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- When the Holy Ghost is Come - 2/29 -
"that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come."
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 we in English 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 all-wise, 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 (Matthew 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 harmonised 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 Cor. 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 do 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 harmonise 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 we do not know. That is not something to believe. It is a matter of pure speculation, and is unexplained.
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 My Spirit upon all flesh"; then he exhorted the people and assured them that if they would meet certain simple conditions they should "receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." He said to Ananias, "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?" He declared to the High Priest and Council that he and his fellow-Apostles were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus: and added, "And so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him." 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," he adds, "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
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