THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST.
Cfte ILeaUmg of tije spirit.
• As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.'—Rom. viii. 14.
BY very many Christians the leading of the Spirit is chiefly thought of as a suggestion of thoughts for our guidance. In the decision of doubtful questions of opinion or of duty, in the choice of words from Scripture to use, or the distinct direction to the performance of some Christian work, they would be so glad of some intimation from the Spirit of what the right thing is. They long and ask for it in vain. When at times they think they have it, it does not bring the assurance, or the comfort, or the success, which they think ought to be the seal of what is really from the Spirit. And so the precious truth of the Spirit's leading, instead of being an end of all controversy, and the solution of all difficulty, a source of comfort and of strength, itself becomes a cause of perplexity, and the greatest difficulty of all.
The error comes from not'accepting the truth we have had to insist upon more than once, that the teaching and the leading of the Spirit is first given in the Life, not in the Mind. The Life is stirred and strengthened; the Life becomes the Light. As the conformity to this world and its spirit is crucified and dies, as we deliberately deny and keep down the life of nature and the will of the flesh, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and so the mind becomes able to prove and know the good and perfect and acceptable will of God (Rom. xii. 2).
This connection between the practical sanctifying work of the Spirit in our inner life, and His leading, comes out very clearly in our context. 'If by the Spirit ye make to die the deeds of the body, ye shall live,' we read in viii. 13. Then follows immediately, 'For as, many as are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.' That is, as many as allow themselves to be led by Him in this mortifying of the deeds of the body, these are the sons of God. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the holy life which there was and is in Christ Jesus, and which works in us as a Divine life-power. He is the Spirit of Holiness, and onlJ ^s such will He lead. Through Him God works in us 1,0th to will and to do of His good pleasure; through Him God makes us perfect in every good work to (4o His will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight. To be led of the Spirit implies in the first place the surrender to His work as He convinces of sin, and cleanses soul and body for His temple. It is as the Indwelling Spirit, filling, sanctifying, and ruling the heart and life, that He enlightens and leads.1
In the study of what the leading of the Spirit means, it is of the first importance to grasp this thought in all its bearings. It is only the spiritual mind can discern spiritual things, can receive the leadings of the Spirit. The mind must grow spiritual to become capable of spiritual guidance. Paul said to the Corinthians, that because, though born again, they were still carnal, as babes in Christ, he had not been able to teach them spiritual truth. If this holds of the teaching that comes through man, how much more of that direct teaching of the Spirit, by which He leads into all truth! The deepest mysteries of Scripture, as far as they are apprehended by human thought, can be studied and accepted and even taught by the unsanetified mind. But the leading of the Spirit, we cannot repeat it too often, does not begin in the region of thought or feeling. Deeper down, in the life itself, in the hidden laboratory of the inner life, whence issues the power that moulds the will and fashions the character in our spirits, there the Holy Spirit takes up His abode, there He breathes and moves and impels. He leads by inspiring us with a life and disposition out of which right purposes and decisions come forth. 'That ye may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding:' that prayer teaches us that it is only to a spiritual understanding that the knowledge of God's will can he given. And the spiritual understanding only comes with the growth of the spiritual man, and the faithfulness to the spiritual life. He that would have the leading of the Spirit must yield himself to have his life wholly possessed and filled of the Spirit. It was when Christ had been baptized with the Spirit that,' being full of the Spirit, he was led by the Spirit in the wilderness' (Luke iv. 1), 'that He returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee' (iv. 14), and began His ministry in Nazareth with the words, 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.'
1 In this book there is no separate chapter on the Sanctification ot the Spirit, on Him as the Spirit of Holiness. The reason is that this work is a continuation of a previous volume, Holy in Christ, in which there was occasion to speak of what is meant by Holiness, both as the attribute and the work of the Holy Spirit.
All leading claims following. It is easily understood that to enjoy the leading of the Spirit demands a very teachable, followsome mind. The Spirit is not only hindered by the flesh as the power that commits sin, but still more by the flesh as the power that seeks to serve God. To be able to discern the Spirit's teaching, Scripture tells us that the ear must be circumcised, in a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ. The will and wisdom of the flesh must be feared, and crucified, and denied. The ear must be closed to all that the flesh and its wisdom, whether in self or in men around us, has to say. In all our thoughts of God or our study of His Word, in all our drawings nigh to worship, and all our goings out to work for Him, there must be a continued distrust and abnegation of self, and a very definite waiting on God by the Holy Spirit to teach and lead us. A soul that thus daily and hourly waits for a Divine leading, for the light of knowledge and of duty, will assuredly receive it. Would you be led of the Spirit, give up, day by day, not only your will and wisdom, but your whole life and being. The Fire will descend and consume the sacrifice.
The leading of the Spirit must very specially be a thing of faith, and that in two senses. The beginning of the leading will come when we learn in holy fear to cultivate and act upon the confidence: The Holy Spirit is in me, and is doing His work. The Spirit's indwelling is the crowning piece of God's redemption-work: the most spiritual and mysterious part of the mystery of godliness. Here, if anywhere, faith is needed. Faith is the faculty of the soul which recognises the Unseen, the Divine; which receives the impression of the Divine Presence when God draws near; which in its measure accepts of what the Divine Being brings and gives to us. In the Holy Spirit is the most intimate communication of the Divine Life; here faith may not judge by what it feels or understands, but simply submits to God to let Him do what He has said. It meditates and worships, it prays and trusts ever afresh, it yields the whole soul in adoring acceptance and thanksgiving to the Saviour's word, 'He shall be in you.' It rejoice* in the assurance: the Holy Spirit, the Mighty Power of God, dwells within; in His own way, I may depend upon it, He will lead me.
And then, with this more general faith of the indwelling of the Spirit, faith has also to be exercised in regard to each part of the leading. When there is a question I have laid before the Lord, and my soul has in simplicity and emptiness waited for His exposition and application of what in Word or Providence has met me, I must in faith trust my God that His guidance is not withheld. As we have said before, not in sudden impulses or strong impressions, not in heavenly voices or in remarkable interpositions, must we expect the ordinary leading of the Spirit. There are souls to whom such leading undoubtedly is given; the time may come, as our nature becomes more spiritual and lives more in direct contact with the lnvisible, that our very thoughts and feelings may become the conscious vehicles of His blessed voice. But this we must leave to Him, and the growth of our spiritual capacity. The lower steps of the ladder are let down low enough for the weakest to reach; God means every child of His to be led by the Spirit every day. Begin the path of following the Spirit's leading by believing, not only that the Spirit is within you, but that He, if hitherto you have little sought or enjoyed the wondrous blessing, does now at once undertake the work for which you ask and trust Him. Yield yourself to God in undivided surrender: believe with implicit confidence that God's acceptance of the surrender means that you are given in charge of the Spirit. Through Him Jesus guides and rules and saves you.
But are we not in danger of being led away by the imaginings of our own hearts, and counting as leading of the Spirit what proves to be a delusion of the flesh? And if so, where is our safeguard against such error? The answer ordinarily given to this last question is, The Word of God. And yet that answer is but half the truth. Far too many have opposed to the danger of fanaticism the word of God, as interpreted by human reason or by the Church, and have erred no less than those they sought to oppose. The answer is: The word of God as taught by the Spirit of God. It is in the perfect harmony of the two that our safety is to be found. Let us on the one hand remember, that as all the word of God is given by the Spirit of God, each word must be interpreted to us by that same yirit. That this interpretation comes alone from the indwelling Spirit we need hardly repeat; it is only the spiritual man, whose inner life is under the dominion of the Spirit, who can discern the spiritual meaning of the word. Let us on the other hold fast, that as all the word is given by the Spirit, so His great work is to honour that Word, and to unfold the fulness of Divine truth treasured there. Not in the Spirit without or with but little of the word; not in the word without or with hut little of the Spirit; but in the word and Spirit both dwelling richly within us, and both yielded to in implicit obedience, is our assurance of safety in the path of the Spirit's guidance.
This brings us back to the lesson we urged at the commencement: the leading of the Spirit as inseparable from the sanctifying of the Spirit. Let each one who would be led of the Spirit begin by giving himself to be led of the word as far as he knows it. Begin at the beginning: obey the commandments. 'He that will do, shall know/ said Jesus. 'Keep my commandments, and the Father will send you the Spirit.' Give up every sin. Give up in everything to the voice of conscience. Give up in everything to God, and let Him have His way. Through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body (v. 13). As a son of God place yourself at the entire disposal of the Spirit, to follow where He leads (v. 14). And the Spirit Himself, this same Spirit, through whom you mortify sin, and yield yourself to be led as a son, will bear witness with your spirit, in a joy and power hitherto unknown, that you are indeed a child of God, enjoying all a child's privileges in his Father's love and guidance.
Blessed Father! I thank Thee for the message that as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God. Thou wouldest not have Thy children guided by any one less than Thy own Holy Spirit. As He dwelt in Thy Son, and led Him, so He leads us too with a Divine and most blessed leading.
Father, Thou knowest how by reason of our not rightly knowing and not perfectly following this holy guidance, we are often unable to know His voice, so that the thought of the leading of the Spirit is more a burden than a joy. Father, forgive us. Be pleased graciously so to quicken our faith in the simplicity and certainty of the leading of the Spirit, that with our whole heart we may yield ourselves henceforth to walk in it.
Father, here I do yield myself to Thee as Thy child, in everything to be led of Thy Spirit. My own wisdom, my own will, my own way I forsake. Daily would I wait in deep dependence on a guidance from above. May my spirit ever be hushed in silence before Thy Holy Presence, while I wait to let Him rule within. As I through the Spirit make dead the deeds of the body, may I be transformed by the renewing of my mind to know Thy good and perfect will. May my whole being so be under the rule of the Indwelling, Sanctifying Spirit, that the spiritual understanding of Thy will may indeed be the rule of my life. Amen.
1. Note eery carefully the order of the three verses:—13. The making dead of the deeds of the body through the indwelling Spirit prevedes the leading of the Spirit, u. 14. And these two again prepare the way for 15, 16, the abiding witness to our sonship in the living power of the Holy Ghost.
2. 'lf, by the Spirit, ye make to die the deeds of the body, ye shall line.' One of the deepest teachings of the word in regard to sanctiftcation. Sin remains ln the body to the end. The deeds or dvings of the body, each sin as lt seeks
to rise up, each root of sin, can be put to death, It is the presence and life of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, does this. Through the Spirit the believer, who yields to Him, does it. Sin will never be rooted out. But sin can, without ceasing, be put to death, be kept in the place of death. To do this we must simply be full of the Spirit of fife in Christ Jesus, the life of Christ in us brings with it the death, the unceasing making dead of sin.
3. The mortifying or making dead of sin has a threefold reference. When a believer has fallen into an actual sin, the Spirit, by the applicativn of the blood, makes it dead. When he fears the evil tendency that may come up and betray him, the Holy Spirit is able to keep that sin down in the power of Christ's death. With the involuntary sin that is utterly beyond his control, he trusts the Holy Spirit so to reveal Jesus and His power that it shall be conquered too. But, let us remember, it is by revealing Jesus, in the power of His death and life, and filling the soul with Him, that the deeds of the body are made to die through the Spirit. It is on this life in the Spirit that the leading of the Spirit depends.
4. 'There can be no safe guidance that is not perpetual. The advantage of a year may be lost in an hour. If we act independently of the Spirit in little things, we shall look for Him in uain in great things, — Bowk* .