WE shall now, God willing, endeavor to speak of the triumph of the Holy Spirit over the enemies in detail. The first enemy we mentioned was the universal depravity of the human nature. Now the triumph of the Holy Spirit over this enemy consists, 1st, in planting divine grace in the soul, which diffuses itself through the whole man, body, soul, and spirit. The whole soul is changed, every faculty of it is renewed, although not perfect. The perfection of the soul will only take place in glory. Divine grace in the soul is not a plastering of an old house, but it is the building of a new; it is not an adorning a dead man with external reformation, but is life communicated. The work of renewing grace begins where sin began; the reformation begins where sin began the work of ruin. It begins to change and cleanse where sin began to corrupt and defile, and that is in the soul. Outward reformation is one thing, and inward renovation another. The Pharisees made clean the outside of the cup, and were but painted sepulchers, while within they were full of uncleanliness. Hypocrisy may make a new garb of visible actions, but can never make a new heart; it never can change or alter the soul; that still remains under the love and power of sin. But when the Holy Spirit comes in his triumph, He changes the soul; which change is from death to life, from unholiness to godliness. When the Holy Spirit, in his triumph, comes with the holy train of his graces into the soul, then the whole soul is divinely changed. Divine grace is compared to the light which disperses its rays through the atmosphere, so that there is no part left without light: to ointment, or perfume, which fills a room with its odor: to leaven, which diffuses itself through the whole lump. Thus where sin abounded grace did much more abound, according to the Apostle's declaration. "That, as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5:20,21) Here the Apostle emphatically declares the triumph of the Holy Spirit with his grace over sin, that the Spirit is not only a match, but more than a match for sin. "Where sin abounded grace did much more abound." 1st. Grace superabounded in the human nature of Christ. He, in the fullness of time, assumed our nature because the children are partakers of flesh and blood. (Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14) He also himself took part of the same, and the nature which Christ assumed was accompanied by all sinless infirmities. Now in this nature Christ appeared full of grace, and truth. There is an infinite inexhaustible overflowing, and superabounding fullness dwells in Him that we from thence might receive grace for grace. Thus in the same kind of nature, where sin abounded, grace does superabound. 2nd. In the several powers and faculties of the soul where sin abounded grace does much more abound. Sin has abounded and does abound in every power and faculty of the soul of a natural man, as we have seen.
So in the same faculties grace superabounds. 1st. In the understanding, which now is freed from darkness and enjoys a heavenly light, to know the things of God and to discern the things that are excellent, so that the mysteries of Christ and salvation appear in their glory, "we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18) In the judgment which is delivered from mistakes. It discerns between light and darkness; the high imaginations and carnal reasoning's are brought down, and the judgment is captivated to the truth; approves what is good, and condemns what is evil, counting sin the greatest evil and Christ the most incomparable happiness, and the enjoyment of God the only portion. (Phil. 3:8; Ps. 73:25) 3rd. In the will, which was proud, stubborn, and unwilling; but divine grace changes the will and makes it willing to obey and follow God: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" says the renewed will, "Draw me and I will run after thee." 4th. In all the affections of the soul. Never was there such a change! They fall out one with another. Grief falls out with love, and love with hatred; nay, they seem to be changed one into another: you into grief, and hatred into love. What a man did love he now hates, and what he did hate he now loves. What he desired he now fears, and what he delighted in he now grieves at. Nay, look on them distinctly in their several motions, the desires were, "Who will show us any good?" Now they are, "What shall we do to be saved?" The delights were in sin, now they are in the favor of God in Christ, in pardoning mercy, in holy society, and in doing the will of God. They hated God, but now they love him; before they were fearless of God, but now they fear him. They rejoiced in evil, but now they rejoice in that which is spiritually good and holy.
Grace abounded when the Gospel was carried into the Gentile world, and the Spirit went forth in his triumph carrying it with his divine power into their hearts. This was the great mystery which in other ages preceding the Gospel dispensation was not so made known to the sons of man as it is now revealed unto his holy Apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel. (Eph. 3:5,6) How was the grace of God magnified in their vocation! The abounding of sin among them made the superabounding grace of God appear the more glorious. What beauty and glory does the Apostle cast upon the free and rich grace of God manifested in the conversion of Gentile sinners, when, after drawing up a long catalogue of the vilest sins, he adds, "And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:11)
Thus where sin so much abounded, grace did much more abound. Superabounding grace manifests and discovers itself in conversion and regeneration. The state out of which sinners are brought and the blessings which are then bestowed, as well as the mighty grace which is then wrought, and the surprising change which is then effected in them, are so many evidences of the overflowings of God's love and grace towards them and in them. Well may the God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be said to beget us again unto a lively hope according to his abundant mercy. (1 Peter 1:3) Abundant mercy indeed! Abounding, superabounding grace, that he should, without any regard to our will or works, of his own will beget us with the word of truth, (James 1:18) and quicken us when dead in trespasses and sins! This is an instance of his free, rich, sovereign, inconceivable, and eternal love. Here is the first display and discovery of grace and mercy to a poor sinner.
It is true there was grace and mercy in God's heart before, grace and mercy in the covenant before, and grace and mercy shown in giving Christ; but until now the poor soul knew nothing of it. This river of God's love and grace ran underground from all eternity, and now bursts forth in effectual vocation, and comes with its swelling waters into the sinner's heart which is now plentifully filled therewith, having as much as its narrow capacity can receive, so that where sin abounded grace does much more abound. An instance of this we have in the Apostle Paul who tells us, (1 Tim. 1:14) "And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." He had as much, nay more than he could contain. It overflowed. O, abounding, superabounding grace! Nay, farther, as there is a display of grace in the conveyance of it into the sinner's heart at conversion even to a redundancy, so there is a sight and view given to the soul of exceedingly much more in the heart of God. It beholds God as the God of all grace, and views a boundless ocean of love and grace in him. O glorious sight! O happy discovery! This is what the Apostle prayed for on behalf of the Ephesians, that they "might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge." (Eph. 3:18,19) Here is an ocean of comfort and consolation for the vilest of sinners, that where sin abounded grace does much more abound. The Holy Ghost has left examples upon record for their encouragement; if made sensible of their need of this superabounding grace, as a Manasseh, a Mary Magdalene, and a persecuting Paul. And not only so, but he encourages them to come, promising them a welcome reception, assuring them that they shall in no wise be cast out or be cast away, but shall be taken by the hand and be led by the side of still waters.
"Let him that is athirst come," says the Spirit, "and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." The Father invites his children, and says to them, "Come, all things are now ready." Sanctification, justification, pardon, grace, love, mercy, pity, and compassion, peace, joy, comfort and consolation. A resting-place, a hiding-place, a refuge, a rock for shelter, a Redeemer and Saviour. All is ready, the fatted calf, the paschal lamb, and wine well refined on the lees, and the wedding garment also which gives them a title to all these. The crimson fountain stands ready open for them to be washed in and made clean. The feast is prepared and ready, and the Holy Spirit is ready to bring them there. The Redeemer stands ready to embrace them because they are his own. His own by his Father's gift, his own by purchase, his own by conquest whom he conquers by his blessed Spirit; his own by marriage and actual possession, which takes place when the Holy Spirit triumphs over sin in the heart. To these he says "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money come ye buy and eat, yea come buy wine and milk without money or price." (Isa. 55:1) And again, "Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." (Songs 5:1)
Here are encouragements for poor backsliders, for where sin abounded grace does much more abound. A child of God might, through the infirmity of the flesh, turn out of the right path; or, through a sudden, violent, and tempestuous wind of temptation be hurled into some awful sin, and through it bring a disgrace of the cause of God. To such a one I would say, if God the Holy Ghost has made you sensible of the woeful state into which sin and Satan have brought you, if he has stirred up your soul to cry for mercy through the blood of a dear Redeemer, if you are brought to confess your sins from the bottom of the heart, but are afraid there is neither mercy nor pardon for you, and you are ready to despair, "Where sin abounded grace does much more abound!" Look, poor backsliding soul, to Noah and Lot, David, Solomon, and Peter. They found mercy and pardon. The reason is, "Where sin abounded grace did much more abound." This superabounding grace the Holy Spirit brings when he triumphs over sin in the sinner's heart, therefore our sanctification, which is the same with the abounding grace in the soul, is called the sanctification of the Spirit, (1 Peter 1:2) and the change of heart which takes place by it is a change into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord; no man can change his own heart; but the Spirit makes this universal change. He is called the Spirit of faith, because faith in the heart is his work. (2 Cor. 4:13) Of love and joy, because he brings these into the soul.
All saving and spiritual good comes from the Father, as the fountain, and through the Son as mediator, and is wrought in the heart by the Spirit. As in the creation the Spirit moved upon the waters and so did, as it were, brood over and frame all the creatures, so in regeneration the Spirit descends and by his almighty power produces the spiritual change in it. The Spirit creates a new principle in the soul, which is essential to its change. In all alterations there must be some addition, if we would have cold removed from water, heat must come in, and if darkness be undesirable light must enter, and if sickness be removed health must of necessity follow, for all changes among bodies are equivalent to the production of new qualities. And thus it is when the Spirit changes the heart he brings a new principle contrary to the old, and this new principle is sometimes called holiness, the new man, the inward man, the law of the mind, sometimes the Spirit, Christ the anointing, and the seed of God. According to the several ways of his working, the names are given. As it is the forming of a heavenly being in the soul, it is called regeneration. As it is the turning of the heart, it is, called conversion. As it is the humbling of the heart, it is called godly sorrow. As it is the turning the sinner from sin, it is called repentance. As it brings the heart to God, it is called faith. As it is the abasing of the heart, it is called humility. As it makes man gentle and kind, it is called patience. As it enables the soul to be content with God's providence it is called contentment and self-denial. In all these, grace superabounds. The Apostle also tells us that grace reigns, that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign. Sin has a universal dominion, it has extended its empire over the whole race of mankind; elect as well as non-elect are under the power and dominion of it until the Spirit, by his irresistible and efficacious grace, comes and brings the elect out of that kingdom into the kingdom of God's dear Son, (Col. 1:13) and then sin shall not have dominion, shall not lord it over them, because they are not under the law, but under grace; they are then no longer the subjects of sin, being translated into another kingdom, and so are the subjects of Christ, who is the head of the covenant of grace, as Adam was of the covenant of works, by whom sin and death by sin set up their empire in the world.
Now it does not become any of those who profess themselves to be Christ's subjects to yield any obedience to the law of sin, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body that ye should obey it in the lust thereof." (Rom. 6:12) But of this we have spoken elsewhere.
As sin has reigned in every faculty of the soul, so grace reigns universally there through the triumph of the Spirit. He erects a throne of grace to reign and have dominion in this little world--the regenerated heart. It is true that the Canaanites within often rise up in mutiny to dispossess grace of its throne, but it is all in vain, being soon brought into subjection again, for grace reigns through righteousness, or in a righteous way, consistent with the glorious perfections of God's holiness and righteousness. God, in drawing the glorious model of man's salvation, so ordered it, that there should be no disagreement between the divine perfections, but that all should shine with an equal glory, and, therefore, he set forth Christ to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness, that he might be just, and the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. (Rom. 3:25,26) So that through Christ fulfilling the law, atoning for sin, and satisfying divine justice, the honor of God's holiness is effectually secured, and the glory of his righteousness displayed, as well as his grace and mercy magnified.
But then, again, grace reigns unto eternal life by Christ, it shall never be frustrated, God will never be disappointed of his end, to wit, the glory of his grace. It reigned from all eternity, it reigns in time, and it will reign to all eternity. It reigned in the contrivance, it reigned in the accomplishment, and it reigned in the application of it, for God has so ordered it that it should be by faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed. (Rom. 4:16) And it will reign till it has brought us to the full possession of salvation, even eternal life by Christ. The reign of grace in the soul supposes an ejection of the strong man armed, a demolition of sin's throne and empire, which are effected by the powerful grace of the Spirit in making the weapons of our warfare effectually mighty for the pulling down those strongholds. It also supposes a principle of grace implanted by the same hand, which principle exerts itself, reigns and maintains it ground against all oppositions, which it will do, if true, though it be but small, for it is an incorruptible, immortal, never-dying seed, a well of water which springs up into eternal life, and a good work which being begun shall be performed until the day of Christ. (Phil. 1:6) This reign of grace is supported and maintained by righteousness. Solomon says, "The king's throne is established by righteousness," (Prov. 16:12) so is this throne of grace, by Christ's righteousness imputed and his grace imparted. All our peace, joy, and comfort, in a great measure, result from, and are maintained by faith's living on Christ's righteousness, and by an apprehension of our justification by it; for, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom. 5:1,2) This work of grace is also maintained by fresh supplies of grace from that fullness which is in Christ, out of which every believer receives more or less, even grace for grace. Now, both these together, namely, righteousness imputed and grace imparted, will bring a soul safe to eternal life. Christ's righteousness is our title to, and the Spirit's grace from Christ is our meetness for heaven; and without both these none shall enter there.
And all this, grace, righteousness, and eternal life, come to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. All the discoveries of grace which are made to our souls are through Christ, and all that grace which is implanted in us is from him, as well as those fresh supplies by which it is maintained. Also that righteousness by which we are justified is in him, and that eternal life which we are the expectants of is through him. Is grace exalted? Does grace reign? Is grace upon the throne? O blessed news to sensible sinners! Believer, haste to this throne of grace! It is one thing to have a gracious king reign, and another to have a gracious Saviour reign, and grace itself. O how happy are those who are under this reign! Let all cry, Long live this sovereign that reigns through righteousness by Jesus Christ. This is the best reign that ever was; no sovereign ever reigned through such righteousness. This a just reign; grace reigns and exalts infinite justice, infinite righteousness by Jesus Christ; it is a God-honoring, a Christ-exalting, a law-magnifying reign; it is a sin-condemning, a sin-killing, a sin-destroying, reign; it is a hell-confounding, and a devil-terrifying, a devil-amazing, and a devil-consuming reign; it is a death-vanquishing, a death-plaguing, and a death destroying reign; it is a sinner-enlightening, a sinner quickening, a sinner-renewing, a sinner-acquitting, a sinner-justifying, a sinner-pardoning, a sinner-comforting, a sinner-enriching, a sinner-exalting, a sinner-sanctifying, and a sinner-glorifying reign! O happy souls, in whom, and over whom, and for whom grace reigns! Almighty, infinite, and unspeakable grace! What, O child of God, dost thou fear? Who can pull grace from the throne? Can men? Can devils? No. They can as soon pull God or Christ out of heaven as dethrone God's sovereign grace! Does grace reign in and over you? Examine yourself. Does the Spirit of God dwell in your heart? See to it; for this is the way grace comes to reign in you. Do you truly believe with the faith of God's elect in Christ for righteousness? Are you quickened, renewed, regenerated? for so are they in whom grace reigns. Are you dead to sin, dead to the law, dead to your own righteousness, and dead to this world? Then grace reigns in and over you! If sin reigns in you, and you obey it in the lust thereof, grace reigns not in, nor over you. Rejoice, ye saints, and triumph in rich grace; Satan is under your feet, and subdued by divine grace; the world is overcome, and "sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14)