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Sealing literally signifies the impression of the image or likeness of one thing upon another. Job speaks of "the clay as turned to the seal." A seal impressed on wax leaves there its own image. Instruction is said to be sealed, when it is so impressed on the heart, as to have an abiding influence. So the sealing of believers is their receiving on their hearts the divine image and character, by the sanctifying power of the holy Spirit. The word of truth is here considered, as the seal; the believing heart, as the subject; the holy Spirit, as the agent or sealer; and the effect produced, as a divine likeness. True Christians, by the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, are transformed into the image of God, assimilated to the precepts of the gospel, and wrought into that temper which is the fruit of the Spirit. Accordingly, they who know the truth as it is in Jesus, are said "to have put off the old man-to be renewed in the spirit of their mind to be created after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness-to be made partakers of a divine nature-and, beholding the glory of the Lord, to be changed into the same image.
By a like metaphor, Christians are represented as cast in the mould of the gospel. The Apostle says to the Romans, "Ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart, that form of doctrine which was delivered to you." Or as it is in the margin, "Ye have obeyed that form of doctrine, into which ye were delivered." It is a metaphor taken from casting met. als into a mould. Ye are in your hearts conformed to that type, or mould, into which ye have been cast. The hearts of believers correspond with the word of truth, as metals take the figure of the mould into which they are received, and as wax bears the image of the seal impressed upon it.
The same idea is conveyed by the metaphor of writing the word on the heart. The Apostle says to the Corinthians, "Ye are the epistle of Christ ministered
by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart." And on this account he calls them "the seal of his Apostleship in the Lord."
If then your hearts are transformed into the temper of the gospel-if you are governed by the doctrines and subjected to the precepts of it-if you possess those holy dispositions which are the fruits of the Spirit, you are sealed by the holy Spirit of promise.
This work of sanctification is called sealing, because it consists in a correspondence between the temper of the soul, and the word of truth; as sealing implies a correspondence between the image on the seal, and the impression left on the wax: And it is ascribed to the Spirit, because it is by his gracious influence, that the word is made effectual to sanctify the soul. Having illustrated the sealing, we proceed,
2. To consider the carnest of the Spirit.
The Spirit, having sealed believers, or sanctified them after God's image, becomes an earnest of their inheritance. The same sentiment often occurs in Paul's writings. He says to the Corinthians, "God hath an ointed us, and sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.He who hath wrought us to this thing," the desire of immortality, "is God, who hath also given us the earnest of the Spirit; we are confident therefore and willing to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord." What he here calls the earnest, he, in the 8th chapter to Romans, calls the first fruits of the Spirit. "We, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.'
It appears from these passages, that the earnest, and the first fruits of the Spirit, are some kind of evidence, which the Spirit gives believers, of their title to a hap py immortality. The first fruits were pledges of the ensuing harvest: Earnest money in a contract, is a pledge of the fulfilment of it. So the graces and com
forts of religion are to Christians, the anticipations and foretastes of the happiness, which awaits them in heaven.
(1.) The virtues of the Christian temper, which are called the fruits of the Spirit, are to believers an earnest of their inheritance, because they are, in part, a fulfilment of the promise, which conveys the inheritance. They receive the promise of the Spirit, as well as of eternal life, through faith. "Ask and ye shall receive," says our Lord; "seek and ye shall find-for your heavenly Father giveth the holy Spirit to them who ask him." Now if you sensibly experience the benefit of communion with God; if you find, that by attendance upon him in prayer, hearing the word and other ordinances, your faith is enlivened, your worldly affections subdued, your zeal in duty warmed, and your virtuous resolutions strengthened, then you see that promise fulfilled, which insures to you the benefit of attending on these means; and God's performance of this promise is an earnest, that he will do all that he has spoken, and will withhold no good thing which he has promised.
(2.) The graces of the Spirit are an earnest of the inheritance, as they are preparatives for it. If you educate a son for a particular employment, this is to him an earnest and token of your intention to put him into that employment: So God's granting you his Spirit to sanctify and prepare you for glory, is a pledge of his gracious purpose of bringing you to glory. His making you meet to be partakers of the inheritance, is an earnest that he will in due time put you in possession of it. But,
(3) The sealing and sanctifying influence of the Spirit is especially called an earnest of the inheritance, because it is a part of the inheritance given be-1 forehand.
In the religious life there are some sensible pleasures, which the Christian considers as earnest of the VOL. III.
superior pleasures reserved for him in the heavenly state. "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace."-"Great peace have they who love God's law, and nothing shall offend them.”
Those tempers in which religion consists, such as love and devotion toward God, benevolence and good will to our fellow creatures, gratitude to benefactors and submission to the divine government, are pleasant and delightful. "The good man is satisfied from him. self." And from his present experience he justly concludes, that when these tempers shall be wrought to their perfection in the future world, his joy will be full. There he shall know God as he is, and love him with enlarged and lively powers. There his benevolence, purged from every degree of malice and envy, will rise to its proper height, and spread unconfined. There the wonders of Providence and of grace, unFolded to his view, will awaken new sentiments of gratitude and admiration. A great part of his present unhappiness proceeds from the irregularity of his temper
from unruly passions-inordinate affections-and the working of sin in his members. Hence he knows, that when his present disorders are rectified, and the principles of holiness are perfected, the pleasures of refigion will be pure, and no sorrow will be mingled with
While he rejoices in the testimony of his conscience, which daily witnesses to his godly sincerity, he thinks how his joy will be heightened, when love shall be made perfect, and his heart shall no more reproach him.
While he experiences the pleasures of that hope, which enters within the vail, he infers, how vastly these pleasures must be improved, when he shall enter within the vail himself, and enjoy what hope now anticipates. The satisfaction, which attends his hours of fervent devotion, is an earnest of the unspeakably greater delight, which he will find in the devotions of heav.
erhen, where this sinful flesh will no more obstruct, nor worldly cares divert his spiritual exercises.
Thus the believer has in himself an earnest of the inheritance which is reserved for him, and an evidence of the divine original of the religion which he has received. The Apostle John says, "He who believeth on the Son, hath the witness in himself."
The Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession. When we actually possess the inheritance, the earnest will no longer be needed. An earnest supposes the object to be unpossessed: This, enjoyed in its fulness, supersedes the earnest. "When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part will be done away. We who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body; for we are saved by hope! But hope that is seen is not hope, for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait; and the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
1. Our subject teaches us, that all the operations of the divine Spirit on the minds of men, are of a holy nature and tendency.
The Spirit of promise, which works in believers, is called the holy and good Spirit, in distinction from the Spirit which works in the children of disobedience, and which is called an evil and unclean Spirit. If the Spirit is holy, we may conclude, that all his operations tend to holiness, and that the works which he produces are of a holy nature. By this mark we are to judge, whether we are led by the Spirit of God. "They who are after the Spirit, mind the things of the Spirit. If we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfil the lusts of the