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On the Dispensation of the Holy Ghost.

IT is a scriptural, and I suppose, a generally acknowledged fact, that the world is now, in a special manner, under the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. The Father, in conceiving and adopting the plan of man's redemption, may be said, in relation to our apprehension of things in TIME, to have reconciled. justice and mercy prospectively. The Son, by coming into the world in accordance with the plan of redemption, and by fulfilling in his death on the cross the indispensable conditions of the plan, rendered this reconciliation not only prospectively, but presently and actually possible. The office of the Holy Ghost, among other things, is to teach men; and by teaching, and other spiritual operations, to induce and enable them to accept and to realize in their own renovated persons and natures all the benefits, which the wisdom of the Father has provided, and which the voluntary humiliation of the Son has rendered possible. The work of man's salvation, therefore, in its practical and personal application, and so far as it remains uncompleted, may be said to be under the direction of the Holy Ghost. Accordingly when our Savior left the world, he held the following language to his disciples. "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." And again, he says, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth, for He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." John, 16: 7, 8, 12, 13, 14.

The Holy Spirit, therefore, is to be regarded as the appointed and effective renovator, guide, comforter, and teacher of the children of men. In the moral and religious world all good is from Him; and beyond the reach of his influence, and irrespective of his presence and operations, there is not and cannot be any thing, which is valuable or desirable. There are some reasons for saying, that the dispensation of the Holy Spirit is precisely opposite and antagonistical, in its principles and results, to what may be called the natural dispensation, viz. the law of the natural heart, or the reign of SELF in the soul. Man, before his fall, had a true life in God. He did not live by his own vitality, and flourish upon his own stock. The power of God possessed its habitation in the centre of his soul; a living, animating, purifying principle. If he possessed, as undoubtedly he did, what might properly be denominated natural ability, it was, nevertheless, natural ability, made alive, inspired, animated by an ability out of and above nature. It was enough for him to know and rejoice in the fact that God was the continuance, as well as the beginning of his inward life; that every good thought and good feeling, that all purified activity and divine strength, all holy love and all angelic aspirations, were from God, and from God
alone. And his apostasy, as it seems reasonable to suppose, consisted in the alienation and dethronement of this inward divine power, and in the substitution of SELF instead of God. In the language of another, "man broke off from his true CENTRE, his proper place in God, and therefore the life and operation of God was no more in him. He was fallen from a life in God into a life of SELF, into an animal life of self-love, self-esteem, and self-seeking in the poor perishing enjoyments of this world. This was the natural state of man by the Fall. He was an apostate from God, and his natural life was all idolatry, where SELF was the great idol, that was worshipped instead of God." [Law's Spirit of Prayer, Part I, Chap. 2d.]

The object, therefore, of Christ's coming into the world, was to place men essentially in the condition in which they were before the Fall. Not only to secure their forgiveness, but to make them holy; not only to make them holy, but to make them so, in the only way in which Adam or any other being was ever made holy, viz. by means of the living and constant operation of God in the soul. Hence the necessity of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Hence the various directions, which are given in the Scriptures not to grieve, and not to quench the Holy Spirit. Hence the declaration, that Christians are the temple of the Holy Ghost. And accordingly it is a great truth, though but imperfectly understood and estimated, that he, who, moves and acts in religious things without the attendant operation and grace of the Holy Ghost, cannot be spiritually wise, and is not in the way to be spiritually benefitted.

(II.) — The object of that peculiar state of things which may with some good reason be described as the dispensation of the Holy Ghost, will not be completely realized, till all Christians are filled with the presence and the operations of this Divine Agent. And why should not Christians of the present day experience this great inward result, as well as those of the primitive ages? It was said of John the Baptist, even before his birth, "and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost." It is related both of his mother Elizabeth and of his father Zachariah, that they were filled with the Holy Ghost." The apostle Peter and the martyr Stephen are described as being in like manner "full of the Holy Ghost." The disciples on the day of Pentecost are said to have been "filled with the Holy Ghost." Similar language is applied to the Savior. And Jesus, "being full of the Holy Ghost," returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The Baptism of the Holy Ghost, which is repeatedly spoken of, probably means, in some places if not in all, the same thing with being filled with the Holy Ghost.

In the times of the Apostles, miraculous powers were connected with the descent and the fulness of the Spirit's operations. The gift of these powers seems to have had special reference to the circumstances of the times, and to have been temporary. But the infinitely greater blessing, the crowning work of the Holy Spirit, that of imparting to the soul the grace of assured or perfect faith and the attendant grace of perfect love, still remains. Now; if the Holy Ghost came into the world to dwell with men, to take up his abode with them and to teach them, if he came to inspire within them the highest possible faith and love, and to procure to them the highest possible purity and peace, then it seems to me, that the object of the dispensation of the Holy Ghost is not, and cannot be completely realized, till it can be said of all Christians, as it was said anciently, that they are men full of the Holy Ghost. Till this is done, there is a resistance in the heart proceeding from the remaining life of self and from the inspiration and artifices of Satan, which ought not to be. The Holy Spirit is ready, not only to advance, but entirely to accomplish the inward work, whenever the people of God are prepared, with childlike simplicity of spirit and without any reservation, to undergo his sharply searching and. purifying agency, It is the spirit of SELF, showing itself in the forms of distrust and resistance, which obstructs this faithful, but friendly operation; which grieves the Spirit; and prevents his purifying the heart with the waters of the interior baptism.— Let the followers of Christ ponder well these important truths. Let them strive to keep in mind, that they can do nothing well, in the moral and religious sense of the terms, which is not prompted by the presence and suggestions of the Holy Spirit. And certainly that they cannot do ALL things well, bringing every emotion and passion into subjection, and walking always in the commandment of faith and love, without being "
filled," as the Scriptures express it, with his efficacious agency.

(III.) — An inquiry may arise here, In what manner does the Holy Spirit operate in individual hearts? In relation to the subject involved in this inquiry, it does not appear, that any specific and certain rule can be laid down. The methods of the divine operation appear to be one of the secret things, which are hidden with God. Accordingly the Holy Spirit, so far as his method or manner of his influences is concerned, operates differently in different cases. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell, whence it cometh, and whither it goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit." He sometimes comes with sudden and almost visible efficacy, and produces his results with "observation." But still more frequently, as it seems to us, he comes as a "still small voice," and operates in a secret and silent manner; but with no diminution of effective power and of inward purification.

"If the Lord be pleased," says Mr. Fletcher, "to come softly to thy help; if he make an end of thy corruption by helping thee gently to sink to unknown depths of meekness; if he drown the indwelling man of sin, by baptizing, by plunging him into an abyss of humility; do not find fault with the simplicity of his method, the plainness of his appearing, and the commonness of his prescription. Nature, like Naaman, is full of prejudices. She expects that Christ will come to make her clean with as much ado, pomp, and bustle, as the Syrian general looked for when he was wroth and said, 'Behold, I thought he will surely come out to me and stand and call on his God and strike his hand over the place and recover the leper.' Christ frequently goes a much plainer way to work and by this means he disconcerts all our preconceived notions and schemes of deliverance. 'Learn of me to be meek and lowly of heart, and thou shalt find rest to thy soul.' Instead therefore of going away from a plain Jesus in a rage, welcome him in his lowest appearance, and be persuaded that he can as easily make an end of thy sin, by gently coming in 'a still small voice,' as by rushing in upon thee in a 'storm, a fire, or an earthquake.'" [Fletcher's Works, Vol. II, p. 650.]

(IV.) — At this place in our remarks, another inquiry naturally arises, How shall a person know, since the modes of the Spirit's interior action are so various, when he experiences the full or completed presence and operations of this Divine Agent? A proper answer, so far as it goes, would perhaps be, that this can be known only by the results of such divine presence and agency. These results, in their entire length and breadth, we will not attempt to analyze at the present time. But will only go so far now as to say, that one of the most decisive marks of the presence of the Holy Ghost in its fulness, is a resigned and peaceful state of the spirit originating in perfect faith in God. In the precise state of mind to which we now have reference, there seems to be an entire subsidence or withdrawal of that natural excitability which is so troublesome to the christian; and instead of the eager and unsettled activity of nature, the substitution of a pure and deeply interior rest of the soul, such as was seen in our Savior, and resembling, on the small scale of man's limited spirituality, the sublime and passionless tranquillity of God.

Undoubtedly there are other important marks, characteristic of the inward fulness of the divine power. But this,
if it be rightly understood, may be regarded as the highest result of the divine operation upon the human mind. It is not, therefore, merely the christian, whose mental exercises are characterized by traits, that are calculated to excite outward observation that is filled with the Holy Ghost, to the exclusion of others. Still more frequently is this fulness experienced in the hearts of those who sit in solitary places, unknown to the world; who live in the secrecy of their spirits with God alone; and of whom the multitude around them, ignorant of the interior Power which dwells in their souls, know only this, that they perform the religious and temporal duties of life with fidelity and gratitude, and endure its trials and sorrows with silence and submission. We would not have it understood, however, as these remarks might seem to imply, that persons in this calmly peaceful and triumphant state of mind, are destitute of feeling. Far from it. They have feeling; but it is regulated feeling. Perfect in degree, but symmetrical in all its relations; and therefore resulting in that angelic aspect of religious experience, which has been indicated. And the explanation is this. Every emotion is so perfectly adapted to its appropriate object; every desire and affection is kept so perfectly in its position; every volition moves so surely and strongly towards the goal of perfect rectitude; all worldly tendencies and attachments, all hopes and fears, all joys and sorrows are so completely merged in the overruling principle of supreme love to God, a principle which makes all of God and nothing of the creature, that the result is, and of necessity must be, inward quietude;

"The peaceful calm within the breast,
"The dearest pledge of glorious rest."