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Inhabitation of the Spirit the first thing promised.
The first thing which the Comforter is promised for unto believers is, that he should dwell in them; which is their great fundamental privilege, and whereon all others do depend. This, therefore, must in the first place be inquired into.
The inhabitation of the Spirit in believers is among those things which we ought, as to the nature or being of it, firmly to believe, but as to the manner of it cannot fully conceive. Nor can this be the least impeachment of its truth unto any who assent unto the gospel, wherein we have sundry things proposed as objects of our faith which our reason cannot comprehend. We shall, therefore, assert no more in this matter but what the Scripture directly and expressly goeth before us in. And where we have the express letter of the Scripture for our warrant we are eternally safe, whilst we affix no sense thereunto that is absolutely repugnant unto reason or contrary unto more plain testimonies in other places. Wherefore, to make plain what we intend herein, the ensuing observations must be premised.
384First, This personal inhabitation of the Holy Spirit in believers is distinct and different from his essential omnipresence, whereby he is in all things. Omnipresence is essential; inhabitation is personal. Omnipresence is a necessary property of his nature, and so not of him as a distinct person in the Trinity, but as God essentially, one and the same in being and substance with the Father and the Son. To be everywhere, to fill all things, to be present with them or in-distant from them, always equally existing in the power of an infinite being, is an inseparable property of the divine nature as such; but this inhabitation is personal, or what belongs unto him distinctly as the Holy Ghost. Besides, it is voluntary, and that which might not have been; whence it is the subject of a free promise of God, and wholly depends on a free act of the will of the Holy Spirit himself.
Secondly, It is not a presence by virtue of a metonymical denomination, or an expression of the cause for the effect, that is intended. The meaning of this promise, “The Spirit shall dwell in you,” is not “He shall work graciously in you,” for this he can without any especial presence, — being essentially everywhere, he can work where and how he pleaseth without any especial presence; — but it is the Spirit himself that is promised, and his presence in an especial manner, and an especial manner of that presence, “He shall be in you, and dwell in you,” as we shall see. The only inquiry in this matter is, whether the Holy Spirit himself be promised unto believers, or only his grace, which we shall immediately inquire into.
Thirdly, The dwelling of the person of the Holy Spirit in the persons of believers, of what nature soever it be, doth not effect a personal union between them. That which we call a personal union is the union of diverse natures in the same person; and there can be but one person by virtue of this union. Such is the hypostatical union in the person of the Son of God. It was our nature he assumed, and not the person of any. And it was impossible he should so assume any more but in one individual instance; for if he could have assumed another individual being of our nature, then it must differ personally from that which he did assume, for there is nothing that differs one man from another but a distinct personal subsistence of each. And it implies the highest contradiction that the Son of God could be hypostatically united unto more than one; for if they are more than one, they must be more persons than one; and many persons cannot be hypostatically united, for that is to be one person, and no more. There may be a manifold union, mystical and moral, of divers, of many persons, but a personal union there cannot be of any thing but of distinct natures. And as the Son of God could not assume many persons, so supposing that human nature which he did unite to himself to have been a person, — that is, to have had a 385distinct subsistence of its own antecedent unto its union, Band there could have been no personal union between it and the Son of God; for the Son of God was a distinct person, and if the human nature had been so too, there would have been two persons still, and so no personal union. Nor can it be said that although the human nature of Christ was a person in itself, yet it ceased so to be upon its union with the divine, and so two persons were conjoined and compounded into one: for if ever human nature have in any instance a personal subsistence of its own, it cannot be separated from it without the destruction and annihilation of the individual; for to suppose otherwise is to make it to continue what it was and not what it was; for it is what it is, distinct from all other individuals, by virtue of its personality. Wherefore, upon this inhabitation of the Spirit, whereinsoever it doth consist, there is no personal union ensuing between him and believers, nor is it possible that any such thing should be; for he and they are distinct persons, and must eternally abide so whilst their natures are distinct. It is only the assumption of our nature into union with the Son of God antecedent unto any individual personal subsistence of its own that can constitute such a union.
Fourthly, The union and relation that ensues on this inhabitation of the Spirit is not immediate between him and believers, but between them and Jesus Christ; for he is sent to dwell in them by Christ, in his name, as his Spirit, to supply his room in love and grace towards them, making use of his things in all his effects and operations unto his glory. Hence, I say, is the union of believers with Christ by the Spirit, and not with the Spirit himself; for this Holy Spirit dwelling in the human nature of Christ, manifesting and acting himself in all fullness therein, as hath been declared, being sent by him to dwell in like manner and act in a limited measure in all believers, there is a mystical union thence arising between them, whereof the Spirit is the bond and vital principle.
On these considerations, I say, it is the person of the Holy Ghost that is promised unto believers, and not only the effects of his grace and power; and his person it is that always dwelleth in them. And as this, on the one hand, is an argument of his infinite condescension in complying with this part of his office and work, to be sent by the Father and Son to dwell in believers; so it is an evident demonstration of his eternal deity, that the one and self-same person should at the same time inhabit so many thousands of distinct persons as are or were at any time of believers in the world, — which is fondness to imagine concerning any one that is not absolutely infinite. And, therefore, that which some oppose as unmeet for him, and beneath his glory, namely, this his inhabitation in the saints of God, is a most illustrious and incontrollable demonstration of his eternal glory: for 386none but he who is absolutely immense in his nature and omnipresence can be so present with and indistant from all believers in the world; and none but he whose person, by virtue of his nature, is infinite, can personally equally inhabit in them all An infinite nature and person is required hereunto. And in the consideration of the incomprehensibility thereof are we to acquiesce as to the manner of his inhabitation, which we cannot conceive.
1. There are very many promises in the Old Testament that God would thus give the Holy Spirit in and by virtue of the new covenant, as Ezek. xxxvi. 27, Isa. lix. 21, Prov. i. 23. And in every place God calls this promised Spirit, and as promised, his Spirit, “My Spirit;” which precisely denotes the person of the Spirit himself. It is generally apprehended, I confess, that in these promises the Holy Spirit is intended only as unto his gracious effects and operations, but not as to any personal inhabitation. And I should not much contend upon these promises only, although in some of them his person, as promised, be expressly distinguished from all his gracious effects, but that the exposition which is given of them in their accomplishment under the New Testament will not allow us so to judge of them; for, —
2. We are directed to pray for the Holy Spirit, and assured that God will give him unto them that ask of him in a due manner, Luke xi. 13. If these words must be expounded metonymically, and not properly, it must be because either, — (1.) They agree not in the letter with other testimonies of Scripture; or, (2.) contain some sense absurd and unreasonable; or, (3.) that which is contrary unto the experience of them that believe. The first cannot he said, for other testimonies innumerable concur with it; nor the second, as we shall show; and as for the third, it is that whose contrary we prove. What is it that believers intend in that request? I suppose I may say that there is no one petition wherein they are more intense and earnest, nor which they more frequently insist upon. As David prayed that “God would not take his Holy Spirit from him,” Ps. li. 11, so do they that God would bestow him on them; for this they do, and ought to do, even after they have received him. His continuance with him, his evidencing and manifestation of himself in and to them, are the design of their continual supplications for him. Is it merely external operations of the Spirit in grace that they desire herein? Do they not always pray for his ineffable presence and inhabitation? Will any thoughts of grace or mercy relieve or satisfy them if once they apprehend that the Holy Spirit is not in them or doth not dwell with them? Although they are not able to form any conception in their minds of the manner of his presence and residence in them, yet is it that which they pray for, and without 387the apprehension whereof by faith they can have neither peace nor consolation. The promise hereof being confined unto believers, those that are truly and really so, as we showed before, it is their experience whereby its accomplishment is to be judged, and not the presumption of such by whom both the Spirit himself and his whole work is despised.
3. And this inhabitation is that which principally our Lord Jesus Christ directeth his disciples to expect in the promise of him: “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you,” John xiv. 17. He doth so who is the “Comforter;” or, as it is emphatically expressed, chap. xvi. 13, “The Spirit of truth.” He is promised unto and he inhabits them that do believe. So it is expressly affirmed towards all that are partakers of this promise: Rom. viii. 9, “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” Verse 11, “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you.” “The Holy Spirit dwelleth in us,” 2 Tim. i. 14. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world,” 1 John iv. 4. And many other express testimonies there are unto the same purpose. And whereas the subject of these promises and propositions is the Holy Ghost himself, the person of the Holy Ghost, and that so expressed as not to leave any pretence for any thing else, and not his person, to be intended; and whereas nothing is ascribed unto him that is unreasonable, inconvenient unto him in the discharge of his office, or inconsistent with any of his divine perfections, but rather what is every way suitable unto his work, and evidently demonstrative of his divine nature and subsistence, — it is both irrational and unsuitable unto the economy of divine grace to wrest these expressions unto a lower, meaner, figurative signification. And I am persuaded that it is contrary to the faith of the catholic church of true believers so to do: for however some of them may not have exercised their minds about the manner of the abode of the Holy Spirit with the church; and some of them, when they hear of his personal indwelling, wherein they have not been duly instructed, do fear, it may be, that indeed that cannot be which they cannot comprehend, and that some evil consequences may ensue upon the admittance of it, although they cannot say what they are; yet it is with them all even an article of faith that the “Holy Ghost dwelleth in the church,” — that is, in them that truly believe, — and herein have they an apprehension of such a personal presence of his as they cannot conceive. This, therefore, being so expressly, so frequently affirmed in the Scripture, and the comfort of the church, which depends thereon, being singular and eminent, it is unto me an important article of evangelical truth.
4. Although all the principal actings of the Holy Spirit in us and 388towards us as a comforter do depend on this head, or flow from this spring of his inhabitation, yet, in the confirmation of its truth, I shall here name one or two by which itself is evidenced and its benefits unto the church declared:—
(1.) This is the spring of his gracious operations in us. So our Saviour himself declares: “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” John iv. 14. The water here promised is the Holy Spirit, called the “gift of God,” verse 10. This is evident from that parallel place, chap. vii. 38, 39, where this living water is plainly declared to be the Holy Ghost. And this water which is given unto any is to be in him, and there to abide; which is but a metaphorical expression for the inhabitation of the Spirit, for it is to be in him as a well, as a living fountain, which cannot be spoken of any gracious habit whatever. No quality in our minds can be a spring of living water. Besides, all gracious habits are effects of the operation of the Holy Spirit; and therefore they are not the well itself, but belong unto the springing of it up in living water. So is the Spirit in his indwelling distinguished from all his evangelical operations of grace, as the well is distinct from the streams that flow from it. And as it is natural and easy for a spring of living water to bubble up and put forth refreshing streams, so it belongs unto the consolation of believers to know how easy it is unto the Holy Spirit, how ready he is, on the account of his gracious inhabitation, to carry on and perfect the work of grace, holiness, and sanctification in them. And what instruction they may take for their own deportment towards him may be afterwards spoken unto. So in many other places is his presence with us (which we have proved to be by the way of gracious inhabitation) proposed as the cause and spring of all his gracious operations, and so distinct from them. So, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us,” Rom. v. 5; “The Spirit of God that dwelleth in you shall quicken your mortal bodies,” chap. viii. 11; “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” verse 16: which places have been elsewhere explained and vindicated.
(2.) This is the hidden spring and cause of that inexpressible distance and difference that is between believers and the rest of the world. Our apostle tells us that the “life” of believers is “hid with Christ in God,” Col. iii. 3. A blessed life they have whilst they are here, dead to the world, and as dead in the world, — a life that will issue in eternal glory! But no such thing appears, no lustre of it is cast abroad into the eyes of men. “True,” saith the apostle, “for it is ‘hid with Christ in God.’ ” It is so both in its causes, nature, operations, and means of preservation. But by this hidden life it is that they 389are differenced from the perishing world. And it will not be denied, as I suppose, that this difference is real and great; for those who believe do enjoy the especial love and favour of God, whereas those who do not are “under the curse,” and “the wrath of God abideth on them.” They are “alive unto God,” but these are “dead in trespasses and sins.” And if men will not believe that there is so inexpressible a difference between them in this world, they will be forced to confess it at the last day, when the decretory sentences of, “Come, ye blessed,” and “Go, ye cursed,” shall be openly denounced. But, for the most part, there is no visible cause in the eyes of the world of this inexpressible and eternal difference between these two sorts of persons; for besides that, for the most part, the world doth judge amiss of all that believers are and do, and doth rather, through an inbred enmity, working by wicked and foolish surmises, suppose them to be the worst than absolutely the best of men, there is not, for the most part, such a visible, manifest difference in outward actions and duties, — on which alone a judgment may be passed in man’s day, — as to be a just foundation of believing so unspeakable a difference between their persons as is spoken of. There is a difference in their works, which indeed ought to be far greater than it is, and so a greater testimony is given to the righteousness of God,1 John iii. 12; there is yet a greater difference in internal, habitual grace, whereby the minds of believers are transformed initially into the image of God, Tit. i. 15; — but these things will not bear the weight of this inconceivable distance. Principally, therefore, it depends hereon, — namely, the inhabitation of the Spirit in them that believe. The great difference between the two houses that Solomon built was, that God dwelt in the one, and he himself in the other. Though any two houses, as unto their outward fabric, make the same appearance, yet if the king dwell in the one and a robber in the other, the one may be a palace and the other a den. It is this inhabitation of the Spirit whereon all the privileges of believers do immediately depend, and all the advantages which they have above the men of the world. And the difference which is made hereby or ensueth hereon is so inconceivably great, as that a sufficient reason may thence be given of all the excellent things which are spoken of them who are partakers of it.
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