THE HOLY SPIRIT THE ONE AND
ONLY POWER IN MIS-
Brethren Of The Missionary Union :—" The days of our years are threescore years and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore years; yet is their pride but labor and sorrow, for it is soon gone and we fly away." Moses the man of God spoke truly of the individual human life; and the sore bereavements of the past few months have deeply impressed upon us the lesson. But corporate societies obey a different law. "As the days of a tree," lengthening out to a thousand years, "are the days of my people," saith the Lord. Our Missionary Union has passed fourscore, and celebrates now its eighty-first anniversary. No man now lives who participated in its founding. But the life of God was in it from the beginning, and because he lives it lives and will live also. It has survived the changes of another year. We have paid the expenses of the twelvemonth and have somewhat diminished the great debt with which we began. The tide has begun to turn, and we trust in God that the winter of commercial depression will soon be changed to glorious summer, and that we shall see the clouds that lowered upon our enterprises in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
1 Opening address of the president at the Eighty-first Anniversary of the American Baptist Missionary Union, Saratoga, N. Y., May 28, 1895.
One year ago, in this very place, Dr. Gordon was with us and led us in our opening prayer. I cannot refrain from saying how much he was to me personally, and how much to the Missionary Union. Of him as truly as of John the Baptist it might be said: "There was a man sent from God whose name was" A. J. Gordon. He was a leader and inspirer and comforter of God's people, because he believed most profoundly in the leadership and inspiration and comfort of the Holy Ghost. And now that God has taken him from us, and we have no longer with us his great conscience and strong faith and noble heart, I can do you no better service than to draw your thoughts to that great theme which absorbed the last energies of his life. The administration of the saintliest man must cease, but the administration of the Holy Spirit abides. As two years ago I spoke to you of "The Decrees of God the Great Encouragement to Missions," and one year ago of "The Love of Christ the Great Motive of Missions," so to-day I take for the subject of my last presidential address,— The Holy Spirit The One And Only Power In MisSions.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is the third person of the blessed Trinity. In opposition to much of the false and pernicious teaching of our day, I emphasize the truth that the Holy Spirit is a person, not an influence —some one, and not some thing. I do not need to tell you that the tripersonality of the divine nature is essential to the life, communion, and blessedness of God. Because God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, he is independent of creation; he does not need the universe. The world has had a beginning; it is the work of his THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON
sovereignty and grace; but the Holy Spirit is eternal, and before the world was he existed, coequal with the Father and the Son. He is not only a person, but he is that person of the Godhead who comes nearest to us in our needs, who brings the Creator not only to, but into, the creature. He is personal Love in its tenderest form, and only when we appreciate the depths of our own ingratitude and his holy shrinking from our sin, can we understand "the love of the Spirit" that bears with our manifold provocations and still persists in his healing and purifying work. As Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane "began to be sorrowful and very troubled," so the Holy Spirit is sorrowful and very troubled at the ignoring, despising, resisting of his work, on the part of those whom he is trying to rescue from sin and to lead out into the activities of the Christian life. Multiply this experience by millions, and conceive how great must be the suffering and sorrow of the third person of the Trinity, as he struggles with the apathy and unbelief of the church, endeavors to replace the spirit of selfishness by the spirit of missions, and strives to turn the weakness of his people into power!
But though the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, he is more than this; he is also the Spirit of the incarnate Christ. We cannot understand this without reflecting upon the nature of the change in Christ himself when he took upon him human flesh. Before his incarnation he was the eternal Word of God, the Revealer of God in nature and in history. But when he was born of a virgin, he condensed his glory, so to speak, and manifested himself within the limits of humanity. What was before abstract and far away now became concrete and near. In Christ we see the Godhead in our own likeness, speaking to us with a brother's voice and feeling for us with a brother's heart. Christ is now Son of Man as well as Son of God. And what I wish to say with regard to the Holy Spirit is, that he is the Spirit, not of the preincarnate but of the incarnate Christ, with just as much more power than he had before as Christ had more power after his incarnation.
The Holy Spirit had wrought in some measure before the incarnation, just as Christ had wrought. But as Christ, the Word of God, was abstract and hard to recognize, so the Spirit of Christ partook of the same disabilities. The Holy Spirit, who always manifests Christ, could in Old Testament times manifest only the divine side of Christ, because there was as yet no human side to manifest. But when Christ's person had become complete by taking humanity into its divinity, and when Christ's work had become complete by taking all our sins and penalties and bearing them for us, then the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, had more to manifest than he ever had before. From being the Spirit of God alone, he became the Spirit of the God-man, the Spirit of the incarnate Jesus, the revealer through all space and time of the humanity that had been taken up into the divinity.
We can understand now how it can be said in John's Gospel that before the crucifixion and resurrection "the Spirit was not yet given "—or was not yet—" because Jesus was not yet glorified." The proper work of the Holy Spirit is to take of the things of Christ and show them to men. Until Christ's work was accomplished the Holy Spirit had comparatively little to show. Not CHRIST AND THE SPIRIT ONE IN ESSENCE 3OI
only was his influence limited in its degree, but it was also limited in its kind: the Holy Spirit as the revealer of the incarnate Jesus did not as yet exist. We might illustrate this by the pride and joy of the mother in showing off her son: she can exhibit him after he has reached his majority and has education and character, as she never could when he was a babe in arms. One might even say that while she was caring for him in his infancy her time for showing him off had not yet come. The mother was not yet exhibitor. So the Holy Spirit could not exhibit Christ until there was a fullgrown Christ to exhibit. While our Lord retained the form of a servant and was subject to the Holy Spirit here on earth, the Holy Spirit could not make him known, any more than the mother could publish abroad the greatness of her son, before the time of his greatness had come. But when Christ's humiliation was ended and his exaltation had begun, then the Holy Spirit's work could begin also. Only when the Saviour was glorified in heaven, could the Spirit glorify him on earth.
But we must not separate the Spirit from Christ as if the two were independent of each other like Peter and Paul. The persons are one in essence. As the .Father dwells in and reveals himself through the Son, so the Son dwells in and reveals himself through the Spirit. As Christ could say: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," so the Holy Spirit might say: He that hath seen me hath seen Christ. In the Holy Spirit we have Christ himself, no longer far away and unintelligible, but possessed of a human soul and touched with the feeling of our infirmities as he could never be if he had not passed through the temptation and the sorrow of an actual human life. The Holy Spirit is the same incarnate Christ now made omnipresent and omnipotent. You can appreciate how great a truth this is, when you remember the sorrow of the disciples at the taking from them of their Lord. To part with him, their teacher and helper, seemed to them to be the loss of all. How hard it was for them to realize that it was expedient for them that he should go away! Yet it was best for them to lose his visible, bodily presence, because only thus could they have his invisible, spiritual omnipresence. Unless he went away in body, he could not send his Spirit. But if he departed from their eyes, he could come into their hearts. Hence he can say indifferently, "I will send the Comforter," and "I will come unto you"; for the Comforter is only Christ in another, more spiritual, more universal form.
It was to educate the disciples to this faith in his invisible presence through the Holy Spirit that Jesus appeared to them so mysteriously in the upper chamber, on the way to Emmaus, by the seaside of Galilee. A moment ago he seemed absent, but now he is here, stretching out his hands in blessing. Has he come through the solid walls, or through the circumambient air? Ah, not so! The lesson to be learned is rather that he has been here all the while, and now he only manifests his presence. And the disciples do learn the lesson that, while seemingly absent, the Saviour is ever present with them,—while invisible, by the eye of faith he can be seen. The Holy Spirit is the incarnate Christ not only, but the incarnate Christ spiritualized, freed from all the limitations of space and time, no longer GREATNESS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT 3O3
subject to the conditions of his humiliation, but omnipresent and glorified. While here on earth in human flesh he could heal the lepers and feed the hungry and raise the dead and walk the sea; but he could not be in two places at the same time, nor teach Peter in Galilee at the same time that he taught John at Jerusalem. Now, by his Holy Spirit, he can be present with the little knot of believers that worships in Swatow, at the same time that he meets with us here in Saratoga. And as the Holy Spirit is the omnipresent Christ, so he is the omnipotent Christ also, with every restraint upon his working removed, except the restraints of infinite wisdom and infinite love.
We begin to see the greatness of the Holy Spirit. And yet we shall not understand how great he is, unless we remember how great this Christ is who works through him. Jesus said that all power was committed to him in heaven and in earth. This means nothing less than that Nature, with all her elements and laws, is under his control and manifests his will; that History, with all her vicissitudes, including the rise and fall of empires and civilizations, is the working out of his plan; and that the Church, with her witnessing for the truth, her martyrdoms, her love and anguish for men's souls, her struggling after righteousness, is the engine by which he is setting up his kingdom. The incarnate Christ is now on the throne of the universe, and the hand that was nailed to the cross now holds the sceptre over all.
Who, then, is the Holy Spirit? He is the incarnate and divine Redeemer wielding all this infinite power, in the realm of spirit, and for spiritual ends. He is the organ of internal revelation, as Christ is the organ of external revelation. Just so far as Christ does anything for intelligent and moral beings he does it through the Holy Spirit. We can make no exceptions. As the Spirit of God in the beginning brooded over chaos and brought forth forms of life and beauty, so still he works in nature to complete and restore the creation which sin has marred; as he strove with men before the flood, so he strives with them all along the course of time, in every nation and in every conscience giving witness of Christ's law and grace; as with Noah and Abraham and Moses and David and Isaiah he renewed the heart by presenting the truth made known by the preincarnate Logos, so now he takes the clearer truth of Christ's incarnation and sacrifice and resurrection and makes it the means of establishing the kingdom of God in human hearts. Pentecost could come only after the Passover. The feast of jubilation and first fruits dated back to the other feast when the lamb was slain in every household. So Christ had first to die, before the Holy Spirit couid show to John on Patmos the Lamb that had been slain, sitting upon the very throne of God and with all the crowns of the universe upon his brow. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the divine but incarnate Saviour omnipresent and omnipotent to subdue to himself the hearts of earth's revolted millions and to go forth conquering and to conquer until every spiritual enemy has been put beneath his feet.
If what I have said is true, then I think we shall be obliged greatly to enlarge our ordinary conceptions of the power of the Holy Ghost. I think we cannot confine it, as we sometimes do, to the power exerted in the THE LARGER ACTIVITIES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT 305
conversion of the individual, though that is its most common and impressive exhibition. There is a larger agency of the Spirit in the leavening of society, the shaping of public opinion, the raising of ethical standards, the quickening of the moral sense throughout whole communities and decades, throughout whole nations and ages. Just as there is a preliminary work in the individual which prepares the way for his regeneration, so there is a preliminary work in the masses of mankind that prepares the way for the coming of the kingdom ; and this preliminary work is the work of the Holy Spirit, just as much as the work of consummation is.
There are times when financial depression is succeeded by a strange awe and expectation of the coming of God. There are times when the sudden solution of vexed problems of State, when great public deliverances and great public judgments, are recognized even by ungodly men as due to the finger of God. Then it is the Holy Spirit that draws the curtain aside and lets men see the living God behind the wheels. In the movements and enterprises of the church there is a work of the Holy Spirit quite aside from his enlightening and sanctifying of individuals. At times a multitude of believers, widely separated from each other, seemed moved to pray for the removal of some mountain-like obstacle that prevents the progress of God's cause. Then slavery is abolished, walls of heathen exclusion are broken down, civil reforms are instituted, great revivals of religion and great missionary efforts are inaugurated. And yet it is true that even these broad and general influences upon
the heart of humanity and of the church are connected
with renewals of single individuals, like the conversion of Paul and the conversion of Luther; and these turnings of individuals become the means of turning whole communities.
Regeneration is a spiritual work, in the sense that it takes place in man's spiritual nature, is wrought by a spiritual Being, and makes use of spiritual means and agencies. The Holy Spirit changes men's natures by bringing truth to bear upon them—the truth with regard to their sin, with regard to Christ's salvation, with regard to God's judgment. He convinces of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. As a flash of lightning shows the nightly wanderer that he is on the edge of a precipice when before he thought himself safe, so the Holy Spirit lights up all the heart's ungodliness and reveals its danger. As the rising sun discloses the glories of an Alpine landscape which the darkness has hidden, and shows snowy mountain and deep blue lake in all their beauty, so the Holy Spirit draws aside the veil of unbelief and enables the lost and helpless to perceive the divine compassion and the infinite sufficiency of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. And then he convinces of judgment also,—the certainty and awfulness of God's judgment against sin; the Holy Spirit teaches this, and enables the sinner to renounce sin utterly and thus to make the judgment of God his own.
So, while Christ is the life, the Holy Spirit is the life-giver. The Holy Spirit presents Christ to the soul, or, if you prefer the phrase, in and through the Holy Spirit, Christ comes to the soul and takes up his abode in it, makes it holy, gives it new views of truth and new power of will. Before the Holy Spirit began his PHYSICAL IMAGES OF HIS WORKING 30/
work Christ was outside, and we looked upon him as a foreign, perhaps even as a distant, Redeemer. After the Holy Spirit has done his work, we have Christ within, the soul of our soul and the life of our life. A union is established between Christ and us, so that none can separate us from him or from his love. In fact, there is nothing more marked in the New Testament than the way in which Christ is identified with his body, the church, unless it is the way in which the Holy Spirit is identified with our spirits. The Holy Spirit so passes into our spirits that we are said to have the spirit of Christ, and it is sometimes difficult to tell whether our spirit or the divine Spirit is meant, the two are so merged the one in the other. All this renewing and transforming shows what power the Holy Spirit exercises. It is power compared with which the mightiest physical changes sink into insignificance. You can more easily create a world than recreate a soul. Only God can regenerate. It is only God, who caused the light to shine out of darkness at the beginning, who can shed abroad in a sinful soul the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
And yet physical images are employed to illustrate the Holy Spirit's power. His agency is compared to that of air, of water, and of fire, at their highest pitch of efficiency. Take the air, that is often so still and apparently impotent about us that we absolutely forget its existence. Would you believe that this air, when stirred, is capable of taking up cattle and carrying them half a mile over fences and trees? Would you believe that this air could absolutely prostrate the strongest houses, and even lay low the largest trees, cutting a clear swath for miles and miles through the forest? Yet the eastern tornado or the western cyclone is nothing but "wild air," as Helen Kellar beautifully said. So, in the ordinary quiet workings of the Holy Spirit, we get no idea of the mighty effects he is able to produce. The same divine Agent who comforts the sorrowing and speaks in whispers of peace to the heart of a child is able to come like a mighty rushing wind at Pentecost and in a single day convert three thousand unto God.
The agency of the Holy Spirit is compared to that of water. The rain is a symbol of his influence. Sometimes it is the gentle showers that water the mown grass and cause the thirsty field to revive. So the Holy Spirit encourages the believer whose earthly hopes have been cut down. But there are larger manifestations of his power. In this country and latitude we know little of what rain can accomplish. Years ago I was traveling in Palestine and happened to be caught in the last rain of the springtime, just before the long dry season from April to November set in. I had heard of rain coming down in the tropics in sheets and bucketsful, but I had never expected to see anything like it. But there, on the way from Carmel to Caesarea, I had the experience. The water seemed to descend in masses. Those exposed to it were drenched as if they had been plunged into the sea. Then I understood what the psalmist meant by "the river of God which is full of water ": he meant the rain, that came down like floods from heaven. And then I understood the promise of Malachi: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, and prove me now herewith, HIS WORKING COMPARED TO FIRE 3O9
saith the Lord, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, so that there shall not be room to receive it." The opening of the windows of heaven is an allusion to the Deluge of old; and the prophet assures us that, when God's people are faithful and put his promise to the test, the Holy Spirit, whose ordinary influences are so gentle, will descend like the floods of Noah, so that the fountains of the great deep are broken up, and rivers of blessing flow forth from God's sanctuary, to water the earth.
The agency of the Holy Spirit is compared to fire. The flame kindled in the heart by the blessed Spirit may be so slight and low that a single breath of coldness and opposition may suffice to quench it. But it may also become a consuming blaze that carries everything before it. It is only a match that sets the dry wood burning in the hunter's camp-fire, but that fire may spread till the whole forest for miles and miles is swept by the roaring flames. A kerosene lamp overturned is a little thing, but Chicago devoured by conflagration is the result,—the greatest structures of wood and iron melt and crumble in that heat. So in the common operations of the Holy Spirit we get no conception of what the Spirit can do in melting hard hearts and in bringing to nothing the pride and opposition of men. How often has he swept whole communities with religious anxiety and zeal that could only be compared with fire from heaven! The college revivals, and the great awakenings on a larger scale which this country has witnessed in days gone by, are evidence that the Holy Spirit has a power beyond all our ordinary estimates. Why should we be so slow to believe in his power? Was Pentecost the limit of his working? What was Pentecost but the feast of first-fruits, the bringing in of the first few ripened ears of the mighty harvest? Shall we limit the harvest by the first-fruits, or think that the first ingathering is the greatest possible? Ah, no! Pentecost was but the beginning, and the power of the Spirit of God will be fully seen, only when a nation is born in a day.
There is no measure of the Holy Spirit's power except the greatness of the Holy Spirit himself. The Holy Spirit is as great as Christ,—in fact, he is Christ, not now absent but present, with us and with his church alway even unto the end of the world, and all things in heaven and earth are given into his hand. And since Christ is God revealed, Deity manifested, Divinity brought down to our comprehension and engaged in the work of our salvation, the Holy Spirit is this same God in the hearts of believers and pushing the conquests of Christ's kingdom in the world. Wherever God is by his omnipresence, there the Holy Spirit is, to make men will and do according to his will. And whatever God can do by his omnipotence in the spirits of men, that the Holy Spirit can do, to convert the world to Christ. Is the Holy Spirit equal to the work of missions? Ah, the Holy Spirit is God himself, engaged in this very work. More pervasive than electricity or magnetism, his power encircles the globe, and hence the touch of prayer in America can produce results in Africa or in Japan.
He is one, and he is almighty. He can weave together all the prayers and all the labors of the Christian church into the complex structure of his kingdom, and NO SUCCESS WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT 3 I I
he can make the least breath of desire, and the widow's mite of contribution, most potent agencies for the salvation of the world. All the wealth of Christendom is his, and he can prompt his people to use it. The storms of war and the oppositions of the nations are only surface movements of the great sea of humanity, beneath which the vast ocean of God's Spirit is ever resting and waiting, with power to bring the waves to calm or to drive them with one consent to engulf and overwhelm the shore. And the day shall come when, in answer to his people's prayers and through their very efforts, this ocean-like Spirit shall show his power, and the work of a thousand years shall be done in one day. Men may fail and be discouraged, but the mighty Spirit of God shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he has set judgment in the earth, and the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ.
"It is the mistake and disaster of the Christian world that effects are sought instead of causes." These weighty words of a recent writer have deeply impressed me. I wish to apply them to the subject of missions. The Holy Spirit is the one and only power in missions, and to expect success in missions while we ignore the Holy Spirit, is to look for an effect without a cause. How evident it is that this great agent, this renewer of hearts, this regenerator of the world, has been largely neglected and ignored! We have been trying to carry on missions without the Spirit of missions. We have trusted our own wisdom, instead of trusting him. We have invoked earthly helps, instead of invoking the Helper, the Advocate, who has been called to this work by God. And so our zeal has slackened, and our faith has grown weak, and our love has become cold. Neither faith nor love will survive, if hope does not go with them. We cannot do this work ourselves, and when we lose sight of the Holy Spirit, Christian activity dwindles and dies.
The success of missions is dependent upon our recognition of the Spirit of missions. The conversion of the world must be preceded by new faith in him who effects conversion. The Holy Spirit will show his greatest power only when the church seeks his power. The Spirit of missions is also the Spirit of prayer. How may we secure the power of the Holy Spirit in missions and in prayer? Ah, we cannot pray that he will take to himself his great power and reign supreme in the world, until we ourselves admit him to complete dominion in our hearts and lives. So long as we are full of other things that he abhors—our own selfish plans, our impure desires, our worldly ambitions—he will not work in us that mighty praying, that mighty effort, that mighty sacrifice, that alone will save the world. You might put a corked bottle under Niagara, but you could never fill it. The flood of spiritual influence may be descending like Niagara, but the love of sin may completely prevent it from entering our souls. Let us open our hearts then that we may receive. Let us put away the evil that offends God and prevents him from doing his work in us. Let us ask for his coming and indwelling. Let us take him, by the act of our wills, once more to be our Lord.
On his last birthday but one, Livingstone wrote : "My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All, I again dedicate my whole self to thee!" No wonder that he died on his
knees, with his face buried in his hands, praying for the regeneration of Africa. The Spirit of missions is also the Spirit of consecration. He prompts to various kinds of service. He puts it into the heart of one to say: "Here am I, send me!" He moves another to say: "The half of my goods I give, to send the gospel across the sea!" He impels still another to spend days and nights in prayer for the conversion of Madras, or for the spiritual revolutionizing of New York.
Brethren, we are responsible for the bringing of the world to God, because we have this connection and partnership with the Spirit of God. It is not so much a question of giving, as it is a question of receiving. The Saviour even now utters his command as he did in the company of those disciples on the evening of his resurrection. "Receive ye—take ye—the Holy Ghost!" he says to each one of us. But we make two mistakes with regard to his words. First, they are a command, and not a mere permission; and secondly, it is not a passive receiving, but an active taking that is required of us. Shall we thus take the Holy Spirit to-day,—the Spirit of missions, the Spirit of power? May God the Father grant it! May Christ the Son bestow it! May the Holy Spirit himself vouchsafe it! Then from us who are gathered here, though of ourselves we are hard and dry as rocks in the desert, shall flow rivers of living water like that which sprang forth at the touch of Moses' rod! Then shall be set in motion divine influences which shall flow like ocean tides around the world, until every land shall be bathed in their flood and the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea!