In the present day, the Spirit's work appears, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, to be altogether cast overboard. When we look round upon dear old England, and think of her as she once was, the center from whence the Word of God, in its simplicity and purity, emanated, what a contrast do we now behold! The Lord, in his judgments, seems to be permitting things to arise among us, which I cannot but look upon as springing from that most fearful act whereby Roman Catholics were admitted into our Parliament.
I shall never forget the words of good Lord Eldon, which I know were scoffed at by thousands in that day. When he knew that the act was passed, he said, with tears, "THE SUN OF OLD ENGLAND IS SET." And from day to day, and from week to week, we see springing up amongst us things which, to my mind, seem sometimes almost terrific.
On the one hand, we have a bishop in our Church who denies the truth of the Bible, and treats it as a mere fable. He endeavors to prove the impossibility of those things which God has noted down there by the Spirit. He goes on to deny the Godhead of our most glorious Christ, and calls him an uneducated Jew. While on the other hand, we have another bishop, who in his last charge laments that, as a nation, and as a Church, we are so isolated. He mourns over the fact, that we are not joined to the Roman Catholic Church. He plainly declares that he would cut off all that was done at our Reformation. There are, moreover, no less than six thousand persons--men in high life--who are banded together to use all their influence to endeavor to bring about the union--not only of the Church of England with the Church of Rome, but also of the Eastern Church with both.
I find it is in contemplation to send over a deputation from Moscow to England, of the most eminent of the Eastern bishops, to endeavor to bring about such a union; so that the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Church, and the Church of England, may all be joined together in one.
Again, it was only last evening that I was looking into some sermons preached by Dr. S--wherein he clearly ignores all that is precious concerning the salvation of sinners. He makes religion nothing more than a thing to be learned by rote, like a parrot. These things, then, all conspiring together--infidelity on the one hand, and popery on the other--are silently, yet surely, doing the work of Satan. In our rural districts, the poor country people are being taught, that all they have to do is to go to Church, and to take the sacrament, and then all is well, and they are sure to go to heaven.
Now these things are not being done in a corner; and I do feel, when we come to touch upon such a subject as that which I have read as our text today, that it is by the power of the Spirit of God alone that any man ever did or could find his way to the Father through Christ, we are called upon to sound the alarm, and to tell the Lord's children that these things are at their very doors, and that it behooves us to be on our watchtower, and to be calling upon the Lord; that his own dear Church may find a refuge in him, when all other things fail, and all seems to go to destruction. How soon these things may occur, we cannot tell; but that they will occur, there can be no doubt. That there will be a delivering over to the power of the beast, the Word of God clearly tells us.
"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." A man must be brought out of darkness into spiritual light, before he can become manifestly a child of God. But there are those who say, "We want no conversions." They believe it is all a mere mechanical thing, that it is done at baptism by dipping the fingers of a man in water, and sprinkling the babe with it, and that it thus becomes a spiritual child; and this is propagated far and wide in the Church of England.
Moreover, very many of the dissenters in our day--I do not speak of the particular Baptists, they are very free from it, but many in other denominations--are casting overboard altogether the necessity of true conversion. They say that every man has a latent power in himself to believe at will. They are setting aside the work of the Spirit altogether; whereas, if we look at what the apostle says here, we find that it is all based upon the work of the Spirit of God alone--that it is by his blessed power and ministry we become the sons of God.
How very blessedly does Paul go over the subject in the beginning of the chapter from which our text is taken. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) Those who are in him by spiritual regeneration, born again from above, not from beneath--not by the power of man; as it is most blessedly expressed in John 1:12,13--"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, [no, man's will can have nothing to do with the great and mighty work of the Spirit,] but of God."
Again, how, blessedly does James speak of the same truth in the 1st chapter of his epistle, 17th verse: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." Then the gift of life--the gift of regeneration--that blessed converting gift, whereby we become new creatures in Christ Jesus, is "from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." (James 1:18) It is of his own will he begat us, "not of the will of the flesh"--"not of blood;" it cannot be inherited, but it must come directly through the power and ministry of the Spirit of God.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:1,2) It is the Spirit of life of which he speaks in the 9th verse, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
It is not, as ninety-nine persons out of a hundred tell us, that it is to have very good tempers, to be very civil, very kind, very benevolent, and so on; but "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." What does this mean? If we have not the life of Christ--if we have not his Spirit in us, we are not in Christ. We have no evidence of it until we are born again of the Spirit of God. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." It is a personal thing--"hath made me free." "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," (Rom. 8:3)--not in sinful flesh, but "in the likeness of sinful flesh;" for "he passed by the nature of angels, and took upon him the seed of Abraham," (Heb. 2:16)--"and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:4)
"That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," as we stand one with Christ; for we partake of his spotless righteousness. We partake of his obedience. His obedience is the obedience of his body, as his body stands in eternal union with him. He possesses our life in himself. When he passed through death, he swallowed it up in eternal victory; therefore there is no more death to a child of God, but a sleeping in Jesus.
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit." Now, no man can walk after the Spirit, until he is born again from above,--made a new creature in Christ Jesus. From that moment the Spirit is master of the tabernacle. The child of God may know very little about it at first. He may be filled with ten thousand doubts and fears, as the discoveries of sin are made clear to him from day to day; but the bent of the desires of his new heart are ever after spiritual things. "That I may know HIM, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." (Phil. 3:10) "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh." They are contented with a fleshly religion. Now, dear brother, will a fleshly religion satisfy you? Is it enough for you to go to the house of God, and to go through a certain number of prayers, like the poor Roman Catholic, who counts over his beads, and who thinks, when he has said a certain number of prayers upon his beads, that he has done his duty?
"Ah," says some child of God, "I often find, when I begin to pour out my heart in prayer, if I have no great trouble pressing me down, I go over a mere form of words, just like the poor Roman Catholic." But are you contented with it, as these poor, miserable creatures are, who are contented with a fleshly religion? They are walking after the flesh, and minding the things of the flesh. A system which consists of a mere repetition of words will satisfy them; for it is all fleshly, from the beginning to the end. Not so the child of God. He wants his heart to be in his religion; and he must have it so. He must have his heart engaged in the sermon, and in all his worship. If he cannot get his heart sweetly melted and broken, he feels it is all a blank to him. It is "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Rom. 10:10)
It is such an one, then, that is walking after the Spirit, and minding the things of the Spirit, who is going out in desire after sweet communion and blessed intimacy with a covenant God and Father in Christ, through the teaching and ministry of the Spirit; "for to be carnally minded," or, as it reads in the margin, to be minding carnal things, "is death; but to be spiritually minded" (to be minding spiritual things) "is life and peace." (Rom. 8:6)
Now I would drop a word or two here with reference to the daily exercises of the child of God. "To be minding fleshly things is death," or brings death into the soul. Now if you are daily looking at yourself, and minding all that is going on in the flesh, writing bitter things against yourself because the flesh gets no better, because you cannot "wash the Ethiopian white, or cleanse the leopard of his spots," you are "minding the things of the flesh." But it is the privilege of the child of God to go out of all that he is in the creature, watching the blessed teaching and ministry of the Spirit in his heart, in the outgoing of the new mind in desire after spiritual things, in the desire to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 3:18)
As sure as Satan can bring the child of God into bondage by causing him to be "minding the things of the flesh," forgetting the blessed work which the Spirit is carrying on in his new heart, wherein he takes of the things of Christ and reveals them to faith--I say, as sure as Satan can get him thus to listen to him, and to be dwelling entirely on the corruptions of the flesh, death comes into the soul. This is "minding the things of the flesh." And "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace:" for the moment we turn the other side, and look a little at the work of the Spirit as he carries it on in his temple--looking back over all the way the Lord has led us these forty years in the wilderness, to try us and to let us see what is in our hearts--looking back into the glorious covenant purposes which were formed before the foundation of the world--the moment we begin to contemplate these things, our souls "mount up with wings as eagles; we run, and are not weary; we walk, and are not faint." (Isa. 40:31)
The Lord help you, then, to "come up out of the wilderness, leaning upon the beloved." "Casting all your care upon him," knowing that "he careth for you." We know that in ourselves we have nothing but what is "earthly, sensual, and devilish." Yet, on the other hand, as we walk in the Spirit; as we are new creatures in Christ Jesus; as we are possessors of the "law of the Spirit of life" in him, we know that it is our privilege to rejoice in the blessedness, that all those things which we mourn and grieve over from day to day, and from hour to hour, will not be laid to our charge; that they have been once and for ever laid on the head of the great Surety, and that he has put them away by the sacrifice of himself. This, then, is to be "minding the things of the Spirit;" and I am quite sure, it is only as the Lord the Spirit brings the child of God up, to be mindful of all that is going on under his blessed ministry within, that he can rise above the flesh, that he can soar above all earthly things, which are ever changing, and that he can live to the praise of the glory of that grace which hath made him "accepted in the beloved."
But why is it? Because "the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Rom. 8:7) Now, Paul explains this in the latter part of the 7th chapter of this epistle: "I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me." Here was the carnal mind in Paul, which was enmity against God: "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God,"--this is minding the things of the Spirit,--"but with the flesh, the law of sin."
Now, compare the last verse of the 7th chapter with the 7th verse of the 8th chapter: "The carnal mind [in the child of God] is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." As Paul tells us most plainly, with the flesh he served the law of sin; for the fleshly mind is carnal, opposed to all that is godly and blessed.
"So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God: but ye are not in the flesh." "Ah," say you, "this is my great difficulty; I find the flesh raging in such a way, that sometimes it becomes almost rampant."
But, dear brother, we are not in the flesh when we are born again from above. We are taken out of the flesh, as Paul tells us in the 6th chapter 9th verse: "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." When we are created anew in Christ Jesus, we are taken out of the flesh. Not that the flesh is destroyed, but we are not living in the flesh now--we are living in Christ; therefore the apostle goes on to say, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin." Then if I am dead unto sin, I am alive unto God; if I am dead unto sin, I am not living in the flesh, but in the Spirit, as a spiritual man--as a new creature in Christ Jesus.
"Ah!" say you, "how is it, then, that I feel the flesh so rampant?" Dear brother, you will never, until death comes, be released from the thralldom of the flesh--from the law of sin in your members. But that forms no part of the new creature in Christ Jesus. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor. 5:17) "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God [through or in, the preposition here signifies in, that is, inside another] in Jesus Christ our Lord." "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." But if we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, we do please him. Nothing pleases our covenant God and Father more, than to see a poor prodigal returning just as he is; not waiting until he is better, but saying,
"Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thou bidst me come to thee:
O Lamb of God, I come."
Dear brother, I would not but be living in this state of prodigality, although the flesh in me does not like it; for the flesh in the child of God often becomes religious. Sometimes there is such a combination of things that come into his heart to distress him, that he is brought almost into despair. These are the "WOOD, HAY, and STUBBLE," which must all be burned up; "for the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." But there are other things that remain--"the GOLD, the SILVER, and the PRECIOUS STONES." (1 Cor. 3:12,13) These are faith, hope, and love. These are the faculties of the new man that are acted upon by the power of the Spirit; and where these exist, we are walking not "after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
It is a blessed thing to go through the fire. The three children found it so when they were sent into the furnace, where they lost their bondage, and found communion and fellowship with a precious Lord Jesus Christ."
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." We are not to understand in this verse the same Spirit in both places. "If so be the Spirit of God dwell in you." The Spirit of God takes possession of the new creature, and the new creature is the life of Christ; it is Christ formed in the heart the hope of glory. "Now if any man have not the Spirit [or life] of Christ, he is none of his." The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is one thing; the spirit that dwells in the new creature is another. "But if the Spirit [by which we become new creatures in Christ Jesus, whereby we are made as holy as God is holy, in our new creature life and being] be in you, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."
This refers to the blessed resurrection of the child of God at the last day, when he shall be presented before God without the flesh; for there is no resurrection of the old nature, the flesh being for ever destroyed. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
Now this is the one thing needful, to be led by the Spirit of God. It is the only leading that will ever bring joy and peace into the heart of a poor needy sinner.
"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." The Spirit of adoption is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which hath made us free from the law of sin and death. It is Christ himself, the life of his own dear body. It is because we are made partakers of this new life, that we are enabled to say, "Abba, Father;" for
"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit." Here are two distinct spirits of holiness in one blessed new creature life, in which we live one with Christ. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."
But we have not yet looked much into our text, which is like a precious jewel to my soul: we have only so far looked a little at the setting. We come now more particularly to look at the Spirit's leadings, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." As sure as we are led by the Spirit of God, we are brought to see our own emptiness and nothingness; we become dead to all hope in ourselves, and Christ becomes all in all to us. "And of his fulness we receive, and grace upon grace." (John 1:16)
It is a mercy to be brought to understand, that without the living, acting power of the Spirit, we can do nothing.
It is by the ministry of the Spirit of God that the work of God is begun and carried on in the heart, and it will be so until the last child of God shall be born again from above.
It was by the Spirit of God that all the old patriarchs were quickened out of a state of death in sin into a life of righteousness. For although it may be denied, as it is by many in our day, that the Old Testament saints received the Spirit of God, we know that there can be no life without him.
It was the Spirit of God that rested upon Isaac when he blessed Jacob. It was the Spirit of God that went with Jacob all through his journeyings, and rested upon him. It was the Spirit of God that caused him to see that great and glorious vision of the ladder that was set up from earth to heaven. It was through the leadings of the Spirit of God that the patriarchs were instructed; and "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Pet. 1:21) Therefore it is with delight that we contemplate the ministry of the Spirit; and while we speak of the Spirit, we must not forget that he is equal with the Father and the Son; and that he loves us with the same everlasting love.
We find, in looking into the Word of God, that there are many glorious names by which the Spirit of God is called.
First, he is called "THE SPIRIT OF LIFE."
I would not ask the child of God how much of knowledge or enjoyment he has; but I would come to him with this enquiry--Can you say with the poor blind man, "Whereas I was blind, now I see?" (John 9:25) A man that is in spiritual death is a blind man; but when he is brought under the regenerating power of the Spirit of God, he is brought out of spiritual death into spiritual life.
Moreover, he is called "THE SPIRIT OF LIGHT." He gives us "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face [or person] of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6)
He is also "THE SPIRIT OF LOVE." It is the Spirit that brings the love of God into the soul; as we have it in the 5th chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans--"Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." It is the Spirit of God alone that can so shed abroad the love of God in the heart of a child of God, as to bring him up out of all that he is in himself; so that, whilst he feels his need as a poor lost sinner, he flies for refuge to the hope set before him in the gospel. And are we not compelled to exclaim--
"Why was I made to hear his voice,
And enter while there's room;
While thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?
"'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly forced me in,
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perish'd in my sin."
Well may I feel astonished at the mercy that I should be among the chosen of God, when I am led forth to contemplate that all that my most glorious Christ possesses, he possesses for me; that all is mine, and that I am Christ's and Christ is God's.
But he is not only the Spirit of love, he is also "THE SPIRIT OF POWER."
We feel from day to day, when we open our Bibles, that it is only by his power, and as he bestows upon us a little of his precious anointings, that we get a little melting of heart. As John says, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things....But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." (1 John 2:20,27)
We experience a little of the divine power of the Spirit of God when he brings home some precious word to the heart, and makes us feel that it was written expressly for ourselves; then we can feed upon the Word, and find it to be "the joy and the rejoicing of our hearts."
He is also "THE SPIRIT OF A SOUND MIND." And where is the "sound mind" to be found? Not in any natural man. It is not to be found in the fleshly mind, but in the spiritual mind, which is the mind of Christ; as the apostle says, "For we have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16)
Moreover, he is called "THE SPIRIT OF GRACE AND OF SUPPLICATION." He is the Spirit of all grace. All the grace that is treasured up in Christ flows to us through the Spirit. He is the Spirit of supplication. It is only by the Spirit that we can pray; our own prayers are mere fleshly prayers; it is the Spirit that must indite our petitions; it is HE that puts the Spirit of supplication into our hearts; it is HE that inspires our prayers; so that we do not pray in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
Again, he is "THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH." It was by the Spirit that the Holy Bible was written; and we rest upon the word, knowing that the Spirit can make no mistakes, because he is the Spirit of all truth.
He is also called "THE SPIRIT OF FAITH." There never was a single grain of true faith, but by the Spirit. It is the Spirit that works every grace in the soul of a child of God. So that we glory in that we are dependent upon "the Spirit of faith."
But Little-faith will say,
"Oh! could I but believe;
All things would easy be."
Dear brother, it is the Spirit that breathes into your heart this living desire. There is life in the desire. There is love in the desire. There is faith in the desire; and the poor trembling little one in God's family will ultimately receive such an amount of faith, and such an amount of love by sovereign grace, as shall enable him to "lay hold of the hope set before him in the gospel," and to keep fast hold, saying, "My Lord and my God."
He is, moreover, called "THE SPIRIT OF ADOPTION." The Spirit of adoption, as I have before said, has especial reference to the life of Christ. But, then, the life of Christ never came into the heart of a child of God but by the Spirit. We cannot know our adoption as sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty, until the Spirit creates us anew in Christ Jesus. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:10)
Again, he is "THE SPIRIT OF PROMISE." There is not a single promise revealed to us in the Word of God, but it comes to us by the power of the Spirit. It is the Spirit that must breathe upon the promise, and bring it home to the heart of the child of God.
He is also "THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM, AND OF REVELATION." He is, therefore, the SPIRIT OF CHRIST; for Christ is "the wisdom of God in a mystery." (1 Cor. 2:7) Christ is both "the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor. 1:24) The combination of all the wisdom of Jehovah is centered in the person of our most glorious Christ.
It is "the Spirit of wisdom" that reveals Christ in the heart, and makes the child of God "wise unto salvation." There is no revelation made to the heart but by the Spirit of God. He brings to light the "hidden mysteries" which are folded up in his holy Word. He takes the child of God by the hand, and leads him into a blessed knowledge of all those glorious things which are there contained. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
How many of us know what it is to be thus led by the Spirit? "Well," says some poor trembling Little-faith, "I often fear that I have experienced these things in my heart, but that mine is merely head-knowledge." Well, let us see if there is not something more than head-knowledge.
Is there not a little love springing up in your heart towards the person of Christ? The soul that is born of God is continually desiring that he may grow up into Christ, his living Head in all things. And is not this your desire? Is it not the language of your heart, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death?" (Phil. 3:10)
"Yes," say you, "and I am looking forward to the moment when I shall breathe out my soul into his hands; when I shall be no more exercised with all those doubts, and fears, and cares, and sorrows that oppress me now."
Cheer up, then, dear Little-faith!
"There we shall see his face,
And never, never sin;
But from the rivers of his grace
Drink endless pleasures in."
"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
How blessedly does the apostle John speak of this sonship: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2) "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:17) And we know that the sons of God are accepted by the Father--"ACCEPTED IN THE BELOVED."
The Lord help you, dear brother, to realize the blessedness, that if you have "the Spirit of life," "the Spirit of light," "the Spirit of love," "the Spirit of power and of a sound mind," "the Spirit of truth," "the Spirit of grace and of supplication," "the Spirit of faith," "the Spirit of adoption," "the Spirit of promise," "the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ," that these are witnesses that you are under the leading and teaching of the Spirit of Christ, that you are a child of God, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ.
The Lord help us to rejoice in the blessedness of it, and to be looking forward to the moment--which will soon dawn upon us--when we shall have done with time-things, AND SHALL LIVE WITH HIM, AND REIGN WITH HIM, AND BE LIKE HIM FOR EVER.