Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 13th, 1860, by the
"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."John 14:26.
HERE ARE MANY CHOICE GIFTS comprehended in the Covenant of Grace, but the first and richest of them are these twainthe gift of Jesus Christ for us and the gift of the Holy Ghost to us. The first of these I trust we are not likely to undervalue. We delight to hear of that "unspeakable gift"the Son of God, who bare our sine, and carried our sorrows, and endured our punishment in his own body on the tree. There is something so tangible in the cross, the nails, the vinegar, the spear, that we are not able to forget the Master, especially when so often we enjoy the delightful privilege of assembling round his table, and breaking bread in remembrance of him. But the second great gift, by no means inferior to the firstthe gift of the Holy Spirit to usis so spiritual and we are so carnal, is so mysterious and we are so material, that we are very apt to forget its value, ay, and even to forget the gift altogether. And yet, my brethren, let us ever remember that Christ on the cross is of no value to us apart from the Holy Spirit in us. In vain that blood is flowing, unless the finger of the Spirit applies the blood to our conscience; in vain is that garment of righteousness wrought out, a garment without seam, woven from the top throughout, unless the Holy Spirit wraps it around us, and arrays us in its costly folds. The river of the water of life cannot quench our thirst till the Spirit presents the goblet and lifts it to our lip. All the things that are in the paradise of God itself could never be blissful to us so long as we are dead souls, and dead souls we are until that heavenly wind comes from the four corners of the earth and breathes upon us slain, that we may live. We do not hesitate to say, that we owe as much to God the Holy Ghost as we do to God the Son. Indeed, it were a high sin and misdemeanor to attempt to put one person of the Divine Trinity before another. Thou, O Father, art the source of all grace, all love and mercy towards us. Thou, O Son, art the channel of thy Father's mercy, and without thee thy Father's love could never flow to us. And thou, O Spiritthou art he who enables us to receive that divine virtue which flows from the fountainhead, the Father, through Christ the channel, and by thy means enters into our spirit, and there abides and brings forth its glorious fruit. Magnify, then, the Spirit, ye who are partakers of it; "praise, laud, and love his name always, for it is seemly so to do."
The surest pledge of glorious rest,
Which for the Church of God remains,
The end of cares, the end of pains."
II. And now I come to the second point, which was thisTHE METHODS BY WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT TEACHES GOD'S CHILDREN THESE PRECIOUS THINGS.
Here we must remark that we know nothing of the precise way of operation, because the Spirit is mysterious; we know not whence he cometh nor whither he goeth. But still let us describe what we can perceive. And first, in teaching God's people, one of the first things the Spirit does is to excite interest in their minds. I frequently find that when men are being educated for the ministry, the hardest thing is to set them going. They are like bats on the ground; if once a bat gets on the earth he cannot fly until he creeps to the top of a stone and gets a little above the earth, and then he gets wing and can fly well enough. So there are many who have not got their energies aroused, they have talent but it is asleep, and we want a kind of railway-whistle to blow in their ears to make them start up and rub away the film from their eyes so that they may see. Now it is just so with men, when the Spirit of God begins to teach them. He excites their interest in the things which he wishes them to learn he shows them that these things here a personal bearing upon their soul's present and eternal welfare. He so brings precious truth home, that what the man thought was utterly indifferent yesterday, he now begins to esteem inestimably precious "Oh!" said he, "theology I of what use can it be to me?" But now the knowledge of Christ and him crucified has become to him the most desirable and excellent of all the sciences. The Holy Spirit awakens his interest.
That done, he gives to the man a teachable spirit. There be men who will not learn. They profess that they want to know, but you never found the right way of teaching them. Teach them by little and little, and they easy"Do you think I am a child?" Tell them a great deal at once, and they say"You have not the power to make me comprehend!" will I have been competed sometimes to say to a man, when I have been trying to make him understand, and he has said "I cannot understand you," "Well, sir, I am thankful it is not my duty to give you an understanding if you have none." Now, the Holy Spirit makes a man willing to learn in any shape. The disciple sits down at the feet of Christ; and let Christ speak as he may, and teach him as he will, whether with the rod, or with a smile, he is quite willing to learn. Distasteful the lessons are, but the regenerated pupil loves to learn best the very things he once hated. Cutting to his pride the doctrines of the gospel each one of them may be, but for this very reason he loves them; for he cries, "Lord, humble me; Lord, bring me down; teach me those things that will make me cover my head with dust and ashes; show me my nothingness; teach me my emptiness; reveal to me my filthiness." So that the Holy Spirit thus proceeds with his work awaking interest, and enkindling a teachable spirit. This done, the Holy Ghost in the next place sets truth in a clear light, How bard it is sometimes to state a fact which you perfectly understand yourself, in such a way that another man may see it. It is like the telescope; there are many persons who are disappointed with a telescope, because whenever they walk into an observatory and put their eye to the glass, expecting to see the rings of Saturn, and the belts of Jupiter, they have said, "I can see nothing at all; a piece of glass, and a grain or two of dust is all I can see!" "But," says the astronomer, when he comes, "I can see Saturn in all her glory." Why cannot you? Because the focus does not suit the stranger's eye. By a little skill, the focus can be altered so that the observer may be able to see what he could not see before. So is it with language; it is a sort of telescope by which I enable another to see my thoughts, but I cannot always give him the right focus. Now the Holy Spirit always gives the right focus to every truth. He sheds a light so strong and forcible upon the Word, that the spirit says. "Now I see it, now I understand it." For even here, in this precious Book, there are words which I have looked at a hundred times, but I could not understand them, till at some favored hour, the key-word seemed as if it leaped up from the midst of the verse and said to me, "Look at the verse in my light," and at once I perceivednot always from a word in the verse itself, but sometimes in the contextI perceived the meaning which I could not see before. This, too, is a part of the Spirit's trainingto steed a light upon truth. But the Spirit not only enlightens the truth, but he enlightens the understanding. 'Tis marvellous, too, how the Holy Ghost does teach men who seemed as if they never could learn. I would not wish to say anything which my brother might be grieved at; but I do know some brethren, I won't say they are here today, but they are not out of the place come brethren whose opinion I would not take in anything worldly on any account. If h were anything to do with pounds, shillings, and pence anything where human judgment was concerned, I should not consult them; but those men have a deeper,. truer, and more experimental knowledge of the Word of God, than many who preach it, because the Holy Spirit never tried to teach them grammar, and never meant to. teach-them business never wanted to teach them astronomy, but he has taught them the Word of God, and they understand it. Other teachers have labored to beat the elements. of science into them but without success, for they are as thick and addled in they brains as they can well be; but the Holy Spirit teas taught them the Word of God, and. they are clear enough there. I come in close contact with some young men. When. we are taking our lessens for illustration out of the sciences, they seem to be all profound, and when I ask them a question to see if they have understood; they are lost; but, mark you, when we come to read: a chapter out of some old Puritanic bookcome to theologythose brethren give-me the smartest and sharpest answers of the whole class. When we once some to deal with things experimental and controversial, I find those men are able to double up their opponents, and vanquish them at once, because they are deeply read in the Word of God. The Spirit has taught them the things of Christ, but he has not taught them anything else. I have perceived, also, that when the Spirit of God: has enlarged the understanding to receive the Bible truth that understanding becomes more capable receiving other truth. I heard, some time ago, from a brother minister, when we were comparing notes, the story of a man who had been the dullest creature that was known. He was not more than one grade above an idiot, but when he was converted to God, one of the first things he wanted to do, was to read the Bible. They had a long, long teak to teach him a verse, but he would learn it, he would master it. He stuck at it as hard as ever he could, till he was able to read, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." That man was by-and-bye asked to engage in prayer. At first he hardly put a sentence together. By-and-bye he arrived at a considerable degree of fluency, because he would do it. He would not stand still, he said, in the prayer-meeting, and not have a word to say for his Master. He began to read his Bible much, and to pray with a great deal of profit and acceptableness to those that heard, and after awhile, he actuary began to speak in the villages, and became sometime after an honored and acceptable pastor of one of our Baptist Churches. Had it not been for the Spirit of God first expanding the understanding to receive religious truth, that understanding might have been cramped, and fettered, and fast bolted to this very day, and the man might have been ever after an idiot, and so have gone down to his grave, while now he stands up to tell to sinners round, in burning language, the story of the cross of Christ. The Spirit teaches us by enlightening the understanding.
Lest I weary you, let me hurry on through the other points. He teaches us also by refreshing the memory. "He shall bring all things to your remembrance." He puts all those old treasures into the ark of our soul, and when the time comes, he opens it, and brings out these precious things in right good order, and shows them to us again and again. He refreshes the memory, and when this is done, he does better, he teaches us the Word, by making us feel its effect, and that, after all, is the best way of learning. You may try to teach a child the meaning of the term "sweetness;" but words will not avail, give him some honey and he win never forget it. You might seek to tell him of the glorious mountains, and the Alps, that pierce the clouds and send their snows peaks, like white-robed ambassadors up to the courts of heaven: take him there, let him see them, and he will never forget them. You might seek to paint to him the grandeur of the American continent, with its hills, and lakes, and rivers, such as the world saw not before: let him go and view it, and he will know more of the land than he could know by all your teaching, when he site at home. So the Holy Spirit does not only tell us of Christ's love; he sheds it abroad in the heart. He does not merely tell us of the sweetness of pardon; but he gives us a sense of no condemnation, and then we know an about it, better than we could have done by any teaching of words and thoughts. He takes us into the banqueting house and waves the banner of love over us. He bids us visit the garden of nets, and makes us lie among the lilies. He gives us that bundle of camphire, even our beloved, and bids us place it all night betwixt our breasts. He takes us to the cross of Christ, and he bids us put our finger into the print of the nails, and our hands into his side, and tells us not come "faithless, but believing," and so in the highest and most effectual manner he teacheth us to profit.
III. But now I shall come to my third point, although I feel so if I wished my subject were somewhat less comprehensive, but indeed it is a fault which does not often happento have too much rather than too little to speak of, except when we come upon a topic where God is to be glorified, and here indeed our tongue must be like the pen of a ready writer, when we speak of the things that we have made touching the king.
I am now to speak to you about the CHARACTERISTICS AND NATURE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT'S TEACHING. And first I would remark that the Holy Ghost teaches sovereignty. He teaches whom he pleases. He takes the fool and makes him know the wonders of the dying love of Christ, to bring aspiring wisdom low and make the pride of man humble and abase itself. And as the Spirit teaches whom he wills, so he teaches when he wills. He has his own hours of instruction, and he will not be limited and bound by us. And then again he teaches as he willssame by affliction, some by. communion; some he teaches by the Word read, some by the Word spoken, some by neither, but directly by his own agency. And so also the Holy Spirit is a sovereign in that he teaches in whatever degree he pleases. He will make one man learn much, while another comprehends but little. Some Christiana wear their beards earlythey come to a rapid and high degree of maturity, and that on a sudden, while others creep but slowly to the goal, sad are very long in reaching it. Some Christians in early years understand more than others whose hairs have turned grey. The Holy Ghost is a sovereign. He doe not have all his pupils in one class, and them all the same lesson by simultaneous instruction; but each man is in a separate class, each man learning a separate lesson. Some beginning at the end of the book, some at the beginning, and some in the middlesome learning one doctrine and some another, some going backwards and some forwards. The Holy Spirit teacheth sovereignly, and giveth to every man according as he wills, but then, wherever he teaches at all, he teaches effectually. He never failed to make us learn yet. No scholar was ever turned out of the Spirit's school incorrigible. He teaches all his children, not some of them"All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children,"the last sentence being a proof that they have been effectually taught. Never once did the Spirit bring home the truth to the heart and yet that heart fail to receive it. He hath modes of touching the secret springs of life, and putting the truth into the very core of the being. He casts his healing mixtures into the fountain itself, and not into the streams. We instruct the ear, and the ear is far removed from the heart; he teaches the heart itself, and therefore his every word falleth upon good soil, and bringeth forth good and abundant fruithe teaches effectually. Dear brother, do you feel yourself to be a great fool sometimes? Your great Schoolmaster will make a good scholar of you yet. He will so teach you, that you shall be able to enter the kingdom of heaven knowing as much as the brightest saints. Teaching thus sovereignly and effectually, I may add, he teaches infallibly. We teach you errors through want of caution, sometimes through over zeal, and again through the weakness of our own mind. In the greatest preacher or teacher that ever lived there was some degree of error, and hence our hearers should always bring what we say to the law and the testimony; but the Holy Ghost never teaches error, if thou hast learned anything by the Spirit of God, it is pure, unadulterated, undiluted truth. Put thyself daily under his teaching, and thou shalt never learn a word amiss, nor a thought awry, but become infallibly taught, well taught in the whole truth as it is in Jesus.
Further, where the Spirit thus teaches infallibly he teaches continually. Whom once he teaches, he never leaves till he has completed their education. On, and on, and on, however dull the scholar, however frail the memory, however vitiated the mind, he still continues with his gracious work, till he has trained us up and made us "meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Nor does he leave us till he has taught us completely; for as our text says, "He shall teach you all things." There is not a truth so high that it shall not yet be mastered, nor a doctrine so hard that it shall not yet be received. High up, high up, tower the heights of the hill of knowledge, but there, when there, thy feet shall stand. Weary may be the way and weak thy knees, but up thither thou shalt climb, and one day with thy forehead bathed in the sunlight of heaven, thy soul shall stand and look down on tempests, mists, and all earth's clouds and smoke, and see the Master face to face, and be like him, and know him as he is. This is the joy of the Christian, that he shall be completely taught, and that the Holy Spirit will never give him up till; he has taught him all truth.
I fear, however, that this morning I weary you. Such a theme as this will not be likely to be suitable to all minds. As I have already said, the spiritual mind alone receiveth spiritual things, and the doctrine of the Spirit's agency will never be very interesting to those who are entire strangers to it. I could not make another man understand the force of an electric shock unless he has felt it. It would not be likely at all that he would believe in those secret energies which move the world, unless he had some means of testing for himself. And those of you that never felt the Spirit's energy, are as much strangers to it as a stone would be. You are out of your element when you hear of the Spirit. You know nothing of his divine power; you have never been taught of him, and therefore how should you be careful to know what truths he teaches?
I close, therefore, with this sorrowful reflection. Alas, alas, a thousand times alas, that there should be so many who know not their danger, who feel not their load, and in whose heart the light of the Holy Ghost hath never shone! Is it your case my dear hearer, this morning? I do not ask you whether you have been ever educated in the school of learning; that you may be, and you may have taken your degree and been first-class in honors, but you may still be as the wild ass's colt that knows nothing about these things. Religion, and the truth of it, is not to be learnt by the head. Years of reading, hours of assiduous study, will never make a man a Christian. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing." Oh! art thou destitute of the Spirit of the living God? For oh! I charge thee to remember this my hearer: if in thy soul mysterious and supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit has never been shed abroad, thou art an utter stranger to all the things of God. The promises are not thine; heaven is not thine, thou art on thy road to the land of the dead, to the region of the corpse, where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched. Oh that the Spirit of God may rest upon you now! Bethink you, you are absolutely dependent upon his influence. You are in God's hand today to be saved or to be lostnot in your own hands, but in his. You are dead in sins; unless he quickens you, you must remain so. The moth beneath your finger is not more absolutely at your mercy than you are now at the mercy of God. Let him but will to leave you as you are, and you are lost; but oh! if mercy speaks and says, "Let that man live," you are saved. I would that you could feel the weight of this tremendous doctrine of sovereignty. It is like the hammer of Thor, it may shake your heart however stout it be, and make your rocky soul tremble to its base.
Hang on his firm decree."
Your destiny hangs there now; and will you rebel against the God in whose hand your sours eternal fate now rests? Will you lift the puny hand of your rebellion against him who alone can quicken youwithout whose gracious energy you are dead, and must be destroyed? Will you go this day and sin against light and against knowledge t Will you go to day and reject mercy which is proclaimed to you in Christ Jesus? If so, no fool was ever so mad as you are, to reject him without whom you are dead, and lost, and ruined. O that instead thereof there may be the sweet whisper of the Spirit saying, "Obey the divine command, believe on Christ and live I" Hear thou the voice of Jehovah, who cries, "This is the commandment, that ye believe in Jesus Christ whom he hath sent?" Thus obedient, God saith within himself, "I have set my love upon him, therefore will I deliver him. I will set him on high because he hath known my name;" and you shall yet live to sing in heaven of that sovereignty which, when your soul trembled in the balances, decided for your salvation, and gave you light and joy unspeakable. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on Calvary's cross, "and whosoever believeth on him shall be saved." "Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." Believe that record truer cast down your weapons; yield to the sovereignly of the Holy Ghost; and he shall assuredly prove to you that, in that very yielding, there was a proof that he had loved you; for he made you yield; he made you willing to bow before him in the day of his power. May the Holy Spirit now rest on the word I have spoken, for Jesu's sake!