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The Withering Work of the Holy Spirit.

The Withering Work of the Holy Spirit.

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Published by glennpease


— Isaiah xL 6-8.

1. Pet 1. 23-25.


— Isaiah xL 6-8.

1. Pet 1. 23-25.

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Published by: glennpease on Apr 27, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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THE WITHERIG WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.BY CHARLES H. SPURGEO — Isaiah xL 6-8.1. Pet 1. 23-25.The passage in Isaiah which I have just read in yourhearini^ may be used as a very eloquent description of ourmortality, and if a sermon should be preached from it uponthe frailty of human nature, the brevity of life, and the cer-tainty of death, no one could dispute the appropriateness of the text. Yet I venture to question whether such a dis-. course would strike the central teaching of the prophet.Something more than the decay of our material flesh is in-tended here ; the carnal mind, the flesh in another sense,was intended by the Holy Ghost when he bade his messen-ger proclaim those words. It does not seem to me that amere expression of the mortality of our race was need<id inthis i)lace by the context ; it would hardly keep pace withthe sublime revelations which surround it, and would ingome measure be a digression from the subject in hand. Thenotion that we are simply and alone reminded of our mor*tality does not square wit\\ t\\c ev Testament exppsitionTHE HOLY SPmiT. 8636f it in Peter, which I have also placed before you as atext. There is another and more spiritual meaning here be-sides and beyond that which would be contained in thegreat and very obvious truth, that all of us must die.Lo^k at the chapter in Isaiah with care. What is thesubject of it ? It is the divine consolation of Zion. Zionhad been tossed to and fro with conflicts ; she had beensmarting under the result of sin. The Lord, to remove hersorrow, bids his prophets announce the coming of the long-expected Deliverer, the end and accomplishment of all herwarfare and the pardon of all her iniquity. There is nodoubt that this is the theme of the prophecy ; and further,there is no sort of question about the next point, that theprophet goes on to foretell the coming of John the Baptistas the harbinger of the Messiah. We have no difficulty in
the explanation of the passage, " Prepare ye the way of theLord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God ; "for the ew Testament again and again refers this to theBaptist and his ministry. The object of the coming of theBaptist and the mission of the Messiah, whom he heralded,was the manifestation of divine glory. Observe the fifthverse : ** The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and allflesh shall see it together : for the mouth of the Lord hath,spoken it." Well, what next ? Was it needful to mentionman's mortality in this connection ? We think not. Butthere is much more appropriateness in the succeeding verses,if we see their deeper meaning. Do they not mean this ?In order to make room for the display of the divine gloryin Christ Jesus and his salvation, there would come a with-ering of all the glory wherein man boasts himself : the fleshshould be seen in its true nature as corrupt and dying, andthe grace of God alone should be exalted. This would beseen under the ministiy of John the Baptist first, and shouldbe the preparatory work of the Holy Ghost in men's hearts,in all time, in order that the glory of the Lord should be t^vealed and human pride be forever conioxxudeOuS64 THE WTTHERIa WOBK OFThe Spirit blows upon the flesh, and that which seemedvigorous becomes weak, that which was fair to look upon issmitten with decay ; the true natore of the flesh is thus discov-ered, its deceit is laid bare, its power is destroyed, and thereis space for the dispensation of the ever-abiding word, and forthe rule of the Great Shepherd, whose words are spirit andlife Tliere is a withering wrought by the Spirit which isIhe preparation for the sowing and implanting by which sal-vation is wrought.The withering before the sowing was very marvellouslyfulfilled in the preaching of John the Baptist. Most appro-priately he carried on his ministry in the desert, for a spir-itual desert was all around him ; he was the voice of onecrying in the wilderness. It was not his work to plant, butto hew down. The fleshy religion of the Jews was then inits prime. Phariseeism stalked through the streets in allitspomp ; men complacently rested in outward ceremoniesonly, and spiritual religion was at the lowest conceivableebb. Here and there might be found a Simeon and an Anna,but for the most part men knew nothing of spiritual religion,
but said in their hearts : " We have Abraham to our father,and this is enough. " What a stir he made when he calledthe lordly Pharisees a generation of vipers I How he shook the nation with the declaration, " ow also the axe is laidunto the root of the trees I " Stem as Elias, his work wasto level the mountains, and lay low every lofty imagination.That word, " Repent," was as a scorching wind to the ver-dure of self-righteousness, a killing blast for the confidenceof ceremonialism. His food and his dress called for fastingand mourning. The outward token of his ministry declaredthe death amid which he preached, as he buried in the Wa-ters of Jordan those who came to him. " Ye must die andbe buried, even as he who is to come will save by death andburial." This was the meaning of the emblem which he setbefore the crowd. His typical act was as thorough in itsteaebiog as were his words ; and a&\i \i\vdX^exe not enough, ht\ — -^^^THE HOLY SPIRIT. 365warned them of a yet more searching and trying baptismwith the Holy Ghost and with lire, and of the coming of onewhose fan was in his hand, thoroughly to purge his floor.The Spirit in John blew as the rougli north wind, searchingand witliering, and made him to be a destroyer of the "a ingloryings of a fleshly religion, that the spiritual faith mightbe established.When our Lord himself actually appeared, he came intoa "w ithered land, whose glories had all departed. Old Jesse'sstem was bare, and our Lord was the branch which grewout of his root. The sceptre had departed from Judah, andthe lawgiver from between his feet, when Shiloh came. Analien sat on David's throne, and the Roman called the cov-enant-land his own. The lamp of prophecy burned but dimly,even if it had not utterly gone out. o Isaiah had arisenof late to console them, nor even a Jeremiah to lament theirapostacy. The whole economy of Judaism was as a worn-out vesture ; it had waxed old, and was ready to vanish away.The priesthood was disarranged. Luke tells us that Annasand Caiaphas were high priests that year — two in a year orat once, a strange setting aside of the laws of Moses. Allthe dispensation which gathered around the visible, or asPaul calls it, the " worldly " sanctuary, was coming to a

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