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Note [F]. p. 17.
“ The dispensation of the Son of man.” I use this expression to designate the personal ministry of the Redeemer while on earth. It was restricted in its sphere of operation, limited in the subjects of its instruction, and comparatively unsuccessful in its effects. He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to the children of the covenant, and the promise, which were given unto the fathers; and beyond the limits of the circumcision he rarely extended his labours. The time was not come for a full disclosure of his character and intentions; and hence he spoke either figuratively or in parables to the people, on the great design of his mission, and explained himself only partially even to his disciples in private. The results of his labours are extraordinary, when we consider who was the preacher, what were his exertions, and the nature of the message which he delivered. But it was necessary that in this, as in other things, the Son of man should be tried and afflicted. He complained in the bitterness of his spirit, “ Who hath believed the report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ?” “ He laboured in vain, and spent his strength for nought and in vain." He wept over Jerusalem, and the obstinacy of her children, who would not take warning, or seek refuge under him. Even his own disciples profited little under the instructions of such a Master, and to the very last seemed scarcely to understand the design of his undertaking, or what was likely to spring from their connexion with him.
The reason of all this can now be assigned. The Holy Spirit rested on the Saviour himself, but its unction was scarcely, if at ail, extended to his ministry. The person of Jesus, as Immanuel, was formed by the power of the Holy
Ghost, Luke i. 33. By the same Spirit was he publicly consecrated to be the Prophet of the church, and the Apostle of the Father, at his baptism, Matt. iii. 16, 17. By that Spirit was he qualified to be a preacher of glad tidings to the poor and the wretched, Luke iv. 18, 19. By the same Spirit did he perform all his works of wonder and of mercy, Matt. xii. 28. By “ the Eternal Spirit, he offered himself without spot to God," Heb. ix. 14. And by the Spirit of Holiness was he raised from the dead, Rom. i. 4. All these were acts of the Spirit, which properly terminated on the person or personal character of our Lord, and did not extend to his operations. The Spirit is scarcely mentioned in relation to his own ministry. On the contrary, he held out the promise of the Spirit, as the great encouragement to his disciples, in the prospect of his departure ; declaring expressly that he should not come, unless Jesus went away, or was taken off by death, John xvi. 7, 16. It was after his resurrection, that he breathed on them, and said" receive ye the Holy Ghost," John xx. 22. Subsequently to this, he commanded them to wait for the promise of the Father, of which they had heard from him; which was accordingly fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. Acts i. 4, 8. ii. 33.
These facts clearly prove that there is an important distinction between the dispensation of the Gospel, as administered by Jesus bimself on earth, and the dispensation of the Gospel, as administered by the Spirit, after his ascension into heaven. The former was characterised by the weakness, the limitation, and the inefficaciousness of humanity; though deified humanity: the latter is distinguished by all that energy, and effect, and extension, which illustrate the eternal power and Godhead of the great Administrator. As he was crucified, so it may be said, he lived and preached, in weak. ness; but now he liveth by the power of God.
Note [G] page 18.
“ The Dispensation of the Holy Ghost.” This expression I conceive to be a correct description of the dispensation of Christianity; which is distinguished from the former by the eminent degree in which the Divine Spirit is now enjoyed. Its extraordinary communication was the object of prophetic intimation, and the subject of special promise by our Lord himself. He assured his sorrowing disciples, that the Spirit, the Comforter, would supply the place of his personal presence, would act as his substitute, by guiding, defending, and comforting them, and pleading his cause effectually against the world ; and would not be a temporary sojourner, as he had been, but would remain with them for ever. All this accordingly came to pass, shortly after the ascension of the Saviour.
If the sentiments contained in the preceding note be correct, the dispensation of the Spirit properly commenced with the enthronement of Christ, of which evidence was afforded on the day of Pentecost. Previously to this event, the Spirit was dispensed to the Saviour, not by him. At his baptism, he was anointed by the Spirit for his own work; at his ascension, he was anointed by it as the reward of that work, and to be bestowed according to his good pleasure, that his servants might be fitted for their important undertaking, and successful in it. In the one case he received it as the prophet of his church, and the apostle of the Father to the world ; in the other, he enjoyed it as King on Sion, the mountain of his holiness. By the one, he was fitted to be the Sacrifice and the High Priest; by the other, to be the King and glorified Head of his body, to apply the sacrifice, and secure its glorious and universal results.
The Spirit is accordingly represented in the New Testament as the great Operator of the present dispensation. The whole ministry of Christianity is spoken of as ministration of the Spirit,” 2 Cor. iii. 8. All its offices, from the greatest to the least, are represented as the effect of the Spirit's operation, 1 Cor. xii. 4, 11. And all the delightful effects wrought by God on the human mind and character, are ascribed to the Spirit: such as regeneration, illumination, sanctification, &c. &c.
It is in connexion with this influence that Christianity is opposed to the system which preceded it, and which it necessarily abolished. It no longer recognises as of any importance mere outward forms or ceremonies; the circumstances of birth, or of fleshly connexion ; time, place, or persons.
As the plenitude of spiritual influence is the peculiar characteristic of the new covenant, and as all its beneficial and glorious results depend upon it, it may well be denominated the dispensation of the Holy Ghost. A rejection of the Gospel is a sin against the Holy Spirit; defaming and calum. niating the Gospel, where there is some knowledge of its character and claims, is blaspheming the Holy Spirit; which it must be more difficult to eradicate from the mind than any other offence, and which persevered in, must leave the trans. gressor without remedy.
I cannot conclude this note more appropriately than by quoting a passage from the admirable tract of Mr. Hall, on spiritual influence. I ain gratified with remarking the coincidence between the sentiments expressed on the same subject in the third discourse, though I had not read the tract of Mr. Hall with attention, till after it was printed. “Lest it should be suspected,” says that admirable writer, “ that in ascribing so much to the agency of the Spirit, we diminish the obligation we owe to the Redeemer, it may not be improper to remark, that the tendency of what we have ad.
vanced, rightly understood, will be just the contrary, since the Scriptures constantly remind us, that the gift of the Holy Ghost is the fruit of his mediation, and the result of his death. It was his interposing as 'Emmanuel, God with us, to repair the breach between man and God, that prevailed upon the Father to communicate the Spirit to such as believe on him, and to entrust the whole agency of it to his hands. As the reward of his sufferings, he ascended on high, and received gifts for men; of which, the right of bestowing the Spirit is the principal, that the Lord God might dwell among them. The donation in every instance, throngh the successive periods of the church, looks back to the death of the Re. deemer, as the root and principle whence it takes its rise, and consequently is calculated to enlarge our conceptions of his office and character, as the copiousness of the streams evince the exuberance of the fountain. To Him the Spirit was first given above measure; in Him it resides, as an inexhaustible spring, to be imparted in the dispensation of his Gospel to every member of his mystical body, in pursuance of the purpose of his grace, and the ends of his death. It is his Spirit ; hence we read of the supply of the Spirit of Christ Jesus,' not only by reason of the essential union which subsists between the Persons of the Godhead, but because the right of bestowing it was ascertained to him in the covenant of redemption.”—Hull on the Influence of the Holy Spirit, pp. 9–11.
Note [H]. p. 42.
Hebrews vi. 4–6. This passage has given rise to a vast body of critical and theological discussion. It cannot be denied that various parts of its phraseology involve very considerable difficulty. Any one of the phrases which the apostle employs in describing the character, may be easily