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ON THE PERCEPTIBLE INFLUENCE AND GUIDANCE OF
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH.
It is generally allowed, among the professors of Christianity, that in us, that is in our “flesh” or natural man,“ dwelleth no good thing;” that we are unable of ourselves to fulfil the law of righteousness, or to serve the Lord with acceptance; and that the fountain of all true moral excellence, in mankind, is the Spirit of God. The serious and enlightened Christian, of every name, will readily confess that it is only through the influence of this Holy Spirit that he is enabled rightly to apprehend God, to know himself, and to accept Jesus Christ as his all-sufficient Saviour—that it is only through such an influence that he is converted in the first place, and afterward sanctified and prepared for his heavenly inheritance.
The differences of sentiment which exist in the church, on this great subject, have respect, not to the question whether the Holy Spirit does or does not operate on the heart of man,(for on this question all true Christians are agreed,) but principally, if not entirely,
the mode in which that Spirit operates.
On this point there appears to exist, among the professors of Christianity, and even among serious Christians, a considerable diversity of opinion. Some persons conceive that the Spirit of God does not influence the heart of man directly, but only through the means of certain appointed instruments; such as the Holy Scriptures and the word preached. Many others, who allow the direct and independent influences of the Spirit, and deem them absolutely essential to the formation of the Christian character, refuse to admit that they are perceptible to the mind; but consider them to be hidden in their actions, and revealed only in their fruits. Now, with Friends (and probably with many persons under other names)
it is a leading principle in religion, that the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul is not only immediate and direct, but perceptible. We believe that we are all furnished with an inward Guide or Monitor, who makes his voice known to us, and who, if faithfully obeyed and closely followed, will infallibly conduct us into true virtue and happiness, because he leads us into a real conformity with the will of God.
That our sentiments, on this important subject, are well founded that the principle in question forms a part of the unchangeable truth of God—is satisfactorily evinced, according to our apprehension, by various declarations contained in the Holy Scriptures.
In a former chapter I have called the attention of the reader to the doctrine, that a measure of the Spirit of the Son of God is bestowed upon all mankind; and I have endeavoured to show it to be in reference to his spiritual appearance in the hearts of his creatures, that Christ is styled “the true light which lightesh every man that cometh into the world.” Now, it is certain that nothing can justly be called light which does not make manifest. “All things that are reproved,” says the apostle Paul, “ are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest, is light:" Since, then, the Spirit of Christ, appearing in the soul of man, is light, it is plain that this Spirit makes manifest—communicates an actual moral sense_teaches what is right and what is wrong, in a perceptible or intelligible manner. Thus the Psalmist prayed as follows: “O send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill and to thy tabernacles ;!” The light and the truth, for which he thus offered up his petitions, could not be the written law, of which he was already in possession: the expressions are rather to be understood of the light of God's countenance, and the truth revealed by his Spirit: and these, according to the views of the Psalmist, were at once perceptible and powerful; for they were to lead him in the way of righteousness, and to bring him to the holy hill and tabernacles of God.
Under the Christian dispensation, the Holy Spirit is poured forth in pre-eminent abundance, as has been already observed, and as the Scriptures testify, on the souls of true believers in Jesus Christ. Of the operations of divine grace, under this new covenant, none of the inspired writers appear to have enjoyed a clearer view than the apostle Paul. Often was he led to expatiate on the Spirit who “ dwells” in the children of God, and who enables them, on the one hand, to mortify their carnal affections, and, on the other, to bear the peaceable fruits of righteousness. It is in or after this Spirit that the apostle commands us to walk: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit;' and again, to the Romans, he says, “ there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit :"? Now, to walk in or after the Spirit, who dwells in us, can be nothing less than to conform our life and conversation to his dictates; and this we could not do, unless those dictates were perceptible to the mind. On the same principles the apostle has, on two occasions, described Christians as persons who are led by the Spirit. “If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”+ Any one, who impartially examines the two chapters from which these quotations are derived, will easily perceive that the leading, of which Paul is here speaking, is not the instruction derived from inspired preaching, or from divinely authorized Scripture, but an internal work carried on by the Spirit in the soul of man. If, then, there be given to us an internal communication of the Spirit of Truth, by which we are to be led, it is surely very plain that such communication must be made manifest to our mental perception, or otherwise we could not follow it.
1 Eph. v. 13.
2 Ps. xliii. 3.
The Spirit, whose practical influence the apostle thus describes, is the Spirit of Christ. With this inspired writer the declarations, that the Spirit is in us, and that Christ is in us, appear to be equivalent. “But ye," says he, " are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead, because of (or as it relates to) sin ; but the Spirit is life, because of (or as it relates to) righteousness." Since, then, the apostle teaches us that we are to be led by the Spirit, and that the Spirit, by whom we are to be led, is the Spirit of Christ, we may, without difficulty, understand the principle on which Christ is denominated the “Shepherd and Bishop of souls."
i Gal. v. 25.
2 Rom. viii. 1.
3 Gal. v. 18.
The character of Jesus, as the Shepherd of his people, was unfolded in very touching expressions by our Lord himself. “I am the good Shepherd,” said he," and know my sheep, and am known of mine,... other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd.”—“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” The disciples of Jesus, who were gathered to him during his short abode upon the earth, undoubtedly enjoyed the privilege of being instructed by his outward voice; but the voice of Christ, which was to be afterward heard by his sheep, who were not of the Jewish fold, and which is still heard by his faithful followers, whom he leads “in the way of righteousness,” we may conclude to be the voice of his Spirit—a voice inwardly communicated to the soul of man. Such a view of our Lord's pastoral office, and of the method by which it is conducted, is perfectly accordant with the promise which he made to his disciples on a subsequent occasion : "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him ; but ye know him ; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”...." But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” “Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he shall shew you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you."
These passages contain a plain description of the perceptible guidance of the Spirit of Christ; and the same doctrine was declared, with equal clearness, by the apostle John, at a period when the promises thus made by the Lord Jesus had been graciously fulfilled in the experience of his disciples. “But ye,” says the apostle, “ have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”. “The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in and
1 John x. 14, 16, 27, 28.
2 John xiv. 16, 17, 26.
3 John xvi. 13, 14.
ye need not that any man teach you;
the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”
It may, indeed, be remarked, that the disciples who personally received these promises, and many of those primitive Christians whom the apostle was thus addressing, were endowed, for special purposes, with miraculous powers, and with a correspondent extraordinary measure of the Holy Spirit; but it cannot, I think, with any reason, be denied, that the promise of the Holy Ghost, the fulfilment of which is described in this passage of the apostle John, was addressed to all who might believe in all ages of the church of Christ. “He that believeth on me,” said the Saviour,“out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water ;” and, in a passage already cited, he expressly declared that the Spirit, whom he thus promised to believers, should abide with them " for ever." “Repent,” cried the apostle Peter to the listening multitude, “and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is
and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Hence, therefore it follows that the true believers in Jesus, of every description, and in all ages, are, in a peculiar manner, visited and guided by the Comforter. No longer are they to depend on the teaching of their fellow-creatures; for the anointing which they have received of Christ abideth in them, and teacheth them of all things, and is truth, and no lie.
Such was indeed one of the most striking characteristics of that new dispensation, under which all real Christians are living; and I cannot better conclude this selection of scriptural evidences on the perceptible guidance of the Holy Ghost, than by citing a well known prophetical description of that dispensation :-“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah ; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, though I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord; but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days saith the Lord, I will put my law in
1 1 John ï, 20, 27.
2 John vii. 38.
3 Acts ii. 38, 39.