The office of the Holy Spirit is not independent, but ministerial. He ministers Christ to men. He makes His words living and real to believers. He is not the revealer of new doctrines, but the inspirer, inciting men to record Christ's words and deeds, and so guiding their minds and refreshing their memories as to secure a truthful narrative.
Bishop Webb calls attention to an inevitable sequence of the recent dogma of "infallibility." By declaring that the Holy Spirit, through one earthly voice, from time to time, makes fresh revelations of doctrines to be added to the creed, the Roman Catholic Church has placed the Holy Spirit in an office which is not His, the office of a revealer of new truth, instead of His taking the things of Christ already revealed and applying them to believers. We are aware of the reply, that the Pope does not reveal, he only, under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, gives a new Interpretation to the Holy Scriptures: that he is supernaturally endowed with insight to discover in Gabriel's salutation to Mary, "Hail, highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women," the doctrine of her immaculate conception," a doctrine never named till after a thousand years, and then universally rejected.
The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is that the three Persons are by nature equal in power and glory. Theologians call this the essential Trinity, which may be represented by three stars on the same level.
But the Scriptures speak of the Persons as performing different offices in creation and redemption. In creation the Father is the principal, and the Son and the Spirit are agents. The First Person creates through the Second and the Third as agents coequal to each other, but in function subordinate to the First Person. This is called the economic Trinity, which may be represented by two stars on a level, with one star above them.
In the work of redemption there is a different relation of these Persons. The First is said to send the Second, and both of them to send the Third. This may be represented by placing the stars thus.
This is called the redemptional Trinity. The Father sends the Son, and the Son sends the Spirit. This functional Trinity the Greek Church denies, but admits the essential Trinity and the economic Trinity. It denies the filioque, i. e., that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE SPIRIT.
The Holy Spirit is a divine Person distinct from the Father and the Son. It is hazardous to attempt the definition of the term "Person" as applied to the Trinity. All the mystery in the doctrine of the Triune God is wrapped up in the definition of "Person." It is a Latin word for the Greek Hypostasis, the English subsistence. Yet Dr. Barrow defines it as "a singular, subsistent, intellectual being," and Bethius as "an individual substance of a rational nature." While both definitions may be true, they lean strongly toward tritheism, the doctrine of three Gods. It is sufficient for our purpose to say that it is a self-conscious agent in the Trinity that says I and me (Acts xiii. 2). The proofs of the personality of the Holy Spirit are found (1) in the personal pronoun he, John xiv. 16, 17, 26, xvi. 7-14; (2) Personal faculties and offices are ascribed to Him, such as searching, knowing, teaching, guiding, speaking and grieving; (3) He is the object of faith, obedience and worship, being co-ordinate with undisputed Persons in the baptismal formula which is the final revelation of God. Matt. xxviii. 19; (4) He is the subject of benediction; (5) There Is a sin against Him which is irremissible.
THE DIVINITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
1. He bears divine names and titles: God, Acts v. 3, 4; Lord, II Cor. iii. 17, 18 (Revision).
2. Divine attributes are ascribed to Him. He is omnipresent, Ps. cxxxix. 7, I Cor. iii. 16; omniscient, ii. 10; omnipotent, xii. 4-11. Wisdom, Eph. i. 17; goodness, Ps. cxliii. 10. "Let Thy good Spirit lead me," etc. Hengstenberg.) Infallibility, compare Mark xiii. 31 with Acts 1. 2.
3. Divine works are attributed to Him, as creation, Ps. civ. 30; xxxiii. 6, 'the breath of his mouth" is His Spirit; Job xxvi. 13. Inspiration, II Peter i. 21, Mark xii. 36, Acts i. 16, iii. 18, xxviii. 25, Heb. iii. 17. The resurrection of Christ, Rom. viii. II, I Peter iii. 18. compare Acts xvii. 31.
4. He abides in the spirit of the believer. It is a prerogative of God alone to dwelt in His creatures. To no other beings or persons is it ascribed in the Bible.
5. A very strong proof of a negative kind is found in the fact that He is never mentioned among creatures. When created spirits are enumerated, such as angels, archangels, thrones, principalities, powers, cherubim, seraphim, the climax never ends with the Holy Spirit, as we should expect if He is both a person and a creature.
"What do we understand by the personality of the Spirit? Let us here first ask, What do we understand by human personality? It is something more than individuality. We can apply the term individual to any member of any species of the lower animals, but we cannot apply it to the term person. What is it that raises human individuality into personality, while individuality is the highest that we can predicate of the lower animals? Obviously, that while in the latter the individual is entirely subordinate to the species, among men the individual may rise above the species. He has intellect to understand, and the will to control and guide his instincts, while the animal is entirely subject to them. The stronger and more pronounced these qualities are, the greater, we say, the personality is. Personality is thus the highest form of life with which we are acquainted, and if we apply the term to the divine life it is simply because we have no higher term by which to define it. It enables us to understand what it is as little as animal individuality enables us to understand what human personality is; but as we may define personality as human individuality, so the distinction of persons in the Godhead may be expressed as divine personality. That, no doubt, transcends human personality infinitely more than human personality transcends the individuality of the brute creation. But it is the only term we have to apply to it, and it enables us in some measure to understand the relation in which we stand to them." (Dr. John Robson's "Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.")
Lotze, the German philosopher, insists that the Infinite is the only perfect personality. Small, sceptical philosophers are so shallow as to assert that personality is impossible to the Infinite. Rev. J. H. Evans, an acceptable minister of the Church of England, became Sabelllan, i. e., came to deny the distinction of Persons in the Trinity so emphatically as to publish his denial in a book. The fascination of his new opinions so blinded his mind that he did not for a time perceive its practical effect. As he did not deny the work of the Spirit upon the heart. As he did not deny the work of the Spirit upon the heart, he did not for a time suspect that the Holy Spirit was dishonored. But his own soul suffered and there was a very manifest withering in his ministry. Inquiring for the cause, and finding that he had denied the real glory of the Holy Ghost in the economy of redemption and had reduced the Son of God to an unsubstantial shadow, he collected all the copies of his book which he could secure and consigned them to the flames with every mark of contrition. After his return to sound Trinitarian views, scarcely ever was there in London a more blessed ministry than his." (Prof. Smeaton's "Doctrine of the Holy Spirit." page 350.) Arianism, which teaches that both the Son and the Spirit are creatures, destroys the foundation for eminent spirituality, which is produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit, the gift of the ascended Christ. To make Him a creature is to question His ability to impart so great a gift. To regard the Spirit as a creature is to question His ability to impart so great a gift. To regard the Spirit as a creature is to cheapen the gift itself and thus to weaken the motive for seeking His presence and work in the heart of the believer. Neither Sabellanism nor Arianism, modern Unitarianism, is productive of deep spirituality. This statement is confirmed by the history of the Church.
Has not the denial of the filioque (and from the Son), which withdrew the Greek Church from the ground occupied in Athanasius's time by the whole Church in the East and West, operated to the deep injury of vital religion in the East? Has it not tended to subvert, to the general sentiment of the Greek mind, the deep ground on which the Lord Jesus, as mediator, acts as the dispenser of the Spirit and as baptizer with the Holy Ghost and with fire? Has it not operated in an unsalutary way, in raising a barrier between the living Head of the Church and His people, considered as the habitation of God in the Spirit, and on the whole spiritual life of the Greek Church? Our conviction is that it has done so. So calamitous, indeed, have been the practical results of denying the essential relation of the Spirit as the Spirit of the Son, that we cannot fail to perceive them. The Spirit, economically considered, is largely dispensed from the Son. And the Greek Church has become much of a fossil, untouched by any of the reformations or revivals that renovated the Western church. (Professor Smeaton.)
If the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you at all, He is there as a Person in all His majesty and glory and strength; in all the infinite resources of His deity. As to His gifts, — His grace, — there may be given to you, "by measure," more or less (Eph. iv. 7, I Peter iv. 10); but the Holy Spirit Himself, inasmuch as He is a Person, is not with you at all unless He is in you in all the fulness of His divine personality, in all the majesty of His Godhead." (Bishop Webb.)
In answer to the objection that we should expect to be conscious of this majestic presence, Bishop Webb replies: "It is partly because in mercy He withholds the signs of His presence. You know how dull we are, — how rude to Almighty God; therefore, in very mercy, He does not come before us face to face, lest we should look into His face and turn our backs upon Him. He deals with us with a holy reserve, lest we should lose our souls; for a terrible condition follows when the glory of God is revealed and then rejected." 'Now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.' "The ways of the Holy Spirit are like the ways of Christ, ways of gentleness (Ps. cxliii. 10. Rom. viii. 14, Gal. v. 18. Eph. iv. 30)."
Says Dr. J. M. Buckley, editor of the Christian Advocate:
Even from the evangelical churches the sense of sin in large measure departs. Modern penitential grief is often hardly worthy of a higher description than pensiveness, and the joys of the new creation are as feeble as the grief over sinfulness is diluted. The penalty of sin inflicted by the righteous indignation of a personal God gives place to vague or limited notions of the natural consequences of sin. Without once being stirred or hearing anything to make them wretched on account of their sins, to-day it is possible for the worldly minded, and even the vicious, regularly to attend service in many churches that were founded on the doctrine of the Holy Ghost.
The condition of the Church of England immediately prior to the rise of Wesley, and the state of many of the German churches show how any form of error in doctrine or life may coexist with liturgical uniformity and artistic, musical, elocutionary and scholastic excellence.
Every age has its peculiar battle. That of the next century is to be more subtle than any which has proceeded it. As the nations are fighting more and more by diplomacy, and less and less on blood-stained fields, so the conflict between the kingdom of grace and that of darkness will be less violent, but more perplexing and dangerous.
Strides in this direction have been made within fifteen years so rapid that there are already hundreds, and will soon be thousands, of churches America as absolutely devoid of the Spirit of God in the New Testament sense as they would have been if they had been originally intended as literary and social clubs. They will be compatible with an increase in numbers, and statistics will be rolled up and published, as they are now, which no more indicate moral forces than would the roster of an army that should include invalids and babes.
The churches are pursuing a course which shows how little confidence we have in the power of God. Our methods of securing accessions proceed increasingly upon the kindergarten principle, which, however useful for infants, promotes rather childishness than a childlike spirit in adults. We are willing to turn over the reformation of drunkards to quacks with secret remedies. We make few direct efforts to save hardened sinners, and send forth few laymen or ministers competent to grapple unbelievers and overcome them, not by argument in the plane of polemics, but by the irresistible force of personal testimony to the power of the Holy Ghost.
'The conclusive proof, which can leave no one familiar with the history of early Christianity, of early Prebyterianism, early Quakerism, or early Methodism in doubt as to the force and danger of these tendencies, is the disuse of church discipline and the prevalence of theories that it is superfluous and beyond the just powers of the Church, except in cases of public scandal. To this may be added the feverish anxiety of many clergymen to maintain the appearance of influence and popularity by hastening to discuss whatever may attract a passing crowd.
The need is for great men to turn back the tide of evil and swell the tide of good, but that every one, small or great, who knows his sins forgiven, and is absolutely certain that he is under the power of an endless life, should cry aloud and spare not, so testifying that men will ask a reason of the hope that is within him, and find him ready with meekness and fear to give an answer.
Says Archdeacon Hare:
When the Spirit of God came to convince the world of sin, what was the sin He began with? If any of us had to convince a person of the sinfulness of the world, how should we set about it? We should talk of intemperance, and licentiousness, and dishonesty, and fraud, and falsehood, and envy, and ill-nature, and cruelty, and avarice and ambition, whereby man has turned God's earth into a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. These however, are not the sins of which the Spirit of God convinces the world; because all these might be swept away, and yet, unless far more was done, the world would continue just as sinful as before. All these sins, this terrible brood of sin, were indeed to be found in every quarter of the earth, so far as it was then peopled, in our Lord's days, no less plentifully than now. They had swollen themselves out, and rose up on every side in the face of heaven, like huge mountains; they flowed from country to country, from clime to clime, like rivers; they spread themselves abroad like lakes and seas, lakes of brimstone and Dead Seas, within the exhalations of which no soul could come and live, Whithersoever the eye turned, it saw one sin riding on the back, or starting from the womb, of another. This was the Babel which all nations were busied in building, — and confusion of tongues did not hinder them, — a Babel underground. They went on digging deeper and deeper, until its nethermost story well-nigh reached to hell, and was only separated from it by a thin, crumbling crust. Nevertheless the Spirit of God, when He came to convince the world of sin, and to bring that conviction home to the hearts of mankind, did not choose out any of these open, glaring sins to taunt and confound them with. He went straight to that sin which is the root and source of all others, want of faith, the evil heart of unbelief. 'When the Comforter is come, he will convince the world of sin, because they believe not in me.'
Now this is a sin, which the world till then had never dreamed of as such: and even at this day few take much thought about it, except those who have been convinced of it by the Spirit, and who therefore have been in great measure delivered from it. For those who have spent their whole lives in thick spiritual blindness, and whose eyes are still dark, cannot know what the blessing of sight is, and therefore cannot grieve at their want. They alone who have emerged into the light can appreciate the misery of the gloom under which they have been lying. Thus, until we have begun to believe we cannot know what unbelief is, its misery, its sin its curse. Want of faith is a sin of which no law accuses us. . . Laws, inasmuch as by their nature they deal only with that which manifests itself outwardly, in deed or in word, take no cognizance of the sin of unbelief. Conscience, which only sounds when some positive sin is trampling upon it, is silent about this. Hence our need that the Spirit of God should graciously vouchsafe to convince us." ("The Mission of the Comforter.")
Being led by the Spirit is a sequence of regeneration, and is therefore an evidence that this momentous change has been wrought. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." This does not imply that every thought is suggested by the good Spirit, for we are still within bowshot of the devil, who may inject thoughts into our minds, and it is our business to acquire keenness of spiritual perception sufficient "to discriminate between good and evil" (Heb. v. 14). The leading of the Spirit implies the weakness of a child needing a strong support, and an ignorance of the way of life through a thousand snares and pitfalls requiring guidance. We are to surrender our wills, affections and inclinations so completely is to desire to do nothing for merely selfish ends, but only for the glory of God, so far as we can, under the illumination from above, confirmed by its accordance with the written word of God, which is ever to be a light to our feet. When a Christian finds himself following the Spirit to the neglect of the Holy Scriptures, he is in danger of getting into the devil's snare of fanaticism. The bones of many an unwary pilgrim are scattered about that fatal pitfall.
BISHOP FOSS ON ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION.
In an address delivered to a class of young ministers about to be admitted to the conference. Bishop Foss said,
I take it that every Christian minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church recognizes that it is needful we retain and, as Methodist ministers and preachers of the Gospel, preach the truths of the New Testament as taught by our church, and that silence for six months together on what the church believes and teaches on the subject of perfect love is just paving the way for irresponsible teachers to come forward and take the work out of our hands. If we are Christians after the New Testament type, let us preach these doctrines which, as a church, we believe are contained therein; and I think that upon the doctrines of perfect love and the cleansing from all sin by the blood of Jesus, it will be done in much the same way as John Wesley and Richard Watson preached them. Don't let people listen to you for six months and then have to ask what you mean upon these questions. Having taken your ordination vows, preach perfect love as the Bible puts it, and it won't hurt much if put exactly as John Wesley teaches it.
Lead the people up always to a higher life. If you do this you will take the wind out of the sails of those who teach it in other ways. God bless them in so far as their work is right; but let our hearts be warmed and our minds fired upon this question, and we shall lead the people to the heights and depths, and to know the love of God, which passeth knowledge.
WHAT METHODISM MIGHT HAVE DONE.
Under the above caption that excellent journal, the Michigan Advocate publishes a very significant article as follows:
Though not a Methodist himself, the late Dr. Dale of England was a great student of Methodism, and a great admirer of many of our doctrines and usages. In 1879 he preached a sermon before the Wesleyan conference at Birmingham, which produced a profound impression. Among other memorable utterances he declared that 'if Methodism had carried out its doctrine of entire sanctification in public as well as in private life, it would have effected the most profound and beneficent ethical revolution modern history has known.' It seems to us that this statement is irrefutable. The world has need of a great church that dares to hold up boldly the very highest standard of righteousness, and to proclaim the glorious possibilities of divine grace in renovating society and purging the hearts of all men from the power and guilt of sin. In some degree Methodism has done this, but not in the highest degree. Since the death of Wesley in England, and of Asbury in America, our official deliverances upon this subject have been comparatively few and far between, and to some extent in an apologetic tone. Of late years neither our board of bishops nor our general conference has uttered a full, clear and ringing note upon this central idea of Christianity. The whole glorious subject has been left too largely to the tender mercies of a few specialists, who have distorted it and misled many an earnest soul. It is a theme which should shine out from the church itself, from its official deliverances, from its conference sessions, from its regular pulpits, from its camp meetings and conventions, and should be held in correct relation to other doctrines, explained, commended, enforced, illustrated and practically exemplified by bishops, presiding elders, pastors, local preachers, official members, leagues, Sunday schools, missionary societies, in a word, by the complete and undivided church. Had this been done through all our past, and were it done to-day, the 'profound and beneficent ethical revolution' would be tremendously under way, and society the world over would be reaping the gracious benefits of a higher spiritual ideal and a loftier moral standard. It was as a worthy object of endeavor, a sweet and attractive ideal, that Mr. Wesley himself most loved to present this doctrine. After giving the scriptural account of a perfect Christian, he was fond of saying: 'By these marks the Methodists desire to be distinguished from other men; by these we labor to distinguish ourselves.' He held up the ideal and urged his followers to do their best in striving to attain to it. To this method there can be no reasonable objection in any unprejudiced mind.
"Why is it," says Beck, "people lay stress, almost exclusively, with a view to faith in Jesus, on this, that He bears the sin of the world, and neglect so much the other point, that He is able to baptize with the Holy Ghost? The apostles, on the contrary, lay stress on this gift of the Spirit as the source of a new life, a new disposition and walk, in which both the impression and the expression of God's law are to be seen. The apostles and the prophets also treat the matter in its ethical aspect, whereas the traditional treatment represents the gift of the Spirit chiefly as a seal of forgiveness and adoption, and holds that from the joy of gratitude for this — that is from a mere psychological factor — the new life and strength are to spring. This view we find in our best authors. The Scriptures, on the contrary, lay stress on the new-creating and satisfying power of the Holy Ghost as the principal of all Christian disposition and personal activity (Rom. viii. 2). Christ's sin-bearing only prepares the way for the coming of the Spirit (John vii. 39, Gal. iii. 13. 14); it is the foundation, but not the whole." The answer to this question of Beck why sin-bearing is exalted above Spirit-baptizing is: because (1) Most of the preachers are experimentally ignorant of the baptism or the Spirit: (2) They treat the pardon of sin as the principal benefit of Christianity; (3) Much of the prevalent preaching is either on the evidences, ethics or elements of the gospel, and little on its deeper experiences and higher life. It is therefore natural that the pulpit should be more largely stored with bottled milk than with "solid food," and that there should be many sermons on justification and few on sanctification.
SANCTIFICATION BY THE SPIRIT NOT IN THE INTERMEDIATE STATE.
Bishop Webb, who strongly advocates the advanced doctrine of sacramentalism, teaches that regenerate souls who have failed of sanctification by the Spirit before death will be entirely purified in Paradise. "Dear brethren, for progress in holiness it is not necessary to assume a time of pain and agony. Souls may and will expand in the Paradise of God, in happiness and brightness, in light and refreshment. Progress in knowledge would imply progress in holiness. There is no necessity to assert the dogma of purgatory."
When discussing the agency which will produce this holiness, our good bishop, whose theme is the Holy Spirit, finds no proof text for an after-death purification by the "sanctification of the Spirit," but he intimates that "progress in knowledge and holiness may possibly be learned from those who have gone before, or from the angels, or perhaps from some more direct action of Christ, and from the Holy Spirit. Some kind of sacramental action upon the soul that has been cleansed will still proceed in the near presence of Jesus Christ, 'for to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."
On a subject of so great importance it is better to imitate God's perfect silence in the Holy Scriptures than to mislead any soul by our "perhaps' and "possibly."
The life of faith — progressive, increasing faith — is a motion in a straight line and not in a closed curve; it is not like an Irish penance around a sacred well, where one makes progress with the final result of being where you started, and perhaps ready for another revolution, as indeed, it must appear to some Christians whose circle is a week and whose starting point a Sunday. Neither is it like the pilgrimage up Pilate's staircase at Rome, in which the pain of going up on one's knees is only varied by the discomfort of coming down again and fining ourselves just about where we were before, as it must appear to some good people who live the up-and-down life. It is an upward and onward life; on our knees, if you will, but upward and onward, and like the stairs in Ezekiel's vision, still upward. And the Scriptures encourage us forward, bidding us leave the word of the beginning of Christ and go (not crawl) on unto perfection. (J. Rendel Harris.)
TWO EMINENT WITNESSES TO ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION.
Dr. Wilbur Fisk, the charming, inspiring and subduing preacher, the founder of institutional education in American Methodism, a man combining the distinctive charms that endear to us the beautiful characters of Fenelon and Channing, Jonathan Edwards and John Fletcher, lived more than a score of years in the faith and exemplification of the sublime doctrine of Christian perfection as taught by Jesus Christ, St. Pail and St. John. He prized that great tenet as one of the most important distinctions of Christianity. With John Wesley he deemed this fundamental truth — promulgated as a distinctive blessing almost solely by Methodism in those days to be one of the most solemn responsibilities of his church, the most potent experimental proof of the divine origin of the gospel. When he received the baptism of this great grace, his purified heart could not sufficiently utter its thankfulness that he had been providentially kept within the church which clearly taught this pre-eminent doctrine, and that he had not yielded to the temptation to unite with other communions which offered larger salaries and higher social standing.
His experience, which left its radiant on his daily life, was signalized by an overwhelming effusion of the Holy Spirit, depriving him of physical strength for several hours. It occurred at a camp meeting at Wellfleet, on August 10. 1819. As he was passing one of the Boston tents a lady invited him to stay in that tent. She then told him that on the way down an assurance had been given tier that Mr. Fisk would receive the blessing of a holy heart at that meeting. "Her words thrilled through me in an indescribable manner. I wept, I trembled, I fell. But, Satan drew a veil of unbelief over my mind. They prayed for me, but all was dark, my heart was harder than ever. Thursday morning we had a familiar conversation concerning heart holiness . . . . I preached that day with considerable liberty; felt my mind more and more given up to the work, but thought if I had been through such struggles, and had obtained what I was seeking, much more remained to be endured. And I felt willing to endure anything.
"About the setting of the sun, word came that souls were begging for prayers in Brother Taylor's tent (the celebrated 'Father Taylor' of the Seaman's Bethel). I went immediately in, and behold, God was there. We united in prayer, when one after the other to the number of four or five were converted. We rose to sing. I looked up to God, and thanked Him for answering prayer, and cried, 'Lord, why not hear prayer for my soul?' My strength began to fail while I looked in faith. Come, Lord, come now. Thou wilt come. Heaven opens, my Saviour smiles, — glory! glory! O glory to God! Help me, my brethren, to praise the Lord.' The scene that was now opened to my view I can never describe. I could say. 'Lord. Thou knowest that I love Thee! I love Thee above everything.... Bless the Lord. O my soul, and all that is within me praise His holy name.' " When he knelt to offer this prayer he was in the very act of guarding against strange fires such as produced bodily exercises of which he had grave doubts. Then it was that he was smitten to the earth by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost filling all his being When he had so far recovered his physical strength as to he taken to his own tent, there was held another season of holy communion. Being unable to stand, he was supported by ministerial brethren. His language and whole appearance had something in them more than human. Indicating that his soul then glowed with ardors of love allied to those of angels.
From this period Dr. Fisk dated his experience or perfect love. Before that he had passed through seasons when he doubted the fact of his acceptance with God, his personal interest in Christ, and even the truth of Christianity itself. When in later years a young minister consulted him concerning just such doubts. Dr. Fisk told him he had been delivered from such things forever at the Wellfleet meeting. They could no more dwell in the presence of the full development of the life of perfect purity, perfect faith, perfect love, perfect humility and perfect assurance than darkness can dwell in the presence of noonday.
In his subsequent description of his experience In a letter to his sister, he says: "In the work of sanctification upon the heart there appears to be two distinct stages: one is to empty the soul of sin and everything offensive; and the other is to fill it with love. 1. The strong man armed is bound and cast out. 2. The stronger takes possession. God was pleased, however, in my case, to empty and fill in the same moment." ("Life of Wilbur Fisk," by Dr. George Prentice, pages 44-54.)
Stephen Olin stands forth with commanding prominence in the history of the American pulpit. It is thought by many that he was intrinsically the greatest man, taken "all in all" that American Methodism has produced, "The most astonishing thing about him was his humility." He was the best example we have personally known — the writer was with him for six years — of that childlike simplicity which Christ taught as the essential condition for entering the kingdom of heaven, and Bacon declared to be equally necessary to those who would enter into the kingdom of knowledge. Like Dr. Wilbur Fisk, he was a personal example of St. Paul's doctrine of "Christian perfection," as expounded by Wesley. At first he entertained doubts respecting it; but as he advanced in life, and especially under the chastening influence of affliction, it became developed in his own experience. To the writer he said: "My wife I had recently buried in Italy, my children were dead, my health undermined. My entire earthly prospect was gloomy indeed. God only remained. I lost myself, as it were, in Him;, I was hid in Him with Christ, Then I found, while wandering on the banks of the Nile in quest of health, without any process of logic, but by an experimental demonstration, 'the perfect love that casteth out fear." The marvelous grace that glorified his greatness with unsurpassed humility in great measure was the effect of this experience on a certain day in Egypt, and the result of the constancy of his faith in this crowning gift of God to believers in this world when they most need it. From the hour of that memorable spiritual transfiguration in the land of the pyramids, the doctrine of full redemption through the sanctifying office of the Holy Spirit was very precious to him, and he looked with painful feelings upon anything designed to bring it into disrepute, or lower the standard of piety which it implies. This colossal mind had no difficulty with the question whether consciousness of inner purity is a sufficient proof of entire sanctification. Three years after passing this milestone in his spiritual life, he made this record while too feeble to listen to a sermon: "I never before experienced such rest in Christ — such calm, unshaken faith, such ready, unreserved consent of the heart to the divine will, such an utter surrender of my own will to God's. I cannot find, after much prayerful examination that I have any disposition to do or to love anything that is not will pleasing in His sight. I write this with great self-distrust, but as the result of self-examination. Such a state of affections in a Christian so little advanced, and so specially undeserving as I feel myself to be, appears incredible to me, and I am constantly looking for the development of a still unsanctified nature." This implies that such a development had not occurred. A similar testimony was given by President Mahan forty years after his personal experience that "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin," although he was naturally of a temper so quick and violent that his father predicted that in his ungovernable anger he would kill someone and expiate his crime on the scaffold.
The moment you submit to God's will and in your heart intelligently believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept Him as your Saviour, that moment God who, justifieth at the instance of your Mediator will say, 'Your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake;' and God the Holy Ghost will fulfil in your heart the righteousness of the law, certify by the stamp of His royal seal upon your heart that the death penalty of the law against you is cancelled, your sins forgiven, and the love of God, the essential principle of obedience, shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Ghost thus given unto you, and all attested by the Spirit's direct witness, corroborated by the testimony of your own spirit, based on the conscious work and fruit of God's Holy Spirit in your experience (John iii. 24, Eph. 1. 13). (Bishop William Taylor.)
Says Rev. Joseph Parker of London:
Is it not a great honor to be decorated with God's own seal, entitling us to be recognized everywhere in the universe as His adopted sons? What are the decorations which princes bestow as tokens of merit, compared with this sign of divine approval? The great humorist, Sydney Smith, tells with what pride a little visitor of his allowed a large red wafer to be stuck in the middle of his forehead every night, signifying that he had behaved well during the day. Once only did the little fellow forfeit the wafer, and then went sobbing and broken-hearted to bed. With less reason have men striven for many a badge of distinction. We all know what deeds have been done for the sake of the French Cross of the Legion of Honor. It is related that a medical student, who had risked his life in a case of contagious disease, smiled sadly when that famous decoration was laid upon his bed, saying. 'It has cost me my life!' If such value be put upon earthly honors, what is that worth which God alone can confer? No earthly coronet or crown approaches the glory of the seal of the Holy Spirit, the sign of adoption into the divine family.Is not the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church less distinct to-day than in the apostolic age? Certainly there is not much appearance of Pentecostal inspiration and enthusiasm in contemporary Christianity. Christianity is nothing if not spiritual. Why has not a Church eighteen hundred years old a fuller realization of the witness of the Holy Ghost than had the Church of the first century? Has the Church accomplished all the purpose of God and passed forever the zenith of her light and beauty? ("The Paraklete," pages 373-375)
The present enjoyment of the Spirit is but an earnest, a gift beforehand, a pledge of the coming fullness. St. Paul speaks (Rom. viii. 23) of those which have the first fruits of the Spirit, and in his other epistles he uses equivalent expressions. What can be meant by such words but that the spiritual life is a continued progression, receiving with its widening capacities richer gifts of the wisdom and holiness of God. The Church is in its infancy as to valuation of spiritual blessing. It is, too, so much engaged in controversy that it can hardly be preparing itself for the completion of the holy promise. By mistaking the part for the whole, it is in danger of setting itself into premature satisfaction, as if it had exhausted the possibilities of prayer. The Church is too much engaged in that worst and most cankering of all worldliness, the elevation of one sect above another, and the angry defence of the transient conveniences of forms. What is delaying the outpouring of the fullness of the Spirit? There is indeed a still sterner inquiry which cannot be put without emotion, yet it may not be honestly suppressed:
Many a time nothing is wanting but to speak as to a soul already hungry and thirsty, or, if not consciously so, ready to hunger and thirst, as soon as the bread and water of life are presented. If the problem is to get souls under sin inspired again, which it certainly is, then it is required that the preacher shall drop lecturing on religion and preach it, testify it, prophesy it, speak to faith as being in faith, bring inspiration as being inspired, and so become the vehicle, in his own person, of the power he will communicate; that he may truly beget in the gospel such as will be saved by it. No man is a preacher because he has something like or about a gospel in his head. He really preaches only when his person is the living embodiment, the inspired organ of the gospel; in that manner no mere human power, but the demonstration of a Christly and divine power. Such preaching has had, in former times, effects so remarkable. At present we are almost all under the power, more or less, of the age in which we live. Infected with naturalism ourselves and having hearers, that are so, we can hardly find what account to make of our barrenness. (Dr. Bushnell's "Nature and the Supernatural," page 516.)
How insignificant all such labored disquisitions compared with the demonstration of the Spirit attending the preaching of one who has received an anointing from the Holy One! Alas we do not quite know in these days whether any such action is to be expected. We are not quite certain but that the measure of the power of the Spirit received at conversion is all that can be looked for. O that the many would-be Prophets who have enjoyed the highest educational advantages of the age, and are yet equal only to the very best 'sounding brass,' may come to believe that for God to be in their hearts and with their mouths is better than all the rest, and that until such an unction is poured upon them from on high, they are not the ministry of the Church which its Lord ascended to bestow. (Rev. C. E. Smith's "Baptism In Fire.")
"The Holy Spirit is able," said Mr. Spurgeon, "to make the Word as successful now as in the days of the apostles. He can bring in by hundreds and thousands as easily as by ones and twos. The reason why we are not more prosperous is that we have not the Holy Spirit with us in might and power as in early times. If we had the Spirit sealing our ministry with power, it would signify very little about our talent. It is extraordinary spiritual power, not extraordinary mental power, that we need. Mental power may fill a chapel, but spiritual power fills the Church. Mental power may gather a congregation; spiritual power will save souls, We want spiritual power. O Spirit of the living God: we want Thee. Thou art the life, soul of Thy people's success. Without Thee they can do nothing, with Thee they can do everything."
That anointed woman, the Deborah of the nineteenth century, Mrs. Booth, thus preaches: "It is the real, unadulterated Christianity we want, the Holy Ghost reign of Jesus Christ, and then you can have culture or do without it. I say it is a great delusion, and an insult to Jesus Christ, make out that His reign needs modern culture to help it. A great deal of modern culture has done more to render us effete and powerless than all that ruffianism or heathenism ever did in the world's history! Kingdoms are subdued through faith, not through intellect, not through learning, not through modern culture."
How rarely do we think of the wonderful humility of the Holy Spirit! This is the dispensation of His humiliation thus far, and probably for generations to come. In the Old Testament god the Father was revealed and disobeyed and slighted. Then the Son was manifested, and in His public ministry passed a year in obscurity, a year of public favor, and a year of malicious opposition ending in ignominy. Now is the time when the Holy Spirit is humiliated. He is entirely ignored by the world which denies His existence. He is neglected by many who profess to be His friends. Few, indeed, so earnestly desire Him as to enthrone Him over their hearts. Many believers have vague, crude and unworthy conceptions of His glory and divinity. Instead of self-assertion, He keeps Himself in the background, desiring to give prominence to Christ and not to Himself.
This is the practical lesson: If we are not patient under opposition, ill at ease when unappreciated, and despondent when favor turns into hostility to our efforts to promote the holiness of Christians, it is evident that the Holy Spirit has not yet taken full possession of our hearts, and that we are dishonoring Him. You have not other gifts, because He does not see fit to give them to you. They would spoil some other gift which you have. Now, if this is the true view of Providence — of the whole ordering of the world according to the purposes of God, — it does not matter what are our outward circumstances. Anna was preserved to old age to give thanks for the Lord's coming; Simeon was kept alive to see the salvation of the Lord and sing the 'Nunc Dimittis;' and Elizabeth was kept barren for a long period of her life in order to bear her witness for the Lord in a different way from either. Each string in the great orchestra is under the finger of God the Holy Ghost, who touches the chord and brings out the tone that is wanted at the right time. How wonderful and tender the patience of the Holy Spirit striving with men even before the flood! Think of His patience with us! He might bring out such harmonies from us, and we compel him to hear such discords!
This thought will help you to be patient though all seem in disorder. Do not try to set the world right in five minutes. You cannot do it; God did not intend you to do it. You have a great ideal of what it ought to be, what it might he; but you have to be patient under this discipline, even as God is patient. Be content. Your neighbor may have what you have not, and you may have what he has not, because all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (''The Presence and Office of the Holy Spirit,'' Bishop Webb.)
John Fletcher charitably suggests the following lame excuse — the best, however, that can be made — for the dishonor of the Holy Spirit by the silence of the pulpit on this vital theme:
Some preach the cross of Christ; but they proclaim not the spiritual coming of the risen Saviour. If they even entertain a just opinion of the doctrine for which we plead, yet they are restrained from speaking frequently and freely upon the subject, because as many false Christians have rendered the dispensation of the Son contemptible to the eyes of deists; so, many vainly inspired zealots have caused the dispensation of the Spirit to appear ridiculous before sober-minded Christians. But, notwithstanding the reproach which many fanatics of various sects have brought upon this sublime part of the gospel, by mingling with it the reveries of a heated imagination, yet it will constantly be regarded by every well-instructed Christian as the quintessence of our holy religion.
Spiritual laymen that hold meetings are stigmatized as schismatics.
If, in a parish that is unhappy enough to have a worldly minister, a few persons are happily converted to God and united together in Christ; if, having one heart and one soul, they frequently join together in prayer and in praise, mutually exhorting and provoking one another to love and good works, the unsympathetic pastor, instantly alarmed, imagines that these persons, for the purpose of forming a new sect, are destroying the unity of the church, when, on the contrary, they are but just about to experience the communion of saints. If zealous, he will labor to make it appear that these Christians who are beginning to love as brethren are forming conventicles to disturb the order of the church. Such a minister will give encouragement to companies of jugglers, dancers and drunkards, rather than tolerate a society which has Christian love for its object and basis. ("The Portrait of St. Paul" by J. Fletcher.)
It imports us to know that through Jesus only can men entertain the hope of obtaining the gift of the Holy Ghost. Our prayer is a nullity with out His prayer.
He ascended that He might give a greater gift — greater by all that height to which He ascended. He stopped not at any of the grades set forth by the expressions 'principalities, powers, might, dominion.' Not from any such elevation could He give a sufficient gift unto men. Legions of angels would have helped us little. He ascended up far above the highest of heaven's hierarchy. In fact, it was to give Himself to us that he ascended on high, having previously descended to give Himself for us.
Without the Holy Ghost we have no Christ. Christ, with us in all His infinite resources, with all His love, all His glory, is brought nigh to the individual believer and made a part of His being by the gift of the Indwelling Spirit. (George Bowen.)
This is what Jesus means when He says. "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not go away the Comforter will not come unto you.'
When I say it will be for your advantage. I do not mean that the Holy Spirit is greater than I am, or a truer friend to you, but that the Spirit will bring you and myself into a more intimate and blessed union than has been yet revealed in your consciousness. Though you have been with me these years, yet there is a moral chasm between us. You must painfully realize the very feeble amount of transforming influence that has been exerted upon you by one who is manifestly God in the likeness of men.
'The desire for sanctification exists in you, but your new and elevated conception of holiness only makes you the more sensible of your great moral deficiencies. If miracles could have given you the victory over sin you would now be the noblest of men. Yet are you still sadly aware that pride, ambition and worldliness have power over you.
'It is one thing that the image of God should have been placed before you; it is a very different thing that you should be changed into that image. You feel the need of some unknown power by which the minds of men may be rendered obedient to the truth, something beyond miracles, something beyond the power of a holy example. Is there not some power in God which can subdue that hostility by which we are hindered from being transfigured through the testimony of a holy life? There is. I ascend on high that the Comforter may come into your utmost selves, and that rivers of living water may flow forth from you, making the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose." (George Bowen.)
The baptism of the Spirit appears to have been such a blessing that those who received it were fully conscious of possessing it. Not that they all doubted of their own piety before, and that this blessing assured them of their acceptance. It seems plain that Peter and others were sure that they loved the Saviour before the events of the Pentecost occurred. The lips of Christ had told His disciples that they were clean while as yet the Paraclete was not in them; and an angel had assured Cornelius of his acceptance before Peter preached to him the gospel and the Holy Ghost fell on them that heard the word. If they were conscious of acceptance before this, how much more when the Spirit of adoption in their hearts cried Abba, Father! 'I think,' says Calvin, 'that the apostle used this participle (crying) to express greater confidence; for doubt does not suffer us to speak boldly, but holds the jaws as it were compressed, so that the half-broken words hardly come forth from a faltering tongue. On the other hand, crying is a mark of security and of confidence, not at all of vacillating.' (Dr. J. Morgan.)
In no age, possibly, have Christian churches been so well equipped for effective service for Christ as they are now. Like marvellous structures of ingenious machinery, our churches stand forth, endowed with wealth, enriched with education, culture and social influence, possessing splendid church edifices, elaborate music and rituals, sound in creeds, confessions and covenants. And yet, alas! these numerous and admirable channels carry but drivelling streams of that divine energy that made the early churches such centres of evangelizing power, where they were composed of disciples whose faith stood not in 'the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth.' The crying need of the age is not more of such churches or more or better appliances, but a universal baptism of the Holy Spirit. Were this given, the Church could, with her present resources, give the gospel to the world within the next decade." (F. M. Mills, D. D.)
I believe the Church, with all her external prosperity, is today in greater peril than in any of the eighteen centuries of her history. Her very prosperity is her peril. She reminds me of a church In Canada which brought in a report after this fashion: 'We have had a prosperous year. All our pews and sittings are taken. We have a surplus of 50 lire in the treasury. We have had no conversions, but it has been a very prosperous year.' The world has come into the Church in such a fashion that the Church has become composed of one half wholly worldly people, and the other half of worldly holy people, so that if you do not have a chance to consult the church roll, you cannot tell who belongs and who not. How many people in our modern churches practically know whether there is a Holy Ghost or not? How many of them have ever risen to the conception that their bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost? How many churches have a genuine Holy Ghost prayer meeting? It is either a lecture by the pastor or a social meeting. (Dr. A. T. Pierson)
The remedy is both divine and human. The Spirit must be poured out, and godly men be ordained to the ministry, converted people do the singing, regenerate men and women be the officiary, and a discipline enforced excluding from the Lord's table all who bring reproach on Christ by wicked conduct.
"If we believe He is a person in the Trinity, let us treat Him as a person, apply ourselves to Him as a person, glorify him in our hearts as a person, dart forth beams of special and peculiar love to and converse with Him as a person. Let us fear to grieve Him, and also believe on Him as a person." (Goodwin.)
As Adam's life is reproduced in every child born into the world, so the new, spiritual life of the second Adam is reproduced in every one born of the Spirit. Our life is the reproduction of Christ's spiritual life in His people. The new birth connects us with the second Man, who, by the Holy Spirit, gathers His people under Him by a self-communicating act.'' (Smeaton.)
It is one thing to have the Holy Spirit; it is another to Him completely possessing us. No one can be regenerated without having Him; but there is the other side of it when He fills our entire being and has His way with us." (Kelly.)
'Spirit,' in the requirement to worship in spirit and in truth, denotes that deepest element of the human soul by which it can hold communion with the divine world. It is the seat of self-collectedness, the sanctuary wherein the true worship is celebrated. Rom. i. 9: 'The God whom I serve in my spirit.' (Godet.)
Chronologically a believer may be living in the dispensation of the Spirit, and yet experimentally he may be living before the day of Pentecost. Objectively he may be in the Spirit because He has been poured out, yet subjectively he may be living in the letter because he has no personal acquaintance with the Spirit.
This fountain of the Spirit is not limited to the apostles; it is not surrounded by an iron fence with a narrow gate to which only the priestly class has the key. Jesus precluded any such monopoly when he said 'He that believeth on me,' learned or ignorant, rich or poor, bond or free.
'It is a gift which all may share
From prince to peasant rude;
It glows not more in palace halls
Than in dark solitude.'
(Bishop W. Pinkney.)
Christ, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is in His Church in all her pilgrimage through this world unto the end. When historic episcopates and ecclesiastical establishments have withered and ceased to bear fruit, this indwelling Christ can bud with new ministries and bring forth in new missionary enterprises. There is a true apostolic succession through which the Holy Spirit is communicated from generation to generation. This succession has rarely been found confining itself to the historical and sacerdotal channels, but it may be traced rather in what Harnack calls 'certain undercurrents of tradition' which have flowed out of sight from age to age. It is usually only a little company who are called into the upper room to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire; but they receive it for the whole church, and by a kind of spiritual laying on of hands it is communicated from one to another till multitudes share the blessing.
In the doctrine of tactual succession there is not only a kind of cheapness and pettiness, but especially a foreshortening of the Spirit's arm, as though the consecrating touch depended on the intervention of some visible ecclesiastic. On the contrary, the hands of the Paraclete have often stretched across a century or generation and set apart a ministry by foreordination long before any bishop or presbytery has moved to set him apart by ordination. ("The Holy Spirit in Missions" by Dr. A. J. Gordon.)
Some well-intentioned people, but feeble in grace, drink down to the level of forgiveness, but not down to glory and the receiving of the Spirit: they do not realize that 'he that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst;' they do not overcome the world; one has almost to make a fresh text for them. This is the defeat wherewith they are worsted, even their little faith."
"We may, indeed, get dying grace, and hold a consecration meeting upon our dying beds, but it is not death that consecrates, nor the grave that sanctifies and cleanses from all sin. We shall begin the next life pretty much where we left off in this. (J. Rendel Harris.)
The irremissible sin, it is thought by some writers, can be committed only by the backslider from the spiritual life. He may not be an avowed apostate from Christ, but may maintain a profession of Christian faith. Says Rev. W. W. Andrews:
'the redemption of the world is as real an act of God as its creation, and the movements of the Holy Ghost are never absent where the Father and the Son are working. And it is step by step against these threefold mercies that the sin of sin of man is suffered to show itself. Beginning with the transgression of His ordinances as the creator and lawgiver, it reaches a higher stage in 'denying the Lord that bought them,' and attains consummation and climax in that sin against the Holy Ghost for which there is no forgiveness. This triple form of sin shows the wonderful power of man in setting itself against all motives and influences, and in effecting his destruction, although created in God's image and redeemed by the blood of His Son and made partaker of the heavenly life by the renewing of the Holy Ghost. The heathen dishonored God as revealed to them in the ordinances of nature; the Jews rejected Him as manifested in the crucified Jesus, who gave His life a ransom for their sins; but the greater guilt of the Christian Church will lie in driving the Spirit from His dwelling place by her pollutions, and turning like 'the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.'