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PART III. ON THE RELATION OF FAITH TO THE DIVINE GUIDANCE, OR THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE SOUL.

CHAPTER SECOND.


ON THE NATURE OF THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY GHOST.


The Holy Spirit dwelling in the soul, the same as God’s dwelling there. Of the mystery, which attends the operations of God’s Spirit. The operation of God’s Spirit illustrated to some extent, by the operation of human minds upon each other. The influences of the Spirit not always distinctly perceptible. Of the variety of his operations. Extract from Arndt. The Holy Spirit teaches men the facts and relations of their existence. The Holy Spirit convinces of sin; discovers the relation of Christ to sinners; is the source of sanctifying influences. Of the nature of his operations in the more advanced periods of Christian experience.

WE repeat, therefore, in accordance with what has been said in the preceding chapter, that God is not a God afar off. He is present to every mind, though not in equal degrees. To the pure mind, to the mind that can be described as a truly sanctified mind, he is present in such a sense, that we may speak of him as a God in-dwelling: In such a mind the Comforter, who teaches all things, and brings all things to remembrance, has made his abode. It has become, what it is described to be in the Scriptures, the “temple of the Holy Ghost.”

2.—Whatever difficulties may attend the mysterious expressions, “the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY GHOST,” considered in their relation to each other, and in their relation to the unity of the Godhead, we may be certain of this great fact, that, wherever the Holy Spirit is present, God is not absent; wherever the Holy Spirit operates, God operates; wherever the Holy Spirit dwells, God dwells. If the soul, purified by an inward operation, has become the Temple of the Holy Ghost, as the Scriptures represent it, it has also become as really the temple of the only true and living God. He, whose affections are constantly inspired by the Holy Spirit, is truly united and is united in the highest degree, with the divine nature.

3.—In the accounts, which are given of truly devoted and holy persons in the New Testament, it is often said of them, that they are
“filled with the Holy Ghost.” Expressions of this kind are applied to Zachariah and Elizabeth, to John the Baptist, to Peter and Stephen, to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, and to the Savior himself. To persons, who have not made the human mind and its operations a subject of special attention, the expressions, “full of,” and “filled with,” which are applied to the mind as recipient of divine influences, are very apt to convey an erroneous impression. It is hardly necessary to say, that these expressions are applied originally to material objects, to objects which are susceptible of material capacity and measurement, and which, therefore, we may speak of, when such is actually the case, as being “filled,” or as being “full,” in the literal and material sense. So early and so strong is our association with these terms of their application to things having material and measurable capacity, that we can hardly apply them to the mind without thinking of it as something, which has a material shape, which has length and depth, and which consequently is susceptible of being made “full” or of being “filled” in the material import of the terms. In the view of the mind, which is under these material impressions, the operation of the Holy Spirit necessarily assumes a character of earthliness, and becomes material, tangible, and sensible. It is important to guard against such erroneous views. The operation of the Holy Ghost in the human mind, entirely remote from the analogy of material and earthly operations, is spiritual in the highest sense. So that a man’s “being full” or not being full of the Holy Ghost is not a thing to be measured by material capacity, but by mental renovation; is not a thing to be estimated and to be judged of by physical rules and methods, but by a purified judgment, by sanctified dispositions, and by holy outward results. Who, then, is the man, that is “full of the Holy Ghost?” It is he, and he only, who bears Christ’s image. It is he, who is meek, humble, and quiet in spirit. It is he, who is pure in heart. It is he, who, in the exercise of faith, which is the foundation of the whole Christian life, has a disposition to do, under all circumstances, the will of his heavenly Father. Such a man is full of the Holy Ghost, not because the presence and operation of the Holy Ghost is a thing tangible, or visible, or measurable in the material sense, but because, being what he is, and operating as he does operate, and being in both respects a mystery beyond man’s comprehension, he is full and perfect in that mind, and on the other hand that mind, whatever may be the degree of its powers, is “full” or “filled” with his presence, which, under the influence of his inward operation, is turned from vice to virtue, from unbelief to a full and assured faith, and from selfishness to purity of love.

4.—The operation of the Spirit of God upon the human spirit, an operation which leads the subject of it without a violation of its moral power and responsibility to appropriate and definite issues, is a great mystery. As we have already had occasion to intimate, it is not explainable on any material facts and principles; nor can it be fully reached and explained, so far as we can perceive, in any other way. I think we may confidently take the ground without any hazard, that it is one of those things, which the human mind, limited as it obviously is in power, cannot now, and perhaps can never fully comprehend. The Scriptures so represent it. “The wind bloweth, where it listeth; and ye hear the sound thereof; but cannot tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth.
So is every one, that is born of the Spirit.” It ought to be said, however, as the remark may tend to alleviate the perplexities of some persons, that there are other things, the truth or fact of which we do not doubt, and which we constantly and readily receive, considered as truth or facts, but which, in their analysis and explanation, involve to some extent a similar difficulty. If the operation of the Divine Mind on the human mind is mysterious, as it undoubtedly is, the operation of the human mind on other human minds is, to some extent, mysterious also. But the mystery in the latter case, whether it be greater or less, does not prevent our yielding our assent to a fact, which so frequently presents itself to our notice. It is a matter of common observation, for instance, that the stronger mind, in the intercourse of life, gains an ascendency over the weaker; the man of clearer perception enlightens and guides the man that is wanting in perception; the more argumentative and eloquent operates on the less argumentative and eloquent. Mind every where influences and controls mind. How often do we see, when masses of men are assembled together on some public occasion, minds, that were ignorant, inert, and unexcited, at once roused to action by the influence of some higher mind; made percipient of truth, rendered susceptible of a higher sense of obligation, and strengthened in their purposes. The change is very great and perceptible; oftentimes great in itself and great in its issues; and yet it is wrought by an unseen influence; the influence of mind which no man can see, operating in a mysterious manner upon mind which is equally unseen. But if man can operate thus upon his fellow-man, if a created and limited mind can operate upon other minds, giving them a new direction and bringing them under its control, and what is more, can do it, without a violation of their personal responsibility and agency, God certainly can do as much, although we may not be able to explain in either case the mode of its being done.

5.—When we speak of an operation, no matter whether it be an operation human or divine, it is generally understood to be implied in the remark, that it is an operation known. It is rather difficult for us to conceive of our being under the operation of the Holy Spirit, and yet without being distinctly conscious of the operation at the time. And accordingly I think it may be laid down as the general belief in relation to this matter, (not the universal but the more common or general belief,) not only that there is a divine operation, which is more or less prevalent and effective in every Christian mind; but that every such mind is conscious, whatever mysteries may attend it, of such inward operation as a distinct subject of knowledge. Consequently multitudes of persons are looking not merely for the results of the inward operation; but what is a very different thing, for the perception or knowledge of the operation, in itself considered. They wish to know, not only that the Holy Spirit does really act, and that he exerts upon them a converting and sanctifying influence; but to know, as a distinct subject of consciousness, the fact of his action whenever it is experienced, as a fact or object in marked and obvious distinction from that of their own mental action. In other words, they not only want the Holy Ghost to be in them which is really the only important thing; but they want to see the Holy Ghost in them; they want to see not merely the results of his working, but the working itself. A state of mind, as it seems to us, unwisely and unsubmissively curious, inconsistent with that mystery in the presence and operations of the Holy Ghost, which have already been referred to, and which is likely to be attended practically with the most unfavorable consequences.

6.—In connection with the specific topic, to which we have just referred, we proceed to make the remark, a remark which seems to us to be confirmed both scripturally and experimentally, that the influences of the Divine Spirit within us are not always perceptible. They are not always distinctly perceptible, even in the beginnings of the Christian life; a period in our moral and religious history, when, on account of the great change then wrought, it might be more naturally expected. On the contrary, they may be so gentle, so merely suggestive as it were, that the thought of divine origin will not always be distinguished from the thought of natural origin; and the truly devotional feeling will hardly be distinguished from that, which has no religious element in it. And the subsequent succession of religious thought, emotion, and desire will be so gentle, so little marked at any given moment by any thing which will distinguish it from other mental states, that the whole mind may be gradually changed and renovated without the subject of the change being able to refer to any particular period as being characterized in his consciousness by a distinctly obvious and perceptible influence. Such cases are very numerous; and they include in their number some of the most interesting illustrations of Christian devotedness, purity, and faith. Richard Baxter, whose learning and devoted piety are held in honorable remembrance, makes a statement, which goes to confirm in some degree what has now been said. “I was once,” he says,. “in a meeting of Christians as eminent for holiness as most in the land, of whom divers were ministers of great fame; and it was desired, that every one should give an account of the manner and time of his conversion, and there was but
one of them all, that could do it. And I aver from my heart,” he adds in respect to himself, “that I neither know the year nor the day when I began to be sincere.”

7.—There are other cases, in which the new thought, the new feeling, the new desire and purpose are placed so suddenly and distinctly in opposition to thoughts and purposes, which have their origin in the life of nature, as not only to be distinctly marked, but to form a new and memorable era in the mental history. This result depends in part upon the power and vividness of the natural life, as well as upon the degree of the divine influence. The same degree of grace, introduced into a heart that is exceedingly violent and passionate by nature, will generate a more decided inward conflict, and will attract more inward notice, than in a heart, which possesses the same elements, with the exception that it is constitutionally more quiescent and mild. But still, whatever distinctions we may properly make in such cases as these, it should always be remembered, that God does not limit himself either in the mode or the degree of the divine operation, with the single exception that he does not violate moral agency. Within the limitation, involved in this remark, he operates very variously in different minds; sometimes by very slight movements, which are scarcely perceptible, but which, being repeated under the guidance of infinite wisdom, bring the soul at last to great and glorious issues; and sometimes by operations, which in their very beginning are more searching and intense, and which, therefore, produce in the soul a revolution much more sudden and marked than in the other case.

8.—The Holy Spirit may operate upon the soul, but he cannot enter there in the higher sense, and take up his abode there, unless the world, and the things of the world, are first cast out. “If the heart,” says Arndt in his True Christianity, “be full of the world, there will be no room for the Spirit of God to enter; for where the one is, the other cannot be.” And again he says, “Turn away thine heart from the world, the creatures, thyself, and thine own will and affections, that so this Holy Spirit may have room to act freely.” Certain it is, that every thing, which is inspired of God, must have a character appropriate to itself; something by which it will be known as being of divine origin. If it is not inspired of God, it is inspired of that, which is not God. We cannot serve God and Mammon.

9.—One of the first operations of the Holy Spirit, perhaps the very first, is to teach men the facts and relations of their own existence. God not only makes man rational and accountable, but he condescends to teach him what he is; laying before his own mind, so that he may have an inward conviction of what actually exists, the evidences of his rationality, his accountableness, and immortality.

10.—Another, which we may perhaps designate as a second operation of the Holy Spirit, is to reprove of sin. “And when the Comforter is come,” says the Savior, “he will reprove the world of sin.” It is a part of the office of the Holy Spirit, by means of an inward operation, to show men, that naturally they have come short of God’s commands, and thus have violated their obligations. This operation may be so gentle, and may be so entirely consonant to the laws of the mind’s action as to appear to the subject of it to be wholly a natural operation. And yet the result may be so distinctly marked, that he shall have a clear perception of his delinquencies, and of the criminality and danger of his position. And it is in accordance with this view, that Arndt in the work, to which we have already referred, says that “whosoever lives a carnal life,
without the inward admonition of the Holy Spirit, may assure himself, that the Holy Spirit is not in him.” [Arndt’s True Christianity, Bk. 3. Ch. 17.]

11.—Another operation of the Holy Spirit is to show the sinner the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. Under a divine guidance he may be led to see clearly the fitness or propriety of the way of salvation through a mediator. And in this manner his belief in Christ, considered as a Savior adapted to his own case, maybe so strengthened, that he shall receive him in that capacity. This is a matter so well understood as to lay a foundation for the common remark, that no one ever appreciates his relation to the cross of Christ, and seeks salvation by means of it, except he is led to it by the Spirit of God. It is hardly necessary to say, that this result, which we very properly ascribe to the influences of the Holy Spirit, involves, throughout, successive acts of faith.

12.—Another operation is to sanctify the soul by regulating the affections and the will, of which faith also is the great inward instrument. Sanctification involves chiefly, and especially, the reduction of the affections and the will to their subordinated action and their proper place; but this result never exists, independently of the operations and influence of the Holy Spirit. This is very obviously intimated by the Apostle Paul, who speaks, in his Epistle to the Romans, of the Gentiles as “being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.” It is the Holy Ghost, therefore, that sanctifies.—But it ought to be added, that the Holy Ghost never operates accidentally; but being possessed of infinite wisdom, he ever has, and ever must have his just principles and laws of inward operation. And we cannot doubt, that it will be found on a careful examination, whether we refer to the Scriptures for evidence or to the personal experience of Christians, that he never sanctifies, except in connection with the principle of faith. To this principle, when divinely brought into exercise, and sustained by a divine operation, all the various and important results, which are embraced under the name of sanctification, may be traced. All faith, even that which is natural, is, in one sense, the work of God. But religious faith is especially his work. It is the great and divine product of the Holy Spirit. And sanctification flows from faith.

13.—It is worthy of notice, that in those minds which have reached the highest results of the inward life, and in which consequently the Holy Spirit has taken up his abode, his operations are not so marked and so perceptible, considered as subjects of personal consciousness, as they frequently are in less advanced periods. And this is what, on a proper view of the subject, might naturally be expected. When the inward operation is complete, when the Holy Ghost has really set up his temple in the heart, the result is, to turn the mind from the consideration of its own acts and experiences, to God. The very height and perfection of its experience, if we may so express it, is to lose the perception and sense of itself in the contemplation of its great and adorable object. The principle on which this view turns is what we may suppose to be constantly exhibited in the experience of angelic minds, and in other holy beings of a higher nature than man. Every thought, every desire, every purpose in these holy beings, is originated by the Holy Ghost. But as this inward divine operation is effected without any resistance on their part, and in a manner so harmonious with their own mental actions, it never attracts their attention as a distinct object of notice; nor is their attention directed to the specific feelings to which the divine operation gives rise, but to those objects only, whatever they may be, to which these feelings relate; and particularly to God around which they centre and in which they dwell. And this is the case, not only with the higher orders of beings, but with all beings whatever, that have experienced the highest results of religion. Their minds do not revert, (at least such is not the natural tendency of their minds,) to the fact or the mode of their sanctification; but fasten themselves to that, to which sanctification leads, viz., God, God’s nature, God’s works, God’s will, God’s glory.

14.—Perhaps, before closing this subject, we should make one remark more. It is a remark of a general nature; but it involves some important practical results. It is this. The operation of the Holy Spirit in the soul corresponds in time, as it seems to us, with the natural operation; without being either antecedent or subsequent. That is to say, when the mind acts, if it acts religiously or graciously, the Holy Spirit acts in it
at the very time of its acting. This position seems to be almost a self-evident one. If the Holy Ghost inspires within us a thought or feeling, or if it modifies those already existing, it must inspire or modify them at the very time, when they first come into existence or when they are the subjects of modification, and at no other time.

15.—And accordingly we are not to take it for granted, that the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the formation or modification of an antecedent exercise of mind, necessarily implies his presence and his operation in an exercise which is subsequent. We are not to suppose, that it is possible for us, in the positive and absolute sense of the terms thus to consolidate what is appropriate to successive periods of time, and actually
to lay up grace beforehand; which it is obvious would be the case, if what now exists necessarily implied the existence of that which follows. The Holy Spirit may be present in our minds TO-DAY; and he may operate there; and in consequence of this operation we may be the subjects of very just and pious feelings; but the grace of TO-DAY, although it furnishes in many respects encouragement and strength for the future, is not, and cannot be the grace of TO-MORROW. So that, as far as the subject now under consideration is concerned, the true doctrine of inward divine agency is, that each day, each hour, each moment brings with it not only its own exercises, but its own divine operation. We have of God, and can have of Him, only so much as we have NOW.

16.—And hence we infer, in accordance with what is laid down in the Scriptures, that the Christian life is, and must be one of
constant watchfulness. If we are careful to correspond to the laws of the divine operation, we shall see to it, that we give to God the PRESENT MOMENT. So that we may justly say in view of what has now been remarked, as well as for other reasons, that there is a valid foundation for the doctrine of “living by the moment,” which has been found so valuable and precious in the experience of many devout persons. So true it is, in the language of the Apostle, whether we regard its application to impenitent persons or to Christians; “Behold, NOW is the accepted time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.”