Walking in the Spirit Part 2
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The Light of Revelation.
It is not enough to have a good light, we must also have the organs of vision or it is of no use; and we must have them in perfect condition. Now, the Holy Spirit comes to be to us sight as well as light; and as we walk in Him we shall be enabled to know the will of G.o.d as revealed in the Scriptures by a true spiritual apprehension, and from the very standpoint of G.o.d's own mind and thought.
In the chapter from which our text is taken the apostle uses a very fine a.n.a.logy: "No man," he says, "knoweth the things of a man except a spirit of a man which is in him; even so, knoweth no man the things of G.o.d except the Spirit of G.o.d is in us." You might sit down and talk to your little dog about the latest book, and explain to him in the clearest manner its wonderful teachings, and he would not understand a word; not from any defect in the truth, but because he had not the mind of a man to understand the things of a man; and so you might sit down and talk to the natural intellect about spiritual truth, even the brightest human intellect, and they would not comprehend it because it belonged to a higher sphere.
The only way by which that dog could understand you would be for you to impart to him a human mind, and the only way that man can understand the things of G.o.d is for G.o.d to impart to him the divine mind; therefore, the apostle says, "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, for they are foolishness unto Him; neither can he know them for they are spiritually discerned; but we have the mind of Christ."
This is the special work of the Holy Ghost, to give to us a new spiritual vision and organ of apprehension; so that the soul directly perceives divine things and realities. Perhaps the first effect of this divine illumination is that the things of G.o.d become intensely real, and stand out with vividness and distinctness, like figures cut in relief on the wall. The person of Christ, the light of His countenance, the distinct sweetness of His Spirit, the "peace that pa.s.seth all understanding," the joy of the Lord, the heavenly world, all become to the heart more actual and intensely vivid than the things we see with our outward eyes, and touch with our human hands; so that we can say of Christ with the apostle, "That which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life." This is the true meaning of this whole chapter. It is not a description of heavenly glories which we are going to see by-and-by, but of present revelations which the natural eye hath not seen, the material ear had not heard, and the human heart hath not conceived: but which "G.o.d hath revealed to us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of G.o.d."
In the first chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul has given us a sublime view of the effect of this inward illumination upon the heart. "I cease not," he says, "to make mention of you in my prayers, that the G.o.d of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." "The eyes of your heart being enlightened that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."
"And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power."
"Which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places,"
"Far above all princ.i.p.ality, and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come;"
"Which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."
"And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Jesus Christ;"
"That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. "
Here we find it is not the eyes of our intellect, but the eyes of the heart that are to be illuminated, and when so quickened by the Spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Him, we shall understand what is the hope of our calling, and glorious privileges and prospects which we are to inherit in Christ.
The riches of the glory of His inheritance are not only for us, but even in us now. We shall be stirred with a realization of the exceeding greatness of His power toward us and for us. We shall rise to an adequate conception of the mighty things that we may dare to claim of Him; especially shall we see the full meaning of Christ's resurrection and ascension. We shall see Him lifted up, not only above the grave and the burden of our guilt and sin, but far above all beings, all forces of natural law, all might and dominion, and every name that is named, up to the very throne of G.o.d where all things are under His feet. Not only so, but we shall see ourselves lifted above our sins, and fears, and sorrows, and enemies, and difficulties, and imperfections, until we, too, are sitting with Him far above all princ.i.p.ality, might and dominion, in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, as safe and triumphant as if we were already in heaven and had been there for ten thousand years.
Oh! such a view takes the sting out of life and stimulates to higher aspirations and victories, conflicts and service. But we must first perceive our inheritance before we can claim it, and as we look out upon all the fullness of His promise and provision we arise and and walk through the land in all the length and breadth of it and make it our own. Under this divine light the promise of G.o.d grows strangely real, and the heart swells with faith and confidence. Doctrines which in the abstract we could not understand become simple and living realities. The profound truth of Trinity changes into the personal and sweet fellows.h.i.+p of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of sanctification ceases to perplex and discourage, and becomes a simple experience of union with Jesus and abiding in Him. The mightiest supernatural works of Christ even in our bodies cease to be strange and incredible. The doctrine of His personal coming becomes a bright and personal expectation, and the whole world of spiritual things is more real to us in our own consciousness. walk through the land in all the length and breadth of it and make it our own. Under this divine light the promise of G.o.d grows strangely real, and the heart swells with faith and confidence. Doctrines which in the abstract we could not understand become simple and living realities. The profound truth of Trinity changes into the personal and sweet fellows.h.i.+p of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of sanctification ceases to perplex and discourage, and becomes a simple experience of union with Jesus and abiding in Him. The mightiest supernatural works of Christ even in our bodies cease to be strange and incredible. The doctrine of His personal coming becomes a bright and personal expectation, and the whole world of spiritual things is more real to us in our own consciousness.
Sometimes the vision opens upon our own hearts and we are permitted to see their failures, imperfections, and needs; but under the light of G.o.d this is never discouraging because there always comes with it the revelation of Him who is the supply of every need and the provision for every defect in sin. Satan's pictures of our sins are terrible and always depressing; but the light of heaven reveals our errors only to heal them, and brings such sweetness and rest that we can only thank Him for making greater room for His allsufficiency.
Sometimes, too, the curtain is lifted upon the heavenly world, and some souls whom G.o.d can trust are permitted, like Paul, to be brought so near that they behold what it were unlawful for a man to utter, and know not whether they are in the body or out of the body. Let no one covet such experiences, for they bring with them many a thorn in the flesh, lest we be exalted above measure. And above all let us not seek, with morbid curiosity, to intrude into things which belong not to our simple sphere of humble duty, but rather seek the light that is practical and useful.
And yet, if G.o.d gives the higher visions at times, and even lifts the veil of things to come for humble and holy souls who dwell hard by the gates of heaven, let us not wonder or question; and let them use such glimpses of glory as the mariner uses the burst of sunlight that sometimes pierces through the skies that have been clouded for weeks, and sails, by the observations of that hour, through all the coming days of cloud and storm.
The Light of Guidance.
The Holy Spirit is promised to us as our personal Guide in the path of life. "As many as are led of the Spirit they are sons of G.o.d." Some persons are so zealous for the word of G.o.d that they deny any direct guidance of the Spirit apart from the Word, but if we truly believe the Word itself we will be forced to accept its distinct statements, that the personal presence of G.o.d is given to the humble and obedient disciple for the needed direction in every step of life. "I will instruct thee in the way that thou shalt, go; I will guide thee with mine eye." The Lord shall guide thee continually : "When He putteth forth His own sheep He goeth before them and they know His voice." "In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."
We find the apostle Paul constantly recognizing the personal direction of the Holy Spirit even in matters where there was no distinct direction in the Word. The whole course of Paul's missionary journeys was ordered by the personal direction of the Lord. Being sent forth, we are told, by the Holy Ghost, he and Barnabas sailed unto Cyprus. A little later the same Spirit restrained them from preaching in Bithynia and Asia, and led them from Troas to Philippi to begin their European ministry. Still later, we are told that he purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem and Rome, and none of the perils of the way could afterward turn him aside from that which had come to him as the voice of G.o.d. No life was ever more practical, sensible, and scriptural than Paul's, and yet none more constantly recognized the supernatural direction of the Holy Ghost. The methods of divine guidance are various.
1. The Spirit guides us by the Scriptures, by their general principles and teachings, and by bringing to us special pa.s.sages from the Word, either through the law of mental suggestion, and impressing them upon our heart, or by various ways fitted to emphasize a pa.s.sage as a divine message to our hearts.
2. He also directs us by His own direct voice when necessary; and yet we must not expect the special and remarkable intimations of the Holy Ghost at all times, or when we have sufficient light from other sources. There is danger of fanaticism here. We have no right to ask G.o.d to give us a special revelation of His will where either the light of our own common sense or the teaching of Scripture have already made the matter sufficiently plain. For example: It would be foolishness to expect the Lord to show us by a direct message whether we ought to get up in the morning, to take our proper food, to attend to our daily business, to keep the Sabbath, or to perform the ordinary acts of kindness, courtesy and necessity; to pay our debts, to love our neighbor. All these things the Spirit has already told us, and it would be an impertinence to expect Him to come with a new revelation every time.
So, also, we cannot expect the Holy Spirit to reveal to us directly whether G.o.d will forgive us our sins, or sanctify our souls, because these things He has already explicitly promised us, and we can expect no added witness of the Spirit until we have first believed and acted upon His Word; then the Spirit will follow this by a confirming voice and a sweet inward a.s.surance of the fulfillment of His promise. Many persons expect the Spirit to come to them with the a.s.surance of forgiveness and salvation before they have even believed the promises that He has already spoken.
So also, we may add in regard to prayer for physical healing. When we are living in accordance to His Word it does not require a special revelation of the will of G.o.d, but that we should believe the revelation already made in the Scriptures, in His promises of healing through faith in Christ. But, where the matter is one on which the Scriptures have not spoken distinctly, and the circ.u.mstances are so peculiar as to require direct and new light, He has distinctly promised that He will lead us in the right way wherein we shall not stumble.. He has said, "If in anything we be otherwise minded, and our views and ideas be mistaken, He will reveal even this unto us."
3. The Holy Spirit guides us most frequently by intuitions of our sanctified judgment, and the conclusion of our minds, to which He leads us with the quiet a.s.surance of acting in perfect freedom and naturalness, and yet of being influenced by the presence and suggestion of His own Spirit. Under such circ.u.mstances the mind and judgment are perfectly simple and natural. The thoughts come as our own, with delightful tranquility, and a certainty, and a sort of intuition that it is the right thing to do, and yet the secret consciousness that it is not our wisdom, but has been somehow reflected upon the soul by another. It is not so much the Spirit speaking to us as the Spirit speaking with us as part of our very consciousness, so that it is not two minds, but one.
The truly-consecrated spirit may expect to be thus held and influenced by the Divine wisdom; and it will often find itself restrained from things by an inward reluctance, or repulsion, which it cannot fully explain, and led to other things by a strong and distinct inclination and sense of rightness and fitness which afterwards prove, by the result, to have been the directing presence of G.o.d. Of course, as we shall see immediately, there must be real consecration and holy vigilance in such a walk, to guard against our own impressions and inclinations in cases where they are not the intimations of the Spirit's will.
4. We are sometimes taught that we are guided by providences. A devout mind will, of course, always have regard to the external providences of G.o.d, and will be habitually watching to see His hand in everything that occurs; but it would be very dangerous to allow ourselves to be directed by outward events apart from the distinct leadings of G.o.d in our spirit and by His Word. Quite as frequently we shall find ourselves led to go in the face of circ.u.mstances as to follow the favoring gales of outward events. Most of the important events and accomplished purposes in the lives of G.o.d's servants, as recorded in the Scriptures, were in direct opposition to all the circ.u.mstances that were occurring around them. Take, for example, the life of David. From the very first time that he received the call of G.o.d to recognize himself as Israel's future king, everything in his life for nearly ten years seemed to conspire to forbid any such expectation.
Take again the life of Paul. We find him directly led by the Holy Spirit to cross the h.e.l.lespont and begin his ministry in Greece. But instead of being met by open doors and favoring circ.u.mstances, everything opposed, until at last he found himself scourged and bound, a helpless prisoner in a Roman dungeon. Had he been watching for the guidance of circ.u.mstances he would have concluded that he had made a mistake, and would have hastened to get away; but on the contrary, the more firmly believed that G.o.d had led him, and ere long the very circ.u.mstances were conquered and transformed by the victorious power of faith. So again, he was led to Jerusalem and Rome, but from that moment everything opposed him. All along the way the people of G.o.d even seemed to throw themselves across his path.
At Ephesus, they wanted him to remain to preach the gospel in the very place where a year before he had in vain tried to enter; but instead of recognizing this as a providence that ought to change his purpose he quietly deferred his work in Ephesus and pressed on to Jerusalem. Again and again on his way did the very prophets of the Lord warn him against visiting Jerusalem, and plead with him to abandon the dangerous purpose which would perhaps cost him his life; but he only replied "What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Arriving at Jerusalem all that had been intimated comes to pa.s.s. Instead of being received by his countrymen, he is mobbed and well nigh killed, but he still presses on and the Lord meets him at night in his dungeon to a.s.sure him of His protection and direction.
Next, he is detained at Caesarea for two whole years languis.h.i.+ng in a prison; but, instead of doubting his divine direction he presses steadily on, and uses the delay as an occasion of service for the Master. At length he has embarked for Rome; but even then the storm pursues him and the wild Euroclydon threatens to engulf him in the depths of the sea; but he falters not in his purpose, but rises majestically above the storm and carries even the lives of his fellow pa.s.sengers, on the wings of his mighty faith, above disaster and destruction. Narrowly saved from s.h.i.+pwreck on the sh.o.r.es of Malta, a viper from the ashes springs upon his hand, and it seems as though earth and h.e.l.l had determined to prevent his reaching Rome, but he only flings it off and suffers no harm, and so at length he marches up the Appian way more like a conqueror than a prisoner, thanking G.o.d and taking courage, as he realizes that not one word of all G.o.d's promise and direction has failed. Thus must we ever interpret the providences of G.o.d; instead of yielding to opposition, or following that which seems to favor us, press firmly on in the path of conviction and obedience, and our way shall be established, and our very difficulties become the occasions of our greatest triumphs.
Let us notice also some of the principles and conditions of divine guidance.
The first is a surrendered spirit. Before we can know His will we must always first yield our own. "The meek will He guide in judgment, and the meek will He teach His way. "
Next, there must be a readiness to obey. He will not give us light unless we mean to follow it; to do so would only add to our condemnation. "If any man will do His will he shall know." "Then shall we know if we follow to know the Lord."
Secondly, we must trust His guidance; we must believe that He is with us and directing us. We must lean upon His arm with all our heart, and implicitly look up into His face and expect Him to be true to us. We must also have "our senses exercised by reason of use, to know the difference between good and evil." Sometimes our mistakes will become most instructive to us by showing us the places where we have erred, and save us from repeating the mistake afterwards with more serious consequences. We must learn to distinguish between mere impressions and the deeper convictions of the entire judgment under the light of the Spirit, and between the voice of the Shepherd and that of the spirit of error. This He will teach us, and teach us more and more perfectly through experience. We shall have to learn also to walk with Him when we cannot understand the way. His path is often a way that we have not known, and the answer to our prayer may seem to lead us directly contrary to our expectation and to the ultimate issue.
Once in my life I was led to ask the Lord for a special building as a residence, and received full a.s.surance that it would be given; almost immediately afterwards it was sold to a person who insisted on occupying it himself, and refused under any circ.u.mstances to part with it. After much prayer I was led to consent, most unwillingly, to accept, instead of the house I had most desired, another owned by this very man. So distasteful was it to me that on the night I went to sign the lease I walked repeatedly past the door before I could bring myself to enter. At length, in simple obedience to the Holy Spirit, I did, but, to my surprise, the man met me and said that that very afternoon he had been led to change his mind. While attending the funeral of an old friend a strange dread came over him about occupying the house that he had purchased and he had just decided to let me have it on terms more favorable than I could have expected had not G.o.d interposed.
Thus, as I went forward in the path of simple obedience, by a way that I could not understand the true way opened up, and it was only blessing and delight. The most remarkable feature of it was that the house thus given became afterwards the place where all the work of the Lord, in which we are now engaged, began. G.o.d thus signally chose the place for His work, and put His seal upon it as a pattern of the providences which we should afterwards expect. So, still, "through fears, through clouds, through storms, He gently clears our way."
Let us trust His guiding hand, and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth.
Light for Service.
"It is not ye that speak but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you." "I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist."
"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of G.o.d. If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which G.o.d giveth, that G.o.d may be glorified through Jesus Christ." "Say not I am a child, for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak." "And the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said unto me, behold! I have put my words in thy mouth." "The Lord G.o.d hath given me the tongue of one that hath been instructed that I might know how to speak the Word in season to him that is weary." "He openeth my ear morning by morning to hear as one that is instructed." This was the secret of even Christ's ministry. "The Word that I speak is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." "As I hear I speak."
Before we can speak G.o.d's messages we must learn to listen. The opened ear comes before the opened mouth. It is very hard sometimes to die to our own thoughts and elaborate preparations for service, and to be free and open for G.o.d to use us as vessels meet for the Master's use. Sometimes He has to humble us by showing us the barrenness of all our best intellectual work, and then lead us to receive the living messages of His Holy Spirit. Sometimes we may think the message very unworthy and almost unsuitable, but G.o.d loves to take "the things that are not to bring to nought the things that are, that no flesh may glory in His presence."
A saintly spirit whom G.o.d has greatly used in personal messages, tells how once she was distinctly sent by the Lord on a certain train; but when she arrived at the station the train was crowded and the guard told her she could not go. Still she waited, having learned that a point-blank refusal is often the best evidence of G.o.d's working; but just as the train was about to leave, suddenly the guard came to her and hurried her into a carriage which had just been put on. There she found herself sitting beside a young gentleman, and immediately the thought came, "This is the service the Lord has sent me to do." After a little she introduced the subject of personal religion, but he haughtily replied, "My family object to my being talked to on such subjects." "My dear sir," she replied, "I had supposed that this was not a question for your family, but for yourself." "Then," he answered, still more stiffly, "I object to be talked to on such questions." It seemed as though the way of service was blocked, and yet the unerring Spirit had led her there.
Then the thought came that she should give him a tract, and that G.o.d would bless the silent messenger even after they had parted. But as she searched through all her pockets she found she had forgotten all her tracts. Suddenly, amid her movements, her valise fell on the floor, and all its contents were poured in disorder at their feet. With the instincts of a gentleman he helped her to pick up the wreck, when suddenly her eye fell upon a single tract that had fallen out with the other articles; but as she picked it up she felt, why, this will never do, for it was a tract especially addressed to a young man that had just been saved from s.h.i.+pwreck. But the same unerring Guide whispered to her to put it in his hands and ask him to read it.
He took it, having grown a little freer, through their better acquaintance, and as he read the t.i.tle his face became deadly pale. Before he had read the second page the tears were pouring down his cheeks. "Madam," he cried, turning to her, "who told you about me?" "Why, no one," she answered, "what do you mean?" "Why," said he, "Some one must have told you; did you not know that only last week I was rescued from s.h.i.+pwreck?" It was the arrow of the Infinite One whose wisdom never fails, and the humble worker, waiting His bidding, had not been suffered to err. The message reached his heart, and ere they parted he was saved. This is the true secret of effectual service, and when He becomes to us the Wonderful Counselor, we shall always find Him also the Mighty G.o.d.
THE SPIRIT OF HOLINESS.
"Elect according to the foreknowledge of G.o.d the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" 1 Peter i: 2.
It would throw a flood of light on the perplexing doctrine of election if we would remember, when thinking of this subject, that we are elected by G.o.d, not unto salvation unconditionally and absolutely, but unto holiness. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. It is idle and unscriptural, therefore, to talk about being elected to salvation irrespective of our faith or obedience. We are elected to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Christ, and are summoned, therefore, to make our calling and election sure, by pressing on into the fullness of the grace of Christ. This work of sanctification is especially the work of the Holy Spirit. Let us look carefully at the principles that lie at the foundation of it, and its connection with the person and work of the Holy Ghost.
1. The holiness to which we are called, and into which we are introduced by the Holy Spirit, is not the restoration of Adamic perfection, or the recovery of the nature we lost by the fall. It is a higher holiness, even the very nature of G.o.d Himself, and the indwelling of Jesus Christ, the second Adam, to whose perfect likeness we shall be restored through the work of redemption. We are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. This will determine all our subsequent conclusions in the consideration of this subject. Sanctification is not the perfection of human character, but the impartation of the divine nature, and the union of the human soul with the person of Christ, the new Head of redeemed humanity.
2. Our sanctification has been purchased for us through the redemption of Christ. By one offering He has perfected forever all them that are sanctified. When He came He said, "Lo! I come to do thy will, 0 G.o.d; yea, thy law is in my heart, by which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."
Our sanctification, therefore, as well as our justification, was included in the finished work of Christ, and it is a free gift of His grace to every ransomed soul that accepts it, in accordance with His word and will. It is one of our redemption rights in Christ, and we may claim it by faith as freely as our forgiveness. "For He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
3. It is the office of the Holy Spirit to lead us into the full redemption of Jesus Christ, and therefore, into holiness. In pursuance of this heavenly calling, the Holy Spirit leads us first to see our need of sanctification. This He does by a two-fold revelation. First, He shows us the divine will for our sanctification, and the necessity for our becoming holy if we could please G.o.d. By nature and tradition many persons are p.r.o.ne to take a very different view of this subject, and to regard the experience of holiness as a sort of exceptional life for a few distinguished Christians, but not expected of all the disciples of Christ. But the awakened and startled mind discovers, in the light of Scripture and of the Holy Spirit, the falseness of this delusion, and the inflexible terms in which G.o.d's Word requires that all His people should be holy in heart and life. In the searching light of truth it trembles as it reads, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." "Into heaven there entereth nothing that defileth, nor worketh abomination, nor maketh a lie." "Blessed are they that wash their robes that they may have right to the Tree of Life and may enter in through the gates into the city." "He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness shall see the King in His beauty and behold the land that is very far off." "Who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord or stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." "Be ye holy even as I am holy; be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." "These things have I written unto you that ye sin not. He that abideth in Him sinneth not; he that sinneth hath not seen Him neither known Him."
At this point the soul is compelled to face a very solemn crisis; either it must accept the Word of G.o.d literally and implicitly, or it must turn it aside by human tradition, and explain away its most plain and emphatic teachings, and render it of no effect in any of its promises or commands, and so enter upon a course which must end in practical infidelity. The latter alternative is taken by many; they content themselves with saying such a standard is impossible, n.o.body has ever reached it, and G.o.d does not actually mean it or require it. The result is that henceforth the Word of G.o.d becomes uncertain to them in all its messages, a practical faith ceases to be possible. But the other alternative drives the soul, if honestly faced, to self-despair; it can find no such holiness in itself, and no power to produce it.
The first effect, it is true, generally is to stir up the awakened heart to attempt a better life and try to work out a holiness such as G.o.d requires. Resolutions, outward amendments, perhaps many inward exercises, self-examinations, purposes of righteousness, and holiness, are the result. But in a little while there is a certain issue of failure and disappointment; perhaps the man becomes a Pharisee and deludes himself into the idea that he is complying with the divine standard. But, if the Holy Ghost is doing His office work thoroughly, he will soon become disgusted with his own righteousness, and find his utter inability even to reach his own standard. Some crucial test will come which he cannot meet, some command which strikes at the roots of his natural inclinations and requires the sacrifice of his dearest idols, and the poor heart will break down, and the will will shrink or rebel.
This was the experience of the apostle Paul; for the time he thought that he had attained unto the righteousness of the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and he died. The Lord said "Thou shalt not covet," and instantly his throbbing heart awoke with all the intensity of its natural life, to a thousand evil desires, all the stronger because they were forbidden, until in despair he cried out "I know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal." "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Ah! this is the very preparation for sanctification. He is just on the verge of deliverance. He has found at length his helplessness. He has got down to the bottom of the ladder of self-renunciation. It is to such a soul that the Master is saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
So of old, G.o.d came to Job in the revelation of his own worthlessness until he cried, "I abhor myself." So He came to Isaiah, just before his cleansing, until the prophet smote upon his breast and cried, "Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips." Happy the heart that can see itself at its worst, without, on the one hand attempting to excuse its failure, or on the other, giving up in despair. For such a soul the Holy Spirit waits to bring the next stage of His blessed work of sanctification namely: 4. The revelation of Jesus Christ Himself as our sanctification. It is the purpose of G.o.d that the person of Jesus shall be to us the embodiment of all that there is in G.o.d and salvation. Therefore, sanctification is not a mere human experience or state, but is the reception of the person of Christ as the very substance of our spiritual life. For He "is made unto us of G.o.d, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption." It is not a wealthy friend advancing us the money to pay our debts, but it is the friend coming into our business and a.s.suming it Himself, with all its burdens and liabilities, while we simply become subordinate and receive all our needs henceforth from Him. This was the glad cry which Paul sent back the moment he had reached the depths of self-despair: "I thank G.o.d through Jesus Christ our Lord." It is the Holy Spirit's function to reveal Him. "He shall take of the things of Christ and show them to us."
And so in the light of His revealing we behold Christ, the perfect One, who walked in sinless perfection through the world in His incarnation, waiting to come and enter our hearts, and dwell in us, and walk in us, as the very substance of our new life, while we simply abide in Him, and walk in His very steppings. It is not merely imitating an example, but it is living in the very life of another. It is to have the very person of Christ possessing our being; the thoughts of Christ, the desires of Christ, the will of Christ, the faith of Christ, the purity of Christ, the love of Christ, the unselfishness of Christ, the single aim of Christ, the obedience of Christ, the humility of Christ, the submission of Christ, the meekness of Christ, the patience of Christ, the gentleness of Christ, the zeal of Christ, the works of Christ, manifest in our mortal flesh, so that we shall say, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." When the Holy Spirit thus reveals Him to the heart we can surely say, as a saint once said after such a vision, "I have had such a sight of Christ that I never can be discouraged again."
5. But the Spirit not only reveals Christ, but He actually brings him to occupy and abide in the heart. It is not enough to see, we must receive Him and become personally united to Him through the Holy Ghost. In order to do this there must be, on our part, a complete surrender and self -renunciation, followed by a definite act of appropriating faith. By it we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, and become filled with the Holy Ghost. In both of these we are led and enabled by the Holy Spirit. Through His gracious influence we present our bodies a living sacrifice, yield ourselves unto G.o.d in unreserved consecration, hand over to Him the old life of self and sin to be slain and buried forever, and offer ourselves to His absolute owners.h.i.+p, possession, and disposition, unconditionally and irrevocably.
The more definite and thorough this act of surrender, then the more complete and permanent will be the result. It is true that, at the best, it will be an imperfect consecration, and will need His merits to make it acceptable, but He will accept a sincere and single desire, and will add His own perfect consecration to our imperfect act, thus making it acceptable to the Father through His grace.
It is most blessed to know that in the very first act of a consecrated life we are not alone, but He Himself becomes our consecration, as He will afterwards become our obedience, and our strength step by step to the end. Having thus surrendered ourselves to Him for His sanctifying grace, we must next accept Him in His fullness that He does become to us henceforth all that we take Him for, and that we are now owned, accepted, possessed, cleansed and sanctified by His indwelling, and that He is saying to us, and, recording our glad amen, without reserve, to every word of it. "Now are ye clean through the word that I have spoken unto you." "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin."
6. The Holy Spirit next seals this act of union by His own manifested presence, and He makes us know that we have the abiding of Jesus by the witness of His presence, and the baptism of His love and power. Before, however, we can expect to receive this, we must simply believe the promise of Christ, resting in the certainty of our acceptance and consecration, and begin to act by implicit faith in Him as already in our hearts. When we do so, the Holy Ghost will not withhold the conscious witness of our blessing a moment longer than is really necessary for the testing and establis.h.i.+ng of our faith.
He will become to us a most blessed and personal reality, and it shall be true of us, as the Master Himself promised, after the Comforter has come, "at that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you." The soul will be filled with the delightful consciousness of the presence of G.o.d, sometimes as the Spirit of ineffable rest and holy serenity, sometimes as the Spirit of unutterable holiness, filling the heart as with the searching and consuming fire of divine purity. Sometimes the consciousness will be that of an intense hatred of sin, and a spirit of self -renunciation and holy vigilance.
Sometimes it will be a spirit of love, an intense consciousness of the divine approval, and of G.o.d's delight in us and love to us, until the heart is melted with the sense of His tenderness. Sometimes it is a Spirit of unspeakable joy and rapture, continuing for days together, until the very tides of G.o.d's bosom seem to swell within the heart with unutterable glory. Sometimes it is a very quiet, simple consciousness, prompting one rather to walk by faith moment by moment, and abide in Christ in great simplicity for every instant's need; and there is no transcendent emotion, but simply a satisfying consciousness of Christ sufficient for our practical life. But in every case it is really satisfaction, and we know that the Lord has come to abide with us forever, and be our allsufficiency, and our everlasting portion.
7. The Holy Spirit now begins to lead us in the steppings of a holy life. We find it is to be maintained by the moment. We have no crystalized and stereotyped condition of selfcentred life, but we have Christ for the present moment, and must abide in Him by the moment. We must walk in the Spirit, and we shall not fulfill the l.u.s.ts of the flesh. We must be filled with the Spirit, and we shall have no room for sin. It is now that we find the importance of walking in the Spirit, and maintaining steadfastly the habit of obedience and fellows.h.i.+p with Him as the essential condition of the life of holiness. One of the first and most important lessons is to hearken to His voice. The minding of the Spirit is life and peace, but the minding of the flesh is death. The Spirit is given, we are distinctly told, to them that obey Him; and the disobedient and inattentive heart will find His fellows.h.i.+p constantly liable to be interrupted and suspended. The life of holiness is not a mere abstract state, but a mosaic, made up of a thousand minute details of life and action.
A Christian lady, while thinking of the subject of sanctification, found herself suddenly absorbed in a sort of waking vision, in which she seemed to see a builder erecting an edifice of stone. First, she saw a deep excavation, and at the bottom of it a solid rock on which the house was to be planted. Across this rock was written the name of Christ, with the words, "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Then a derrick swung before her eyes and a stone was deposited in the rear of the building. It was a very plain looking block of granite, with no decorations whatever on its face, and as it was deposited, in an obscure portion of the wall was the word "Humility." Next, the derrick swung around to the front of the wall and planted another foundation stone on the princ.i.p.al corner, and the name of this was "Faith." The walls now rose rapidly; block after block of enduring granite was planted and cemented, and at length was fas.h.i.+oned into a magnificent arch surrounded by a beautiful cornerstone, the most lonely stone in all the building, and across it was written the name, "Love" Between these princ.i.p.al stones the interstices were filled up with innumerable small pieces of every size and shape, and these were variously named by the qualities of the Christian character, such as meekness, gentleness, temperance, forbearance, patience, considerateness, serenity, courtesy, cheerfulness, etc., and then the whole facade was spanned by one glowing word in golden letters, "Sanctification." The prejudices of a lifetime were at once removed, and she saw the loveliness of a holy life and character, and the true meaning of the word that she had so long misconceived and disliked.
This, then, is the Holy Spirit's work in the life, and holiness; it is much more than a mere blank sheet of spotless white; it is the living portrait wrought out upon that sheet in all the lineaments of holy loveliness, and all the positive qualities of a practical and beautiful Christian life. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, temperance, and faith," and "whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
These things the Holy Spirit comes to transcribe in our hearts and to reflect in our lives, and yet these qualities are not our own, in any sense in which we could claim them as the result of our own goodness, or rest in them as permanent, personal attributes. They are rather to be regarded as the grace of Christ, supplied to us from His own indwelling Spirit moment by moment. "And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace."
This is the grace to produce in us all the varied graces of the Christian life. As Peter expresses it, "We are called to show forth the excellencies of Christ," rather than our own, "who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light." These are the bridal robes which are granted to the Lamb's wife, "that she should be arrayed in raiment clean and white." These are like Rebecca's ornaments and veil, which are not woven by her hands, but brought her by Eleazar from Isaac himself, and which. she had simply to put on and wear as his gifts.
So, the Holy Ghost, typified by Abraham's servant, brings to us the wedding robe, and supplies to us day by day the special garment that fits us for each new situation and emergency, and we simply put on the Lord Jesus and walk in Him as our all-sufficiency for every place of duty and trial. The Spirit is ever present to reveal Him to us in every new aspect of grace and fullness; and every new need or failure is but an invitation to take Him in greater fullness, and prove in a higher sense that He is indeed able to save unto the uttermost, and to keep unto the end. Not only does the Holy Spirit thus lead us into the positive graces of the Christian life, but He also keeps us perpetually cleansed from all the stains of spiritual defilement, and even from the effects of temptation and evil suggestion. If sin should touch the heart but for a moment, He is there to reveal instantly the evil and in the same flash of light to present and apply a remedy. "And, if we walk in the light as He is in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ keeps cleansing us from all sin."
Thus the soul, like the pebble in the stream, lets in the perpetual cleansing of His life. Indeed, we may walk so close to Him that before the sin is even admitted, before the temptation has reached the citadel of the will and becomes our own act, it is repelled at the entrance, and does not become our sin. He has promised to keep us as the apple of His eye, and, even as the eyelash is so constructed in the delicate organism of the human body that the very approach of the smallest particle of dust causes it instantly to close and repel the intruding substance, so the gentle Holy Ghost instinctively guards the heart and conscience from willful sin. There is something, however, even in the presence of temptation, and the surrounding atmosphere of a sin-defiled world, that spreads a certain contagion around us, like the air in the infected hospital. And it is necessary, therefore, that even this should be constantly cleansed, even as the falling showers wash away the dust from the pavements and the trees, and purify the summer air. This the Holy Spirit is constantly doing, and diffusing through the sanctified heart the freshness and sweetness of the heavenly atmosphere.
We find, therefore, in the Old Testament types, a beautiful provision for the cleansing of the people, even from the touch of the dead, through the water of separation. Num. xix. This beautiful ordinance was a type of the Holy Spirit applying to us the atonement of Christ, and cleansing us habitually from the very breath, and even the indirect contagion of surrounding evil. Even if our old, dead carnal nature touches us, or the atmosphere of sin is around us, we have constantly this water of separation, and the moment we are sprinkled with it every effect is removed and the spirit is quickened into freshness and sweetness, even as the waters that revive the famished earth, and cause the desert to blossom as the rose.
We must ever bear in mind, in tracing the Holy Spirit's work in the believer's heart, the distinction between purity of heart and maturity of character. From the moment that the soul is yielded to Christ in full surrender, and He is received as its divine and indwelling life, we have His purity, and the old, sinful self is reckoned dead, and in no sense recognized as our true self. There is a complete and eternal divorce, and the old heart is henceforth treated as if it were not, and Christ recognized as the true I, and, of course, a life that is essentially pure and divine. But, although wholly separated from the old, sinful life, is the new spirit yet in its infancy, and before it lie boundless stages of progress and development. The acorn is as complete in its parts as the oak of a thousand years, but not as fully developed. And so the soul which has just received Christ as its abiding life and sanctification, is as wholly sanctified, and as completely one with Him as Enoch or John is today, but not as mature. This is the meaning of Christian growth; we do not grow into holiness, we receive holiness in Christ as a complete, divine life; complete in all its parts from the beginning, and divine, as Christ is. But it is like the infant Christ on Mary's bosom, and it has to grow up into all the fullness of the stature of perfect manhood in Christ.
This is the work of the Holy Ghost, as the mother and the nurse, the teacher, educator, cherisher of our spiritual life, and it is in this connection that we must learn to walk in the Spirit, and rise with Him into "all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power," until we shall have reached the fullness of His own prayer for us.
"Now the G.o.d of peace that brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus Christ, great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
THE SPIRIT OF LIFE.
What is life? The unsolved question of science and philosophy. What is it that makes the difference between that soaring bird with buoyant wing and burnished breast, as it mounts the air, and that little limp, broken thing that the hunter gathers up in his hand a moment later, as it has fallen before the cruel fire? What is the cause of this strange, terrible change? The galvanic battery can mimic some of the movements of life in muscle and limb, but when the current ceases the movement stops, and in a few hours the flesh has yielded to the power of corruption, and is dissolving into earth again.
What life does, we know, but what it is, science marks with a note of interrogation.
One of the most remarkable popular books of science, from a Christian standpoint, is Professor Drummond's "Natural Law in the Spiritual World," but perhaps the only thoroughly weak and unsatisfactory chapter in it is that in which he tries to define life and death.
Science is approaching slowly the true centre which the Bible gave us so long ago. It is steadily reducing all vital force to one essential principle, perhaps electricity. The Bible has settled the question long ago in regard to Him who is the source of life: "This is the true G.o.d and eternal life." G.o.d is the fount of life, and Christ is the life of G.o.d for men, and His life is the true source of life for the souls and bodies of His children. This life He imparts to us through the Holy Spirit, who becomes to the soul that is united to Him, the medium and the channel of vital union and communion with Christ, our Living Head. It is thus that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, because He imparts to us the life of Jesus. It is especially of His part, in connection with our physical life, that we are to speak at this time.
That He should be able to quicken our mortal bodies should not seem strange even upon the most general view of the subject. As we have already intimated, even physical science has been learning, in some measure, to recognize life, not so much as a matter of external organism and coa.r.s.e material elements, as of vital force.
Half a century has changed radically the methods of treatment known to medical science, and led physicians to rely much more upon natural forces and resources, and more subtle and vital elements, to counteract the power of disease than formerly.
The influence of air and occupation, of surrounding circ.u.mstances and mental conditions, all these have far greater weight today than formerly, because health is recognized as the result of inward forces more than of outward agencies. These are distinct approximations toward the higher truth, that the source of our strength must be looked for in the direct power and contact of that spiritual personality in whom "we live, and move, and have our being."
This is the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures from beginning to end, and we shall probably be surprised to find how much is taught in these sacred pages respecting the relation of the Holy Spirit to our physical life.
The Part of the Holy Spirit in Creation.
We know that the Divine Spirit is recognized in the Scriptures as the direct agent in the original creation, and the Spirit of life and order in the whole domain in nature and providence.
How strikingly all this is described in the majestic Psalm of nature, the one hundred and fourth: "Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled; Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created; and Thou renewest the face of the earth."
This is, however, the power that formed the heavens with their orbs of light, that covers the woods and fields with their robes of many-tinted glory, that animates the teeming world of insect and animal life, that breathed into man the breath of life at the beginning, and still sustains his physical existence, and that has created all his mortal powers and endowments. Why should it be thought strange that He who made us should sustain us, restore us, and "quicken our mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in us?"
Walking in the Spirit Part 2
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Walking in the Spirit Part 2 summary
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