Now I beseech you, brothers, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit…
The Bible is emphatically a revelation, and not an argument; its teachings are dogmatic and absolute. You look in vain in the Bible for anything like an elaborate argumentation to prove the doctrine of the Trinity. The inspired writers everywhere take it for granted. Deny it, and there are profound mysteries which perplex us all. A truth also equally clear in the Scriptures is this, that the Three Persons of the Godhead are equally interested in the great scheme of human redemption.
I. HIS RESTRAINING LOVE. All men are everywhere wicked in heart and life, tyrannised over by the sin which dwells within them. They might be worse; men feel that they are not left to the uncontrolled power of the evil passions; they are conscious of an opposite power. Even savages and cannibals — the most degraded and ignorant of our race — testify that they are conscious of some power beside an evil one acting upon them. And hence the idea obtains in a large portion of the heathen world that there must be two divinities — a bad and a good divinity; and this is the only way in which they can account for the great truth of which they are conscious. It is not the mere fruit of fancy. And this is also true of ourselves. How many evils have been averted, how many bad passions have been restrained, how many schemes of wickedness have been overthrown by the direct action of the Holy Ghost on men's minds, no man can possibly tell. A gigantic scheme of wickedness is concocted by half-a-dozen persons; but previous to its consummation, one of the company has a strange sense of uneasiness which he cannot help, and he is restless by day and night. His wife or his nearest friend observes there is something on his mind. But the restlessness grows upon him, the man is miserable. Now, what ails the man? Who has caused him to stagger in his fiendish enterprise? No human voice reasoned with him; it is the Holy Ghost in love that acted directly without any human agency upon that man's conscience and heart. A man is studying to commit murder. The would-be murderer lies under the shadow of the tree waiting for his intended victim. By and by he hears the sounds of human footsteps — a strange irresolution paralyses him — and instead of springing forward to execute his purpose, he falls back powerless. Again I say, what ails the man? What has acted upon his mind? No human being has reasoned with him; but he is so acted upon by the direct agency of the Holy Ghost. Oh! just think for a moment what would have been the state of the world now if all the evil passions of men had been carried out to the utmost.
II. THE LOVE OF THE SPIRIT CONVICTING. The provisions of redemption are ample, and there is no want that we can feel, but what is filled by Christ Jesus. But there are difficulties that stand in the way. Man does not feel his need of these provisions, man is not conscious that he requires a Saviour, he does not entertain the same views of sin that God does, and he thinks he can do without redemption. "Oh!" he says, "sin is only a harmless gratification of human passions, over which I am not responsible, which were born with me into the world." And so men do not see any grandeur and reality in the scheme of redemption. Man plays gaily and foolishly on the verge of an awful precipice in a blindfolded condition, and knows not the terrible death under his feet. If you would make him watchful, and to turn away from the verge of that danger, you must convince him there is danger. Man will never seek liberty until he is convinced of his bondage; he will never seek or appreciate the remedy until he is made conscious of his disease. Who is to awake his mind and give him this sight, and thus prepare him for the reception of mercy? It is the Holy Ghost, and He, out of love to us, has made suitable provision for bringing home to individual consciences the sense of sin and danger. He has embodied for us God's thoughts, which man could never have discovered, and has raised up men to commit these thoughts to writing, and has raised up a succession of men to apply these truths. He does not, for instance, convince the drunkard of drunkenness, or the blasphemer of blasphemy. That is not the mode in which the Spirit operates on human consciences. But He convinces men of the sinfulness of their nature, that sin is in them; generally speaking, the light is shed inwardly, and the man sees himself, not his life, and he is horrified. If the Holy Ghost awakens within you a sense of sinfulness, He does not rest there, but reveals to you at the same time a remedy, and that you must perish, not because you have sinned, but because you reject the only Saviour from sin. It is a rough process, and God has rough mercies as well as tender mercies. But there is another difficulty in the way. Even when man is convinced of his sin and danger, Jesus is not the first remedy that he repairs to, as a rule. There is something so humiliating in being saved by another, that a man will try a variety of ways before he submits to God's way. He will give up a bad habit, hope to reform himself, and thus divide the glory of salvation with Jesus by doing a little for himself; and it is the Holy Ghost who follows the sinner in his wanderings, drives him out of these false refuges. It is the love of the Holy Ghost, as though driving a man into the only path which will lead him into immortality and blessedness.
III. THERE IS THE FORBEARING LOVE OF THE SPIRIT. A mother displays a vast amount towards her child, when she watches the sickly infant by day and by night. No doubt that is a high manifestation of love, because it is shown while the child is not capable of appreciating that affection, but it is not the highest. That child grows up to youth and manhood, and he becomes a profligate, and, not only neglectful, but positively cruel. She cannot cast him out of her heart, she yearns for him still, and nothing would rejoice the mother more than to see the lad return. And such is the love of the Holy Ghost. It is a love which survives ingratitude, insult, rebellion, blasphemy. He presents Himself to you again and again, not for the purpose of asking a gift, but of conferring one. If you were in a condition of temporal distress, and a neighbour heard of it who knew nothing about you, and out of pure benevolence offered to alleviate your sorrow, you would feel you were not capable of saying — "I will not accept his offer, but prefer to remain in my condition." And if you did refuse his offer of assistance, the benefactor would not be very likely to offer himself another time. No, humanity would say, "such a wretch as that deserves no relief; let him alone." And this is the conduct of some of you towards the Holy Ghost. His forbearance is Divine, but it has limits.
IV. HIS CONDESCENDING LOVE. Now the work of Christ has relation to the Lawgiver; the work of the Spirit has relation to the law breaker. Jesus Christ had to offer a demand to the satisfaction of the Lawgiver, but the Holy Spirit has to come and make the sinner willing to accept of the provision. The blessed Saviour had no difficulty in persuading the Father to accept of His substitution on behalf of humanity. But here lies a sad truth. When the Holy Ghost comes to man, He finds it difficult to persuade man to accept of the provisions of Christ, and yet He condescends to repeat His visit. You admire the condescension of a man like Howard, who penetrated distant countries, and exposed himself to rude insults, who entered hospitals and prisons, and visited the guilty and degraded. But what shall we say of the condescending love of the Holy Ghost, when we remember the theatre He has selected for His signal action, for His most powerful operations. It is a stupendous exhibition of the condescending love for that Spirit to come down and live for hundreds and thousands of years in the vilest place in the universe — the heart of humanity.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;