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The Spirit a seal, and how.
Secondly, Another effect of the Holy Spirit as the comforter of the church is, that by him believers are sealed: 2 Cor. i. 21, 22, 400“He who anointed us is God, who hath also sealed us.” And how this is done the same apostle declares, Eph. i. 13, “In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” And chap. iv. 30, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” In the first place, it is expressly said that we are sealed with the Spirit; whereby the Spirit himself is expressed as this seal, and not any of his especial operations, as he is also directly said himself to be the “earnest of our inheritance.” In the latter, the words are, Ἐν ᾧ ἐσφραγίσθητε, “In whom,” in and by the receiving of whom, “ye are sealed.” Wherefore, no especial act of the Spirit, but only an especial effect of his communication unto us, seems to be intended hereby.
The common exposition of this sealing is taken from the nature and use of sealing among men, the sum whereof is this: Sealing may be considered as a natural or moral action, — that is, either with respect unto the act of it as an act, or with respect unto its use and end. In the first way, it is the communication of the character or image that is on the seal unto the thing that is sealed, or that the impression of the seal is set unto. In answer hereunto, the sealing of the Spirit should consist in the communication of his own spiritual nature and likeness unto the souls of believers; so this sealing should materially be the same with our sanctification. The end and use of sealing among men is twofold:— 1. To give security unto the performance of deeds, grants, promises, testaments, and wills, or the like engaging significations of our minds. And in answer hereunto, we may be said to be sealed, when the promises of God are confirmed and established unto our souls, and we are secured of them by the Holy Ghost. But the truth is, this were to seal the promises of God, and not believers. But it is persons, and not promises, that are said to be sealed. 2. It is for the safe-keeping or preservation of that which a seal is set upon. So things precious and highly valuable are sealed up, that they may be kept safe and inviolable. So, on the other hand, when Job expressed his apprehension that God would keep an everlasting remembrance of his sin, that it should not be lost or out of the way, he saith, “his transgression was sealed up in a bag,” chap. xiv. 17. And so it is that power which the Holy Ghost puts forth in the preservation of believers which is intended; and in this respect they are said to be “sealed unto the day of redemption.”
These things have been spoken unto and enlarged on by many, so that there is no need again to insist upon them. And what is commonly delivered unto this purpose is good and useful in the substance of it, and I have on several occasions long since myself made use of them. But upon renewed thoughts and consideration, I cannot 401fully acquiesce in them; for, — 1. I am not satisfied that there is such an allusion herein unto the use of sealing among men as is pretended; and if there be, it will fall out, as we see it hath done, that, there being so many considerations of seals and sealing, it will be hard to determine on any one in particular which is principally intended. And if you take in more, as the manner of the most is to take in all they can think of, it will be unavoidable that acts and effects of various kinds will be assigned unto the Holy Ghost under the term of sealing, and so we shall never come to know what is that one determinate act and privilege which is intended therein. 2. All things which are usually assigned as those wherein this sealing doth consist are acts or effects of the Holy Ghost upon us whereby he seals us, whereas it is not said that the Holy Spirit seals us, but that we are sealed with him; he is God’s seal unto us.
All our spiritual privileges, as they are immediately communicated unto us by Christ, so they consist wholly in a participation of that head, spring, and fullness of them which is in him; and as they proceed from our union with him, so their principal end is conformity unto him. And in him, in whom all things are conspicuous, we may learn the nature of those things which, in lesser measure and much darkness in ourselves, we are made partakers of. So do we learn our unction in his. So must we inquire into the nature of our being sealed by the Spirit in his sealing also; for as it is said that “he who hath sealed us is God,” 2 Cor. i. 21, 22, so of him it is said emphatically, “For him hath God the Father sealed,” John vi. 27. And if we can learn aright how God the Father sealed Christ, we shall learn how we are sealed in a participation of the same privilege.
I confess there are variety of apprehensions concerning the act of God whereby Christ was sealed, or what it is that is intended thereby. Maldonate, on the place, reckons up ten several expositions of the words among the fathers, and yet embraceth no one of them. It is not suited unto my design to examine or refute the expositions of others, whereof a large and plain field doth here open itself unto us; I shall only give an account of what I conceive to be the mind of the Holy Ghost in that expression. And we may observe, —
First, That this is not spoken of Christ with respect unto his divine nature. He is, indeed, said to be the character of the person of the Father in his divine person as the Son, because there are in him, communicated unto him from the Father, all the essential properties of the divine nature, as the thing sealed receiveth the character or image of the seal. But this communication is by eternal generation, and not by sealing. But it is an external, transient act 402of God the Father on the human nature, with respect unto the discharge of his office; for it is given as the reason why he should be complied withal and believed on in that work: “Labour for that bread which the Son of man shall give unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed.” It is the ground whereon he persuades them to faith and obedience unto himself.
Secondly, It is not spoken of him with an especial respect unto his kingly office, as some conceive; for this sealing of Christ they would have to be his designation of God unto his kingdom, in opposition unto what is affirmed, verse 15, that the people designed to come and make him a king by force: for that is only an occasional expression of the sense of the people, the principal subject treated on is of a nobler nature. But whereas the people did flock after him, on the account of a temporal benefit received by him, in that they were fed, filled, and satisfied with the loaves which he had miraculously increased, verse 26, he takes occasion from thence to propose unto them the spiritual mercies that he had to tender unto them; and this he doth, in answer unto the bread that they had eaten, under the name of “meat,” and “bread enduring to everlasting life,” which he would give unto them. Under this name and notion of meat he did comprise all the spiritual nourishment, in his doctrine, person, mediation, and grace, that he had prepared for them. But on what grounds should they look for these things from him? how might it appear that he was authorized and enabled thereunto? In answer unto that inquiry he gives this account of himself, “For him hath God the Father sealed,” — namely, unto this end.
Thirdly, Wherefore the sealing of God unto this end and purpose must have two properties and two ends also annexed unto it:— 1. There is in it a communication of authority and ability; for the inquiry is, how he could give them that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, as afterwards they ask expressly, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” verse 52. To this it is answered, that God the Father had sealed him; that is, he it was who was enabled of God the Father to give and dispense the spiritual food of the souls of men. This, therefore, is evidently included in this sealing. 2. It must have evidence in it also, — that is, somewhat whereby it may be evinced that he was thus authorized and enabled by God the Father; for whatever authority or ability any one may have unto any end, none is obliged to make application unto him for it, or depend upon him therein, unless it be evidenced that he hath that authority and ability. This the Jews immediately inquired after. “What sign,” say they, “showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?” verse 30; — “How shall it be demonstrated unto us that thou art authorized and enabled to give us the spiritual food of 403our souls?” This also belonged unto his sealing; for therein there was such an express representation of divine power communicated unto him as evidently manifested that he was appointed of God unto this work. These two properties, therefore, must be found in this sealing of the Lord Christ with respect unto the end here mentioned, — namely, that he might be the promus condus, or principal dispenser of the spiritual food of the souls of men.
Fourthly, It being God’s seal, it must also have two ends designed in it:— 1. God’s owning of him to be his. “Him hath God the Father sealed,” unto this end, that all may know and take notice of his owning and approbation of him. He would have him not looked on as one among the rest of them that dispensed spiritual things, but as him whom he had singled out and peculiarly marked for himself. And therefore this he publicly and gloriously testified at the entrance, and again a little before the finishing, of his ministry: for upon his baptism there came “a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Matt. iii. 17; which was nothing but a public declaration that this was he whom God had sealed, and so owned in a peculiar manner. And this testimony was afterward renewed again, at his transfiguration on the mount: chap. xvii. 5, “Behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him;” — “This is he whom I have sealed.” And this testimony is pleaded by the apostle Peter as that whereinto their faith in him, as the sealed one of God, was resolved, 2 Pet. i. 17, 18. 2. To manifest that God would take care of him, and preserve him in his work unto the end, Isa. xlii. 1–4.
Fifthly, Wherefore, this sealing of the Son is the communication of the Holy Spirit in all fullness unto him, authorizing him unto, and acting his divine power in, all the acts and duties of his office, so as to evidence the presence of God with him, and his approbation of him, as the only person that was to distribute the spiritual food of their souls unto men: for the Holy Spirit, by his powerful operations in him and by him, did evince and manifest that he was called and appointed of God to this work, owned by him and accepted with him; which was God’s sealing of him. Hence the sin of them who despised this seal of God was unpardonable; for God neither will nor can give greater testimony unto his approbation of any person than by the great seal of his Spirit, and this was given unto Christ in all the fullness of it. He was “declared to be the Son of God, according to the Spirit of holiness,” Rom. i. 4; and “justified in the Spirit,” or by his power evidencing that God was with him, 1 Tim. iii. 16. Thus did God seal the Head of the church with the Holy Spirit; and thence, undoubtedly, may we best learn how the members are sealed with the same Spirit, seeing we have all our measures out of his fullness, 404and our conformity unto him is the design of all gracious communications unto us.
Sixthly, Wherefore, God’s sealing of believers with the Holy Spirit is his gracious communication of the Holy Ghost unto them, so to act his divine power in them as to enable them unto all the duties of their holy calling; evidencing them to be accepted with him both unto themselves and others, and asserting their preservation unto eternal salvation. The effects of this sealing are gracious operations of the Holy Spirit in and upon believers; but the sealing itself is the communication of the Spirit unto them. They are sealed with the Spirit. And farther to evidence the nature of it, with the truth of our declaration of this privilege, we may observe, —
1. That when any persons are so effectually called as to become true believers, they are brought into many new relations, — as, to God himself, as his children; unto Jesus Christ, as his members; unto all saints and angels in the families of God above and below, as brethren; and are called to many new works, duties, and uses, which before they knew nothing of. They are brought into a new world, erected by the new creation; and which way soever they look or turn themselves, they say, “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” So it is with every one that is made a new creature in Christ Jesus, 2 Cor. v. 17. In this state and condition, wherein a man hath new principles put within him, new relations contracted about him, new duties presented unto him, and a new deportment in all things required of him, how shall he be able to behave himself aright, and answer the condition and holy station wherein he is placed? This no man can do of himself, for “who is sufficient for these things?” Wherefore, —
2. In this state God owns them, and communicates unto them his Holy Spirit, to fit them for their relations, to enable them unto their duties, to act their new principles, and every way to discharge the work they are called unto, even as their head, the Lord Christ, was unto his. God doth not now give unto them “the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” 2 Tim. i. 7. And hereby doth God seal them; for, —
(1.) Hereby he gives his testimony unto them that they are his, owned by him, accepted with him, his sons or children, — which is his seal; for if they were not so, he would never have given his Holy Spirit unto them. And herein consists the greatest testimony that God doth give, and the only seal that he doth set, unto any in this world. That this is God’s testimony and seal, the apostle Peter proveth, Acts xv. 8, 9; for on the debate of that question, whether God approved and accepted of the humble believers, although they observed not the rites of Moses, he confirmeth that he did with this 405argument: “God,” saith he, “which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness” How did he do it? how did he set his seal to them as his? Saith he, “By giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us.” Hereby God gives testimony unto them. And lest any should suppose that it was only the gifts and miraculous operations of the Holy Ghost which he had respect unto, so as that this sealing of God should consist therein alone, he adds, that his gracious operations also were no less an effect of this witness which God gave unto them: “And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”
This, therefore, is that whereby God giveth his testimony unto believers, namely, when he seals them with his Spirit, or by the communication of the Holy Spirit unto them. And this he doth in two respects; for, —
(2.) This is that whereby he giveth believers assurance of their relation unto him, of their interest in him, and of his love and favour to them. It hath been generally conceived that this sealing with the Spirit is that which gives assurance unto believers, — and so indeed it doth, although the way whereby it doth it hath not been rightly apprehended; and, therefore, none have been able to declare the especial nature of that act of the Spirit whereby he seals us, whence such assurance should ensue. But it is indeed not any act of the Spirit in us that is the ground of our assurance, but the communication of the Spirit unto us. This the apostle plainly testifieth. 1 John iii. 24, “Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” That God abideth in us and we in him is the subject-matter of our assurance. “This we know,” saith the apostle; which expresseth the highest assurance we are capable of in this world. And how do we know it? Even “by the Spirit which he hath given us.” But, it may be, the sense of these words may be, that the Spirit which God gives us doth, by some especial work of his, effect this assurance in us; and so it is not his being given unto us, but some especial work of his in us, that is the ground of our assurance, and consequently our sealing. I do not deny such an especial work of the Spirit as shall be afterward declared, but I judge that it is the communication of the Spirit himself unto us that is here intended; for so the apostle declares his sense to be, chap. iv. 13, “Hereby know we that we dwell in God, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.” This is the great evidence, the great ground of assurance, which we have that God hath taken us into a near and dear relation unto himself, “because he hath given us of his Spirit,” that great and heavenly gift which he will impart unto no others. And, indeed, on this one hinge depends the whole case of that assurance which believers are capable of: If the Spirit of God dwell in us, we are his; but “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he 406is none of his,” Rom. viii. 9. Hereon alone depends the determination of our especial relation unto God. By this, therefore, doth God seal believers, and therein gives them assurance of his love; and this is to be the sole rule of your self-examination whether you are sealed of God or no.
(3.) Hereby God evidenceth them unto the world; which is another end of sealing. He marks them so hereby for his own as that the world cannot but in general take notice of them; for where God sets this seal in the communication of his Spirit, it will so operate and produce such effects as shall fall under the observation of the world. As it did in the Lord Christ, so also will it do in believers according unto their measure. And there are two ways whereby God’s sealing doth evidence them unto the world. The one is by the effectual operation of the Spirit, communicated unto them both in gifts and graces. Though the world is blinded with prejudices, and under the power of a prevalent enmity against spiritual things, yet it cannot but discover what a change is made in the most of those whom God thus sealeth, and how, by the gifts and graces of the Spirit, which they hate, they are differenced from other men. And this is that which keeps up the difference and enmity that is in the world between the seeds; for God’s sealing of believers with his Spirit evidenceth his especial acceptance of them, which fills the hearts of them who are acted with the spirit of Cain with hatred and revenge. Hence many think that the respect which God had unto the sacrifice of Abel was testified by some visible sign, which Cain also might take notice of; and that there was an ἐμπυρισμός, the kindling of his sacrifice by fire from heaven; which was the type and resemblance of the Holy Ghost, as hath been showed. All other causes of difference are capable of a composition, but this about the seal of God can never be composed. And that which followeth from hence is, that those who are thus sealed with the Spirit of God cannot but separate themselves from the most of the world; whereby it is more evidenced unto whom they do belong.
(4.) Hereby God seals believers unto the day of redemption or everlasting salvation; for the Spirit thus given unto them is, as we have showed already, to “abide with them for ever,” as a “well of water in them, springing up into everlasting life,” John iv. 14, vii. 38.
This, therefore, is that seal which God grants unto believers, even his Holy Spirit, for the ends mentioned; which, according unto their measure, and for this work and end, answers that great seal of heaven which God gave unto the Son, by the communication of the Spirit unto him in all its divine fullness, authorizing and enabling him unto his whole work, and evidencing him to be called of God thereunto.
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