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That God has given christians a peculiar spirit, by which they have a peculiar knowledge of divine things.
I shall endeavor to describe,
II. Show that this peculiar spirit does give them a peculiar knowledge of divine things.
I. I am to describe the peculiar spirit which God has given to christians.
By a spirit peculiar to christians is meant a spirit which no other men possess. This is evidently what the apostle means by saying, “ Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God.” God has given christians a spirit which he has not given to the world, and which is directly opposite to the spirit of the world. If, then, we can ascertain what the spirit of the world is, we may ascertain what the spirit of God is, which he has given to christians. The spirit of the world is that spirit which is common to mankind in general, and which governs all their conduct so long as they continue in a state of nature. It is the spirit of the prince of the power of the air. Or to speak in plainer terms, it is a selfish spirit, which leads men to seek their own private, separate interest, in opposition to the glory of God and the general good of the universe. Selfishness reigns in the hearts of the men of the world, and is the essence of all the moral evil that overspreads the earth. But the apostle tells us that God has given christians a spirit which is diametrically opposite to the spirit of the world; and this must certainly be the spirit of benevolence. There are but two kinds of moral exercises, which are diametrically opposite to each other, in moral beings. These are benevolent and selfish exercises. They all possess either a spirit of benevolence, or a spirit of selfishness, and are either holy or unholy, accordingly as they possess the one or the other of these essentially different exercises of heart. And if we now search the scriptures, we shall find that the spirit which God gives, when he renews and sanctifies men, is the spirit of benevolence, which is the moral image of the Deity. Our Saviour says, “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And the reason is, " that which is born of the flesh is Aesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” And that spirit which is the fruit of the Spirit, is love. So says the apostle John: “ Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God.” When God regenerates any person, he sheds abroad his love in his heart. He gives him a heart after his own heart, which is a heart of love. When God foretold his purpose of renewing the hearts of his people in Babylon, who were pining away in their iniquities, he promised to give them a new, tender, benevolent heart. “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you.” When God renews men in the spirit of their minds, he forms their hearts after his own moral image; and his own moral image is love, which comprises all his moral perfections. The spirit which is of God, is a Godlike spirit, or a spirit of pure, disinterested love; which is the essence of all virtue or moral excellence, and which is perfectly opposed to the spirit of the world. This spirit of universal benevolence is so peculiar to christians, that the least spark of it is never found in the hearts of sinners, who love themselves solely and supremely. I now proceed to show,
II. That this peculiar spirit which christians receive from God, gives them a peculiar knowledge of spiritual and divine things. This the apostle expressly asserts in the text: “ Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” To illustrate the truth of this divine declaration, it may be observed,
1. That the spirit of peculiar divine love which christians receive from God, removes that ignorance of spiritual and divine things which is peculiar to sinners. The Bible every where represents sinners as deaf, and blind, and ignorant, in regard to every thing of a spiritual and divine nature. Moses says that sinners in his day had not eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hearts to perceive, the displays of God's wisdom, power and goodness towards his people. Solomon says, “ The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble.” And Paul represents sinners as “having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” It appears from these passages of scripture, that the peculiar ignorance of sinners in respect to spiritual and divine objects, arises altogether from the depravity of their hearts, which darkens and blinds their understandings. But if this be true, then the peculiar spirit of pure benevolence which christians have received from God, must remove from their minds all that ignorance of divine things which is peculiar to sinners. Pure benevolence must necessarily take away from christians their former ignorance, which arose from selfishness. As the removal of scales from a blind man's eyes will remove all the blindness occasioned by those scales, so the giving to christians a spirit of benevolence must certainly remove all that blindness or ignorance which arose from their former selfishness. If selfishness produces a certain kind of ignorance of
spiritual things, then benevolence must remove that certain kind of ignorance, by producing a certain kind of knowledge of the same divine objects. And thus the apostle sets the peculiar knowledge which christians have of spiritual things, in direct contrast with the peculiar ignorance of sinners. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all ihings." As soon as christians receive that spirit of benevolence which cometh from God, they become spiritual, and as soon as they become spiritual, they discern those spiritual things which sinners cannot discern because of the blindness of their selfish hearts. That benevolence in the minds of christians which removes selfishness, removes, at the same time, the spiritual ignorance which flows from selfishness. This the apostle plainly intimates in his second epistle to the Corinthians.“ If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of ihis world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." But he subjoins, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Here the apostle plainly declares, that when God shines in the hearts of christians, he removes that blindness or ignorance which is peculiar to those that are lost; and at the same time gives thern a peculiar knowledge of his own glory in the face of Jesus Christ. And he expresses this idea more fully in the third chapter of his second epistle to the Corinthians. Speaking of the Israelites in the wilderness, he says, “ Their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineih the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart; nevertheless, when it shall, turn to the Lord, ihe vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The spirit of benevolence never fails to remove that spirit of selfishness, from which all spiritual ignorance arises.
2. The way in which the scripture represents God as enlightening the minds of men in the peculiar knowledge of him. self
, is by changing their hearts, or giving them a pure, benevolent spirit. God directed Jeremiah 10 tell sinners in Israel: "I will give them an heart to know me.” As their ignorance of God arose from the blindness of their hearts, so in order to
remove that kind of ignorance, he determined to give them a wise and understanding heart, or a spirit of true benevolence. When Peter professed the true knowledge of Christ, the Saviour said unto him, " Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona; for fesh and blood haih not revealed it unto thee, but my
Father who is in heaven.” God had converted Peter, and given him a holy and benevolent heart, to know him the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he had sent, which prepared him for eternal life. Paul says to the christians of Ephesus, “ Ye were sometimes darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord.” God had opened the eyes of their understanding, and turned them from darkness to light, by giving them a heart to perceive the beauty and glory of divine things. The apostle Peter conveys the same sentiment in what he says to christians in general: “ But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” And the apostle John writes to believers in the same strain : “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” And again he says, " beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." These, and a great many other passages of scripture of the same import, plainly teach us that the way in which God teaches christians the peculiar knowledge of divine things, is by giving thern his own spirit, which is a spirit of love, or pure benevolence. This leads me to observe farther,
3. That there is no other possible way by which God can give christians the peculiar, or experimental knowledge of himself and divine objects, but by giving to them his own Spirit, or shedding abroad his love in their hearts. He cannot convey this peculiar spiritual knowledge of divine, things to any of mankind, by mere inspiration. He inspired Saul, but this did not remove the blindness of his heart. He inspired Balaam, but this did not remove the blindness of his heart. He inspired Caiaphas, but this did not remove the blindness of his heart. And Paul supposes a man may have the gist of prophecy, may understand all mysteries and all speculative knowledge, and may have a miraculous faith sufficient to remove mountains, and yet be totally destitute of the true love and knowledge of God. The reason of this is plain, because inspiration has no tendency to change the heart, but only to convey mere speculative knowledge to the understanding. For the same reason, God cannot give men the peculiar, spiritual knowledge of himself by moral suasion, or the mere exhibition of divine truth. If he should give them a clear, correct and
comprehensive knowledge of all the truths in the gospel, this alone would have no tendency to soften or subdue their hard hearts, or make them know what it is to be holy as he is holy, and perfect as he is perfect. Nor can he give them a spiritual discerning of spiritual things, by mere convictions of guilt, fears of punishment, or hopes of happiness. For there is no connection between the common effects of the common influence of the divine Spirit, and the peculiar, experimental knowledge of the spiritual beauty of divine objects. But though God cannot give mnen this peculiar knowledge, either by inspiration, or by moral suasion, or by mere awakenings and convictions, yet there is one way, the only one, in which he can give it, and that is by giving them his spirit; or a benevolent heart. As soon as they partake of the divine nature, they immediately have a peculiar, experimental knowledge of the things of God. For,
In the first place, by exercising benevolence themselves, they know how all benevolent beings feel. They know how God feels, how Christ feels, how the Holy Spirit feels, how angels feel, how the spirits of just men made perfect feel, and how all their fellow christians feel who have drunk into the same spirit, and exercised the same benevolent affections. So the apostle argues in the text and context: "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of a man which is in him ? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” As one man knows what his rational faculties are, so he knows what another man's rational faculties are; or as one man knows what his own selfish feelings are, so he knows what another man's selfish feelings are ; or as one man knows what his own benevolent feelings are, so he knows what another man's benevolent feelings
Just so says the apostle, we who are christians, and have received the spirit which is God, know the things of God; that is, what a benevolent spirit he possesses, and what a benevolent spirit he has given unto us. As soon as God gives christians his spirit, he gives them the knowledge of the holy exercises of his own heart; and of the holy exercises of all who possess his spirit. For the spirit of benevolence is the same in God, in Christ, in angels, and in men. Hence christians are said " to be renewed in knowledge after the image of God.” And when they are thus renewed, it is said, “old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” They have a new experimental knowledge of God, and of all holy beings, in respect to the moral beauty and excellence of their characters.
In the second place, the peculiar spirit which they have