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Chapter I. Peculiar operations of the Holy Spirit under the Old Testament preparatory for the New.
The work of the Spirit of God in the new creation; by some despised — Works under the Old Testament preparatory to the new creation — Distribution of the works of the Spirit — The gift of prophecy; the nature, use, and end of it — The beginning of prophecy — The Holy Spirit the only author of it — The name of a “prophet;” its signification, and his work — Prophecy by inspiration; whence so called — Prophets, how acted by the Holy Ghost — The adjuncts of prophecy, or distinct ways of its communication — Of articulate voices — Dreams — Visions — Accidental adjuncts of prophecy — Symbolical actions — Local mutations — Whether unsanctified persons might have the gift of prophecy — The case of Balaam answered — Of writing the Scriptures — Three things required thereunto — Of miracles — Works of the Spirit of God in the improvement of the natural faculties of the minds of men in things political — In things moral — In things corporeal — In things intellectual and artificial — In preaching of the word.
Having passed through these general things, which are of a necessary previous consideration unto the especial works of the Holy Ghost, I now proceed unto that which is the principal subject of our present design; and this is, the dispensation and work of the Holy Spirit of God with respect unto the new creation, and the recovery of mankind or the church of God thereby. A matter this is of the highest importance unto them that sincerely believe, but most violently, and of late virulently, opposed by all the enemies of the grace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. The weight and concernment of the doctrine hereof have in part been spoken unto before. I shall at present add no farther considerations to the same purpose, but leave all that fear the name of God to make a judgment of it by what is revealed concerning it in the Scriptures, and the uses whereunto it is in them directed. Many, we know, will not receive these things; but whilst we keep ourselves, in the handling of them, unto that word whereby one day both we and they must either stand or fall, we need not be moved at their ignorance or pride, nor at the fruits and effects of them, in reproaches, contempt, and scorn: for ἔχει Θεὸς ἔνδικον ὄμμα.
Now, the works of the Spirit, in reference unto the new creation, are of two sorts:— First, Such as were preparatory unto it, under the Old Testament; for I reckon that the state of the old creation, as unto our living unto God, ended with the entrance of sin and giving 126the first promise. Whatever ensued thereon, in a way of grace, was preparatory for and unto the new. Secondly, Such as were actually wrought about it under the new. Those acts and workings of his which are common to both states of the church, — as is his effectual dispensation of sanctifying grace towards the elect of God, — I shall handle in common under the second head. Under the first, I shall only reckon up those that were peculiar unto that state. To make way hereunto I shall premise two general positions:—
1. There is nothing excellent amongst men, whether it be absolutely extraordinary, and every way above the production of natural principles, or whether it consist in an eminent and peculiar improvement of those principles and abilities, but it is ascribed unto the Holy Spirit of God, as the immediate operator and efficient cause of it. This we shall afterward confirm by instances. Of old he was all; now, some would have him nothing.
2. Whatever the Holy Spirit wrought in an eminent manner under the Old Testament, it had generally and for the most part, if not absolutely and always, a respect unto our Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel; and so was preparatory unto the completing of the great work of the new creation in and by him.
And these works of the Holy Spirit may be referred unto the two sorts mentioned, namely, — 1. Such as were extraordinary, and exceeding the whole compass of the abilities of nature, however improved and advanced; and, 2. Those which consist in the improving and exaltation of those abilities, to answer the occasions of life and use of the church.
Those of the first sort may be reduced unto three heads:— 1. Prophecy. 2. Inditing of the Scripture. 3. Miracles. Those of the other sort we shall find:— 1. In things political, as skill for government and rule amongst men. 2. In things moral, as fortitude and courage. 3. In things natural, as increase of bodily strength. 4. In gifts intellectual, — (1.) For things sacred, as to preach the word of God; (2.) In things artificial, as in Bezaleel and Aholiab. The work of grace on the hearts of men being more fully revealed under the New Testament than before, and of the same kind and nature in every state of the church since the fall, I shall treat of it once for all in its most proper place.
I. 1. The first eminent gift and work of the Holy Ghost under the Old Testament, and which had the most direct and immediate respect unto Jesus Christ, was that of prophecy: for the chief and principal end hereof in the church was to foresignify him, his sufferings, and the glory that should ensue, or to appoint such things to be observed in divine worship as might be types and representations of him; for the chiefest privilege of the church of old was but to hear tidings of the things which we enjoy, Isa. xxxiii. 17. As Moses on the top of 127Pisgah saw the land of Canaan, and in spirit, the beauties of holiness to be erected therein, which was his highest attainment; so the best of those saints was to contemplate the King of saints in the land that was yet very far from them, or Christ in the flesh. And this prospect, which by faith they obtained, was their chiefest joy and glory, John viii. 56; yet they all ended their days as Moses did, with respect unto the type of the gospel state, Deut. iii. 24, 25. So did they, Luke x. 23, 24; “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect,” Heb. xi. 40. That this was the principal end of the gift of prophecy Peter declares, 1 Epist. i. 9–12: “Receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you.” Some of the ancients apprehended that some things were spoken obscurely by the prophets, and not to be understood without great search, especially such as concerned the rejection of the Jews, lest they should have been provoked to abolish the Scripture itself;5353 Σημείωσῃ δ’ ὥς τινα μὲν εἴρηται δι’ αἰνιγμάτων, τινὰ δὶ φανερώτερον. Τὰ μὲν οὗν δι’ ἐπικρύψεως ἡγοῦμαι τῶν ἐκ περιτομῆς ἕνεκα κεκαλλυμμένως ἀποδεδόσθαι, διὰ τὰ θεσπιζόμενα κατ’ αὐτῶν σκυθρωπά. Δι’ ἅπερ εἰκὸς ἦν καὶ ἀφανίσαι αὐτοῦς τὴν γραφὴν, εἰ ἐκ τοῦ προφανοῦς τὴν ἐσχάτην αὐτῶν ἀποβολὴν ἐσήμαινεν — Euseb. Demonst. Evangel. lib. vi. Proœm. but the sum and substance of the prophetical work under the Old Testament, with the light, design, and ministry of the prophets themselves, are declared in those words. The work was, to give testimony unto the truth of God in the first promise, concerning the coming of the blessed Seed. This was God’s method:— First, he gave himself immediately that promise which was the foundation of the church, Gen. iii. 15; then by revelation unto the prophets he confirmed that promise; after all which the Lord Christ was sent to make them all good unto the church, Rom. xv. 8. Herewithal they received fresh revelations concerning his person and his sufferings, with the glory that was to ensue thereon, and the grace which was to come thereby unto the church. Whilst they were thus employed and acted by the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of Christ, they diligently endeavoured to come to an acquaintance with the things themselves, in their nature and efficacy, which were revealed unto them;5454 “Omnes prophetæ illa tantummodo sciebant quæ illis fuissent a Domino revelata. Unde et rex Hieremiam dubio interrogat, Si in ea hora qua cum illo loquebatur apud eum sermo Domini haberetur. Sed et Eliseus dicit, Quomodo hæc Dominus abscondit a me; et Elias præter se esse alios qui Deum colerent ignoravit.” — Hieron. Comment. in Epist. ad Roman. cap. ii. yet so as considering that not 128themselves, but some succeeding generations, should enjoy them in their actual exhibition. And whilst they were intent on these things, they searched also, as far as intimation was given thereof by the Spirit, after the time wherein all these things should be accomplished; both when it should be, and what manner of time it should be, or what would be the state and condition of the people of God in those days. This was the principal end of the gift of prophecy, and this the principal work and employment of the prophets: The first promise was given by God in the person of the Son, as I have proved elsewhere, Gen. iii. 15; but the whole explication, confirmation, and declaration of it, was carried on by the gift of prophecy.
The communication of this gift began betimes in the world, and continued, without any known interruption, in the possession of someone or more in the church at all times, during its preparatory or subservient estate. After the finishing of the canon of the Old Testament, it ceased in the Judaical church until it had a revival in John the Baptist; who was therefore greater than any prophet that went before, because he made the nearest approach unto and the clearest discovery of the Lord Jesus Christ, the end of all prophecies. Thus God “spake by the mouth of his holy prophets,” τῶν ἀπ’ αἰῶνος, “which have been since the world began,” Luke i. 70. Adam himself had many things revealed unto him, without which he could not have worshipped God aright in that state and condition whereinto he was come; for although his natural light was sufficient to direct him unto all religious services required by the law of creation, yet was it not so unto all duties of that state whereinto he was brought by the giving of the promise after the entrance of sin. So was he guided unto the observance of such ordinances of worship as were needful for him and accepted with God, — as were sacrifices. The prophecy of Enoch is not only remembered, but called over and recorded, Jude 14, 15. And it is a matter neither curious nor difficult to demonstrate, that all the patriarchs of old, before the flood, were guided by a prophetical spirit in the imposition of names on those children who were to succeed them in the sacred line. Concerning Abraham, God expressly saith himself that he was a prophet, Gen. xx. 7, — that is, one who used to receive divine revelations.
Now, this gift of prophecy was always the immediate effect
of the operation of the Holy Spirit. So it is both affirmed in general and
in all the particular instances of it. In the first way, we have the
illustrious testimony of the apostle Peter: 2 Epist. i. 20, 21, “Knowing this
first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of
God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 129This is a
principle among believers, this they grant and allow in the first place, as
that which they resolve their faith into, — namely, that the “sure word of
prophecy,” which they in all things take heed unto, verse
19, was not a fruit of any men’s private conceptions, nor was
subject to the wills of men, so as to attain it or exercise it by their own
ability;5555 Οἳ δὲ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἄνθρωποι
πνευματοφόροι πνεύματος ἁγίου, καὶ προφῆται γενόμενοι ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ
ἐμπνευσθέντες καὶ σοφισθέντες ἐγένοντο θεοδίδακτοι, καὶ ὅσιοι καὶ
δίκαιοι. — Theophil. ad Autolycum. lib. ii.
“Prophetæ voces itemque virtutes ad fidem divinitatis edebant.” — Tertul. Apol. cap. xviii.
Οὐδ’ ἀνδρὸς τοῦτο ποιεῖν, ἢ σοφοῦ τινος καὶ θείου; ἢ θεὸς ἂν ἔχοι φαίη τις ἂν, τοῦτο τὸ γέρας. Καὶ γὰρ οὐ τοῦ μάντεως, τό διότι, ἀλλὰ τὸ ὅτι μόνον εἰποῦ. — Plotin. Ennead. iii. lib. 3. but it was given by “inspiration of God,” 2 Tim. iii. 16: for the Holy Ghost, by acting, moving, guiding the minds of holy men, enabled them thereunto. This was the sole fountain and cause of all true divine prophecy that ever was given or granted to the use of the church. And, in particular, the coming of the Spirit of God upon the prophets, enabling them unto their work, is frequently mentioned. Micah declares in his own instance how it was with them all: Chap. iii. 8, “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.” It was from the Spirit of God alone that he had all his ability for the discharge of that prophetical office whereunto he was called. And when God would endow seventy elders with a gift of prophecy, he tells Moses that he would “take of the Spirit that was upon him,” and give unto them for that purpose; that is, he would communicate of the same Spirit unto them as was in him. And where it is said at any time that God spake by the prophets, or that the word of God came to them, or God spake to them, it is always intended that this was the immediate work of the Holy Ghost. So says David of himself, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me,” or in me, “and his word was in my tongue,” 2 Sam. xxiii. 2. Hence our apostle, repeating his words, ascribes them directly to the Holy Ghost: Heb. iii. 7, “Wherefore, as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear his voice;” and chap. iv. 7, “Saying in David.” So the words which are ascribed unto the “Lord of hosts,” Isa. vi. 9, 10, are asserted to be the words of the Holy Ghost, Acts xxviii. 25–27. He spake to them, or in them, by his holy inspirations; and he spake by them in his effectual infallible guidance of them, to utter, declare, and write what they received from him, without mistake or variation.
And this prophecy, as to its exercise, is considered two ways:— First, precisely for the prediction or foretelling things to come; as the Greek word, and the Latin traduced from thence, do signify. So prophecy is a divine prediction of future things, proceeding from divine 130revelation. But the Hebrew נָכָא, — whence are נָבִיא, “a prophet,” and נְבוּאָה, “prophecy,” — is not confined unto any such signification, although predictions from supernatural revelation are constantly expressed by it. But in general, secondly, the word signifies no more but to speak out, interpret, and declare the mind or words of another. So God tells Moses that he would “make him a god unto Pharaoh,” — one that should deal with him in the name, stead, and power of God; and “Aaron his brother should be his prophet,” Exod. vii. 1, — that is, one that should interpret his meaning and declare his words unto Pharaoh, Moses having complained of the defect of his own utterance. So prophets are the “interpreters,” the declarers of the word, will, mind, or oracles of God unto others. Such a one is described, Job xxxiii. 23. Hence, those who expounded the Scripture unto the church under the New Testament were called “prophets,” and their work “prophecy,” Rom. xii. 6, 1 Cor. xiv. 31, 32; and under the Old Testament those that celebrated the praises of God with singing in the temple, according to the institution of David, are said therein to “prophesy,” 1 Chron. xxv. 2. And this name, נָכִיא, a “prophet,” was of ancient use; for so God termed Abraham, Gen. xx. 7. Afterward, in common use, a prophet was called רֹאֶה and חֹזֶה, “a seer,” because of their divine visions (and this was occasioned from those words of God concerning Moses, Num. xii. 6–8; and this being the ordinary way of his revealing himself, — namely, by dreams and visions, — prophets in those days, even from the death of Moses, were commonly called seers, which continued in use until the days of Samuel, 1 Sam. ix. 9); and אִישׁ־אֱלֹהִים, “a man of God,” 1 Sam. ii. 27; which name Paul gives to the preachers of the gospel, 1 Tim. vi. 11, 2 Tim. iii. 17. And it is not altogether unworthy of observation what Kimchi notes, that the verb נָבָא is most frequently used in the passive conjugation niphal, because it denotes a receiving of that from God by way of revelation which is spoken unto others in a way of prophecy. And as it lies before us as an extraordinary gift of the Holy Ghost, it is neither to be confined to the strict notion of prediction and foretelling, nor to be extended to every true declaration of the mind of God, but only to that which is obtained by immediate revelation.
This peculiar gift, therefore, of the Holy Spirit we may a little distinctly inquire into; and two things concerning it may be considered:— First, Its general nature; Secondly, The particular ways whereby especial revelation was granted unto any. First, For its nature in general, it consisted in inspiration.5656 “Sed et hoc notandum ex eo quod dixerat; ut videam quid loquatur, in me; prophetiam visionem et eloquium Dei non extrinsecus ad prophetas fieri, sed intrinsecus et interiori homini respondere. Unde et Zacharias, et angelus inquit, qui loquebatur in me.” — Hieron. Comment. in Hab. cap. ii. So the apostle speaks of the 131prophecies recorded in the Scripture, 2 Tim. iii. 16: θεοπνευστία, divine inspiration, was the original and cause of it. And the acting of the Holy Ghost in communicating his mind unto the prophets was called “inspiration” on a double account:— First, In answer unto his name and nature. The name whereby he is revealed unto us signifieth “breath;” and he is called the “breath of God,” whereby his essential relation to the Father and Son, with his eternal natural emanation from them, is expressed. And, therefore, when our Saviour gave him unto his disciples, as a proper instructive emblem of what he gave, he breathed upon them, John xx. 22. So also in the great work of the infusion of the reasonable soul into the body of man, it is said, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” Gen. ii. 7. From hence, I say, it is, — namely, from the nature and name of the Holy Spirit, — that his immediate actings on the minds of men, in the supernatural communication of divine revelations unto them, is called “inspiration” or inbreathing. And the unclean spirit, counterfeiting his actings, did inspire his worshippers with a preternatural afflatus, by ways suited unto his own filthy vileness. Secondly, This holy work of the Spirit of God, as it is expressed suitably to his name and nature, so the meekness, gentleness, facility wherewith he works is intended hereby. He did, as it were, gently and softly breathe into them the knowledge and comprehension of holy things. It is an especial and immediate work, wherein he acts suitably unto his nature as a spirit, the spirit or breath of God, and suitably unto his peculiar, personal properties of meekness, gentleness, and peace. So his acting is inspiration, whereby he came within the faculties of the souls of men, acting them with a power that was not their own. It is true, when he had thus inspired any with the mind of God, they had no rest, nor could have, unless they declared it in its proper way and season: Jer. xx. 9, “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name: but his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” But this disturbance was from a moral sense of their duty, and not from any violent agitations of his upon their natures. And whereas sometimes trouble and consternation of spirit did befall some of the prophets in and under the revelations they received from him, it was on a double account:— First, Of the dreadful representations of things that were made unto them in visions. Things of great dread and terror were represented unto their fancies and imaginations. Secondly, Of the greatness and dread of the things themselves revealed, which sometimes were terrible and destructive, Dan. vii. 15, 28, viii. 27; Hab. iii. 16; Isa. xxi. 2–4. But his inspirations were gentle and placid.
Secondly, The immediate effects of this inspiration were, that those 132inspired were moved or acted by the Holy Ghost: “Holy men of God spake,” ὑπὸ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου φερόμενοι, 2 Pet. i. 21, — “moved” or acted “by the Holy Ghost.” And two things are intended hereby:— First, The preparation and elevation of their intellectual faculties, their minds and understandings, wherein his revelations were to be received. He prepared them for to receive the impressions he made upon them, and confirmed their memories to retain them. He did not, indeed, so enlighten and raise their minds as to give them a distinct understanding and full comprehension of all the things themselves that were declared unto them; there was more in their inspirations than they could search into the bottom of.5757 And whereas the ancients contend, against the Ebionites, Marcionites, and Montanists, (as Epiphanius, Advers. Hæres. lib. ii. tom. 1; Hæres. xlviii.; Hieron. Proœm. Comment. in Isa.,) that the prophets were not used ecstatically, but understood the things that were spoken to them, they did not intend that they had, by virtue of their inspiration, a full comprehension of the whole sense of the revelations made unto them, but only that they were not in or by prophecy deprived of the use of their intellectual faculties, as it befell satanical enthusiasts. Ταῦτα γὰρ ἀληθῶς προφητῶν ἐν ἁγίω πνεύματι, ἐρρωμένην ἐχόντων τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ τὴν διδασκαλίαν καὶ τὴν διαλογίαν, as Epiphanius speaks. Wherefore, upon these words of Austin, “Per quosdam scientes, per quosdam nescientes, id quod ex adventu Christi usque nunc et deinceps agitur prænunciaretur esse venturum,” de Civitat. Dei, lib. vii. cap. 32, one well adds, “Prophetæ nec omnes sua vaticinia intelligebant, nec qui intelligebant omnia intelligebant; non enim ex se loquebantur sed ex superiore Dei afflatu; cujus consilia non onmia eis erant manifesta; utebaturque Deus illis non velut consultis futurorum, sed instrumentis quibus homines alloqueretur.” Hence, although the prophets under the Old Testament were made use of to communicate the clearest revelations and predictions concerning Jesus Christ, yet in the knowledge and understanding of the meaning of them they were all inferior to John Baptist, as he was in this matter to the meanest believer, or “least in the kingdom of heaven.” Therefore, for their own illumination and edification did they diligently inquire, by the ordinary means of prayer and meditation, into the meaning of the Spirit of God in those prophecies which themselves received by extraordinary revelation, 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. Nor did Daniel, who had those express representations and glorious visions concerning the monarchies of the world, and the providential alterations which should be wrought in them, understand what and how things would be in their accomplishment. That account he doth give of himself in the close of his visions, chap. xii. 8, 9. But he so raised and prepared their minds as that they might be capable to receive and retain those impressions of things which he communicated unto them. So a man tunes the strings of an instrument, that it may in a due manner receive the impressions of his finger, and give out the sound he intends. He did not speak in them or by them, and leave it unto the use of their natural faculties, their minds, or memories, to understand and remember the things spoken by him, and so declare them to others; but he himself acted their faculties, 133making use of them to express his words, not their own conceptions. And herein, besides other things, consists the difference between the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and those so called of the devil. The utmost that Satan can do, is to make strong impressions on the imaginations of men, or influence their faculties, by possessing, wresting, distorting the organs of the body and spirits of the blood. The Holy Spirit is in the faculties, and useth them as his organs. And this he did, secondly, with that light and evidence of himself, of his power, truth, and holiness, as left them liable to no suspicion whether their minds were under his conduct and influence or no. Men are subject to fall so far under the power of their own imaginations, through the prevalency of a corrupt distempered fancy, as to suppose them supernatural revelations; and Satan may, and did of old, and perhaps doth so still, impose on the minds of some, and communicate unto them such a conception of his insinuations, as that they shall for awhile think them to be from God himself. But in the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and his actings of the minds of the holy men of old, he gave them infallible assurance that it was himself alone by whom they were acted, Jer. xxiii. 28. If any shall ask by what τεκμήρια, or infallible tokens, they might know assuredly the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and be satisfied, with such a persuasion as was not liable to mistake, that they were not imposed upon, I must say plainly that I cannot tell, for these are things whereof we have no experience; nor is any thing of this nature, whatever some falsely and foolishly impute unto them who profess and avow an interest in the ordinary gracious workings of the Holy Ghost, pretended unto. What some frenetical persons, in their distempers or under their delusions, have boasted of, no sober or wise man esteems worthy of any sedate consideration. But this I say, it was the design of the Holy Ghost to give those whom he did thus extraordinarily inspire an assurance, sufficient to bear them out in the discharge of their duty, that they were acted by himself alone; for in the pursuit of their work, which they were by him called unto, they were to encounter various dangers, and some of them to lay down their lives for a testimony unto the truth of the message delivered by them. This they could not be engaged into without as full an evidence of his acting them as the nature of man in such cases is capable of. The case of Abraham fully confirms it. And it is impossible but that in those extraordinary workings there was, such an impression of himself, his holiness, and authority, left on their minds, as did secure them from all fear of delusion. Even upon the word, as delivered by them unto others, he put those characters of divine truth, holiness, and power, as rendered it ἀξιόπιστον, “worthy to be believed,” and not to be rejected without the highest sin by them unto whom it 134came. Much more was there such an evidence in it unto them who enjoyed its original inspiration. Secondly, He acted and guided them as to the very organs of their bodies whereby they expressed the revelation which they had received by inspiration from him. They spake as they were acted by the Holy Ghost. He guided their tongues in the declaration of his revelations, as the mind of a man guideth his hand in writing to express its conceptions. Hence David, having received revelations from him, or being inspired by him, affirms, in his expression of them, that “his tongue was the pen of a ready writer,” Ps. xlv. 1; that is, it was so guided by the Spirit of God to express the conceptions received from him. And on this account God is said to speak by their mouths: “As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets,” Luke i. 70; — all of whom had but one mouth on the account of their absolute consent and agreement in the same predictions; for this is the meaning of “one voice” or “one mouth” in a multitude. “The Holy Ghost spake by the mouth of David,” Acts i. 16. For whatever they received by revelation, they were but the pipes through which the waters of it were conveyed, without the least mixture with any alloy from their frailties or infirmities. So, when David had received the pattern of the temple, and the manner of the whole worship of God therein by the Spirit, 1 Chron. xxviii. 12, he says, “All this the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern,”5858 “Nec aer voce pulsatus ad aures eorum perveniebat, sed Deus loquebatur in animo prophetarum.” — Hieron. Proœm., in lib. i. Comment. in Isa. verse 19. The Spirit of God not only revealed it unto him, but so guided him in the writing of it down as that he might understand the mind of God out of what himself had written; or, he gave it him so plainly and evidently as if every particular had been expressed in writing by the finger of God.
(1.) It remaineth that, as unto this first extraordinary work and gift of the Holy Ghost, we consider those especial ways and means which he made use of in the communication of his mind unto the prophets, with some other accidental adjuncts of prophecy. Some, following Maimonides in his “More Nebuchim,” have, from the several ways of the communication of divine revelations, distinguished the degrees of prophecy or of the gifts of it, preferring one above another. This I have elsewhere disproved, “Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews,” chap. 1. Neither, indeed, is there, either hence or from any other ground, the least occasion to feign those eleven degrees of prophecy which he thought he had found out; much less may the spirit or gift of prophecy be attained by the ways he prescribes, and with Tatianus seems to give countenance unto.5959 Πνεῦμα δὲ τοῦ Θεοῦ πατὰ πᾶσιν μὲν οὐκ ἔστιν. Παρὰ δέ τισι τοῖς δικαίοις πολιτευομένοις καταγομένον, καὶ συμπλεκόμενον τῇ ψυχῇ, διὰ προαγορεύσεων ταῖς λοιπαῖς ψυχαῖς τὸ κεκρυμμένον ἀνήγγειλε. — Tatian. Assyr. Contra. Græcos. The distinct outward manners and 135ways of revelation mentioned in the Scriptures may be reduced unto three heads:— 1. Voices; 2. Dreams; 3. Visions. And the accidental adjuncts of it are two:— 1. Symbolical actions; 2. Local mutations. The schoolmen, after Aquinas, 22. q. 174, a. 1, do commonly reduce the means of revelation unto three heads. For whereas there are three ways whereby we come to know any thing, — 1. By our external senses; 2. By impressions on the fantasy or imagination; 3. By pure acts of the understanding: so God by three ways revealed his will unto the prophets, — 1. By objects of their senses, as by audible voices; 2. By impressions on the imagination in dreams and visions; 3. By illustration or enlightening of their minds. But as this last way expresseth divine inspiration, I cannot acknowledge it as a distinct way of revelation by itself, for it was that which was absolutely necessary to give an infallible assurance of mind in the other ways also; and setting that aside, there is none of them but is obnoxious to delusion.
First, God sometimes made use of an articulate voice, speaking out those things which he did intend to declare in words significant of them. So he revealed himself or his mind unto Moses, when he “spake unto him face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend,” Exod. xxxiii. 11; Num. xii. 8. And as far as I can observe, the whole revelation made unto Moses was by outward, audible, articulate voices, whose sense was impressed on his mind by the Holy Spirit; for an external voice without an inward elevation and disposition of mind is not sufficient to give security and assurance of truth unto him that doth receive it. So God spake to Elijah, 1 Kings xix. 12–18, as also to Samuel and Jeremiah, and it may be to all the rest of the prophets at their first calling and entrance into their ministry; for words formed miraculously by God, and conveyed sensibly unto the outward ears of men, carry a great majesty and authority with them. This was not the usual way of God’s revealing his mind, nor is it signified by that phrase of speech, “The word of the Lord came unto me;” whereby no more is intended but an immediate revelation, by what way or means soever it was granted. Mostly this was by that secret effectual impression on their minds which we have before described. And these voices were either immediately created by God himself, as when he spake unto Moses, — wherein the eminency of the revelation made unto him principally consisted, — or the ministry of angels was used in the formation and pronunciation of them. But, as we observed before, the divine certainty of their minds to whom they were spoken, with their abilities infallibly to declare them unto others, was from an immediate 136internal work of the Spirit of God upon them. Without this the prophets might have been imposed on by external audible voices, nor would they by themselves give their minds an infallible assurance.
Secondly, Dreams were made use of under the Old Testament to the same purpose, and unto them also I refer all those visions which they had in their sleep, though not called dreams;6060 “Sunt autem multa genera prophetandi, quorum unum est somniorum quale fuit in Daniele.” — Hieron. in Hieremian, cap. 23. and these, in this case, were the immediate operation of the Holy Ghost, as to the divine and infallible impressions they conveyed to the minds of men. Hence, in the promise of the plentiful pouring out of the Spirit, or communication of his gifts, mention is made of dreams: Acts ii. 17, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Not that God intended much to make use of this way of dreams and nocturnal visions under the New Testament; but the intention of the words is, to show that there should be a plentiful effusion of that Spirit which acted by these various ways and means then under the Old. Only, as to some particular directions God did sometimes continue his intimations by visions in the rest of the night. Such a vision had Paul, Acts xvi. 10. But of old this was more frequent. So God made a signal revelation unto Abraham, when the “deep sleep fell upon him, and horror of great darkness,” Gen. xv. 12–16; and Daniel “heard the voice of the words” of him that spake unto him “when he was in a deep sleep,” Dan. x. 9. But this sleep of theirs I look not on as natural, but as that which God sent and cast them into, that therein he might represent the image of things unto their imaginations. So of old he caused a “deep sleep to fall upon Adam,” Gen. ii. 21. The Jews distinguish between dreams and those visions in sleep, as they may be distinctly considered; but I cast them together under one head, of revelation in sleep. And this way of revelation was so common, that one who pretended to prophesy would cry out, חָלַמְתִּי חָלָמְתִּי, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed,” Jer. xxiii. 25. And by the devil’s imitation of God’s dealing with his church, this became a way of vaticination among the heathen also: Hom. i. 63, Καὶ γὰρ τ’ ὄναρ ἐκ Διός ἐστιν, — “A dream is from Jupiter.” And when the reprobate Jews were deserted as to all divine revelations, they pretended unto a singular skill in the interpretation of dreams; on the account of their deceit wherein they were sufficiently infamous.
“Qualiacumque voles Judaei somia vendunt.”
[Juv., vi. 546.]
Thirdly, God revealed himself in and by visions or representations of things to the in ward or outward senses of the prophets. And 137this way was so frequent that it bare the name for a season of all prophetical revelations; for so we observed before, that a prophet of old time was called a “seer,” and that because in their receiving of their prophecies they saw visions also. So Isaiah terms his whole glorious prophecy, חָזוֹן אֲשֶׁר חָזָה, “The vision which he saw,” chap. i. 1; partly from the especial representations of things that were made unto him, chap. vi. 1–4; and partly, it may be, from the evidence of the things revealed unto him, which were cleared as fully to his mind as if he had had an ocular inspection of them. So, from the matter of them, prophecies began in common to be called “The burden of the Lord;” for he burdened their consciences with his word, and their persons with its execution. But when false prophets began to make frequent use and to serve themselves of this expression, it was forbidden, Jer. xxiii. 33, 36; and yet we find that there is mention hereof about the same time, it may be, by Hab. i. 1; as also after the return from the captivity, Zech. ix. 1, Mal. i. 1. Either, therefore, this respected that only season wherein false prophets abounded, whom God would thus deprive of their pretence; or, indeed, the people, by contempt and scorn, did use that expression as that which was familiar unto the prophets in their denunciation of God’s judgments against them, which God here rebukes them for and threatens to revenge. But none of the prophets had all their revelations by visions; nor doth this concern the communication of the gift of prophecy, but its exercise. And their visions are particularly recorded. Such were those of Isa. vi.; Jer. i. 11–16; Ezek. i., and the like. Now, these visions were of two sorts:6161 “Propheta Deum, qui corporaliter invisibilis est, non corporaliter sed spiritualiter videt. Nam multa genera visionis in Scripturis sanctis inveniuntur. Unum secundum oculos corporis, sicut vidit Abraham tres viros sub ilice Mambre; alterum secundum quod imaginamur ea quæ per corpus sentimus. Nam et pars ipsa nostra cum Divinitus assumitur, multa revelantur non per oculos corperis, aut aures, aliumve sensum carnalem, sed tamen his similia, sicut vidit Petrus discum illum submitti a cœlo cum variis animalibus. Tertium autem genus visionis est secundum mentis intuitum quo intellectu conspiciuntur veritas et sapientia; sine quo genere illa duo quæ prius posui vel infructuosa sunt vel etiam in errorem mittunt.” — August. contra Adamantum, cap. xxviii. — 1. Outward representations of things unto the bodily eyes of the prophets; 2. Inward representations unto their minds. 1. There were sometimes appearances of persons or things made to their outward senses; and herein God made use of the ministry of angels. Thus three men appeared unto Abraham, Gen. xviii. 1, 2; one whereof was the Son of God himself; the other two, ministering angels; as hath been proved elsewhere. So was the burning bush which Moses saw, Exod. iii. 2; the appearances without similitude of any living thing on mount Sinai at the giving of the law, Exod. xix.; the man that Joshua saw at the siege of Jericho, chap. v. 13, 14. Such were the seething-pot and almond-rod 138seen by Jeremiah, chap. i. 11, 13, as also his baskets of figs, [chap. xiv. 1–3;] and many more of the like kind might be instanced in. In these cases God made representations of things unto their outward senses. 2. They were made sometimes only to their minds. So it is said expressly that when Peter saw his vision of a sheet knit at the four comers, and let down from heaven to earth, he was in a “trance:” Ἐπέπεσεν ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἔκστασις, Acts x. 10. An “ecstasy seized on him,” whereby for a season he was deprived of the use of his bodily senses. And to this head I refer Daniel’s and the apocalyptical visions. Especially I do so [refer] all those wherein a representation was made of God himself and his glorious throne; such as that of Micaiah, 1 Kings xxii. 19–22; and Isa. vi.; and Ezek. i. It is evident that in all these there was no use of the bodily senses of the prophets, but only their minds were affected with the ideas and representation of things; but this was so effectual as that they understood not but that they also made use of their visive faculty. Hence Peter, when he was actually delivered out of prison, thought a good while that he had only “seen a vision,” Acts xii. 9; for he knew how powerfully the mind was wont to be affected by them. Now, these visions of both sorts were granted unto the prophets to confirm their minds in the apprehension of the things communicated unto them for the instruction of others; for hereby they were deeply affected with them, whereunto a clear idea and representation of things doth effectually tend. But yet two things were required to render these visions direct and complete parts of divine revelation:— 1. That the minds of the prophets were acted, guided, and raised in a due manner by the Holy Spirit for the receiving of them. This gave them their assurance that their visions were from God. 2. His enabling them faithfully to retain, and infallibly to declare, what was so represented unto them. For instance, Ezekiel receiveth a vision, by way of representation unto his mind of a glorious fabric of a temple, to instruct the church in the spiritual glory and beauty of gospel-worship which was to be introduced, chap. xli.–xlvi. It seems utterly impossible for the mind of man to conceive and retain at once all the harmonious structure, dimensions, and laws of the fabric represented. This was the peculiar work of the Holy Ghost, — namely, to implant and preserve the idea presented unto him on his mind, and to enable him accurately and infallibly to declare it. So David affirms that the Spirit of God made him to understand the pattern of the temple built by Solomon, “in writing by his hand upon him.”
(2.) There were some accidental adjuncts of prophecy, which at some times accompanied it:—
First, In the revelation of the will of God to the prophets, they were sometimes enjoined symbolical actions. So Isaiah was commanded 139to “walk naked and bare-foot,” chap. xx. 1–3; Jeremiah, to dispose of a “linen girdle,” chap. xiii. 1–5; Ezekiel, to “lie in the siege,” chap. iv. 1–3, and to remove the “stuff of his house,” chap. xii. 3, 4; Hosea, to take “a wife of whoredoms, and children of whoredoms,” chap. i. 2. I shall be brief in what is frequently spoken unto. Some of these things, as Isaiah’s going naked, and Hosea’s taking a wife of whoredoms, contain things in them against the light of nature and the express law of God, and of evil example unto others. None of these, therefore, can be granted to have been actually done; only these things were represented unto them in visions, to take the deeper impression upon them. And what they saw or did in vision they speak positively of their so seeing or doing: see Ezek. viii. For the other instances, I know nothing but that the things reported might be really performed, and not in vision only. And it is plain that Ezekiel was commanded to do the things he did in the sight of the people, for their more evident conviction, chap. xii. 4–6; and on the sight whereof they made inquiry what those things belonged unto them, chap. xxiv. 19.
Secondly, Their revelations were accompanied with local mutations, or rather being carried and transported from one place unto another. So was it with chap. viii. 3, xi. 24. And it is expressly said that it was “in the visions of God.” Falling, by divine dispensation, into a trance or ecstasy, wherein their outward senses were suspended [in] their operation, their minds and understandings were, unto their own apprehension, carried in a holy rapture from one place unto another: which was effected only by a divine and efficacious representation of the things unto them which were done in the places from whence they were really absent.
And these are some of those accidents of prophetical revelations which are recorded in the Scripture; and it is possible that some other instances of the like nature may be observed. And all these belong to the πολυτροπία τῆς θείας ἐπιλύσεως, or manifold variety of divine revelations, mentioned Heb. i. 1.
But here a doubt of no small difficulty nor of less
importance presents itself unto us, — namely, whether the Holy Ghost
did ever grant the holy inspirations, and the gift of prophecy thereby,
unto men wicked and unsanctified;6262 “Prophetæ erant Baal, et prophetæ confusionis, et alii
offensionum, et quoscunque vitiosos prophetas Scriptura commemorat.”
— Hieron. Comment. in Epist. ad Titum. cap. i. for the
apostle Peter tells us that “holy men spake of old as they were moved by
the Holy Ghost,” 2 Pet. i.
21, which seems to intimate that all those who were inspired and
moved by him, as to this gift of prophecy, were holy men of God.6363 Ζητήσεις δὲ εἰ πάντες, εἴ τις προφητεύει, ἐκ
πνεύματος ἁγίου προφητεύει; πῶς δὲ οὐ ζητήσεως ἄξιόν ἐστιν, εἴγε Δαβὶδ μετὰ
τὴν ἐπὶ τοῦ Οὐρίου ἁμαρτίαν εὐλαβούμενος ἀφαιρεθῆναι ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ τὸ ἅγιον
πνεῦμά φησι. Τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σου μὴ ἀντανέλῃς ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ … Οὕτω δὲ
ζητήσεως ἄξιόν ἐστι τὸ περὶ τοῦ αγίου πνεύματος εί δύναται εἷναι καὶ ἐν
ἀμαρτωλῷ ψυχῇ — Origen. Commentar. in Johan. tom.
“Prophetiæ mysterio usi sunt etiam qui exorbitaverant a vera religione, quia et illis dedit Deus verbum suum ut mysteria futura pronunciarent hominibus.” — Hieron. Comment. in Job. cap. xxxiii.
“Nam et prophetare et dæmonia excludere et virtutes magnas in terris facere sublimis utique et admirabilis res est, non tamen regnum cœleste consequitur quisquis in his omnibus invenitur, nisi recti et justi itineris observatione gradiatur.” — Cyprian. de Unitat. Ecclesiæ. And yet, on the other hand, we shall find that true prophecies 140have been given out by men seeming utterly void of all sanctifying grace. And, to increase the difficulty, it is certain that great predictions, and those with respect unto Christ himself, have been given and made by men guided and acted for the most part by the devil. So was it with Balaam, who was a sorcerer that gave himself to diabolical enchantments and divinations; and, as such an one, was destroyed by God’s appointment. Yea, at or about the same time wherein he uttered a most glorious prophecy concerning the Messiah, the Star of Jacob, being left unto his own spirit and inclination, he gave cursed advice and counsel for the drawing of the people of God into destructive and judgment-procuring sins, Num. xxxi. 16. And in the whole of his enterprise he thought to have satisfied his covetousness with a reward for cursing them by his enchantments. And yet this man not only professeth of himself that he “heard the words of God,” and “saw the vision of the Almighty,” Num. xxiv. 4, but did actually foretell and prophesy glorious things concerning Christ and his kingdom. Shall we, then, think that the Holy Spirit of God will immix his own holy inspirations with the wicked suggestions of the devil in a soothsayer? or shall we suppose that the devil was the author of those predictions, whereas God reproacheth false gods, and their prophets acted by them, that they could not declare the things that should happen, nor show the things that were to come afterward? Isa. xli. 22, 23. So, also, it is said of Saul that “the Spirit of the Lord departed from him, and an evil spirit terrified him,” 1 Sam. xvi. 14; and yet, afterward, that the “Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied,” chap. xix. 23. The old prophet at Bethel who lied unto the prophet that came from Judah, and that in the name of the Lord, seducing him unto sin and destruction, and probably defiled with the idolatry and false worship of Jeroboam, was yet esteemed a prophet, and did foretell what came to pass, 1 Kings xiii. 11–29.
Sundry things may be offered for the solution of this difficulty; for, — 1. As to that place of the apostle Peter, (1.) It may not be taken universally that all who prophesied at any time were personally holy, but only that for the most part so they were. (2.) He seems to speak particularly of them only who were penmen of the 141Scripture, and of those prophecies which remain therein for the instruction of the church; concerning whom I no way doubt but that they were all sanctified and holy. (3.) It may be that he understandeth not real inherent holiness, but only a separation and dedication unto God by especial office; which is a thing of another nature. 2. The gift of prophecy is granted not to be in itself and its own nature a sanctifying grace, nor is the inspiration so whereby it is wrought; for whereas it consists in an affecting of the mind with a transient irradiation of light in hidden things, it neither did nor could of itself produce faith, love, or holiness in the heart. Another work of the Holy Ghost was necessary hereunto. 3. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in this matter, that God should grant an immediate inspiration unto some that were not really sanctified. And yet I would not grant this to have been actually done without a just limitation; for whereas some were established to be prophets unto the church in the whole course of their lives, after their first call from God, as Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and the rest of the prophets mentioned in the Scripture, in like manner I no way doubt but they were all of them really sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God. But others there were who had only some occasional discoveries of hidden or future things made unto them, or fell into some ecstasies or raptures, with a supernatural agitation of their minds (as it is twice said of Saul), for a short season. And I see no reason why we may not grant, — yea, from Scripture testimonies we must grant, — that many such persons may be so acted by the Holy Spirit of God. So was it with wicked Caiaphas, who is said to “prophesy,” John xi. 51; and a great prophecy indeed it was which his words expressed, greater than which there is none in the Scripture. But the wretch himself knew nothing of the importance of what was uttered by him. A sudden impression of the Spirit of God caused him, against his intention, to utter a sacred truth, and that because he was high priest; whose words were of great reputation with the people.6464 Εἴ τις μὲν οὖν Προφήτης ἐστὶ πάντως προφητεύει· εἰ δέ τις προφητεύει οὐ πάντως ἐστὶ Προφήτης … Ἐκ δὲ τῶν περὶ τὸν Καϊάφαν ἀναγεγραμμένων, προφητέυσαντα περὶ τοῦ σωτῆρος, ἔστιν ὅτι καὶ μοχθηρὰ ψυχὴ ἐπιδέχεται τοτὲ τὸ προφητεύειν. —Origen. Comment. in Johan. sect. 30. And as Balaam was overruled to prophesy and speak good of Israel, when he really designed and desired to curse them; so this Caiaphas, designing the destruction of Jesus Christ, brought forth those words which expressed the salvation of the world by his death. 4. For the difficulty about Balaam himself, who was a sorcerer, and the devil’s prophet, I acknowledge it is of importance. But sundry things may be offered for the removal of it. Some do contend that Balaam was a prophet of God only; that indeed he 142gave himself unto judicial astrology, and the conjecture of future events from natural causes, but as to his prophecies, they were all divine; and the light of them, affecting only the speculative part of his mind, had no influence upon his will, heart, and affections, which were still corrupt. This Tostatus pleadeth for. But as it is expressly said that he “sought for enchantments,” Num. xxiv. 1, so the whole description of his course and end gives him up as a cursed sorcerer: and he is expressly called הַקֹּוסֵם, “the soothsayer,” Josh. xiii. 22; which word though we have once rendered by “prudent,” — that is, one who prudently conjectureth at future events according unto present appearing causes, Isa. iii. 2, — yet it is mostly used for a diabolical diviner or soothsayer. And for what he said of himself, that he “heard the words of God,” and “saw the vision of the Almighty,” it might be only his own boasting to procure veneration to his diabolical incantations. But in reputation we find he was in those days in the world; and supposed he was to utter divine oracles unto men. This God in his providence made use of to give out a testimony to the nations concerning the coming of the Messiah, the report whereof was then almost lost amongst men. In this condition it may be granted that the good Spirit of God, without the least reflection on the majesty and purity of his own holiness, did overrule the power of the devil, cast out his suggestions from the man’s mind, and gave such an impression of sacred truths in the room of them as he could not but utter and declare: for that instant he did, as it were, take the instrument out of the hand of Satan, and, by his impression on it, caused it to give a sound according to his mind; which when he had done, he left it again unto his possession. And I know not but that he might do so sometimes with others among the Gentiles who were professedly given up to receive and give out the oracles of the devil. So he made the damsel possessed with a spirit of divination and soothsaying to acknowledge Paul and his companions to be “servants of the most high God,” to “show to men the way of salvation,” Acts xvi. 16, 17. And this must be acknowledged by them who suppose that the sibyls gave out predictions concerning Jesus Christ, seeing the whole strain of their prophetical oracles were expressly diabolical. And no conspiracy of men or devils shall cause him to forego his sovereignty over them, and the using of them to his own glory. 5. The case of Saul is plain. The Spirit of the Lord who departed from him was the Spirit of wisdom, moderation, and courage, to fit him for rule and government, — that is, the gifts of the Holy Ghost unto that purpose, which he withdrew from him; and the evil spirit that was upon him proceeded no farther but to the stirring up vexatious and disquieting affections of mind. And notwithstanding this molestation and punishment inflicted on him, 143the Spirit of God might at a season fall upon him, so as to cast him into a rapture or ecstasy, wherein his mind was acted and exercised in an extraordinary manner, and himself transported into actions that were not at all according unto his own inclinations. So is this case well resolved by Augustine.6565 “Saul invidiæ stimulo suscitatus et malo spiritu sæpe arreptus, cum David occidere vellet, et ipse David tunc cum Samuele et cæterorum prophetarum cuneo prophetaret, misit Saul nuncios et ipsum interficiendum de medio prophetarum rapere jubet. — Sed et ipse cum inter prophetas venerat prophetabat. — Quoniam Spiritus Sancti verba non dicentium merito pensantur, sed ipsius voluntate ubicunque voluerit proferuntur. At vero quidam in hoc loco æstimant quod Saul non Divino Spiritu sed malo illo quo sæpe arripiebatur per totum illum diem prophetaret … Sed qualiter hoc sentiri potest cum ita scribitur; et factus est super eum Spiritus Domini et ambulans prophetabat? nisi forte sic in hoc loco accipitur Spiritus Domini quomodo et alio loco Spiritus Domini malus Saul arripiebat. Verumtamen ubicunque sine additamento Spiritus Dei vel Spiritus Domini vel Spiritus Christi in Scripturis sanctis invenitur, Spiritus Sanctus esse a nullo sano sensu dubitatur. Ubicunque vero cum additamento Spiritus Domini malus dicitur esse, intelligitur diabolus esse, qui Domini propter ministerium, malus propter vitium dictus videtur.” — August. de Mirabil. Scripturæ, lib. ii. cap. 10. And [as] for the old prophet at Bethel, 1 Kings xiii. 11–32, although he appears to have been an evil man, yet he was one whom God made use of to reveal his mind sometimes to that people; nor is it probable that he was under satanical delusions, like the prophets of Baal, for he is absolutely called a prophet, and the word of the Lord did really come unto him, verses 20–22.
2. The writing of the Scripture was another effect of the Holy Ghost, which had its beginning under the Old Testament. I reckon this as a distinct gift from prophecy in general, or rather, a distinct species or kind of prophecy: for many prophets there were divinely inspired who yet never wrote any of their prophecies, nor any thing else for the use of the church; and many penmen of the Scripture were no prophets, in the strict sense of that name. And the apostle tells us that the γραφή, the scripture or writing itself, was by “inspiration of God,” 2 Tim. iii. 16; as David affirms that he had the pattern of the temple from the Spirit of God in writing, because of his guidance of him in putting its description into writing, 1 Chron. xxviii. 19. Now, this ministry was first committed unto Moses, who, besides the five books of the Law, probably also wrote the story of Job. Many prophets there were before him, but he was the first who committed the will of God to writing after God himself, who wrote the law in tables of stone; which was the beginning and pattern of the Scriptures. The writers of the historical books of the Old Testament before the captivity are unknown. The Jews call them נביאים ראשונים, “the first” or “former prophets.” Who they were in particular is not known; but certain it is that they were of the number of those holy men of God who of old wrote and spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Hence are they called “prophets;” 144for although they wrote in an historical manner, as did Moses also, concerning things past and gone in their days, or it may be presently acted in their own times, yet they did not write them either from their own memory nor from tradition, nor from the rolls or records of time (although they might be furnished with and skilled in these things), but by the inspiration, guidance, and direction of the Holy Ghost. Hence are they called “prophets,” in such a latitude as the word may be used in to signify any that are divinely inspired, or receive immediate revelations from God. And thus was it with all the penmen of the holy Scripture. As their minds were under that full assurance of divine inspiration which we before described, so their words which they wrote were under the especial care of the same Spirit; and were of his suggestion or inditing.
There were, therefore, three things concurring in this work:— First, The inspiration of the minds of these prophets with the knowledge and apprehension of the things communicated unto them. Secondly, The suggestion of words unto them to express what their minds conceived. Thirdly, The guidance of their hands in setting down the words suggested, or of their tongues in uttering them unto those by whom they were committed to writing, as Baruch wrote the prophecy of Jeremiah from his mouth, Jer. xxxvi. 4, 18. If either of these were wanting, the Scripture could not be absolutely and every way divine and infallible; for if the penmen of it were left unto themselves in any thing wherein that writing was concerned, who can secure us that nihil humani, no human imperfection, mixed itself therewithal? I know some think that the matter and substance of things only was communicated unto them, but as for the words whereby it was to be expressed, that was left unto themselves and their own abilities: and this they suppose is evident from that variety of style which, according to their various capacities, education, and abilities, is found amongst them. “This argues,” as they say, “that the wording of their revelations was left unto themselves, and was the product of their natural abilities.” This, in general, I have spoken unto elsewhere, and manifested what mistakes sundry have run into about the style of the holy penmen of the Scripture. Here I shall not take up what hath been argued and evinced in another place. I only say that the variety intended ariseth mostly from the variety of the subject-matters treated of; nor is it such as will give any countenance to the profaneness of this opinion, for the Holy Ghost in his work on the minds of men doth not put a force upon them, nor act them any otherwise than they are in their own natures, and with their present endowments and qualifications, meet to be acted and used. He leads and conducts them in such paths as wherein they are able to walk. The words, therefore, which he suggests unto them 145are such as they are accustomed unto, and he causeth them to make use of such expressions as were familiar unto themselves. So he that useth diverse seals maketh different impressions, though the guidance of them all be equal and the same; and he that toucheth skilfully several musical instruments, variously tuned, maketh several notes of music. We may also grant, and do, that they used their own abilities of mind and understanding in the choice of words and expressions: so the Preacher “sought to find out acceptable words,” Eccles. xii. 10. But the Holy Spirit, who is more intimate unto the minds and skill of men than they are themselves, did so guide, act, and operate in them, as that the words they fixed upon were as directly and certainly from him as if they had been spoken to them by an audible voice. Hence “that which was written was upright, even words of truth,” as in that place. This must be so, or they could not speak as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, nor could their writing be said to be of divine inspiration. Hence, ofttimes, in the original, great senses and significations depend on a single letter; as, for instance, in the change of the name of Abraham: and our Saviour affirms that every apex and iota of the law is under the care of God, as that which was given by inspiration from himself, Matt. v. 18. But I have on other occasions treated of these things, and shall not, therefore, here enlarge upon them.6666 See his treatises on “The Divine Original of the Scriptures,” “Vindication of Greek and Hebrew Texts,” and “Exercitationes adversus Fanaticos,” vol. xvi. of his works. — Ed.
3. The third sort of the immediate extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, absolutely exceeding the actings and compliance of human faculties, are miracles of all sorts, which were frequent under the Old Testament. Such were many things wrought by Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, with some others; those by Moses exceeding, if the Jews fail not in their computation, all the rest that are recorded in the Scripture. Now, these were all the immediate effects of the divine power of the Holy Ghost. He is the sole author of all real miraculous operations; for by “miracles” we understand such effects as are really beyond and above the power of natural causes, however applied unto operation. Now, it is said expressly that our Lord Jesus Christ wrought miracles (for instance, the casting out of devils from persons possessed) by the Holy Ghost; and if their immediate production were by him in the human nature of Jesus Christ, personally united unto the Son of God, how much more must it be granted that it was he alone by whose power they were wrought in those who had no such relation unto the divine nature! And, therefore, where they are said to be wrought by the “hand” or “finger of God,” it is the person of the Holy Spirit which is precisely intended, as we 146have declared before. And the persons by whom they were wrought were never the real subjects of the power whereby they were wrought, as though it should be inherent and residing in them as a quality, Acts iii. 12, 16; only, they were infallibly directed by the Holy Ghost by word or action to pre-signify their operation. So was it with Joshua when he commanded the sun and moon to stand still, chap. x. 12. There was no power in Joshua, no, not [even] extraordinarily communicated to him, to have such a real influence upon the whole frame of nature as to effect so great an alteration therein: only, he had a divine warranty to speak that which God himself would effect; whence it is said that therein “the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man,” verse 14. It is a vanity of the greatest magnitude in some of the Jews, as Maimonides, (“More Nebuch.,” page 2, cap. xxxv.,) Levi B. Gerson on the place, and others, who deny any fixation of the sun and moon, and judge that it is only the speed of Joshua in subduing his enemies before the close of that day which is intended. This they contend for, lest Joshua should be thought to have wrought a greater miracle than Moses! But as the prophet Habakkuk is express to the contrary, chap. iii. 11, and their own Sirachides, cap. xlv., xlvi., so it is no small prevarication in some Christians to give countenance unto such a putid fiction. See Grot. in loc. It is so in all other miraculous operations, even where the parts of the bodies of men were made instrumental of the miracle itself, as in the gift of tongues. They who had that gift did not so speak from any skill or ability residing in them, but they were merely organs of the Holy Ghost, which he moved at his pleasure. Now, the end of all these miraculous operations was, to give reputation to the persons, and to confirm the ministry of them by whom they were wrought; for as at first they were the occasion of wonder and astonishment, so upon their consideration they evidenced the respect and regard of God unto such persons and their work. So when God sent Moses to declare his will in an extraordinary manner unto the people of Israel, he commands him to work several miracles or signs before them, that they might believe that he was sent of God, Exod. iv. 8, 9. And such works were called signs, because they were tokens and pledges of the presence of the Spirit of God with them by whom they were wrought. Nor was this gift ever bestowed on any man alone, or for its own sake; but it was always subordinate unto the work of revealing or declaring the mind of God.
And these are the general heads of the extraordinary operations of the Holy Spirit of God in works exceeding all human or natural abilities, in their whole kind.
II. The next sort of the operations of the Holy Ghost under the Old Testament, whose explanation was designed, is of those whereby he 147improved, through immediate impressions of his own power, the natural faculties and abilities of the minds of men; and these, as was intimated, have respect to things political, moral, natural, and intellectual, with some of a mixed nature:—
1. He had in them respect unto things political. Such were his gifts whereby he enabled sundry persons unto rule and civil government amongst men. Government, or supreme rule, is of great concernment unto the glory of God in the world, and of the highest usefulness unto mankind. Without it the whole world would be filled with violence, and become a stage for all wickedness visibly and openly to act itself upon in disorder and confusion. And all men confess that unto a due management hereof unto its proper ends, sundry peculiar gifts and abilities of mind are required in them and needful for them who are called thereunto. These are they themselves to endeavour after, and sedulously to improve the measures which they have attained of them, — and where this is by any neglected, the world and themselves will quickly feed on the fruits of that negligence; — but yet, because the utmost of what men may of this kind obtain by their ordinary endeavours, and an ordinary blessing thereon, is not sufficient for some especial ends which God aimed at in and by their rule and government, the Holy Ghost did oftentimes give an especial improvement unto their abilities of mind by his own immediate and extraordinary operation; and in some cases he manifested the effects of his power herein by some external, visible signs of his coming on them in whom he so wrought. So, in the first institution of the sanhedrim, or court of seventy elders, to bear together with Moses the burden of the people in their rule and government, the Lord is said to “put his Spirit upon them;” and [it is said] that “the Spirit rested on them:” Num. xi. 16, 17, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them. And I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee.” Verse 25, “And the Lord took of the Spirit that was upon Moses, and gave it unto the seventy elders, and the Spirit rested upon them.” That which these elders were called unto was a share in the supreme role and government of the people, which was before entirely in the hand of Moses. This the occasion of their call declares, verses 11–15. And they were שֹׁטְרִים, “inferior officers” before, such as they had in Egypt, who influenced the people by their counsel and arbitration, Exod. iii. 16, v. 6, xxiv. 1, 9. Now they had a supreme power in judgment committed to them, and were thence called אֱלֹהִים, or “gods;” for these were they “unto whom the word of God came,” who were thence called gods, John x. 34–36, Ps. lxxxii. 6, 148and not the prophets, who had neither power nor rule. And on them the Spirit of God that was in Moses rested; that is, wrought the same abilities for government in them as he had received, — that is, wisdom, righteousness, diligence, courage, and the like, that they might judge the people wisely, and look to the execution of the law impartially. Now, when the Spirit of God thus rested on them, it is said “They prophesied, and did not cease,” Num. xi. 25, 26; that is, they sang or spake forth the praises of God in such a way and manner as made it evident unto all that they were extraordinarily acted by the Holy Ghost. So is that word used, 1 Sam. x. 10, and elsewhere. But this gift and work of prophecy was not the especial end for which they were endowed by the Spirit, for they were now called, as hath been declared, unto rule and government; but because their authority and rule was new among the people, God gave that visible sign and pledge of his calling them to their office, that they might have a due veneration of their persons, and acquiesce in their authority. And hence, from the ambiguity of that word וְלֹא יָסָפוּ, which we render “And did not cease,” — “They prophesied, and did not cease,” verse 25, — which may signify to “add” as well as to “cease,” many of the Jews affirm that they so prophesied no more but that day only: “They prophesied then, and added not,” — that is, to do so anymore. So when God would erect a kingdom amongst them, which was a new kind of government unto them, and designed Saul to be the person that should reign, it is said that he “gave him another heart,” 1 Sam. x. 9, — that is, “the Spirit of God came upon him,” as it is elsewhere expressed, to endow him with that wisdom and magnanimity that might make him meet for kingly rule. And because he was new called from a low condition unto royal dignity, the communication of the Spirit of God unto him was accompanied with a visible sign and token, that the people might acquiesce in his government, who were ready to despise his person; for he had also an extraordinary afflatus of the Spirit, expressing itself in a “visible rapture,” verses 10, 11. And in like manner he dealt with others. For this cause, also, he instituted the ceremony of anointing at their inauguration; for it was a token of the communication of the gifts of the Holy Ghost unto them, though respect was had therein to Jesus Christ, who was to be anointed with all his fullness, of whom they were types unto that people. Now, these gifts for government are natural and moral abilities of the minds of men; such as are prudence, righteousness, courage, zeal, clemency, and the like. And when the Holy Ghost fell upon any persons to enable them for political rule and the administration of the civil power, he did not communicate gifts and abilities unto them quite of another kind, but only gave them an extraordinary improvement of their own ordinary 149abilities. And, indeed, so great is the burden wherewith a just and useful government is attended, so great and many are the temptations which power and a confluence of earthly things will invite and draw towards them, that without some especial assistance of the Holy Spirit of God, men cannot choose but either sink under the weight of it, or wretchedly miscarry in its exercise and management. This made Solomon, when God, in the beginning of his reign, gave him his option of all earthly desirable thing, to prefer wisdom and knowledge for rule before them all, 2 Chron. i. 7–12; and this he received from him who is the “Spirit of wisdom and understanding,” Isa. xi. 2. And if the rulers of the earth would follow this example, and be earnest with God for such supplies of his Spirit as might enable them unto a holy, righteous discharge of their office, it would, in many places, be better with them and the world than it is or can be where is the state of things described Hos. vii. 3–5. Now, God of old did carry this dispensation out of the pale of the church, for the effecting of some especial ends of his own; and I no way question but that he continueth still so to do. Thus he anointed Cyrus, and calls him his “anointed” accordingly, Isa. xlv. 1; for Cyrus had a double work to do for God, in both parts whereof he stood in need of his especial assistance. He was to execute his judgments and vengeance on Babylon, as also to deliver his people, that they might re-edify the temple. For both these he stood in need of, and did receive, especial aid from the Spirit of God, though he was in himself but a “ravenous bird” of prey, chap. xlvi. 11: for the gifts of this Holy One in this kind wrought no real holiness in them on whom they were bestowed; they were only given them for the good and benefit of others, with their own success in what they attempted unto that purpose. Yea, and many on whom they are bestowed never consider the author of them, but sacrifice to their own nets and drags, and look on themselves as the springs of their own wisdom and ability. But it is no wonder that all regard unto the gifts of the Holy Ghost in the government of the world is despised, when his whole work in and towards the church itself is openly derided.
2. We may add hereunto those especial endowments with some moral virtues, which he granted unto sundry persons for the accomplishment of some especial design. So he came upon Gideon and upon Jephthah, to anoint them unto the work of delivering the people from their adversaries in battle, Judges vi. 34, xi. 29. It is said before of them both that they were “men of valour,” chap. vi. 12, xi. 1. This coming, therefore, of the Spirit of God upon them, and clothing of them, was his especial excitation of their courage, and his fortifying of their minds against those dangers they were to conflict withal. And this he did by such an efficacious impression of 150his power upon them as that both themselves received thereby a confirmation of their call, and others might discern the presence of God with them. Hence it is said that the “Spirit of the Lord clothed them,” they being warmed in themselves and known to others by his gifts to and actings of them.
3. There are sundry instances of his adding unto the gifts of the mind, whereby he qualified persons for their duties, even bodily strength, when that also was needful for the work whereunto he called them. Such was his gift unto Samson. His bodily strength was supernatural, a mere effect of the power of the Spirit of God; and, therefore, when he put it forth in his calling, it is said that “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him,” Judges xiv. 6, xv. 14, or wrought powerfully in him. And he gave him this strength in the way of an ordinance, appointing the growing of his hair to be the sign and pledge of it; the care whereof being violated by him, he lost for a season the gift itself.
4. He also communicated gifts intellectual, to be exercised in and about things natural and artificial. So he endowed Bezaleel and Aholiab with wisdom and skill in all manner of curious workmanship, about all sorts of things, for the building and beautifying of the tabernacle, Exod. xxxi. 2, 3. Whether Bezaleel was a man that had before given himself unto the acquisition of those arts and sciences is altogether uncertain; but certain it is that his present endowments were extraordinary. The Spirit of God heightened, and improved, and strengthened the natural faculties of his mind to a perception and understanding of all the curious works mentioned in that place, and unto a skill how to contrive and dispose of them into the order designed by God himself. And, therefore, although the skill and wisdom mentioned differed not in the kind of it from that which others attained by industry, yet he received it by an immediate afflatus or inspiration of the Holy Ghost, as to that degree, at least, which he was made partaker of.
Lastly, The assistance given unto holy men for the publishing and preaching of the word of God to others, — as to Noah, who was “a preacher of righteousness,” 2 Pet. ii. 5, for the conviction of the world and conversion of the elect, wherein the Spirit of God strove with men, Gen. vi. 3, and preached unto them that were disobedient, 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20, — might here also be considered, but that the explanation of his whole work in that particular will occur unto us in a more proper place.
And thus I have briefly passed through the dispensation of the Spirit of God under the Old Testament. Nor have I aimed therein to gather up his whole work and all his actings, for then everything that is praise-worthy in the church must have been inquired into; for 151all without him is death, and darkness, and sin. All life, light, and power are from him alone. And the instances of things expressly assigned unto him which we have insisted on are sufficient to manifest that the whole being and welfare of the church depended solely on his will and his operations. And this will yet be more evident when we have also considered those other effects and operations of his, which being common to both states of the church, under the Old Testament and the New, are purposely here omitted, because the nature of them is more fully cleared in the gospel, wherein also their exemplifications are more illustrious. From him, therefore, was the word of promise and the gift of prophecy, whereon the church was founded and whereby it was built; from him was the revelation and institution of all the ordinances of religious worship; from him was that communication of gifts and gracious abilities which any persons received for the edification, rule, protection, and deliverance of the church. All these things were wrought by “that one and the self-same Spirit, which divideth to every man severally as he will.” And if this were the state of things under the Old Testament, a judgment may thence be made how it is under the New. The principal advantage of the present state above that which is past, next unto the coming of Christ in the flesh, consists in the pouring out of the Holy Ghost upon the disciples of Christ in a larger manner than formerly; and yet I know not how it is come to pass that some men think that neither he nor his work is of any great use unto us. And whereas we find everything that is good, even under the Old Testament, assigned unto him as the sole immediate author of it, it is hard to persuade, with many, that he continues now to do almost any good at all; and what he is allowed to have any hand in, it is sure to be so stated as that the principal praise of it may redound unto ourselves. So diverse, yea, so adverse, are the thoughts of God and men in these things, where our thoughts are not captivated unto the obedience of faith!
But we must shut up this discourse. It is a common saying among the Jewish masters that the gift of the Holy Ghost ceased under the second temple, or after the finishing of it. Their meaning must be, that it did so as to the gifts of ministerial prophecy, of miracles, and of writing the mind of God by inspiration for the use of the church. Otherwise there is no truth in their observation; for there were afterward especial revelations of the Holy Ghost granted unto many, as unto Simeon and Anna, Luke ii. 25–38; and others constantly receive of his gifts and graces, to enable them unto obedience, and fit them for their employments; for without a continuance of these supplies the church itself must absolutely cease.
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