George Whitefield Sermon 38

The Indwelling of the Spirit, the common Privilege of all Believers

John 7:37-39, "In the last day, that great [day] of the feast, Jesus stood

and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He

that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall

flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they

that believe on him should receive."

Nothing has rendered the cross of Christ of less effect; nothing has

been a greater stumbling-block and rock of offense to weak minds, that a

supposition, now current among us, that most of what is contained in the

gospel of Jesus Christ, was designed only for our Lord's first and

immediate followers, and consequently calculated but for one or two hundred

years. Accordingly, many now read the life, sufferings, death, and

resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the same manner as Caesar's Commentaries,

or the Conquests of Alexander are read: as things rather intended to afford

matter for speculation, than to be acted over again in and by us.

As this is true of the doctrines of the gospel in general, so it is of

the operation of God's Spirit upon the hearts of believers in particular;

for we no sooner mention the necessity of our receiving the Holy Ghost in

these last days, as well as formerly, but we are looked upon by some, as

enthusiasts and madmen; and by others, represented as willfully deceiving

the people, and undermining the established constitution of the church.

Judge ye then, whether it is not high time for the true ministers of

Jesus, who have been made partakers of this heavenly gift, to lift up their

voices like a trumpet; and if they would not have those souls perish, for

which the Lord Jesus has shed his precious blood, to declare, with all

boldness, that the Holy Spirit is the common privilege and portion of all

believers in all ages; and that we as well as the first Christians, must

receive the Holy Ghost, before we can be truly called the children of God.

For this reason, (and also that I might answer the design of our

church in appointing the present festival [Whitsuntide]) I have chosen the

words of the text.

They were spoken by Jesus Christ, when he was at the feast of

tabernacles. Our Lord attended on the temple-service in general, and the

festivals of the Jewish church in particular. The festival at which he was

now present, was that of the feast of tabernacles, which the Jews observed

according to God's appointment in commemoration of their living in tents.

At the last day of this feast, it was customary for many pious people to

fetch water from a certain place, and bring it on their heads, singing this

anthem out of Isaiah, "And with joy shall they draw water out of the wells

of salvation." Our Lord observing this, and it being his constant practice

to spiritualize every thing he met with, cries out, "If any man thirst, let

him come unto me, (rather than unto that well) and drink. He that believeth

on me, as the scripture hath spoken, (where it is said, God will make water

to spring out of a dry rock, and such-like) out of his belly shall flow

rivers of living water." And that we might know what our Savior meant by

this living water, the Evangelist immediately adds, "But this spake he of

the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive."

The last words I shall chiefly insist on in the ensuing discourse: And

FIRST, I shall briefly show, what is meant by the word Spirit.

SECONDLY, That this Spirit is the common privilege of all believers.

THIRDLY, I shall show the reason on which this doctrine is founded.


LASTLY, Conclude with a general exhortation to believe on Jesus

Christ, whereby alone we can receive the Spirit.

FIRST, I am to show, what is meant by the word Spirit.

By the Spirit, is evidently to be understood the Holy Ghost, the third

person in the ever-blessed Trinity, consubstantial and co-eternal with the

Father and the Son, proceeding from, yet equal to them both. For, to use

the words of our Church in this day's office, that which we believe of the

glory of the Father, the same we believe of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,

without any difference or inequality.

Thus, says St. John, in his first epistle, chap. 5, ver. 7, "There are

three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost,

and these three are one." And our Lord, when he gave his Apostles

commission to go and teach all nations, commanded them to baptize in the

name of the Holy Ghost, as well as of the Father and the Son. And St.

Peter, Acts v. 3 said to Ananias, "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie

to the Holy Ghost?" And ver. 4 he says, "Thou hast not lied unto men, but

unto God." From all which passages, it is plain, that the Holy Ghost, is

truly and properly God, as well as the Father and the Son. This is an

unspeakable mystery, but a mystery of God's revealing, and, therefore, to

be assented to with our whole hearts: seeing God is not a man that he

should lie, nor the son of man that he should deceive. I proceed,

SECONDLY, To prove that the Holy Ghost is the common privilege of all


But, here I would not be understood of to receiving the Holy Ghost, as

to enable us to work miracles, or show outward signs and wonders. I allow

our adversaries, that to pretend to be inspired, in this sense, is being

wise above what is written. Perhaps it cannot be proved, that God ever

interposed in this extraordinary manner, but when some new revelation was

to be established, as at the first settling of the Mosaic and gospel

dispensation: and as for my own part, I cannot but suspect the spirit of

those who insist upon a repetition of such miracles at this time. For the

world being now become nominally Christian, (though, God knows, little of

the power is left among us) there need not outward miracles, but only an

inward co-operation of the Holy Spirit with the word, to prove that Jesus

is the Messiah which was to come into the world.

Besides, if it was possible for thee, O man, to have faith, so as to

be able to remove mountains, or cast out devils; nay, couldst thou speak

with the tongue of men and angels, yea, and bid the sun stand still in the

midst of heaven; what would all these gifts of the Spirit avail thee,

without being made partaker of his sanctifying graces? Saul had the spirit

of government for a while, so as to become another man, and yet probably

was a cast-away. And many, who cast out devils, in Christ's name, at the

last will be disowned by him. If therefore, thou hadst only the gifts, and

was destitute of the graces of the Holy Ghost, they would only serve to

lead thee with so much the more solemnity to hell.

Here then we join issue with our adversaries, and will readily grant,

that we are not in this sense to be inspired, as were our Lord's first

Apostles. But unless men have eyes which see not, and ears that hear not,

how can they read the latter part of the text, and not confess that the

Holy Spirit, in another sense, is the common privilege of all believers,

even to the end of the world? "This spake he of the Spirit, which they that

believe on him should receive." Observe, he does not say, they that believe

on him for one or two ages, but they that believe on him in general, or, at

all times, and in all places. So that, unless we can prove, that St. John

was under a delusion when he wrote thee words, we must believe that even we

also, shall receive the Holy Ghost, if we believe on the Lord Jesus with

our whole hearts.

Again, our Lord, just before his bitter passion, when he was about to

offer up his soul an offering for the sins of the elect world; when his

heart was most enlarged and he would undoubtedly demand the most excellent

gift for his disciples, prays, "That they all may be one, as thou, Father,

art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, I in them, and

thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one;" that is, that all his

true followers might be united to him by his holy Spirit, by as real,

vital, and mystical an union, as there was between Jesus Christ and the

Father. I say all his true followers; for it is evident, from our Lord's

own words, that he had us, and all believers, in view, when he put up this

prayer; "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall

believe on me through their word;" so that, unless we treat our Lord as the

high priests did, and count him a blasphemer, we must confess, that all who

believe in Jesus Christ, through the word, or ministration of his servants,

are to be joined to Jesus Christ, by being made partakers of the Holy


A great noise hath been made of late, about the word enthusiast, and

it has been cast upon the preachers of the gospel, as a term of reproach;

but every Christian, in the proper sense of the word, must be an

enthusiast; that is, must be inspired of God or have God, by his Spirit, in

him. St. Peter tells us, "we have many great and precious promises, that we

may be made partakers of the divine nature;" our Lord prays, "that we may

be one, as the Father and he are one;" and our own church, in conformity to

these texts of Scripture, in her excellent communion-office, tells us, that

those who receive the sacrament worthily, "dwell in Christ, and Christ in

them; that they are one with Christ, and Christ with them." And yet,

Christians must have their names cast out as evil, and ministers in

particular, must be looked upon as deceivers of the people, for affirming,

that we must be really united to God, by receiving the Holy Ghost. Be

astonished, O heavens, at this!

Indeed, I will not say, all our letter-learned preachers deny this

doctrine in express words; but however, they do in effect; for they talk

professedly against inward feelings, and say, we may have God's Spirit

without feeling it, which is in reality to deny the thing itself. And had I

a mind to hinder the progress of the gospel, and to establish the kingdom

of darkness, I would go about, telling people, they might have the Spirit

of God, and yet not feel it.

But to return: When our Lord was about to ascend to his Father and our

Father, to his God and our God he gave his apostles this commission, "Go

and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the

Son, and of the Holy Ghost." And accordingly, by authority of this

commission, we do teach and baptize in this, and every age of the church.

And though we translate the words, "baptizing them in the name;" yet, as

the name of God, in the Lord's prayer, and several other places, signifies

his nature, they might as well be translated thus, "baptizing them into the

nature of the Father, into the nature of the Son, and into the nature of

the Holy Ghost." Consequently, if we are all to be baptized into the nature

of the Holy Ghost, before our baptism be effectual to salvation, it is

evident, that we all must actually receive the Holy Ghost, and ere we can

say, we truly believe in Jesus Christ. For no one can say, that Jesus is my

Lord, but he that has thus received the Holy Ghost.

Numbers of other texts might be quoted to make this doctrine, if

possible, still more plain; but I am astonished, that any who call

themselves members; much more, that many, who are preachers in the church

of England, should dare so much as to open their lips against it. And yet,

with grief I speak it, God is my Judge, persons of the established church

seem more generally to be ignorant of it, than any dissenters whatsoever.

But, my dear brethren, what have you been doing? How often have your

hearts given your lips the lie how often have you offered to God the

sacrifice of fools, and had your prayers turned into sin, if you approve

of, and use our church-liturgy, and yet deny the Holy Spirit to be the

portion of all believers? In the daily absolution, the minister exhorts the

people to pray, that "God would grant them repentance, and his Holy

Spirit:" in the Collect for Christmas day, we beseech God, "that he would

daily renew us by his Holy Spirit;" in the last week's Collect, we prayed

that "we may evermore rejoice in the comforts of the Holy Ghost;" and in

the concluding prayer, which we put up every day, we pray, not only that

the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, but that "the

fellowship of the Holy Ghost" may be with us all evermore.

But further, a solemn season, to some, is not approaching; I mean the

Easter-days, at the end of which, all that are to be ordained to the office

of a deacon, are in the sight of God, and in the presence of the

congregation, to declare, that "they trust they are inwardly moved by the

Holy Ghost, to take upon them that administration;" and to those, who are

to be ordained priests, the bishop is to repeat these solemn words,

"Receive thou the Holy Ghost, now committed unto them, by the imposition of

our hands." And yet, O that I had no reason to speak it, many that use our

forms, and many who have witnessed this good confession, yet dare to both

talk and preach against the necessity of receiving the Holy Ghost now; and

not only so, but cry out against those, who do insist upon it, as madmen,

enthusiasts, schismatics, and underminers of the established constitution.

But you are the schismatics, you are the bane of the church of

England, who are always crying out, "the temple of the Lord, the temple of

the Lord;" and yet starve the people out of our communion, by feeding them

only with the dry husks of dead morality, and not bringing out to them the

fatted calf; I mean, the doctrines of the operations of the blessed Spirit

of God. But here is the misfortune; many of us are not led by, and

therefore no wonder that we cannot talk feelingly of, the Holy Ghost; we

subscribe to our articles, and make them serve for a key to get into

church-preferment, and then preach contrary to those very articles to which

we have subscribed. Far be it from me, to charge all the clergy with this

hateful hypocrisy; no, blessed be God, there are some left among us, who

dare maintain the doctrines of the Reformation, and preach the truth as it

is in Jesus. But I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not; the generality of

the clergy are fallen from our articles, and do not speak agreeable to

them, or to the form of sound words delivered in the Scriptures; woe be

unto such blind leaders of the blind! How can you escape the damnation of

hell? It is not all your learning (falsely so called) it is not all your

preferments can keep you from the just judgment of God. Yet a little while,

and we shall all appear before the tribunal of Christ; there, there will I

meet you; there Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, shall

determine who are the false prophets; who are the wolves in sheep's

clothing. Those who say, that we must now receive and feel the Holy Ghost,

or those who exclaim against it, as the doctrine of devils.

But I can no more; it is an unpleasing talk to censure any order of

men, especially those who are in the ministry; nor would any thing excuse

it but necessity: that necessity which extorted from our Lord himself so

many woes against the Scribes and Pharisees, the letter-learned rulers and

teachers of the Jewish church; and surely, if I could bear to see people

perish for lack of knowledge, and yet be silent towards those who keep from

them the key of true knowledge, the very stones would cry out.

Would we restore the church to its primitive dignity, the only way is

to live and preach the doctrine of Christ, and the articles to which we

have subscribed; then we shall find the number of dissenters will daily

decrease, and the church of England become the joy of the whole earth.

I am, in the THIRD place, to show the reasonableness of this doctrine.

I say, the reasonableness of this doctrine; for however it may seem

foolishness to the natural man, yet to those, who have tasted of the good

word of life, and have felt the power of the world to come, it will appear

to be founded on the highest reason; and is capable, to those who have eyes

to see, even of a demonstration; I say of demonstration: for it stands on

this self-evident truth, that we are fallen creatures, or, to use the

scripture-expression, "have all died in Adam."

I know indeed, it is now no uncommon thing amongst us, to deny the

doctrine of original sin, as well as the divinity of Jesus Christ; but it

is incumbent on those who deny it, first to disprove the authority of the

holy Scriptures; if thou canst prove, thou unbeliever, that the book, which

we call The Bible, odes not contain the lively oracles of God; if thou

canst show, that holy men of old, did not write this book, as they were

inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, then will we give up the doctrine of

original sin; but unless thou canst do this, we must insist upon it, that

we are all conceived and born in sin; if for no other, yet for this one

reason, because that God, who cannot lie, has told us so.

But what has light to do with darkness, or polite infidels with the

Bible? Alas! as they are strangers to the power, so they are generally as

great strangers to the word of God. And therefore, if we will preach to

them, we must preach to and from the heart: for talking in the language of

scripture, to them, is but like talking in an unknown tongue. Tell me then,

O man, whosoever thou art, that deniest the doctrine of original sin, if

thy conscience be not seared as with a hot iron! Tell me, if thou dost not

find thyself, by nature, to be a mostly mixture of brute and devil? I know

these terms will stir up the whole Pharisee in thy heart; but let not Satan

hurry thee hence; stop a little, and let us reason together; dost thou not

find, that by nature thou art prone to pride? Otherwise, wherefore art thou

now offended? Again, dost not thou find in thyself the seeds of malice,

revenge, and all uncharitableness? And what are these but the very tempers

of the devil? Again, do we not all by nature follow, and suffer ourselves

to be led by our natural appetites, always looking downwards, never looking

upwards to that God, in whom we live, move, and have our being? And what is

this but the very nature of the beasts that perish? Out of thy own heart,

therefore, will I oblige thee to confess, what an inspired apostle has long

since told us, that "the whole world (by nature) lies in the wicked one;"

we are no better than those whom St. Jude calls "brute beasts;" for we have

tempers in us all by nature, that prove to a demonstration, that we are

earthly, sensual, devilish.

And this will serve as another argument, to prove the reality of the

operations of the blessed Spirit on the hearts of believers, against those

false professors, who deny there is any such thing as influences of the

Holy Spirit, that may be felt. For if they will grant that the devil

worketh, and so as to be felt in the hearts of the children of disobedience

(which they must grant, unless they will give an apostle the lie) where is

the wonder that the good Spirit should have the same power over those who

are truly obedient to the faith of Jesus Christ?

If it be true then; that we are all by nature, since the fall, a

mixture of brute an devil, it is evident, that we all must receive the Holy

Ghost, ere we can dwell with and enjoy God.

When you read, how the prodigal, in the gospel, was reduced to so low

a condition, as to eat husks with swine, and how Nebachadnezzar was turned

out, to graze with oxen; I am confident, you pity their unhappy state. And

when you hear, how Jesus Christ will say, at the last day, to all that are

not born again of God, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,

prepared for the devil and his angels," do not your hearts shrink within

you, with a secret horror? And if creatures, with only our degree of

goodness, cannot bear even the thoughts of dwelling with beasts or devils,

to whose nature we are so nearly allied, how do we imagine God, who is

infinite goodness, and purity itself, can dwell with us, while we are

partakers of both their natures? We might as well think to reconcile heaven

and hell.

When Adam had eaten the forbidden fruit, he fled and hid himself from

God; why? Because he was naked; he was alienated from the life of God, the

due punishment of his disobedience. Now, we are all by nature naked and

void of God, as he was at that time, and consequently, until we are

changed, renewed, and clothed with a divine nature again, we must fly from

God also.

Hence then appears the reasonableness of our being obliged to receive

the Spirit of God. It is founded on the doctrine of original sin: and,

therefore, you will always find, that those who talk against feeling the

operations of the Holy Ghost, very rarely, or slightly at least, mention

our fall in Adam; no, they refer St. Paul's account of the depravity of

unbelievers, only to those of old time. Whereas it is obvious, on the

contrary, that we are all equally included under the guilt and consequences

of our first parent's sin, even as others; and to use the language of our

own church-article, "bring into the world with us, a corruption, which

renders us liable to God's wrath, and eternal damnation."

Should I preach to you any other doctrine, I should wrong my own soul;

I should be found a false witness towards God and you; and he that preaches

any other doctrine, howsoever dignified and distinguished, shall bear his

punishment, whosoever he be.

From this plain reason then appears the necessity why we, as well as

the first apostles, in this sense, must receive the Spirit of God.

For the great work of sanctification, or making us holy, is

particularly reserved to the Holy Ghost; therefore, our Lord says, "Unless

a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

Jesus Christ came down to save us, not only from the guilt, but also

from the power of sin: and however often we have repeated our creed, and

told God we believe in the Holy Ghost, yet, if we have not believed in him,

so as to be really united to Jesus Christ by him, we have no more concord

with Jesus Christ than Belial himself.

And now, my brethren, what shall I say more? Tell me, are not many of

you offended at what has been said already? Do not some of you think,

though I mean well, yet I have carried the point a little too far? Are not

others ready to cry out, if this be true, who then can be saved? Is not

this driving people into despair?

Yes, I ingenuously confess it is; but into what despair? A despair of

mercy through Christ? No, God forbid; but a despair of living with God

without receiving the Holy Ghost. And I would to God, that not only all you

that hear me this day, but that the whole world was filled with this

despair. Believe me, I have been doing no more than you allow your bodily

physicians to do every day: if you have a wound, and are in earnest about a

cure, you bid the surgeon probe it to the very bottom; and shall not the

physician of your souls be allowed the same freedom? What have I been doing

but searching your natural wounds, that I might convince you of your

danger, and put you upon applying to Jesus Christ for a remedy? Indeed I

have dealt with you as gently as I could; and now I have wounded, I will

attempt to heal you. For I was in the

LAST place, to exhort you all to come to Jesus Christ by faith,

whereby you, even you also, shall receive the Holy Ghost. "For this spake

he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive."

This, this is what I long to come to. Hitherto I have been preaching

only the law; but behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy. If I have

wounded you, be not afraid; behold, I now bring a remedy for all your

wounds. Notwithstanding you are sunk into the nature of the beast and

devil, yet, if you truly believe on Jesus Christ, you shall receive the

quickening Spirit promised in the text, and be restored to the glorious

liberties of the sons of God; I say, if you believe on Jesus Christ. "For

by faith we are saved; it is not of works, lest any one should boast." And,

however some men may say, there is a fitness required in the creature, and

that we must have a righteousness of our own, before we can lay hold on the

righteousness of Christ; yet , if we believe the scripture, salvation is

the free gift of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord; and whosoever believeth on

him with his whole heart, though his soul be as black as hell itself, shall

receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Behold then, I stand up, and cry out in

this great day of the feast, let every one that thirsteth come unto Jesus

Christ and drink. "He that believeth on him, out of his belly shall flow

(not only streams of rivulets, but whole) rivers of living water." This I

speak of the Spirit, which they that believe on Jesus shall certainly

receive. For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever; he is

the way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life; "whosoever believeth on

him, though he were dead, yet shall he live." There is no respect of

persons with Jesus Christ; high and low, rich and poor, one with another,

may come to him with an humble confidence, if they draw near by faith; from

him we may all receive grace upon grace; for Jesus Christ is full of grace

and truth, and ready to save to the uttermost, all that by a true faith

turn unto him. Indeed, the poor generally receive the gospel, and "God has

chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith." But though not may mighty,

not many noble are called; and though it be easier for a camel to go

through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom

of God, yet, even to you that are rich, do I now freely offer salvation, by

Jesus Christ, if you will renounce yourselves, and come to Jesus Christ as

poor sinners; I say, as poor sinners; for the "poor in spirit" are only so

blessed, as to have a right to the kingdom of God. And Jesus Christ calls

none to him, but those who thirst after his righteousness, and feel

themselves weary, and heavy laden with the burden of their sins. Jesus

Christ justifies the ungodly; he came not to call the righteous, but

sinners to repentance.

Do not then say you are unworthy, for this is a faithful and true

saying, and worthy of all men to be received, "that Jesus Christ came into

the world to save sinners;" and if you are the chief of sinners, if you

feel yourselves such, verily Jesus Christ came into the world chiefly to

save you. When Joseph was called out of the prison-house to Pharaoh's

court, we are told, that he stayed some time to prepare himself; but do you

come with all your prison clothes about you; come poor, and miserable, and

blind, and naked, as you are, and God the Father shall receive you with

open arms, as was the returning prodigal. He shall cover you nakedness with

the best robe of his dear Son's righteousness, shall seal you with the

signet of his Spirit, and feed you with the fatted calf, even with the

comforts of the Holy Ghost. O, let there then be joy in heaven over some of

you, as believing; let me not go back to my Master, and say, Lord, they

will not believe my report. Harden no longer your hearts, but open them

wide, and let the King of glory enter in; believe me, I am willing to go to

prison or death for you; but I am not willing to go to heaven without you.

The love of Jesus Christ constrains me to lift up my voice like a trumpet.

My heart is not fill; out of the abundance of the love which I have for

your precious and immortal souls, my mouth now speaketh; and I could now

not only continue my discourse until midnight, but I could speak until I

could speak no more. And why should I despair of any? No, I can despair of

no one, when I consider Jesus Christ has had mercy on such a wretch as I

am; but the free grace of Christ prevented me; he saw me in my blood, he

passed by me, and said unto me, Live; and the same grace which we

sufficient for me, is sufficient for you also; behold, the same blessed

Spirit is ready to breathe on all your dry bones, if you will believe on

Jesus Christ, whom God has sent; indeed, you can never believe on, or serve

a better master, one that is more mighty, or more willing to save; I can

say, the Lord Christ is gracious, his yoke is easy, his burden exceeding

light; after you have served him many years, like the servants under the

law, was he willing to discharge you, you would say, we love our Master,

and will not go from him. Come then, my guilty brethren, come and believe

on the Lord that bought you with his precious blood; look up by faith, and

see him whom you have pierced; behold him bleeding, panting, dying! Behold

him with arms stretched out ready to receive you all; cry unto him as the

penitent thief did, Lord, remember us now thou art in thy kingdom, and he

shall say to your souls, shortly shall you be with me in paradise. For

those whom Christ justified, them he also glorifies, even with that glory

which he enjoyed with the Father, before the world began. Do not say, I

have bought a piece of ground, and must needs go see it; or I have bought a

yoke of oxen, and must needs go prove them; or I have married a wife, I am

engaged in an eager pursuit after the lust of the eye, and the pride of

life, that therefore cannot come. Do not fear having your name cast out as

evil, or being accounted a fool for Christ's sake; yet a little while, and

you shall shine like the stars in the firmament for ever. Only believe, and

Jesus Christ shall be to you wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and

eternal redemption; your bodies shall be fashioned like unto his glorious

body, and your souls be partakers of all the fullness of God.

Which God of his infinite mercy, &c.