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Be filled with the Spirit.
INTEMPERANCE, though generally con
demned among the Heathens, was allowed in some of their festival solemnities. Lest the new converts in Ephesus should retain a usage, which had been deemed a part of religion, the Apostle gives them this caution, "Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess.”— In opposition to being filled with wine, he exhorts them to be" filled with the Spirit."
We will inquire,
What is intended by the Spirit. What is implied in being filled with the Spirit. And,
By what means we may obtain this privilege.
I. What is intended by the Spirit, is our first inquiry.
The word Spirit is in scripture used in various senses-for a human soul-an angel-the Deity. But when it is used indefinitely, as in the text, we are in most instances to understand by it that divine person who, by way of eminence, is called the Holy Spirit, and who is represented as dwelling in the hearts of good
men, to excite in them pure affections and assist them in religious duties.
"The Lord our God is one Lord." And we are to admit no conceptions of him inconsistent with his unity. But the scripture speaks of a threefold distinction in the godhead, under the names of Father, Son and Spirit, to each of which it ascribes divine and personal properties. We may therefore be allowed to call them divine persons, only taking care that we entertain no ideas repugnant to the unity and perfection of the Godhead.
What this distinction is, we cannot comprehend. It is sufficient that, on this inscrutable subject, we retain the language of holy writ, and speak, not in the words which man's wisdom has invented, but in the words which the Holy Ghost has taught.
The gospel represents each of these divine persons as sustaining a distinct part in the economy of our salvation. "We have access to God, through Christ, by the Spirit." The plan of man's redemption originated with the Father, who gave his only begotten Son, that we might live through him. The execution of this plan is committed to the Son, who, being manifested in the flesh, gave himself up to suffer death for our sins, and afterward arose from the dead and ascended into heaven, where he makes intercession for us: And, when the time for the continuance of the human succession shall be closed, he will appear to administer the grand affairs of the final judgment. The Holy Spirit is sent forth from the Father to apply the redemption which Christ has purchased. For this end he convinces men of sin, renews them to repentance, and dwells with the humble, disposing and assisting
them to the duties of the Christian life.
The Son of God is now on the right hand of the majesty in heaven; there he intercedes for us, receives and offers our prayers and obtains for us the remis
sion of our sins, in virtue of his sacrifice once offered on the cross.
The Spirit dwells with believers to lead them into truth, help their infirmities, strengthen their good resolutions, and preserve them unto salvation.
The Son is our high priest appearing for us in the temple of God and offering incense with our prayers. The Spirit is our comforter and helper to work in us according to God's good pleasure,
As Christians are called " the temples of the Holy Ghost," who is said to "dwell in them;" so when they are exhorted to be "filled with the Spirit," that divine Spirit, which in true believers is the principle of holiness, strength and comfort, must doubtless be intended.
God, in regard of his essential and providential presence is "above all, through all and in us all.”—“ He besets us before and behind; he possesses our reins." Something therefore very different from this must be intended, when we are exhorted to be "filled with the Spirit." The phrase must respect some moral and holy influence.
The manner in which the Spirit operates on the human mind, we can no more explain, than we can explain the operations of nature in the production of vegtable fruits, or in the formation of animal bodies. But as observation teaches us the latter, so revelation assures us of the former. If we believe that God is a perfect being, we must believe which he can influence the souls which he has made, in a manner agreeable to the natures which he has given them.
The Spirit was granted to the Apostles in an extraordinary measure: They were sent forth to preach a religion which contained many wonderful doctrines— a religion which was in many respects opposite to the common opinions and prejudices of Jews and Heathens -a religion which crossed the corrupt humors of men -a religion destitute of secular support, and likely to
be persecuted by the powers of the world. This religion they were to propagate among the nations of the earth, whose languages were as diverse as their sentiments. In order to a successful execution of this arduous commission, it was necessary, that they should be inspired with the knowledge of divine mysteries; that they should be secured from capital mistakes in communicating their heavenly doctrines; that they should be endued with the gift of tongues, so as to preach intelligibly to all men; that they should be furnished with a power to work miracles in conformation of the religion which they preached; and that they should be divinely supported under all the trials which attended their work. Accordingly we find, that they were filled with miraculous gifts and powers; and that, in consequence of their supernatural endowments, they propagated the gospel with surprising success. many expressions concerning the bestowment of the Spirit, have special reference to these miraculous gifts.
These extraordinary operations were to continue only for a season, until the Christian church was established, and the written revelation was completed. The Apostle says, "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge," supernaturally communicated, "it shall vanish away."
Even in the apostolic age, it was not every preacher, who received his knowledge by inspiration. Timothy is directed to hold fast the form of sound words, which he had heard from the Apostles, and to give attendance to reading, that, he might rightly understand, and wisely divide the word of truth. The gospel itself has taught us, that no additional revelations are to be made; and that whosoever shall presume to preach another gospel, or add to this which we have received, shall bring on himself the curses written in it.
But though miraculous gifts have ceased, still there is an internal influence of the Spirit common to this VOL. III.
and all ages of the Christian church. Our Saviour promises his disciples the Spirit to abide with them for ever. He represents the Father as giving the Spirit to every one who asks it. And it is the character of all true Christians, that they have the Spirit, are led by it and walk in it. Such expressions must intend some heavenly influence very different from immediate inspiration and miraculous gifts. A man might have these gifts of the Spirit, and yet be a stranger to its renewing influence-might prophesy, speak with tongues, abound in knowledge, and by faith remove mountains, and yet be nothing in religious estimation. Among the workers of iniquity, whom Christ, at the last day, will reject, many will plead, that in his name they have cast out devils and done other wonderful works. When therefore the Apostle exhorts believers to be filled with the Spirit, in opposition to being filled with wine, he must mean, that they should seek that holy influence, which forms the mind to a meetness for the kingdom of heaven.
I would add; by the Spirit we may understand those holy tempers which are called" the fruits of the Spirit," in opposition to "the works of the flesh." The latter are "uncleanness, hatred, variance, wrath, strife, drunkenness, revellings and such like." The former are "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, fidelity and temperance." Christians are directed to abound in love, hope and every good work—to be filled with the fruits of righteousness and with the knowledge of God's will-to grow in grace, and build themselves up on their most holy faith, adding to it virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity, till all these things abound in them. As these are the fruits of the Spirit, so to be filled with them is to be filled with the Spirit. And these are principally intended by the Spirit in our text. We proceed to shew,
II. What is implied in being filled with the Spirit.