Every Atom of That Flaming Sword

From “Sermon XVIII” (1652)

The most powerful argument to prove God’s willingness that we should live, is, that “he hath bestowed His Spirit upon us;” that as soon as he called up the Son, he sent the Comforter. It was more expedient to send the Spirit to speak those things powerfully to our hearts, which often and in vain had been sounded in our ears…

Thus has God dealt with us; first sent his Son, his incarnate Son, his own flesh, to feed and nourish us; and for all this we “die daily.” He has now given us his own very life and incorporeal essence, a piece of pure God, His very Spirit to feed upon, and digest, that if it be possible we might live. There is not a vein in our souls, unless it be quite pinned and shrivelled up, that does not have some blood produced in it by that holy nourishment; every breath that ever we have breathed toward heaven, has been thus inspired. Besides those louder voices of God, either sounding in his word, or thundering in his judgments, there is his calm, soft voice of inspiration, like the night vision of old, which stole in upon the mind, mingled with sleep, and gentle slumber.

He draws not out into the field, or meets us as an enemy; but entraps us by surprise, and disarms us in our quarters, by a spiritual stratagem, conquers at unawares, and even betrays, and circumvents, and cheats us into heaven…

Many other illuminations and holy graces are to be imputed to God’s Spirit, besides that by which we are effectually converted. God speaks to us many times when we answer him not, and shines about our eyes,

when we either wink or sleep. Our many sudden, short-winded prayers toward heaven, our frequent but weak inclinations to good, our ephemeral wishes, that no man can distinguish from true piety but by their sudden death; our every day resolutions of obedience, while we continue in sin, are arguments that God’s Spirit has shined on us, though the warmth that it produced be soon chilled with the damp it meets within us.

For example, there is no doubt, beloved, but the Spirit of God accompanies his word, as at this time, to your ears; if you will but open at its knock, and receive, and entertain it in your hearts, it shall prove unto

you, according to its most glorious attribute, “the power of God unto salvation;” but if you will refuse it, your stubbornness may repel and frustrate God’s work, but not annihilate it; though you will not be saved by it, it is God’s still, and so shall continue to witness against you at the day of doom. Every word that was ever darted from that Spirit, as a beam or javelin of that piercing sun, every atom of that flaming sword, as the word is phrased, shall not, though it be refused, vanish; the day of vengeance shall instruct your souls that it was sent from God, and since it was once refused, hath been kept in store, not to upbraid, but damn you.

Many other petty occasions the Spirit ordinarily takes to put off the cloud, and open his face toward us: nay, it were not a groundless doubt whether he does not always shine, and the cloud is only in our hearts, which makes us think the sun is gone down, or quite extinct, if at any time we feel not his rays within us. Beloved, there are many things among us that single fire can do nothing about; they are of such a stubborn, frozen nature, there must be some material thing for the fire to consist in, a sharp iron, red hot, that may bore  as well as burn, or else there is small hopes of conquering them. Many men are so hardened and congealed in sin, that the ordinary beam of the Spirit cannot hope to melt them; the fire must come combined with some solid instrument, some sound, weighty, piercing judgment, or else it will be very unlikely to thrive. True it is, the Spirit is an omnipotent agent, which can so invisibly infuse and insinuate its virtue through the inward man, that the whole most enraged adversary shall presently fall to the earth, the whole carnal. man lie prostrate, and the sinner be without delay converted; and this is a miracle which I desire from my heart might be presently shewed upon every soul here present.

Henry Hammond (1605-1660) was an English Anglican priest and theologian, commonly reckoned as one of the Caroline Divines. During the bitter controversies at the time of the English Civil War, he offered articulate defenses of the Church of England’s historic doctrine, liturgy, and church governance.  


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