Walking in the Spirit Part 5
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This is, indeed, true; it is not in proportion to our desperate efforts that we should see the results; but to our simple trust in the power of G.o.d, to honor His own Word, and work by His own Spirit in the hearts of men. The most of the great revival movements have thus begun.
A humble working man in the north of Ireland read the story of Geo. Muller's life, and immediately thought, why cannot I have the same answer to prayer in the salvation of souls? He immediately began to pray for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his city and country; soon he was joined by another, and then another, and before long a flood of fire was sweeping over all the land, and hundreds of thousands of souls were mightily converted to G.o.d. It was thus that Mr. Finney always prepared for his work. We can read in his biography how he used to retire with a friend, sometimes into the woods, and spend hours on his knees until he felt the blessing was claimed and the power was coming, and then he would go forth about his work with the tranquil certainty that G.o.d was there and would be revealed in all His power and glory, and the result always was the mighty working of the Holy Ghost.
Not always is it the preacher who exercises the effectual faith; sometimes it is a silent and obscure heart whom no one shall know until the day when all things shall be revealed.
A celebrated preacher of the middle ages was always accompanied by a quiet and insignificant man, without whom he would never preach. The man never opened his lips in public, and seemed to be a useless appendage. He afterwards explained that while he preached his companion prayed, and that he attributed all the marvelous results of his messages to his believing intercessions. There is no Christian but can thus claim and exercise the very power of G.o.d even in the most silent capacity, and it will be found in the great day that G.o.d has not failed to credit the recompense to the real instrument through whom the divine working came. It will very likely be found in that day that the voice that spake from the pulpit had but a fractional share in the real work which the Holy Ghost accomplished, but that some humble saint was the real channel through whom the fire of G.o.d fell upon convicted and converted souls.
But it is not only for the conversion of souls that G.o.d will give us His power, and faith to claim His working, but for everything connected with His cause, and our ministry shall touch every part of His work.
Faith is the true channel of effectiveness, simply because faith is merely the hand by which the forces of Omnipotence are brought to bear upon the work. The removing of obstacles, the influencing of human hearts and minds, the bringing together of workers, the obtaining of helpers, the supply of financial needs; all these are proper subjects for believing prayer, and proper lines for demonstrating the all-sufficiency of G.o.d. And if, instead of begging for help, and compromising the honor of Christ by despairing appeals to the church and the world, the people of G.o.d would more simply trust Him, they would be saved a thousand embarra.s.sments, and His name would be constantly glorified in the manifestation of His all-sufficiency before an unbelieving world.
A few stupendous examples of G.o.d's faithfulness in answering the prayers of His people in the supply of money and men, such as have been afforded by the story of George Muller's Orphanage, the China Inland Mission, and similar works by faith, were not intended to be isolated instances, but to prove to the world that Christ is able always to meet His people's needs, and to be but samples of a principle which should be the rule of Christian work; that G.o.d in all things might be glorified through Jesus Christ, not only in the spiritual, but in the temporal and practical needs of His kingdom.
Still more necessary is the spirit of love as the very element and character of every true Christian worker. "Lovest thou me?" is the prime condition on which Christ's saints are to minister to His flock, and love for souls is the only bond that can win and hold them and can sustain our own heart amid the trials and discouragements of Christian work. Human love will make any task a delight. For the child of her affection the mother can toil and suffer without weariness, and count life itself a small sacrifice for her loved one.
And so the love of souls will inspire us and sustain us in the face of every discouragement and disagreeable surrounding, until the most loathsome and offensive scenes will be a delight to us, and the most coa.r.s.e and degraded souls will be dear to our hearts as our beloved friends, and it shall become the pa.s.sion of our life to win them for Christ.
A n.o.ble woman died lately in Indiana, who had a remarkable record of success in dealing with hardened women. She was the superintendent of a large inst.i.tution for this cla.s.s, and her influence over them was irresistible; it was the power of love. Often when met by stormy pa.s.sion and wild, coa.r.s.e, desperate wickedness, has she thrown her arms about some degraded woman, and by a kiss of unfeigned love and the hot tears of her tender compa.s.sion, melted the heart of stone. We must love people if we would do them good, but such love must be divine. Mere human sympathy does not go to the depths of their heart, but the love which is born of G.o.d and inbreathed of the Holy Ghost, always finds its way to every citadel of rebellion, and wins the soul for G.o.d.
At a railway station a brutal criminal was being conveyed to the penitentiary. Sitting on the benches with his keepers, he was awaiting the incoming train. A little girl sat watching him beside her father. Her heart was overwhelmed with the strange sight, and at length she stole up to him, unnoticed by her father, and looking earnestly in his face, she said, while the tears were in her eyes, "Poor man, I am so sorry for you" The shock aroused him for a moment to realize his condition; his eye flashed, his frame shook with pa.s.sion, and he repelled her from his presence as though he had been insulted, and almost tried to strike her. She cowered back to her father's knee, the tears still in her eyes, and still watched him; but in a little while she managed to slip away again from the arms of her father, who supposed she had been frightened effectually away from approaching him, and stealing up to him again she looked once more in his hideous face and said very slowly, "Poor man, Jesus Christ is so sorry for you." Instantly he seemed utterly changed and subdued. That name had power to overcome the demon in his heart; his wild defiance broke quite down and he began to weep like a child. Years after he often told the story himself, when a happy, useful Christian man, and he said it was that message that broke his heart, and never left him till he found the Saviour. It was not the child's love merely, but the Saviour's love in the child that won.
There is much danger of turning the gospel of Christ and the power of G.o.d into human sentiment. Mere compa.s.sion for people, and even a costly show of interest and sympathy, will not save them, but the love born of the Holy Ghost will go as deep as the height from which it springs; and if we walk in the Spirit we shall find Him ever breathing upon us in our work that love which will brood over souls with a divine motherhood, loving them even before we know them, praying for them in the Spirit before we have singled them out of our audience; and then when we meet them recognizing them with a thrill of joy as the souls that we have been bearing on our hearts as a burden of prayer.
This love will strangely endear to us the most repulsive beings and make the most dreadful scenes more delightful than the surroundings of culture and affection, and a life of luxury and indulgence. This is the pa.s.sion that has drawn so many n.o.ble men and women to the wretched fields of sin, until their heavenly love has gathered, like the magnet to itself, the lost and wretched, and bound them forever to the heart of Christ.
This is the sweetest, highest gift of the Holy Ghost; the most tender, irresistible element of spiritual power. This was the force that drew souls to Jesus, who loved them to Himself. He was the Shepherd on the mountains, facing every privation and peril, to find the sheep that was lost; the weary wayfarer by Samaria's well, longing for the heart of that poor woman more than for meat and drink; the tender face that looked on Peter and broke his heart by a single glance of love, and that still says to each rescued, ransomed soul, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee."
This was the power of Paul's ministry. How he loved his flock! "We were willing to have imparted unto you even our own souls; we exhorted every one of you even as a father doth his children; we were gentle with you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, according to the flesh." Men can make burning gla.s.ses of iron which will confront the solar rays, and kindle fires in polar seas. Not so can souls be set on fire; the medium must itself be glowing and burning, "a burning as well as a s.h.i.+ning light."
This is difficult to describe. It expresses a kind of heavenly wisdom which is not low, cunning policy any more than coa.r.s.e inconsiderate abruptness, but a holy judiciousness and fitness of manner and method which nicely adapts itself by the teaching of the Spirit to diversities of character, and in a proper sense becomes all things to all men that it may win them. "He that winneth souls," the preacher says, "is wise." "I will make you fishers of men," said the Master. "I caught you with guile," says the apostle.
The word tact literally means touch. There are many kinds of touch. There is the touch of a mother which even the dying boy can recognize when unconscious of all else, and there is the touch of a blacksmith or a policeman. Not thus are we to touch the souls with which we are dealing for eternity. He that possesses the Holy Ghost will have a holy deference that will feel its way to their hearts, gently approaching them, dispelling their prejudices, tolerant of their faults, patient with their dullness or slowness, and pressing steadily and wisely to the goal of their hearts.
So the Lord drew to Him the woman at Jacob's well. First, He awakened her interest, next, disarming her prejudices, and winning her confidence; next, awakened the hunger in her heart; then venturing to arouse her conscience to the recollection of its sin, carefully avoiding any controversy about doctrines and religions, and at last bearing straight to her heart with the revelation of Himself as her Saviour.
Nothing can teach tact but the Holy Spirit and a heart so full of love for souls that it is vigilant from its very desire to win them. It is the very wisdom of the Holy Spirit and of the heart. There is only One that can make us fishers of men. This power is not always manifest in the public discourse, or the wholesale dealing with souls. He charges, himself, of every minister to reap, even as reapers gather their sheaves by hand and one by one. And he who is not willing thus to seek and find the lost by personal, patient, wise and loving ministry, shall never know the fullness of the Spirit of power.
We have to learn that no two hearts can be dealt with on general principles, and in the same way. The message that was blessed yesterday to a special a.s.sembly may not be the one for today. The promise, the incident, the ill.u.s.tration which helped that one to the Saviour cannot be applied as a cast-iron pattern to the next one. In each case we must be distinctly led by the Spirit of wisdom and grace, and if we trust Him "it shall be given us, in the same hour, what we shall say."
Thanks be to His name who has promised us something better than our poor, weak common sense, even that divine enduement, the Spirit of power and of love, and of a sound mind.
The Conditions of Spiritual Power.
1. Of course, the prime condition ever is that we ourselves are walking in holiness and obedience, and pleasing the Holy Spirit for our own life. We cannot expect to impart to others what we do not possess ourselves. There is nothing tells on human souls like reality, and men instinctively know whether we have experienced what we teach.
No man has a right to give to others what he has not tasted and tested himself. The mightiest force in all our work is to know and to have all men know that our life is back of our work.
2. The next condition is that we work on Scriptural lines.
We cannot expect the power of G.o.d to accompany a minister or a church, to any great extent, which allows itself to be compromised by entanglements with the world, or with methods which are contrary to the Scriptures. We cannot expect a lasting revival to follow a series of religious entertainments, or to be followed by a scene of dissipation or spiritual relaxation. The church and minister who may expect the most divine and abiding fruit are those who always work on strictly spiritual lines, and in simple accordance with the Word of G.o.d.
We must be careful of resorting too much to human attractions to draw people to Christ. There is a sense in which it is quite proper to use the legitimate power of consecrated music and the social element to promote a congenial and radiant spirit in the work and wors.h.i.+p of G.o.d, but a work which has to be sustained by the aid of social receptions, musical entertainments, and the operatic stage behind the pulpit, can never be sanctioned or crowned by the power of the Holy Ghost to any considerable extent.
In spite of these things, G.o.d does make the best He can of His own truth and the baffled efforts of His individual people even in such a work, but it is a sad, hopeless confusion, and always leads to ultimate disappointment, and impermanent results.
3. In order to enjoy the power of G.o.d we must use His own instrumentalities and weapons, His Holy Word, and a simple, pure, and full gospel. There are the weapons of our warfare, which are not carnal but mighty through G.o.d to the pulling down of strongholds; and if we would expect His power we must preach His truth in faithfulness and fullness, and it shall prevail, if proclaimed in the spirit of faith and love.
Many sermons do not possess enough of truth to give them converting power. The Holy Ghost cannot use fully a mere appeal to the sensibilities, or even to the fears of an audience. An inspired messenger should present Christ and Him crucified, and where this is done the Holy Ghost will make it the power of G.o.d unto salvation, if His working is rightly claimed and expected.
4. Finally, our motive must be pure.
The glory of Christ. Merely to desire power that we may be powerful preachers or successful workers, will bring bitter disappointment. G.o.d will not lend the Holy Ghost to any man to dishonor His own dear Son. He shall testify to Jesus, and not to any man. Self must be dead, and Christ alone exalted, if we are to have much of the power of G.o.d.
Some men cannot stand much usefulness, and G.o.d loves them too much to set them on the pinnacle of a temple, for there is no fall so great as that which falls from thence.
There is no sacrilege so dangerous and shameful as that which uses the gifts of G.o.d to glorify any man. Not only must every faithful minister fear for himself the faintest shadow of self-consciousness, but his people must ever guard him from the peril of their own idolatry; for, as surely as they recognize in him ought but G.o.d they shall do him cruel harm, and bring upon him humiliation and loss.
An old fisherman was asked how he was so successful. He gave the very sensible answer that he always kept himself out of sight of the fish; and many a minister and worker may find a hint of their failure in this simple ill.u.s.tration.
When Alexander the Great first met his famous war-horse, Bucephalous, he found that the animal became terrified whenever he turned his back to the sun, because his own shadow was thrown before him, and, like a spectre, haunted his vision and hindered his progress. The wise hero instantly leaped into the saddle, turned his face to the sun, threw his shadow behind, plunged his spurs in his steed, and galloped off in majestic style to the amazement of all beholders. From that hour the steed was his master's inseparable companion, and led many an invincible charge, and always to victory. So, let us throw our shadow behind us, set our faces toward Christ, and press on in the power of G.o.d to victorious service and at last to imperishable glory.
THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER.
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Rom. viii: 26.
"Praying in the Holy Ghost." Jude, verse 20.
The mystery of prayer! There is nothing like it in the natural universe. A higher and a lower being in perfect communion. A familiar intercourse, yet both as widely distinct as the finite is from the infinite. More wonderful even than that we should be able to hold converse with the insect that crawls beneath our feet, or the bird that flutters on the branches at our window! Marvelous bond of prayer which can span the gulf between the Creator and the creature, the infinite G.o.d and the humblest and most illiterate child!
How has this been accomplished? The three Divine persons have all co-operated in opening the gates of prayer. The Father waits at the throne of grace as the hearer of prayer; the Son has come to reveal the Father, and has returned to be our Advocate in His presence. And the Holy Spirit has come still nearer, as the other Advocate in the heart, to teach us the heavenly secret of prayer, and send up our pet.i.tions in the true spirit to the hands of our heavenly Intercessor. It is to this ministry we are to speak now.
The very name given to the Holy Ghost, literally means the Advocate, and the chief business of the one Advocate is to prepare our cause in the office, and the other to plead it before the Judge. We have the whole Trinity in our behalf. The Holy Spirit prepares our case, the Lord Jesus presents it, and the Judge is our Father. What an infinite light, and what an unspeakable comfort this sheds on the subject of prayer!
Our need of this Advocate is referred to in our text very impressively: "We know not what to pray for as we ought." We are often ignorant of the subjects for which we ought to pray; and often, when we know our needs, we know not how rightly to present them. There is much expressed in these words. We are often deeply ignorant of our truest needs, and the things we wish most for are not the things we most require. Our minds are blinded by prejudice and pa.s.sion; the things we would sometimes ask for we shall afterwards find would have been only an injury. Besides, we know not the future, and cannot, intelligently, antic.i.p.ate the needs and dangers against which we should pray, while a thousand unseen elements of peril continually surround us and need a wiser forethought and insight than our own to guard against.
And often "we know not how to pray as we ought." Prayer is a high art, and must be divinely taught. We would not rashly send a crude and unprepared case before an earthly tribunal, and he is greatly mistaken who thinks that the thoughtless and random dashes of human impulse, or even sincere earthly desires, are all accepted as prayer. Many "receive not because they ask amiss." If we regard iniquity in our hearts the Lord will not hear us. We must ask in faith, nothing doubting. These and other qualities must be taught and impelled by the Holy Spirit. "We know not how to pray as we ought."
The right motive which seeks supremely the glory of G.o.d, the right spirit recognizing submissively and joyfully His sovereign will, the deep and sincere desire, the faith which dares to ask as largely as the measure of the Father's will and promise, the patience that tarries if it waits, knowing that it will surely come, and will not tarry too long, the obedience that steps out upon the promise all these elements of prayer are operations of the Holy Spirit, and we cannot too devoutly thank Him that He is willing thus to teach our ignorance and simplicity the heavenly secret of prayer. "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession within us, with groanings which cannot be uttered.
1. The Holy Spirit reveals to us our needs. This is always the first element in prayer, a painful consciousness of failure and necessity. The prophet's word to Jehoshaphat was, "Make the valley full of ditches," and then, the second, "The valley shall be full of water." The heart must be ploughed up into great channels of conscious need to hold the blessing when it comes; and this is often painful work, but, "Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
When the Spirit of grace and supplication is poured out upon Jerusalem, the effect is a deep and universal sorrow. "They shall look upon Him they have pierced, and they shall mourn as one that mourneth for an only son, and be in bitterness as one is in bitterness for a first-born." The Spirit of prayer is the spirit of dependence, deep humility and conscious need.
2. The Holy Spirit next awakens in the soul holy desires for the blessings that G.o.d is about to give. Desire is an element in prayer. "Whatever things ye desire," our Lord says, "when ye pray believe that ye receive them." These deep, spiritual longings are like the rootlets by which the plant draws the nourishment from the soil; like the absorbing vessels of the human system, which take in and a.s.similate nourishment and food. The desires give intensity and force to our prayer, and enlarge the heart to receive the blessing when it comes. G.o.d, therefore, often keeps His children waiting for the visible answer to their pet.i.tions, in order that they may the more ardently desire the blessing, and be thus enabled to receive it more fully and appreciate it more gratefully when it comes.
When we were traveling in Italy we were often serenaded by parties of native musicians, whose sweet strains were sometimes very delightful. But we noticed that whenever we paid them their little gratuity they always stopped the music and they went away, and when we wished to listen longer to their sweetest strains, we waited before handing them their charity. So G.o.d loves to hear His people's holy desires and earnest prayers, and often prolongs the pet.i.tion because He delights to hear us pray, and then gives us the larger blessing in proportion to our waiting. Often has your heart longed for some special blessing until it seemed that it would break for desire. You almost thought that you never should possess the holiness you so longed for. But now, as you look back, you see that this deep hunger was just the beginning of your blessing. It was the shadow side, the Holy Ghost awakening all the receptive capacities of your being, to absorb it when it came.
Once we saw a party of children sending up a balloon of tissue paper. First, the balloon was carefully constructed of the lightest fabric, and then suspended with light cords a few feet above the ground. Its little beacon light was attached, and then they began to prepare the force that was to be used for its ascension. It was nothing more than simply building a little fire below the open mouth of the balloon and allowing the heated air to ascend until it filled the entire s.p.a.ce within. The moment this was done the little vessel swelled and reached out for its ascension, pulling hard at the restraining cords, and pressing upwards. When it was thoroughly filled with the heated air it was only necessary to cut the cords, and instantly it sailed away to the upper air. So it seems the warm breath of holy desire and earnest purpose in prayer, when inspired by the Holy Ghost, bears up our pet.i.tions to the throne of grace, and makes the difference between the mere words of formalism, and the "effectual working prayer of the righteous man which availeth much."
3. The Holy Spirit lays upon the heart wherein He dwells the special burden of prayer.
We often read in the old prophetic Scriptures of the burden of the Lord. And so still the Lord lays His burden on His consecrated messengers. This is the meaning of the strong language of our text, "The Spirit maketh intercession within us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Sometimes this burden is inarticulate and unintelligible even to the supplicant himself. Perhaps some heavy shadow rests upon the soul, some deep depression, some crus.h.i.+ng weight under which we can only groan. With it there may come the definite thought of some personal need, some apprehended evil that overhangs us, or some dear one who is brought to our spirit as somehow connected with this pressure. As we pray for this especial person or thing, light seems to open upon the heart, and an a.s.surance of having met the will of G.o.d in our prayer; or sometimes the burden is not understood; and yet, as it presses heavily upon us and we hold it up to Him who does understand, we are conscious that our prayer is not in vain; but that He who knows its meaning and prompts its cry, is granting what He sees to be best under the circ.u.mstances for us or others, as the burden may apply.
We may never know in this world just what it meant, and yet, often we will find that some great trial has been averted, some impending danger turned aside, some difficulty overcome, some sufferer relieved, some soul saved.
It is not necessary that we should always know; indeed, perhaps we should never fully know what any of our prayers wholly mean; G.o.d's answer is always larger than our pet.i.tion, an d even when our prayer is most definite and intelligent there is a wide margin which only the Holy Ghost can interpret, and G.o.d will fill it up in His infinite wisdom and love. That is what is meant by the significant language of the text, "He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, for He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of G.o.d." The Father is always searching our hearts and listening, not to our wild and often mistaken outcries, but to the mind of the Holy Spirit in us, whom He recognizes as our true guardian and monitor, and He grants us according to His pet.i.tions and not merely our words. But if we walk in the Spirit and are trained to know and obey His voice, we shall not send up the wild and vain outcries of our mistaken impulses, but shall echo His will and His prayer, and thus shall ever pray in accordance with the will of G.o.d.
The sensitive spirit grows very quick to discern G.o.d's voice. That which would naturally be considered as simple depression of spirits comes to be instantly recognized as a hint that G.o.d has something to say to us, or something to ask in us for ourselves or others. Often our physical sensations come to be quick, instinctive interpreters of some inward call; for when we do not quickly listen to G.o.d's voice He knocks more loudly, until the very body feels the pain and warns us that the Lord hath need of us. If we were but more watchful we would find that nothing comes to us at any moment of our lives which has not some divine significance, and which does not lead us in some way to communion or service. He who thus walks with G.o.d soon learns the luxury of having no personal burdens or troubles, but recognizing everything as service for G.o.d or for others.
This makes the ministry of prayer a very solemn responsibility, for, if we are not obedient to His voice, some interest must suffer, some part of His will be neglected, some part of His purpose frustrated, so far, at least, as our co-operation is concerned, and, perhaps, someone very dear to us will lose a blessing through our neglect or disobedience; or we ourselves find that we are not prepared for the conflict or trial against which He was providing by the very burden that we would not understand nor carry.
Thus it was with the disciples and the Master in the garden of Gethsemane. That was for Him the antic.i.p.ation of the cross; and, as He met the burden in advance, He was prepared for the awful hours that followed, and went through them in victory, and thus redeemed the world. But the disciples could not watch with Him one hour; they neglected the call to prayer, and slept when they should have hearkened and prayed, and the result was that the morning found them unprepared, and the trial ended in shameful failure, and only His previous intercession for him saved Peter from entire wreck, and perhaps a fate desperate as that of Judas.
G.o.d has placed within our breast a monitor who is always looking forward to our needs and antic.i.p.ating our situations; let us, therefore, be quick to hearken and obey His voice, as He calls us to the ministry of prayer, and in so doing we shall not only save ourselves, but also many a heart that perhaps is not able to pray for itself.
4. The Spirit brings to our hearts, in the ministry of prayer, the encouragement of G.o.d's Word, the promises of His grace, and the fulness of Christ to meet our need. It is He who gives us such conceptions of Christ as awaken in us confidence of blessing. He opens to our vision the infinite resources of the grace of G.o.d, and shows us all the rich provision of our Father's house. He unfolds to us the grounds of faith in the gospel, and teaches us to understand our redemption rights, our filial claims, and our high calling in Christ Jesus. He breathes in our heart the Spirit of sons.h.i.+p, and He inspires the faith which is the essential condition of effectual prayer. And so He leads us to present to the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus, not only the right desires, but in the right spirit: "By one Spirit we have access unto the Father."
Thus He is in us the Spirit of faith, the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of liberty in prayer, the Spirit of holy confidence and enlargement of heart, and the witnessing Spirit, who, when we pray in faith, seals upon our soul the divine a.s.surance that our prayer is accepted before G.o.d, and that the answer will be surely given. We must first, however, believe G.o.d's promise in the exercise of simple faith, and, as we do, the Spirit witnesseth with our spirit and often fills the soul with joy and praise which antic.i.p.ates the answer long before it is apparent. This is the highest triumph of prayer, to look within the vail, even before the curtains are parted, and know that our pet.i.tion is granted; to hear the sound of the bells upon our High Priest's garment, even from the inmost chambers, and to rejoice in the antic.i.p.ation of our blessing as fully as if we already saw its complete fulfillment.
Our Lord always requires this faith as the condition of answered prayer. "Whatsoever things ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
"Let him ask in faith, nothing doubting. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. Let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord." But this is the special work of the Holy Ghost. He is the Spirit of revelation and of faith, and as we pray in His fellows.h.i.+p, and according to His will, we shall be enabled through His grace to ask with humble and confident expectation of His blessing.
5. The Holy Spirit will also teach us when to cease from prayer, and turn our pet.i.tion into thanksgiving, or go out in obedience to meet the answer as it waits before us, or comes to meet us. There is a place for silence as well as prayer, and when we truly believe, we shall cease to ask as we asked before, and henceforth our prayers shall simply be in the att.i.tude of waiting for our answer, or holding up G.o.d's promise to him in the Spirit of praise and expectation.
This does not mean that we shall never think any more about that for which we asked, but we shall think no more of it in a doubtful manner; we shall think of it only with thanksgiving and restful expectation. We may often remind G.o.d of it, but it will always be in the spirit of trust and confidence. Therefore, the prophet speaks of those who are "the Lord's remembrancers," those that remind G.o.d of His promises and wait upon Him for His fulfillment of them. This is really a spirit of prayer, and yet it is not perhaps a spirit of pet.i.tion so much as praise, which indeed is the true exhibition of the highest form of faith.
Sometimes, too, after our prayer, the Holy Spirit will have a subsequent ministry of obedience for us; there will be something for us perhaps to do in receiving the answer, and He will show us, interpreting to us G.o.d's Providences as they meet us, and enabling us to meet them in a spirit of co-operation and vigilance.
He also will be present to support our faith in its tests and painful trials, and enable us to rejoice and praise G.o.d, often amid the seeming contradictions of His Providence. For faith is always tested, and "we have need of patience, that having done the will of G.o.d we might receive the promise."
CO-OPERATING WITH THE HOLY GHOST.
"Receive ye the Holy Ghost" John xx: 22.
"Be filled with the Spirit." Eph. v: 18.
While we recognize the sovereign power of the Holy Ghost, visiting the heart at His pleasure, and working according to His will upon the objects of His grace, yet G.o.d has ordained certain laws of operation and co-operation in connection with the application of redemption; and He Himself most delicately recognizes His own laws, and respects the freedom of the human will; not forcing His blessings upon unwilling hearts, but knocking at the door of our heart, waiting to be recognized and claimed, and then working in the soul as we heartily cooperate, hearken, and obey. There is, therefore, a very solemn and responsible part for every man in co-operating with, or resisting and hindering the Holy Spirit.
"The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal," that is to say, it rests with the man who receives the first movement of the Holy Spirit to determine how far he will embrace his opportunity, co-operate with his heavenly Friend, and enter into all the fullness of the good and perfect will of G.o.d.
Perhaps the pound, represented in the parable as given to every one of the servants, was meant to express that gift of the Spirit which every Christian receives, and the various uses which the servants made of this common enduement may represent the degrees with which the children of G.o.d double and use their spiritual advantages.
One improved his pound until it had become ten; another until it had increased five-fold, and another neglected it and hid it in the earth. So, three men receiving in the beginning of their experience an equal measure of spiritual things, may show in the end just as great a diversity in the use that they have made of the precious trust. By a diligent and vigilant obedience the one has grown to be a Paul, crowned with ransomed souls, and clothed with all the fullness of heavenly power. The other has become, perhaps, a proud Diotrephes, seeking chiefly his personal ambition and using the divine grace for his own advantage.
The Holy Spirit is especially sensitive to the reception He finds in the human heart; never intruding as an unwelcome guest, but gladly entering every open door, and following up every invitation with His faithful love and power. How are we to co-operate with Him, and how may we grieve and hinder Him?
1. We are commanded to receive the Holy Ghost.
This denotes an active and positive taking of His life and power into our hearts and lives. It is not a mere acquiescence in His coming, or pa.s.sive a.s.sent unto His will, but an active appropriating and absorbing of His blessed person and influences into our whole person.
It is one thing to have our dinner brought to us, and it is another thing to eat it, drink it, a.s.similate it, and be nourished by it.
It is thus that we are to receive the Holy Ghost, with an open, yielding, hungering, thirsting, believing, accepting and absorbing heart, even as the dry sand receives the rain, as the empty sponge receives the moisture, as the negative cloud receives the current from the positive, as the vacuum receives the air, and the babe drinks in the mother's life from her offered breast.
There are spiritual organs of reception as well as physical. There are vessels of heart-hunger and absorption which can be cultivated and exercised, and there are those who, "by reason of us," have their senses thus exercised to receive the grace of G.o.d.
Are we receiving the Holy Ghost? are we taking the water of life freely? are we putting forth our hand grasping the tree of life and eating of its fruit?
Let us remember that we are receiving a person, and that in order to do so we must recognize that person individually, and treat Him as we would a welcome guest.
Have we thus received the Holy Spirit as a person, invited Him into our hearts, believed that He really came, and then begun to treat Him as an actual person; to talk to Him, to commune with Him, to enjoy His fellows.h.i.+p, to call upon His help, and practically recognize Him as a present Guest.
Not only do we receive the Holy Spirit as a person, but having thus recognized Him we are to receive His influences as He imparts them, to be open to His touch, attentive to His voice, responsive to His love, and empty vessels for His constant use and filling.
2. We are to be filled with the Spirit.
While it is true that there is a definite moment when the Holy Spirit comes to reside in the heart, yet there are repeated experiences of His renewing, quickening, reviving, refres.h.i.+ng influences; these are called by the apostle, in Jude, "the renewings of the Holy Ghost," which He sheds on us abundantly, and by Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles, "the times of refres.h.i.+ng from the presence of the Lord." The expression, "baptized of the Spirit" may be applied perhaps to our first marked experience of this kind, and in this connection we are glad that the term baptism means a very thorough and complete immersion in the ocean of His love and fullness. But it is not once that He is asked to manifest His love and power.
We read in the Acts of the Apostles that after the day of Pentecost there came another day when the disciples were a.s.sembled in a time of peril and trial in prayer before the Master for His interposition, and that when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they had a.s.sembled, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and the mighty power of G.o.d was manifested afresh in their midst.
And so the Apostle says in Ephesians, "Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit." The filling of the Spirit is here contrasted with the exciting influence of earthly stimulants, as if he had said, there is one draught of which you can never drink too much; you can safely be intoxicated with the Holy Ghost.
In the twelfth chapter of 1 Cor., Paul uses the same expression in connection with the figure of baptism: "By one Spirit have we all been baptized into one body, and been made to drink of that one Spirit." It is the figure of being submerged in the ocean, and then, when lost in the depths of the sea, opening our mouths and beginning to drink of its depth and fullness. We are plunged in the Holy Spirit until He becomes the element of our being, like the air in which we move, and then we open all the faculties of our being and drink from His inexhaustible supplies.
How great the capacity of the human soul to be filled with the life of G.o.d it is impossible to say. Surely, if the sun can fill a flower with its glorious light in all the many-tinted colors; surely, if the cloud can drink in his rays until they grow with all the tints of light, 0, surely the human soul can absorb all there is in G.o.d and then give it forth in the reflected light of holiness. Surely, if the earth can drink in the rain, and then give it out in the plants, and fruits, and flowers of summer, the human heart can draw from G.o.d the elements of His very being, and turn them into all the fruits of holy living and useful deeds. Surely, if His own beloved Son could dwell in His bosom ages upon ages before an angel ever sang or a planet swept along its heavenly way, or an object of creation filled the plains of immensity, and found in His Father's heart the rapture of His joy, so that He could say, "I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him," 0, surely, the human soul can fill all its little vessels and satisfy the measure of its capacities in His divine love and benignity.
Walking in the Spirit Part 5
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Walking in the Spirit Part 5 summary
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