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Particular actings of the Holy Spirit as a comforter — how he is an unction.
The especial actings of the Holy Spirit towards believers as their comforter, with the privileges and advantages which by them they 390are made partakers of, have been severally spoken unto by many, and I have also in other discourses had occasion to treat concerning some of them. I shall, therefore, be the more brief in the present discourse of them, and, waiving things commonly known and received, shall endeavour to state right conceptions of them, and to add farther light unto what hath been already received.
The First of this sort which we shall mention, because, as I think, the first in order of nature, is the unction or anointing which believers have by him. So are they said to be “anointed,” 2 Cor. i. 21; and, 1 John ii. 20, “Ye have τὸ χρίσμα,” an unction, an unguent, “from the Holy One.” Verse 27, “The anointing which ye have received abideth in you;” and “the same anointing teacheth you of all things.” What this χρίσμα is which we do receive, and wherein this anointing doth consist, we must, in the first place, inquire; for a distinct comprehension and knowledge of that which is so great a privilege, and of so much use unto us, is our duty and advantage. It is the more so, because by the most these things are neglected. That is an empty sound unto them which hath in itself the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. Some things there are which pretend unto this unction, or which some would have it to consist in, that we must remove out of our way, to render the truth more evident.
First, Some think that by this “unction” the doctrine of the gospel, or the truth itself, is intended. This Episcopius pleads for in his exposition of the place. That doctrine of the gospel which they had received was that which would preserve them from the seducers which in that place of the apostle, 1 John ii. 20, believers are warned to beware of. But neither the context nor the text will admit of this interpretation; for, — 1. The thing itself in question was the doctrine of the gospel. This the seducers pretended to be on their side, which the apostle denies. Now, although the doctrine itself was that whereby this difference was to be determined, yet is not the doctrine itself, but the advantage they had for the right understanding of it, that which is proposed for their relief and comfort. 2. This unction is said to “abide in them’ who have received it; whereas we are said to abide in the doctrine or the truth, and not that in us properly. 3. This unction is said to “teach us all things,” but the doctrine of the truth is that which we are taught, and there must be a difference between that which teacheth and that which is taught thereby. 4. Whereas, in all other places of the Scripture, either the Holy Ghost himself or some especial operation of his is hereby intended, there is no reason nor pretence of any to be taken from the words or context why another signification should be here imposed on that expression. 5. For the reason which he adds, that “there is no mention 391in any other place of Scripture of any peculiar internal act or work towards any persons, in their teaching or reception of the truth,” it is so extremely remote from the truth, and is so directly opposite unto express testimonies almost innumerable, that I wonder how any man could be so forgetful as to affirm it. Let the reader satisfy himself in what hath been discoursed on the head of spiritual illumination.
Secondly, The testimony given by the Holy Ghost unto the truth of the gospel imparted unto them, is the exposition of this “unction” in the paraphrase of another. This testimony was by his miraculous operations, at his first effusion on the apostles. But neither can this be the mind of the Holy Ghost herein; for this unction which believers had is the same with their being anointed of God, 2 Cor. i. 21, and that was a privilege whereof they were all personally made partakers. So, also, is that which is here mentioned, — namely, that which was “in them,” which “abode with them,” and “taught them.” Neither is this a tolerable exposition of these words, “‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One, abiding in you, teaching of you;’ that is, Ye have heard of the miraculous operations of the Holy Ghost, in the confirmation of the gospel, giving testimony unto the truth.”
Thirdly, It is to no purpose to examine the pretences of some of the Romanists, that respect is had herein to the chrism or unguent that they use in baptism, confirmation, and in their fictitious sacraments of order and extreme unction; for besides that all their unctions are inventions of their own, no institution of Christ, nor of any efficacy unto the ends for which this unction is granted unto believers, the more sober of their expositors take no notice of them on this occasion. Those who would know what respect they have thereunto may find it in the commentaries of [Cornelius] a Lapide on this place.
These apprehensions being removed, as no way suiting the mind of the Holy Ghost, nor expressing the privilege intended, nor the advantage which we have thereby, we shall follow the conduct of the Scripture in the investigation of the true nature of it. And to this end we may observe, —
1. That all persons and things that were dedicated or consecrated unto God under the Old Testament were anointed with material oil. So were the kings of the people of God, so were priests and prophets In like manner, the sanctuary, the altar, and all the holy utensils of divine worship, were anointed. And it is confessed that among all the rest of the Mosaical institutions, those also concerning unction were typical and figurative of what was to come.
2. That all these types had their first, proper, and full signification and accomplishment in the person of Jesus Christ. And because every person and thing that was made holy to God was so 392anointed, he who was to be the “Most Holy,” the only spring and cause of holiness in and unto others, had his name and denomination from thence. Both Messiah in the Old Testament, and Christ in the New, are as much as the Anointed One; for he was not only in his person typified in the anointed kings, priests, and prophets, but also, in his mediation, by the tabernacle, sanctuary, altar, and temple. Hence his unction is expressed in these words, לִמְשֹׁחַ קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשׁים, Dan. ix. 24, “To anoint the Holy of Holies,” who was prefigured by all the holy anointed ones before. This became his name as he was the hope of the church under the Old Testament, the Messiah; and as the immediate object of the faith of the saints under the New, the Christ. Here, therefore, in the first place, we must inquire into the nature of this unction, that of believers being an emanation from thence, and to be interpreted by analogy thereunto; for (as it is usually expressed by way of allusion) it is as the oil, which, being poured on the head of Aaron, went down to the skirts of his garments.
3. That the Lord Christ was anointed, and how, is declared, Isa. lxi. 1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me.” His unction consisted principally in the communication of the Spirit unto him; for he proves that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, because he was anointed. And this gives us a general rule, that the anointing with material oil under the Old Testament did prefigure and represent the effusion of the Spirit under the New, which now answers all the ends of those typical institutions. Hence the gospel, in opposition unto them all, in the letter, outwardly, visibly, and materially, is called the “ministration of the Spirit,” 2 Cor. iii. 6, 8. So is the unction of Christ expressed, Isa. xi. 2, “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”
4. Whereas the unction of Christ did consist in the full communication of the Spirit unto him, not by measure, in all his graces and gifts, needful unto his human nature or his work, though it be essentially one entire work, yet was it carried on by several degrees and distinctions of time; for, — (1.) He was anointed by the Spirit in his incarnation in the womb, Luke i. 35; the nature of which work we have at large before explained. (2.) He was so at his baptism and entrance into his public ministry, when he was anointed to preach the gospel, as Isa. lxi. 1: “The Spirit of God descended like a dove, and lighted upon him,” Matt. iii. 16. The first part of his unction more peculiarly respected a fullness of the grace, the latter of the gifts of the Spirit. (3.) He was peculiarly anointed, unto his death and sacrifice in that divine act of his whereby he “sanctified himself” thereunto, John xvii. 19, which hath also been before declared. 393(4.) He was so at his ascension, when he received of the Father the promise of the Spirit, pouring him forth on his disciples, Acts ii. 33. And in this latter instance he was “anointed with the oil of gladness,” which includes his glorious exaltation also: for this was absolutely peculiar unto him, whence he is said to be so anointed “above his fellows;” for although in some other parts of this anointing, he hath them who partake of them, by and from him, in their measure, yet in this of receiving the Spirit with a power of communicating him unto others, herein he is singular, nor was ever any other person sharer with him therein in the least degree. See the Exposition on Heb. i. 8, 9. Now, although there be an inconceivable difference and distance between the unction of Christ and that of believers, yet is his the only rule of the interpretation of theirs, as to the kind thereof. And, —
5. Believers have their unction immediately from Christ. So is it in the text: “Ye have an unction from the Holy One.” So is he called, Acts iii. 14; Rev. iii. 7, “These things saith he that is holy.” He himself was anointed as the “Most Holy,” Dan. ix. 24. And it is his Spirit which believers do receive, Eph. iii. 16; Phil. i. 19. It is said that “he who anointeth us is God,” 2 Cor. i. 21; and I do take God there personally for the Father, as the same name is in the verse foregoing: “All the promises of God in him,” that is, in Christ, “are yea, and in him Amen.” Wherefore, the Father is the original, supreme cause of our anointing; but the Lord Christ, the Holy One, is the immediate efficient cause thereof. This himself expresseth when he affirms that he will send the Spirit from the Father. The supreme donation is from the Father; the immediate collation, from the Son.
6. It is therefore manifest that the anointing of believers consisteth in the communication of the Holy Spirit unto them from and by Jesus Christ. It is not the Spirit that doth anoint us, but he is the unction wherewith we are anointed by the Holy One. This the analogy unto the unction of Christ makes undeniable: for as he was anointed so are they, in the same kind of unction, though in a degree inferior unto him; for they have nothing but a measure and portion from his fullness, as he pleaseth, Eph. iv. 7. Our unction, therefore, is the communication of the Holy Spirit, and nothing else. He is that unction which is given unto us, and abideth with us, But this communication of the Spirit is general, and respects all his operations. It doth not yet appear wherein the especial nature of it doth consist, and whence this communication of him is thus expressed by “an unction;” and this can be no otherwise learned but from the effects ascribed unto him as he is an unction, and the relation with the resemblance that is therein unto the unction of Christ. 394It is, therefore, some particular grace and privilege which is intended in this unction, 2 Cor. i. 21. It is mentioned only neutrally, without the ascription of any effects unto it, so that therein we cannot learn its especial nature. But there are two effects elsewhere ascribed unto it. The first is teaching, with a saving, permanent knowledge of the truth thereby produced in our minds. This is fully expressed 1 John ii. 20, 27, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things;” that is, “All those things of the fundamental, essential truths of the gospel, all ye need to know that ye may obey God truly and be saved infallibly, this ye have by this unction; for this anointing which ye have received abideth in you, and teacheth you all things.” And we may observe, that it is spoken of in an especial manner with respect unto our permanency and establishment in the truth against prevalent seducers and seductions; so it is joined with establishing in that other place, 2 Cor. i. 21.
Wherefore, in the first place, this anointing with the Holy Ghost is the communication of him unto us with respect unto that gracious work of his in the spiritual, saving illumination of our minds, teaching us to know the truth, and to adhere firmly unto it in love and obedience. This is that which is peculiarly ascribed unto it; and we have no way to know the nature of it but by its effects.
The anointing, then, of believers with the Spirit consists in the collation of him upon them to this end, that he may graciously instruct them in the truths of the gospel by the saving illumination of their minds, causing their souls firmly to cleave unto them with joy and delight, and transforming them in the whole inward man into the image and likeness of it. Hence it is called the “anointing of our eyes with eye-salve that we may see,” Rev. iii. 18. So doth it answer that unction of the Lord Christ with the Spirit, which made him “of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord,” Isa. xi. 3. Let these things, therefore, be fixed in the first place, — namely, that the τὸ χρίσμα, the unction which believers receive from the Holy One, is the Spirit himself; and that his first, peculiar, especial effect as an unction, is his teaching of us the truths and mysteries of the gospel by saving illumination, in the manner before described.
Hereunto also is referred what is said of believers being made “kings and priests,” Rev. i. 6; for there is an allusion therein unto the anointing of those sorts of persons under the Old Testament. Whatever was typical therein was fully accomplished in the unction of Christ unto his office, wherein he was the sovereign king, priest, and prophet of the church. Wherefore, by a participation in his unction, they are said to be made “kings and priests,” or “a royal priesthood,” as it is, 1 Pet. ii. 9; and this participation of his unction consists in the communication of the same Spirit unto them wherewith 395he was anointed. Whereas, therefore, these titles denote the dignity of believers in their especial relation unto God, by this unction they are peculiarly dedicated and consecrated unto him.
It is manifest, therefore, first, that this unction we receive from the Holy One is the Holy Spirit, which he hath promised unto all that believe in him; and then that we have these two things by virtue thereof:— 1. Spiritual instruction, by saving illumination in the mind of God and the mysteries of the gospel; 2. An especial dedication unto God, in the way of a spiritual privilege.
What remains is, to inquire, — 1. What benefit or advantage we have by this unction; 2. How this belongs unto our consolation, seeing the Holy Spirit is thus bestowed on us as he is promised to be the comforter of the church.
1. As unto the first head, it is hereon that our stability in believing doth depend; for it is pleaded unto this purpose in a peculiar manner by the apostle,1 John ii. 20, 27. It was the “unction from the Holy One” which then kept believers from being carried from the faith by the craft of seducers. Hereby he makes men, according unto their measure, “of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” Nor will any thing else give assurance in this case. Temptations may come as a storm or tempest, which will quickly drive men from their greatest fleshly confidences. Hence oftentimes those who are forwardest to say, though all men should forsake the truth, yet would not they so do, are the forwardest upon trials so to do. Neither will men’s skill, cunning, or disputing abilities, secure them from being, at one time or other, inveigled with fair pretences, or entangled with the cunning sleights of them who lie in wait to deceive. Nor will the best defences of flesh and blood stand firmly and unshaken against powerful allurements on the one hand, and fierce persecutions on the other; the present artillery of the patrons and promoters of apostasy. None of these things doth the apostle prescribe or recommend unto believers as an effectual means of their preservation, when a trial of their stability in the truth shall befall them. But this unction he assures them will not fail; neither shall they fail, because of it.
And to this end we may consider, — (1.) The nature of the teaching which we have by this anointing: “The anointing teacheth you.” It is not merely an external doctrinal instruction, but an internal effectual operation of the Holy Ghost. Herein doth God give unto us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, that we may know what is the hope of his calling,” Eph. i. 17, 18. He maketh use, indeed, of the outward means of instruction by the word, and teacheth nothing but what is revealed therein; but he gives us “an understanding 396that we may know him that is true,” and openeth our eyes that we may clearly and spiritually see the wondrous things that are in his law. And there are no teachings like unto his; none so abiding, none so effectual. When spiritual things, through this anointing, are discovered in a spiritual manner, then do they take up an immovable possession in the minds of men. As God will destroy every oppressing yoke because of the anointing of Christ Isa. x. 27, so will he break every snare of seduction by the anointing of Christians. So it is promised that under the gospel, “wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of the times,” Isa. xxxiii. 6. Nothing will give stability in all seasons but the wisdom and knowledge which are the effects of this teaching, when God gives us “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”
(2.) What it is that it teacheth, and that is all things: “The same anointing teacheth you of all things.” So was the promise that he should “teach us all things,” and “bring all things to our remembrance” that Christ hath said unto us, John xiv. 26, and “guide us into all truth,” chap. xvi. 13. It is not all things absolutely that are intended; for they are restrained unto those of one certain kind, even the things which Christ had spoken, — that is, such as belonged unto the kingdom of God. Neither are they all of them absolutely intended, especially as to the degrees of the knowledge of them; for in this life we know but in part, and see all things darkly as in a glass. But it is all things, and all truth, with respect unto the end of this promise and teaching. In the promise, the whole life of faith, with joy and consolation thereon, is the end designed. All things necessary thereunto this unction teacheth us. And in the other place of the apostle, it respects the great fundamental truths of the gospel, which the seducers opposed, from whose seduction this unction doth secure believers. Wherefore, it teacheth all that are made partakers of it all that truth, all those things, all that Christ hath spoken, that are necessary unto these ends, that they may live unto God in the consolation of faith, and be delivered from all attempts to draw them into error.
The degrees of this knowledge, which are exceeding various, both with respect unto the clearness and evidence of conception and the extent of the things known, depend on the various measures whereby the Spirit acteth, according unto his own will, and the different use of the external means of knowledge which we do enjoy; but what is necessary unto the ends mentioned, none shall come short of who enjoy this anointing. And where its teachings are complied withal in a way of duty, where we obstruct them not by prejudices and sloth, where we give up ourselves unto their directive efficacy in a diligent, impartial attendance unto the word, whereby alone we are to be taught, we shall not fail of that knowledge in the whole counsel 397of God, and all the parts of it, which he will accept and bless. And this gives stability unto believers when trials and temptations about the truth do befall them; and the want hereof, in the uncured darkness of their minds, and ignorance of the doctrine of the gospel, is that which betrays multitudes into a defection from it in seasons of temptation and persecution.
(3.) It so teacheth as to give withal an approbation of and love unto the things that are taught. These are the next principle and cause of practice, or the doing of the things that we know; which is the only cement of all the means of our security, rendering them firm and stable. The mind may discern spiritual truths, but if the will and affections be not wrought over to love them and delight in them, we shall never conform ourselves unto them in the diligent exercise and practice of what they do require. And what we may do on the solitary efficacy of light and conviction, without the adherence of love and delight, will neither be acceptable unto God, nor shall we be permanent or stable therein. All other means in the world, without the love and practice of the truth, will be insufficient unto our preservation in the saving profession of it. And this is the characteristical note of the teaching by this unction. It gives and communicates with it the love of that truth wherein we are instructed, and delight in obedience unto what it doth require. Where these are not, however raised our minds may be, or enlarged our understandings in the apprehension of objective truths, whatever sublime notions or subtile conceptions about them we may have, though we could master and manage all the speculations and niceties of the schools, in their most pretended accuracy of expression, yet as to the power and benefit of religion, we should be but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. But when this Holy Spirit doth, in and by his teaching, breathe into our hearts a holy, divine love unto and complacency in the things we are taught; when he enables us to taste how gracious the Lord is in them, rendering them sweeter unto us than the honey or the honeycomb; when he makes them our delight and joy, exciting and quickening the practical principles of our minds unto a compliance with them in holy obedience, — then have we that unction from the Holy One which will both sanctify and secure our souls unto the end.
And hereby may we know whether we have ourselves received of this anointing. Some would fain put it off unto what was peculiar unto the times of the apostles, and would suppose another kind of believers in those days than any that are now in the world, or need to be; though what our Saviour prayed for them, even for the apostles themselves, as to the Spirit of grace and consolation, he prayed also for all them who should believe on him through their word unto 398the end of the world. But take away the promise of the Spirit, and the privileges thereon depending, from Christians, and in truth they cease so to be. Some neglect it as if it were an empty expression, and either wholly insignificant, or at best intending somewhat wherein they need not much concern themselves; and whatever it be, they doubt not but to secure the pretended ends of it, in their preservation from seduction, by their own skill and resolution. On such pretences are all the mysteries of the gospel by many despised, and a religion is formed wherein the Spirit of Christ hath no concernment. But these things are otherwise stated in the minds of the true disciples of Christ. They know and own of how great importance it is to have a share in this unction; how much their conformity unto Christ, their participation of him, and the evidence of their union with him, how much their stability in profession, their joy in believing, their love and delight in obedience, with their dignity in the sight of God and all his holy angels, do depend thereon. Neither do we look upon it as a thing obscure or unintelligible, that which no man can know whether he hath or no; for if it were so, a thing so thin, aërial, and imperceptible, as that no spiritual sense or experience could be had of it, the apostle would not have referred all sorts and degrees of believers, fathers, young men, and little children, unto it for their relief and encouragement in the times of danger. Wherefore, it evidenceth itself in the way and manner of its acting, operation, and teaching, as before declared. And as by those instances they satisfy themselves as unto what experience they have of it, so it is their duty to pray continually for its increase and farther manifestation of its power in them: yea, it is their duty to labour that their prayers for it may be both fervent and effectual; for the more express and eminent the teachings of this anointing in them are, the more fresh and plentiful is their unction, the more will their holiness and consolation abound.
And whereas this is that by which, as it immediately proceeds from the Holy Spirit, they have their peculiar dedication unto God, being made kings and priests unto him, they are highly concerned to secure their interest therein; for it may be they are so far from being exalted, promoted, and dignified in the world by their profession, as that they are made thereby the scorn of men and the outcasts of the people. Those, indeed, whose kingdom and priesthood, their dignity and honour in Christianity, their approximation unto God and Christ in a peculiar manner, consist in secular titles, honour, power, and grandeur, as it is in the Papacy, may content themselves with their chrism, or the greasy unction of their outward, ceremonious consecration, without much inquiry after or concern in this spiritual anointing; but those who get little or nothing in this world, that 399is, of the world, by their profession, but labour, pain, travail of soul and body, with scorns, reproaches, and persecutions, had need look after that which gives them a dignity and honour in the sight of God, and which brings in satisfaction and peace unto their own souls; and this is done by that anointing alone, whereby they are made kings and priests unto God, having honour before him, and a free, sacred access unto him.
2. I shall only add, that whereas we ascribe this anointing in a peculiar manner unto the Holy Ghost as the comforter of the church, we may easily discern wherein the consolation which we receive by it doth consist; for who can express that satisfaction, refreshment, and joy, which the mind is possessed with in those spiritual, effectual teachings, which give it a clear apprehension of saying truth in its own nature and beauty, and enlarge the heart with love unto it and delight in it? It is true, that the greatest part of believers are ofttimes either at such a loss as unto a clear apprehension of their own spiritual state, or so unskilled in making a right judgment of the causes and means of divine consolations, or so confused in their own experiences, or so negligent in their inquiries into these things, or so disordered by temptations, as that they receive not a refreshing sense of those comforts and joys which are really inseparable from this anointing: but still it is in itself that spring from whence their secret refreshments and supportments do arise; and there is none of them but, upon guidance and instruction, are able to conceive how their chiefest joys and comforts, even those whereby they are supported in and against all their troubles, are resolved into that spiritual understanding which they have into the mysteries of the will, love, and grace of God in Christ, with that ineffable complacency and satisfaction which they find in them, whereby their wills are engaged into an unconquerable constancy in their choice. And there is no small consolation in a due apprehension of that spiritual dignity which ensues hereon; for when they meet with the greatest troubles and the most contemptuous scorns in this world, a due apprehension of their acceptance with God, as being made kings and priests unto him, yields them a refreshment which the world knows nothing of, and which themselves are not able to express.
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