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pretending to the Spirit, still to the same end and purpose.
I might give sundry other instances of the contempt or abuse of the dispensation of the Spirit. Those mentioned are the extremes whereunto all other are, be reduced; and I will not farther divert from that which lies directly in
Of particalar communion with the Holy Ghost. Of preparation thereunto.
Valuation of the benefits we receive by him. What it is he comforts us in,
and against ; wherewith ; how. The way being thus made plain for us, I come to shew how we hold particular communion with the Holy Ghost, as he is promised of Christ to be our Comforter, and as working out our consolation by the means formerly insisted on. Now, the first thing I shall do herein, is the proposal of that, which may be some preparation to the duty under consideration; and this by leading the souls of believers, to a due valuation of this work of his, towards us, whence he is called our Comforter.
To raise up our hearts to this frame, and fit us for the duty intended, let us consider these three things.
First, What it is he comforts us against.
Thirdly, The principle of all his actings, and operations in us for our consolation.
First, There are but three things in the whole course of our pilgrimage, that the consolations of the Holy Ghost are useful and necessary in.
1. In our afflictions. Affliction is part of the provision that God hath made in his house for his children; Heb. xii. 5,6. The great variety of its causes, means, uses, and effects, is generally known. There is a measure of them appointed for every one. To be wholly without them is a temptation, and so in some measure an affliction. That which I am to speak unto is, that in all our afflictions, we need the conso
lations of the Holy Ghost. It is the nature of man to relieve himself, when he is entangled, by all ways and means. According as men’s natural spirits are, só do they manage themselves under pressures. The spirit of a man will bear his infirmity;' at least will struggle with it.
There are two great evils, one of which does generally seize on men under their afflictions, and keep them from a due management of them. The apostle mentioneth them both; Ηeb. xii. 5. Μή ολιγώρει παιδείας Κυριου, μηδε εκλύου, υπ' αυτού ¿deyxóuevos, ' Despise not the chastisement of the Lord, neither faint when thou art reproved.' One of these extremes do men usually fall into; either they despise the Lord's correction, or sink under it.
(1.) Men despise it. They account that which befalls them to be a light or common thing; they take no notice of God in it; they can shift with it well enough; they look on instruments, second causes, provide for their own defence and vindication, with little regard to God, or his hand in their affliction. And the ground of this is, because they take in succours in their trouble, that God will not mix his
grace withal ; they fix on other remedies than what he hath appointed, and utterly lose all the benefits and advantage of their affliction. And so shall every man do that relieves himself from any thing, but the consolations of the Holy Ghost.
(2.) Men faint and sink under their trials and afflictions, which the apostle farther reproves, ver. 12. The first despise the assistance of the Holy Ghost through pride of heart; the latter refuse it through dejectedness of spirit, and sink under the weight of their troubles. And who almost is there, that offends not on one of these hands? Had we not learned to count light of the chastisements of the Lord, and to take little notice of his dealings with us; we should find the season of our afflictions to comprise no small portion of our pilgrimage.
Now there is no due management of our souls under any affliction, so that God may have the glory of it, and ourselves any spiritual benefit or improvement thereby, but by the consolations of the Holy Ghost. All that our Saviour promiseth his disciples, when he tells them of the great trials and tribulations they were to undergo, is, ' I will send you the Spirit,' the Comforter, he shall give you peace in me, when in the world you shall have trouble. He shall guide, and direct, and keep you in all your trials. And so the apostle tells us it came to pass, 2 Cor. i. 4-6. yea, and this under the greatest afflictions will carry the soul to the highest joy, peace, rest, and contentment. So the same apostle, Rom. v. 3. “We glory in tribulations. It is a great expression. He had said before, that we'gloried in the hope of the glory of God;' ver. 2. Yea, but what if manifold afflictions and tribulations befall us? Why, even in them also we glory, saith he, We glory in our tribulations. But whence is it, that our spirits are so borne up, to a due management of afflictions, as to glory in them in the Lord? He tells us, ver. 5. it is from the 'shedding abroad of the love of God in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.' And thence are believers said to receive the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost,' 1 Thess. i. 6. and to take ‘joyfully the spoiling of their goods.' This is that I aim at; there is no management, nor improvement of any affliction, but merely and solely, by the consolations of the Holy Ghost. Is it then of any esteem or value unto you, that
lose not all your trials, temptations, and afflictions, learn to value that whereby alone they are rendered useful ?
2. Sin is the second burden of our lives, and much the greatest. Unto this, is this consolation peculiarly suited : so Heb. vi. 17, 18. an allusion is taken from the manslayer under the law, who, having killed a man unawares, and brought the guilt of his blood upon himself, filed with speed for his deliverance to the city of refuge. Our great and only refuge from the guilt of sin, is the Lord Jesus Christ; in our flying to him, doth the Spirit administer consolation to us. A sense of sin fills the heart with troubles and disquietness; it is the Holy Ghost which gives us peace in Christ. That gives an apprehension of wrath, the Holy Ghost sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. From thence doth Satan and the law accuse us, as objects of God's hatred; the Spirit bears witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God. There is not any one engine or instrument, that sin useth, or sets up against our peace, but one effect or other of the Holy Ghost towards us, is suited and fitted to the casting of it down.
3. In the whole course of our obedience are his consolations necessary also ; that we may go through with it cheerfully, willingly, patiently, to the end. This will afterward be more fully discovered as to particulars, when I come to give directions for our communion with this blessed Comforter. In a word, in all the concernment of this life, and in our whole expectation of another, we stand in need of the consolations of the Holy Ghost.
Without them, we shall either despise afflictions, or faint under them, and God be neglected, as to his intendments in them.
Without them, sin will either harden us to a contempt of it, or cast us down to a neglect of the remedies graciously provided against it.
Without them, duties will either puff us up with pride or leave us without that sweetness which is in new obedience. !
Without them, prosperity will make us carnal, sensual, and to take up our contentment in these things, and utterly weaken us for the trials of adversity.
Without them, the comforts of our relations will separate us from God, and the loss of them make our hearts as Nabal's.
Without them, the calamity of the church will overwhelm us, and the prosperity of the church will not concern us.
Without them, we shall have wisdom for no work, peace in no condition, strength for no duty, success in no trial, joy in no state, no comfort in life, no light in death.
Now our afflictions, our sins, and our obedience, with the attendancies of them respectively, are the great concernments of our lives ; what we are, in reference unto God, is comprised in them, and the due management of them, with their contraries, which come under the same rule; through all these, doth there run a line of consolation from the Holy Ghost, that gives us a joyful issue throughout. How sad is the condition of poor souls destitute of these consolations ! What poor shifts are they forced to betake themselves unto! What giants have they to encounter in their own strength! and whether they are conquered, or seem to conquer, they have nothing but the misery of their trials.
The second thing considerable, to teach us to put a due VOL. X.
valuation on the consolations of the Holy Ghost, is, the matter of them, or that wherewith he comforts us. Now this may be referred to the two heads that I have formerly treated of: the love of the Father, and the grace of the Son. All the consolations of the Holy Ghost consist in his acquainting us with, and communicating unto us, the love of the Father, and the grace of the Son: nor is there any thing in the one or the other, but he makes it a matter of consolation to us; so that indeed we have our communion with the Father in his love, and the Son in his grace, by the operation of the Holy Ghost.
1. He communicates to us, and acquaints us with the love of the Father. Having informed his disciples with that ground and foundation of their consolation, which by the Comforter they should receive, our blessed Saviour, John xvi. 27. shuts up all in this,'The Father himself loveth you:' this is that which the Comforter is given to acquaint us withal; even that God is the Father, and that he loves us. In particular, that the Father, the first person in Trinity, considered so distinctly, loves us. On this account is he said so often to come forth from the Father, because he comes in pursuit of his love, and to acquaint the hearts of believers therewith, that they may be comforted and established. By persuading us of the eternal and unchangeable love of the Father, he fills us with consolation. And indeed all the effects of the Holy Ghost before-mentioned have their tendency this way. Of this love, and its transcendent excellency, you heard at large before. Whatever is desirable in it, is thus communicated to us by the Holy Ghost. A sense of this is able, not only to relieve us, but to make us in every condition to rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorious. It is not with an increase of corn, and wine, and oil, but with the shining of the countenance of God upon us, that he comforts our souls ; Psal. iv. 6. The world hateth me (may such a soul as hath the Spirit say), but my Father loves me. Men despise me, as a hypocrite, but my Father loves me, as a child. I am poor in this world, but I have a rich inheritance in the love of my Father. I am straitened in all things, but there is bread enough in my Father's house. I mourn in secret, under the power of my lusts, and sin, where no eyes see me; but the Father sees me, and is full of com