In olden times believers met God, knew Him, walked with Him, had the clear and full consciousness that they had dealings with the God of heaven, and had, too, through faith, the assurance that they and their lives were well-pleasing to Him. When the Son of God came to earth, and revealed the Father, it was that such intercourse with God, and the assurance of His favour, might become clearer, and be the abiding portion of every child of God. When He was exalted to the Throne of Glory, it was that He might send down into our hearts the Holy Spirit, in whom the Father and the Son have their own blessed life in heaven, to maintain in us, in Divine power, the blessed life of fellowship with God. It was to be one of the marks of the New Covenant that each member of it should walk in personal communion with God. 'They shall teach no more every man his neighbour, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity.' The personal fellowship and knowledge of God in the Holy Spirit was to be the fruit of the pardon of sin. The Spirit of God's own Son, sent into our hearts to do each moment a work as Divine as the work of the Son in redeeming us, to displace our life and replace it by the life of Christ in power, to make the Son of God divinely and consciously present with us always— this was what the Father had promised as the distinctive blessing of the New Testament. The fellowship of God as the Three-One was now to be within us; the Spirit revealing the Son in us, and through Him the Father.
That there are but few believers who realize this walk with God, this life in God, such as their Father has prepared for them, no one will deny. Nor will it admit of dispute what the cause of this failure is. It is acknowledged on all hands that the Holy Spirit, through whose Divine Omnipotence this inner revelation of the Son and the Father in the life and the likeness of the believer is to take place, is not known or acknowledged in the Church as He should be. In our preaching and in our practice He does not hold that place of prominence which He has in God's plan and in His promises. "While our creed on the Holy Spirit is orthodox and scriptural. His presence and power in the life of believers, in the ministry of the word, in the witness of the Church to the world, is not what the word promises or God's plan requires.
There are not a few who are conscious of this great need, and earnestly ask to know God's mind concerning it, and the way of deliverance out of it . Some feel that their own life is not what it should and might be. Many of them can look back to some special season of spiritual revival, when their whole life was apparently lifted to a higher level. The experience of the joy and strength of the Saviour's presence, as they learned that He would keep them trusting, was, for a time, most real and blessed. But it did not last: there was a very gradual decline to a lower stage, with much of vain effort and sad failure. They would fain know where the evil lies. There can be little doubt that the answer must be this: they did not know or honour the Indwelling Spirit as the strength of their life, as the power of their faith, to keep them always looking to Jesus and trusting in Him. They knew not what it was, day by day, to wait in lowly reverence for the Holy Spirit to deliver from the power of the flesh, and to maintain the wonderful presence of the Father and the Son within them.
There are many more, tens of thousands of God's dear children, who as yet know little of any temporary experiences of a brighter life than one of never-ending stumbling and rising. They have lived outside of revivals and conferences; the teaching they receive is not specially helpful in the matter of entire consecration. Their surroundings are not favourable to the growth of the spiritual life. There is many an hour of earnest longing to live more according to the will of God, but the prospect of its being really possible to walk and please God, worthy of the Lord to all wellpleasing, has hardly dawned upon them. To the best part of their birthright as God's children, to the most precious gift of the Father's love in Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, to dwell in them, and to lead them, they are practically strangers.
I would indeed count it an unspeakable privilege if my God would use me to bring to these His beloved children the question of His Word: 'Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?' and then to tell them the blessed news of what that glorious work is which this Spirit, whom they have within them, is able to do in each of them. I would, if I might, show them what it is that has hitherto hindered that Spirit from doing His blessed work, and how divinely simple the path is by which each upright soul can enter into the joy of all that He has been given to work within us, even the full revelation of the presence of the Indwelling Jesus. I have humbly asked my God that He would give, even in my feeble words, the quickening of His Holy Spirit, that through them the Thoughts and the Truth, the Love and the Power of God, may enter and shine into the hearts of many of His children, and bring in blessed reality and experience the wondrous Gift of Love of which they tell—the Life and the Joy of the Holy Ghost, as He brings nigh and glorifies within them that Jesus whom hitherto they have only known at a distance, high above them.
I must confess to having had still another wish. I have strong fears—I desire to say it in deep humility—that in the theology of our Churches the Teaching and Leading of the Spirit of Truth, the anointing which alone teacheth all things, has not the practical recognition which a Holy God demands, which our Saviour meant Him to have. If the leaders of our church-thought and church-councils, if our professors of theology and our commentators, if our ministers and students, our religious writers and workers, were all fully conscious of the fact that in everything that concerns the Word of God, and the Church of Christ, and the work of Saving Love to be done on the earth in the name of Christ, it was meant that the Holy Spirit should have the same distinct and supreme place of honour that He had in the Church of the Acts of the Apostles, surely the signs of that honour given and accepted, the marks of His Holy Presence would be clearer, His mighty works more manifest. I trust it has not been presumptuous in me to hope that what has been written may help to remind even our Masters in Israel of what is so easily overlooked, that the first, the indispensable requirement for what is really to bear fruit for eternity is, that it be full of the power of the Eternal Spirit.
I am well aware that it is expected of what asks the attention of our men of mind and culture, our scientific theologians, that it shall bear such marks of scholarship, of force of thought and power of expression, as I cannot dare to lay claim to. And yet I venture to ask any of these honoured brethren under whose eyes these lines may come, to regard the book, if in no other aspect, at least as the echo of a cry for light rising from ten thousand hearts, as the statement of questions for the solution of which many are longing. There is a deep feeling abroad that the Scripture ideal, that Christ's own promise of what the Church should be, and its actual state, do not correspond.
Of all questions in theology there is none that leads us more deeply into the glory of God, or that is of more intense vital and practical importance for daily life, than that which deals with what is the consummation and culmination of the Revelation of God and the work of Redemption: in what way and to what extent God's Holy Spirit can dwell in, can fill, can make into a holy and beautiful temple of God, the heart of His child, making Christ reign there as an Ever-present and Almighty Saviour. It is the question in theology of which the solution, if it were sought and found in the presence and teaching of the Spirit Himself, would transform all our theology into that knowledge of God which is eternal life.
Of theology, in every possible shape, we have no lack. But it is as if, with all our writing, and preaching, and working, there is something wanting. Is not the power from on high the one thing we lack? May it not be that, with all our love for Christ and labour for His cause, we have not made the chief object of our desire what was the chief object of His heart when He ascended the throne—, to have His disciples as a company of men waiting for the clothing with the power of the Holy Ghost, that in that power of the felt presence of their Lord they might testify of Him? May God raise up from among our theologians many who shall give their lives to secure for God's Holy Spirit His full recognition in the lives of believers, in the ministry of the word by tongue and pen, in all the work done in His Church.
I have noticed with deep interest a call to union in prayer, in the first place, ' that Christian life and teaching may be increasingly subject to the Holy Ghost.' I believe that one of the first blessings of this united prayer will be to direct attention to the reason such prayer is not more evidently answered, and to the true preparation for receiving an abundant answer. In my reading in connection with this subject, in my observation of the lives of believers, and in my personal experience, I have been very deeply impressed with one thought. It is, that our prayer for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit through us and around us can only be powerfully answered as His indwelling in every believer is more clearly acknow^ ledged and lived out. We have the Holy Spirit within us; only he who is faithful in the lesser will receive the greater. As we first yield ourselves to be led by the Spirit, to confess His presence in us, as believers rise to realize and accept His guidance in all their daily Life, will our God be willing to entrust to us lnrtrer measures of His micrhtv workings. If we give ourselves entirely into His power as our life, ruling within us, He will give Himself to us in taking a more complete possession, to work through us.
If there is one thing I desire, it is that the Lord may use what I have written to make clear and impress this one truth: it is as an Indwelling Life that the Holy Spirit must be known. In a living, adoring faith, the Indwelling must be accepted and treasured, until it become part of the consciousness of the new man: The Holy Spirit possesses me. In this faith the whole life, even to the least things, must be surrendered to His leading, while all that is of the flesh or self is crucified and put to death. If in this faith we wait on God for His Divine leading and working, placing ourselves entirely at His disposal, our prayer cannot remain unheard; there will be operatious and manifestations of the Spirit's power in the Church and the world such as we could not dare to hope. The Holy Spirit only demands vessels entirely set apart to Him. He will delight to manifest the glory of Christ our Lord.
I commit each beloved fellow-believer to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. May we all, as we study His work, be partakers of the anointing which teacheth all things.
Wellington, 15th August 1888.