the Father and Son; as elsewhere I have proved. How, then, do we ask the Father for him, as we do in all our supplications, seeing that we also pray that he himself would come to us, visit us, and abide with us? In our prayers that are directed to himself, we consider him as essentially God over all, blessed for evermore; we pray for him from the Father and Son, as under this mission and delegation from them. And, indeed, God having most plentifully revealed himself in the order of this dispensation to us, we are (as Christians generally do) in our communion to abound in answerable addresses; that is, not only to the person of the Holy Ghost himself, but properly to the Father and Son for him, which refers to this dispensation.
[3dly.] Hence is that great weight, in particular, laid upon our not grieving the Spirit, Eph. iv. 30, — because he comes to us in the name, with the love, and upon the condescension, of the whole blessed Trinity. To do that which might grieve him so sent, on such an account, for that end and purpose which shall afterward be mentioned, is a great aggravation of sin. He expects cheerful entertainment with us, and may do so justly, upon his own account, and the account of the work which he comes about; but when this also is added, that he is sent of the Father and the Son, commissioned with their love and grace, to communicate them to their souls, — this is that which is, or ought to be, of unspeakable esteem with believers. And this is that second thing expressed in the manner of his communication, — he is sent by authority.
(3dly.) He is said to be poured out or shed on us, Tit. iii. 6, Οὗ ἐξέχεεν ἐφ’ ἡμᾶς πλουσίως, — that Holy Ghost which he hath richly poured out upon us, or shed on us abundantly. And this was the chief expression of his communication under the Old Testament; the mystery of the Father and the Son, and the matter of commission and delegation being then not so clearly discovered. Isa. xxxii. 15, “Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest;” that is, till the Gentiles be called, and the Jews rejected. And chap. xliv. 3, “I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” That eminent place of Zech. xii. 10 is always in our thoughts. Now, this expression, as is known, is taken from the allusion of the Spirit unto water; and that in relation to all the uses of water, both natural and typical. A particular relation of them I cannot now insist on; perhaps efficacy and plenty are chiefly intended.
Now, this threefold expression, of giving, sending, and pouring out, of the Spirit, gives us the three great properties of the covenant of grace:— First, That it is free; he is given. Secondly, That it is orderly, 231ordered in all things, and sure, from the love of the Father, by the procurement of the Son; and thence is that variety of expression, of the Father’s sending him, and the Son’s sending him from the Father, he being the gift of the Father’s love, and purchase of the blood of the Son. Thirdly. The efficacy of it, as was last observed. And this is the second thing considerable.
3dly. The third, which is our receiving him, I shall speak more briefly of. That which I first proposed of the Spirit, considered as a Spirit of sanctification and a Spirit of consolation, is here to be minded. Our receiving of him as a Spirit of sanctification is a mere passive reception, as a vessel receives water. He comes as the wind on Ezekiel’s dead bones, and makes them live; he comes into dead hearts, and quickens them, by an act of his almighty power: but now, as he is the Spirit of consolation, it is otherwise. In this sense our Saviour tells us that the “world cannot receive him,” John xiv. 17, “The world receiveth him not, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” That it is the Spirit of consolation, or the Spirit for consolation, that here is promised, is evident from the close of the verse, where he is said then to be in them when he is promised to them. He was in them as a Spirit of quickening and sanctification when promised to them as a Spirit of comfort and consolation, to abide with them for that purpose. Now, the power that is here denied to be in the world, with the reason of it, that they cannot receive the Spirit, because they know him not, is ascribed to believers; — they can receive him, because they know him. So that there is an active power to be put forth in his reception for consolation, though not in his reception for regeneration and sanctification. And this is the power of faith. So Gal. iii. 2, they received the Spirit by the hearing of faith; — the preaching of the gospel, begetting faith in them, enabled them to receive the Spirit. Hence, believing is put as the qualification of all our receiving the Holy Ghost. John vii. 39, “This he spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.” It is believers that thus receive the Spirit; and they receive him by faith. Now, there are three special acts of faith, whereby it goes forth in the receiving of the Spirit. I shall but name them:—
(1st.) It considers the Spirit, in the economy before described, as promised. It is faith alone that makes profit of the benefit of the promises, Heb. iv. 2. Now he is called the Spirit of that promise, Eph. i. 13, — the Spirit that in the covenant is promised; and we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith, Gal. iii. 14: so that the receiving of the Spirit through faith, is the receiving of him as promised. Faith eyes the promise of God and of Jesus Christ, of sending 232the Spirit for all those ends that he is desired; thus it depends, waits, mixing the promise with itself, until it receive him.
(2dly.) By prayer. He is given as a Spirit of supplication, that we may ask him as a Spirit of consolation, Luke xi. 13; and, indeed, this asking of the Spirit of God, in the name of Christ, either directly or immediately, or under the name of some fruit and effect; of him, is the chiefest work of faith in this world.
(3dly.) It cherisheth him, by attending to his motions, improving his actings according to his mind and will; which is all I shall say to this third thing, or our receiving of the Spirit, which is sent of Jesus Christ. We do it by faith, looking on him as purchased by Jesus Christ, and promised of the Father; we seek him at the hands of God, and do receive him.
4thly. The next considerable thing is, his abode with us. Now this is two ways expressed in the Scripture:—
(1st.) In general. As to the thing itself, it is said he shall abide with us.
(2dly.) In particular. As to the manner of its abiding, it is by inhabitation or indwelling. Of the inhabitation of the Spirit I have spoken fully355355 Perseverance of the Saints, chap. viii. vol. xi. elsewhere, nor shall I now insist on it. Only whereas the Spirit, as hath been observed, is considered as a Spirit of sanctification, or a Spirit of consolation, he is said to dwell in us chiefly, or perhaps solely, as he is a Spirit of sanctification: which is evident from the work he doth, as indwelling, — he quickeneth and sanctifieth, Rom. viii. 11; and the manner of his indwelling, — as in a temple, which he makes holy thereby, 1 Cor. vi. 19; and his permanency in his so doing, — which, as is evident, relates to sanctification only: but yet the general notion of it in abiding is ascribed to him as a comforter, John xiv. 16, “He shall abide with you for ever.” Now, all the difficulty of this promise lies in this, that whereas the Spirit of sanctification dwells in us always, and it is therefore impossible that we should lose utterly our holiness, whence is it that, if the Comforter abide with us for ever, we may yet utterly lose our comfort? A little to clear this in our passage:—
[1st.] He is promised to abide with the disciples for ever, in opposition to the abode of Christ. Christ, in the flesh, had been with them for a little while, and now was leaving them, and going to his Father. He had been the comforter immediately himself for a season, but is now upon his departing; wherefore, promising them another comforter, they might fear that he would even but visit them for a little season also, and then their condition would be worse than ever. Nay, but saith our Saviour, “Fear it not: this is the last dispensation; there is to be no alteration. When I am gone, the Comforter 233is to do all the remaining work: there is not another to be looked for, and I promise you him; nor shall he depart from you, but always abide with you.”
[2dly.] The Comforter may always abide with us, though not always comfort us; he who is the Comforter may abide, though he do not always that work. For other ends and purposes he is always with us; as to sanctify and make us holy. So was the case with David, Ps. li. 11, 12, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” The Holy Spirit of sanctification was still with David; but saith he, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;” — that is, the Spirit of consolation, that was lost, when the promise was made good in the abode of the other.
[3dly.] The Comforter may abide as a comforter, when he doth not actually comfort the soul. In truth, as to the essence of holiness, he cannot dwell in us but withal he must make us holy; for the temple of God is holy; — but as to his comforting, his actings therein are all of his sovereign will; so that he may abide, and yet not actually comfort us.
[4thly.] The Spirit often works for it, and tenders consolation to us, when we do not receive it; the well is nigh, and we see it not, — we refuse to be comforted. I told you that the Spirit as a sanctifier comes with power, to conquer an unbelieving heart; the Spirit as a comforter comes with sweetness, to be received in a believing heart. He speaks, and we believe not that it is his voice; he tenders the things of consolation, and we receive them not. “My sore ran,” saith David, “and my soul refused to be comforted.”
[5thly.] I deny that ever the Holy Spirit doth absolutely and universally leave a believing soul without consolation. A man may be darkened, clouded, refuse comfort, — actually find none, feel none; but radically he hath a foundation of consolation, which in due time will be drawn forth: and therefore, when God promises that he will heal sinners, and restore comfort to them, as Isa. lvii. 18, it is not that they were without any, but that they had not so much as they needed, that that promise is made. To insist on the several ways whereby men refuse comfort, and come short of the strong consolation which God is willing that we should receive, is not my purpose at present. Thus, then, the Spirit being sent and given, abideth with the souls of believers, — leaves them not, though he variously manifest himself in his operations: of which in the next place.
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