Contents The Christian System
by Alexander Campbell
Index

CHAPTER XX.

THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

I. HAVING spoken of three things which God has done for us, and of three things which we must do for ourselves, we are now come to the proper place to consider other aids which our heavenly Father tenders to us, just at this point. "He has provided a Lamb for a sin offering," and "Jesus has full atonement made." He has also given to us "the light of life" - the words of Jesus faithfully written out; and he has invested him as the Son of Man, with all authority, celestial and terrestrial, that he may lead many sons to glory, and give eternal life to all that are given him.

II. We also have believed all this; repented of our sins, and been immersed into Christ. We have assumed him as our Leader - our Prophet, Priest, and King; and put ourselves under his guidance. Having disowned the great apostate and his ranks, and enlisted under the Messiah, and taken sides with the Lord's Anointed; he now proposes to put his Holy Spirit within us, to furnish us for the good fight of faith, and to anoint us as the sons and heirs of God.

III. Some will ask, Has not this gift been conferred on us to make us Christians? True, indeed, no man can say, that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit. As observed in its proper place, the Spirit of God is the perfecter, and finisher of all divine works. "The Spirit of God moved upon the waters;" "The hand of the Lord has made me, the Spirit of the Almighty has given me life;" "By his Spirit he has garnished the heavens, his hand has formed the crooked serpent," the milky way; "The Spirit descended upon him;" "God himself bore the Apostles witness, by divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his will;" "Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit;" "When the Spirit of truth, the Advocate is come, he will convict the world of sin, because they believe not on me, and of justification, because I go to my Father;" "God was manifest in the flesh and justified by the Spirit."

IV. The Spirit of God inspired all the spiritual ideas in the New Testament, and confirmed them by miracles; and he is ever present with the word that he inspired. He descended from heaven on the day of Pentecost, and has not formally ascended since. In the sense in which he descended he certainly has not ascended: for he is to animate and inspire with new life the church or temple of the Lord. "Know you not," you Christians, "that your bodies are temples of the living God;" "The temple of God is holy, which temple you are;" "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, God shall quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you," etc.

V. Now we cannot separate the Spirit and word of God, and ascribe so much power to the one and so much to the other; for so did not the Apostles. Whatever the word does, the Spirit does; and what ever the Spirit does in the work of converting men, the word does. We neither believe nor teach abstract Spirit nor abstract word - but word and Spirit, and Spirit and word.

VI. But the Spirit is not promised to any persons out of Christ. It is promised only to them that believe in and obey him. These it actually and powerfully assists in the mighty struggle for eternal life. Some, indeed, ask, "Do Christians need more aid to gain eternal life - than sinners do to become Christians? Is not the work of conversion a more difficult work than the work of sanctification?" Hence, they contend more for the work of the Spirit in conversion, than for the work of the Spirit in sanctification. This, indeed, is a mistaken view of the matter, if we reason either from analogy or from divine testimony. Is it not more easy to plant, than to cultivate the corn, the vine, the olive? Is it not more easy to enlist in the army, than to be a good soldier, and fight the battles of the Lord; to start in the race, than to reach the goal; to enter the ship than cross the ocean; to be naturalized, than to become a good citizen; to enter into the matrimonial compact than to be an exemplary husband; to enter life, than to retain and sustain it for three score years and ten? And while the commands, "believe," "repent," and "be baptized," are never accompanied with any intimation of peculiar difficulty; the commands to the use of the means of spiritual health and life; to form the Christian character; to attain the resurrection of the just; to lay hold on eternal life; to make our calling and election sure, etc., are accompanied with such exhortations, admonitions, cautions, as to make it a difficult and critical affair, requiring all the aids of the Spirit of our God, to all the means of grace and untiring assiduity and perseverance on our part; for it seems, "the called" who enter the stadium are many, while "the chosen" and approved "are few;" and many, says Jesus, "shall seek to enter into the heavenly city, and shall not be able;" "Let us labour, therefore, to enter into that rest lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief."

VII. Sanctification in one point of view, is unquestionably a progressive work. To sanctify is to set apart; this may be done in a moment, and so far as mere state or relation is concerned, it is as instantaneous as baptism. But there is the formation of a holy character: for there is a holy character as well as a holy state. The formation of such a character is the work of means; "Holy Father," said Jesus, "sanctify them [my disciples], through the truth; thy word is the truth;" "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly," says Paul to the Thessalonians, "and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christians, then, are to "follow peace with all men, and sanctification, without which no one shall see the Lord." Therefore, it is the duty and the work of Christians, "to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord."

VIII. This requires aid. Hence, assistance is to be prayed for; and it is promised. Now as the Spirit of God, under the administration of Christ, is the author of all holiness in us - he is called the "Holy Spirit," "the Spirit of holiness." Hence, while we have the phrase "Holy Ghost" or Spirit, ninety-four times in the Christian Scriptures, it is found only three times in all the Jewish writings. The Holy Spirit is, then, the author of all our holiness; and in the struggle after victory over sin and temptation, "it helps our infirmities," and comforts us by seasonably bringing to our remembrance the promises of Christ, and "strengthens us with all might, in the new, or inner man." And thus "God works in us to will and to do of his own benevolence," "while we are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling." Christians are, therefore, clearly and unequivocally temples of the Holy Spirit; and they are quickened, animated, encouraged, and sanctified by the power and influence of the Spirit of God, working in them through the truth.

IX. God "gives his Holy Spirit to them who ask him," according to his revealed will; and without this gift no one could be saved or ultimately triumph over all opposition. He knows but little of the deceitfulness of sin, or of the combatting of temptation, who thinks himself competent to wrestle against the allied forces of the world, the flesh and the devil. Hence, the necessity of "supplications, deprecations, intercessions, and thanksgivings," or praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Holy Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and of making supplication for all saints, our fellow soldiers in this good warfare.

X. To those, then, who believe, repent, and obey the gospel, he actually communicates of his Good Spirit. The fruits of that spirit in them, are "love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, temperance." The attributes of character which distinguish the new man, are each of them communications of the Holy Spirit, and thus we are the sons of God in fact, as well as in title, under the dispensations of the Holy Spirit.

XI. We have, then, every thing done for us, after our conversion, which we need in order to that "holiness without which no one shall see the Lord." Thus God has provided for us a sin offering; a prophet to expound it; a priest to present it; a king, with universal dominion, to govern, and protect all that by it are reconciled to God. And when through faith, repentance, and baptism, we have assumed him as our rightful Sovereign, by his Holy Spirit, in answer to our prayers, he worked in us, and by us, and for us, all that is needful to our present, spiritual, and eternal salvation.


Contents Back to the beginning Index