IT is no small pleasure to me to commend this book to all who love God, and in particular to those who are labouring to serve Him in the ranks of The Salvation Army. I believe that it will prove useful in the most important way—in its bearing, that is, upon many of the practical difficulties and problems of daily life.
The writer, Colonel* Brengle, gives us not only of the fruit of an orderly and well-stored mind on the great subject before us, but-and this is the more important-he tells us of the actual work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of ordinary men and women, as he has witnessed the results of that work amidst his many labours for the salvation and holiness of the people. It is for them he writes. It is to them, living the common life, bound to others by the obligations of ordinary social intercourse, toiling at their secular occupations, and rubbing shoulders with the multitude in the market-place, that his message comes. I venture to hope that his words will make it plain to some of them that the highest intercourse with the divine is their privilege; that the special province of the Holy Ghost is to lead men into the truest devotion to God, and to the advancement of His kingdom on earth, even while they are carrying on the common avocations associated with earning their daily bread.
The only purpose of God having a practical bearing on our lives is His purpose to save men from sin and its awful consequences, and make them conform to His will in this world as in the next. The work of the Holy Spirit is to help us to achieve that purpose. Without His help we are unable to overcome the difficulties that are in the way, whether we consider them from the standpoint of the world or of the individual. If anyone could have looked at the state of the world at the time of our Lord’s death he would surely have regarded the work which the apostles were commissioned to attempt as the most utterly wild and impracticable enterprise that the human mind could conceive. And it was so, but for one fact. That fact was the promise of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be the great Helper in the undertaking.
And equally in the work of uniting the individual soul with God’s purpose that Spirit is our Helper. In the work of righteousness He is a Partner with us. In the life of faith and prayer He is our unwavering Prompter and Guide. In the submission of our wills to God and the chastening of our spirits He is the great Coworker with us. In the bearing of burdens and the enduring of trial and sorrow He joins hands with us to lead us on. In the purifying of every power from the taint of sin He is our Sanctifier.
All this is practical. It has to do with today-with every bit of today. In fact, so far from the sphere of the Holy Spirit being limited to the pulpit or the platform, or to the inward experiences of the religious life, He is just as truly and properly concerned with the affairs of the shop and the street, the nursery and the kitchen, the chamber of suffering and the home of penury, as with preaching the gospel or healing the sick.
Now it is to lead its readers to a personal experience of all this that this book has been written. No mere intellectual assent to the truth it sets forth can satisfy its author, any more than it can benefit his readers. What he seeks, and what I join him in devoutly asking of God, is that you, dear friend, who may take this little volume into your hands, may see what an infinite privilege is yours, and may begin to act with God the Holy Ghost, and to open your whole being to Him, that He may work with you.
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.’
0n that last eventful evening in the upper room, just after the Passover feast, Jesus spoke to His disciples about His departure and, having commanded them to love one another, He besought them not to be troubled in heart but to hold fast their faith in Him, assuring them that, though He was to die and leave them, He was but going to the Father’s many mansioned house to prepare a place for them.
But already they were troubled; for what could this death and departure mean but the destruction of all their hopes, of all their cherished plans? Jesus had drawn them away from their fishing-boats, their places of custom and daily employment, and inspired them with high personal and patriotic ambitions, and encouraged them to believe that He was the Seed of David, the promised Messiah; and they hoped that He would cast out Pilate and his hated Roman garrison, restore the kingdom to Israel, and sit on David’s throne, a King, reigning in righteousness and undisputed power and majesty for ever. And then, were they not to be His ministers of state and chief men in His kingdom?
He was their Leader, directing their labours; their Teacher, instructing their ignorance and solving their doubts and all their puzzling problems; their Defence, stilling the stormy sea and answering for them when questioned by wise and wily enemies.
They were poor and unlearned and weak. In Him was all their help; and what would they do, what could they do, without Him? They were without social standing, without financial prestige, without learning or intellectual equipment, without political or military power. He was their all and without Him they were as helpless as little children, as defenceless as lambs in the midst of wolves. How could their poor hearts be otherwise than troubled ?
But then He gave them a strange, wonderful, reassuring promise. He said: ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever’ (John xiv. 15, 16). 1 am going away, but Another shall come who will fill My place. He shall not go away, but abide with you for ever, and He ‘shall be in you ‘. And later He added: ‘ It is expedient for you ‘ -that is, better for you-‘ that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come’ (John xvi. 7).
Who is this other One-this Comforter? He must be some august divine Person, and not a mere influence or impersonal force; for how else could He take and fill the place of Jesus? How else could it be said that it was better to have Him than to have Jesus remaining in the flesh? He must be strong and wise, and tender and true, to take the place of the Blessed One who is to die and depart. Who is He?
John, writing in the Greek language, calls Him Paraclete, but in English we call Him Comforter. But Paraclete means more, much more than Comforter. It means ‘ one called in to help: an advocate, a helper’. The same word is used of Jesus in I John ii. i : ‘We have an Advocate (a Paraclete, a Helper) with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous.’ just as Jesus had gone to be the disciples’ Advocate, their Helper in the heavens,
so this other Paraclete was to be their Advocate, their Helper on earth. He would be their Comforter when comfort was needed; but He would be more; He would be also their Teacher, Guide, Strengthener, as Jesus had been. At every point of need there would He be as an ever-present and allwise, almighty Helper. He would meet their need with His sufficiency; their weakness with His strength; their foolishness with His wisdom; their ignorance with His knowledge; their blindness and short-sightedness with His perfect, all-embracing vision. Hallelujah! What a Comforter! Why should they be troubled ?
They were weak, but He would strengthen them with might in the inner man (Eph. iii. 16). They were to give the world the words of Jesus, and teach all nations (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20); and He would teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance whatsoever Jesus had said to them (John xiv. 26).
They were to guide their converts in the right way, and He was to guide them into all truth (John xvi. 13) They were to attack hoary systems of evil, and inbred and actively intrenched sin, in every human heart; but He was to go before them, preparing the way for conquest, by convincing the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John xvi. 8). They were to bear heavy burdens and face superhuman tasks, but He was to give them power (Acts i. 8). Indeed, He was to be a Comforter, a Strengthener, a Helper.
Jesus had been external to them. Often they missed Him. Sometimes He was asleep when they felt they sorely needed Him. Sometimes He was on the mountains, while they were in the valley vainly trying to cast out stubborn devils, or wearily toiling on the tumultuous, wind-tossed sea. Sometimes He was surrounded by vast crowds, and He entered into high disputes with the doctors of the law, and they had to wait till He was alone to seek explanations of His teachings., But they were never to lose this other Helper in the crowd, nor be separated for an instant from Him, for no human being, nor untoward circumstance, nor physical necessity, could ever come between Him and them for, said Jesus, He shall be in you,.
From the words used to declare the sayings, the doings, the offices and works of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, we are forced to conclude that He is a divine Person. Out of the multitude of Scriptures which might be quoted, note this passage which, as nearly as is possible with human language, reveals to us His personality: ‘ Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers. . . . As they ministered to the Lord , and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed into Seleucia ‘ (Acts xiii. 1 -4)
Further on we read that they ‘ were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia’, and when they would have gone into Bithynia, ‘ the Spirit suffered them not’ (Acts xvi. 6, 7)
Again, when the messengers of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, were seeking Peter, ‘ the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them’ (Acts x. 19-20)
These are but a few of the passages of Scripture that might be quoted to establish the fact of His personality,His power to think, to will, to act, to speak; and if His personality is not made plain in these Scriptures, then it is impossible for human language to make it so.
Indeed, I am persuaded that if an intelligent heathen, who had never seen the Bible, should for the first time read the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, he would say that the personality of the Holy Spirit is as clearly revealed in the Acts as is the personality of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. In truth, the Acts of the Apostles are in a large measure the acts of the Holy Spirit, and the disciples were not more certainly under the immediate direction of Jesus during the three years of His earthly ministry than they were under the direct leadership of the Spirit after Pentecost.
But, while there are those that admit His personality, yet in their loyalty to the divine Unity they deny the Trinity, and maintain that the Holy Spirit is only the Father manifesting Himself as Spirit, without any distinction in personality. But this view cannot be harmonized with certain Scriptures. While the Bible and reason plainly declare that there is but one God, yet the Scriptures as clearly reveal that there are three Persons in the Godhead-Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The form of Paul’s benediction to the Corinthians proves the doctrine: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen’ (2 Con xiii. 14)
Again, it is taught in the promise of Jesus, already quoted, ‘And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter . . . the Spirit of truth ‘ (John xiv. 16, 17). Here the three Persons of the Godhead are clearly revealed. The Son prays; the Father answers; the Spirit comes.
The Holy Spirit is ‘another Comforter’, a second Comforter succeeding the first who was Jesus, and both were given by the Father. Do you say, ‘ I cannot understand it’? Neither can I. Who can understand it? God does not expect us to understand it. Nor would He have us puzzle our heads and trouble our hearts in attempting to understand it or harmonize it with our knowledge of arithmetic.
Note this: it is only the fact that is revealed; how there can be three Persons in one Godhead is not revealed. The how is a mystery, and is not a matter of faith at all; but the fact is a matter of revelation, and therefore a matter of faith. I myself am a mysterious trinity of body, mind and spirit. The fact I believe, but the how is not a thing to believe. It is at this point that many puzzle and perplex themselves needlessly.
In the ordinary affairs of life we grasp facts, and hold them fast, without puzzling ourselves over the how of things. Who can explain how food sustains life; how light reveals material objects; how sound conveys ideas to our minds? It is the fact we know and believe, but the how we pass by as a mystery unrevealed. What God has revealed, we believe. We cannot understand how Jesus turned water into wine; how He multiplied a few loaves and fishes and fed thousands; how He stilled the stormy sea; how He opened blind eyes, healed lepers and raised the dead by a word. But the facts we believe. Wireless telegraphic messages are sent over the vast wastes of ocean. That is a fact, and we believe it. But how they go need not be our concern. That is not something to believe.
An old servant of God has pointed out that it is the fact of the Trinity, and not the manner of it, which God has revealed and made a subject for our faith.
But while the Scriptures reveal to us the fact of the personality of the Holy Spirit (and it is a subject for our faith) to those in whom He dwells, this fact may become a matter of sacred knowledge, of blessed experience.
How else can we account for the positive and assured way in which the apostles and disciples spoke of the Holy Ghost on and after the day of Pentecost, if they did not know Him? Immediately after the fiery baptism, with its blessed filling, Peter stood before the people, and said: ‘ This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh’ (Acts ii, 16, 17); then he exhorted the people and assured them that if they would meet certain simple conditions they should I receive the gift of the Holy Ghost ‘. He said to Ananias, ‘Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? ‘ (Acts v. 3). He declared to the High Priest and Council that he and his fellow-apostles were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, and added, So is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him’ (Acts v. 32). Without any apology or explanation, or ‘ think so ‘ or ‘ hope so ‘, they speak of being ‘filled (not simply with some new, strange experience or emotion, but) with the Holy Ghost’. Certainly they must have known Him. And if they knew Him, may not we?
Paul says: ‘ Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth’ (i Cor. ii. 12, 13). And if we know the words, may we not know the Teacher of the words?
John Wesley says: The knowledge of the Three-One God is interwoven with all true Christian faith, with all vital religion. I do not say that every real Christian can say, with the Marquis de Renty, ‘ I bear about with me continually an experimental verity, and a fullness of the ever-blessed Trinity. I apprehend that this is not the experience of ” babes “, but rather ” fathers in Christ “.’ But I know not how anyone can be a Christian believer till he ‘hath the witness in himself’, till the Spirit of God witnesses with his spirit that he is a child of God; that is, in effect, till God the Holy Ghost witnesses that God the Father has accepted him through the merits of God the Son.
Not that every Christian believer adverts to this; perhaps, at first, not one in twenty; but, if you ask them a few questions, you will easily find it is implied in what they believe.
I shall never forget my joy, mingled with awe and wonder, when this dawned upon my consciousness. For several weeks I had been searching the Scriptures, ransacking my heart, humbling my soul, and crying to God almost day and night for a pure heart and the baptism with the Holy Ghost, when one glad, sweet day (it was January 9, 1885) this text suddenly opened to my understanding: I If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (I John i. 9) ; and I was enabled to believe without any doubt that the precious Blood cleansed my heart, even mine, from all sin. Shortly after that, while reading the words of Jesus to Martha– I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die’ (John xi- 25, 26)-instantly my heart was melted like wax before fire; Jesus Christ was revealed to my spiritual consciousness, revealed in me, and my soul was filled with unutterable love. I walked in a heaven of love. Then one day, with amazement, I said to a friend: ‘ This is the perfect love about which the Apostle John wrote but it is beyond all I dreamed of. In it is personality. This love thinks, wills, talks with me, corrects instructs and teaches me.’ And then I knew that God the Holy Ghost was in this love, and that this love was God, for’ God is love’.
Oh, the rapture mingled with reverential, holy fear for it is a rapturous, yet divinely fearful thing-to be indwelt by the Holy Ghost, to be a temple of the Living God ! Great heights are always opposite great depths, and from the heights of this blessed experience many have plunged into the dark depths of fanaticism. But we must not draw back from the experience through fear. All danger will be avoided by meekness and lowliness of heart; by humble, faithful service; by esteeming others better than ourselves, and in honour preferring them before ourselves; by keeping an open, teachable spirit; in a word, by looking steadily unto Jesus, to whom the Holy Spirit continually points us; for He would not have us fix our attention exclusively upon Himself and His work in us, but also upon the Crucified One and His work for us, that we may walk in the steps of Him whose Blood purchases our pardon, and makes and keeps us clean.
Great Paraclete! to Thee we cry: O highest Gift of God most high! OFount of life! 0 Fire of love, And sweet Anointing from above!
Our senses touch with light and fire, Our hearts with tender love inspire; And with endurance from on high The weakness of our flesh supply.
Far back our enemy repel, And let Thy peace within us dwell; So may we, having Thee for guide, Turn from each hurtful thing aside.
0 may Thy grace on us bestow The Father and the Son to know, And evermore to hold confessed Thyself of Each the Spirit blest.
HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED? ‘
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.’
Jesus said: ‘ Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John iii. 5, 6). And Paul wrote to the Romans that, ‘ If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His’ (viii. 9).
So it must be that every child of God, every truly converted person, has the Holy Spirit in some gracious manner and measure, else he would not be a child of God; for it is only ‘ as many as are led by the Spirit of God ‘ that ‘ are the sons of God ‘ (Rom. viii. 14)
It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, who makes us feel how good and righteous, and just and patient God is, and how guilty we are, and how unfit for Heaven, and how near to Hell. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to true repentance and confession and amendment of life; and when our repentance is complete, and our surrender is unconditional, it is He who reasons with us calms our fears, soothes our troubled hearts, banishes our darkness, and enables us to look to Jesus and believe on Him for the forgiveness of all our sins and the salvation of our souls. And when we yield and trust, and are accepted of the Lord, saved by grace, it is He who assures us of the Father’s favour and notifies us that we are saved. ‘ The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.’ He is I the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father’ (Rom. viii. 15, 16).
And His that gentle voice we hear, Soft as the breath of even, That checks each fault, that calms each fear, And speaks of Heaven.
It is He who strengthens the new convert to fight against and overcome sin, and it is He who begets within him a hope of fuller righteousness through faith in Christ.
And every virtue we possess, And every victory won, And every thought of holiness, Are His alone.
Blessed be God for this work of the Holy Spirit within the heart of every true child of His!
But, great and gracious as is this work, it is not the fiery pentecostal baptism with the Spirit which is promised; it is not the fullness of the Holy Ghost to which we are exhorted. It is only the clear dawn of the day, and not the rising of the day-star. This is only the initial work of the Spirit. It is perfect of its kind, but it is preparatory to another and fuller work, about which I wish to write.
Jesus said to His disciples concerning the Holy Spirit, that ‘the world (the unsaved, unrepentant) cannot receive ‘ Him, ‘ because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him’; because they resist Him, and will not permit Him to work in their hearts. And then Jesus added, ‘but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you.’ He had begun His work in them, but there was more to follow, for Jesus said, ‘ and shall be in you’ (John xiv. 17)
When a man is building himself a house, he is in and out of it and round about it. But we do not say he lives in it until it has been completed. And it is in that sense that Jesus said, ‘ He dwelleth with you.’ But when the house is finished, the owner sweeps out all the chips and saw-dust, scrubs the floor, lays down his carpets, hangs up his pictures, arranges his furniture, and moves in with his family. Then he is in the fullest sense within it. He abides there. Now, it is in that sense that Jesus meant that the Holy Spirit should be in them. This is fitly expressed in one of our songs:
Holy Spirit, come, 0 come, Let Thy work in me be done! All that hinders shall be thrown aside; Make me fit to be Thy dwelling.
Previous to Pentecost He was with them, using the searching preaching of John the Baptist, and the life, the words, the example, the sufferings, and the death and resurrection of Jesus as instruments with which to fashion their hearts for His indwelling. As the truth was declared to them in the words of Jesus, pictured to them in His doings, exemplified in His daily life, and fulfilled in His death and His rising from the dead, the Holy Spirit wrought mightily within them; but He could not yet find perfect rest in their hearts; therefore He did not yet abide within them.
They had forsaken all to follow Christ. They had been commissioned to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, to cast out devils. Their names were written in Heaven. They were not of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world, for they belonged to Him and to the Father. They knew the Holy Spirit, for He was with them, working in them, but not yet living in them, for they were yet carnal; that is, they were selfish, each seeking the best place for himself. They disputed among themselves as to which should be the greatest. They were bigoted, wanting to call down fire from Heaven to consume those who would not receive Jesus, and forbidding those who would not follow them to cast out devils in His name. They were positive and loud in their professions of devotion and loyalty to Jesus when alone with Him. They declared they would die with Him. But they were fearful, timid and false to Him when the testing time came. When the mocking crowd appeared and danger was near, they all forsook Him and fled; while Peter cursed and swore, and denied that he knew Him.
But the Holy Spirit did not forsake them. He still wrought within them and, no doubt, used their very mistakes and miserable failures to perfect within them the spirit of humility and perfect self-abasement in order that they might safely be exalted. And on the day of Pentecost His work of preparation was complete, and He moved in to abide for ever. Hallelujah!
And this experience of theirs before Pentecost is the common experience of all true converts. Every child of God knows that the Holy Spirit is with him; realizes that He is working within, striving to set the house in order. And with many who are properly taught and gladly obedient this work is done quickly, and the heavenly Dove, the Blessed One, takes up His constant abode within them; the toil and strife with inbred sin is ended by its destruction, and they enter at once into the Sabbath of full salvation.
Surely this is possible. The disciples could not receive the Holy Spirit till Jesus was glorified; because not until then was the foundation for perfect, intelligent, unwavering faith laid. But since the day of Pentecost, He may be received immediately by those who have repented of all sin, who have believed on Jesus and been born again. Some have assured me that they were sanctified wholly and filled with the Spirit within a few hours of their conversion. I have no doubt that this was so with many of the three thousand who were converted under Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost.
But often this work is slow, for He can only work effectually as we work with Him, practising intelligent and obedient faith. Some days the work prospers and seems almost complete, and then peace and joy and comfort abound in the heart; at other times the work is hindered, and oftentimes almost or quite undone, by the strivings and stirrings of inbred sin, by fits of temper, by lightness and frivolity, by neglect of watchfulness
and prayer, and the patient, attentive study of His word; by worldliness, by unholy ambitions, by jealousies and envyings, by uncharitable suspicions and harsh judgments and selfish indulgences, and slowness to believe.
‘ The flesh lusteth against the Spirit’ (Gal. v. 17), seeks to bring the soul back under the bondage of sin again, while the Spirit wars against the flesh, which is ‘ the old man ‘, ‘ the carnal mind’. The Spirit seeks to bring every thought into ‘ captivity . . . to the obedience of Christ ‘, to lead the soul to that point of glad, wholehearted consecration to its Lord, and that simple, perfect faith in the merits of His Blood which shall enable Him to cast out ‘ the old man ‘, destroy ‘ the carnal mind’ and, making the heart His temple, enthrone Christ within.
Here on earth a temple stands, Temple never built with hands; There the Lord doth fill the place With the glory of His grace. Cleansed by Christ’s atoning Blood, Thou art this fair house of God. Thoughts, desires, that enter there, Should they not be pure and fair? Meet for holy courts and blest, Courts of stillness and of rest, Where the soul, a priest in white, Singeth praises day and night; Glory of the love divine, Filling all this heart of mine.
My brother, my sister, what is your experience just now? Are you filled with the Spirit? Or is the old man still warring against Him in your heart? Oh, that you may receive Him fully by faith just now!
‘HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED? ‘
Ye shall receive power, after that theHoly Ghost is come upon you.’
THERE is much difference of opinion among many of God’s children as to the time and order of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and many who believe that entire cleansing is subsequent to salvation ask if the baptism with the Spirit is not subsequent to cleansing and, therefore, a third blessing.
There are four classes of teachers whose views appear to differ about this subject. There are: i. Those who emphasize cleansing; who say much of a clean heart, but little, if anything, about the fullness of the Holy Spirit and power from on high. 2. Those who emphasize the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fullness of the Spirit, but say little or nothing of cleansing from inbred sin and the destruction of the carnal mind. 3. Those who say much of both, but separate them into two distinct experiences, often widely separated in time. 4. Those who teach that the truth is in the union of the two, and that, while we may separate them in their order, putting cleansing first, we cannot separate them as to time, since it is the baptism that cleanses, just as the darkness vanishes before the flash of the electric light when the right button is touched; just as the Augean stables were cleansed, in the fabled story of Grecian mythology, when Hercules turned in the floods of the River Arno; the refuse went out as the rushing waters poured in.
In John xvii. 15-26 Jesus prays for His disciples, and says: ‘ I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. . . . Sanctify them . . . 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 the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them.’
It is first sanctification (cleansing, being made holy), then filling, divine union with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures make plain the order of God’s work, and if we looked at them alone, without diligently comparing Scripture with Scripture, as God would have us do, we might perhaps conclude that the cleansing and filling were as distinct and separate in time as they are in this order of statement.
But other Scriptures give us abundant light on that side of the subject. In Acts x. 44 we read of Peter’s preaching Jesus to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and his household; and ‘while Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word’; and in Acts xv. 7-9, at the Council in Jerusalem, we have Peter’s rehearsal of the experience of Cornelius and his household. Peter says: ‘ Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.’ Here we see that their believing, and the sudden descent of the Holy Ghost with cleansing power into their hearts, constitute one blessed experience.
What patient, waiting, expectant faith reckons done, the baptism with the Holy Ghost actually accomplishes. Between the act of faith by which a man begins to reckon himself ‘ dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. vi. I I), and the act of the Holy Spirit, which makes the reckoning good, there may be an interval of time; but the act and state of steadfastly, patiently, joyously, perfectly believing, which is man’s part, and the act of baptizing with the Holy Ghost, cleansing as by fire, which is God’s part, bring about the one experience of entire sanctification, and must not and cannot be logically looked upon as two distinct blessings, any more than the act of the husband and the act of the wife can be separated in the one experience of marriage.
There are two works and two workers: God and man, just as my right arm and my left arm work when my two hands come together, but the union of the two hands constitute one experience.
If my left arm acts quickly, my right arm will surely respond. And so, if the soul, renouncing self and sin and the world, with ardour of faith in the precious Blood for cleansing and in the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, draws nigh to God, God will draw nigh to that soul, and the blessed union will be effected suddenly. In that instant, what faith has reckoned done will be done, the death-stroke will be given to ‘ the old man’, sin will die, and the heart will be clean and wholly alive toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It will not be a mere ‘ make-believe’ experience, but a gloriously real one.
It is possible that some have been led into confusion of thought on this subject by not considering all the Scriptures bearing on it. What is it that cleanses or sanctifies, and how? Jesus prays: ‘ Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth’ (John xvii. 17). Here it is the word, or truth, that sanctifies.
John says: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin ‘ (I John i. 7). Here it is the Blood. Peter says: ‘ God………….put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith ‘ (Acts xv. 8, 9). And Paul says: ‘ That they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith ‘ (Acts xxvi. 18). Here it is by faith.
Again, Paul writes: ‘ God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit’ (2 Thess. ii. 13). And again, ‘ That the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost’ (Rom. xv. 16). And Peter writes: ‘ To the strangers . . . elect . . . through sanctification of the Spirit ‘ (I Pet. i. 1, 2). Here it is the Spirit that sanctifies or makes clean and holy. Is there, then, confusion here ? Jesus says, ‘ the truth’
John says, ‘the Blood’; Paul and Peter say, ‘faith’, and ‘ the Holy Ghost’. Can these be reconciled? Let us see.
Here is a child in a burning house. A man at the peril of his life rushes to the spot above which the child stands in awful danger, and cries out, ‘Jump, and I will catch you! ‘
The child hears, believes, leaps, and the man receives him; but just as he turns and places the boy in safety, a falling timber smites him to the ground wounded to death, and his flowing blood sprinkles the boy whom he has saved.
A breathless spectator says: ‘ The child’s faith saved him.’ Another says: ‘How quick the lad was! His courageous leap saved him.’ Another says: ‘ Bless the child! He was in awful danger, and he just barely saved himself.’ Another says: ‘ That man’s word just reached the boy’s ear in the nick of time, and saved him.’ Another says: ‘God bless that man! He saved that child.’ And yet another says: ‘ That boy was saved by blood; by the sacrifice of that heroic man! ‘
Now, what saved the child? Without the man’s presence and promise there would have been no faith; and without faith there would have been no saving action and the boy would have perished. The man’s word saved him by inspiring faith. Faith saved him by leading to proper action. He saved himself by leaping. The man saved him by sacrificing his own life in order to catch him when he leaped.
Not the child himself alone, nor his faith, nor his brave leap, nor his rescuer’s word, nor his blood, nor the man himself saved the boy, but they all together saved him; and the boy was not saved till he was in the arms of the man.
And so it is faith and works, and the word and the Blood and the Holy Ghost that sanctify.
The Blood, the sacrifice of Christ, underlies all, and is the meritorious cause of every blessing we receive, but the Holy Spirit is the active agent by whom the merits of the Blood are applied to our needs.
During the American Civil War certain men committed some dastardly and unlawful deeds, and were sentenced to be shot. On the day of the execution they stood in a row confronted by soldiers with loaded muskets, waiting the command to fire. just before the command was given, the commanding officer felt a touch on his elbow and, turning, saw a young man by his side, who said, ‘ Sir, there in that row, waiting to be shot, is a married man. He has a wife and children. He is their breadwinner. If you shoot him, he will be sorely missed. Let me take his place.’
‘All right,’ said the officer; ‘ take his place, if you wish; but you will be shot.’ ‘ I quite understand that,’ replied the young man; but no one will miss me.’ And, going to the condemned man, he pushed him aside, and took his place. Soon the command to fire was given. The volley rang out, and the young hero dropped dead with a bullet through his heart, while the other man went free.
His freedom came to him by blood. Had he, however, neglected the great salvation and, despising the blood shed for him and refusing the sacrifice of the friend and the righteous claims of the law, persisted in the same evil ways, he, too, would have been shot. The blood, though shed for him, would not have availed to set him free. But he accepted the sacrifice, submitted to the law, and went home to his wife and children. It was by the blood; every breath he henceforth drew, every throb of his heart, every blessing he enjoyed, or possibly could enjoy, came to him by the blood. He owed everything from that day forth to the blood, and every fleeting moment, every passing day and every rolling year but increased his debt to the blood which had been shed for him.
And so we owe all to the Blood of Christ, for we were under sentence of death-‘ The soul that sinneth, it shall die’ (Ezek. xviii. 2 0) -and we have all sinned, and God, to be holy, must frown upon sin and utterly condemn it, and must execute His sentence against it.
But Jesus suffered for our sins. He died for us. ‘ He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities . . . and with His stripes we are healed ‘ (Isa liii.:5). ‘ Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ ‘ (I Pet. i. 18, 19) ; ‘ Who loved me, and gave Himself for me’ (Gal. ii. 20). And now every blessing we ever had, or ever shall have, comes to us by the divine sacrifice, by ‘ the precious blood ‘, And ‘ How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? ‘ (Heb. ii- 3). His Blood is the meritorious cause not only of our pardon, but of our cleansing, our sanctification; but the Holy Spirit is the ever-present, living, active cause.
The truth or word which sanctifies is the record God has given us of His will and of that divine sacrifice, that ‘precious blood’. The faith that purifies is that sure confidence in that word which leads to renunciation of all self-righteousness, that utter abandonment to God’s will, and full dependence on the merits of ‘ the precious blood’, the ‘ faith that works by love’, for ‘ faith without works is dead’. And thus we draw nigh to God, and God draws nigh to us, and the Holy Ghost falls upon us, comes into us, and cleanses our hearts by the destruction of sin and the shedding abroad within us of the love of God.
The advocates of entire sanctification as an experience wrought in the soul by the baptism with the Spirit subsequent to regeneration call it’ the second blessing ‘.
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.’
HOW shall I know that I am accepted of God?that I am saved or sanctified? The Bible declares God’s love and pity for sinners, including me, and reveals His offer of mercy to me in Jesus Christ, on condition that I fully repent of my sins and, yielding myself to Him, believe on Jesus Christ and, taking up my cross, follow Him. But how shall I know that I have met these conditions in a way to satisfy Him, and that I am myself saved?
1. The Bible cannot tell me this. It tells me what to do, but it does not tell me when I have done it, any more than the signboard at the country cross-roads, pointing out the road leading to the city, tells me when I have reached the city.
2. My religious teachers and friends cannot tell me, for they cannot read my heart, nor the mind of God toward me. How can they know when I have in my heart repented and believed, and when His righteous anger is turned away? They can encourage me to repent, believe, obey, and can assure me that, if I do, He will accept me and I shall be saved; but beyond that they cannot go.
3. My own heart, owing to its darkness and deceitfulness and liability to error, is not a safe witness previous to the assurance God Himself gives. If my neighbour is justly offended with me, it is not my own heart, but his testimony that first assures me of his favour once more.
How, then, shall I know that I am justified or wholly sanctified? There is but one way, and that is by the witness of the Holy Spirit. God must notify me, and make me to know it; and this He does when, despairing of my own works of righteousness, I cast my poor soul fully and in faith upon Jesus. Says Paul: ‘ Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God’ (Rom. viii. 15, 16). ‘And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father’ (Gal. iv. 6), Unless He Himself assures me, I shall never know that He accepts me, but must continue in uncertainty all my days.
Come, Holy Ghost, Thyself impress On my expanding heart; And show that in the Father’s grace I share a filial part.
The Founder says: ‘Assurance is produced by the revelation of forgiveness and acceptance made by God Himself directly to the soul. This is the witness of the Spirit. It is God testifying in my soul that He has loved me and given Himself for me, and washed me from my sins in His own Blood. Nothing short of this actual revelation, made by God Himself, can make anyone sure of Salvation.’
John Wesley says: ‘By the testimony of the Spirit, I mean an inward impression of the soul, whereby the Spirit of God immediately and directly witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God; that Jesus hath loved me, and given Himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.’
This witness of the Spirit addressed to my consciousness enables me to sing with joyful assurance:
My God is reconciled, His pardoning voice I hear; He owns me for His child, I can no longer fear; With confidence I now draw nigh And Father, Abba Father! cry
When the Holy Spirit witnesses to me that I am saved and adopted into God’s family as His child then other evidences begin to abound also. For instance:
I. My own spirit witnesses that I am a new creature. I know that old things have passed away and all things have become new. My very thoughts and desires have been changed. Love and joy and peace reign within me. My heart no longer condemns me. Pride and selfishness, and lust and temper, no longer control my thoughts nor lead captive my will. I am a new creature’ and I know it, and I infer without doubt that this is the work of God in me.
2. My conscience bears witness that I am honest and true in all my purposes and intentions; that I am without guile; that my eye is single to the glory of God, and that with all simplicity and sincerity of heart I serve Him; and, since by nature I am only sinful, I again infer that this sincerity of heart is His blessed work in my soul and is a fruit of salvation.
3. The Bible becomes a witness to my salvation. In it are accurately portrayed the true characteristics of the children of God; and as I study it prayerfully, and find these characteristics in my heart and life I again infer that I am saved. This is true selfexamination and is most useful.
These evidences are most important to guard us against any mistake as to the witness of the Holy Spirit. The witness of the Spirit is not likely to be mistaken for something else, just as the sun is not likely to be mistaken for a lesser light, a glow-worm or a moon. But one who has not seen the sun might mistake some lesser light for the sun. So an unsaved man may mistake some flash of fancy, some pleasant emotion, for the witness of the Spirit. But if he is honest, the absence of these secondary evidences and witnesses will correct him. He must know that so long as sin masters him, reigns within him, and he is devoid of the tempers, ,races and dispositions of God’s people as portrayed in
the Bible, that he is mistaken in supposing that he has the witness of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit cannot witness to what does not exist. He cannot lie. Not until sin is forgiven does He witness to the fact. Not until we are justified from our old sins and born again does He witness that we are children of God; and when He does so witness, these secondary evidences always follow. Charles Wesley expresses this in one of his matchless hymns:
How can a sinner know His sins on earth forgiven? How can my gracious Saviour show My name inscribed in Heaven?
We who in Christ believe That He for us hath died, We all His unknown peace receive, And feel His Blood applied.
His love, surpassing far The love of all beneath, We find within our hearts, and dare The pointless darts of death.
Stronger than death and Hell The mystic power we prove; And, conquerors of the world, we dwell In Heaven, who dwell in love.
The witness of the Spirit is far more comprehensive than many suppose. Multitudes do not believe that there is any such thing, while others confine it to the forgiveness of sins and adoption into the family of God. But the truth is that the Holy Spirit witnesses to much more than this.
He witnesses to the sinner that he is guilty, condemned before God, and lost. This we call conviction; but it is none other than the witness of the Spirit to the sinner’s true condition; and when a man realizes it, nothing can convince him to the contrary. His friends may point out his good works, his kindly disposition, and try to assure him that he is not a bad man; but, so long as the Spirit continues to witness to his guilt, nothing can console him or reassure his quaking heart. This convicting witness may come to a sinner at any time, but it is usually given under the searching preaching of the gospel, or the burning testimony of those who have been gloriously saved and sanctified; or in time of danger, when the soul is awed into silence so that it can hear the ‘still small voice’ of the Holy Spirit.
Again, the Holy Spirit not only witnesses to the forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God, but He also witnesses to sanctification. ‘ For by one offering He (that is, Jesus) hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us’ (Heb. x. 14, 15)
Indeed, one who has this witness can no more doubt it than a man with two good eyes can doubt the existence of the sun when he steps forth into the splendour of a cloudless noonday. It satisfies him, and he cries out exultingly, ‘We know, we know!’ Hallelujah!
Paul seems to teach that the Holy Spirit witnesses to every good thing God works in us, for he says: ‘ We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God ‘ (I Cor. ii. 12). It is for our comfort and encouragement to know our acceptance of God and our rights, privileges and possessions in Jesus Christ; and the Holy Spirit is given for this purpose, that we may know.
But it is important to bear in mind God’s plan of work in this matter. I. The witness of the Spirit is dependent upon our faith. God does not give it to those who do not believe in Jesus; and if our faith wavers, the witness will become intermittent; and if faith fails, it will be withdrawn. Owing to the unsteadiness of their faith, many young converts get into uncertainty. Happy are they at such times if someone is at hand to instruct and encourage them to look steadfastly to Jesus. But, alas! many old Christians through unsteady faith walk in gloom and uncertainty and, instead of encouraging the young, they discourage them. Steadfast faith will keep the inward witness bright.
2. We must not take our attention off Jesus, and the promises of God in Him, and fix it upon the witness of the Spirit. The witness continues only while we look unto Jesus and trust and obey Him. When we take our eyes off Him, the witness is gone. Many people fail here. Instead of quietly and confidently looking unto Jesus and trusting Him, they are vainly looking for the witness; which is as though a man should try to realize the sweetness of honey, without receiving it in his mouth; or the beauty of a picture, while having his eyes turned inward upon himself instead of outward upon the picture. Jesus saves. Look to Him, and He will send the Spirit to witness to His work.
3. The witness may be brightened by diligence in the discharge of duty, by frequent seasons of glad prayer, by definite testimony to salvation and sanctification, and by stirring up our faith.
4. The witness may be dulled by neglect of duty, by sloth in prayer, by inattention to the Bible, by indefinite, hesitating testimony, and by carelessness, when we should be careful to walk soberly and steadfastly with the Lord.
5. I dare not say that the witness of the Spirit is dependent upon our health, but there are some forms of nervous and organic disease that seem so to distract or becloud the mind as to interfere with the clear discernment of the witness of the Spirit. I knew a nervous little child who would be so distracted with fear by an approaching carriage, when being carried across the street in her father’s arms, that she seemed to be incapable of hearing or heeding his reassuring voice. It may be that there are some diseases that for the time prevent the sufferer from discerning the reassuring witness of the heavenly Father. Dr. Asa Mahan told me of an experience of this kind which he had in a very dangerous sickness. And Dr. Daniel Steele had a similar experience while lying at the point of death with typhoid fever. But some of the happiest Christians the world has seen have been racked with pain and tortured with disease.
And so there may be seasons of fierce temptation when the witness is not clearly discerned; but we may rest assured that if our hearts cleave to Jesus Christ and duty, He will never leave or forsake us. Blessed be God!
6. But the witness will be lost if we wilfully sin, or persistently neglect to follow where He leads. This witness is a pearl of great price, and Satan will try to steal it from us; therefore, we must guard it with watchful prayer continually.
7. If lost, it may be found again by prayer and faith and a dutiful taking up of the cross which has been laid down. Thousands who have lost it have found it again, and often they have found it with increased brightness and glory. If you have lost it, my brother, look up in faith to your loving God, and He will restore it to you. It is possible to live on the right side of plain duty without the witness, but you cannot be sure of your salvation, joyful in service, or glad in God, without it; and since it is promised to all God’s children, no one who professes to be His should be without it.
If you have it not, my brother or sister, seek it now by faith in Jesus. Go to Him, and do not let Him go till He notifies you that you are His. Listen to Charles Wesley:
From the world of sin and noise And hurry, I withdraw; For the small and inward voice I wait with humble awe;
Silent am I now and still, Dare not in Thy presence move; To my waiting soul reveal The secret of Thy love.
Do you want the witness to abide? Then study the word of God and live by it; sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord; praise the Lord with your first waking breath in the morning, and thank Him with your last waking breath at night; flee from sin; keep on believing; look to Jesus, cleave to Him, follow Him gladly, trust the efficacy of His Blood, and the witness will abide in your heart. Be patient with the Lord. Let Him mould you, and ‘He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing’ (Zeph. iii. 17); and you shall no longer doubt, but know that you are His. Hallelujah!
There are in this loud stunning tide Of human care and crime, With whom the melodies abide Of th’ everlasting chime,
Who carry music in their heart Through dusky lane and wrangling mart, Plying their task with busier feet Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.
And that ‘ holy strain’ is but the echo of the Lord’s song in their heart, which is the witness of the Spirit.
‘ HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED?
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.
A MINISTER of the gospel, after listening to an eminent servant of God preaching on entire sanctification through the baptism with the Spirit, wrote to him, saying: ‘ I like your teaching on the baptism with the Holy Ghost. I need it and am seeking it; but I do not care much for entire sanctification or heart-cleansing. Pray for me that I may be filled with the Holy Ghost.’
The brother knew him well, and immediately replied: ‘I am so glad you believe in the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and are so earnestly seeking it. I join my prayer with yours that you may receive that gift. But let me say to you, that if you get the gift of the Holy Ghost, you will have to take entire sanctification with it, for the first thing the baptism with the Holy Ghost does is to cleanse the heart from all sin.’
Thank God, he humbled himself, permitted the Lord to sanctify him, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit and mightily empowered to work for God.
Many have looked at the promise of power when the Holy Ghost is come, the energy of Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost, and the marvellous results which followed; and they have hastily and erroneously jumped to the conclusion that the baptism with the Holy Ghost is for work and service only.
It does bring power-the power of God-and it does fit for service, probably the most important service to which any created beings are commissioned, the proclamation of salvation and the conditions of peace to a lost world; but not that alone, nor primarily. The primary, the basal work of the baptism, is that of cleansing.
You may turn a flood into your millrace, but until it sweeps away the logs and brushwood and dirt that obstruct the course, you cannot get power to turn the wheels of your mill. The flood first washes out the obstructions, and then you have power.
The great hindrance in the hearts of God’s children to the power of the Holy Ghost is inbred sin-that dark, defiant, evil something within that struggles for the mastery of the soul, and will not submit to be meek and lowly, patient, forbearing and holy, as was Jesus; and when the Holy Spirit comes, His first work is to sweep away that something, that carnal principle, and make free and clean all the channels of the soul.
Peter was filled with power on the day of Pentecost; but evidently the purifying effect of the baptism made a deeper and more lasting impression upon his mind than the empowering effect; for years after, in the Council in Jerusalem, recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Acts, he stood up and told about the spiritual baptism of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and his household, and said: ‘And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith’ (verses 8, 9). Here he calls attention not to power, but to purity, as the effect of the baptism. When the Holy Ghost comes in to abide the old man’ goes out. Praise the Lord!
This destruction of inbred sin is made perfectly plain in that wonderful Old Testament type of the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire recorded in the sixth chapter of Isaiah. The prophet was a most earnest preacher of righteousness (see Isa. i. I o-2o), yet he was not sanctified wholly. But he had a vision of the Lord upon His throne, and the seraphims crying one to another: ‘ Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the very posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried and how much more should the heart of the prophet be moved! And so it was; and he cried out: ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’
When unsanctified men have a vision of God, it is not their lack of power, but their lack of purity, their unlikeness to Christ, the Holy One, that troubles them. And so it was with the prophet. But he adds: ‘ Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged’ (verses 6, 7). Here again, it is purity rather than power to which our attention is directed.
Again, in the thirty-sixth chapter of Ezekiel, we have another type of this spiritual baptism. In Isaiah the type was that of fire, but here it is that of water; for water and oil, and the wind and rain and dew, are all used as types of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord says, through Ezekiel: ‘Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.’
Here again, the incoming of the Holy Spirit means the outgoing of all sin, of ‘ all your filthiness, and from all your idols’. How plainly it is taught! And yet, many of God’s dear children do not believe it is their privilege to be free from sin and pure in heart in this life. But, may we not? Let us consider this.
I. It is certainly desirable. Every sincere Christian and none can be a Christian who is not sincere-wants to be free from sin, to be pure in heart, to be like Christ. Sin is hateful to every true child of God. The Spirit within him cries out against the sin, the wrong temper, the pride, the lust, the selfishness, the evil that lurks within the heart. Surely, it is desirable to be free from sin. He wills that I should holy be; That holiness I long to feel, That full divine conformity To all my Saviour’s righteous will.
2. It is necessary, for without holiness’ no man shall see the Lord’. Sometime, somehow, somewhere, sin must go out of our hearts-all sin-or we cannot go into Heaven. Sin would spoil Heaven just as it spoils earth; just as it spoils the peace of hearts and homes, of families and neighbourhoods and nations here. Why God in His wisdom allows sin in the world, I do not know, I cannot understand. But this I understand: that He has one world into which He will not let sin enter. He has notified us in advance that no sin, nothing that defiles, can enter Heaven, can mar the blessedness of that holy place. ‘ Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully ‘ (Ps. xxiv.3, 4). We must get rid of sin to get into Heaven, to enjoy the full favour of God. It is necessary.
Choose I must, and soon must choose Holiness, or Heaven lose. lf what Heaven loves I hate, Shut for me is Heaven’s gate.
Endless sin means endless woe; Into endless sin I go If my soul, from reason rent, Takes from sin its final bent.
As the stream its channel grooves, And within that channel moves; So does habit’s deepest tide Groove its bed and there abide.
Light obeyed increaseth light; Light resisted bringeth night; Who shall give me will to choose If the love of light I lose?
Speed, my soul, this instant yield; Let the light its sceptre wield. While thy God prolongs His grace, Haste thee to His holy face.
3. This purification from sin is promised. Nothing can be plainer than the promise of God on this point. ‘ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.’ When all is removed, nothing remains. When all filthiness and all idols are taken away, none are left.
‘But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. V. 2 0, 2 1), Grace reigns, not through sin, but ‘ through righteousness ‘ which has expelled sin. Grace brings in righteousness and sin goes out.
‘ If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (I John i. 7). Hallelujah!
‘Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness ‘ (Rom. vi. 18).
These are sample promises and assurances any one of which is sufficient to encourage us to believe that our heavenly Father will save us from all sin, if we meet His conditions.
4. Deliverance is possible. It was for this that Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, came into the world, and suffered and died, that He might ‘ save His people from their sins ‘ (Matt. i. 2 1). It was for this that He shed His precious Blood to ‘ cleanse us from all sin’. It was for this that the word of God, with its wonderful promises, was given, ‘ that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust’ (2 Pet- i. 4); by which is meant escape from inbred sin. It was for this that ministers of the gospel-Salvation Army officers-are given, ‘ for the perfecting of the saints ‘ (Eph. iv.12), for the saving and sanctifying of men (Acts xxvi. 18). It is primarily for this that the Holy Ghost comes as a baptism of fire: that sin might be consumed out of us, so that we might be made meet for ‘ the inheritance of the saints in light’ (Col. 1. 12); that so we might be ready without a moment’s warning to go into the midst of the heavenly hosts in white garments, ‘washed in the Blood of the Lamb ‘. Glory be to God for ever and ever!
And shall all these mighty agents and this heavenly provision, and these gracious purposes of God, fail to destroy sin out of any obedient, believing heart? Is sin omnipotent? No!
If you, my brother, my sister, will look unto Jesus just now, trusting the merits of His Blood, and receive the Holy Spirit into your heart, you shall be ‘ made free from sin ‘; it ‘ shall not have dominion over you’. Hallelujah! Under the fiery touch of His holy presence, your iniquity shall be taken away, and your sin shall be purged. And you yourself shall burn as did the bush on the mount of God which Moses saw; yet you, like the bush, shall not be consumed; and by this holy fire, this flame of love, that consumes sin, you shall be made proof against that unquenchable fire that consumes sinners.
Come, Holy Ghost, Thy mighty aid bestowing! Destroy the works of sin, the self, the pride; Burn, burn in me, my idols overthrowing; Prepare my heart for Him, for my Lord crucified.
‘HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED? ‘
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.
Just before His ascension, Jesus met His disciples for the last time, and repeated His command that they should ‘ not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father’, and reiterated His promise that they should be ‘ baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence ‘.
Then’ they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? ‘ They were still eager for an earthly kingdom. But ‘ He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power’, or authority. And then He added, ‘But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you (Acts I – 4-8).
They wanted power, and He assured them that they should have it, but said nothing of its nature, or the work and activities into which it would thrust them, and for which it would equip them, beyond the fact that they should be witnesses unto Him ‘in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth’. After that the Holy Ghost Himself was henceforth to be their Teacher.
And then Jesus left them. Earth lost its power to hold Him, and while they beheld Him He began to ascend; a cloud bent low from Heaven, receiving Him out of sight, and they were left alone, with His promise of power ringing in their ears, and His command to ‘wait for the promise of the Father ‘ checking any impatience that might lead them to ‘ go a-fishing’, as Peter had done some days before, or cause an undue haste to begin their life-work of witnessing for Him before God’s appointed time.
For ten days they waited, not listlessly, but eagerly, as a maid for her mistress, or a servant for his master, who is expected to come at any moment; they forgot their personal ambitions; they ceased to judge and criticize one another, and in the sweet unity of brotherly love, ‘ with one accord ‘ they rejoiced, they prayed, they waited; and then on the day of Pentecost, at their early morning prayer meeting, when they were all present, the windows of Heaven were opened, and such a blessing as they could not contain was poured out upon them. ‘And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.’
This was the inaugural day of the Church of God (Acts ii. 2-4); the dawn of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit; the beginning of the days of power.
In the morning of that day there were only a few Christians in the world; the New Testament was not written, and it is doubtful if they had among them all a copy of the Old Testament; they had no church buildings, no colleges, no religious books and papers; they were poor and despised, unlearned and ignorant; but before night they had enrolled three thousand converts, and they had aroused and filled all Jerusalem with questionings and amazement.
What was the secret? Power. What was the secret? God the Holy Ghost. He had come, and this work was His work, and they were His instruments.
When Jesus came, a body was prepared for Him (Heb. x. 5), and through that body He wrought His wondrous works; but when the other Comforter comes, He takes possession of those bodies that are freely and fully presented to Him, and He touches their lips with grace; He shines peacefully and gloriously on their faces; He flashes beams of pity and compassion and heavenly affection from their eyes; He kindles a fire of love in their hearts, and lights the flame of truth in their minds. They become His temple, and their hearts are a holy of holies in which His blessed presence ever abides; and from that central citadel He works, enduing the man who has received Him with power.
If you ask how the Holy Spirit can dwell within us and work through us without destroying our personality, I cannot tell. How can electric impulses fill and transform a dead wire into a live one which you dare not touch? How can a magnetic current fill a piece of steel, and transform it into a mighty force which by its touch can raise tons of iron, as a child would lift a feather? How can fire dwell in a piece of iron until its very appearance is that of fire, and it becomes a firebrand? I cannot tell.
Now, what fire and electricity and magnetism do in iron and steel, the Holy Spirit does in the spirits of men who believe on Jesus, follow Him wholly and trust Him intelligently. He dwells in them and inspires them, till they are all alive with the very life of God.
The transformation wrought in men by the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and the power that fills them, are amazing beyond measure. The Holy Spirit gives:
I. Power over the world. They become Dead to the world and all its toys, Its idle pornp and fading joys.
The world masters and enslaves people who have not the Holy Spirit. To one man it offers money. He falls down and worships; he sells his conscience and character for gold. To another it offers power. He falls down and worships; he sacrifices his principles and Sears his conscience for power. To another it offers pleasure; to another learning; to another fame; they fall down and worship, and sell themselves for these things. But the man filled with the Holy Ghost is free. He can turn from these things without a pang, as he would from pebbles; or, he can take them and use them as his servants for the glory of God and the good of men.
What did Peter and James and John care for the great places in the kingdoms of this world after they were filled with the Holy Ghost.? They would not have exchanged places with Herod the king or with Caesar himself. For the gratification of any personal ambition these things were no more attractive to them now than the lordship over a tribe of ants on their tiny hill. They were now kings and priests unto God, and theirs was an everlasting Kingdom, and its glory exceeds the glory of the kingdoms of this world as the splendour of the sun exceeds that of the glow-worm.
The head of some great business enterprises was making many thousands of dollars every year; but when the Holy Spirit filled him money lost its power over him. He still retained his position, and made vast sums; but, as a steward of the Lord, he poured it into God’s work and has been doing so for more than thirty years.
After Pentecost the disciples in Jerusalem held all their possessions in common, so completely were they freed from the power and love of money.
A rising young lawyer got filled with the Spirit, and the next day said to his client: ‘ I cannot plead your case. I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus ‘; and he became one of the mightiest preachers the world has ever seen.
A popular lad got the fiery baptism, and went to his baseball team and said: ‘Boys, you swear, and I am now a Christian; I cannot play with you any more.’ God made him the wonder of all his old friends, and a happy winner of souls.
A fashionable woman got the baptism, and God gave her power to break away from her worldly set and surroundings, live wholly for Him, and gave her an influence that girdled the globe.
Paul said: ‘ The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world ‘ (Gal. vi. 14) – Men could whip and stone and imprison his body, and cut off his head, but his soul was free. It was enslaved and driven by no unholy or inordinate ambition, by no lust for gold, by no desire for power or fame, by no fear of man, by no shame of worldly censure or adverse public opinion. He had power over the world; and this same power is the birthright of every converted man, and the present possession of everyone who is wholly sanctified by the baptism with the Holy Ghost.
2. Power over the flesh. The body which God intended for a ‘ house beautiful’ for the soul, and a temple holy unto Himself, is often reduced to a sty, where the imprisoned soul wallows in lusts and passions, and degrades itself below the level of beasts. But this baptism gives a man power over his body.
God has given to man such desires and passions as are necessary to secure his continued existence. Not one is in itself evil, but good and only good; and when controlled and used, but not abused, will help to develop and maintain the purest and highest manhood. The appetites for food and drink are necessary to life. Another desire is intended to secure the continuance of the human race. And so all the desires and appetites of the body have useful ends, and were given to us in love by our heavenly Father for high and essential purposes, and are necessary to us as human beings.
But the soul, cut off from fellowship with God by sin, seeks satisfaction in sensual excesses and the unlawful gratification of these appetites, and so sinks to depths of degradation to which no beast ever falls. Thus man becomes a slave; swollen and raging passion takes the place of innocent appetites and desires.
Now, when the Holy Spirit enters the heart and sanctifies the soul, He does not destroy these desires, but purifies and regulates them. He reinforces the soul with the fear and love of God, and gives it power, complete power, over the fleshly appetites. He restores it to its full fellowship with God and its kingship over the body.
But while these appetites and desires are not in themselves sinful, but are necessary for our welfare and our complete manhood, and while their diseased and abnormal power is cured when we are sanctified, they are still avenues through which we may be tempted. Therefore, they must be guarded with care and ruled in wisdom. Many people stumble at and reject the doctrine of entire sanctification because they do not understand these things. They mistake that which is natural and essential to a human being, for the diseased and abnormal propensity caused by sin, and so miss the blessed truth of full salvation.
I knew a doctor, who had used tobacco for over sixty years, delivered from the abnormal appetite instantly through sanctification of the Spirit. I knew an old man, who had been a drunkard for over fifty years, similarly delivered. I knew a young man, the slave of a vicious habit of the flesh, who was set free at once by the fiery baptism. The electric current cannot transform the dead wire into a live one quicker than the Holy Spirit can flood a soul with light and love, destroy the carnal mind, and fill a man with power over all sin.
3. Power over the devil. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit destroys all doubt as to the personality of the devil. He is discerned, and his malice is felt and known as never before.
In the dark a man may be so skilfully attacked that his enemy is not discovered, but not in the day. Many people in these days deny that there is any devil, only evil; but they are in the dark, so much in the dark that they not only say that there is no devil, but that there is no personal God, only good. But the day comes with the Holy Spirit’s entrance, and then God is intimately known and the devil is discovered. And as he assailed Jesus after His baptism with the Spirit, so he does today all who receive the Holy Ghost. He comes as an angel of light to deceive, and as a roaring lion to devour and overcome with fear; but the soul filled with the Spirit outwits the devil and, clad in the whole armour of God, overcomes the old enemy.
Power ‘ over all the power of the enemy ‘ (Luke x. 19) is God’s purpose for all His children. Power to do the will of God patiently and effectively, with naturalness and ease, or to suffer the will of God with patience and good cheer, comes with this blessed baptism. It is power for service or sacrifice, according to God’s will. Have you this power? If not,it is for you. Yield yourself fully to Christ just now, and if you ask in faith you shall receive.
‘HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED? ‘
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.’
THOSE who have not the Holy Spirit, or who do not heed Him, fall easily and naturally into formalism, substituting lifeless ceremonies, sacraments, genuflections and ritualistic performances for the free, glad, living worship inspired by the indwelling Spirit. They sing, but not from the heart. They say their prayers, but they do not really pray. ‘ I prayed last night, mother,’ said a child. ‘Why, my child, you pray every night!’ replied the mother. ‘ No,’ said the child, ‘ I only said prayers, but last night I really prayed.’ And his face shone. He had opened his heart to the Holy Spirit, and had at last really talked with God and worshipped.
But those who receive the Holy Spirit may fall into fanaticism, unless they follow the command of John to try the spirits whether they are of God ‘ (I John iv. I).
We are commanded to ‘ despise not prophesyings but at the same time we are commanded to ‘ prove all things ‘ (I Thess. v. 2o, 21). ‘ Many false prophets are gone out into the world ‘ (I John iv. I) and, if possible, will lead us astray. So we must beware. As someone has written, we must ‘ believe not every spirit; regard not, trust not, follow not, every pretender to the Spirit of God, or every professor of vision, or inspiration or revelation from God’.
The higher and more intense the life, the more carefully must it be guarded, lest it be endangered and go astray. It is so in the natural world, and likewise in the spiritual world.
When Satan can no longer rock people to sleep with religious lullabies, or satisfy them with the lifeless form, then he comes as an angel of light, probably in the person of some professor or teacher of religion, and seeks to usurp the place of the Holy Spirit; but instead of leading ‘into all truth’, he leads the unwary soul into deadly error; instead of directing him on to the highway of holiness, and into the path of perfect peace, where no ravenous beast ever comes, he leads him into a wilderness where the soul, stripped of its beautiful garments of salvation, is robbed and wounded and left to die, if some good Samaritan, with patient pity and Christlike love, come not that way.
I. When the Holy Spirit comes in His fullness, He strips men of their self-righteousness and pride and conceit. They see themselves as the chief of sinners, and realize that only through the stripes of Jesus are they healed; and ever after, as they live in the Spirit, their boast is in Him and their glory is in the Cross. Remembering the hole of the pit from which they were digged, they are filled with tender pity for all who are out of the way; yet, while they do not excuse or belittle sin, they are slow to believe evil, and their judgments are full of charity.
Judge not; the workings of his brain And of his heart thou canst not see; What looks to thy dim eyes a stain, In God’s pure light may only be A sear, brought from some well-won field, Where thou wouldst only faint and yield.
But the man who has been thus snared by Satan forgets his own past miserable state, boasts of his righteousness and thanks God that he was never as other men; he begins to beat his fellow-servants with heavy denunciations, thrust them through with sharp criticisms, and pelt them with hard words. He ceases to pity and begins to condemn; he no longer warns and entreats men in tender love, but is quick to believe evil, and swift to pass judgment, not only upon their actions, but upon their motives as well.
True charity has no fellowship with deeds of darkness. It never calls evil good, it does not wink at iniquity, but it is as far removed from this sharp, condemning spirit as light is from darkness, as honey is from vinegar. It is quick to condemn sin, but is full of saving, longsuffering compassion for the sinner.
2. A humble, teachable mind marks those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. They esteem very highly in love those who are over them in the Lord, and are glad to be admonished by them. They submit themselves one to the other in the fear of the Lord, welcome instruction and correction, and esteem open rebuke better than secret love (Prov. xxvii. 5). They believe that the Lord has yet many things to say unto them, and they are willing and glad for Him to say them by whom He will, but especially by their leaders and their brethren. While they do not fawn and cringe before men, nor believe everything that is said to them, without proving it by the word and Spirit of God, they believe that God ‘gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ’ (Eph. iv. 11, 12); and, like Cornelius, they are ready to hear these appointed ministers, and receive the word of -the Lord from them.
But Satan seeks to destroy all this lowliness of spirit and humbleness of mind. One in whom his deadly work has begun is ‘wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason’ (Prov. xxvi. 16). He is wiser than all his teachers, and no man can instruct him. One of these deluded souls, who had previously been marked by modesty and humility, declared of certain of God’s chosen leaders whose spiritual knowledge and wisdom were everywhere recognized, that ‘ the whole of them knew no more about the Holy Ghost than an old goose’. Paul, Luther and Wesley were much troubled, and their work greatly hurt, by some of these misguided souls, and every great spiritual awakening is likely to be marred more or less by such people; so that we cannot be too much on our guard against false spirits who would counterfeit the work and leadings of the Holy Spirit.
It is this huge conceit that has led some men to announce themselves as apostles and prophets to whom all men must listen, or fall under the wrath of God; while others have declared that they were living in resurrection bodies and should not die; and yet others have reached that pitch of fanaticism where they could calmly proclaim themselves to be the Messiah, or the Holy Ghost in bodily form. Such people will be quick to deny the infallibility of the Pope, while they assume their own infallibility and denounce all who dispute it.
The Holy Spirit may lead to a holy rivalry in love and humility and brotherly kindness and self-denial and good works, but He never leads men into the swelling conceit of such exclusive knowledge and superior wisdom that they can no longer be taught by their fellowmen.
3. Again, the man who is filled with the Spirit tolerates those who differ from him in opinion, in doctrine. He is firm in his own convictions, and ready at all times with meekness and fear to explain and defend the doctrines which he holds and is convinced are according to God’s word, but he does not condemn and consign to damnation all those who differ from him. He is glad to believe that men are often better than their creed and may be saved in spite of it; that, like mountains whose bases are bathed with sunshine and clothed with fruitful fields and vineyards, while their tops are covered with dark clouds, so men’s hearts are often fruitful in the graces of charity, while their heads are yet darkened by doctrinal error.
Anyway, as ‘ the servant of the Lord’, he will ‘ not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil’ (2 Tim. ii. 24-26).
But when Satan comes as an angel of light he will, under guise of love for and loyalty to the truth, introduce the spirit of intolerance. It was this spirit that crucified Jesus; that burned Huss and Cranmer at the stake; that hanged Savonarola; that inspired the massacre of Bartholomew and the horrors of the Inquisition; and it is the same spirit, in a milder but possibly more subtle form, that blinds the eyes of many professing Christians to any good in those who differ from them in doctrine, forms of worship or methods of government. They murder love to protect what they often blindly call truth. What is truth without love? A dead thing, an encumbrance, the letter that killeth!
The body is necessary to our life in this world, but life can exist in a deformed and even mutilated body; and such a body with life in it is better than the most perfect body that is only a corpse. So, while truth is most precious, and sound doctrine to be esteemed more than silver and gold, love can exist where truth is not held in its most perfect and complete forms, and love is the one thing needful.
For the love of God is broader Than the measure of man’s mind; And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.
4. The Holy Ghost begets a spirit of unity among Christians. People who have been sitting behind their sectarian fences in self-complacent ease, or proud indifference, or proselytizing zeal, or grim defiance, are suddenly lifted above the fence, and find sweet fellowship with each other, when He comes into their hearts.
They delight in each other’s society; they each esteem others better than themselves, and in honour they prefer one another before themselves. They fulfil the Psalmist’s ideal: ‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! ‘ (cxxxiii. I). Here is a picture of the unity of Christians in the beginning in Jerusalem: ‘And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common’ (Acts iv. 31, 32). What an ideal is this! And since it has been attained once, it can be attained again and retained, but only by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. It was for this that Jesus poured out His heart in His great intercessory prayer, recorded in john xvii., just before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. He says, ‘ I pray for them. . . . Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; That they all may be one.’ And what was the standard of unity to which He would have us come? Listen!
‘As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.’ Such unity has a wondrous power to compel the belief of worldly men. ‘And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me’ (verses 9, 20-23). Wondrous unity! Wondrous love!
It is for this His blessed heart eternally yearns, and it is for this that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those who receive Him. But Satan ever seeks to destroy this holy love and divine unity. When he comes, he arouses suspicions, he stirs up strife, he quenches the spirit of intercessory prayer, he engenders backbitings and causes separations.
After enumerating various Christian graces, and urging the Colossians to put them on, Paul adds: ‘And above all these things put on charity (or love), which is the bond of perfectness’ (Col. iii. 14) – These graces were garments, and love was the girdle which bound and held them together; and so love is the bond that holds true Christians together.
Divine love is the great test by which we are to try ourselves and all teachers and spirits.
Love is not puffed up. Love is not bigoted. Love is not intolerant. Love is not schismatic. Love is loyal to Jesus and to all His people. If we have this love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, we shall discern the voice of our Good Shepherd, and we shall not be deceived by the voice of the stranger; and so we shall be saved from both formalism and fanaticism.
‘HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED? ‘
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.’
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to guide the people of God through the uncertainties and dangers and duties of this life to their home in Heaven. When He led the children of Israel out of Egypt, by the hand of Moses, He guided them through the waste, mountainous wilderness, in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, thus assuring their comfort and safety. And this was but a type of His perpetual spiritual guidance of His people.
‘But how may I certainly know what God wants of me? ‘ is sure to become the earnest and, oftentimes, the agonizing cry of every humble and devoutly zealous young Christian. ‘How may I know the guidance of the Holy Spirit? ‘ is asked again and again.
1. It is well for us to get it fixed in our minds that we need to be guided always by Him. A ship was wrecked on a rocky coast far out of the course that the captain thought he was taking. On examination, it was found that the compass had been slightly deflected by a bit of metal that had lodged in the box.
But the voyage of life on which we each one sail is beset by as many dangers as the ship at sea; and how shall we surely steer our course to our heavenly harbour without divine guidance? There is a wellnigh infinite number of influences to deflect us from the safe and certain course. We start out in the morning, and we know not what person we may meet, what paragraph we may read, what word may be spoken, what letter we may receive, what subtle temptation may assail or allure us, what immediate decisions we may have to make during the day, that may turn us almost imperceptibly, but none the less surely, from the right way. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
2. We not only need divine guidance, but we may have it. God’s word assures us of this. Oh! how my heart was comforted and assured one morning by these words: ‘And the Lord shall guide thee continually’ (Isa. Iviii. I I). Not occasionally, not spasmodically, but ‘ continually ‘. Hallelujah! The Psalmist says: ‘This God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death’ (xlviii. 14)- Jesus said of the Holy Spirit: ‘ Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth’ (John xvi. 13). And Paul wrote: ‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God’ (Rom. viii. 14)
These Scriptures establish the fact that the children of God may be guided always by the Spirit of God.
Guide me, 0 Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
3. How does God guide us?
(a) Paul says, ‘We walk by faith, not by sight’ (2 Cor. v. 7) and, ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Rom. i. 17). So we may conclude that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is such as still to demand the exercise of faith. God never leads us in such a way as to do away with the necessity of faith . When God warned Noah, we read that it was by faith that Noah was led to build the ark. When God told Abraham to go to a land which He would show him, it was by faith that Abraham went (Heb. xi, 7, 8). If we believe , we shall surely be guided; but if we do not believe, we shall be left to ourselves. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. xi. 6), or to follow where He leads.
(b) The Psalmist says, ‘The meek will He guide in judgment’
(xxv. 9). From this we gather that the Spirit guides us in such manner as to demand the exercise of our best judgment. He enlightens our understanding and directs our judgment by sound reason and sense.
I knew a man who was eager to obey God and to be led by the Spirit, but who had the mistaken idea that the Holy Spirit sets aside human judgment and common sense, and speaks directly upon the most minute and commonplace matters. He wanted the Holy Spirit to direct him just how much to eat at each meal; and he has been known to take food out of his mouth at what he supposed to be the Holy Spirit’s notification that he had eaten enough, and that if he swallowed that mouthful it would be in violation of the leadings of the Spirit.
No doubt the Spirit will help an honest man to arrive at a safe judgment even in matters of this kind, but it will doubtless be through the use of his sanctified common sense. Otherwise, he is reduced to a state of mental infancy and kept in intellectual swaddling clothes. He will guide us in judgment; but it is only as we resolutely, and in the best light we have, exercise judgment.
(c) John Wesley said that God usually guided him by presenting reasons to his mind for any given course of action.
The Psalmist says, ‘Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel’ (Ixxiii. 24) and ‘ I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go’ (xxxii. 8). Now, counsel, instruction and teaching not only imply effort upon the part of the teacher, but also study and close attention on the part of the one being taught. Thus this guidance of the Holy Spirit will require us to listen attentively, study diligently and learn patiently the lessons He would teach us; and we see that the Holy Spirit does not set aside our powers and faculties, but seeks to awaken and stir them into full activity, and develop them into well-rounded perfection, thus making them channels through which He can intelligently influence and direct us.
What he seeks to do is to illuminate our whole spiritual being, as the sun illuminates our physical being, and bring us into such union and sympathy, such oneness of thought, desire, affection and purpose with God, that we shall, by a kind of spiritual instinct, know at all times the mind of God concerning us, and never be in doubt about His will.
4. The Holy Spirit guides us:
(a) By opening up to our minds the deep, sanctifying truths of the Bible, and especially by revealing to us the character and spirit of Jesus and His apostles, and leading us to follow in their footsteps-the footsteps of their faith and love and unselfish devotion to God and man, even unto the laying down of their lives.
(b) By the circumstances and surroundings of our daily life.
(c) By the counsel of others, especially of devout and wise and experienced men and women of God.
(d) By deep inward conviction, which increases as we wait upon Him in prayer and readiness to obey. It is by this sovereign conviction that men are called to preach, to go to foreign fields as missionaries, to devote their time, talents, money and lives to God’s work for the bodies and souls of men.
5. Why do people seek for guidance and not find it?
(a) Because they do not diligently study God’s word and seek to be filled with its truths and principles. They neglect the cultivation of their minds and hearts in the school of Christ, and so miss divine guidance. One of the mightiest men of God now living used to carry his Bible with him into the coal mine when only a boy, and spent his spare time filling his mind and heart with its heavenly truths, and so prepared himself to be divinely led in mighty labours for God.
(b) They do not humbly accept the daily providences, the circumstances and conditions of their everyday life as a part of God’s present plan for them; as His school in which He would train them for greater things; as His vineyard in which He would have them diligently labour.
A young woman imagined she was called to devote herself entirely to saving souls; but under the searching training through which she had to pass saw her selfishness, and she said she would have to return home and live a holy life there, and seek to get her family saved something which she had utterly neglected-before she could go into the work. If we are not faithful at home, or in the shop, or mill, or store where we work, we shall miss God’s way for us.
(c) Because they are not teachable, and are unwilling to receive instruction from other Christians. They are not humble-minded.
(d) Because they do not wait on God and listen and heed the inner leadings of the Holy Spirit. They are self-willed; they want their own way. Someone has said, ‘That which is often asked of God is not so much His will and way, as His approval of our way.’ And another has said, ‘ God’s guidance is plain, when we are true.’ If we promptly and gladly obey we shall not miss the way. Paul said of himself, ‘I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision’ (Acts xxvi. 19). He obeyed God at all costs, and so the Holy Spirit could guide him.
(e) Because of fear and unbelief. It was this fearfulness of unbelief that caused the Israelites to turn back and not go into Canaan, when Caleb and Joshua assured them that God would help them to possess the land. They lost sight of God and feared the giants and walled cities, and so missed God’s way for them and perished in the wilderness.
(f) Because they do not take everything promptly and confidently to God in prayer.
Paul tells us to be ‘instant in prayer’ (Rom. xii, 12) and I am persuaded that it is slowness and delay to pray, and sloth and sleepiness in prayer, that rob God’s children of the glad assurance of His guidance in all things.
(g) Because of impatience and haste. Some of God’s plans for us unfold slowly; and we must patiently and calmly wait on Him in faith and faithfulness, assured that in due time He will make plain His way for us, if our faith fail not. It is never God’s will that we should get into a headlong hurry; but that, with patient steadfastness, we should learn to stand still when the pillar of cloud and fire does not move, and that with loving confidence and glad promptness we should strike our tents and march forward when He leads.
When we cannot see our way, Let us trust and still obey; He who bids us forward go, Cannot fail the way to show.
Though the sea be deep and wide, Though a passage seem denied, Fearless let us still proceed, Since the Lord vouchsafes to lead.
Finally, we may rest assured that the Holy Spirit never leads His people to do anything that is wrong, or that is contrary to the will of God as revealed in the Bible. He never leads anyone to be impolite and discourteous. ‘Be courteous’ (I Pet. iii. 8) is a divine command. He would have us respect the minor graces of gentle, kindly manners, as well as the great laws of holiness and righteousness.
He may sometimes lead us in ways that are hard for flesh and blood, and that bring to us sorrow and loss in this life. He led Jesus into the wilderness to be sore tried by the devil, and to Pilate’s judgment hall, and to the Cross. He led Paul in ways that meant imprisonment, stonings, whippings, hunger and cold, and bitter persecution and death. But He upheld Paul until he cried out, ‘Most gladly . . . will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake’ (2 Cor. xii. 9, 10). Hallelujah! Oh, to be thus led by our heavenly Guide!
He leadeth me! 0 blessed thought! 0 words with heavenly comfort fraught’ Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom, Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom, By waters still, o’er troubled sea, Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
Lord, I would clasp Thy hand in mine, Nor ever murmur or repine, Content, whatever lot I see, Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
And when my task on earth is done, When by Thy grace the victory’s won, E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee, Since God through Jordan leadeth me.
HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED ? ‘