On The Mission Of The Spirit (Chap. 9).
1 Love Revealed: Meditations on the Parting Words of Jesus with His Disciples in John xiii. to xvii. By George Bowen.' Such is the title of a book from which I give some extracts, in which the thought is put with great clearness and force that many Christians are living on an ante-pentecostal level, and that the promise of Christ to reveal His Power to the world hy His presence among His people, made manifest through the Spirit, is still waiting its fulfilment in our experience. To those who are not yet acquainted with this book I can most confidently recommend ic as full of spiritual instruction.
'" / will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John xiv. 21).
'If we wish, therefore, to sound the depths of this promise, "I will manifest myself to him," we must honour Christ and the Father and the Spirit by believing in the power of the Spirit. To have faith in Christ and not to have faith in the Spirit seems to be a great contradiction, yet we submit it for the judgment of candid inquirers it this contradiction is not strikingly exhibited in the case of almost all who profess to be followers of Christ. To know the Father we must know the Son; to know Christ we must know the Spirit. "He shall glorify me," said Christ. Believest thou this? Is this thy conception of Christ's glory, that it is a glory that the Spirit of God can enable thee to behold 1 When the omnipotent Spirit has been allowed by our faith to go to the full extent of His resources in the revelation of Christ, it will be time enough for us to turn away lrom Him to some more perfect way of bringing Christ near to us.
'Our Lord Himself tells us that he that is least in the kingdom of heaven—the kingdom that He came to establish—was greater than any of the prophets that had been in the world before His advent. Greater? Why 'I Because he is a habitation of God through the Spirit, because that magnificent gift which Christ died to obtain for us has been bestowed.
'Now all these views of the glory of the present dispensation seem to vanish into night when we 6ubject them to a comparison with the actual experiences of Christians in general. But we do them foul injustice in this way. We are rather to submit the experiences of Christians to the test of Scripture. When we do so, does it not appear that the Church has fallen back into an ante-pentecostal state 1—that it has slipped out of its own dispensation 1 There was a measure, a feeble measure, of spiritual influence enjoyed by the disciples before the death and resurrection of Christ, else would they not have been able to call Jesus Lord; but it was nothing in comparison with what they received on the day of Pentecost. The day of Pentecost was a pattern day; all the days of this dispensation should have been like it, or should have exceeded it. But, alas! the Church has fallen down to the state in which it was before this blessing had been bestowed, and it is necessary for us to ask Christ to begin over again. We, of course, in respect to knowledge—intellectual knowledge of spiritual things—are far in advance of the point where the disciples were before Pentecost. But it should be borne in mind that when truths have once been fully revealed and been made a part of orthodoxy, the holding of them does not necessarily imply an operation of the Spirit of God. We deceive ourselves, doubtless, in this way, imagining that, because we have the whole Scripture and are conversant with all its great truths, the Spirit of God is necessarily working in us. We need a Baptism of the Spirit as much as the apostles did at the time of Christ's resurrection; we need that the unsearchable riches of Christ should be revealed to us more copiously than they were to Isaiah in the temple.
'We profess to love Him. We profess, therefore—the inference is unavoidable—to desire to enjoy higher and more satisfactory manifestations of Him than have been yet vouchsafed unto us. It follows, then, that we ought to feel very greatly the pressure of the obligation to seek the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Blessed be God ! the Holy Spirit is being poured out in many churches, and many Christians are at this very hour enjoying such views of Christ as fill them with a preternatural joy and love and strength. But we have not yet entered into the fulness of this glorious dit,pensation. If we love Christ, we will press deeper into it, believing that Omnipotence will find ways of revealing itself in the spiritual world of which we have as yet no conception.
'"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comfoiier will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you" (John xvi. 7).
'Strange and scarcely credible though the announcement may appear to you, I nevertheless tell you but the simple truth when I say that it will be for your advantage that I ascend unto the Father and send to you the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, to be your perpetual guide. And when I say that it will be for your advantage, I do not mean that the Holy Spirit is greater than I am, or that He will prove a truer friend to you. In fact, the special office of the Spirit will be to bring you and myself into a more intimate and a more blessed union than has yet been revealed to your consciousness. Though you have journeyed with me during these latter years of my earthly pilgrimage, yet there is no use in disguising the fact that a moral chasm yawns between us. You yourselves must often have felt the deepest pain in reflecting upon the very feeble amount of influence exerted upon you by One who is manifestly God in the likeness of men. Tou have mourned that the words and acts of One who was proclaimed the Only-Begotten of the Father, who was transfigured before you, was served by angels, who spake unto the winds and the waves and they obeyed Him,—you have mourned that the discourse and acts of such a One should have wrought so feebly in your hearts. The desire for sancti, hVation exists in you, but the new and elevated conception of holiness, which has been introduced into your minds, only makes you the more sensible of your gre .t moral deficiencies. If miracles could have given you the victory over your sins, you would now be the holiest of men. Since that hour when one of you fell at My feet, exclaiming, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man," how many glorious displays of my power have you witnessed! Yet are you still sadly aware that pride, ambition, worldliness, have authority over you.
'Surely you must have admitted to yourselves that if three ar.d a half years of such stupendous exhibitions of power have left you the unsanctified men you are, ten years of such displays would not give you the victory over your evil natures. For three and a half years you have listened to a greater than Solomon,—to one who spake as never man spake, to the wisdom of God; and you have enjoyed such opportunities as never before were enjoyed by mortal man to know the mind of God concerning the way in which He would be served, and what is the result? You yourselves are constrained to admit that the result is very unsatisfactory.
'Ah, if all that man needed were to have a teacher, were to have lessons of Divine wisdom set before him in the most intelligible and most expressive forms, then would you now be incomparably the holiest of men, proof against all temptation, superior to all earthly influences. But what is the fact 1 Was it not necessary that I should this very evening begin the work of instruction over again, as it were, by washing your feet? Have you not this very evening been disputing among yourselves who shall be the greatest? Are you not this very night to make even the unprofessing world astonished by deserting me in my hour of trial?
'Why do I now dwell upon these things? Simply that you may be assisted to recognise that my life on earth, however marvellous and glorious as part of the Divine system by which God is bringing you to Himself, is yet of itself unable to effect your spiritual redemption. It is one thing that the image of God should have been placed before you; it is a very different thing that you should be changed into that image. Man foolishly asserts that he only needs to know the true, the good, the beautiful, to be himself the embodiment of truth and goodness and beauty. Heaven lias come down to earth; the very King of Heaven has tabernacled among men; He whom Isaiah saw in the temple, high and lifted up, adored by seraphim, has come down from His throne, dismissed the seraphim to heaven, and dwelt with the people of Isaiah year after year, yet it is not seen that the men so amazingly distinguished have been rendered seraphic in holiness and love. Something else, then, is necessary that men may not only be made acquainted with the image of God, but changed into the same.
'But not only must you be sensible that you have little remembered, little learned, little obeyed, of all that I have told you and shown you; you must be keenly cognisant of the fact that your influence as my servants and the expounders of my gospel is all but nothing. In presence of a perverse and rebellious race your hearts sink within you, and you ask yourselves, How shall we ever be able to bring men over to our views of Christ 1 You feel ynur need of some unknown power by which the minds of men may be rendered obedient to the truth. You find yourselves utterly at a loss to communicate your deepest convictions. You are ready to ask, Is there not something beyond miracles even 1 something beyond the power of a holy life? Is there not in the resources of God some means of reaching the hearts of men, and subduing that hostility by which they are hindered from receiving the testim,ny of a holy life and a blessed gospel? There is. I die that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly. I ascend on high that the Comforter may come unto you. Then shall you he strengthened with a strength of which you have hitherto had no consciousness. Rivers of living water, even of the water of life, shall flow forth from you. Then the wilderness shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.'
'" And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John xvi. 8).
'"When He." "He" in the original is emphatic. It might he rendered "that one." He it is who, coming, will convince mankind of sin. His very advent will revolutionize their ideas of sin, being a testimony from heaven more striking than that of the voice from heaven at the baptism of Jesus, to the fact that Jesus the crucified is none other than Christ the gloritied. By the simple fact that the world has placed itself in opposition to Je»us, testimony to Jesus will be testimony against the world. Observe that the promise of the Spirit was unto the disciples: "I will send Him unto you ;" and the change here intimated as to be wrought in the sentiments of men generally was to be in consequence of the descent of the Spirit of God upon the disciples. The gospel is preached to conviuce men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. The disciples of Christ are in the w-.rld that they may make known the sin of men, the judgment of God, and the means of escaping that judgment by means of the righteousness of Christ. But here we are told that the work of introducing the nvw convicti"ns on these subjects into the minds of men is to be accomplished by the Spirit of God. Accordingly the apostles speak of themselves as having preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
'What is here promised, then, is such an outpouring of the Spirit of God as shall not only reveal itself in the consciousness of the disciples, but substantiate itself as an undeniable- and wonderful fact to the apprehensions of the onlooking world. And such was the advent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. "He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear," said Peter to the multitude. That which they both saw and heard did what all the miracles, the incomparable words, the. irreproachable life of Jesus, had failed to do. Let ua say that these miracles began now to he seen, those Divine words began now to be heard, for the first time. By tin, outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples the people of Jerusalem began to look upward, and see Jesus at the right hand of the Majesty on high. They saw their own sin, heinous beyond all conception; saw the righteousness of Him whom they had put to death, the Prince of Life ; saw it to be such a righteousness that in comparison the entire race of man stood forth apparelled in darkest iniquity; and they saw the judgment of God, inevitable and dire, against all who should be found in opposition to Ch ist. It was as though they had been taken up into heaven, and had seen the judgment-seat, the books opened, and their own deeds manifested in the unerring light, of that tremendous scene. Suhlime arrangements of Him whose wisdom is unsearchable! Are the people of God at all awake to all that is implied in the premise of the Spirit] Is it enough that they languidly recognise their obligation to make known the gospel to their fellow-men, and take various steps to have it preached? Is not the great thing wanted this —that the Spirit of God should be so poured out upon Christ's people that men should be made aware of His presence with them, and of the presence of Christ at the right hand of God 1 so poured out that there should be a coming together, in some sense, of the blessed God and of the world which has separated itself from Him ; that the powers of the world to come should take hold upon men, and constrain them to cry out, "Men and brethren, what, must we do 1"
'TVe Greek is wonderfully felicitous in that it does not represent the Spirit of God as coming once for all, but as per.-istently coming. He it is who, coming, shall convince. He comes as the rain from heaven, that must «till come and come again; as the wind, that must still blow and blow again. We are not to look back for our Pentecost. The Pentecost of the Acts is simply given to make the Church of Christ acquainted with the privileges belonging to this dispensation. It is only the first step in a ladder of Pentecosts by which the world aid the kingdom of Christ are to be brought together. lt is the specimen to accompany the promise, that we may be stirred up to plead the promise with the greatest 'eive cy
'Oh, it were unpardonable if, in a day when God is doing S'i much to inspire us with lofty conception,! of the power of the Holy Spirit, we should still refuse to apprehend the glorious illimitableness of this promise. Consider it. We are to look at the work here assigned to the Holy Spirit, in order that we may obtain a just view of His power. Look abroad upon the earth, and see the nations, tribes, and tongues refusing to be convinced by all that God in His Providence has taught them during thousands of years; by all that missionaries are teaching them, at this eleventh hour, of sin, of righteousness, of judgment; form an estimate of the wickedness which envelopes the earth like a dense and deadly atmosphere, scarce suffering any of the rays of the Sun of Righteousness to penetrate it; then consider that the Spirit of God, for whose effusion we are taught to pray, is pledged to rain conviction upon the world, and anticipate for a most sublime and blessed end the final judgment by leading men to look to the righteousness of Christ, the Desire of all nations.
'"These things I have spoken unto you in proverbs, but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father" (John xvi. 25). When figures are made use of in speech, there is an outside meaning and an interior meaning. As the shell conceals and yet protects the kernel, so a truth conveyed tropically may be unperceived at first. Afterward, when additional light is given, it becomes manifest, and the saying ceases to be a riddle. The gospel is full of parables that could very little be understood until Christ had suffered and entered into His glory. When the Spirit of God was poured out upon His disciples, the veil which had been over the words of Jesus disappeared, and the interior truths flashed forth upon them in all their lustre. Christ Himself was such a proverb. Once His Divine glory had flashed forth upon their astonished gaze, but that was by way of anticipation, it very little dissipated the confusion of their minds. Nothing about Christ could produce its legitimate and full effect upon them until they had been brought out of the restricted and depressed valley of Judaism, and placed upon the elevated platform of the New Dispensation.
1 The Spirit of God inundates the minds of men with truths which previously had no meaning to them. Now it appears to us that an observation of no little importance may here be made. Truths which the Holy Ghost has taught us may be retained in the mitid by the mere natural power of memory. Are we not thus in danger of deceiving ourselves as to the measure of spiritual power enjoyed by us? We might have as scanty a measure of the Spirit's influence as the disciples had in the days preceding the death of Christ, and yet be immensely in advance of them in respect to the amount of our knowledge of the way of life. Is it not to be feared that in those portions of the Church which have not yet been visited by a true revival, Christians are to be compared with the first disciples, not as they were on the day of Pentecost, but as they were previously—compared, we mean, as regards the actual divine influence enjoyed by them? Because they have the truth, they imagine they have the Spirit of truth. Perhaps the word of Christ to them is: "Tarry ye in Jerusalem until endued with power from on high." We are baffled, bewildered, confounded, by our utter unfitness to convince men of sin, of righteousness, and of the judgment to come. Is it not that we fail to realize how absolute is our need of the mighty and manifest advent of the Spirit? It is possible for Christ so to cause the Holy Spirit to be seen descending upon us that the world around shall discover, by this fact alone, the heavens
opened and the Son of God standing at the right hand of find.'
'Many in these days occupy no worthier position than that lirst inferior one of the apostles. The aposiie^ wer- not absolutely without the influence of the Spirit during the time that Jesus tabernacled among them, hut these influences did little more than make the present darkness visible, and show them in the dim distance the light of the future. Without knowing it, there are thousands of Christians who have that feeble and equivocal measure of influence which belongs to a different dispensation from this, and shows them to be two thousand years behind "their privileges. We have said it, and without sltame we say it again. They have of course knowledge such as the ante,pentecostal Church had not. It is the consciousness of this superior knowledge that tends to keep them ignorant of their spiritual destitution. Their position is appalling, for they are familiar with the inspiring promises, and have no faculty to catch a glimpse of the glorious things proffered in these promises. They actually suppose that these promises have no more exalted interpretation than that which their own emotionless and inglorious experience affords. Blessed be God! we are not limited to one Pentecost under this dispensation. Let us but become aware of the abnormal state in which we are, and take knowledge of the lofty experiences to which God is inviting us. Pentecost was not so much a mountain summit as a mountain high ] ath or tableland, along which the Church should have travelled to the New Jerusalem. Let us look stedfastly up above, and see among the clouds this highway of holiness, and prove the power of the Saviour to brim; us to it.'