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Zech. xii. 10 opened and vindicated.
The especial promise of the administration of the Spirit of God unto the end under consideration is that which I shall lay as the 255foundation of the ensuing discourse. Zech. xii. 10, “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications.” The Spirit here promised is the Spirit of God, “the Holy Spirit,” with respect unto the especial end for which he is promised. And the manner of his administration in the accomplishment of the promise is expressed by וְשָׁפַכְתִּי, “I will pour out.” The same word is used to the same purpose, Ezek. xxxix. 29, Joel ii. 28, as are also other words of the same importance, which we render by “pouring out,” as Prov. i. 23; Isa. xxxii. 15, xliv. 3, lii. 15.
1. Two things have been elsewhere declared concerning this expression, applied unto the communication of the Holy Ghost:— (1.) That a plentiful dispensation of him unto the end for which he is promised, with respect unto a singular and eminent degree in his operations, is intended therein. The apostle expresseth this word, or the accomplishment of what is promised in it, by ἐξέχεεν πλουσίως, Tit. iii. 6, “he hath richly,” or abundantly, “poured out his Spirit.” Not, therefore, a mere grant and communication of the Spirit, but a plentiful effusion of him, is intended; which must have some eminent effects as pledges and tokens thereof, for it is absurd to speak of a “plentiful, abundant effusion,” with degrees above what was before granted, and yet there be no certain ways or means whereby it may be evidenced and demonstrated. The Spirit, therefore, is so promised in this place as to produce some notable and peculiar effects of his communication. (2.) That this promise is peculiar unto the days of the gospel; I mean, every promise is so where mention is made of pouring out the Spirit on men; which may be evinced by the consideration of every place where this expression is used. But in this place it is most unquestionable, the immediate effect of it being a looking unto Christ as he was pierced. And it may be yet farther observed, that there is a tacit comparison in it with some other time or season, or some other act of God, wherein or whereby he gave his Spirit before, but not in that way, manner, or measure that he now promiseth to bestow him. Of the whole of these observations, Didymus gives us a brief account, De Spir. Sanc. i. 1: “Significat autem effusionis verbum, largam, et divitem muneris abundantiam; itaque cum unus quis alicubi, aut duo Spiritum Sanctum accipiunt, non dicitur, ‘Effundam de Spiritu meo,’ sed tunc, quando in universas gentes munus Spiritus Sancti redundaverit.”
2. Those unto whom he is thus promised are “the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” — that is, the whole church, expressed in a distribution into the ruling family and the body of the people under their rule. And the family of David, which was then 256in supreme power among the people in the person of Zerubbabel, is expressly mentioned for three reasons:— (1.) Because the faithfulness of God in his promises was concerned in the preservation of that family, whereof the Messiah was to spring, Christ himself being thereby, in the rule of the church, typed out in an especial manner. (2.) Because all the promises in a peculiar manner were first to be fulfilled in the person of Christ, so typed by David and his house. On him the Spirit, under the New Testament, was first to be poured out in all fullness; and from him to be communicated unto others. (3.) It may be to denote the especial gifts and graces that should be communicated unto them who were to be employed in the rule and conduct of the church under him, the king and head thereof. And “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” is a phrase expressive of the whole church, because that was the seat of all their public ordinances of worship. See Ps. cxxii. Wherefore, the whole spiritual church of God, all believers, are the object of this promise, as represented in the “house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
3. The especial qualifications of the promised Spirit are two; for, — (1.) He is to be רוּחַ חֵן, a “Spirit of grace.” חֵן which the Greek constantly renders χάρις, and we from the Latin gratia, “grace,” is derived from חָנַן, as is also the following word, which signifies to “have mercy,” or “compassion,” to be “gracious;” as all the words whereby God’s gracious dealings with sinners [are expressed] in the Hebrew do include the signification of pity, compassion, free goodness, and bounty. And it is variously used in the Scripture: sometimes for the grace and favour of God, as it is the fountain of all gracious and merciful effects towards us, Rom. i. 7, iv. 16, v. 2, 15, 20, vi. 1, xi. 5; 1 Cor. i. 3; and in other places innumerable; — and sometimes for the principal effect thereof, or the gracious favour of God whereby he accepts us in Christ, Eph. ii. 5; 2 Thess. i. 12; which is the grace the apostle prays for in the behalf of the church, Rom. xvi. 20; 1 Cor. xvi. 23. And sometimes it is applied unto the favour of men, and acceptation with them, called the “finding grace” or “favour” in the sight of any, Gen. xxxix. 4, 21; 1 Sam. ii. 26; Prov. iii. 4; Esth. ii. 15, 17, v. 2; Luke ii. 52; Acts iv. 33; — and sometimes for the free effectual efficacy of grace in those in whom it is, Acts xiv. 26; 1 Cor. xv. 10; 2 Cor. xii. 9; — and sometimes for our justification and salvation by the free grace or favour of God in Christ, John i. 17; 1 Pet. i. 13; — for the gospel itself, as the instrument of the declaration and communication of the grace of God, 2 Cor. vi. 1; Eph. iii. 2; Col. i. 6; Tit. ii. 11; — for the free donation of the grace and gifts of the Spirit, John i. 16; Eph. iv. 7. And many other significations it hath, which belong not unto our purpose.
Three things may be intended in this adjunct of grace.
257[1.] A respect of the sovereign cause of his dispensation, which is no other but the mere grace of God. He may be called a “Spirit of grace,” because his donation is an effect of grace, without the least respect unto any desert in those unto whom he is given. This reason of the appellation is declared, Tit. iii. 4–7. The sole cause and reason, in opposition unto our own works or deservings, of the pouring out of the Spirit upon us, is the love and kindness of God in Jesus Christ; whence he may be justly called a “Spirit of grace.” [2.] Because he is the author of all grace in and unto them on whom he is poured out; so God is called the “God of all grace,” because he is the fountain and author of it. And that the Holy Spirit is the immediate efficient cause of all grace in us hath been elsewhere proved, both in general and in the principal instances of regeneration and sanctification; and it shall be yet farther confirmed in what doth ensue. [3.] חֵן is commonly used for that grace or favour which one hath with another: “Let me find grace in thy sight;” as in the instances before quoted. And so the Spirit also may be called a “Spirit of grace,” because those on whom he is poured out have grace and favour with God; they are gracious with him, as being “accepted in the Beloved,” Eph. i. 6. Whereas, therefore, all these concur wherever this Spirit is communicated, I know no reason why we may not judge them all here included, though that in the second place be especially intended. The Spirit is promised to work grace and holiness in all on whom he is bestowed.
(2.) He is, as thus poured out, a “Spirit תַחֲנוּנִים, of supplications;” that is, of prayer for grace and mercy. The word is formed from חָנַן, as the other, to be gracious or merciful, and, expressing our act towards God, it is prayer for grace, — supplication;’ and it is never used but to express vocal prayer, either in the assemblies of the people of God or by private persona “Hearken to the voice of my supplications,” is rendered by the apostle Paul ἱκετηρίας, Heb. v. 7; in which place alone in the Scripture that word is used. Originally it signifies a bough or olive-branch wrapped about with wool or bays, or something of the like nature, which those carried in their hands and lifted up who were suppliants unto others for the obtaining of peace or the averting of their displeasure. Hence came the phrase of velamenta prœferre, to hold out such covered branches. So Livy, De Bel. Punic., lib. 24 cap. 30, “Ramos oleæ, ac velamenta alia supplicantium porrigentes, orare, ut reciperent sese;” — “Holding forth olive-branches, and other covered tokens used by suppliants, they prayed that they might be received” into grace and favour. Which custom Virgil declares in his Æneas addressing himself to Evander:—
“Optime Grajugenûm, cui me fortuna precari
Et vittâ comptos voluit prætendere ramos.”
Virg. Æn. viii. 127.
258And they called them ἱκετηρίους θαλλούς, “branches of supplication,” or prayer. And they constantly called those prayers which they made solemnly unto their gods, supplicia and supplicationes, Liv., lib. 10 cap. 23, “Eo anno prodigia multa fuerunt: quorum averruncandorum caussa supplicationes in biduum senatus decrevit;” a form of which kind of prayer we have in Cato, De Re Rustica, cap. 13, “Mars pater te precor quæsoque ut calamitates — —.”
Some render תַחֲנוּנִים by miserationes or lamentationes, and interpret it of men’s bemoaning themselves in their prayers for grace and mercy, — which in the issue varies not from the sense insisted on; but whereas it is derived from חָנַן which signifies to be merciful or gracious, and expresses an act of ours towards God, it can properly signify nothing but supplications for mercy and grace, nor is it otherwise used in the Scripture. See Job xli. 3; Prov. xviii. 23; Dan. ix. 3; Jer. xxxi. 9; 2 Chron. vi. 21; Jer. iii. 21; Ps. xxviii. 2, 6, xxxi. 22, cxvi. 1, cxxx. 2, cxl. 6, cxliii. 1; Dan. ix. 18, 23; Ps. lxxxvi. 6; which are all the places, besides this, where the word is used; in all which it denotes deprecation of evil and supplication for grace, constantly in the plural number, to denote the earnestness of men.
תַחֲנוּנִים, therefore, are properly supplications for grace and mercy, for freedom and deliverance from evil, put by a synecdoche for all sorts of prayer whatever. We may, therefore, inquire in what sense the Holy Spirit of God is called a “Spirit of supplications,” or what is the reason of this attribution unto him. And he must be so either formally or efficiently, either because he is so in himself or unto us. If in the former way, then he is a Spirit who himself prayeth, and, according to the import of those Hebraisms, aboundeth in that duty. As a “man of wickedness,” Isa. lv. 7, or a “man of blood,” is a man wholly given to wickedness and violence; so, on the other hand, a “Spirit of supplications” should be a Spirit abounding in prayer for mercy and the diverting of evil, as the word imports. Now, the Holy Ghost cannot be thus a Spirit of supplication, neither for himself nor us. No imagination of any such thing can be admitted with respect unto himself without the highest blasphemy. Nor can he in his own person make supplications for us; for besides that any such interposition in heaven on our behalf is in the Scripture wholly confined unto the priestly office of Christ and his intercession, all prayer, whether oral or interpretative only, is the act of a nature inferior unto that which is prayed unto. This the Spirit of God hath not; he hath no nature inferior unto that which is divine. We cannot, therefore, suppose him to be formally a Spirit of supplication, unless we deny his deity. He is so, therefore, efficiently with respect unto us, and as such he is promised unto us. Our inquiry, therefore, in general, is how or in what sense he is so. And there are 259but two ways conceivable whereby this may be affirmed of him:— [1.] By working gracious inclinations and dispositions in us unto this duty; [2.] By giving a gracious ability for the discharge of it in a due manner. These, therefore, must belong unto and do comprise his efficiency as a Spirit of supplication.
Both of them are included in that of the apostle, “The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us,” Rom. viii. 26. Those who can put any other sense on this promise may do well to express it. Every one consistent with the analogy of faith shall be admitted, so that we do not judge the words to be void of sense and to have nothing in them. To deny the Spirit of God to be a Spirit of supplication in and unto believers is to reject the testimony of God himself.
By the ways mentioned we affirm that he is so, nor can any other way be assigned.
[1.] He is so by working gracious inclinations and dispositions in us unto this duty. It is he who prepareth, disposeth, and inclineth the hearts of believers unto the exercise thereof with delight and spiritual complacency. And where this is not, no prayer is acceptable unto God. He delights not in those cries which an unwilling mind is pressed or forced unto by earthly desires, distress, or misery, James iv. 3. Of ourselves, naturally, we are averse from any converse and intercourse with God, as being alienated from living unto him by the ignorance and vanity of our minds.
And there is a secret alienation still working in us from all duties of immediate communion with him It is he alone who worketh us unto that frame wherein we pray continually, as it is required of us; our hearts being kept ready and prepared for this duty on all occasions and opportunities, being in the meantime acted and steered under the conduct and influence of those graces which are to be exercised therein. This some call the “grace of prayer” that is given us by the Holy Ghost, as I suppose improperly, though I will not contend about it; for prayer absolutely and formally is not a peculiar grace distinct from all other graces that are exercised in it, but it is the way and manner whereby we are to exercise all other graces of faith, love, delight, fear, reverence, self-abasement, and the like, unto certain especial ends. And I know no grace of prayer distinct or different from the exercise of these graces. It is, therefore, a holy commanded way of the exercise of other graces, but not a peculiar grace itself. Only, where any person is singularly disposed and devoted unto this duty, we may, if we please, though improperly, say that he is eminent in the grace of prayer. And I do suppose that this part of his work will not be denied by any, no, not that it is intended in the promise. If any are minded to stand at such a distance from other things which are ascribed unto him, or have such 260an abhorrency of allowing him part or interest in our supplications as that we may in any sense be said to pray in the Holy Ghost, that they will not admit of so much as the work of his grace, and that wrought in believers by virtue of this promise, they will manage an opposition unto his other actings at too dear a rate to be gainers by it.
[2.] He is so by giving an ability for prayer, or communicating a gift unto the minds of men, enabling them profitably unto themselves and others to exercise all his graces in that especial way of prayer. It will be granted afterward that there may be a gift of prayer used where there is no grace in exercise, nor perhaps any to be exercised, — that is, as some improperly express it, “the gift of prayer, where the grace of prayer is not;” but in declaring how the Spirit is a Spirit of supplication, we must take in the consideration of both. He both disposeth us to pray, that is, to the exercise of grace in that especial way, and enableth us thereunto. And where this ability is wholly and absolutely wanting, or where it is rejected or despised, although he may act and exercise those very graces which are to be exercised in prayer, and whose exercise in that way is commonly called the “grace of prayer,” yet this work of his belongs unto the general head of sanctification, wherein he preserves, excites, and acts all our graces, and not unto this especial work of prayer, nor is he a Spirit of supplication therein. He is, therefore, only a Spirit of supplication, properly, as he communicates a gift or ability unto persons to exercise all his graces in the way and duty of prayer. This is that which he is here promised for, and promised to be poured out for; that is, to be given in an abundant and plentiful manner. Wherever he is bestowed in the accomplishment of this promise, he both disposeth the hearts of men to pray and enableth them so to do. This ability, indeed, he communicates in great variety, as to the degrees of it, and [as to its] usefulness unto others in its exercise, but he doth it unto every one so far as is necessary unto his own spiritual concernments, or the discharge of his duty towards God and all others. But whereas this assertion contains the substance of what we plead for, the farther confirmation of it must be the principal subject of the ensuing discourse.
That this is the sense of the place, and the mind of the Holy Ghost in the words, needs no other demonstration but that it is expressive of their proper signification, neither can any other sense tolerably be affixed on them. To deny the Holy Spirit to be denominated a Spirit of supplication, because he inclineth, disposeth, and enableth them to pray unto whom he is promised, and on whom he is bestowed as such, is to use a little too much liberty in sacred things.
261A learned man of late, out of hatred unto the Spirit of prayer, or prayer as his gift, hath endeavoured to deprive the church of God of the whole benefit and comfort of this promise (Amyrald. Præfat. in Psal.); for he contends that it belong not unto the Christian church, but unto the Jews only. Had he said it belonged unto the Jews in the first place who should be converted unto Christ, he had not gone so wide from the truth nor from the sense of other expositors, though he had said more than he could prove. But to suppose that any grace, any mercy, any privilege by Jesus Christ, is promised unto the Jews, wherein Gentile believers shall be no sharers, that they should not partake of the same kind, whoever hath the prerogative as to degrees, is fond and impious; for if they also are children of Abraham, if the blessing of faithful Abraham do come upon them also, if it is through them that he is the heir of the world, his spiritual seed inhabiting it by right in all places, then unto them do all the promises belong that are made unto him and his seed. And whereas most of the “exceeding great and precious promises” of the Old Testament are made to Jacob and Israel, to Jerusalem and Zion, it is but saying that they are all confined unto the Jews, and so at once to despoil the church of God of all right and title to them; which impious folly and sacrilege hath been by some attempted. But whereas all the promises belong unto the same covenant, with all the grace contained in them and exhibited by them, whoever is interested by faith in that covenant is so in all the promises of God that belong thereunto, and hath an equal right unto them with those unto whom they were first given. To suppose, now that the Jews are rejected for their unbelief, that the promises of God made unto them whilst they stood by faith are ceased and of no use, is to overthrow the covenant of Abraham, and, indeed, the whole truth of the New Testament. But the apostle assures us that “all the promises of God in Christ are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us;” that is, in their accomplishment in us and towards us, 2 Cor. i. 20. So, also, he positively affirms that all believers have received those promises which originally were made unto Israel 2 Cor. vi. 16–18, vii. 1. And not only so, but he declareth also that the promises which were made of old unto particular persons on especial occasions, as to the grace, power, and love contained in them and intended by them, do yet belong unto all individual believers, and are applicable by them unto all their especial occasions, Heb. xiii. 5, 6. And their right unto or interest in all the promises of God is that which those who are concerned in the obedience of faith would not forego for all that this world can supply them withal. This, therefore, is only a particular instance of the work and effect of the Spirit, as he is in general promised in the covenant. And, as 262we have declared, the promises of him as a Spirit of grace and holiness in the covenant belong unto the believers of the Gentiles also. If they do not, they have neither share nor interest in Christ; which is a better plea for the Jew than this peculiar instance will afford. But this promise is only an especial declaration of what in one case this Spirit shall do, who is promised as a Spirit of grace and holiness in the covenant. And, therefore, the author of the evasion, suspecting that the fraud and sacrilege of it would be detected, betakes himself to other subterfuges, which we shall afterward meet with, so far as we are concerned.
It may be more soberly objected, “That the Spirit of grace and supplication was given unto believers under the Old Testament; and, therefore, if there be no more in it, if some extraordinary gift be not here intended, how comes it to be made an especial promise with respect unto the times of the New Testament? It may, therefore, be supposed that not the ordinary grace or gift of prayer, which believers, and especially the officers of the church, do receive, but some extraordinary gift bestowed on the apostles and first converts to the church, is here intended. So the prophecy concerning the effusion of the Spirit on all sorts of persons, Joel ii. 28–32, is interpreted by Peter, and applied unto the sending of the Holy Ghost in miraculous gifts on the day of Pentecost, Acts ii. 15–21.”
Ans. 1. I have elsewhere already, in general, obviated this objection by showing the prodigious folly of that imagination, that the dispensation of the Spirit is confined unto the first times of the gospel; whereof this objection is a branch, as enmity unto the matter treated of is the occasion of the whole. 2. We nowhere find grace and prayer, the things here promised, to be reckoned among the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit under the New Testament. Prayer, indeed, in an unknown tongue was so; but prayer itself was not so, no more than grace; which if it were, the whole present church is graceless. 3. The promise in Joel had express respect unto the extraordinary gifts of prophecy and visions, and therefore had its principal accomplishment on the day of Pentecost. This promise is quite of another nature. 4. That which is necessary for and the duty of all believers, and that always, is not an extraordinary gift, bestowed on a few for a season. Now, if there are any who think that grace and prayer are not necessary unto all believers, or that they may have abilities, and exercise them, without any aid of the Holy Spirit, I will not at present contend with them; for this is not a place to plead with those by whom the principles of the Christian faith are denied. Divine commands are the rule of our duty, not man’s imaginations. 5. If this be not an especial promise of the New Testament, because the matter of it, or grace promised, was in 263some degree and measure enjoyed under the Old, then is there no promise made with respect unto that scion; for the saints under the Old Testament were really made partakers of all the same graces with those under the New. Wherefore, 6. Two things are intended in the promise with respect unto the times of the gospel:— (1.) An application and enlargement of this grace or favour, as unto the subjects of it extensively. It was under the Old Testament confined unto a few, but now it shall be communicated unto many, and diffused all the world over. It shall be so poured out as to be shed abroad, and imparted thereby unto many. That which before was but as the watering of a garden by an especial hand is now as the clouds pouring themselves forth on the whole face of the earth. (2.) An increase of the degrees of spiritual abilities for the performance of it, Tit. iii. 5, 6. There is now a rich communication of the Spirit of grace and prayer granted unto believers in comparison of what was enjoyed under the Old Testament. This the very nature of the dispensation of the gospel, wherein we receive from Jesus Christ “grace for grace,” doth evince and confirm. I suppose it needless to prove that, as unto all spiritual supplies of grace, there is brought in an abundant administration of it by Jesus Christ, the whole Scripture testifying unto it.
There were, indeed, under the Old Testament, prayers to and praises of God dictated by a Spirit of prophecy, and received by immediate divine revelation, containing mysteries for the instruction of the church in all ages. These prayers were not suggested unto them by the aid of the Spirit as a Spirit of supplication, but dictated in and to them by the Spirit as a Spirit of prophecy. Nor did they themselves comprehend the mind of the Holy Spirit in them fully, but inquired diligently thereinto, as into other prophecies given out by the Spirit of Christ which was in them, 1 Pet. i. 10–12; — an instance whereof we may have in Ps. xxii.; a prayer it is with thanksgiving from first to last. Now, although David, unto whom it was given by inspiration, might find in his own condition things that had some low and mean resemblance of what was intended in the words suggested unto him by the Holy Spirit, as he was a type of Christ, yet the depth of the mysteries contained therein, the principal scope and design of the Holy Ghost, was in a great measure concealed from himself, and much more from others. Only it was given out unto the church by immediate inspiration, that believers might search and diligently inquire into what was signified and foretold therein; that so thereby they might be gradually led into the knowledge of the mysteries of God, according as he was pleased graciously to communicate of his saving light unto them. But withal it was revealed unto David and the other prophets, that in these things “they did 264not minister unto themselves, but unto us,” as having mysteries in them which they could not, which they were not to comprehend. But as this gift is ceased under the New Testament, after the finishing of the canon of the Scripture, nor is it by any pretended unto, so was it confined of old unto a very few inspired persons, and belongs not unto our present inquiry; for we speak only of those things which are common unto all believers, and herein a preference must in all things be given unto those under the New Testament.
If, therefore, it could be proved, which I know it cannot be, that the generality of the church under the Old Testament made use of any forms of prayers, as mere forms of prayer, without any other end, use, or mystical instruction (all which concurred in their prophetical composures), for the sole end of prayer, yet would it not, whatever any pretend or plead, thence follow that believers under the New Testament may do the same, much less that they may be obliged always so to do; for there is now a more plentiful and rich effusion of the Spirit of grace and supplication upon them than was upon those of old. And as our duty is to be regulated by God’s commands, so God’s commands are suited unto the dispensation of his grace. For persons under the New Testament, who are commanded to pray, not to make use constantly in their so doing of the gifts, aids, and assistances of the Spirit, which are peculiarly dispensed and communicated therein, on pretence of what was done under the Old, is to reject the grace of the gospel, and to make themselves guilty of the highest ingratitude. Wherefore, although we may and ought to bear with them who, having not received any thing of this promised grace and assistance, nor believing there is any such thing, do plead for the use of forms of prayer to be composed by some and read by others or themselves, and that only, in the discharge of this duty; yet such as have been made partakers of this grace, and who own it their duty constantly to use and improve the promised aids of the Spirit of God, will be careful not to admit of any such principles or practice as would plainly annihilate the promise.
Thus much, then, we may suppose ourselves to have obtained in the consideration of this testimony, That God hath promised under the New Testament to give unto believers, in a plentiful manner or measure, the Spirit of grace and of supplications, or his own Holy Spirit, enabling them to pray according to his mind and will. The way and manner of his work therein shall be afterward declared. And it may suffice to oppose, in general, this one promise unto the open reproaches and bold contempts that are by many cast on the Spirit of prayer; whose framers, unless they can blot this text out of the Scripture, will fail at last in their design. We shall not, therefore, need to plead any other testimony to the same purpose in the 265way of promises. Only we may observe, that this being expressly assigned as a part of the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, as promised under the New Testament, there is no one promise to that purpose wherein this grace is not included; therefore, the known multiplication of them addeth strength unto our argument.
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