The Soverign Teaching of the Holy Ghost
by J. J. WEST
On Sunday evening, July 13th, 1856, at the Church of St. Clement Danes, London
I want you, my hearers, first to mark with me the unmistakable way in which the Holy Ghost, in the passage which you have just heard me read as my text, insists upon the SOVEREIGNTY of God, a doctrine which cuts up root and branch the unscriptural and but too common heresy of free will. And while I stand here with an earnest desire to be enabled, (as it is said in Jeremiah), to "take forth the precious from the vile," and to discriminate and distinguish amongst the large mass of people that I see before me, between church and world, between possession and profession, between a mere notional Christianity, (if I may use the term in such a sense)! And the Christianity that is burnt into a broken heart, I want you to mark the first great subject in the text, "It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God."
I have been brought here today to preach in behalf of, and to plead the cause of these Parish Schools, and I have come with a willing heart, and an earnest mind, but I can never, I hope, forget that the great and grand object which every faithful minister should have in his pulpit, is, to preach the gospel, to declare the truth to every creature, and to the dear people of God before me can there be anything so blessedly comforting, as the statement in the first branch of my text, "It is written in the prophets, and they shall be ALL taught of God." You see that there is no doubt about it, no chance work, the word is, "They shall be!" And hence,
All the elect family of God shall be taught, and not one of them shall be lost. We read in Isaiah 54:13, "All thy children," (that shows who the taught ones are), "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children," and there is also set forth the effect of Divine teaching, "peace," great peace! Now, in our day there is nothing so essential for the health of our congregations as the setting forth and insisting on the work of the Holy Ghost, that inward teaching which is begun, carried on, and perfected by the Third Person in the Godhead, the Holy Spirit! What do you understand of His teaching? The word in Isaiah explains the meaning of the portion I am preaching on in John, and the prophet declares, ("It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God), who the 'they' are! "All thy children," "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." Now, before I go on further, let me read you the verse which precedes my text, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." "No man can come!" mark that, and "I will raise him up at the last day." (Here we have the grand, the glorious doctrine of the resurrection which I shall not have time to enter on tonight), I must keep close to my text, it is a great point to be a good textuary, and specially so, inasmuch as the truth when faithfully preached will offend. Now mark me, "No man can come," except the drawn ones, but all God's people, "shall come," shall be drawn, "shall be taught." The Church of God shall be taught of God; and by Church what do I mean? Not simply the Church of England, (I love my Church), but the whole Church of God, including the whole election of grace, every saved sinner in Christ throughout the habitable world; by Church, in this sense, I mean the Church described by Paul in Acts 20:28, "The Church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood." By Church I mean that Church described by the Apostle in Eph. 4:5-7, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ," or as Arch-deacon Hare said that scripture might be rendered from the Greek, "according to the measure in which Christ gives it." The Church of God is dependant on her Lord for everything; we feel this, we believe this. Now, as a sound Church of England man, and as a minister in the Established Church, it is my mercy to know, that the Church of England in her Prayer Book holds the blessed truth, that there is no mere chance work in the salvation of man, that no man can come till drawn to Christ, and that His people shall come and be taught of Him. Will you oblige me, my hearers, (as time allows me not to read it to you), by reading the Tenth Article of the Church of England when you go home tonight. There, in that faithful Article you will see the doctrine distinctly laid down, that man cannot turn to God of himself, that man has, no power," that it is by, "Grace," the SOVEREIGN Power and omnipotent grace of the Holy Ghost that sinners are drawn to GOD; the same as the passage in the context to which I have just referred, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him." But there was a "murmur," at these truths then, and so here I dare say there is now a murmuring amongst some of you. Several here assembled may murmur at what I am now preaching, as I now deny and cut up root and branch the false doctrines of Arminianism and free will, and I do so with the Word of God, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." And not only is this true, that man cannot come till drawn, but more than this, the natural man has not either the desire or the will to come to Jesus Christ. Man is born at enmity against God. There is not a man nor a woman ranged before me in these pews, with the exception of those who are under the teachings, and meltings, and power of the Holy Spirit, but what is at positive enmity against God. But O! The mercy of God! As surely as it is the business of the teachers in those schools which I see ranged before me in the Galleries of this Parish Church, to instruct them day by day in the different subjects and lessons appointed for the instruction of the children, so, in a much more efficacious, in an effectual way, the Great Instructor of the Church, at the set time of favour, teaches all, and draws all, and instructs all who have by eternal decree been saved by Jesus Christ. Here, then in this, is the comfort of the Gospel, that in these things there is no chance work, "they shall be all taught of God." Thus I have endeavoured to show the certainty of all such being taught. Now, what is it the Holy Ghost teaches them? My hearers, give me your attention here. The first thing He teaches them, is their sinnership! Have you been so taught in the school of God? I am purposely pausing, Let the answer be between the living God and your own conscience! A minister of the gospel occupies the most solemn spot on earth, he has, "to take forth the precious from the vile," and so to be as God's mouth to God's people. "Who is sufficient for these things?" I say, the first thing the Holy Spirit teaches a vessel of mercy is, that he is a guilty sinner. You may say, that you know what sin is; so do the carnal policemen of London, what are they for? To catch thieves, burglars, pickpockets, and to look after drunkards in the streets, thus they know what sin is externally, but it is an inward sense of sin that I am preaching about. Let me here repeat a solemn verse from one of Hart's hymns:
(Such do not want Christ)
Am I in this, now taking forth, "the precious from the vile," in your consciences? Do I now get into your hearts? In preaching and in hearing it must be from heart to heart. Now, I say, that the first the Holy Ghost teaches in the School of God is, the conviction of sin, "When He is come He will convince (or reprove) the world of sin." Not all mankind! O! no; the world in this scripture means, "the elect;" and see, my hearers, it can only mean that, because all men are not convinced in this sense of sin, all men are not so taught of God. Again, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." I cannot allow that great Scripture to be taken by halves. The Arminians are very apt to do that; but it stands in the word as a great and a grand whole, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." And thus we find that all the, "given," ones shall come to Christ, and that such a sinner so coming shall, "in no wise be cast out." Now, as an orthodox Churchman in a church whose pulpits have been filled with Hawkers, and Topladys, and Berridges, and Romaines, I can preach no other gospel to you than that pure gospel which proclaims a free grace salvation to the, "poor and needy," the gospel of the grace of God which has been burnt into my own heart, "the power of God unto salvation," in my own soul." What a sweet encouragement it is! How it gladdens my own soul (sinner as I am), to declare from this pulpit top, that all the given Church shall come, not one be ever lost. And mark me! I will not allow one of you before me to say that you are not elect, or that I am narrowing the kingdom of heaven! Many of you in this church tonight, who may now be dead in sin, carnal, "having no hope," and, "without God in the world," may yet be amongst the Lord's hidden ones, and if so, you shall each be taught at "the set time of favour." The command to the ministers of the gospel now is the same as in apostolic times, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature!" We would do so. We would preach it to all the world, but not offer it to any. The power is all of God! The application is by Him. We preach, Jehovah applies the Word!
We never attempt to apply our preaching! I have shewn you that the first thing the Holy Ghost teaches is an inward sense of sin. But besides this every scholar in the school of God is taught the spirituality, the holiness, the strict requirements of the law that it demands perfect obedience, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Hence, "the law is our schoolmaster unto Christ." And this teaching is essential in order that we may distinguish between law and Gospel; the one condemns and kills, the other saves and giveth life! And besides all this, we are taught also our weakness, our entire helplessness, depravity, and vileness.
Now, my hearers, the doctrine of my text is, that all God's people shall be taught! And while we must preach sound doctrine, doctrine alone will not suffice, there must be the experience as well. It is this, that the people of God want. Now what is the experience set forth in those words, "They shall be all taught of God?" "THEY SHALL BE." Paul was Gamaliel's pupil, and while we value and fully appreciate human learning and scholarship, and would not say one word against it, yet mere human learning and man's teaching cannot grasp the Gospel. O! How many a round frocked country peasant, how many a poor unlettered man when really taught by the Holy Spirit, is a sounder divine than even the greatest, the most brilliant scholar who is destitute of the teaching from above. O! How sovereign is that word, "They shall be all taught of God." Is not that sweet? Is not that encouraging? Now the second branch of my text is this, "Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto Me." It is to Jesus Christ that this teaching brings us. I began by showing you that the first thing which a saved sinner is taught by the Holy Spirit is his sinnership! Hence the people of God are, and must be, a tried people, a harassed people, a broken hearted people. What saith the Word of God? "I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord."
Look at the Master! Look at Christ! See! Remember! How He came into this world, actually fulfilling the prophecy concerning Himself, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
Now when a man is taught his sinnership, when he learns that from, "the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it," when he feels within himself, day after day, the reality of that body of sin and death which is the burden of the believer, when he finds temptations besetting him at every corner, lusts and passions, propensities to evil, which he cannot control by his own strength and power, is it not a mercy to have the eye directed Christ-wards, and to hear the Saviour declare as in the Book of Isaiah, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins: return unto Me; for I have redeemed thee?" And I may quote that verse I referred to in the morning, that verse which to my mind includes everything, "But if we walk in the light, as He is the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." But when is it that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin? The Apostle John says, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." Or, as the word which is translated from the Greek, "If," may be rendered, "when," it will then be, "When we walk in the light," that is when," we are under the enjoyment of the presence and the sunshine of God's countenance, then we have fellowship one with another, that is, with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that then it is emphatically as to the experience of pardon that, "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin."
The mere notion of pardon is nothing as to personal comfort. There must be the application of it to the individual man:
And just the same as to election:
Personal interest is the great fact after all. To know, "our election of God," for ourselves! And that the blood of Jesus Christ was shed for us. The poor sinner, groaning and burdened under his own sinfulness and depravity will covet, and does, "covet earnestly the best gifts," and while tonight I desire to be made a blessing to you in preaching the Gospel, I desire above all, and beyond all, to see and know my own personal interest in that precious blood which was shed on Calvary, and by which the whole Church of God in Christ is saved everlastingly. "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me." Mind! "Hath heard, and hath learned! There are no dunces in that school, "Who teaches like Him?" I dare say amongst those school children in yonder galleries there are many dunces, but in the school of God not one. "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned o the Father, cometh unto Me." And is not this a blessed, a glorious subject to sound forth from this pulpit top? Does it not gladden the heart of every poor sinner who feelingly knows what it is to "groan being burdened," to hear it preached? What would, what could Paul have done under the trials of his sinfulness, and wretchedness, and conflict, had it not been for the hope he had in Jesus, and the having been taught by the Holy Ghost to come to Him. (And do not suppose, my hearers, that the teaching of the Holy Ghost was confined to apostolic times. No! If I preach here tonight with power, it is only by the same Spirit that taught Paul). Allow me to read you what Paul said of himself, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Mark well the reality in those words, see where grace brought Paul, he knew the two natures then, he delighted in, "the law of God after the inward man," he desired to obey God in every iota of His word; but O! There was another law, (he felt it! He saw it)! "Another law," warring against the law of his mind," and thus he was taken prisoner! Thus exercised, he cries, "O! wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Paul was in captivity then, but now see the spring rising, and captivity led captive, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." Do not say that I narrow the path to heaven by the things I preach to you. Do not say that the glorious doctrine of election, that I insist upon, shuts up the path; I proclaim to every soul before me, that, if you know in your inmost souls the working of these two laws you are a child of God, and shall never be in hell amongst the damned ones, never. And then the 8th chapter of Romans breaks forth with this triumphant exclamation, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." There is the reality of this learning, and learning of the Father. That is where the Holy Ghost brings all His taught ones. And you remember that searching word, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you are Spirit and are life." "Every man therefore that hath heard!" Have you heard? Or are you nothing but mere formalists, dead churchmen, or rank sectarians? I am preaching here tonight, (with some exceptions), to strangers, of whose state I know nothing. I ask you what do you know of the teaching of the Holy Ghost? Do you know the way heavenwards? I will instance a case, suppose you had never been in this vast city before tonight, would you be able in that case to find your way about the ins and outs, the lanes and turnings of streets even of this very Parish, to say nothing of all London? I defy you to do so, you must be shown the way! And so in better things, you must be taught the one only way, and kept in it at every step by the Spirit of God, and hence the need of that sweet prayer, that in the Communion Service this morning so thrilled through my soul as I poured it forth, "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen." I might be preaching here on this vast subject till midnight, but I could never preach out fully the various teachings and instructions which Jehovah gives His people, and by which He makes them all come to Christ. But I will state one thing by which God teached and schools His Church. It is set forth in a most unmistakable verse in Acts 14:22: "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Do you know anything about soul trouble, the, "much tribulation," pathway? Do you know what it is to be really tried? To be in trouble? Remember what Newton said, (the once Vicar of Olney),
They do! I know this,
I can, and do bless God for trials! O! It is more, much more than a mere profession state when the soul in the depth of its, "much tribulation," cries out unto God in longings and pantings for the salvation that is in Christ, and we can then understand the meaning of.
O! There is a reality in prayer! To get the King's ear! How pleased in a worldly sense people are to have an interest at Court, and with the minister of the day. But have we an interest at the court above, and with the Man Christ Jesus? Do you know, in this sense, what it is really to have the interest of the crown? The advocacy, all-prevailing as it is, of Him who "hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords." The soul in trouble can only look to Him through all enabling grace.
And thus we are taught, and thus we learn of God, and so realize the full meaning of the text, "It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me." And now mark Jehovah's sovereignty as to sinners coming to Him, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." This is God's decree, all shall come! But have you? Have I come? O! Says some poor trembling, troubled soul, exercised and tried, my conscience will not let me come, 'I have been so bad! I am so vile!' How many such are here tonight? I dare say several. Hear me then:
Does not that meet the case of every exercised, of every troubled sinner? And does not every such sinner feel his need of a Saviour? Of Jesus Christ?
Can anything be sweeter than that?
Never dream of, fitness." Let Arminians and infidels imagine such things. The taught sinner comes to Christ in want of all things; he comes, "poor and needy." "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." The child of God then must come to his Father! And you, if amongst God's redeemed children shall each come to Him at His own appointed time, and know yourselves to belong to His blood-bought family. Do you know now what it is to have to come to the Father as a reconciled God in Christ confessing and mourning over your sins, and seeking deliverance? Do you know anything of David's experience, when deeply feeling his rebellion and his sin, he exclaimed, "Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance." O! The mercy of having a hiding place! When Adam and Eve fell, when their eyes were opened, when they heard God's voice in the garden, they hid themselves in the shrubberies of Eden! But that voice penetrated into their very souls and through those thick trees! O! That voice then, "Adam, where art thou? Sinners! Do you hear it now. "Where art thou?" Where are you now standing? What is your state? Fallen you are, disobedient you are, alarmed you may be; you have heard God's voice in the law, and in your conscience, and feeling a terror you may have hid yourself. But that will not do! "Where art thou?" Nothing but Christ will hide a sinner from the wrath of God! Are you then hid in Him? Are you on the Rock? Do you know experimentally, "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God;" then if so, listen, "When Christ, our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." I cannot imagine anything more blessed, or more encouraging to the people of God before me, and especially to those who want comfort, than that great subject which is contained in the text on which I have been preaching. As I said before, so say I again, I have no general invitations to make to any man. There is no general invitations to make to any man. There is no general invitation indiscriminately to all mankind throughout the Bible. Every and each invitation in this blessed Book on the cushion has a specific qualification! "It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me."
The last point in that Scripture is, that every taught sinner cometh unto Christ, "cometh unto Me." They are taught their sinfullness, and they feel the burden of sin, and so the command is given, and all such obey it. "Come unto Me, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Now do you labour under a sense of sin? Is sin hateful to you? No man would insist upon a moral conduct more strongly than I, but I will keep morality in its right and proper place. Morality cannot save any man. And mark me! My hearers! If you have had the desire put into your hearts to serve God, and believe that His service is, "perfect freedom;" if you loathe yourselves in your own sight, because of your own evil nature, then, for all such there is this word when God's time to apply it with power has come, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." But do you thirst? Ah! That sweet hymn in the Olney Hymn Book:
God makes all His people hungry and thirsty for Himself! That thirst you must have or you will never come to God! Do not! Dare to say I cramp the gospel. Charge me not with this. If you do not thirst, you will never come to Jesus. But there is another point! It is written in Matt. 19:6: "Those who God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." And we use this in our marriage service in joining of hands, an emblem this of our everlasting union! And we use this union! The mystical union between Christ and His Church! What do we know of this? It is an eternal union which nothing can destroy. No sin can ever dissolve that! The Church is His own and that for ever and for ever!
Can you suppose, that after all His agony and suffering endured for her, He will allow any thing to separate, or to sever her from Himself? Never! "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." "No condemnation!" And so also no separation! For, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Nothing can separate the church from Him, and not only so, but, "we shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved us." And you who cannot as yet attain to this, and cannot rise so high in the scale of personal evidence as Paul did, in those words in the chapter I have just referred to, yet I say again, the desire in your soul is a sweet, a sure evidence test of your sonship, that you are one for whom Christ died! But the time is gone now for longer preaching.
Let me read the two texts on which I have been preaching here today, and may the Holy Ghost apply and bless them. "That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh to Me.
God command a blessing on the Gospel for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen