Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is came upon you.'
Is Jesus Christ divine? Is the Bible an inspired Book? Is man a fallen creature who can be saved only through the suffering and sacrifice of the Creator? Will there be a resurrection of the dead, and a day in which God will judge all the world by the Man Christ Jesus? Is Satan a personal being, and is there a Hell in which the wicked will be for ever punished?
These are great doctrines which have been held and taught by His followers since the days of Jesus and His apostles, and yet they are ever being attacked and denied.
Are they true? Or are they only fancies and falsehoods, or figures of speech and distortions of truth? How can we find truth and know it?
Jesus said, ' When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth' (John xvi. 13) What truth? Not the truth of the multiplication table, or of physical science, or art, or secular history, but spiritual truth-the truth about God and His will and character, and our relations to Him in Christ, that truth which is necessary to salvation and holiness-into all this truth the Holy Spirit will guide us. ' He shall teach you all things,' said Jesus (John xiv. 26).
How, then, shall we escape error and be 'sound in doctrine'? Only by the help of the Holy Spirit. How do we know Jesus Christ is divine? Because the Bible tells us so? Infinitely precious and important is this revelation in the Bible; but not by this do we know it. Because the church teaches it in her creed, and we have heard it from the catechism? Nothing taught in any creed or catechism is of more vital importance; but neither by this do we know it.
How then? Listen to Paul: ' No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost' (I Cor. xii. 3). 'No man,' says Paul. Then learning it from the Bible or catechism is not to know it except as the parrot might know it; but every man is to be taught this by the Holy Spirit, if he is really to know it.
Then it is not a revelation made once for all, and only to the men who walked and talked with Jesus, but it is a spiritual revelation made anew to each believing heart that in penitence seeks Him and so meets the conditions of such a revelation.
Then the poor, degraded, ignorant outcast at the Army Penitent-form in the slums of London or Chicago who never heard of a creed, and the ebony African and dusky Indian who never saw the inside of a Bible, may have Christ revealed in him, and know by the revelation of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is Lord.
' It pleased God . . . to reveal His Son in me,' wrote Paul (Gal. i. 15, 16); and again, ' Christ liveth in me' (Gal. ii. 20); and again, 'My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you' (Gal. iv. 19); as though Christ is to be spiritually formed in the heart of each believer by the operation of the Holy Spirit, as He was physically formed in the womb of Mary by the same Spirit (Luke i. 35) ; and again,' The mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints . . . which is Christ in you, the hope of glory ' (Col. i. 2 6, 2 7) ; ' That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith' (Eph. iii. 17) ; ' Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates' (2 Cor. xiii. 5) 'At that day,' said Jesus, when making His great promise of the Comforter to His disciples, 'At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you' (John xiv. 2o); and again, in His great prayer, He said: ' I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them' (John xvii. 2 6).
It is this ever-recurring revelation to penitent, believing hearts, by the agency of the ever-present Holy Spirit, that makes faith in Jesus Christ living and invincible. ' I know He is Lord, for He saves my soul from sin, and He saves me now', is an argument that rationalism and unbelief cannot answer nor overthrow; and so long as there are men in the world who can say this, faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ is secure; and this experience and witness come by the Holy Ghost.
I worship Thee, 0 Holy Ghost, I love to worship Thee;
My risen Lord for aye were lost But for Thy company.
And so it is by the guidance and teaching of the Holy Spirit that all saving truth becomes vital to us. It is He that makes the Bible a living book; it is He that convinces the world of judgment (John xvi. 8-11); it is He that makes men certain that there is a Heaven of surpassing and enduring glory and joy, and a Hell of endless sorrow and woe for those who sin away their day of grace and die in impenitence.
Who have been the mightiest and most faithful preachers of the gloom and terror and pain of a perpetual Hell? Those who have been the mightiest and most effective preachers of God's compassionate love.
In all periods of great revival, when men seemed to live on the borderland, and in the vision of eternity, Hell has been preached. The leaders in these revivals have been men of prayer and faith and consuming love, but they have been men who knew' the terrors of the Lord ' and, therefore, they preached the judgments of God, and they proved that the law with its penalties is a school master to bring men to Christ (Gal. iii, 24). Fox, the Quaker; Bunyan, the Baptist; Baxter, the Puritan; Wesley and Fletcher, and Whitefield and Caughey, the Methodists; Finney, the Presbyterian; Edwards and Moody, the Congregationalists; and General Booth, the Salvationist; all have preached it, not savagely, but tenderly and faithfully, as a mother might warn her child against some great danger that would surely follow careless and selfish wrong-doing.
What men have loved and laboured and sacrificed as these men? Their hearts have been a flaming furnace of love and devotion to God, and an over-flowing fountain of love and compassion for men; but just in proportion as they have discovered God's love and pity for the sinner, so have they discovered His wrath against sin and all obstinate wrongdoing; and as they have caught glimpses of Heaven and declared its joys and everlasting glories to men, so they have seen Hell with its endless punishment, and with trembling voice 'and over-flowing eyes have they warned men to ' flee from the wrath to come '.
Were these men, throbbing with spiritual life and consumed with devotion to the Kingdom of God and the everlasting well-being of their fellow-men, led to this belief by the Spirit of Truth, or were they misled?
' The things of the Spirit of God . . . are spiritually discerned ' (I Cor. ii. 14), says Paul. It is not by searching and philosophizing that these things are found out, but by revelation. 'Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,' said Jesus to Peter, ' but My Father which is in Heaven ' (Matt. xvi. 17). The great teacher of truth is the Spirit of Truth, and the only safe expounders and guardians of sound doctrine are men filled with the Holy Ghost.
Study and research have their place, and an important place; but in spiritual things they will be of no avail unless prosecuted by spiritual men. As well might men blind from birth attempt to study the starry heavens, and men born deaf undertake to expound and criticize the harmonies of Bach and Beethoven. Men must see and hear to speak and write intelligently on such subjects. And so men must be spiritually enlightened to understand spiritual truth.
The greatest danger to any religious organization is that a body of men should arise in its ranks, and hold its positions of trust, who have learned its great fundamental doctrines by rote out of the catechism, but have no experimental knowledge of their truth inwrought by the mighty anointing of the Holy Ghost, and who are destitute of' an unction from the Holy One', by which, says John, ' ye know all things' (I John ii. 2o, 2 7).
Why do men deny the divinity of Jesus Christ? Because they have never placed themselves in that relation to the Spirit, and met those unchanging conditions that would enable Him to reveal Jesus to them as Saviour and Lord.
Why do men dispute the inspiration of the Scriptures? Because the Holy Ghost, who inspired' holy men of God' to write the book (2 Pet. i. 2 1), hides its spiritual sense from unspiritual and unholy men.
Why do men doubt a Day of Judgment, and a state of everlasting doom? Because they have never been bowed and broken and crushed beneath the weight of their sin, and by a sense of guilt and separation from a holy God that can only be removed by faith in His dying Son.
A sportsman lost his way in a pitiless storm on a black and starless night. Suddenly his horse drew back and refused to take another step. He urged it forward, but it only threw itself back upon its haunches. just then a vivid flash of lightning revealed a great precipice upon the brink of which he stood. It was but an instant, and then the pitchy blackness hid it again from view. But he turned his horse and anxiously rode away from the terrible danger.
A distinguished professor of religion said to me sometime ago, ' I dislike, I abhor, the doctrine of Hell '; and then after a while added, ' But three times in my life I have seen that there was eternal separation from God and an everlasting Hell for me, if I walked not in the way God was calling me to go.'
Into the blackness of the sinner's night the Holy Spirit, who is patiently and compassionately seeking the salvation of all men, flashes a light that gives him a glimpse of eternal things which, if heeded, would lead to the sweet peace and security of eternal day. For when the Holy Spirit is heeded and honoured, the night passes, the shadows flee away, the day dawns, the Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings (Mal. iv. 2) and, saved and sanctified, men walk in His light in safety and joy. Doctrines which before were repellent to the carnal mind, and but foolishness or a stumblingblock to the heart of unbelief, now become precious and satisfying to the soul; and truths which before were hid in impenetrable darkness, or seen only as through dense gloom and fog, are now seen clearly as in the light of broad day.
Hold thou the faith that Christ is Lord,
God over all, who died and rose
And everlasting life bestows
On all who hear the living word;
For thee His life-blood He out-poured,
His Spirit sets thy spirit free;
Hold thou the faith-He dwells in thee,
And thou in Him, and Christ is Lord!
'HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED?
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