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CHAPTER I. POWER—ITS SOURCE
IN VAIN DO THE INHABITANTS of London go to their conduits for supply unless the man who has the master-key turns the water on; and in vain do we think to quench our thirst at ordinances, unless God communicates the living water of His Spirit.—Anon.
It was the custom of the Roman emperors, at their triumphal entrance, to cast new coins among the multitudes; so doth Christ, in His triumphal ascension into heaven, throw the greatest gifts for the good of men that were ever given.—T. Goodwin.
To unconverted persons, a great part of the Bible resembles a letter written in cipher. The blessed Spirit’s office is to act as God’s decipherer, by letting His people into the secret of celestial experience, as the key and clew to those sweet mysteries of grace which were before as a garden shut up, or as a fountain sealed, or as a book written in an unknown character.—Toplady.
The greatest, strongest, mightiest plea for the Church of God in the world is the existence of the Spirit of God in its midst, and the works of the Spirit of God are the true evidences of Christianity. They say miracles are withdrawn, but the Holy Spirit is the standing miracle of the Church of God to-day. I will not say a word against societies for Christian evidences, nor against those weighty and learned brethren who have defended the outworks of the Christian Church. They have done good service, and I wish them every blessing, but as to my own soul, I never was settled in my faith in Christ by Paley’s Evidences, nor by all the evidence ever brought from history or elsewhere; the Holy Spirit has taken the burden off my shoulders, and given me peace and liberty. This to me is evidence, and as to the externals which we can quote to others, it was enough for Peter and John that the people saw the lame man healed, and they needed not to speak for themselves.—Spurgeon.
“Without the soul, divinely quickened and inspired, the observances of the grandest ritualism are as worthless as the motions of a galvanized corpse.”—Anon.
I quote this sentence, as it leads me at once to the subject under consideration. What is this quickening and inspiration? What is this power needed? From whence its source? I reply: The Holy Spirit of God. I am a full believer in “The Apostles’ Creed,” and therefore “I believe in the Holy Ghost.”
A writer has pointedly asked: “What are our souls without His grace?—as dead as the branch in which the sap does not circulate. What is the Church without Him?—as parched and barren as the fields without the dew and rain of heaven.”
There has been much inquiry of late on the subject of the Holy Spirit. In this and other lands thousands of persons have been giving attention to the study of this grand theme. I hope it will lead us all to pray for a greater manifestation of His power upon the whole Church of God. How much we have dishonored Him in the past! How ignorant of His grace, and love and presence we have been? True, we have heard of Him and read of Him, but we have had little intelligent knowledge of His attributes, His offices and His relations to us. I fear He has not been to many professed Christians an actual existence, nor is He known to them as a personality of the Godhead.
The first work of the Spirit is to give life; spiritual life. He gives it and He sustains it. If there is no life, there can be no power; Solomon says: “A living dog is better than a dead lion.” When the Spirit imparts this life, He does not leave us to droop and die, but constantly fans the flame. He is ever with us. Surely we ought not to be ignorant of His power and his work.
IDENTITY AND PERSONALITY.
In John v, 7, we read: “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.” By the Father is meant the first Person, Christ, the Word is the second, and the Holy Spirit, perfectly fulfilling His own office and work in union with the Father and the Son, is the third. I find clearly presented in my Bible, that the One God who demands my love, service and worship, has there revealed Himself, and that each of those three names of Father, Son and Holy Ghost has personality attached to them. Therefore we find some things ascribed to God as Father, some to God as Saviour, and some to God as Comforter and Teacher. It has been remarked that the Father plans, the Son executes, and the Holy Spirit applies. But I also believe they plan and work together. The distinction of persons is often noted in Scripture. In Matt. iii, 16-17, we find Jesus submitting to baptism, the Spirit descending upon Him, while the Father’s voice of approval is heard saying: “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Again in John xiv, 16, we read: “I (i. e. Jesus) will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter.” Also in Eph. i, 18: “Through Him (i. e. Christ Jesus) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Thus we are taught the distinction of persons in the Godhead, and their inseparable union. From these and other scriptures also we learn the identity and actual existence of the Holy Spirit.
If you ask do I understand what is thus revealed in Scripture, I say “no.” But my faith bows down before the inspired Word and I unhesitatingly believe the great things of God when even reason is blinded and the intellect confused.
In addition to the teaching of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit in His gracious work in the soul declares His own presence. Through His agency we are “born again,” and through His indwelling we possess superhuman power. Science, falsely so called, when arrayed against the existence and presence of the Spirit of God with His people, only exposes its own folly to the contempt of those who have become “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” The Holy Spirit who inspired prophets, and qualified apostles, continues to animate, guide and comfort all true believers. To the actual Christian, the personality of the Holy Spirit is more real than any theory science has to offer, for so-called science is but calculation based on human observation, and is constantly changing its inferences. But the existence of the Holy Spirit is to the child of God a matter of Scripture revelation and of actual experience.
Some skeptics assert that there is no other vital energy in the world but physical force, while contrary to their assertions, thousands and tens of thousands who can not possibly be deceived have been quickened into spiritual life by a power neither physical or mental. Men who were dead in sins—drunkards who lost their will, blasphemers who lost their purity, libertines sunk in beastliness, infidels who published their shame to the world, have in numberless instances become the subjects of the Spirit’s power, and are now walking in the true nobility of Christian manhood, separated by an infinite distance from their former life. Let others reject, if they will, at their own peril, this imperishable truth. I believe, and am growing more into this belief, that divine, miraculous creative power resides in the Holy Ghost. Above and beyond all natural law, yet in harmony with it, creation, providence, the Divine government, and the upbuilding of the Church of God are presided over by the Spirit of God. His ministration is the ministration of life more glorious than the ministration of law, (2 Cor. iii, 6-10). And like the Eternal Son, the Eternal Spirit having life in Himself, is working out all things after the counsel of His own will, and for the everlasting glory of the Triune Godhead.
The Holy Spirit has all the qualities belonging to a person; the power to understand, to will, to do, to call, to feel, to love. This can not be said of a mere influence. He possesses attributes and qualities which can only be ascribed to a person, as acts and deeds are performed by Him which can not be performed by a machine, an influence, or a result.
AGENT AND INSTRUMENT.
The Holy Spirit is closely identified with the words of the Lord Jesus. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” The Gospel proclamation can not be divorced from the Holy Spirit. Unless He attend the word in power, vain will be the attempt in preaching it. Human eloquence or persuasiveness of speech are the mere trappings of the dead, if the living Spirit be absent; the prophet may preach to the bones in the valley, but it must be the breath from Heaven which will cause the slain to live.
In the third chapter of the First Epistle of Peter, it reads, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”
Here we see that Christ was raised up from the grave by this same Spirit, and the power exercised to raise Christ’s dead body must raise our dead souls and quicken them. No other power on earth can quicken a dead soul, but the same power that raised the body of Jesus Christ out of Joseph’s sepulcher. And if we want that power to quicken our friends who are dead in sin, we must look to God, and not be looking to man to do it. If we look alone to ministers, if we look alone to Christ’s disciples to do this work, we shall be disappointed; but if we look to the...