And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
I. ALL THE CONDITIONS OF THE DIVINE LIFE IN MAN BASE THEMSELVES ULTIMATELY ON THE NECESSARY AND ETERNAL RELATIONS OF THE EVER-BLESSED GODHEAD, OF THE TRINITY IN UNITY. The gradualness of God's revelation of Himself enables us to trace out something of this mystery.
1. For many generations the revelation of the everlasting Father covered the canvas, and that form of awful majesty was shrouded everywhere in clouds and darkness. The utterance was, "I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect."
2. To this succeeded the revelation of the co-eternal Son. At first, wrapped, up in the types and figures of the old law: then struggling like the sun through the mists of the morning, as by the chant of Psalms, and the voice of prophecy, the ever-brightening form was declared to the waiting soul of humanity; until the fulness of the time was come, and the eternal Son stood incarnate upon the earth. Humanity had now reached altogether a new stags; God was manifest in the flesh; yet still God was external to man. The brightness of the uncreated glory shone before his eyes, but his eyes were not quickened to receive it.
3. One mighty further step was yet to be reached, and it is with the promise of this that the Lord here upholds their hearts. The Paraclete "shall be in you." The external revelation was to be replaced by the internal. Accordingly, when the coming of the Holy Ghost was perfectly accomplished, all additions to the external revelation ceased. Miracles were but visible attestations of the outward kingdom passing into the inward, and one by one they expired as the inward kingdom was established. Even the external revelation of the heavenly mysteries soon ceased. The canon was closed.
II. FROM THIS FOLLOWS THE PECULIAR CHARACTER OF OUR PROBATION. For though the Spirit of God works as a most free agent, quickening whom He will; yet does He work on humanity according to the law under which God has created it; not destroying its free agency, but, in the mystery of man's freedom, working with his spirit, and not by external force, overpowering its proper action. The energy of the Spirit's working is enlarged or restrained as man yields himself to it, or resists it. In the first preaching of the gospel this great distinction of the new dispensation was emphatically declared. "Repent, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, 'that the times of refreshing may come, from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus.'" This is —
1. A promise to the whole Church. The stirring of the indwelling power was openly manifested, and through all times since the same law may be traced as pervading the Church's history. It does not set before us one equally prolific age, but times of utter coldness and weariness alternating with blessed seasons of refreshing. Ease, success, quietness, has often bred a deadly lethargy in the Church, and the Spirit seems to have left her; but when danger, or persecution, has brought her back to repentance, at once the Spirit stirred within her, and the times of refreshing were restored. This has been, all along its history, the distinctive criterion of the Church. No dead empire has ever lived again; no exhausted school of philosophy has ever revived; no sect has ever recovered again its early strength after falling into decrepitude. The Church of Christ alone has thus renewed her strength, and mounted up from her decay with wings as eagles, because in her only is this hidden presence of God the Holy Ghost, and therefore for her only these times of refreshing are possible.
2. The law of the life of separate souls. With what energy does it awake when the heart turns really to God. Who has not known hearts, which seemed dead, the mere slaves of selfishness, burnt out, — like exhausted volcanoes buried in their ashy scoriae, — which have suddenly revived, under the breathing of the Spirit, and put forth again, like the earth in the blessed spring-time, the manifested glories of an irrepressible life?
III. FROM THIS GREAT MYSTERY THERE FOLLOW SOME PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES.
1. As this is the characteristic of the dispensation of the Spirit, how do they lose the glory and the blessedness of life who do not know it in its fulness? What earthly joy can be compared with these Divine refreshings? How different a life is this from the cold, doubting, questioning, colourless life which the greater number of those who call themselves Christians are leading. What know they, alas! in life or in death, of this word of promise, "He shall be in you?"
2. This indwelling of God must, with all its unspeakable blessedness, be accompanied by correlative perils. So the word of God distinctly teaches us when it speaks of sin against the Holy Ghost as marked with such a peculiar malignity of charity, and leading to so terrible and hopeless an end.
(1) For other sins are committed against God as external to the soul, these are committed against Him within us.
(2) But beyond this. He who did not believe in the Son of Man, great as was his guilt, might under the power of the Holy Ghost be won to penitence; but he who blasphemes that Holy Spirit, on whose presence within us depends the faculty of seeing, destroys in his soul the very power of vision itself. He can never see the truth; he can never be won to repentance, and so he hath never forgiveness, neither in this life, nor in that which is to come.
(3) Again, the progress of this deadly sin is from its peculiar character preeminently insidious. Every external act of wickedness has of necessity about it some note of warning. But the separate actings of these sins against the Holy Spirit are so inward and secret, that men may pass through the whole series without any external sign awakening their alarm.
(4) The end of such a course, and the secret history of that spiritual decay, may sometimes be read in those terrible cases of what seem to be the sudden falls into gross iniquity of those who have long stood upright. The evil has, we may be sure, been long festering within. There may, perhaps, be no very marked outward change in the conduct, It is but that they are colder than they were in all the religious life: that is, God the Holy Ghost has left them. Then some sudden gust of temptation falls suddenly upon them, and their utter failure under it reveals to light and day the fearful secret. Conclusion: With such capacities of ruin involved in the very blessedness of our regenerate life, surely the lesson of lessons is for us the need of perpetual watchfulness: of guarding jealously that secret indwelling of God within us which is our glory, but which we can make our destruction,
(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;