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Nor can the greatest tribulations or persecutions abate that confidence. It is true, that the present circumstances of Christians, when most favorable, and much more when they are poor and persecuted, and variously afflicted in other ways, form a strange contrast with their future hope; still that hope, great and glorious and blessed as it is, and little and mean and afflicted as their present state may be, makes them not ashamed; nor shall it ever make them ashamed, so long as the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto them. That constitutes the firmest basis of their lofty expectations in reference to their future state, as it gives them already to feel everlasting consolation.
That we may have a full view of this important subject, let us distinctly consider the love of God here referred to; the sense in which it is said to be shed abroad in our hearts ; and how the gift of the Holy Ghost is necessary to that effect: as we shall then clearly see, that, when the love of od is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us, we have a personal reason for our hope of the glory of God, which must fill us with exultation, under any circumstances, however afflictive and discouraging they may be, and prevent our hope from ever making us ashamed.
I. By the love of God here referred to, it is clear, we are not to understand that which we feel toward Him, but that which He has manifested toward us. The apostle informs us, that the love of God was manifested toward us when we were yet sinners, ungodly, without strength, and enemies to Him. It was manifested in the provision of a medium of reconciliation, that we, being delivered from His just displeasure, by the interposition of a sacrifice of infinite value and omnipotent efficacy, might regain his favor, and be fitted, by the renewal of our hearts in righteousness and the restoration of our whole nature to immortality, for the everlasting enjoyment of the beatific vision, in the heaven of heavens,—the habitation of God's holiness and His glory. Scarcely,' says the apostle, .for a righteous man would one die ; yet, peradventure, for a good man some would even dare to die : but God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' On this he founds the following legitimate reasonings :- Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement,' or that reconciliation which could only be accomplished by the sacrificial death of Christ, and was merely typified under the ministration of condemnation and death.
It is manifest, from the entire scope of the apostle's argument in this chapter, that he is speaking of a transaction, in which the love of God was freely shown to sinful man ; whose case, independent of that amazing display of the Divine goodness, was utterly hopeless. All this infinite love was exhibited to the sinner, in his lost estate, for the purpose of raising him out of it; and that in a manner which brings an omnipotent moral energy to act upon him, in order to destroy the enmity of his carnal mind against God and goodness, and to constrain him to submit the whole of his nature to the saving operation of the
Holy Spirit of truth and love ; who thus not only regenerates his soul, but also makes his body his own temple, and will hereafter so quicken and invigorate and perfect it, that even in his flesh man shall see God for himself and enjoy His glory for ever. This is the love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.'
II. But in what sense is this said to be shed abroad in our hearts ? In proceeding to consider this particular, we shall do well not to suffer ourselves, if not to be led wholly astray from the intention of the apostle in using such language, at least to overlook a great part of his meaning, by the illusion arising from a comparatively modern use of the term heart. The distinction now often made between the heart and the head appears to have been wholly unknown to the inspired writers. Anciently the heart was considered as the seat of all that is intellectual and moral, as well as of all that is vital and impassioned in man; while the head is never mentioned by them as the proper seat of reason and intelligence, as it is with us. We need not here stop to inquire into the comparative merits of these two systems of physiology; as it is quite sufficient to our purpose to observe, that the heart is generally taken, in Scripture, to signify all the powers of the human soul: and, when that distinction we intend to mark, by using the terms head and heart, is marked in the word of God, it appears to be done by using the words the heart and the reins ; where the former term does not stand for the affections, but the latter. For it was supposed (perhaps justly) that the reins are more sensibly affected by the passions of men than the heart generally is.
Having made these observations, to preserve your minds from the errors too often arising from the confusion of tongues, we proceed to observe, that the love of God may be said to be shed abroad in our hearts, in the sense intended by the apostle, when our minds are properly filled with its glorious and affecting idea, and the whole of the inner man is brought under its saving and blessed influence. This, however, includes several important particulars which it will be proper to notice distinctly.
1. It includes a distinct perception of it, according to all its length and breadth and depth and height. When we see that God has a Son who, being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,' is the object of His infinite and eternal affection; that He has all His Father's boundless love for us; and, that He was sent to assume our nature, and to offer Himself up, in that nature, as a spotless victim, to atone for our transgressions,—that He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows-was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities,-chastised to secure our peace and afflicted with stripes that we might be healed : when we see all this, a cheering and holy light diffuses itself over our intellect, in a manner which will for ever prevent us from speaking of that sacred radiance contemptuously, as mere head knowledge. Whatever our heads may have to do in the apprehension of it, and by whatever name men may think proper to designate it, we then know that God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ.' We recognize in that clear intellectual apprehension of the manifest meaning of the intelligible words, • Herein is love ; not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins ;' the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, conducting us to the true and saving knowledge and acknowledgment, both internal and external, of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savor.' Thus we know that God hath given to, us eternal life, and that that life is in His Son;' that, through the merit of His death, we pass from death to life ; and that we shall be made perfectly, and for ever, happy with God in glory.
2. It includes a full persuasion of the truth of all these representations; that we follow no cunningly devised fables, but the certain declarations of the God of eternal truth and love ; who cannot lie, and can have no intention to deceive us by any thing that He has said. Our faith is exercised in the full blaze of heaven's eternal Sun, who is the light and joy of all pure and obedient intelligences in the vast creation. It rests upon a basis more solid and permanent than the everlasting hills; on a basis which shall remain unshaken amid the war of elements, the wreck of matter, and the crash of worlds.' The stars themselves shall fade away, the heavens be folded up like a vestment, and be changed, and the whole of this visible creation give place to one still more glorious; but we are assured that no part of that consoling truth, which fills and dilates our spirits with its sublime and sacred discoveries, shall ever appear to us otherwise than as the certain revelation of immutable veracity. In that faith also the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.'
3. It consequently includes a most delightful feeling of personal interest in the truth we thus so distinctly apprehend and fully credit. When we are truly conscious that we are, in ourselves, void of strength, for any good thought, or purpose, or word, or deed; ungodly and sinners, and enemies to God; and feel the misery of our condition as such,—we cannot get that just view of the love of God, as manifested to such fallen and miserable beings, in the death of His Son, in order to their reconciliation and redemption and eternal life and blessedness, and fully rely on the eternal veracity of the whole of the Divine testimony respecting these things, without feeling within ourselves solid peace and joy and hope. All our affections will be stirred by such an enlightened and steady faith in the record that God hath given of His Son.' Confidence, gratitude, love, veneration, in a word, every feeling that can be conceived to arise out of a sense of God's immense goodness toward us, and to connect itself with our supreme love to Him, will fill and bless and purify the heart.
Whatever men may think of their knowledge of Christ, and of their faith in Him, who are unconscious of such holy and devout affections as give purity to the whole soul, and fill the life with the fruits of righteousness, they may assure themselves that there is a glory in the Gospel which they never saw, an energy which they never felt, and a revelation of the love of God to which they are still entire strangers. Theirs is still an evil heart of unbelief, which departs from the living God, and desires not the knowledge of His ways. They were never yet truly humbled before God, nor felt the import of that awful truth, so manifestly implied in these blessed words, God so loved the world, that
He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For, however cheering this language may be to the man that believes he deserves to perish, and is persuaded that this declaration is the certain truth of God, on which the true penitent may fully rely; it will be regarded with a cold and unmoved heart by him whose unsubdued spirit, whatever may be his general acknowledgment of his sinfulness and danger, never felt the pangs of a full conviction that he must have perished, had it not been for that amazing love ; and who never yet perceived that faith is the gift of God, and yet that the guilt of man's unbelief is altogether his own; because he will not humbly pray for that Holy Spirit of promise, without whose Divine inspiration man will ever wander, in the pride of his own spirit, amidst the darkness and perplexity of his foolish imaginations.
3. We proceed to show how the gift of the Holy Ghost is necessary to produce that distinct apprehension and unshaken confidence in the love of God, as manifested in our redemption by the sacrificial death of Christ; which manifestation diffuses the joyous sense of the love of God through our souls, in such a manner as must for ever prevent us from being ashamed of our hope of the glory of God. We know that the first effusion of the Holy Ghost upon
Christians was accompanied by many extraordinary signs and circumstances, and that such signs and circumstances continued to accompany it, at least, in many instances, during the whole of the apostolic age. But we cannot admit, as any legitimate consequence of this, that the same Spirit is not still given for the illumination of men, though all such extraordinary signs and circumstances have long ceased to be indications of His special presence and operation. When the apostle informs us that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, that they are foolishness to him, and that he cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned,' the whole scope of his argument goes to show, that the gift of the Holy Ghost was not only necessary to lead the first teachers of Christianity to the knowledge of its great truths, called by him the things of the Spirit of God, and the things that are freely given to us of God;' and to qualify them to make these things known to the rest of the world, in the most proper and intelligible language ; but that the same gift was equally necessary to those who would rightly receive what they thus taught, and must be necessary
future age. The reason assigned by him, in the words just repeated, will apply in every case.
We may also observe, that it was not the sound of the mighty rushing wind, that filled the place where the first disciples waited in prayer for the promised Comforter, nor the cloven tongues of fire, that sat upon their heads, when they were filled with His holy influence, that enlightened and sanctified them. The mighty wind and the cloven tongues of fire were but signs of His coming and His presence with them, for the purposes which the Redeemer told them He should accomplish when He came. It was to give a purity and elevation to their spirits, which would enable them to understand, when brought to their remembrance, the words He had spoken to them, at a time when they could only obscurely guess at their meaning, and which they
often most strangely misunderstood. But when the Spirit of truth came, He led them into all the truth. Hence the manifest clearness of their views for ever after that event; the boldness and energy with which they stated and proved all the great truths of the Gospel; and the purity and consistency of the whole of their subsequent conduct.
The absence of those extraordinary signs and circumstances cannot fairly be supposed to render the influences of the Christian Comforter legs efficacious in the hearts of the truly faithful in the present age. The Gospel is still the ministration of the Spirit. He alone can qualify any man to exercise aright the sacred functions of that ministry. This is clearly supposed in the solemn question proposed to every candidate for it, by the bishops of our established Church: • Dost thou trust that thou art inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon thee this office and ministration?' It is only under that Spirit's holy inspiration that any man can come to a saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. For, though the words which that sacred Spirit taught the apostles to use, in stating and defending that truth, are still extant in their inspired writings, and cannot be charged with any affected obscurity ; they relate to matters so pure, so elevated, and so foreign to the ordinary thoughts and imaginations of men, that they will be misunderstood by them, be deemed obscure and perplexing, if not foolish, and absurd, and contradictory; and, at best, those who are void of the same inspiration, which made the apostles able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, can but guess at what they intended, and will often greatly err in the judgments they form of their meaning; and, if they would speak out, they must confess that they see no giory in the Gospel of the blessed God, and cannot conceive what reason there was for our apostle to say, 'I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.'
We mean to inculcate nothing enthusiastic by all this. tles spake forth the words of truth and soberness; as every one will acknowledge, who has not received the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' The Holy Ghost is not given to pervert, but to rectify the mind of man. He never elevates the imagi. nation of any one over his reason and judgment. He gives that strength to reason, and precison to judgment, which keep that Protean faculty, called the imagination, in its proper place; and only employs it to throw around the naked truth such modest and becoming ornaments as never hide her true form and proportions from the view of mankind. There is imagination in the book of God; but it is never wild, never vain, never misleading, never without judgment : it never perverts nor conceals the truth.
The Spirit of God, by purifying and elevating and giving perspicuity to the soul of man, removes from it that veil of prejudice and passion, and secular conceptions, which prevent it from seeing light even in the holy light of God's eternal truth. The Spirit of revelation is the Spirit of wisdom. And he blasphemes that Holy Comforter, who attributes to Him the foolish reveries of his own fancy. If we are truly inspired, we shall be ever ready to give, to every man that asketh us, a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear. We are influenced by no rash and headlong confidence when we boast in hope of the glory of God; nor when we boast in tribulations either. We are not