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- When the Holy Ghost is Come - 3/29 -
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 he believes."
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 9th, 1885) this text suddenly opened to my understanding: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"; 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 these words of Jesus to Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and he that liveth and believeth on Me shall never die," 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 me, 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! O Fount of life! O 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.
"Oh, 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?"
PREPARING HIS HOUSE.
"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." And Paul wrote to the Romans that, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."
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."
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, and calms our fears, and soothes our troubled hearts, and 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, and are saved by grace, it is He who assures us of the Father's favour, and notifies us that we are saved. "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." He is "the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
"And His that gentle voice we hear, Soft as the breath of even; That checks each thought, 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."
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, Oh, 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; realises 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
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