« PreviousContinue »
The GOSPEL for the Sunday after Afcenfion-Day,
St. John xv. 26. and part of Chap. xvi. When the Comforter is come, whom I will fend unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he ball testify of me. And ye alfo fball bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. These things have 1 Spoken unto you, that ye bould not be offended, &c.
E pray in the Collect for this Day, that God would not leave us comfortless, but send us a Comforter in the abfence of our Saviour. This Gospel for the Day fhews us who this Comforter is, together with a Promife of fending him, and the Ends for which he is fent: which things are to be the Subject of the following Dif course.
When the Comforter is come: The Word here render'd a Comforter, is in the Original a Paraclete, which fignifies three things, a Comforter, an Advocate, and a Teacher or Remembrancer; all which Offices were neceffary to the Apostles at that time, and will be fo to all Chriftians to the end of the World. And therefore 'tis requifite that each of them be here explain'd.
But before I do that, 'twill be neceffary to know who or what this Paraclete is, that we may the better fee how thefe Offices are discharg'd by him. Now this Paraclete, as the Beginning of this Gofpel, and fundry other places of Scripture inform us, is the Spirit of Truth, or the Holy Ghoft, the third Perfon in the ever-bleffed Trinity; who in all the foremention'd Senfes is truly and properly a Paraclete, as will evidently appear by a particular View and Confideration of them. And,
ift, The word Paraclete fignifies fometimes a Comforter fo 'tis here tranflated, as 'tis alfo John 14. 16, 17, where this Spirit of Truth, fo call'd as being the Author of Truth, in oppofition to all lying Spirits and falfe Prophets, is likewife call'd a Comforter, in oppofition to all deceitful and uncomfortable Spirits, that create nothing but Sorrow and Sadness; whereas this Holy Spirit adminifters Cordials ftrong enough to bear up the Spirits in all Conditions, and communicates thofe Joys, that are fufficient not only to keep us from fainting under, but even to make us rejoice in Tribulation. Hence we read of the Joys of the Holy Ghoft, and the Confolations of the Spirit, which far exceed all the miferable Comforters of this World.
Indeed, 'twas Comfort that the Difciples wanted, when our Saviour spake these words to them; for Sorrow had fill'd their Hearts upon the news of Chrift's going from them, knowing that they were to be like Orphans left deftitute and friendlefs to the wide World, which could not but difmay and caft them down. Now in this dejected and difconfolate ftate, Christ tells them of one that was coming to comfort them: because Sorrow had chill'd and congeal'd their Spirits, he tells them of his coming in the form of Fire, to warm and enliven them; and because the Tongue is the Inftrument of Comfort, he fhould come in the fhape of Tongues, to minifter to them a word in due feafon. And this they accordingly found, to their great comfort, for immediately upon their receiving the Holy Spirit, they were fo chear'd and reviv'd, that the Bystanders thought them to be full of new Wine: from Perfons, exceeding fearful, they became of a fudden exceeding full of Courage and Spirit, like Men transported with Joy. Yea, when they were evil-intreated by the World, they went away not as Perfons dejected, but dignify'd with a new Honour, that they fhould be counted worthy to fuffer for the Name of Chrift. And thus does the Holy Spirit ftill perform the Office of a Paraclete or Comforter.
2dly, The word Paraclete fignifies fometimes an Advocate or Interceffor; fo 'tis render'd, 1 John 2. 1. If any Man fin
ginantor per, we have a Paraclete or Advocate with the Father. e. one to fpeak and act for us with the Father. And this Office the Holy Ghoft performs for us, partly by acting our Caufe for us with God, partly with Men, and partly, by, acting Chrift's Caufe against the World. It acts as an Advocate for us with God, by helping us to pray, by
forming our Petitions, and infpiring us with those holy Af fections, that render them acceptable unto God. This St. Paul tells us, Rom. 8. 26. The Spirit alfo helpeth our Infir mities for we know not what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit it felf maketh interceffion for us, with Groanings that cannot be utter'd. Again,
The Holy Spirit is our Advocate to plead our Caufe before Men; fo our Saviour told his Difclples, Mat. 10. 19, 20. When ye are brought before Governours and Kings for my fake, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that fame hour what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that fpeaketh in you. Furthermore,
This Holy Spirit is an Advocate or Actor of Chrift's Cause against the World; fo he here told them, when he is come, he fall testify of me and John 16.8,9, 10. He fall reprove the World of Sin, of Righteoufnefs, and of Judgment: the three forts of Caufes ufually try'd in the Jewish Courts; for which fee the Gofpel for the fourth Sunday after Eafter.
3dly, The word Paraclete fignifies a Teacher or Remembrancer; for aer, from whence 'tis deriv'd, is to exhort, admonish, and call to mind. This Office the Holy Spirit executed for the Apoftles, by leading them into all Truth, by teaching and bringing all things to remembrance, which Chrift had faid unto them; as we read, John 14. 26. & Chap. 16. 13. And this Office he ftill does for us, by inftructing us out of the Holy Scriptures, the Dictates of the fame Spirit, and by bringing to mind all neceffary Truths for our Benefit and Confolation, as Occafions fhall require.
Thus we see who and what this Paraclete is, and how he executes the Offices of a Comforter, an Advocate, and Inftructor in the Church of Chrift; all which are imply'd in that Word, and ought to be understood in that Latitude, as to comprehend them all. For to them that are opprefs'd with Grief and Sorrow, 'tis a Comforter to chear and revive them: to them that are in Error, 'tis a Spirit of Truth, to guide and direct them in the right way to them that are affaulted with Temptations to Sin, 'tis a Spirit of Holiness, to fupport and fanctify them. In a word, 'tis a Spirit of Grace and Supplication, to help all our Infirmi ties, and to carry us through all the Doubts and Difficulties that we meet with in this present Life.
Now this Comforter was here promis'd to come; When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father which words fuppofe his Coming, and that fuddenly too, and fo it foon after came to pafs, as we fhall have occafion to fhew in our next. In the mean time we may obferve, that Chrift here promis'd to fend this Spirit of Truth from the Father: and in the next words it is faid to proceed from the Father. From which the Creeds and Confeffions of the Chriftian Church have taught us to believe, that he proceedeth from both.
Having told them these things, he proceeds, in the next place, to let them know the End of this Comforter's Coming: which, among other things, was to bear testimony of him; He shall teftify of me. And this he did feveral ways:
(1.) By his inward Inspirations, whereby he enlighten'd Mens Minds, and gave them a right Understanding of Christ, as the promis'd Meffias and Saviour of the World; which, without the Light of God's Holy Spirit, had never been fo clearly known: for no Man, Speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jefus accurfed; and no Man can fay, that Jefus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghoft. 1 Cor. 12. 3.
(2.) The Spirit bears witness of Chrift, by inditing the Holy Scriptures, which reveal him to the World, and convey the Knowledg of him to all Nations. Hence we find our Saviour fending the Jews to the Holy Scriptures for a Teftimony of him, faying, Search the Scriptures, for they are they that teftify of me; John 5. 39.
(3.) The Spirit bore witnefs of Chrift, by the many Miracles and mighty Works wrought by him, for the Confirmation of Chrift's Doctrine. So the Author to the He brews tells us, that the Word which firft began to be Spoken by the Lord, was after confirm'd by them that heard him; God alfo bearing witnefs by Signs and Wonders, and divers Miracles, and Gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his Will; Heb. 2. 3,4. And St. Peter in his Sermon to the Jews declar'd, that Jefus of Nazareth was a Man approv'd of God among them by Miracles, Wonders, and Signs, which God did in the midst of them, as they themselves alfo knew; Acts 2. 22. Which Miracles being done by the Divine Spirit for the honour of Chrift, was the Teftimony he is here faid to bear of him,
To which may be added, the Holy Ghoft's conftituting and confecrating an Order of Men to publifh Chrift's Doctrine and Miracles to all the World, as a farther Inftance of the witness he gave to him: which occafion'd thofe next words of Chrift to his Apoftles; And ye alfo fhall bear witnefs, because ye have been with me from the beginning: that is, you that have been Eye and Ear-witneffes of all that I have faid or done, having been with me at the first, and continu'd with me ever fince, are fittest to bear witness of me; and this must be the Employment of all that fucceed in your Office to the World's end. So we read, 1 John 1. 1, 2, 3.
These things (faith our Saviour) have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended: that is, I have told you of mine and your Sufferings, and likewise promis'd you fufficient Comforts and Supports under them, merely to pre vent Surprize, and to keep you from being offended at the Extremity of any Affliction that may happen unto you. By being offended here is meant not barely a being difpleas'd, or conceiving of fome Dislike, but fuch a Displeasure and Dislike as carry Men on to the falling from, and utter forfaking of Chrift, to the denying of him, and cafting off all Profeffion of Faith and Hope in him: And this hath been often occafion'd by the Difficulties and Hazards that attend his Service. The Scandal of the Crofs prov'd a great Offence to Peter and the reft of the Apostles, for it made the one to deny him, and the other to forfake him: Chrift crucify'd was a Stumbling-block to the Jews, and to the Greeks Foolishness; 1 Cor. 1.23. And many have made the Sufferings of Chrift an Occafion of relinquishing him. The Prophet Isaiah foretold, that he should be a Stone of Stumbling, and a Rock of Offence to the House of Ifrael, a Gin and a Snare to the Inhabitants of Jerufalem; and many fhould ftumble and fall, and be broken in pieces: Ifa. 8.14,15. And good old Simeon declar'd at our Saviour's Birth, that this Child was fet for the fall, as well as the rifing again of many in If. rael, and for a Sign that shall be spoken against; Luke 2. 34. Accordingly we read in the Gofpel, that many were offended in him; that is, many took occafion to fpurn and fall at him, and even to dafh against the Rock of their Salvation : and all this by reafon of the Sufferings that befel our Saviour, and that after happen'd to those that adher'd to him; for many stick to him in the Sunshine of Profperity, who in the time of Temptation and Trouble fall away. So