Wind of the Holy Ghost Blowing upon the Dry Bones in the Valley of Vision
in the Tolbooth-Church, Edinburgh, upon a fast-day before the sacrament of our Lord’s Supper, March 15, 1715” by Mr Ebenezer Erskine (1680-1754).
Ebenezer Erskine and his brother Ralph were famous Presbyterian ministers
in Scotland, and close friends of Thomas Boston. Their father was Henry
Erskine, under whose preaching the youthful Thomas Boston came to Christ.
from the four winds, O breath; and breathe upon these slain, that they may
live. Ezekiel 37:9.
In the beginning of this
chapter, the Lord, in a vision, brings the prophet Ezekiel into a valley full
of dead men's bones, quite dried and withered, and asks him the question, if
he thought it possible for these dry bones to live? Thereby intimating, that
although it was a thing impossible with men, yet it was easily effected by the
almighty power of God. And, to convince him of it, he commands the prophet to
speak to the dry bones, and to tell them, in his name, that he would make the
breath of life to enter into them; which accordingly is done; for the prophet
having in the name of the Lord, called upon the four winds to breathe upon the
dry bones, immediately life enters into them, and they come together bone to
his bone, and they lived, and "stood up upon their feet, and became an
exceeding great army." by which vision we have a lively representation of
a threefold resurrection, as a late commentator (Mr. Henry) very well
observes. 1. Of the resurrection of the body at the last day, and general
resurrection, when God will command the earth to give up its dead, and the sea
to give up its dead; and when, by the ministry of angels, the dust and bones
of the saints shall be gathered from the four winds of heaven, to which they
have been scattered. Or, 2. We have in this vision a lively representation of
the resurrection of the soul from the grave of sin; which is effected by
preaching or prophesying, as the instrumental, and by the powerful influence
of the Spirit of the Lord, as the principal efficient cause of it; and the
wind here spoken of is plainly said to be understood of the Spirit, (ver. 14:)
"I will put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live." Or, 3. We have, by
this vision, a representation of the resurrection of the church of God, from the grave of her
bondage and captivity in Babylon, under which they were
at present detained. And this indeed is the primary and immediate scope of the
vision, as is plain from the explication that follows it, ver. 11-14. However,
seeing the deliverance of the children of Israel out of their Babylonish
captivity, was typical of our spiritual redemption purchased by the Lord Jesus
Christ upon the cross, and in a day of power applied by the mighty and
powerful operation of the Holy Spirit of God; and seeing it is this redemption
with which we under the gospel are principally concerned, therefore I shall
handle the words that I have read under this spiritual sense and meaning.
And in them briefly we have, 1.
A dismal case supposed, and that is, spiritual deadness. The people of God
were not only in bondage under their enemies, but likewise their souls were at
this time in a languishing condition. But of this more afterwards.
2. We have a blessed remedy
here expressed, and that is the breathings of the Spirit of the Lord, the
influences of the Holy Ghost: Come from the four winds, O breath, &c.
Now, these influences of the Holy Ghost are here described,
1st, From their nature, held out under the notion and metaphor of
wind; Come from the four winds, O breath. There are three elements by
which the operations of the Spirit are held out to us in scripture. Sometimes
they are compared to fire: Matt. 3:11: "He shall baptize you
(speaking of Christ) with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Sometimes they
are compared to water: Isa. 44:3: "I will pour water upon him that
is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy
seed," &c. Sometimes the influences of the Spirit are held forth
under the metaphor of wind, as in Cant. 4:16: "Awake, O north
wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden." So here, by the wind,
or breath here spoken of, we are principally to understand the Spirit: it is
plainly declared to be the Spirit of God in the 14th verse of this chapter. I
cannot stand to show you the grounds of this metaphor. Wind, you know, is of a
cleansing, cooling, fructifying nature and virtue; it acts freely and
irresistibly. It is not in the power of man to resist or oppose the blowings
of the wind. So the influences of the Spirit cleanse and purify the heart;
they allay the storms of conscience, "make the bones which were broken to
rejoice." They make the soul to grow as the lily, and to cast forth its
roots like Lebanon;" they render the
soul fruitful "like the garden of God," and the Spirit
acts with a sovereign freedom, and irresistible efficacy, as you may hear
2dly, These influences of the Holy Ghost, are described, from their
variety, four winds: Come from the four winds, O breath; importing the
manifold influences and operations of this one and eternal Spirit. Hence we
read of the "north and south wind," Cant. ; and of "the seven
spirits that are before the throne of God," Rev. 4:5.
3dly, These influences are described from their acting or operation,
which is here called a breathing: Breathe upon these slain. By the
acting of this almighty wind, our natural life was produced and formed, Gen.
2:7. We are there told, that after God had "formed man of the dust of the
ground, he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and he became a
living soul." Hence is that of Elihu, Job 33:4: "The Spirit of God
hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life." And it
is by the influences of the same almighty breath, that our souls are
"quickened, when dead in trespasses and sins," and our spiritual
life is formed within us. But then,
4thly, These influences are described from the end and effect of their
operation: Breathe upon these slain, that they may live; that is, that
the dry bones may become living souls, that out of these stones children may
be raised up to Abraham.
Now, from these words, thus
briefly explained, I only offer you this one observation; namely,
DOCT. "That as the
generality of a church and people in covenant with God, may be in a very dead
and languishing condition as to their souls; so the breathings and influences
of the Holy Spirit of God are absolutely necessary for their revival. This is
the sum of what I intend from these words, Come from the four winds, O
breath; and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
In discoursing upon this doctrine, I shall,
Speak a little upon this deadness which is incident to a people externally in
covenant with God.
Upon the influences or breathings of the wind of the Holy Ghost, which are so
absolutely necessary in order to their revival.
Touch at that life which is effected by these breathings.
I shall apply.
I. I say, I would speak a
little on this deadness which is incident to a people externally in covenant
with God. And here I shall only, 1. Give you some of its kinds. 2. Some of
the causes of it. 3. Some of the symptoms of it.
1. The first thing is to give
you some kinds of deadness. — Know, then, in general, that there is a
two-fold death; one is proper and natural, the other is improper and
(1.) Death, properly so
called, is a thing so well known, that it is needless for me to tell you what
it is. There is none of us all but we shall know it experimentally within a
little; for "it is appointed for every man once to die." — The
grave is a house appointed for all living; and therefore, with Job, we may
"say to corruption, Thou art our father; and to the worm, Thou art our
mother and sister." But this is not the death I now speak of; and
(2.) There is a death which is
improper or metaphorical; which is nothing else but a disease or distemper of
the soul, by which it is rendered unmeet and incapable for holy and spiritual
exercises. And this, again, is two-fold; either total or partial.
1st, There is a total death incident to the wicked and ungodly, who
are stark dead, and have nothing of spiritual life in them at all. Hence,
(Eph. 2:1,) men in a state of nature are said to be "dead in trespasses
and sins;" that is, under the total reigning power of sin, "in the
gall of bitterness, and under the bond of iniquity;" without God,
without Christ, and therefore without hope.
2d1y, There is a partial
death incident to believers, whom God has raised out of the grave of an
unrenewed state, and in whose souls he has implanted a principle of spiritual
life. And this partial death, incident to believers, consists in a manifest
decay of spiritual principles and habits, in the abating of their wonted life
and vigour, and activity in the way and work of the Lord: their faith, their
love, their hope, and other graces, are all in a fainting and languishing
condition; they lie dormant in the soul, like the life of the tree that lies
hid in its root, without fruit or blossoms, during the winter season. Such
deadness as this we find the Lord's people in scripture frequently complaining
of particularly Isa. 56:3: "The son of the stranger, that hath joined
himself to the Lord, and taken hold of his covenant," he is made to
speak, saying, "The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people:"
and the eunuch cries out, I am a dry tree, wherein there is no life or
sap. It is this kind of spiritual deadness, incident to believers, that I now
principally speak of. The leaves of his profession may in a great measure be
withered; the candle of his conversation may burn dimly, or with a very
imperfect light; the flame of his affections, his zeal, love, desire, may,
like that of a great fire, be reduced to a few coals and cinders. There may be
a great intermission or formality in the discharge of commanded duty. The
mind, which once with delight and admiration, could meditate upon God and
Christ, and the covenant, and things that are above, may come to lose its
relish for these things, and to dote upon the transitory fading vanities of a
present world. The common gifts of the Spirit, through carnal ease, and defect
of employment, may be in a great measure blasted: and, which is worst of all,
the saving graces, and fruits of the Spirit, may come to be woefully impaired
as to their former degrees and actings. But now, this partial death of
believers, again, is twofold: there is a deadness which is felt by God's
people, and a deadness which is not felt; "gray hairs are here and there
upon them, sometimes, and they do not behold them." The Lord was departed
from Samson, and he wist not, Judg. . But then there is a
deadness which is felt, when God's people have a sense of their deadness, and
are lamenting it. And it is an evidence of spiritual life, or of some revival,
when the Lord's people are beginning to cry out with the church, (Psal. 85:6:)
"Wilt thou not revive us again; that thy people may rejoice in thee? —
Why hast thou hardened our heart from thy fear?" Isa. 63:17. But,
2. The second thing is, to take
notice of some of the causes of this spiritual deadness. I shall only name
them, because your time would not allow me to enlarge.
(1.) Then, abstinence or
neglect of food, you know, will soon bring the body into a pining, languishing
condition: so, if the means of grace be not diligently improved, if we
neglect, by faith, to apprehend and to improve Christ, and to feed upon him,
whose "flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed," the
spiritual life of the soul will soon languish and wither. Hence is that
[declaration] of Christ, John 6:53: "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son
of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you."
(2.) Surfeiting the soul with
sensual pleasure is another great cause of spiritual death: Hos. 4:11:
"Whoredom and wine, and new wine take away the heart:" they suck out
the very life of the soul. What is the reason why many professors of religion
have lost their wonted vigour in the way of the Lord, and are in such a
languishing condition as to their soul-matters? The plain reason of it is
this, they are glutting themselves with the pleasures of sense. If Samson do
but sleep on Delilah's lap, she will betray him into the hands of the
Philistines, and cut the locks wherein his strength lies; and when he goes out
to shake himself, as at other times, he will find his strength gone away from
(3.) Inactivity and sloth in
salvation and regeneration-work is another cause of spiritual deadness.
Physicians observe, that as too violent exercise, so too much rest, or a
sedentary way of living, is prejudicial to the health of the body. This holds
also in spiritual things: if we do not exercise ourselves unto godliness, and
endeavour to abound in the work of the Lord, the spiritual life will soon
languish and dwindle away. Therefore, "Let us not be slothful in
business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; and whatever our hand
findeth to do, let us do it with all our might." And beware of resting
upon empty wishes and desires in spiritual matters; for "the desire of
the slothful kills him, because his hands refuse to labour."
(4.) The contagion of ill
example, of a carnal world, and irreligious relatives, has a fatal influence
this way. You know it is exceedingly dangerous for those who have the seed of
all diseases in them to frequent the company of those who are infected with
the plague or pestilence. A Joseph, if he stay long in the Egyptian court,
will learn to swear "by the life of Pharaoh." It is true, indeed, as
fire sometimes burns with the greater vehemence, and casts the greater heat,
the colder the air be; so the zeal and life of God's people is sometimes
rather quickened, by beholding the wickedness of those among whom their lot is
cast, as Paul among the Athenians. But if we shall adventure to cast ourselves
into the society of the wicked, without a special call and warrant from
Providence, it will be next to an impossibility to keep ourselves free of the
contagion: for "Can a man carry fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be
burnt? Can a man walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt? Evil
communications corrupt good manners."
(5.) Some deadly wound in the
soul, not carefully noticed, may be the cause of spiritual death. You know a
man may die not only by a draught of poison, or the like, but also by the cut
of a sword. While we are in the wilderness, we live in the very midst of our
spiritual enemies: the fiery darts of Satan are flying thick about us; he is
always seeking to bruise the believer's heel, "going about seeking to
devour:" and not only so, but our own lusts also do war against the soul,
so that we cannot miss to be wounded thereby. And if the filth and guilt of
these wounds be not carefully washed away by the blood and Spirit of the Lord
Jesus Christ, they cannot miss exceedingly to impair the spiritual life and
health: therefore, David, after he had been wounded by murder and adultery, is
so earnest that God would wash and cleanse his wounds, and purge him with
hyssop, that so the joy of his salvation might be restored. But then,
(6.) A holy God has sometimes a
righteous and holy hand in this spiritual death, to which the Lord's people
are liable, by withdrawing and suspending the influences of his Spirit from
them. For as the plant and the herb of the field wither, and languish when the
rain of heaven is withheld; so when the influences of the Holy Ghost are
suspended, the very sap of the soul, and its spiritual life go away. And the
Lord upholds the influences of his Spirit for many reasons, As,
1st, He does it sometimes in a way of awful and adorable
sovereignty, to show that he is not a debtor to any of his creatures. However,
because the Spirit's influences are seldom withdrawn in a way of sovereignty,
it is our part to search and try if conscience do not condemn us, as having a
sinful and culpable hand in it ourselves.
2dly, Sometimes he does it to humble his people, and to prevent their
pride, which makes him to "behold them afar off." If we were always
under the lively gales and influences of the Spirit, we would be ready to
forget ourselves, and in danger with Paul, of being lifted up above measure,
when he was wrapt up into the third heaven. Upon this account, some of the
saints have said, that they have got more good sometimes by their desertion,
than by their enlargement.
3dly, He does it to make them prize Christ, and see their continual
need of fresh supplies "out of his fulness." He lets our cisterns
run dry, that we may come anew, and lay our empty vessels under the flowings
of the blessed "fountain of life," that "out of his fulness we
may receive, and grace for grace."
4thly, He does it sometimes for the trial of his people, to see if they
will follow him "in a wilderness, in a land that is not sown," as
well as when he is feeding them with the sensible communications of his grace
and Spirit; to see if they will live on him by faith, when they cannot live by
sight or sense.
5thly, Sometimes he does it for their chastisement, to correct them
for their iniquities. And this, indeed, is the most ordinary cause why the
Spirit of the Lord is suspended and withdrawn.
I have not time to enumerate
many of these sins which provoke the Lord to withdraw his Spirit; I shall only
mention two or three.
(1.) Not hearkening to the
motions of his Spirit, is one great reason why the Lord withdraws his Spirit;
as you see in the spouse, Cant. 5: There Christ comes, and moves, and calls
for entrance: the spouse does not hearken to the motion: "I have put off
my coat, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile
them?" Upon which he immediately withdraws and leaves her, as you may
read at your own leisure.
(2.) Lukewarmness and formality in the discharge of duty is
another cause of it, as we see in the church Laodicea; it made him to spew
that church out of his mouth. And then
(3.) Prostituting the gifts and
graces of the Spirit to carnal, selfish, and base ends, to procure a name, or
make a show in the world. This is another reason of it.
(4.) Sinning against light.
Trampling upon the belly of conscience, as David no doubt did in the matter of
Uriah and Bathsheba; whereby he provoked the Lord so far to leave him, that he
cries out, (Psal. 51:11) "Cast me not out of thy sight; and take not thy
Holy Spirit from me."
(5.) Barrenness and
unfruitfulness under the means of grace: Isa. 5: the clouds are commanded to
give no rain upon the barren vineyard. And then,
(6.) And lastly, Their
not listening carefully to the voice of God in ordinances and providences:
this is another cause of it; Psal. 81:11, 12: "My people would not
hearken to my voice; therefore, I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust:
and they walked in their own counsels." And thus you have some of the
causes of this spiritual deadness. I come to—
3. The third thing,
which was to give you some of the symptoms of it: and would to God they were
not too visible, rife, and common in the day, and upon the generation in which
we live. I shall name a few of them to you.
(1.) Want of appetite after the
bread and water of life is a symptom of spiritual death. You know that
man cannot be in a healthful condition that loathes his food, or has lost his
appetite after it. Alas! Is not the manna of heaven, that God is raining about
our tent-doors, generally loathed? The great truths of God, which some of the
saints have found to be "sweeter than honey, from the honey-comb,"
have not that savour and relish with us that they ought to have. Are not
sabbaths, sacraments, sermons, fast-days, and feast-days, burdens to many
among us; so that if they would but speak out the language of their hearts,
they would be ready to join issue with these, Mal. 1:13: "What a
weariness is this?" Whereas, the soul that is in a lively condition is
ready to say of the word, "It is better to me than thousands of gold and
silver; I esteem it more than my necessary food:" and of ordinances,
"I love the habitation of thy house, and the place where thy honour
dwelleth;" and Psal. 84:10: "One day in thy courts is better than a
(2.) Though a man have
something of an appetite, yet if he do not grow, or look like his food, it
looks something dangerous and death-like. The thriving Christian is a growing
Christian: "They that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish
in the courts of our God. — The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that
hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger." But, alas! is it not
quite otherwise with the most part? Many are going backward, instead of
forward; as it is said of Jerusalem; (Lam. 1:8:) "She sigheth, and turneth
backward." May we not cry out of our leanness, our leanness,
notwithstanding of all the fattening means and ordinances that we enjoy?
(3.) You know, when death takes
a dealing with a person, it makes his beauty to fade: "When with rebukes
thou dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away
like a moth." Pale death soon alters the ruddy countenance. Perhaps the
day has been, O believer, when the beauty of holiness adorned every step of
thy conversation; thy "light did so shine before men, that they, seeing
thy good works," could not but "glorify thy heavenly Father;"
but now, alas! the beauty of thy conversation is sullied and stained, by
"lying among the pots" of sin. This says, that spiritual death is
dealing with thy soul.
(4.) Death not only wastes the
beauty, but the strength also: Eccl. 12:3: "The keepers of the house do
tremble, and the strong men do bow," upon the approaches of the king of
terrors. Now, see if your wonted strength and ability to perform duty, or to
resist temptations, be not abated. Perhaps the day has been, when thou couldst
have said with Paul, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? for, through
Christ strengthening me, I can do all things;" but now thou art ready to
faint and sit up at the very thoughts of duty. The day perhaps has been, when,
though Satan, that cunning archer, did shoot sore at thee; yet "thy bow
did abide in its strength, and the arms of thy hands were made strong by the
mighty God of Jacob;" thou wast in care to beat back the fiery darts of
Satan, and to stand thy ground against the corruptions and defections of the
day and generation: but now, like a dead fish, thou art carried down the
stream. Does not this proclaim thy soul to be under a sad decay?
(5.) Death wastes the natural
heat and warmness of the body. There is a kind of chilliness and coldness that
seizes a man when death takes a dealing with him. So it is a sign of a
spiritual decay and deadness, when wonted zeal for God and his glory, and the
concerns of his church and his kingdom, is abated. Perhaps the day has been,
when, with David, the zeal of God's house did in a manner eat you up, and you
"preferred Jerusalem to your chief joy:" but now you are almost come
the length of Gallio's temper, to "care for none of these things;"
indifferent whether the work of God in the land sink or swim. Laodicea's
distemper is too prevalent among us at this day: we are "neither cold nor
hot" in the things of God; and therefore have reason to fear, lest we be
spewed out of God's mouth. The day bas been, when your spirits were lifted up,
in prayer, in hearing, in communicating; you were "fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord; "you could rejoice to work righteousness, and say, in
some measure, with David, "I will go unto the altar of God, to God, my
exceeding joy;" but now all this holy warmth is gone in a great measure;
you are become formal and careless in the concerns of God's glory.
(6.) A dead man, you know,
cannot move, but only as he is moved from without, in regard he wants a
principle of motion within. So it is a sign of spiritual death, even in
believers, when external motives and considerations have a greater influence
in the duties of religion upon them, than an internal principle of faith and
love When the believer is himself, "the love of Christ constrains"
him in every duty; this is the "one thing" be desires, "that he
may behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his temple:" but when
any selfish or external motive sets him at work, it is a sign of spiritual
death. Other things might be added; but I hasten to speak to,
II. The second thing
proposed in the method, and that was, to speak a little of these breathings
and influences of the Spirit of God, which are absolutely necessary for the
revival of the Lord's people under deadness: Come from the four winds, O
breath! and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. And here I
would, 1. Clear the nature of these influences, in a word or two. 2. Speak to
the variety of these influences, four winds. 3. To the manner of their
operation upon the elect; they are said to breathe upon, the slain. 4.
Speak a little to the necessity of these breathings. 5. To the several seasons
of the Spirit's reviving influences.
I fear your time will cut me
short before I have done; but I shall run through these particulars as quickly
1. The first thing is,
to clear the nature of these breathings or influences. And what I have to
offer upon this head, you may take in these few propositions: —
(1.) You would know, that the
influences and gifts of the Spirit of God are of two sorts, either common or
saving. As for the common influences of the Spirit, which are sometimes
bestowed upon the wicked and reprobate world, I am not to speak of these at
this time. All I shall say about them is, to tell you, that they are given in
common to the children of men, "for edification of the mystical
body of Christ," until it arrive at "the measure of the stature of
the fulness of Christ," as you read, Eph. iv.: and therefore they are
commonly called by divines dona ministrantia, or ministering gifts.
Although they have no saving efficacy upon the person in whom they dwell; yet
God, in his holy wisdom, makes use of them for the good of his church in
general, as we read, Eph. 4: And another thing that I would tell you,
likewise, concerning these common influences, is, that they of an exceeding
dangerous nature when they are not accompanied with saving grace. The man that
has them, is like a ship having very large sails, and but little or no ballast
at all, in the midst of the ocean; and is therefore in danger of being split
in pieces against every rock. In Matt. 7:22, we read of some who had
extraordinary common gifts; they prophesied in Christ's name, wrought
miracles, and cast out devils in his name, and did many wonderful works, and
yet Christ utterly disowns them. I do not speak of these common influences
now, but of such as are saving. And therefore,
(2.) A second
proposition is, that the Holy Spirit of God, considered in his particular
economy in the work of redemption, as the applier of the Redeemer's purchase,
is the author and efficient cause of all saving influences. It is he, I say,
that prepares and disposes the soul of man for the entertainment of the things
of God, which are not received nor discerned by the natural mind. It is he
that ploughs up the fallow ground of the heart, and brings in the wilderness,
and turns it into a fruitful field. It is he that garnishes the face of the
soul with the saving graces of the Spirit; these are flowers of the upper
paradise, therefore called "the fruits of the Spirit," Gal. 5:22. It
is he that preserves, cherishes, and maintains, them by renewed influences: he
cherishes the smoking flax, and at last turns it into a lamp of glory in
heaven; for "he brings forth judgment unto victory."
(3.) Again; you would know that
the elect of God are the subjects recipient of all saving influences of the
Spirit of God: I say, they are peculiar only to the elect of God, and to them
only upon their conversion, when they come to be united to Christ, as members
of his mystical body. We must be ingrafted into this true olive tree,
otherwise we can never partake of his sap, and "receive out of his
fulness, grace for grace." That these influences are peculiar to the
elect of God, is plain from Tit. 1:1; where we read of "the faith of
(4.) These influences of the
Spirit, are given for various ends to the elect of God. The judicious Dr.
Owen, in his Discourses on the Spirit, observes, that these saving
influences are given to the elect of God for regeneration, to the regenerate
for sanctification, to the sanctified for consolation, and to the comforted
Christian for further up-building and edification; and establishment, until
they arrive at perfection in glory. But the nature of these influences will
farther appear from,
2. The second thing
proposed, which was, to speak a little to the variety of these influences of
the Spirit. You see they are diversified here, while they are called four
winds: Come from the four winds, O breath. The apostle tells us, that
"there are diversities of gifts and operations, but the same
Spirit," 1 Cor. 11:4. And we read, as I was telling you, of "seven
Spirits that are before the throne," Rev. 1. Here, if time would allow me
to enlarge, I might tell you, that the saving influences and breathings of the
Spirit are either primary, fundamental, and absolutely necessary to salvation;
or they are accumulative, additional, necessary only for the believer's
comfort and well-being. Some of these influences are antecedent, or
preparative unto conversion; some of them are regenerating, and others are
subsequent and posterior unto regeneration. But I shall not stand upon such
subtle distinctions. You may take a few of them in the order following: —
(1.) There are the convincing
influences of the Spirit: John 16:8: "When he is come, he will convince
the world of sin." This is what I conceive we are to understand by the
"north wind," (Cant. 4:16;) which is commonly boisterous, cold,
chill and nipping. The elect of God by nature lie fast asleep within the tidal
mark of God's wrath, upon the very brink of everlasting ruin, crying,
"Peace, peace," to themselves; the Spirit of the Lord comes like a
stormy north wind, blows hard upon the sinner's face, and awakens him; breaks
his carnal peace and security, brings him to himself and lets him see his
danger; fills him with remorse and terror. Hence, (Isa. 28:17,) the hail is
said to "sweep down the refuge of lies," before the sinner come to
settle upon the "foundation that God hath laid in Zion." In Acts
2:37, it is said, "they were pricked in their heart;" and then they
cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
(2.) There are the enlightening
influences and breathings of the Spirit. Hence, he is compared to eye-salve,
Rev. 3:18: "Ye have received an unction from the Holy One, whereby ye
know all things," 1 John 2:20. We read, Isa. 25:7, of a "veil and
face of a covering that is spread over all nations." The wind of the Holy
Ghost must blow off this veil of ignorance and unbelief; and then the poor
sinner comes to see a new world of wonders that he never saw before; a
wonderful great God, a wonderful Redeemer, a wonderful covenant, and a
wonderful holy law. Hence, we are said to he "translated out of darkness
into a marvellous light. The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, even the deep
things of God." And, I Cor. 2:12: "By the Spirit we know the things
that are freely given to us of God."
(3.) There are the renewing
influences of the Spirit. We are said to be "saved by the washing of
regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost," Tit. 3:5. Hence, he is
called "a new Spirit." He renews the will, and "makes old
things to pass away, and all things to become new."
(4.) There are the comforting
influences of the Spirit. This is the south-wind, as it were, gentle
and easy, and refreshing; and therefore he is called the Comforter.
And, indeed, his consolations are strong consolations; they put more gladness
into the heart than corn, wine, and oil in abundance; fill the soul with a joy
that is "unspeakable, and full of glory." And then,
(5.) There are the
corroborating and strengthening influences of the Spirit. By the breathings of
the Spirit the feeble are made "like David, and as the angel of God
before him." It is he that "gives power to the faint, and increases
strength to them that have no might." It is by him that worm Jacob
is made to "thresh the mountains, and to beat them small, and to make the
hills as chaff" And then,
(6.) There are the drawing and enlarging influences of the
Spirit: "Draw me," (says the spouse,) "we will run after
thee." The poor believer lies many times, as it were, wind-bound, that he
is not able to move one step in the way of the Lord: but, O! when the Spirit
of the Lord comes, then come liberty and enlargement: "I will run the way
of thy commandments," (says David,) "when thou hast enlarged my
heart;" to wit, by the influences of thy Spirit. He is like oil to their
chariot-wheels; and when he comes, they are as the chariots of Amminadib,
or a willing people.
(7.) There are the
sin-mortifying and sin-killing influences of the Spirit: "We, through the
Spirit," are said to "mortify the deeds of the body, that so we may
live." When this wind of the Holy Ghost blows upon the soul, he not only
makes the spices to revive, but he kills the weeds of sin and corruption,
making them to wither and decay; so that the poor believer, who was crying,
"Wretched man, what shall I do to be delivered from this body of
death!" is made some-times to tread upon the necks of these enemies, as a
pledge of his complete victory at last; And then,
(8.) There are the interceding influences of the Spirit:
Rom. 8:26: "The Spirit maketh intercession for us with groanings which
cannot be uttered." He intercedes in a physical and efficient way. He
makes us to wrestle and pray; therefore he is called "the Spirit of grace
and supplications," Zech. 12:10. He fills the believer's heart and mouth
with such a heavenly rhetoric, that God is not able to withstand it. Hence
Jacob "had power with the angel, and prevailed;" for "he wept,
and made supplication unto him." And then
(9.) There are the sealing and
witnessing influences of the Spirit: He "witnesseth with our spirits,
that we are the sons of God." He bears witness of the glorious fulness
and suitableness of Christ to the soul: "The Spirit shall testify of
me," John 15:26. And he is said to "seal believers to the day of
redemption;" and his seal is the earnest of glory: Eph. 1:13, 14:
"Ye are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of the
inheritance." But these things I have not time to insist upon. So much
for the second thing.
3. The third thing that
I proposed here, was, to speak a little to the manner of the acting or
operation of these influences, or flow it is that this wind blows upon the
soul? I answer,
(1.) The wind of the Holy Ghost
blows very freely; the Spirit acts as an independent sovereign, John 3:8. It
does not stay for the command, nor stop for the prohibition of any creature.
So the breathings of the Spirit are sovereignly free as to the time of their
donation, free as to their duration and continuance, free as to the measure,
and free as to the manner of their working. And then,
(2.) He breathes on the soul
sometimes very surprisingly: "Or ever I was aware (says the spouse,) my
soul made me like the chariots of Animinadib." Canst thou not seal this
in thy experience, believer, that sometimes, when thou hast gone to duty in a
very heartless and lifeless condition, perhaps beginning to raze foundations,
and to say with Zion, "The Lord hath forsaken, and my God hath forrgotten,"
a gale from heaven has in a manner surprised thee, and set thee upon the high
places of Jacob, and made thee to cry with the spouse, "It is the voice
of my beloved! Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the
hills? —His anger endureth but for a moment: in his favour is life: weeping
may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
(3.) These breathings and
influences of the Spirit are some-times very piercing and penetrating. The
cold nipping north wind, you know, goes to the very quick. The sword of the
Spirit "pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of
the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the
heart." Wind, you know, is of a very seeking, penetrating nature; it
seeks through the closest chambers. So the Spirit, which is the candle of the
Lord, "searcheth the lower parts of the belly:" he makes a discovery
of these lusts and idols that sulk in the secret chambers of the heart.
(4.) The breathings of this
wind are very powerful, strong, and efficacious. Who can oppose the blowings
of the winds? Some winds have such a mighty force with them, that they bear
down, overturn, and overthrow every thing that stands in their way. So the
Spirit of the Lord sometimes, especially at first conversion, breaks in upon
the soul like the rushing of a mighty wind, as he did upon the apostles,
breaking down the strongholds of iniquity, casting to the ground every high
thought and towering imagination of the soul, that exalts itself against
Christ, with a powerful and triumphant efficacy. He masters the darkness of
the mind, the contumacy and rebellion of the will, and the carnality of the
affections: the enmity of the heart against God, and all the spiritual
wickednesses that are in the high places of the soul, are made to fall down at
his feet, as Dagon did before the ark of the Lord.
(5.) Although he act thus
powerfully and irresistibly, yet it is with an overcoming sweetness, so as
there is not the least violence offered to any of the natural faculties of the
soul: for whenever the Spirit comes with his saving influences, he sweetly
overcomes the darkness of the mind; the sinner becomes a volunteer, and
content to enlist himself a soldier under Christ's banner: Psal. 110:3:
"thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." No sooner
does Christ by his Spirit say to the soul, "Follow me," but
immediately they arise and follow him. "Behold, we come unto thee, for
thou art the Lord our God." Then,
(6.) There is something in the
breathing of this wind that is incomprehensible by reason: John 3:8:
"Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and
whither it goes," says Christ: "so is every one that is born of the
Spirit." There is something in the operation of the eternal Spirit and
his influences beyond the reach, not only of natural but of sanctified reason.
Who can tell "how the bones are formed in the womb of her that is with
child?" So, far less can we tell how the Spirit forms the babe of grace
in the heart; how he preserves, maintains, and cherishes "the smoking
flax," that is not quite extinguished. We may, in this case, apply the
words of the psalmist in another case, and say, "Thy way is in the sea,
and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known;" and
that of the apostle, "How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways
past finding out!"
(7.) These influences of the
Spirit, are sometimes felt before they are seen; as you know a man will feel
the wind, and hear it, when he cannot see it. So it is with the Lord's people
many times, on whom the Spirit breathes: they feel his actings, they are
sensible that he has been dealing with them; and all that they can say about
it is, with the man that was born blind, "One thing I know, that whereas
I was blind, now I see." "The kingdom of heaven comes not with
4. The fourth thing
proposed was, to speak a little to the necessity of these breathings. And here
I shall show, 1. That they are necessary. 2. To what things they are
(1.) That they are necessary,
1st, From the express declaration of Christ, John 15:5:
"Without me, ye can do nothing;" that is, without the aid and
influences of my Spirit. He does not say, Without me, ye cannot do many
things, or great things; but, "Without me, ye can do nothing."
2dly, It is evident from the express acknowledgment of the saints of
God upon this head: 2 Cor. 3:5: "We are not," says the apostle,
"sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves: but our
sufficiency is of God." It is he that must "work all our works in us
and for us."
3dly, It is plain from the earnest prayers of the saints for the
breathings of this wind: Cant. 4:16: "Awake, O north wind, and come, thou
south; and blow upon my garden." Psal. 85:6: "Wilt thou not revive
us again; that thy people may rejoice in thee?" They are promised in the
covenant, and therefore necessary: Isa. 44:3: "I will pour water upon him
that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon
thy seed," &c. Ezek. 36:27: "I will put my Spirit within you,
and cause you to walk in my statutes." Now, there is not a mercy promised
in the covenant that can be lacking. But,
(2.) To what are these
breathings necessary? I answer, they are necessary,
1st, To the quickening of the elect of God, when they are stark dead
in trespasses and sins. Can ever the dry bones live, unless this omnipotent
wind blow upon them? It is strange, to hear some men that profess
Christianity, talking of the power of their own wills to quicken and convert
themselves. They may as well say, that a dead man may take his grave in his
two arms, and lay death by him, and walk. "No man," says Christ,
"can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him."
Oh! What a dead weight is the sinner, that a whole Trinity must draw! For both
Father and Son draws the sinner by the breathings of the Holy Ghost.
2dly, These influences are necessary for the suitable discharge of
every duty of religion. You cannot read, you cannot hear, you can not pray or
praise, you cannot communicate to any advantage, unless the wind of the Holy
Ghost blow upon you. It is the Lord that must enlarge our steps under us, and
make your feet like hinds' feet in the ways of the Lord.
3dly, They are necessary for accomplishing our spiritual warfare
against sin, Satan, and the world. We will never be able to combat with our
spiritual enemies, if he do not help us: it is he only that must "teach
our hands to war, and our fingers to fight, so as bows of steel may be broken
in pieces by us." Without the Spirit, we will fall before every
temptation; like Peter, curse and swear, that we never knew him.
4thly, They are necessary to the exercise of grace already implanted in
the soul. As we cannot work grace in our hearts, so neither can we exercise it
without the renewed influences of the Holy Ghost, Cant. 4:16: When this wind
blows, then, and never till then, do the spices flow out. But I shall not
stand on this: the Spirit's influences are necessary to all the uses mentioned
upon the second head: for conviction, illumination, renovation, consolation,
enlargement, mortification of sin, for assurance of our adoption.
5. The fifth thing that
I proposed upon this head, was, to give you some of the seasons of these
influences of the Spirit: for the wind, you know, has its seasons and times of
blowing and breathing. I shall only name a few of them to you.
(1.) The Spirit's reviving
influences blow, very ordinarily, in a day of conversion. This, as you were
hearing, is a season when this wind breathes on the soul, Ezek. 36:26: when
God "takes away the stony heart, and gives the heart of flesh." He
puts his Spirit within them, when the soul is first espoused unto Christ. So
Jer. 2:2: "I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine
espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was
(2.) When the soul has been
deeply humbled under a sense of sin and unworthiness. When Ephraim is brought
low, and is smiting on his thigh, acknowledging his sin and folly, then the
Spirit of the Lord comes with a reviving gale upon his spirit. "Is
Ephraim," says the Lord "my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for
since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my
bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the
(3.) After a dark night of
desertion, when the Lord returns again, it is a time of sweet influences.
After Zion had been crying, "The Lord hath forsaken me, my God hath
forgotten me;" upon the back of it comes a sweet gale of the Spirit,
"Can a woman forget her child, that she should not have compassion on the
son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee."
(4.) Times of earnest prayer
and wrestling; for he gives his Spirit to them that ask it. This is agreeable
to the promise, Ezek. 36:37.
(5.) Times of serious
meditation are times of sweet influences of the Spirit Psal. 63:5, 6, 8: When
I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches, my
soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my soul followeth hard after
(6.) Communion-days are
sometimes days of sweet influences. Some of the Lord's people can attest it
from their experience, with the spouse; that "while the King sat at his
table, the spikenard sent forth the smell thereof;" and when they
"sat down under his shadow, they found his fruit sweet to their taste. He
brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love."
(7.) The day of death has
sometimes been found to be a day of such pleasant gales of the Spirit that
they have been made to enter into the haven of glory with the triumphant song
in their mouth, saying, "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory,
through our Lord Jesus Christ." Thus David, "Although my house be
not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in
all things, and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire."
Thus, Simeon, thus Paul, &c.
III. The third thing in
the text and doctrine to be spoken to, is the life that is effected and
wrought in the souls of God's elect by these influences and breathings of the
Holy Spirit. Your time will not allow me to enlarge upon this. I shall
only tell you, in a few particulars, what sort of a life it is.
(1.) It is a life of faith. The
apostle calls it so, Gal. 2:20, "The life I now live in the flesh, I live
by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
And the just is said to live by faith. The man is ever embracing a
Redeemer, and the fulness of the Godhead in him; always deriving fresh
supplies out of that full treasury and store-house.
(2.) It is a life of
justification. The law pronounces a curse against every one that "doth
not continue in all things written in the book of the law to do them."
The believer gets this sentence of death cancelled: Rom. 8:1. "There is
no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." And not only so, but
he has the everlasting righteousness of ImmanuelGod-man imputed to
him: so that with a holy boldness he may challenge justice, and challenge the
law, what they have to say against him, as the apostle does, Rom. 8:33:
"Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?" &c.
(3.) It is a life of
reconciliation with God; God and they are at friendship; which follows
naturally on their justification: Rom. 5:1: "Being justified by faith, we
have peace with God." God does not retain the least grudge in his heart
against them; and he and they walk together, because they are agreed: that is,
they have fellowship one with another, according to that, 1 John 1:3:
"Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus
(4.) It is a life of holiness
and sanctification: for the Spirit of the Lord is a cleansing, purifying, and
renewing Spirit: he renews the soul after the image of God; makes the heart,
that was a "cage of unclean birds," a fit temple for the Holy Ghost
to dwell in; he garnishes the soul, and makes it like the King's daughter, all
glorious within. They that had lain among the pots, become "like the
wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold."
(5.) It is a very lightsome and
comfortable life: and no wonder; for his name is The Comforter. His
consolations are so strong, that they furnish the soul with ground of joy in
the blackest and cloudiest day: Hab. 3:17, 18: "Although the fig tree
shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the
olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut
off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will
rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." And the joy
that he gives is deep: "Your heart shall rejoice." And it is
abiding: "Your joy shall no man take from you." And it is such as
cannot be made language of: "We rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of
(6.) It is a life of liberty;
for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." He brings
us into "the glorious liberty of the sons of God." Before the Spirit
comes with his saving influences, the man is in bondage; in bondage to sin, to
Satan, to the law, and to the curse and condemnation of God: but the Spirit of
the Lord frees from all these. Christ, by his Spirit, sets the captives of the
mighty at liberty, and "delivers the prey from the terrible."
(7.) It is a hidden life: Col.
3:3: "Your life is hid with Christ in God." And believers are called
"God's hidden ones," Psal. 83:3: The spring and fountain of this
life is hid, namely, an unseen Christ; for with him is the fountain of life.
The subject of this life is hid, even the hidden man of the heart. The
actings of this life are hid, and the means of its support; he feeds upon
"the hidden manna, and the tree of life which is in the midst of the
paradise of God." And then the beauty and glory of this life is hid; for
"the King's daughter is all glorious within." The beauty of the
hypocrite's life lies all in the outside, painted sepulchres.
(8.) It is a heavenly life;
they are made to live above the world: "Our conversation is in
heaven," says the apostle. They look on themselves as pilgrims and
strangers on the earth, and, therefore, look not so much to the things that
are seen, as to the things that are not seen. With Moses, they "have
respect unto the recompense of the reward;" their eyes are set upon the
land that is very far off, and the King in his beauty.
(9.) It is a royal life: for
they are "made kings and priests unto God," Rev. 1:6: They have a
royal kingdom, of which they are heirs: "I appoint unto you a
kingdom," says Christ; a royal crown, "a crown of glory which fadeth
not away." They shall have a royal throne at last, Rev. 3:21. Royal
robes, princely attire, "the garments of salvation;" a royal table
provided for them, Isa. 25:6: "a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on
the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well
refined;" royal guard continually attending them, the angels of God, and
the attributes of the divine nature, &c.
(10.) It is an eternal life:
John 17:3: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true
God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." The saving knowledge of a God
in Christ, what is it but the first dawnings of eternal glory in the soul? And
where he once dawns, he is ever in the ascendant until the mid-day of glory
come; for "his goings forth are prepared as the morning.
IV. The fourth thing is the use of the doctrine. And
waiving other uses that might be made of this doctrine, I shall only improve
it by way of examination and of exhortation.
The first use shall be
of trial and examination. Oh try, sirs, whether or not these
saving influences of the Spirit did ever breathe upon your souls, yea, or not.
For your trial I shall only suggest these few things: —
1. If these breathings have
blown upon thy soul, man, woman, then he has blown away "the veil and
face of the covering" that was naturally upon your mind and
understanding. He has given you other views of spiritual and divine things,
than you can have by any natural or acquired knowledge. The Spirit of the Lord
is called "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation," Eph. 1:17: because
he reveals these things to the soul which flesh and blood is not able to
receive or understand. So then, has the Spirit testified of Christ unto you?
Has he "who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shined into
your heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the
face of Jesus Christ?" And as a fruit and consequence of this,
2.If the wind of the
Holy Ghost has blown upon thy soul, he has blown away some of the filth of
hell that did cleave to thy soul, and has transformed thee into his own image:
2 Cor. 3:18: "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, thou art
changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the
Lord." If you have the Spirit, the "same mind will be in you, which
was also in Christ Jesus:" for "he that is joined unto the Lord, is
one spirit." You will imitate and resemble him in his imitable
perfections, in his holiness, meekness, self-denial, patience. He is a holy
God; and wherever he comes, he works holiness, and makes the soul holy.
3. If this Wind has blown upon
your souls, then it has driven you from your lying refuges, and made you take
sanctuary in Christ. He has driven you from the law, and made you consent to
the method of salvation through the righteousness of the Son of God: "I
through the law," (says the apostle,) "am dead to the law, that I
might live unto God." This is the design of all the Spirit's influences,
to lead sinners off from sin, off from self, off from the law, that they may
rest in Christ only.
4. If ever you felt any of the
reviving gales of this wind of the Spirit, you will long for new gales and
breathings of it: and when these breathings are suspended and withheld, your
souls will be like to faint, as it were, like a man that wants breath. You
will pant for the air of the Spirit's influences, like David, Psal. 63:1:
"My soul longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water
is;" and Psal. 84:2: "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the
courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God."
Oh for another gale of his Spirit in public ordinances!
5. If you have felt the
breathings of this wind you will not snuff up the east wind of sin and vanity:
John 4:14: "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall
never thirst." You will not thirst immoderately after things of time; no,
no; you will see them to be but mere trash and vanity. You will "choose
that good part which shall not be taken away from you." You will
"seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right
hand of God."
6. If this wind has blown upon
thy soul, then you will follow the motion of this wind: you will not run cross
to this wind, but will go along with it. I mean, you will yield yourselves to
the conduct of the Spirit speaking in his word; for "as many as are led
by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
But, say you, How shall I know
if I be led by the Spirit of God? I answer,
1st, If you follow the Spirit, then "you will not fulfil the
lusts of the flesh," but, on the contrary, you will study to
"crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts." You will be
ready to cut off your right hand, and to pluck out the right eye sins at the
2dly, Then the way wherein you walk will be a way of holiness, for he
is a Spirit of sanctification; and a way of truth; for the Spirit of the Lord
is a Spirit of truth, and he leads into all truth: a way of uprightness: Psal.
143:10: "Thy Spirit is good, lead me into the land of uprightness."
3dly, You know leading imports spontaneousness and willingness. There
is a great difference between leading and drawing; between being driven by the
wind, and following the motion of the wind. Sometimes, indeed, the wicked, a
hypocrite, a natural man, by a strong north wind of conviction, may be driven
on to duty through the force of terror. But the believer is a volunteer; he
freely yields himself to the Spirit's conduct; he rejoices to work
righteousness, and to remember God in his ways. Whenever he hears the Spirit
whispering in his ears, and saying, "This is the way, walk ye in
it," presently, he complies. When the Spirit of Lord says,
"Come," he immediately echoes back again, and says, "Behold, I
come unto thee; for thou art the Lord my God." Now, try yourselves by
The second use shall be exhortation.
Is it so, that the influences of the Spirit are so necessary in order to our
revival? Then be exhorted to look up to Heaven, and cry for the breathings of
the Spirit. O sirs, will you turn the words of my text into a prayer? And say,
"Come from the four winds, O breath; and breathe upon these slain, that
they may live?" I might enforce this exhortation by many motives: I only
Motive 1. Consider, that spiritual deadness is very prevalent in the
day in which we live. There is a great multitude of "dry bones"
scattered up and down our "valley of vision." There are many that
carry the marks of a deadly leprosy on their foreheads: their atheism, their
profanity, irreligion, and other gross abominations, plainly declare to the
world, that they are "dead in trespasses and sins." And, alas! May
it not be for matter of lamentation, that even many of those, who, in the
judgment of charity, have "the root of the matter," the principles
of spiritual life, are yet under sad decays of the life of grace? Alas! It is
not with Scotland's ministers and professors as once it has been. I might
produce many melancholy evidences of this, if time would allow. Remember those
already mentioned, the general loathing of the word, &c.
Mot. 2. Consider the evil and danger of spiritual deadness. The evil
of it will appear,
lst, If you consider
that it is a frame of spirit directly contrary to the command of God. God
commands us to "present ourselves a living sacrifice unto him:" and,
indeed, this "is our reasonable service," Rom. 12:1. Yea, it is
contrary to the very nature of God; for God is a Spirit; and they that worship
him, must worship him in spirit and in truth," 1 John 4:24.
2dly, The evil and danger of it appears farther from this; that it
unfits the soul for every duty, and mars our communion and fellowship with
God. God meets the lively Christian in the way of duty: "Thou meetest him
that rejoiceth, and worketh righteousness; those that remember thee in thy
ways." But, for the man that comes to him with a Laodicean, dead,
lifeless, and lukewarm frame of soul, he will not hold communion with that
man; no he "will spew him out of his mouth."
3dly, It opens a door for all other sins, and renders a man an easy
prey to every temptation. A dead man can make no manner of resistance; he is
carried down the stream without opposition. Then,
4thly, It lays a foundation for sad and terrible challenges from
conscience. David's spiritual deadness brought him to that pass, in the end,
that he is made to cry out of broken bones, &c.
Mot. 3. Consider, that as the breathings of the Spirit are necessary
for every duty, so particularly for that solemn work which you have before
your hands of commemorating the death of the exalted Redeemer. I might here
let you see, how the influences of the Spirit are necessary for every part of
your work, if time would allow. Without the Spirit's influences of light, you
can never examine yourselves to purpose: it is "the Spirit of the
Almighty that giveth understanding" how to search out "the mystery
of iniquity" in the heart, which is "deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked." And then, without the Spirit you cannot mourn for
sin; for it is the kindly influences of the Spirit that thaws the heart into
evangelical tears, Zech. 12:10. Without the Spirit you cannot discern the
broken body of a Redeemer; for it is the Spirit that testifies of Christ.
"I will pour the Spirit of grace upon the house of David, and inhabitants
of Jerusalem;" and then follows, "They shall look upon me whom they
have pierced, and they shall mourn for him." In a word, you cannot
exercise any grace, you cannot wrestle in prayer, you cannot have any right
view of the contrivance of redemption, you cannot "take hold of God's
covenant," or improve any promise of the covenant, without the Spirit.
Mot. 4. Consider the excellency of these influences of the Spirit.
1st, They blow from an excellent quarter and original: the Holy
Ghost is the author of them; and you know he "proceeds from the Father
and the Son." So that a whole Trinity, as it were, convey themselves with
2dly, They are the purchase of a Redeemer's blood, and therefore
excellent. There is not the least grace, or the least gale of the Spirit, that
is given to believers, but it cost Christ the blood of his heart. He purchased
grace as well as glory.
3dly, These influences of the Spirit, as it were, supply Christ's
room while he is in glory. And truly, sirs, I may safely say it upon
scripture-warrant, that the presence of the Spirit with believers upon earth,
is a greater blessing than the mere bodily presence of Christ: and, therefore,
Christ tells his disciples by way of comfort, (John 16:7:) "If I go not
away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him
unto you." As if he had said, "When I am gone, the Spirit will be
poured out from on high, which is far better for you than my bodily
4thly, These breathings of the Spirit are pledges of glory, the
earnest-penny of the inheritance: Eph. 1:13, 14: "After that ye believed,
ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our
5thly, Their excellency appears from the excellent effects that they
produce upon the soul. They beautify the soul on whom they fall, and make it
like "a field which the Lord hath blessed." They render the soul
"fruitful in every good word and work:" Hos. 14:5: "I will be
as the dew unto Israel:" And what follows? "he shall grow as the
lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon." Isa. 44:3: "I will pour
water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my
Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring;" and then
follows, (ver. 4,) "They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows
by the water courses."
Quest. What advice or counsel do you give, in order to our obtaining
or recovering the enlightening and reviving gales of the Spirit?
Ans. 1. Be aware of your deadness, and mourn over it; for the Lord
"comforts them that mourn in Zion." He will "give unto them
beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the
spirit of heaviness:" and then follows, "They shall be called trees
of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified,"
Isa. 61:2, 3.
2. Be much upon the mount of
divine meditation; for here it is that the Spirit of the Lord breathes:
"While I was musing the fire burned," says David, Psal. 39:3; Psal.
63:5, 6: "When I meditate on thee in the night-watches, my soul shall be
satisfied as with marrow and fatness."
3. Cry mightily to God for
these influences, that he would pour down his Spirit from on high: for
"if ye, being evil," says Christ, "know how to give good gifts
unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy
Spirit to them that ask him?" Luke 11:13. Plead the promises of the new
covenant; and, particularly, be much in pleading this absolute promise of the
Spirit, Isa. 44:3: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and
floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed," &c.
Ezek. 36:27: "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in
my statutes." But still remember, that these promises are to be managed
by the prayer of faith. We are to turn God's promises into prayers; for it is
added, (ver. 37,) "For these things I will be inquired of by the house of
Israel, to do it for them."
4. Make conscience of waiting
on him in all the duties and ordinances of his appointment, particularly the
preaching of the word. And beware of a legal frame of spirit in your attending
upon these ordinances, as if thereby you could merit anything at God's hand,
or as if God were obliged to you for what you do this way; for "we
receive the Spirit," (says the apostle,) "not by the works of the
law, but by the hearing of faith." Gospel ordinances are the usual
chariots in which the Spirit rides, when he makes his entrance at first, or
when he returns into the soul after absence.
5. Lastly, Study to have union
with Christ; for it is upon them that are in Christ, that "the Spirit of
God and of glory" rests: "He that is joined unto the Lord is one
Spirit" with him. "The oil of gladness," that was poured upon
the head of our exalted Aaron, runs down upon the skirts of his garments, upon
every member of his mystical body.
Works of Ebenezer Erskine (3 volumes) are published by Free Presbyterian
Publications (Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland)