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The Work of the Holy Spirit in our Salvation (Chapter 8) by Thomas Goodwin

By April 19, 2011April 12th, 2016The Holy Spirit

How the Holy Ghost is the gift of God the Father to us, in and by Jesus Christ.—That this inestimable gift is bestowed freely, by the pure mercy, grace, and love of God.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. — Titus III. 5, 6.

We have seen, in a short but comprehensive view, the operations of the Holy Ghost in the great work of our salvation. The next prospect of him is, as he is the gift of God, conferred on us for this end and purpose. To open this to our sight, I offer these following considerations.

  1. 1. That it is God the Father who is the donor, or the bestower of him on us. This is plainly expressed by the words of the text, which declares that he sheds the Spirit on us.
  2. This gift of the Spirit is in and through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and mediator.
  3. This gift of the Spirit is bestowed, not according to the covenant of works, but of grace and free love. For those words, ‘not according to works,’ and the other words of the text, which speak of the appearance of the love and kindness of God, refer as well to this rich shedding forth the Holy Ghost upon us as unto saving us through regeneration, and renewing us.
  4. The condition of the persons to whom he is given is altogether unworthy. When we were in our disobedience, serving our lusts, the Holy Ghost was poured out, and renewed us.

1. The donor or bestower of the Holy Ghost is God the Father through Christ. As the Father is the original of the persons in the Trinity, so of this great gift. Therefore Christ (John xv. 26) when he speaks of ‘sending the Spirit from the Father,’ adds, as the reason why he should be sent from the Father, that ‘he proceeds from the Father’ (his subsistence doth), naming him as the fountain both of himself and the Spirit also. He is termed the Spirit of God, tou Qeou 1 Cor. ii. 11, in the same sense that we say the spirit of a man (as in the same verse); for as God is a Spirit, Isa. xlviii. 16, ‘The Lord God and his Spirit,’ says the prophet there; but the apostle further adds, ver. 12, the Spirit, ek tou Qeou, who personally is from God, whom therefore we have and receive from God: 1 Cor. vi. 19, ‘The Holy Ghost which we have,’ apo Qeou. This gift is therefore especially attributed to the Father, and termed by Christ ‘the promise of the Father,’ Acts iv., Luke xxiv. 49, ‘the Spirit of the Father,’ Mat. x. 20, from whom Christ, as God-man, received the Spirit first. The Holy Ghost was sent down by the Father upon Christ as a dove in his baptism: ‘God anointed Jesus with the Holy Ghost,’ Acts x. 38. And when Christ ascended into heaven he received him from the Father, Acts ii. 38, and so he shed him forth on us. And therefore Christ also, as mediator, was to pray the Father to give the Spirit, John xiv. 16: ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,’ &c.

Yet so as, 2dly, even the Father himself sends him not, but in and through Christ: John xiv. 26, ‘The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name.’ ‘Through Christ our Saviour,’ says the apostle, Tit. iii. 6. Which imports not barely the Son’s concurrence, as second person, in sending him as well as the Father, even as his person proceeded from both (as John xv. 26, ‘whom I will send unto you’); but further, that Christ, as a redeemer, had a virtual meritorious influence or hand herein; so as for his sake, and through his purchase and intercession, the rather sends him. Christ purchased not only all the graces of the Spirit for us, but the Spirit himself (whom we had forfeited) to dwell in us. We have an express scripture, Gal. iii. 13, 14, ‘Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we may receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.’ Where there are two ends adequately and alike made of Christ’s being made a curse for us:

  1. That we might receive the blessing of Abraham;
  2. That we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

And, forasmuch as the gift of the Spirit comes under a promise, as well as other blessings, it must needs come under the purchase of Christ’s blood, which confirmed all the promises; and this, as all the rest of the promises are, ‘yea and amen in him.’ And to this end it is observable, that he breathed not the Spirit until after his resurrection; but then he did, John xx. 22, ‘And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.’ He had not shed his blood until now, and therefore breathed not the Holy Ghost until now. But Christ having died, and having, as the Lamb slain, purchased the Spirit, and being ascended up to the throne of God, he, as the Lamb, now sheds forth the Spirit: John vii. 38, 39, ‘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; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’ He compares the Spirit, as communicated to us, to a spring of living water. But not as then broke forth, as afterwards it should, because Christ had not died, and so entered into glory. Now compare with it Rev. xxii. 1: ‘And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.’ This water of life issues, you see, from the throne of the Lamb, who in the 5th chap., ver. 6, appeared at the throne of God as the Lamb slain, and redeeming us with his blood, and as such doth shed forth the Spirit upon us; and is even there also said to have all the fulness of the Spirit on him, ‘who hath the seven Spirits;’ that is, the Holy Ghost in all the varieties of his gifts and graces, called seven from perfection. For that the seven Spirits are taken metonymically for the Holy Ghost, is evident by chap. i., ver. 4: ‘John to the seven churches of Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.’ Hence also when we receive the cup in the Lord’s supper, which is termed the communion of Christ’s blood, 1 Cor. x., we are yet said to ‘drink into one Spirit;’ for that blood is vehiculum Spiritus, the Spirit runs in and with this blood. We therefore know whom we are beholden unto for the Spirit; and whom to go unto for the Spirit, even to the Father, and to Christ, and to his blood; and to the Father through Christ, who gives commission to the Spirit to work such and such measures of grace, at such times to fall upon us, and at such and such times to withdraw.

Hence, 3dly, the Spirit is given us from mere grace and love, and not according to works; so in the text those words, ‘who not according to works, but mercy,’ &c., refer as well to this shedding forth the Holy Ghost, as to his saving us by regeneration. You may therefore observe, 2 Cor. xiii. 14, that the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God the Father, are put before communion of the Holy Ghost, as that which proceeds from both. ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.’ Therefore, in scriptures, both the law, the preaching of it, and the works of it, are in express words excluded and shut out from having any influence to convey the Spirit to us, that we may never so much as think to obtain the Spirit thereby: Jer. xxxi. 32, ‘I will make a new covenant, not according to the covenant I made with their fathers; but this shall be my covenant, I will write my law in their inward parts.’ Which, compared with Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27, is renewed with this addition, ‘I will give you a new heart, and put my Spirit within you.’ And you may compare with both, 2 Cor. iii. 3: ‘Ye are manifestly declared to be 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 fleshly tables of the heart;’ which clears both. Yea, so far forth as they in the Old Testament had the Spirit (as they had, Neh. ix. 20, ‘Thou gayest them thy good Spirit to instruct them;’ and Hag. ii. 5, ‘According to the word I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth with you’); so much gospel was even then mingled with it, and running in the veins of it. It was fœdus mixtum, and so in the virtue thereof the Spirit was (though in a lesser measure) given. Therefore, when the gospel came to take place, then the preaching of the law, or ceremonies of it, did not convey the Spirit: to show that it was purely upon the covenant of grace that the Spirit is given, 2 Cor. iii. 6-8, ‘Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stone, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away, how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?’ You see that the old covenant is the ministration of the letter, and of death; and the New Testament, in exclusion of that Old, hath alone obtained this more excellent name, ‘the ministration of the Spirit.’

As not the preaching of the law gave the Spirit, so, nor can any works of the law obtain the Spirit at God’s hands. The text is as express for this as for the other: Gal. iii. 2, ‘This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?’ Paul useth that as arqumentum palmarium against the law, as alone sufficient evidence. ‘This one thing’ (says he) ‘I would learn of you,’ and let that decide it, ‘Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?’ By Spirit he here means the Spirit of regeneration and sanctification; for, ver. 5, he speaks of extraordinary gifts afterwards, and ver. 2, he speaks of that receiving which was general to all believing Galatians, even common to all saints, to whose universal experience he appeals, if ever any one of them had received him upon their doing. Now extraordinary gifts were not common to all saints, no, not in those days. And by ‘the hearing of faith,’ he means the doctrine of faith, the gospel; and ver 14-17, he asserts the Spirit to be given freely by the covenant of grace, which God afore the law did establish with Abraham, and in him together with Isaac (as the type) with Christ: Gal. iii. 14-17, ‘That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be con firmed, no man disannulleth or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, which was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.’ Yea (to end this), he makes it an evidence of not being under the law, if a man hath received the Spirit, and be led by him: Gal. v. 18, ‘But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.’ And for this also it is, that he is called ‘the Spirit of grace,’ Heb. x. 29, because given freely. He is ‘the gift of grace,’ Eph. iii. 7, and so given upon the terms of the covenant of grace.

Hence, from both these, appears the difference between Adam’s having the Spirit in that estate of holiness, and the saints under the state of grace. Adam had the Spirit as well as we, and the Holy Ghost was at the making of him, and wrote the image of God upon his heart: for where holiness was, we may be sure the Spirit was too. The Holy Ghost was at that consultation,— ‘Let us make man,’—and one of the us spoken unto. Yea, and that Spirit that ‘moved upon the waters,’ who also is sent forth to ‘renew the face of the earth’ (Ps. civ.), the same Spirit was in Adam’s heart to assist his graces, and cause them to flow and bring forth, and to move him to live according to those principles of life given him. But there is this difference between that his having the Spirit, and ours, apparent from what hath already been said.

  1. That he concurred with Adam, merely as the third person, who joined in all works, and so upon no further account than as he concurred in assisting all creatures else in their kind, to cause the earth to bring forth fruits according to their kind; and, indeed, he must necessarily have a hand in all works of creation and providence. Whereas we have the Spirit upon Christ’s account, in his name, purchased by him, as whom he had first received, also purchased as the head of his church. And there fore it is ordinary in Scripture to term this Spirit as now dwelling in us, ‘the Spirit of Christ,’ Rom.. viii. 9; ‘the Spirit of the Son,’ Gal. iv. 6.
  2. Hence Adam retained the Spirit according to the tenor of the covenant of works (which is but that equal law of creation between God and the creature), whereby he held a continuance of the privileges given him at the creation, even as he did life in God’s sight, upon works of obedience: ‘Do this and live.’

And as by one act of disobedience he forfeited life (‘Cursed is he that continueth not in all things’), and so in like manner the Spirit was forfeitable by him upon the same terms. Even as in a man that comes from Adam, one mortal stab causeth the soul to depart, so here, one act of sinning caused the soul to depart; for the bond of the union ceased. But as it would not be so in a man risen from the dead, and by the power of the second Adam, made a quickening Spirit; no wounds would be mortal to such an one; so here the gift of the Spirit to us is by promise, as Gal. iii. 14-17, the apostle argues. The gift of the Spirit, to a truly converted soul, is an absolute gift, and not upon conditions on our parts, but to work and maintain in us what God requires of us. The gift of the Spirit is not founded upon qualifications in us, to continue so long as we preserve grace in our souls, and do not sin it away. I will give you my Spirit to preserve you, and prevent your departing from me, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. ‘I will give you a new heart,’ but you would soon make it an old one, as bad as ever; to prevent this, it follows, ‘And I will put my Spirit Within you. and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, sad do them.’ And so it is said in Jer. xxxii. 40, ‘Ye shall not depart from me.’ He comes by virtue of election on us, as he did on Christ, Isa. xlii. 1, ‘Behold my elect in whom my soul delights, I have put my Spirit upon him.’ Gal. iv. 6, ‘Because ye are Sons’ (by election, namely, as it is said, Eph. i. 5, God ‘having predestinated us to the adoption of children’), ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.’ And Mat. x. 20, ‘The Spirit of your Father is in you;’ that is, God having taken on him the relation of your Father, thereupon bestoweth his Spirit on you. And therefore it is that so few of many that hear the same sermons receive the Holy Ghost; for he comes on men by the grace of election, and so the Spirit picks and chooses (as God hath done), and rests on this soul, and not on that; and so (as Isaiah says, Isa. xxvii. 12) they are gathered one by one. It goes as it were by lot, as it is (Acts viii. 21), spoken to Simon Magus, in relation to the Holy Ghost, v. 19. It hath the appearance of chance, because this man is taken, and not that; when yet it is the eternal good pleasure of God that puts the difference. And the Spirit, that knows God’s mind, seizeth on men accordingly; and is said to be as the wind, that ‘blows where it lists,’ which is spoken of regeneration, John iii. 8.

Hence it is that he is given to us for ever, and not to depart from us; the reason is, because his person is given without conditions, and to work all conditions, he is so in us as to be with us for ever; John xiv. 16, 17, ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.’ He came in Christ the head, to make his abode in him: John i. 33, ‘And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.’ Which was a fulfilling of that piece of the prophecy, Isa. xi. 2, ‘The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.’ To which Peter alludes, speaking also of us, 1 Peter iv. 14, ‘The Spirit of God resteth on you;’ and to signify this, when visibly he came upon the apostles, Acts ii. 3, ‘it sat upon each of them.’ Christ’s abode among us is compared to the dwelling in a tabernacle: John xiv., eskanwsen, ‘He dwelt as in a tabernacle amongst us,’ for he soon removed to heaven. But the Spirit dwells in us as in the temple, which was, instead of that moveable habitation, a more fixed settled abode: 1 Cor. vi. 19, ‘Ye are the temple of the Holy Ghost.’ I go and come, says Christ, John xiv. 18, 19, but he shall be with you, and in you, v. 17, forever. And therefore he is not only given as the earnest of our inheritance (Eph. i. 14, and 2 Cor. v. 5), a certain pawn that we shall have heaven; but he becomes also from that time a spring in us never to be dammed up, a living fountain of water, springing up into eternal life, as Christ himself speaks, comparing John iv. 14 with John vii. 38, 39. Now we do not say the spring shall continue whilst water is in the stream; but water shall continue in the stream, and bubble up whilst there is a spring. If indeed the spring could fail, the waters might fail. Now the Holy Ghost is given to become a perpetual spring, both of grace and glory. And accordingly also, 1 Peter i. 23, the Holy Ghost is said to be ‘the incorruptible seed, of which we are begotten,’ which some have understood to be meant of the word; but that is put in besides, as the instrumental cause, in the words following, ‘by the word of God.’ Nor is it the new creature which is there meant, for that is the thing begotten in us. But the principal cause of whom we are begotten is the Holy Spirit, John iii. 6, ‘That which is begotten of the Spirit.’ Now he is called the ‘incorruptible seed,’ because he is cast into the soul with the word, as the prolific virtue in the word; which is the seed materially, but the Spirit virtually. And this also chews the difference between this giving the Spirit by virtue of election, and that communication of him to temporary believers that fall away, who are said, Heb. vi., to be ‘partakers of the Holy Ghost;’ as Saul— ‘The Spirit of the Lord came on Saul,’ 1 Sam. x. 10,—but so as to depart away again, 1 Sam. xvi. 14; thus on Balaam he did, Num. xxiv. 2, 2., and opened his eyes. The fundamental difference lies in the differing terms of the gift of the Spirit, insinuated here in the text: that many receive the Spirit, not from God as a Father, by virtue of election, or through Christ as a Saviour; they receive not, as children, the Spirit of God as from a Father; as Rom. viii. 14, 15; as also Mat. x. 20; and as Christ’s speech also (in John 14th and 15th chapters, ‘I will pray the Father,’ &c.), doth import; but they receive him from God out of dominion and sovereignty, and from Christ as a Lord, who hath brought (bought?) even wicked men to serve him, 2 Peter ii 1. This distinction of this double receiving the Spirit, the apostle insinuates both in that Born. viii. and Gal. vi. 7, 8. In that Rom. viii. 15, he speaks of a ‘Spirit of bondage,’ which, as servants, they in some measure or other had formerly received from God. Look in what state men stand to God, they answerably more or less have a portion of his Spirit on them. If they are only in the state of servants, they have a ‘Spirit of bondage’ working legally that fear of death which is in all men: Heb. ii. 15, ‘And deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’ The one place interprets the other. Those stirrings of guilt and condemnations which are in all men’s hearts, are from workings of the Spirit in all men. The same Spirit that moved upon the waters, Gen. i., moves upon all men’s hearts. Now if men live under the preaching of the law and gospel, then the same Spirit falls with higher works upon the spirits of men unrenewed, yet still but upon the same account that is mentioned: Gen. vi. 3, ‘My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is but flesh.’ He had spoken of the sons of God (ver. 2), that were the professors of that age, who lived under Noah’s ministry, ‘a preacher of righteousness,’ Heb. xi. 7. And he went with his ministry in a way of striving with and opposing men’s corruptions in their hearts; of which Peter, (1 Peter iii. 18), having said that Christ was ‘quickened or raised by the Spirit,’ he adds (ver. 19), ‘by which Spirit also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, when few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.’ These men were corrupt, and remained flesh, and yet received the Spirit, striving with them from God, as the Lord and Judge of the world, who to men fallen gives his Spirit, as at first he did to Adam, with a new stock of gifts arid motions, but deals with them therein but upon a covenant of works. It is a favour indeed to give him, as all outward gifts of the Spirit are, but their persons being under the covenant of works, and servants, their retaining this Spirit is according to the terms thereof; and so it proves in the issue, and their improving that gift is managed according to the dispensation of such a covenant. And so they, by opposing and resisting such strivings of the Spirit, God withdraws him. For he says, ‘My Spirit shall not always strive.’ He deals with them as with servants that are untoward and rebellious: John viii. 35, ‘The servant abides not in the house for ever;’ but as Hagar was turned out of doors, and inherited not, so it is here. ‘But’ (says Christ) ‘a son abides for ever in the house,’ and therefore they, as children, receive ‘the Spirit of adoption to cry, Abba, Father.’ And the Spirit of Christ, as their head, remains in them, and they are overcome and led by the Spirit of God. These are sons; and that they may abide in the house for ever, this Spirit abides in them for ever. You have the very same distinction of men receiving the Spirit as servants and as sons: Gal. iv. 6, 7, ‘Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a Son, an heir of God through Christ.’ The meaning is, they receive the Spirit as sons, not as servants, as others do. To which add ver. 22, 23, &c., where Hagar and Ishmael, and Sarah and Isaac, are made the types of these two conditions of men living in the church, as they did in Abraham’s family; and Christ, John viii., alluded evidently unto in that speech fore-quoted, verses 33, 34, 35, ‘They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever.’ Both these, living under the means, had dealings with God: Gen. xxi. verses 17-20, ‘And the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad, where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God was with the lad,’ &c. But yet this was but according to the covenant of works, whereof they were types. And their spirits used all gifts, motions, visions, &c., in such a way, and so at last the Spirit was withdrawn from them.

And therefore let not that deceive you, that men that fall away are said to be ‘partakers of the Holy Ghost,’ &c., for they may be so when yet they are not sons. The Holy Ghost comes to some as a wayfaring man, for a night. But do you not feel that though he may withdraw many effects, yet still his person is in you, and works, even amidst your sinnings, to reduce you again to God, and suffers you not to be finally overcome, but frames your hearts so as you give yourselves up to be led by him, and you treat with God of his abode in you, and of your salvation, not upon a covenant of works, but grace. Look to your tenure, by which God guides your hearts to seek the Spirit and salvation. Every man’s heart and spirit (as a pen in his hand) is guided to write his own deeds and terms he holds salvation on. Dost thou treat with God, as a son, upon mere terms of free grace, renouncing Ishmael’s covenant and tenure, not daring to treat with God upon these terms, If I walk thus and thus, God will give and continue his Spirit to me? No; but thou sayest as David, ‘Lord, give me thy constant Spirit,’ to work all in me, to cause me to walk in thy statutes. Ps. li. 10, 11, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.’ In the margin it is, ‘a constant spirit within me;’ and if this is thy dependence and thy salvation, and if upon these terms thou holdest and retainest the Spirit, thou art a son. You esteem it in lands as a matter of great moment the tenure, whether it be freehold or copyhold. My brethren, know there is a freehold of the Spirit, and a copyhold; and go over but thy prayers and the workings of thy spirit with God, and thou wilt easily see thy tenure.


Thomas Goodwin was born near Yarmouth in 1600, and not expected to survive childhood, and died in his eightieth year, in 1679, at the end of a life of unusual influence and after a ministry characterized by a rich knowledge of Holy Scripture and close acquaintance with the operations of the human heart.

Chosen a Fellow and Lecturer at St. Catherine’s Hall, from 1625-1634, Goodwin served as a preacher and lecturer in the University, until, in the rising persecution he emigrated to Holland. After the impeachment of Archbishop Laud by the Long Parliament, he returned to England and gathered a church in London. Thereafter his commanding presence was soon recognized and his influence was prominent in the Westminster Assembly where he led the brethren of Independent persuasion. He counselled Oliver Cromwell in the spiritual concerns of the Protector’s last hours.

No doubts appear to have attended his own experience of death; among his last words were these; ‘I could not have imagined I should have had such a measure of faith in this hour . . . My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided? No. I have the whole of his righteousness . . . Christ cannot love me better than he doth. I think I cannot love Christ better than I do. I am swallowed up in God.’