THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE SEAL OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
by Oxenden, Ashton, 1808-1892
The descent of the Holy Ghost upon the early followers of our Lord, was the great object to which He specially directed their thoughts. And in accordance with this promise, the Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost, in all the fulness of His power, to bless and give life to the Christian Church.
Now, it was promised by our Lord that the Holy Spirit should abide with us — not merely visit us for a time, but continue and remain with us. And He does now actually dwell in the hearts of all God's people. He is as truly present with them as He was with the Disciples on the day of Pentecost. And if we cannot see this, and believe it, what is it but a sad proof that we are still in our worldly state ; not taught of God,
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and not under the influence of His grace? For does not the Saviour Himself, when speaking of the Holy Spirit, say, " Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him ; hxsXye know Him, for He dvvelleth with you, and shall be in you ! "
I would ask those who deny the Spirit's influence, just to consider this —
Is it not most clearly told us in Scripture, that our Lord promised to bestow the gift of the Spirit upon His people ?
Is it not clear that the Holy Ghost did descend upon the Disciples ten days after our Lord's Ascension ?
And again, is it not clear that, in the Acts and Epistles, Christians are spoken of as having the Holy Spirit in their hearts ; nay, that if they are not led by the Spirit, they are not, and cannot be, the true children of God?
But some have the notion in their minds, that the Holy Spirit is with the Church generally, but that He does not work in individual hearts. They do not, and cannot, deny His presence and His power in the world ; but they will not allow that He
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carries on a special work in the Believer's soul. This they look upon as all fancy and enthusiasm. They are willing to pray in church, as we have been praying this morning, "Almighty God, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy
Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee." But they would perhaps think it folly to kneel down alone in their own private chambers, and pour out their hearts to God, saying, " O Lord, give i)ie Thy Holy Spirit to dwell within me ; and fill me with His blessed inspiration."
Believe me, it is not enough to acknowledge that every true Church must have the Holy Spirit present with it, or it cannot be a living Church; but we must have the same Holy Spirit, each one of us. In fact, if you and I have not God's Holy Spirit working in our hearts, dwelling there at this moment, we are not real living Christians ; there is something we lack, something without which we cannot be the true people of God.
This is a solemn thought. Oh, that none of us may deceive ourselves ! We may be regular church-goers, regular Bible-readers,
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regular at our private prayers, of upright and honest hves ; and so far all is well. But if our hearts are not the temple, the abode, the dwelling-place, of the Holy Ghost — if His presence and power are not felt deep in our souls — if He is not there, leavening our whole inner man — then we fall short of being genuine Christians; there is no life in us.
This is too important a matter to be put aside with a mere passing thought. Let us then seriously consider, what are the signs of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. I will mention /<:^/^r.
I. Earnestness as 7'egards salvation. One would think that the salvation of a person's soul would be the first, the chief, the greatest concern with every one. But is it so? We
see this person eager about making money. We see another full of anxiety about his family. A third is very desirous to improve his health. But seldom, very seldom, do we find men filled with concern about their souls. We sometimes say, " When a man gets older, he will become thoughtful." But this by no means follows as a matter
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of course. How often we see persons drawing near to the very brink of the grave, still careless and unconcerned. The world is leaving them; but they still love it, and cling to it, to the very last. Truly we need the Holy Spirit's quickening, awakening power to rouse us from our sleep, and make us seek salvation in real earnest.
2. TJie enlighieniiig of the mind. Being naturally blind as regards heavenly things,
we must be taught of God, and a light from above must shine in upon our souls, before we can even understand God's truth. If any one wishes to see this plainly stated, let him quietly read over i Corinthians, ii. We are there told, concerning " the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him," that is, the good things which the Christian enjoys now that " eye " hath not seen them, nor ear heard them. " But," the Apostle says, ** God JiatJi revealed them unto us by His Spirit ; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." And, a few verses on, he speaks still more plainly ; " The natural man," he says, "receiveth not the things of the
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Spirit of God, neither caji he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
I will go even further, and observe that a person may know a great deal, and get hold of the outside of the Gospel, and yet, for want of the Spirit's grace and teaching, his mind may be in darkness still. You may learn in childhood that God is love ; and yet you may grow up utterly disregarding Him, and you may even die blaspheming Him ! You may be acquainted with the holiest truths, and be able to speak learnedly about them ; and yet you may be a wretched man. You may have this text upon your lips, ** Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved ; " and yet you may neglect His salvation all your days. But, when God teaches by His Holy Spirit, He teaches the heart; He enlightens the very soul.
3. Another sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will be Love to God and to His people. The Spirit changes the heart of man, and raises it up from earth to heaven. He not only teaches us that we ought \.q love God, but draws our hearts towards Him.
" The love of God " as the Apostle says, " is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy
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Spirit which is given us." And so it is with love to His people. The Holy Spirit not only shows us that it is our duty to love them ; but He sows the seeds of love within us. Our hearts are drawn out towards our heavenly Father's children ; " By this we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."
4. I will mention one more sign, and that a sure and unfailing sign, of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a soul ; and that is Holiness. Where the Holy Spirit is, there will be holiness ; a love for holiness ; a striving after holiness ; a gradual growth in holiness ; the bringing every thought, and desire, and feeling, into subjection to the
will of God. We may mistake nature for grace. We may mistake the outside of religion for that which is inward and real. But when we see a holy man — one walking with God, and doing everything to His glory — this we cannot mistake ; it is, and must be, God's own work in the soul.
Now, take these four signs, and examine your own heart. Are you earnestly concerned about your soul's salvation ? Is your
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mind enlightened ? Do you see heavenly truths much more clearly than you once saw them ? Do you love God your Saviour and His people ? And lastly, are you walking in the path oi holiness f Then, if so, do not doubt but that God's Holy Spirit has taken up His abode within you.
But there is an expression to which I must in conclusion call your attention — the sealing of the Holy Spirit. In Eph. i. 13, St. Paul says, " After that ye believed ye were sealed\N\Xh. that Holy Spirit of promise." We find the same thing spoken of in two other passages of Scripture. In chap, iv, 30, of the same Epistle, St. Paul says, " Grieve not the Holy Spirit, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." And in 2 Cor. i. 22, it is written, ** God hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."
What is this sealing ? We must not look for it in the case of the unconverted, but in those who are true Believers ; for the Apostle says, "After that ye believed, ye were sealed." It is an after work, by which the Believer is confirmed and strengthened in his faith. Just as when any paper or docu-
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ment is drawn up, we are in the habit of signing our name at the end of it, and then we put our seal upon it, in order to show that we acknowledge it, and make it ours, so God by His Holy Spirit sets His stamp upon believers, and marks them for His own.
We often see God's people full of doubt and uncertainty whether they are accepted or not. Their hearts are turned heavenward ; they love Christ, and wish to serve Him. But they do not feel happy. Their footing is not firm. There is a work of grace within them ; but they seem to lack something. What is it? Not a voice from heaven, to tell them that God is their Father ; not a vision of the night, to remove all doubt : no, this is not God's way of dealing. What they want is more of the Holy Spirit — a deeper work in their souls — they want this sealing, which is spoken of in
Scripture. And often God is pleased to give this, under the preaching of the Word, or in reading of a chapter of the Bible. Some promise is brought by the power of the Holy Spirit, and sealed upon the heart. And thus the soul is led into the full assurance
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of understanding and of faith. The Believer feels that he is welcome, and that he is indeed one of God's adopted children. How blessed thus to have our way cleared, our doubts removed, our slavish fear calmed, and under the drawings of eternal love to approach God as a reconciled Father !
No one who reads the New Testament can fail to see that this was the bright and happy feeling of true Believers in former days. And this it was that made them
strong, and enabled them to go through the world as men who had " made their calling and election sure."
Look at St. Paul saying, " But I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe." Did he not mean that all, who should believe like him, might rejoice as he rejoiced ? He would not shut out one from that blessed source of joy to his own soul — the power of saying, " But I have obtained mercy."
Again, did not the early Christian Believers speak in language of the greatest confidence, and say, " We are of God " —
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'' We are fellow-citizens of the saints and of the household of God" — once "darkness,"
now " light in the Lord ? " And may not we speak with the same holy, humble confidence ? May not we take to ourselves the comfort that we are actually and really adopted into God's family.
Yes, we may. And it is moreover the duty and the privilege of every Believer among us diligently and prayerfully to seek for this assurance of faith, this sealing of the Spirit. It is not an imaginary blessing: it is a real one, and it may be ours. Be not satisfied with a dim hope ; or rest content with a past experience. Apply for a present pardon, a present sense of acceptance, a present salvation, 2, present Christ to rejoice in, and to live upon.
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