"Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you." (John 16:13,14)
THE speaker here is the incarnate Son of God, speaking to His troubled disciples, shortly before He left them and entered upon that great work of redemption in which He offered Himself as the one sacrifice for the sins of His people. He is here speaking to them words of comfort and consolation, in respect of His own departure, and of the various afflictions and sufferings that they should be called upon to endure, as Apostles and preachers of the gospel committed to their trust. And He is here referring to the coming of the Spirit, in some places termed the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth. Christ speaks of Him as a divine person, not merely as an influence, though He is indeed an influence and a mighty one; but He is a person, a person in the Trinity, and He is God, and when Christ speaks of Him here as promised, He speaks of Him as such. Howbeit when He the Spirit of truth is come, not it, as though it should be something inferior; but when He, a person, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth. There is some very sacred reading in these few chapters, evidently words that Christ spake to His disciples under very sacred and peculiarly painful conditions. In many ways it would seem that their minds were very dark; they could not seem to understand His meaning, when He spoke of leaving them and that they should not see Him, and then again that they should see Him; it all appeared so very mysterious to them. Even after the great work was accomplished and Christ rose from the dead, they were apparently very ignorant with regard to His mission, and what was to be accomplished by it. There is a sacred intimacy here. Christ, the Son of God, here speaks to them personally and intimately, and when we can read these chapters in any measure under the light and influence of the Spirit of God, it does seem to bring us into the very light, sacredness, beauty, and essence of the gospel. We might perhaps say that in some parts of these chapters, we have the very essence of the gospel in the words of Christ spoken to His disciples, immediately before He suffered. He speaks of the Holy Spirit here as a Spirit of truth. "Howbeit," that is notwithstanding what I have previously told you of things in part, not fully. He says, I have not told you all, there are several things that I might have told you, but ye cannot bear them now. There were certain things which Christ withheld from them at that time, because as it would appear, it would be so painful and distressing to them, that they would be unbearable. Yet, notwithstanding this He says, "When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth."
I would like then in the first place, just to treat upon this point, the Spirit of truth, and why He is termed such by Christ. He speaks of Him as I have previously stated, as a person, and I would here assert before you, that I believe the Holy Ghost to be a divine person, truly and properly God, as much as the Father and the Son, and essential to our salvation as much as the Father and the Son. As there can be no life and no heaven without Christ, and without His redeeming work, neither can there be without the Holy Ghost. In His part in the counsel of peace, and in the covenant of grace, and in salvation, in the application of those blessings that Christ is exalted to give, He is essential. He is, moreover, the object of worship. We as sinners, may pray to Him as God, invoke His help, pray for His teaching, for His gracious operations, His guidance, His power. We may pray to Him in the name of Christ, as much as the Father. All real prayer is addressed to the Trinity, because God is one God, but every prayer must be presented in the name of Christ, who by His obedience and death, has opened the channel of mercy for sinners, and without whose obedience, no prayer can be accepted. He is the Spirit of truth because He is the dictator of the Holy Scriptures. Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and when we read the Scriptures, and can believe them to be verbally and plenarily inspired, we may read them with a holy confidence, believing them to be the very words of God Himself, wherein His will is revealed to men. All things necessary for us to know concerning God, His perfections, His will, the destiny of man, heaven, hell, the gospel, the person of Christ, all is here revealed. Men, sinful men, in themselves, yet being sanctified by the Spirit of God, holy men, wrote them; they were moved by the Spirit of God, inspired. The words they wrote, were, as it were, breathed into their minds, and they wrote the Scriptures, not themselves, independently. Therefore when we read the Scriptures we read them as the Word of God, not as the word of man. There is no book like it, no other book to be compared to it. It is an infallible book, and as we can believe, the men who translated it into our own language, did translate it under the gracious teaching of the Holy Spirit in their souls.
We can safely say that, generally speaking, the Authorized Version of the Scriptures, the translation we now have in our hands is true, in all vital and in all substantial points, to the original Scriptures which were written immediately by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Our translation, as we have it, contains no error, notwithstanding all the difficulties necessarily attending the translation from one language to another. Therefore we have cause to bless God for the Scriptures, and for this, that they are the Scriptures of truth, and they were written by the Spirit of truth. In this particular we may say, that He is the Spirit of truth, the light of truth, and the Scriptures as we have them derive their power, their authority, their life, their saving efficacy, because they are the Scriptures of truth, and were dictated and written by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost Himself.
He is, however, the Spirit of truth as distinct from the letter of truth. The Apostle in drawing the distinction, from the two opposing points, speaks thus, "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." (2 Cor. 3:6) Therefore we may draw this contrast between the letter and the Spirit. The letter in that sense, as spoken of, is but the form without the power, although the letter there spoken of possibly may also refer to the Old Testament dispensation, the legal dispensation, and the letter of the law, which can but bring condemnation in its application to the conscience. But we may define it like this as well, that the Spirit is the Spirit of truth, because He has the power of truth. All efficacy, life, and true power felt in a believing heart is because of this, because He is the Spirit of truth. He is the Spirit of truth in this sense, because He applies the truth to the consciences of His people. All gracious teaching that is given by the Holy Ghost, will always be uniform with the written Word. There will never be confusion there. I do agree that a gracious person may sometimes feel and realize a sweet anointing of the Spirit upon his heart, feel a spirit of prayer, a spirit of access, a spirit of sweet humility, which may all be by the Holy Spirit's teaching without any words in that sense actually applied. But the point is this, that the Holy Spirit in all His influences, breathings, operations, and divine teachings, will always confirm the Scriptures, and will always be uniform with them, and will bring the subject to them. He is the Spirit of truth, because He reveals to the heart and conscience of the Lord's people, the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures. I do not know whether you have felt it sometimes, but there are occasions, when in reading we may suddenly feel a divine light in our souls upon the words that we read: they may seem to be suddenly and almost unexpectedly opened to us, and there is a depth and spiritual meaning in the words we read at that time, particularly made known to us, which perhaps in the same light, and the same sense, we have never received before. What is that? It is the Spirit of truth graciously applying the spiritual meaning of the Word to the heart and conscience. This may sometimes be in respect of Christ. When we read the Scriptures, we may see Christ by faith in the Scriptures, and that in a particular way, in the form of a manifestation of Him, which may draw out our affections to Him in the exercise of worship, and this is by the spirit of worship. "Howbeit, when He the Spirit of truth is come." The only right way of knowing truth, is by the Spirit of truth. Here we may know the Scriptures in their depth, their hidden meaning, their divine revelation. We can sometimes observe the mind of God, seek His will and do it. The Word of God is sometimes a light to our path and a lamp to our feet. Therefore we may say that all true application of the Scriptures, whether it be in the form of a promise, a reproof, a light, something to guide us, it is always by the Spirit of truth. He reveals truth, and reveals Christ Who is the truth.
Here Christ speaks of Him and His coming. "When He the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth;" not just merely for one portion perhaps, alone, and leave you entirely ignorant of any other part, but He will guide you into all truth, that is, all truth that is necessary for our salvation. "When He is come." Here particularly Christ refers to His coming upon the day of Pentecost. The disciples were enjoined by Christ to remain at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. And we have an account of that remarkable time in the second chapter of Acts, when the Holy Ghost was poured out in an extraordinary manner, when His gifts were upon the Apostles, and Peter being full of the Holy Ghost preached his first gospel sermon. There was the coming of the Holy Ghost, though He may have been said to have come before, because even in Old Testament saints, the Holy Ghost, with regard to their knowledge of the truth and teaching, was in them. But He was to come in a more manifest way, and this coming was upon the day of Pentecost, when He descended upon the Apostles, and they were endued with power from on high. He comes to all His people; He comes and takes up His abode in their hearts. He comes as He is here promised as the Comforter, to comfort them in all their tribulations and afflictions, and in all the inward crucifixion that a believer sustains. All true religion really consists in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. "Know ye not that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, and ye are not your own? Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are His." (1 Cor. 6:19,20)
There is His coming then, in His gracious operations, in His quickening influence, in His application of all truth, to the heart and conscience of His people. It is a mercy if it can be said that the Holy Ghost has come to any of us. We can have no true knowledge of God, no power with regard to the exercise of it in prayer, no right teaching, no manifestation of Christ, without the coming of the Holy Ghost. But He comes to abide. "He shall abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive." He does not come and then change his mind through some disappointment, and leave again. When He comes He comes to remain. He shall guide you into all truth. He comes too, as the Spirit of adoption. The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. (Rom. 8:16) And this is a very sweet coming when He comes in His gracious operations, and makes Christ known, and breathes that inward witness in the heart, confirming one, and bringing one to a point in experience with regard to his standing. When He is come "He will guide you into all truth." It seems really to suggest this, that there is a growth in grace, a growing in the knowledge and understanding by the inward teaching of the Spirit of truth. He shall guide you into all truth. And He does this in the first place by leading His people into a knowledge of the truth, and that particularly with respect to a knowledge of themselves. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and it is a knowledge of this that the Spirit of truth leads His people, guides His people, into. It is not, possibly, very pleasant to us sometimes, to have discovered to us the corruptions of our nature, the enmity of our hearts, and the conditions in which we are by the fall, but it is necessary.
The Spirit of truth does this, He wounds, He kills, He slays, before He heals and makes alive. He guides us into a knowledge of the truth, our lost condition by the fall, our ruined condition. It is not very pleasant to self, and to flesh and blood, to feel that we are hopelessly lost in ourselves, but it is so. By the fall of our first parents, and by our own sins, we, in our own state and persons, are utterly lost, dead in trespasses and in sins, and it is a knowledge of this, that the Spirit of truth guides His people into. But He guides them into the truth of the gospel, the way of salvation, the way of escape, the refuge that there is for sinners. He guides them into this.
Some of us can remember the time when, like the publican, we had to pray, and we have to still, "God be merciful to me a sinner," and a true knowledge of this is by the Spirit of truth. He gives that sense of sin, applies the law to the conscience, condemns the sinner, and brings him in lost, shows him that it is utterly impossible for him to meet the claims of divine justice, and brings him down to a sense of his own utter helplessness and ruin. "The soul that sinneth it shall die." But He does not leave him there to despair, He gives to such an one a spirit of confession, and opens to such an one, a way of mercy, and a way of escape from deserved wrath. When He comes He will guide you into all truth. He guides His people into the truth of the Person of Christ. I have sometimes said here before, and I would like to repeat it, that it is a great thing, in soul experience, to be brought to realize in some measure the value and necessity of a knowledge of Christ. I believe that we can never really enter into the saving power of the gospel, unless in some degree Christ is revealed in our souls. But when He is seen by faith in His suitableness, grace, and glory, and in His power as the Intercessor of His people, His presence in heaven clothed in our nature, when He is seen in these things, then the spirit goes after Him, in the exercise of prayer and faith and hope. And this is by the Spirit of truth. He guides His people into a knowledge of the truth of Christ's divine Person, that He was the eternal Son of God, of His human Person, that He was the eternal Son of God, of His human nature, and how He took that nature, in the fullness of time, into union with His divine Person.
He guides them into all truth. He guides a convinced sinner into this truth, that his sins are pardonable. When condemnation is really felt in the conscience, one may feel that it is almost impossible, in his own case, for forgiveness ever to reach him, but the Spirit of truth makes known that the atonement of Christ is sufficient, all-sufficient, and, moreover, that,
"The vilest sinner out of hell,
Who lives to feel his need,
Is welcomed to the throne of grace,
The Saviour's blood to plead."
And it is a truth worth knowing. When one really feels the burden of sin, and the guilt of it on the conscience, it is a truth good to be known that there is a sufficiency in the blood of Christ to cleanse him from all his sin and guilt, and to present him without spot before God. The Spirit of truth leads one into a knowledge of this: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Sometimes it would seem like this, that a great part of the experience of an exercised child of God, consists in seeking for pardon. Oh! if my load of guilt were gone, if I could but feel in my own case, that my sins were washed away! There is that living desire born, as it were, in the very soul of a gracious person exercised before God, to know his own personal interest in the love and blood of Jesus Christ; and the Spirit of truth guides him into that knowledge, not only into the knowledge of the sufficiency, the invaluable worth of the atoning blood of Christ, but also into a knowledge of the forgiveness of sins, by the application of that blood to his own heart and conscience. When we get that in some experience of it, then we have a true rest, and He guides His people into this. He guides, or He leads them, into a knowledge of the righteousness of Christ. It is one thing to talk about the righteousness when we feel our own filthy rags, but it is another thing to feel that it is our righteousness. When a poor black wretch feels, by a sweet discovery to him of Christ's righteousness, his rags taken away, and his standing complete in Christ, he finds his heaven upon earth, and the Spirit guides him to this. Yes! He brings that righteousness, and He clothes the sinner with it.
"He will guide you into all truth." He guides His people into this truth, that there is a sustaining power in the gospel to support the Lord's people in their times of affliction. When we have to pass, as some do, through deep waters, heavy trials, trials of a peculiar nature, is there not some leading in this, in respect of the power of truth to support you in those trials? Have you not seen the tree cast into the waters, and the bitter waters made sweet? Was there ever such sweetness in truth, as when perhaps, in circumstances, things have been bitter? Has the Lord not come into some spot in your life, and made His truth precious, and sustained and supported and kept you from sinking? The Spirit of truth leads His people into this truth, that there is a solid foundation, a resting place, a sufficiency in God Himself, and in the gospel, for all that they may need for time and eternity. He leads them into the truth that all things will work together for their good. All things are linked together. Trials and afflictions in themselves, may sometimes seem to do us much harm, but in the issue, under God's gracious purpose, in the exercise of this dispensation, He makes them work together for our good, and this is a truth good to be known.
He will guide you, or lead you into all truth, for He shall not speak of Himself. That is to say, He shall not speak independently. When the Spirit speaks, it is God that speaks by Him; He never speaks, as it were, alone, or in opposition, or in contradistinction to the mind of the Father or the Son. Seeing that God speaks to His people by His Spirit, it is God Himself who speaks. It is not the Spirit speaking one thing, and God intending another, it is God who speaks. He shall not speak of Himself. He shall not speak in opposition, or independently, but He shall speak in full agreement with the Father and the Son. And it implies this more particularly, that He shall speak, not of Himself, but Christ. That is His peculiar office. "He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you." It will be our mercy if we can enter through the grace of God, into the vital nature of real religion, and it can only be this way, by the indwelling, habitation, teaching, and leading, of the Holy Ghost. I would desire to bless God for the Holy Ghost, and pray for a Holy Ghost religion; and I would desire that I might be led by His teaching into the truth, in the nature of it, and into the efficacy of it, that I may know it in my own soul, and that you, as a congregation, may know it also. "He shall guide you into all truth."