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SERMON I. WHITSUNDAY.
OF THE SPIRIT OF GRACE.
But ye 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 sin; but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness.-Rom. viii. 9, 10.
THIS day, in which the church commemorates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, was the first beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was the first day that the religion was professed: now the Apostles first opened their commission, and read it to all the people. "The Lord gave his Spirit (or, the Lord gave his Word), and great was the company of the preachers." For so I make bold to render that prophecy of David. Christ was the Word' of God, • Verbum æternum;' but the Spirit was the Word of God, 'Verbum patefactum:' Christ was the Word manifested in the flesh; the Spirit was the Word manifested to flesh, and set in dominion over, and in hostility against, the flesh. The Gospel and the Spirit are the same thing; not in substance; but the manifestation of the Spirit is the Gospel of Jesus Christ' and because he was this day manifested, the Gospel was this day first preached, and it became a law to us, called "the law of the Spirit of life;"* that is, a law taught us by the Spirit, leading us to life eternal. But the Gospel is called the Spirit;' 1. Because it contains in it such glorious mysteries, which were revealed by the immediate inspirations of the Spirit, not only in the matter itself, but also in the man
ner and powers to apprehend them. For what power of human understanding could have found out the incarnation of a God; that two natures [a finite, and an infinite] could have been concentred into one hypostasis (or person); that a virgin should be a mother; that dead men should live again; that the κόνις ὀστέων λυθέντων, « the ashes of dissolved bones should become bright as the sun, blessed as the angels, swift in motion as thought, clear as the purest noon; that God should so love us, as to be willing to be reconciled to us, and yet that himself must die that he might pardon us; that God's most holy Son should give us his body to eat, and his blood to crown our chalices, and his Spirit to sanctify our souls, to turn our bodies into temperance, our souls into minds, our minds into spirit, our spirit into glory; that he, who can give us all things, who is Lord of men and angels, and King of all the creatures, should pray to God for us without intermission; that he, who reigns over all the world, should, at the day of judgment, give up the kingdom to God. the Father,' and yet, after this resignation, himself and we with him should for ever reign the more gloriously; that we should be justified by faith in Christ, and that charity should be a part of faith, and that both should work as acts of duty, and as acts of relation; that God should crown the imperfect endeavours of his saints with glory, and that a human act should be rewarded with an eternal inheritance; that the wicked, for the transient pleasure of a few minutes, should be tormented with an absolute eternity of pains; that the waters of baptism, when they are hallowed by the Spirit, shall purge the soul from sin; and that the spirit of man should be nourished with the consecrated and mysterious elements, and that any such nourishment should bring a man up to heaven: and, after all this, that all Christian people, all that will be saved, must be partakers of the divine nature, of the nature, the infinite nature, of God, and must dwell in Christ, and Christ must dwell in them, and they must be in the Spirit, and the Spirit must be for ever in them? These are articles of so mysterious a philosophy, that we could have inferred them from no premises, discoursed them upon the stock of no natural or scientifical principles; nothing but God and God's Spirit could have taught them to us: and therefore the Gospel is 'Spiritus patefactus,' the manifestation of the Spirit,' ad
ædificationem** (as the Apostle calls it), for edification,' and building us up to be a holy temple to the Lord.
2. But when we had been taught all these mysterious articles, we could not, by any human power, have understood them, unless the Spirit of God had given us a new light, and created in us a new capacity, and made us to be a new creature, of another definition. Animalis homo,' xixòs, that is, as. St. Jude expounds the word, vea un xv, "The animal, or the natural man, the man that hath not the Spirit, cannot discern the things of God, for they are spiritually discerned ;"+ that is, not to be understood but by the light proceeding from the Sun of Righteousness, and by that eye whose bird is the holy Dove, whose candle is the Gospel. Scio incapacem te sacramenti, impie,
Non posse cæcis mentibus mysterium
Haurire nostrum: nil diurnum nox capit.
He that shall discourse Euclid's elements to a swine, or preach (as venerable Bede's story reports of him) to a rock, or talk metaphysics to a boar, will as much prevail upon his assembly, as St. Peter and St. Paul could do upon uncircumcised hearts and ears, upon the indisposed Greeks, and prejudicate Jews. An ox will relish the tender flesh of kids with as much gust and appetite, as an unspiritual and unsanctified man will do the discourses of angels or of an Apostle, if he should come to preach the secrets of the Gospel. And we find it true by a sad experience. How many times doth God speak to us by his servants the prophets, by his Son, by his Apostles, by sermons, by spiritual books, by thousands of homilies, and arts of counsel and insinuation; and we sit as unconcerned as the pillars of a church, and hear the sermons as the Athenians did a story, or as we read a gazette? And if ever it comes to pass, that we tremble, as Felix did, when we hear a sad story of death, of righteousness and judgment to come,' then we put it off to another time, or we forget it, and think we had nothing to do but to give the good man a hearing; and as Anacharsis said of the Greeks, they used money for nothing but to cast account withal; so our hearers make use of sermons and discourses evangelical, but to fill up void spaces of their time, to help to tell an hour with, or pass it without tediousness. The reason of this is, † 1 Cor. ii. 14.
* 1 Cor. xii. 7.
a sad condemnation to such persons; they have not yet entertained the Spirit of God, they are in darkness: they were washed in water, but never baptized with the Spirit; for these things are spiritually discerned.' They would think the preacher rude, if he should say,—they are not Christians, they are not within the covenant of the Gospel:-but it is certain, that the Spirit of manifestation' is not yet upon them; and that is the first effect of the Spirit, whereby we can be called sons of God, or relatives of Christ. If we do not apprehend, and greedily suck in, the precepts of this holy discipline, as aptly as merchants do discourse of gain, or farmers of fair harvests, we have nothing but the name of Christians; but we are no more such really, than mandrakes are men, or sponges are living creatures.
3. The Gospel is called Spirit,' because it consists of spiritual promises and spiritual precepts, and makes all men that embrace it truly, to be spiritual men; and therefore St. Paul adds an epithet beyond this, calling it a quickening Spirit," that is, it puts life into spirits, which the law could not. The law bound us to punishment, but did not help us to obedience, because it gave not the promise of eternal life to its disciples. The Spirit,' that is, the Gospel,' only does this and this alone is it which comforts afflicted minds, which puts activeness into wearied spirit, which inflames our cold desires, and does ȧvaruga, blows up sparks' into live coals, and coals up to flames, and flames into perpetual burnings. And it is impossible that any man,—who believes and considers the great, the infinite, the unspeakable, the unimaginable, and never-ceasing joys, that are prepared for all the sons and daughters of the Gospel,-should not desire them and, unless he be a fool, he cannot but use means to obtain them, effective, hearty pursuances. For it is not directly in the nature of a man to neglect so great a good; there must be something in his manners, some obliquity in his will, or madness in his intellectuals, or incapacity in his naturals, that must make him sleep such a reward away, or change it for the pleasure of a drunken fever, or the vanity of a mistress, or the rage of a passion, or the unreasonableness of any sin. However, this promise is the life of all our actions, and the Spirit that first taught it, is the life of our souls.
1 Cor. xv. 45.