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BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.
EPH. v. 18.
Be filled with the Spirit.
N the prosecution of this subject, I have already considered the sense and import of the phrase, being filled with the Spirit. I now proceed,
II. To enquire, what may be implied in its being made the matter of an exhortation to us; as by the structure of the words and the context you plainly see it is. And in that view, the words plainly intimate three things, which all deserve a distinct and careful consideration; the desirableness of being filled with the Spirit: the attainableness of it: and that something is incumbent on us in order to our being filled with him.
1. That every one should esteem it a most desirable thing. So the apostle recommends it, in opposition to what the loose and libertine heathens were exceeding fond of, the mirth and jollity raised by wine. But while they think it strange, that you run not with them into the same excess of riot ;" you. know the way to much better and truer satisfaction. A fulness of the divine Spirit is a blessing of that unspeakable goodness and excellence, that one would think the bare knowledge and consideration of it should raise in every breast ardent desires after it. And it is as undoubted a mark as any other, of the general distemper which hath overspread human nature, and that the taste and relish of men is strangely vitiated; that wherever the gospel comes, and makes known the
influences of the Spirit for such beneficial purposes, any should be found insensible of their need of them, and of the blessedness of being filled with them. Let us take a brief view of its excellence.
It is in itself most directly perfective of our natures. For it is to be filled with every grace and virtue; and indeed is the only way by which we can possibly be so, since the distemper and death of sin has gained such a power over us by the apostacy. As far as we are partakers of the Spirit, and no farther, we come to ourselves.
This would make us the objects of divine complacency. There is nothing in man in which a Holy God can take so much delight as the produce of his own Spirit in him. That must be godlike, comporting with his nature and design. And therefore he, who shares most largely in that, must be in the most eminent sense greatly beloved; as is said of Daniel.
Nothing can form men to a "fitness for bringing much honour to God," or for being singularly useful to the world, especially to the interests of virtue and religion, but this. We shall never design great things for God or our generation, much less execute them well, unless we are under the influence
of a better spirit than our own. But under the instigation, direction, and powerful assistance of the divine Spirit, we shall be able and ready to do all things which we are called to: "The weak will be as David, and David as an angel of the Lord."
This would make us proof against the most powerful temptations. If we are strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, (which is communicated to us by the grace of the Spirit ;) we shall be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand, Eph. vi. 10, 13. All the terrors of life will be little things to a man full of the Holy Ghost; as was plainly seen in Stephen's case, and in many of the noble army of martyrs. Satan will gain little advantage by all his vigilance and subtilty, where the all-wise and gracious Spirit is present as a constant monitor, and where a soul is ready to listen to his counter-motions. And the allurement, which appears strong to a carnal mind from the pleasures of sin, will soon lose all its power in a man, when the divine Spirit is freely
allowed to represent the motives of the gospel to the mind, with his own light and energy.
This would put us into a fit posture of soul for daily communion with God. Under the Spirit's lively agency, every institution of divine worship would be attended on with pleasure and delight; we should engage in it in the most spiritual frame, and every pious disposition suitable to it would be in a ready and a lively exercise. When this "wind blows upon the garden, the spices thereof will flow out; and then our beloved will come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits," Cant. iv. 16.
This would settle our souls in the truest pleasure and peace. If we partake of a large measure of the Spirit's graces, we shall hardly fail of a liberal share in his consolations. The more we walk in the fear of the Lord, the more we may expect to walk in the comforts of the Holy Ghost; as both were united in the case of the primitive churches, Acts ix. 31. By this means, in tribulation, in distress, in peril, in famine, in nakedness, we shall have meat to eat which the world knows not of; and be able to joy in the Lord, though the fig-tree doth not blossom," Hab. iii. 17, 18.
Finally, this is no less than heaven begun; heaven brought down into the soul, in title, in meetness, in cheerful prospects, in refreshing foretastes. A man who is full of the Spirit, hath "the earnest of the inheritance," Eph. i. 14.
And is not this a most desirable good? What can justly claim an equal share in your esteem and value?
Is not this better than the filling of your treasures on earth? "To be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom." You may have your barns and your chests full, and yet your souls entirely empty; empty of their proper ornament, and of any stable satisfaction. You may soon have your stores of worldly treasure emptied by a thousand accidents; and then if you have not the Spirit of God, you must be forced to say, My gods are taken away, and what have I more?" But for certain, one stroke of death will strip you of all at once; none of the furniture of worldly good can be carried along with you into the other world: and in what a destitute case must the separate soul be, when it hath dropped the body and all the enjoyments suitable to that, and never was possessed of the happiness proper to itself?
Are sensual delights preferred by you before such a blessing as being filled with the Spirit? Intemperance, and the criminal indulgences of the flesh? Do you take pleasure in “being filled with wine, wherein is excess," and all manner of looseness? But do you consider, that hereby you are filled with guilt, with shame, with folly? That the devil and his train take possession, when you give up yourselves to rioting and drunkenness, to chambering and wantonness? Do you remember, that by these things people commonly are filled with distempers, with poverty, with various miseries in this life? and above all, that in the end, without bitter repentance, you can look for no better from such a course, than to be "filled with your own ways?" And what is the satisfaction, for which you run all these risks? How very short the pleasure of a licentious revel! How quickly is it succeeded with a grating remorse for your folly, if not for your sin! Must you not say of the laughter which springs from the fumes of wine, "It is mad? And of that mirth, what doth it?" Eccl. ii. 2. "Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?-They that tarry long at the wine," Prov. xxiii. 29, 30. How many, who have given a loose to unbridled appetites, to work all uncleanness with greediness, have mourned at the last, when their flesh and their body have been consumed; and said, "how have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof!" Prov. v. 12. Had you been filled with the Spirit, you had kept at the remotest distance from all this.
But possibly some, who have lived free from such enormities, and even have a detestation of them, yet find little relish for that which I am recommending, though they are raised vastly above the sensualist. They have a lively taste for some entertainments of the mind, and are eager to be filled with many parts of knowledge, which are useful in their kind. They are insatiable in pursuit of learning, can travel the globe and not be weary, employ wakeful nights in surveying the heavens, search indefatigably into the nature of things about them, look with the strictest scrutiny into the history of ancient and modern times, and traverse the whole field of arts and sciences with a continual thirst remaining. The generality of the world are far from being so well employed; a pleasure, much
more innocent and manly, springs from these improvements of knowledge, than from the luxury and licentiousness, in which too many spend their time; and they may contribute under the direction of piety and goodness, to make men eminently serviceable to their fellow-creatures. But after all, to be filled with the Spirit, excels the highest advances in learning, much more than they do the entertainments of sensual men.
All the learning in the world will not change the heart, or recommend a man to God, or secure his everlasting interest, or enable him to give up his account with joy. Though he should be able to speak with all the tongues of men, and understood all knowledge in the full compass of it; yet he is nothing in the account of God, and in respect of the truest wisdom, without the grace of God.
Learning will not always dispose men to be useful, however it may improve their capacity. It often makes them proud and arrogant, and the more pernicious instruments in serving the devil's kingdom. But the graces of the Spirit always make men humble, and incline them to list their capacities, whether natural or acquired, whether greater or less, in the service of God and their generation.
The highest attainments we can arrive at in learning and speculative knowledge, can be of use to ourselves only upon earth. In the other world, as for knowledge, it shall vanish away, 1 Cor. xiii. 8. So many uncertainties and mistakes attend us in a great part of that which is esteemed knowledge here, that if ever we come to see things in the perfect light of heaven, we shall be obliged to give up as falsehoods many curious speculations, with which we entertained ourselves here. And if we miss of heaven, the pleasure we might take in such amusements will vanish away; and be succeeded by eternal regret, that we suffered ourselves, by too close an attendance to less necessary employments of thought, however innocent in themselves, to be diverted from minding our better and more important interests. But a participation of the Spirit qualifies for heaven, and will be consummated in heaven; and all knowledge, that can contribute to our happiness, along with it. If by the grace of God we arrive at that world of light, we shall find the saint, who was most illiterate on earth, to know more of all which is worth knowing, than the wisest philosopher could do below; and this without any laborious toil. We