By the ‘love of the Spirit’ I understand that love which the third person of the Godhead has displayed in the economy of redemption. Some indeed are of opinion that it refers to that brotherly love which is the production of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, and binds them together as members of the same mystical body, so as to feel a deep interest in one another’s welfare. Even though it should be allowed that this was the more immediate meaning of the word in this passage, we might still take occasion from it to speak of that love which is the spring of all the Spirit’s operations. We judge of the qualities of a fountain from the waters which it sends forth, and of a tree from its fruits. ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love;’ and what must be the love resident in and flowing from that divine Person, who is the author of every affectionate feeling toward God or toward man! But I apprehend the connection in which the words stand fully justifies the other interpretation ‘I beseech you from regard to what the Lord has done for you, and the love which the Holy Spirit has shewn to you, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.’
We often speak of the love of the Father in not sparing His Son, and the love of the Son in giving himself for us; and we do well, for we cannot speak of them too often, nor with too much fervour of gratitude and admiration. But the love of the Spirit is more rarely the topic of public discourse or private converse, and there is reason to fear that it is too little in our thoughts, for ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ May not this deficiency have a hurtful effect upon Christian experience? God draws His children to himself ‘by the cords of love,’ meaning His own love; but if one of the threads in ‘this threefold cord’ be relaxed, must not the influence of divine love upon our hearts be weakened and impaired? If we are deficient in this part of Christian exercise, it assuredly does not arise from any defect in the proofs and illustration of love on the part of this divine Agent. The subject seems entitled to our particular attention. Let us then, trusting to the aid of the Spirit, without whom we can neither speak nor hear aright, contemplate the manifestations of the love of the Holy Spirit.
Contemplate then the manifestations of the love of the Spirit. The work of redemption, or of recovering man from the ruin into which he had fallen by his trangression, is to be traced to the spontaneous and boundless love of God. This wonderful love is held forth as exerted in distinct acts by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To the Father we ascribe, agreeably to the analogy of the word, the purpose and superintendence of the plan of redemption, to the Son its purchase, and to the Spirit its application. The love from which the Spirit acts is equally divine with that from which the Father and Son act; indeed it is the same, for the love of God, like His will, is one. ‘There is none good but one, that is God;’ and this epithet is repeatedly applied to the third Person in an absolute sense: ‘Thou gavest them thy good Spirit’ ‘Thy Spirit is good.’ The love of the Spirit is eternal, unchangeable, sovereign, independent; and in its breadth, and length, and depth, and height, it passeth knowledge.
1. The Holy Spirit displayed His love in, the readiness with which He undertook His mission and work. We speak of the covenant of grace as made between the Father and Son, because, in contemplation of the Son’s assuming human nature, there was an engagement and a promise, a work and reward. But we must not overlook the concurrence of the blessed Spirit, and the delight which He took in the prospect of His work of grace and power. As the Son was sent by the Father, so the Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son, and on this account is called economically their Spirit; but He was as free and cheerful in undertaking and engaging in His work as He who said, ‘Lo I come, to do thy will, O my God.’ When Jesus was about to leave His disciples He said, ‘I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter; if I go not away the Comforter will not come, but if I depart, I will send him unto you.’ Observe, He is not only said to be ‘sent,’ to intimate the established order of the economy of grace, and the certainty of the gift, but He is said to ‘come,’ in order to point out His willingness to engage in the work. When He is come, He shall ‘convince the world.’ Hence the prayer of the Old Testament Church: ‘Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out’ (Cant. iv. 16.) And hence on the day of Pentecost, ‘Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind and there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.’ These were the emblems of the ‘love of the Spirit,’ in its ardour, impetuosity and irresistible power. And as He was voluntary in undertaking, so He is sovereign in carrying on His work, ‘dividing severally to every man as He will.’ When we pray the Father to give us the Holy Spirit, we should remember that He whom we ask to dwell in us is a free and independent agent. ‘Uphold me with Thy free Spirit’ (Ps. li. 12).
2. The Love of the Spirit appeared in dictating the Scriptures. Saints in every age have loved the Word of God, and from the time that it was first committed to writing, they have not ceased to take the highest delight in reading and meditating on its contents. In the Bible they find their meat and their drink, the life and the health of their souls. They could not live without it, and having it they can be contented with a slender portion. Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever; for they are the rejoicing of my heart’ (Ps. cxix. 9). The longest psalm that ever David composed is entirely occupied in expressing his esteem for the written law; there are few of his spiritual songs in which he does not commend it; and remember, brethren, his Bible was a small one compared with ours.
All Scripture was given by inspiration, or dictated to the sacred penmen by the Spirit. ‘Prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;’ and as they spake they wrote. This is true, not only of prophecy strictly so called, or the prediction of future events, but of all the contents of His inspired volume, whether given in the form of doctrine, reproof, exhortation, promise, or even history. Hence the formula used in quoting from any of the books of the Old Testament, ‘The Holy Ghost saith,’ whatever prophet was the penman Mark xii. 36; Acts xxviii. 25; Heb. iii. 7, and ix. 8). Even those parts of Scripture which proceeded immediately from the mouth of the Redeemer Himself, come to us through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who brought them to the remembrance of the evangelist; and to each of the letters which Christ ordered His servant John to send to the seven Churches of Asia is subjoined the same admonition: ‘He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.’
Would you have a sensible sign and proof of the love of the Spirit? Here it is. Could there be a greater proof of love than the giving of this Book, so stored with everything that is necessary, and able to make wise to salvation the most simple? There are three distinguishing gifts of God—the gift of His Son, the gift of His Spirit, and the gift of His Word—and as to each of them we may say, ‘herein is love.’ Without the Scriptures, you would have been sitting in the region and shadow of death. Without the Scriptures, you would have known nothing of the plan of mercy and way of salvation; you would never have heard of the love of God, of the person, the undertaking, the incarnation, the sacrifice, the sufferings and glory of Christ; you would never have heard of remission of sins, of peace with God, of the adoption of children, of the inheritance laid up in heaven. If then at any time you have felt your consciences pacified, your difficulties cleared up, your fears dissipated, your minds fortified against temptation, strengthened for duty, or comforted in tribulation, your faith increased, your hope quickened, your love inflamed, your patience promoted, by anything contained in this precious volume—think, oh! think, of the ‘love of the Spirit.’ Christian children, who have been taught the first principles of the oracles of God, think of the love of the Spirit. Christian young men, who from your earliest years have known the Scriptures, think on the love of the Spirit. Christian fathers, who are strong because the Word of God abideth in you, think on the love of the Spirit:
3. The love of the Spirit was manifested in preparing and endowing the human, nature of the Saviour. All the operations of the divine Spirit in forming those holy men who were raised up for carrying on the work of God under the Old Testament, such as Moses and David and Solomon, Isaiah, Zerubbabel, and Joshua, who were eminently furnished with gifts and graces for the faithful and wise discharge of their important functions, were nothing compared with this. In the miraculous conception, the Spirit ‘created a new thing in the earth,’ bringing ‘ a clean thing out of an unclean,’ and from a corrupt, mass forming a body which was without the least taint of, or tendency to, sin, and thus fitted for becoming the immaculate and blessed body of the Son of God. ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.’ This was the beginning of those miracles of love which were wrought with such heavenly profusion and prodigality during our Saviour’s abode on earth. According to ancient predictions, the Spirit descended upon and dwelt in that holy nature which he had formed: ‘The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.’ And the miracle which accompanied our Lord’s baptism held forth emblematically the source, and nature, and design of this unction. ‘The heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending, like a dove’ (the emblem of love) ‘and lighting upon him.’ In the glorious person of the Redeemer next to the grace of union, which is the effect of the assumption of human nature by the Son of God, the grace of unction is the most wonderful object of contemplation. ‘Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him.’ If the oil poured on the head of Aaron, which descended to the skirts of his garment, was precious, how much more precious was this heavenly oil which was poured on the Head, and was to descend to the meanest and least member of the mystical body; for God gave not the Spirit by measure to Him, and He was given to be imparted to all that believe on Him. ‘Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.’ This was the holy anointing oil which was poured on His sacrifice; and as it was through the Eternal Spirit that He offered himself without spot to God, so was He ‘justified in the Spirit’ by his resurrection from the dead.
4. The love of the Spirit is shewn in the first visit which He pays to the soul of a sinner, when He comes to take possession of it. When He first enters the place of his future residence, he finds it in a very wretched and repulsive condition. The sinner himself, habituated to his own impurity, can form no conception of the disgust which this heavenly visitant must feel on approaching it, and is apt to wonder at the strong terms in which He has described it. No dungeon, at once dark and cold and filthy—no lazar who from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head is covered with wounds and bruises and putrifying sores—no corpse which has lain for days in the earth is half so loathsome to the senses as such a soul is to the Holy Spirit, who is ‘of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity.’ He finds the heart dead to all that is good, yet alive to all that is evil; the mind filled with ignorance of God, and enmity to Him; the whole man as proud as poor, as obstinate as foolish, as impenitent as guilty. His first approaches are shunned, His overtures rejected, His convictions stifled, His entreaties despised. Yet He perseveres in His gracious design, until He has conquered all opposition, won the soul to Jesus Christ, and formed the heart for a habitation to himself—‘the temple of the living God!’
5. The love of this blessed agent is farther seen in keeping possession of the soul. There is more love displayed in this, than in taking possession of the soul at first. We expect nothing but resistance and hostility from an enemy, but ‘he that hath friends, should shew himself friendly.’ Is this then what the saint evinces to his merciful deliverer? Alas! no. How often has the Holy Spirit reason to say, ‘Is this thy kindness to thy friend?’ Who but the blessed Guest himself can tell what indignities and provocations He meets with from the time that He takes up His habitation in the heart of a believer? We can scarcely read the history of the unbelieving, ungrateful, and rebellious conduct of the Israelites in the wilderness without being provoked; yet it is a true picture of our own conduct: ‘He gave them his good Spirit to instruct them, but they rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit.’ And how often do professing Christians and genuine saints themselves rebel, and vex and grieve the Spirit by their slowness of heart to understand and believe the word which He hath spoken, and brought to their remembrance, by despising the hidden manna with which He has fed their souls, by indulging the wish to return to spiritual Sodom and Egypt, by calling in question those promises which He has sealed on their hearts, by quenching His motions, and acting contrary to those principles which He has implanted within them! On these accounts He is provoked to withhold His sensible and comforting influence, and threatens to withdraw from them. And yet He abides with them. ‘How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.’ ‘Many waters cannot quench his love, neither can the floods drown it.’
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