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AND IT shALL come to PAss, IN THE LAst Days, saith God, I WILL POUR OUT OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL FLESH.
The great and glorious promise, here specified, is a part of the Prophecy of Joel : and though particularly applied by the Apostle Peter, in its primary fulfilment on the day of Pentecost, to the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost which were then communicated; yet we cannot hesitate to receive it as a general promise, which regards the propagation of the Gospel throughout the whole world, by the ordinary operations of the same Spirit on the hearts and energies of the servants of God, in every succeeding age. Like many other prophecies of similar import, it stands as an encouragement to patient faith, and lively hope, and persevering prayer.
Indeed, if such portions of the Prophetic Word were to be limited to the Pentecostal Period, of how much consolation would the Church of God be deprived ' What glorious expectation, what joy and peace in believing, would be snatched from her, if she might not, as she journeys through the
wilderness, look on such prophecies as referring to the coming of the Lord her righteousness, for whose approaching kingdom and glory she longs and waits, as those who watch for the morning. It is true, the Apostle declares, in his address to the people—This is that which was spoken by the Prophet Joel; but, while he declares, afterward, the promise is unto you and to your children, he adds, and to all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call. We cannot but conclude, therefore, that it is a prophecy, the gracious fulfilment of which will be co-extensive with the whole Christian Dispensation —a prophecy, which only BEGAN to be fulfilled at the Day of Pentecost; and which shall not be ENTIRELY fulfilled, till the last days shall INDEED come, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea. Considered in this light, the text brings before us, most distinctly, a great and all-important subject— a subject, which, however appropriate to all occasions of this nature, could never have been presented under any circumstances of the Christian Church, more strikingly illustrative of its importance than those under which we now live: and, I may add, that it is one which seems the rather to commend itself to our attention, inasmuch as, at the last Anniversary, our minds were led to the awful contemplation of the baneful influence of ANoth ER Spirit—the God and Prince of this world—the Spirit which worketh in the children of disobedience, leading them captive at his will. It will console us, while it will humble us, to cherish the conviction, that it is the Spirit of the Lord alone, that can raise
wp a standard against the enemy; and that it is to that mighty and holy influence, that we must look, in the use of suitable means, “to beat down Satan under our feet.”
I propose, therefore, to offer to your consideration —first, Our NEED of THE DIvi NE INFLUENCE, promised in the Text, for the successful prosecution of Missionary Labours; and, secondly, the ENcouRAGEMENT afforded in the work, by the expectation of the plenary and ultimate accomplishment of the prophecy. And may HE, the Spirit of Truth, whose gracious presence is promised to the assemblies of His people, now “come among us, and with great might succour us;” that the attempt, about to be made in His Name, may be accompanied with His blessing, and redound to His glory !
I. We are to consider our NEED OF THE DIVINE INFLUENCE, promised in the Text, for the successful prosecution of our Missionary Labours. This we shall best perceive, by a reference to the natural state and condition of every individual.
What, then, is that state?—Dead, the Apostle says, in trespasses and sins. How, then, shall he “turn, and prepare himself, to faith, and calling upon God?” It is the Spirit that quickeneth: he must be born again. He has a carnal heart, and that is enmity against God. How, then, shall he draw near unto God?—only under the influence of that Spirit, whose office it is to renew and sanctify, and to make him spiritually minded. He has a dark understanding, a perverse will, unruly affections;
and, in short, his whole self is alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in him, because of the blindness of his heart. Where shall he find help, in such a state as this, but from the new-creating, the life-giving energy of the Holy Ghost?—of that Spirit, which alone can take of the things of Christ, and shew them to such a soul; discovering to it the fulness and the freeness of Salvation, the sufficiency of the Atonement, the completeness of the righteousness of the Redeemer. By whatever expressions the Scriptures describe the turning of a sinner's heart to God, we are always referred to one and the same Spirit, as the great first cause of the change. If the love of God has been shed abroad in his heart, it is by the Holy Ghost. If the kingdom of God is established within him, the righteousness and peace and joy of it are in the Holy Ghost. If he abounds in hope, it is through the power of the Holy Ghost. If he is saved with an everlasting salvation, it is by the renewing of the Holy Ghost. So that we may say, with the Apostle, All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit. So many of you as have experienced the blessed effects of which I am speaking, are living witnesses of the power of the Holy Ghost. You know that you were in utter darkness, until He enlightened your mind—shewed you your sin and danger—exhibited to you Jesus, in all His beauty and excellency—pointed you to Him, as the only refuge— wrought in you the desire to apply to Him for pardon, peace, and salvation: and, having thus become your Teacher and your Guide, became also your Sanctifier and Comforter—purifying your hearts by faith—cheering them by a sense of divine love—pouring into them the consolations of the ea:ceeding great and precious promises—giving you occasional foretastes of the heavenly joy—and sealing you unto the day of redemption. You know, that, without His influence, all is still DARKNEss and DEATH in the soul: ye were sometimes darkness; but 3you hath he quickened.
What is thus declared of a single soul, is necessarily applicable to a family, or a tribe, or a nation, or a world. See, then, at once, the cause of all the darkness that covers the earth !
See, for instance, in the first place, the reason why the PROFEssl NG CHRISTIAN world AMong ours Elves exhibit so little, comparatively, of the life and power of religion. With the name of Christ upon their lips, and His cross on their foreheads, and His vows on their consciences, Christians ought to be lights shining in a dark place. But what is the fact! Of how large a portion of professed Christians are we compelled to say, the light that is in them is darkness / How fearfully extensive, among the avowed followers of the Crucified Jesus, is that appalling designation, Having not the spirit ! To this it must be ascribed, that, in our own favoured land, we are so continually displaying a form of godliness without the power; and shewing to the world around us, in such a multitude of instances, a chR1st IANITY without christ! To this, also, we trace the lamentable fact, that we exemplify so little the description given of the Primitive Christians, who, because they were filled with the Holy Ghost, were of one heart and one soul.