MIRACLES OF THE HOLY GHOST.
The question is often asked, What are "the greater works" which believers in Christ shall do? This marvellous promise is found in His consolatory address a few days before His death. The chief topic of encouragement, comfort and hope is the Paraclete whom the risen Lord will bestow. His works will be more wonderful than the physical miracles of Jesus Christ. This is declared in John xiv. 12-17. I quote Dr. Campbell's version, which is remarkable chiefly for its punctuation. It must be borne in mind that there is no punctuation in the original. "Verily, verily, I say unto you" - a formula "in which the Son of God speaks out of His coequality with the Father" (Stier) — "He who believeth on me, shall himself do such works as I do; nay, even greater than these shall he do; because I go to my Father, and will do whatsoever ye shall ask in my name. That the Father may be glorified in the Son, whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do." It is worthy of note that this doing greater works, this survival of the supernatural from age to age, is not the exclusive prerogative of the apostles, but it belongs to every one, however humble, who believes on Christ. Again, our greater works are done by the glorified Jesus on the throne above in response to our faith. In the same breath He declares that He will do the greater works which we shall do. This paradox He explains in His next utterance: "If ye love me, keep my commandments; and I will entreat the Father, and he will give you another Monitor to continue with you forever, even the Spirit of truth." This "Helper, Advocate; Greek, Paraclete" (Revised Version, margin) will be the divine agent sent down from heaven to do these greater miracles through believers in Christ. This brings us to "the miracles of the Holy Ghost" which in the Old Testament are physical, as when Ezekiel says, "The Spirit lifted me up and took me away." The same manifestation of supernatural power by the Holy Ghost was experienced by Philip: "The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more." But the promise under discussion does not relate to miracles in the realm of matter, but rather to those in the province of mind, in the re-creation of the human soul, called figuratively birth from above, or the new birth, the resurrection of a dead soul, the new creation. This spiritual miracle is greater than any physical miracle wrougnt by Christ before He burst asunder the gates of death by His Inherent power to take again the life which He had laid down, for the following reasons:
1. Physical miracles were temporal in their effects. Those raised from sickness died of disease in a few years. The multitudes fed by miracle hungered again in a few hours. The eyes into which Jesus by a word let in the light were soon darkened again by the shadows of the tomb. The tongue of the dumb loosened by the Son of man was soon silenced by the touch of death. But miracles wrought in the transfiguration of the soul are enduring unto eternal life. "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life within the grasp of his free agency. Jesus healed the body for time, the Spirit heals the soul for eternity. "A healed leper may appear to be a greater miracle than a renewed soul, but in reality, in comparison, he is hardly a miracle at all!" (Joseph Parker.)
2. The results of spiritual miracles are far more valuable. Mind is far superior to matter. Hence "to minister to a mind diseased and pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow" is an achievement in a higher realm and of immensely greater value. For this reason Christ Himself did not place a primary emphasis on physical wonders as His credentials, and they are scarcely so much as referred to in the apostolic writings. Peter, who had seen them all, mentions them only once, and then only to Christ's murderers in Jerusalem, who were incapable of appreciating any higher proof of His Messiahship: "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs." St Paul magnifies those spiritual marvels which God wrought by the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of souls. In his estimation "the shining in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" was a greater act than the Fiat lux which illumined the first day of creation (II Cor. iv. 6).
3. To transform a spirit from death to life, from sin to holiness, requires a higher power than any change wrought in matter. Spirit is a self-determining personality which may successfully withstand omnipotence, or rather, physical omnipotence is inapplicable to the production of spiritual effects. Sin cannot be crushed out of a soul with an almighty trip hammer. God can transform inert matter as He may will, but He is powerless to regenerate a stubborn human will; but in the presence of a consenting will He displays to the astonished universe "the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe." Hence the age of the most notable miracles is now in the very zenith of its glory. They are visible in every land where the gospel is preached in faith. Boston has just witnessed the transformation of a burglar and drunkard into a missionary on the Congo. Recovered from the slums and converted in the Kneeland Street Rescue Mission, he immediately wrote to the governor of Maryland, the scene of his crimes, offering at his request to appear in court, testify against himself, and be sentenced to the penitentiary. In the absence of such a request he volunteered to go to a deadly clime to preach Christ mighty to save.
When the proud Brahman has received the truth as it is in Jesus, and extended the right hand of Christian fellowship to the meanest member of the lowest caste whom he has met at the Lord's Supper, a greater miracle has been wrought than in the healing of the lame or the raising of the dead.
To put God's law "in the inward parts" of a tribe of thieves in India, as the Holy Spirit has done through Bishop J. M. Thoburn, transforming them into sons of God, "is more than to fill the firmament with stars." "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, . . . and it shall be unto Jehovah for an everlasting miracle that shall not be cut off." Spiritual miracles, in the regeneration of depraved and wicked men, are the standing proof of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Regeneration, crowned with the entire sanctification of a soul once dead in sin, loving what God hates and hating what God loves, is the supreme miracle of the Holy Ghost vividly portrayed by Paul: "Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate (catamites) nor abusers of themselves with mankind (sodomites), nor thieves (robbers, Conybeare and Howson), nor covetous (wantons, Conybears and Howson), nor drunkards, nor revilers, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. vi. 9, 10). What a rogues' gallery is this! as vile a gang of criminals as ever broke jail. What can the Holy Spirit do with these but to abandon them forever? But, hold! let us read further: "And such were some of you; but ye washed yourselves (Revised Version, margi), but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by THE SPIRIT of our God." The Paraclete has transformed them all into a company of saints bearing the image of Christ and candidates for promotion to thrones beside the archangels. Bad men have been transformed into good men standing in the same shoes.