THE SEALING OF THE SPIRIT.

BROTHER BEEBE: - As our brother Mitchell has requested, through the MESSENGER, my views on the sealing of the Spirit, mentioned in Ephesians 1:13, I will endeavor to comply with his wishes. The text reads thus, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

The idea of a seal, or of sealing, is that of confirming, ratifying, or making safe. So I understand the expression to be used here, and in other corresponding texts. Hence in the 14th verse it is represented as an earnest of our inheritance. The apostle has, I have no doubt, in this text, infallibly laid down the particular steps or order by which a person is led in experience, into the liberty and privilege of a son of God. 1st. There is faith, or a hearing of the word of truth, the gospel of their salvation. For the hearing here spoken of is only by faith; it is no mere outward hearing that produces trust or hope in Christ. Hence in the next sentence the apostle calls it believing. 2nd. A trusting in Christ; or a hoping in him, as the marginal reading of many Bibles is; and as is a correct rendering of the original word; as is also trust. I notice this change of the word from trust to hope, not because it makes any difference in the sense, but because hope is the term more generally used to express this exercise; and because many would confess that they hoped in Christ, when they would fear to say that they trusted in him. 3rd. A being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, as an earnest or pledge of our inheritance. But as important a point as this is, in a believer’s experience, being designed to confine his hope in Christ of eternal salvation, we very seldom hear it noticed by persons in a relation of their experience, or by preachers in preaching experience. It is true that faith or believing is the more material point at which a person passes from death experimentally to life, he then hears the voice of the Son of God and lives. And belief, hope or trust in Christ immediately springs up in the breast. Hence believing is spoken of in the Scriptures as the distinguishing characteristic of a saved one. This sealing is, or once was, not essential to salvation, for none of the Old Testament saints enjoined this privilege, but were all their lifetime subject to bondage; as I shall have occasion again to notice. But still this sealing is too important a point in a believer’s exercise to be passed unnoticed in our preaching, or in our examination of ourselves whether we be in the faith; because where this seal is, it confirms the genuineness of our faith, and the certainty of our being the children of God.

The first head of enquiry, in meeting brother Mitchell’s request, is, In what does this sealing consist? I have been led to believe that this sealing consists in the shedding abroad in the heart of the believer the spirit of adoption whereby we cry Abba Father. I am confirmed in this belief by comparing this text, Eph.1:13 & II Cor.1:22, with Gal.4:6 & Rom.8:15,16. When this spirit is imparted, we view God as a father, and approach him with our wants as a child does its parents, and not as a servant would his master. We can then see how God could provide for us that fulness which is in Christ, notwithstanding our utter unworthiness, that is as a father provides for his children; and whilst we feel humbled under a sense of our vileness, we can look up to God as a loving and gracious Father, and feel a confidence in rejoicing in the consolation and provisions of the gospel. In the experience of some I know that this sealing follows in quick succession after their hoping in Christ, so that it is, as it were, all one exercise; and yet the parts of it are distinguishable on a careful review. We shall see that Christ crucified as the way of salvation, was the first presented to our view by faith, afterwards a sense of God’s fatherly love. But with others, I should judge from a relation of their experience, a considerable time elapses, with some longer, and others shorter, between their being brought to view Christ crucified as the way of salvation, with their having a hope of being saved by him; and their receiving the spirit of adoption. They see Christ as the way of salvation, as a full and suitable way, and in spite of all difficulties there is a hope of being saved by him; but it cannot be for me, says the trembling soul, I can do nothing to merit such favor. Of this nature will be their exercises until they are sealed. We can know ourselves, only as the creatures of God, subject to him as a legal sovereign, and dependent on him as such, until we receive the adoption of children. If, then, we perform our services because it is our Father’s will, without any idea of merit or of earning wages or reward thereby; and if we approach God with our wants, without regard to worthiness, or unworthiness in ourselves, but simply to unburden to him our wants and distresses freely, and as depending wholly on him for help, under a sense of his loving kindness as a Father, and knowing as we of course do, if we have faith, that he can consistently with the holiness of his character, bless us through Christ; there is the witness of having received the adoption of children. Consequently, there is the seal; for, “if children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Rom.8:16.

The second point of inquiry, is, What are we to understand by that Holy Spirit of promise with which we are sealed? As the sealing, as showed before, follows believing, the holy spirit here spoken of must be distinct from the spirit of life communicated in regeneration, although it must be in the spirit; that is, that of which we are born in the new birth, that we are sealed, as “the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit;” they are spiritually discerned. Hence Paul speaking as I understand it, of this sealing, says, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Rom.8:16. Hence also the Old Testament saints could be born of the Spirit, could have faith, without being sealed with the spirit of adoption. That the saints were not thus sealed, but were shut up under the law, until the fullness of time had come, when God sent forth his Son to redeem them that were under the law, I think is clearly showed by the apostle’s argument on the subject, in Galatians from chapter 3:19, to chapter 4:6. From what I can understand from the Scriptures, I judge that this Holy Spirit of promise is the Holy Ghost in the sense in which it was said he was not yet given, because “Jesus was not yet glorified;” {John 7:39,} and in which Christ said to his disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” {John 16:7.} And as He says again, “I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not,” &c. John 14:16,17. See I John 3:1, in connection with the above text. I say in the sense in which he is thus spoken of, as being given and sent; for these things cannot refer to his essential being, or his sovereign acting as God. As God, he always was, he moved upon the face of the waters, Gen.1:2, moved the prophets to speak and write what it was his pleasure to reveal. II Pet.1:21. It must therefore be that these things are said of him in reference to some special relation to, or manifestation concerning the plan of salvation. If this be so, it shows that it is not his special province in the economy of salvation to regenerate, for persons had been in all ages regenerated previous to its being said; “for the Holy Ghost was not yet given,” or was not yet; the given being a supply.

It is said of Jesus Christ, that he was “declared to be the Son of God, with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” Rom.1:4. Peter in giving an explanation of the baptism of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, said, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.” Again, he said, “Therefore let the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:32,33 & 36. Thus it was by the baptism of the Holy Ghost that the exaltation of Jesus as both Lord and Christ, or Messiah, was declared or confirmed, and consequently he was thus declared to be the Son of God with power. So by this same Holy Spirit in being communicated to the believers, it does not make them sons, but seals or confirms them as sons. Hence it is said, Gal.4:6, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your heart, crying Abba, Father.” It is here called the Spirit of his Son, not because it is that life which Christ is to his people, and which is communicated in regeneration, but because it is the spirit of sonship, being that by which Christ was declared to be the Son of God, and that by which they are sealed as sons. Thus showing that their sonship is in his Sonship, or that they are sons in union with the Son of God, and therefore are joint heirs with him.

I have thus brother Mitchell, given you my views fully on the points you requested. I know they are not altogether according to the standards which men have set up. If you find them sustained by the Scriptures, you will no doubt appreciate them as such. If you discover that in whole, or in part, they are not in accordance with the Scripture testimony, I hope you will point out the error. With desires for your health, and for your enjoying the consolations of the gospel.

I subscribe myself your brother in tribulation,
S.TROTT.
Fairfax C.H., Va., August 21, 1854.