Thomas Stringer

The Work Of The Holy Spirit

Outline Of A Sermon Preached At The Surrey Tabernacle, Wednesday Evening, March 19, 1879, By Mr. Thomas Stringer

“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”—John 2:20

After exposing and explaining anti-Christ, with some account of his devotees who separate themselves from a profession of the truth, being “sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 19), the apostle describes and distinguishes the true saints in the language of our text:—

I.—The saints anointed.

II.—Their saving knowledge.

“But ye,” “little children,” conscious of their weak, feeble, and helpless condition, who feel they must be washed, cleansed, clothed, comforted, fed, and educated, as all God’s people are by Himself; “ye,” as distinct from all others, “have an unction”—the anointing oil, Divine influence, and experimental tuition of the eternal Spirit, without which all is sham and ”strong delusion.” The allusion is to the “holy anointing oil for Aaron and his sons, and the vessels of the tabernacle” (Exodus 30), typifying the unctuous grace and influence of the blessed Spirit, with which all the elect saints of God (especially His ministers) are anointed. This holy and blessed anointing assimilates the saints unto, and associates them with, Christ, who was anointed without measure, without which there is neither union to Him, nor communion with Him, nor one spark of vital godliness in possession. The various graces, also, of the Eternal Spirit deposited in their regenerated souls are compared to “spices,” which sometimes lay dormant or inactive within, waiting for “the South wind to blow,” and put them into operation. Such times are most blessed indeed, as Watts sweetly sings:—

“Faith, and love, and joy appear,

And every grace is active here.”

Then He is the indwelling Spirit, and bears His witness with their spirits that they are born again, and are the children of God. He keeps His work alive in their hearts, and “will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” He is their Teacher, Leader, Sanctifier, Guide, and Comforter. He adopts them (evidentially) into the elect family of God; enlightens their minds and understandings in the deep things of God and the Gospel. He reveals Christ in them, and makes Him precious to them, and will abide with them for ever—a sure proof of their final perseverance to eternal glorification. Their qualification for heaven; their incorporation into the family; their acceptation in Christ; and their complete salvation by grace, are the sweet and sure results of His holy anointing. This anointing is from “the Holy One,” the Lord Jesus Christ, the anointed Head of His Church, who anoints all His members with the same blessed Spirit as in verse 27. Oh, how little is known or heard of, in these dark and delusive days, about the Holy Ghost and His work in the hearts of sinners! Plenty of duty-faith delusion, but very, very little Divine-faith realisation. Thousands of religious persons, without a grain of real religion, can say (if they are honest), “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost ” (Acts 19:2).

This reminds me of an old pastor, in a country place, whose chief topic in his sermons was the work of the Holy Ghost. He was removed from earth to heaven. They obtained a new pastor, who always omitted to speak of the Holy Ghost or His work. One of the members (an old lady) and he met together. In conversation he asked her how many Persons there were in the Trinity. She said, “Two, sir.” “Dear me,” said he, “I am sorry you know no better. There are three Persons in the Trinity.” “Yes, sir,” she replied, “there was three when our old pastor was living, but now he is dead, we thought the Holy Ghost was dead also, for we hear nothing of Him nor of His work in your preaching.”

What a sharp rebuke for the preacher! And it belongs to a host of mongrel, yea and nay, if and but, offer and proffer, Bible-mutilating, Christ-dishonouring, soul-deceiving preachers of the present day. We hear of many conversions in large assemblies, but what sort of conversions are they? Men may, and do, convert thousands to themselves, to their creed, their customs, their opinions, their sentiments, their tenets, their views, and their various forms of worship, yet none but the Holy Ghost can convert the sinner to God (Acts 26:18; Psa. 51:13). He only, by His invincible grace, His sovereign power, and holy anointing, can constitute, confirm, comfort, and consecrate the Christian. All other converts are, as Hart sings,—

“The child of fancy, daily dressed,

But not the living child.”

As the Spirit of Life, He infuses life in the soul; as the Spirit of Light, He enlightens the mind; as the Spirit of Love, He sheds it abroad in the heart; as the Spirit of Liberty, He delivers from legal bondage; as the Spirit of Truth, He guides into all truth; and as the Spirit of God, by His sanctifying grace, He fits, prepares, makes meet, and qualifies the soul for heaven, for God, and glory for ever, and is, in experimental enjoyment, the earnest of the incorruptible inheritance, reserved in heaven for the whole family of God’s elect from pole to pole.

II.—Saving knowledge—“Ye know all things.” Not temporal, but spiritual things; not time, but eternal things. “The Spirit of knowledge” who dwells within the saints makes them a very knowing people. They are not such ignoramuses and fools as people take them to be. If they know but little or nothing of philosophy, astrology, geography, mathematics, or politics, they know the Bible, the Author of it, the law, the Gospel, “the truth as it is in Jesus,” and the way of salvation by His obedience and blood, in such a saving way and manner, as to make those who know not these things stare with surprise and amazement. They know who, what, and where the people of the world are, but “the world knoweth them not.” They know the sweet harmony between doctrine, experience, and practice; they are pupils in the school of Jesus Christ, and the blessed Spirit is their infallible Teacher, who teaches them all things necessary to be known as essential to their present and everlasting welfare. “All Thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” “They shall all know Me” (Jer. 31:34); and all His people do know Him, both in His law and in His Gospel revelation of Himself. The former makes them tremble, the latter makes them triumph. They all know the plague of their own heart, which makes them cry, “Behold, I am vile;” they all know the truth, which makes them free; they all know “the joyful sound,” which makes them joyful too; they all know something of “the mysteries of the kingdom,” to the joy and rejoicing of their hearts; they “know they have passed (in regeneration) from death unto life; they “know whom they have believed;” they “know they are of God;” they “know their Redeemer liveth;” they ”know that all things work together for good,” however mysterious and painful to flesh and blood those things may be; they ”know that in their flesh dwelleth no good thing;” they know the great distinction between free-will and free-grace sounds, having a right ear for Gospel music; they “know they are not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ;” they “know that when Christ shall appear, they shall be like Him, and see Him as He is;” still, their knowledge of Him is so comparatively small that their cry is, “That I may know him;” they “know that when the earthly house is dissolved, they have a building of God—an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens;” they grow in grace, and in the sweet and saving knowledge of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; in all His names, characters, titles, and offices; His suitability, His fulness, His all-sufficiency, His relationship to them, and the eternal imperishable union between them; and however much knowledge of these glorious realities they may be blessed with here, they know but, in part, and a small part too, of what they shall know when and where “mortality is swallowed up of life,” for ”what they know not now they shall know hereafter.” Holy Ghost! Anoint our souls with fresh oil. Increase our knowledge of eternal things, until grace shall be crowned with glory.

“Then shall we see, and hear, and know 

All we desired or wished below;

And every power find sweet employ

In that eternal world of joy.”

Thomas Stringer (1809-1887) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. In 1877, he was appointed pastor of Trinity Chapel, Borough. This came at the tail-end of a long and blessed ministry among the Strict Baptist churches, fifty-four years total.