RPM, Volume 20, Number 11, March 11 to March 17, 2018

Meditations on the Holy Spirit

Chapter V

By J. C. Philpot

Thus far have we endeavored, with the Lord's help and blessing, to open from the word of God the glorious, the sublime mystery of the Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit; and we trust that our readers have felt with us that it is "a doctrine according to godliness;" for we cannot but here express our firm conviction that the more these heavenly truths are examined by the light of the divine testimony, the more brightly do they shine, and the more that they are seen and felt to harmonize with the experience of the saints of God, the more powerfully are they commended to their conscience and the more warmly embraced by their affections. This, indeed, is the peculiar character and blessedness of divine truth, that it will bear the strictest examination. It is not like error which shrinks from the light of day—slinking off, like the owl or the bat, out of the bright rays of the sun into some dark hole, where it "may make its nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under its shadow."

Truth, on the contrary, courts inquiry; and, like the eagle, can look on the sun with unshrinking, unblenched eye. But that Truth might thus shine forth before the eyes of his people in all its heavenly luster, it has pleased the God of all grace to store it up in his holy word; for heavenly mysteries do not, for the most part, lie on the surface of the Scripture, but rather, like the gold and silver to which they are often compared, are laid up deep in its bosom. Such was Job's testimony--"Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it. As for the earth, out of it comes bread; and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires; and it has dust of gold." (Job 28:1, 5, 6.) The Holy Spirit, therefore, by the pen of Solomon, gives this counsel to all who would desire to be made wise unto salvation—

My son, if you will receive my words, and hide my commandments with you; so that you incline your ear unto wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding; if you do you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; then shall you understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. (Prov. 2:1-6.)

As, then, pursuing such wise counsel, we are enabled to search the Scriptures with a reverent mind and a prayerful spirit, and as the precious truths stored up in them are from time to time revealed to our spiritual understanding and embraced by our believing heart-- light, life, and power attend the testimony, and these heavenly mysteries become the food of the soul. The Trinity, the glorious Person and finished work of the Son of God, the Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit, and similar divine truths which are the very foundation of our most holy faith, are not then barren speculations or dry doctrines, articles of a creed, or furniture of a well-stocked brain, all of which they may be and indeed often are in the hands of graceless professors; but are vital realities, animating as with heavenly life every member of the new man, strengthening faith, confirming hope, reviving love, renewing patience, drawing out prayer, and feeding the secret springs of humility, brokenness, and contrition.

As a proof of the truth of this assertion, take away out of the word and out of the heart the love of God the Father, the Person and work of God the Son, and the teaching and testimony of God the Holy Spirit, and what or where is all our religion, what or where all our experience? A nightmare dream, a mere confused mass of tumultuous feelings or wild and vague thoughts, tossing themselves here and there without end or object, guide or guard, but of no more real worth or value as regards salvation, than the restless heavings of the Atlantic ocean. Truth, divine truth, the truth as it is in Jesus, is the food of the soul. But take this truth away, and not only has our soul no food, but our faith no foundation or object, our hope no anchor or anchorage, and our love no source in present grace or consummation in future glory. Christians, therefore, and especially Christian ministers, cannot be too jealous over God's truth, or too determined enemies to all error; nor can they be too earnest to experience its power in their heart, to proclaim its blessedness with their lips, and manifest its effects in their life.

But we now approach a part of our subject in which we need special wisdom, that we may speak according to the oracles of God and in harmony with the work and witness of the blessed Spirit in the heart. We mean the "Covenant Offices" of the Holy Spirit, which, according to the title of our present Meditations, we propose now to consider.

These Covenant Offices are intimately connected with, and indeed flow from his Deity and Personality; for if he had not been a Divine Person in the Godhead, he would not and indeed could not have taken a part in the Covenant of Grace. We have used the expression "Covenant Offices." It may be as well, then, before we proceed any further, to define the meaning which we attach to the term.

In all our attempts to set forth truth, clearness of thought and of statement has been with us a leading object, for we know well that if our own mind be confused, we shall but confuse the minds of others, and if when we bring the sheep to the drinking place, we muddy the waters with our feet, we shall but spoil the sweetness of their draught. (Ezek. 34:19.) Let us endeavor, then, not only to make straight paths for our own feet, but so to cast up the King's highway that we may take up every stumbling-block out of the way of God's people. (Heb. 12:13; Isa. 57:14.) By the "Covenant," then, we mean that solemn compact which was entered into between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on behalf of the elect; and by the word "Offices" we understand the whole of that part of this sacred compact which the Holy Spirit undertook to perform. There is nothing in the word itself, as some have imagined, to imply subordination or inferiority. It signifies literally a particular charge, trust, duty, or employment conferred for some public or beneficial end, as "the Priest's office;" (Exod. 28:1; 31:10; Luke 1:8;) the office of an Apostle; (Rom. 11:13;) of a Bishop or Overseer; (1 Tim. 3:1;) of a Deacon; (1 Tim. 3:10;) of a Treasurer. (Neh. 13:13.) There is then no impropriety in using the word to express the several parts which the Son and the blessed Spirit undertook in the covenant of grace. As Persons in the Trinity they were equal; as covenanting Parties they were equal; and if in infinite condescension they undertook to communicate unutterable favors and blessings to the Church, do these kind offices, so freely, so graciously and voluntarily undertaken, destroy or diminish that original equality in which they from all eternity subsisted in the perfections and glory of the Divine Essence? No more than Christ's office as a servant diminished or destroyed his equality as a Son--"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of Hosts." (Zech. 13:7.) "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." (Phil. 2:5, 6, 7.) The word "Office," then, as applied to the covenant work of the Spirit, is simply expressive of what he undertook to perform by way of stipulated engagement, and sets forth, under one comprehensive term, the whole of his gracious pledgings and performances on behalf of the election of grace.

But let us for a few moments direct our thoughts to the Covenant of grace itself, as a clearer light may be cast thereby on the offices connected with that covenant. To an enlightened understanding and a believing heart, there is in the covenant itself—in the fact of it and in the provisions of it, something singularly beautiful and blessed. That there should have been a covenant at all; that the three Persons in the sacred Godhead should have condescended to enter into a solemn compact on behalf of fallen, ruined, guilty man, may well fill our minds with holy wonder and admiration. That thoughts of peace, that movements of love, that purposes of grace should occupy the mind and have a seat in the bosom of the Three-One God to any part of the human race, and that these counsels of peace should not only engage the thoughts, but be unalterably fixed and as if determinately embodied in a solemn compact uttered by word and confirmed by oath; before a mystery so deep and yet so high we pause as in the contemplation of an ocean of wisdom, grace, mercy, and love, as profound as Deity and as boundless as eternity. But how firm a foundation was thus laid for the salvation of the Church. No room was allowed for contingencies; no place left for accidents or uncertainties; but the whole of her being and well-being was at once and forever secured by solid compact and fixed by absolute decree.

In this "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure," (2 Sam. 23:5,) the Holy Spirit, as a divine Person in the Godhead, undertook to sanctify the objects of the Father's eternal choice and of the Son's redeeming blood. And let us not forget that to sanctify was as needful, as indispensable for the Church's salvation as to redeem. For O! how low was she foreseen as sunk in the Adam fall! The image of God, in which she was created, how defaced and as if blotted out! Death spreading itself with fatal effect over her every mental and bodily faculty; sin, like a hideous leprosy, infecting her to the very heart's core; a thousand base lusts plunging her deeper and deeper into a sea of guilt and crime; enmity against God boiling up in waves of ceaseless rebellion; Satan tyrannizing over her with cruel sway, sometimes drawing and sometimes driving, but by one or the other dragging her without hope or help towards the brink of the bottomless pit. Hear that bold blasphemer; see that drunken, raving prostitute; look at that murderer with his blood-red hand stealing off from his mangled victim; or, if you shrink from such sounds and such sights, picture to your imagination the vilest wretch, man or woman, that ever disgraced human nature, and you see in that portrait the features of the Church as implicated in the Adam fall, and sunk into original and actual transgression. What a work, then, was undertaken by that most gracious and condescending Spirit, who solemnly pledged himself, in the eternal covenant, to sanctify such wretches, and to fit and frame them to be partakers of holiness, and live forever in God's spotless presence.

And yet without this sanctification where were redemption? That removed only a part of the fall. By it sin was put away, a full and complete atonement made, a glorious righteousness brought in, and the persons of the elect reconciled to God. But God in his Trinity of Persons and Unity of Essence is essentially holy--"You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy." (Lev. 19:2.) Heaven is not only a high, but a holy place. (Isa. 57:15.) Holy are its employments, holy its enjoyments. Holy angels there minister, whose unceasing cry is, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts." (Isa. 6:3.) How then can unholy sinners, even though redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, enter into that holy place into which" there shall never enter anything that defiles, neither whatever works abomination, or makes a lie?" (Rev. 21:27.) It were easier for the wolf to dwell with the lamb, and the leopard to lie down with the sheep, than for ungodly sinners, unwashed, unregenerated, unsanctified, to dwell forever before the throne of God and of the Lamb. But O, the wonders of covenant wisdom, covenant grace, and covenant love! Sinners, the vilest sinners, the worst of wretches, the basest of mortals, can and will enter through the gates into the holy city; for, having enumerated some of the vilest crimes which stain human nature and sink it below the beasts that perish, the Apostle adds, "And such were (not "are") some of you." But, though you were all this, what are you now? "But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11.) Then to be sanctified is as needful, as indispensable as to be justified.

We are thus brought to look a little more closely into that work of the Spirit upon the heart of the people of God which is expressed by the term sanctification.

But it may help our Meditations on this important point and cast a clearer light on our present subject, if we define and explain the meaning of the term, and more especially the Scriptural use of it, before we advance further into the Spirit's work.

To SANCTIFY means primarily to separate or set apart for holy uses; thus dedicating and consecrating them to the special service of God. Thus Aaron and his sons were sanctified, or set apart, in a solemn manner for the service of the tabernacle; (Lev. 8:30;) and so was the tabernacle, and the altar, and all the vessels of the sanctuary. (Exod. 30:26-36.) In a similar way the Church was sanctified or set apart in Christ, when she was chosen in him, that she might be holy and without blame before God. (Eph. 1:3, 4.) This is the radical source of all her holiness, as the Apostle argues--"If the root be holy, so are the branches." (Rom. 11:16.) The elect are therefore said to be "sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called;" (Jude 1) that is, sanctified or set apart by the Father in eternity,reserved in Jesus Christ amid the ruins of the fall and during their state of unregeneracy, and at the appointed season called. Being thus chosen and set apart in Christ before the foundation of the world, the Adam fall, though being in his loins, they fell in and with him, did not destroy their eternal union with the Lord Jesus Christ, nor sever them as unclean from being still members of his mystical body; for though the Church fell in Adam as her federal head in time, she did not fall out of Christ, her Covenant Head in eternity, nor out of the arms or heart of a Triune God. (Deut. 33:27; Jer. 29:11.) The will of God, which had determined her salvation, and the original decree, which had sanctified and set her apart to be the bride of Jesus, still remained in all their full force and unbroken integrity, and secured her safety amid all the floods of sin which broke in upon her through the fall, by giving her an indissoluble union with the glorious Person of the Son of God.

It is rather a digression from the point immediately in hand, but as we wish to put the "Covenant Offices" of the blessed Spirit on a sure and scriptural foundation, and as the subject is even by some good men not clearly understood, or at least not always clearly stated, we shall endeavor to trace out from the word of truth the sanctification of the Church, both in its cause and effect, in its source and in its streams.

Sanctification is often, then, confined by ministers and writers to the work of the blessed Spirit upon the soul, whereby he internally sanctifies the people of God, and makes them fit for the inheritance of the saints in light. This is certainly one scriptural meaning of the term "sanctification;" but this limitation of the signification of the expression is not in strict accordance with the word of God. It has there a much wider range and a much, more extensive bearing, as we shall now hope to show.

Sanctification, then, as a scriptural term, refers to each Person of the Godhead; for as each Person in the Trinity has a part in the Church's salvation, so each Person has a part also in the Church's sanctification. Let us never forget that, as in the blessed Trinity there is a Unity of Essence, though a distinctness of Person, so in all their works, whether of creation or grace, there is a oneness of purpose and of operation whereby that Unity is ever manifested. We cannot wonder, therefore, that in the sanctification of the Church each Person of the sacred Trinity is engaged in this fruit of eternal wisdom, boundless grace, and infinite love.

1. The moving cause of the sanctification of the Church is the Will of the Father, which determined both the end and the means; the end being the salvation of the Church and her perfect conformity to the glorified humanity of Jesus, and the meanssovereign, (Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11,) free, (Isa. 40:13, 14,) immutable, (1 Sam. 15:29; James 1:17,) irresistible, (Rom. 9:19,) and effectual. (Isa. 43:13, 46:10.) In pursuance, therefore, of this sovereign will, God the Father sanctified or set apart the Church, chose her in Christ, blessed her with all spiritual blessings in him, and made her accepted in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:3-6; Jude 1.)

2. But the Son of God, his own co-equal and coeternal Son, has also a share, and a most important and blessed share in the sanctification of the Church. The will of the Father, we have just pointed out, determined both the end and the means. The end was the perfect sanctification and eternal glorification of the Church; the means was twofold, corresponding to the Person and work of the Son, and the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, and called for by her pressing and most miserable exigencies. The Son was to redeem her by his blood-shedding and sacrifice, and the Spirit to sanctify her by his grace.

As involved in the Adam fall, the persons of the elect were defiled by sin; their nature also became polluted; and as born into the world they make themselves vile and abominable by actual transgression. They need, therefore, to be washed from their sins, that this defilement of their persons, of their nature, and of their works may be removed out of the sight of God. This mighty, this efficacious work none but the Son of God could do. And that he might do it, and by doing it finish the work which the Father gave him to do, he took the body which God had prepared for him--"Wherefore when he comes into the world, he says, Sacrifice and offering you would not, but a body have you prepared me; in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come, (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do your will, O God." (Heb. 10:5, 6, 7.) This will of God was, as we have seen, the sanctification of the Church. To do this will the Lord Jesus offered as a sacrifice for sin the prepared body, (that is; his human nature, including body and soul,) and thus sanctified the Church by his one offering--"Then said I, Lo, I come to do your will, O God. He takes away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." (Heb. 10:9, 10.) Thus the sanctification of the Church was accomplished and effected by the offering of the body of Christ once for all. In his priestly office, therefore, and by the sacrifice which he offered when he offered up himself, the Lord Jesus was the sanctifier of his people, (Heb. 2:11,) and was "of God made sanctification to them." (1 Cor. 1:30.)

By this sanctification of the elect through the one offering of Christ several things were effected, of the deepest importance to their present and eternal interest.

1. All their sins were expiated and atoned for, and thus cancelled, blotted out, and forgiven--"Unto him who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood;" (Rev. 1:5;) "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." (Col. 1:14.)

2. Their persons were reconciled and brought near unto God--"And you, who were once alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight." (Col. 1:21, 22.)

3. They were consecrated and dedicated to God by virtue of his one offering, so that the Church, like Israel of old, became "holiness unto the Lord." (Jer. 2:3.)

4. They were redeemed from the curse of the law, which being removed, a way was made for every spiritual blessing--"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Gal. 3:13, 14.)

5. By his resurrection from the dead and his entering into heaven, to be there the great High Priest over the house of God, he became a head of influence to his people, and thus communicates to them of his own holiness.

As a brief summary of the sanctification of the Church by the Son of God, we may lay it down from the word of God that he took part of the flesh of the children; (Heb. 2:14;) bore their sins in his own body on the tree; (1 Peter 2:24;) made atonement for their transgressions, and expiated all their crimes by being made the propitiation for their sins; (1 John 2:2; Rom. 3:25;) shed his precious blood and laid down his life on their behalf; (John 10:15; 1 Peter 1:19;) reconciled their persons when they were enemies and aliens unto his heavenly Father; (Rom. 5:9; Col. 1:21;) offered himself a sacrifice for their offences; (Hob. 9:14, 26-28;) and washed away all their iniquities in the fountain opened in one day for all sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1.) Thus "by one offering he perfected forever those who are sanctified;" (Heb. 10:14;) and by virtue of that one offering they are "complete in him," without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; holy in his holiness, lovely in his loveliness, and perfect in his perfections. (Song 4:7; Ezek. 16:14; Eph. 5:27; Col. 2:10; Jude. 24; Rev. 14:5.)

We have rather wandered from our subject, and now it is too late to return to it in our present Article; but we hope, with the Lord's help and blessing, to resume it in our next paper.

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