It was the custom of the Roman emperors, at their triumphal entrance, to cast new coins among the multitudes; so doth Christ, in His triumphal ascension into heaven, throw the greatest gifts for the good of men that were ever given. -- T. Goodwin.
To unconverted persons, a great part of the Bible resembles a letter written in cipher. The blessed Spirit's office is to act as God's decipherer, by letting His people into the secret of celestial experience, as the key and clew to those sweet mysteries of grace which were before as a garden shut up, or as a fountain sealed, or as a book written in an unknown character. -- Toplady.
The greatest, strongest, mightiest plea for the Church of God in the world is the existence of the Spirit of God in its midst, and the works of the Spirit of God are the true evidences of Christianity. They say miracles are withdrawn, but the Holy Spirit is the standing miracle of the Church of God to-day. I will not say a word against societies for Christian evidences, nor against those weighty and learned brethren who have defended the outworks of the Christian Church. They have done good service, and I wish them every blessing, but as to my own soul, I never was settled in my faith in Christ by Paley's Evidences, nor by all the evidence ever brought from history or elsewhere; the Holy Spirit has taken the burden off my shoulders, and given me peace and liberty. This to me is evidence, and as to the externals which we can quote to others, it was enough for Peter and John that the people saw the lame man healed, and they needed not to speak for themselves. -- Spurgeon.
POWER -- ITS SOURCE.
"Without the soul, divinely quickened and inspired, the observances of the grandest ritualism are as worthless as the motions of a galvanized corpse." -- Anon.
I QUOTE this sentence, as it leads me at once to the subject under consideration. What is this quickening and inspiration? What is this power needed? From whence its source? I reply: The Holy Spirit of God. I am a full believer in "The Apostles' Creed," and therefore "I believe in the Holy Ghost."
A writer has pointedly asked: "What are our souls without His grace? -- as dead as the branch in which the sap does not circulate. What is the Church without Him? -- as parched and barren as the fields without the dew and rain of heaven."
There has been much inquiry of late on the subject of the Holy Spirit. In this and other lands thousands of persons have been giving attention to the study of this grand theme. I hope it will lead us all to pray for a greater manifestation of His power upon the whole Church of God. How much we have dishonored Him in the past! How ignorant of His grace, and love and presence we have been? True, we have heard of Him and read of Him, but we have had little intelligent knowledge of His attributes, His offices and His relations to us. I fear He has not been to many professed Christians an actual existence, nor is He known to them as a personality of the Godhead.
The first work of the Spirit is to give life; spiritual life. He gives it and He sustains it. If there is no life, there can be no power; Solomon says: "A living dog is better than a dead lion." When the Spirit imparts this life, He does not leave us to droop and die, but constantly fans the flame. He is ever with us. Surely we ought not to be ignorant of His power and his work.
IDENTITY AND PERSONALITY.
In John v, 7, we read: "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one." By the Father is meant the first Person, Christ, the Word is the second, and the Holy Spirit, perfectly fulfilling His own office and work in union with the Father and the Son, is the third. I find clearly presented in my Bible, that the One God who demands my love, service and worship, has there revealed Himself, and that each of those three names of Father, Son and Holy Ghost has personality attached to them. Therefore we find some things ascribed to God as Father, some to God as Saviour, and some to God as Comforter and Teacher. It has been remarked that the Father plans, the Son executes, and the Holy Spirit applies. But I also believe they plan and work together. The distinction of persons is often noted in Scripture. In Matt. iii, 16-17, we find JESUS submitting to baptism, the SPIRIT descending upon Him, while the FATHER'S voice of approval is heard saying: "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Again in John xiv, 16, we read: "I (i. e. Jesus) will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter." Also in Eph. i, 18: "Through Him (i. e. Christ Jesus) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit unto the Father." Thus we are taught the distinction of persons in the Godhead, and their inseparable union. From these and other scriptures also we learn the identity and actual existence of the Holy Spirit.
If you ask do I understand what is thus revealed in Scripture, I say "no." But my faith bows down before the inspired Word and I unhesitatingly believe the great things of God when even reason is blinded and the intellect confused.
In addition to the teaching of God's Word, the Holy Spirit in His gracious work in the soul declares His own presence. Through His agency we are "born again," and through His indwelling we possess superhuman power. Science, falsely so called, when arrayed against the existence and presence of the Spirit of God with His people, only exposes its own folly to the contempt of those who have become "new creatures in Christ Jesus." The Holy Spirit who inspired prophets, and qualified apostles, continues to animate, guide and comfort all true believers. To the actual Christian, the personality of the Holy Spirit is more real than any theory science has to offer, for so-called science is but calculation based on human observation, and is constantly changing its inferences. But the existence of the Holy Spirit is to the child of God a matter of Scripture revelation and of actual experience.
Some skeptics assert that there is no other vital energy in the world but physical force, while contrary to their assertions, thousands and tens of thousands who can not possibly be deceived have been quickened into spiritual life by a power neither physical or mental. Men who were dead in sins -- drunkards who lost their will, blasphemers who lost their purity, libertines sunk in beastliness, infidels who published their shame to the world, have in numberless instances become the subjects of the Spirit's power, and are now walking in the true nobility of Christian manhood, separated by an infinite distance from their former life. Let others reject, if they will, at their own peril, this imperishable truth. I believe, and am growing more into this belief, that divine, miraculous creative power resides in the Holy Ghost. Above and beyond all natural law, yet in harmony with it, creation, providence, the Divine government, and the upbuilding of the Church of God are presided over by the Spirit of God. His ministration is the ministration of life more glorious than the ministration of law, (2 Cor. iii, 6-10). And like the Eternal Son, the Eternal Spirit having life in Himself, is working out all things after the counsel of His own will, and for the everlasting glory of the Triune Godhead.
The Holy Spirit has all the qualities belonging to a person; the power to understand, to will, to do, to call, to feel, to love. This can not be said of a mere influence. He possesses attributes and qualities which can only be ascribed to a person, as acts and deeds are performed by Him which can not be performed by a machine, an influence, or a result.
AGENT AND INSTRUMENT.
The Holy Spirit is closely identified with the words of the Lord Jesus. "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." The Gospel proclamation can not be divorced from the Holy Spirit. Unless He attend the word in power, vain will be the attempt in preaching it. Human eloquence or persuasiveness of speech are the mere trappings of the dead, if the living Spirit be absent; the prophet may preach to the bones in the valley, but it must be the breath from Heaven which will cause the slain to live.
In the third chapter of the First Epistle of Peter, it reads, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."
Here we see that Christ was raised up from the grave by this same Spirit, and the power exercised to raise Christ's dead body must raise our dead souls and quicken them. No other power on earth can quicken a dead soul, but the same power that raised the body of Jesus Christ out of Joseph's sepulcher. And if we want that power to quicken our friends who are dead in sin, we must look to God, and not be looking to man to do it. If we look alone to ministers, if we look alone to Christ's disciples to do this work, we shall be disappointed; but if we look to the Spirit of God and expect it to come from Him and Him alone, then we shall honor the Spirit, and the Spirit will do His work.
SECRET OF EFFICIENCY.
I can not help but believe there are many Christians who want to be more efficient in the Lord's service, and the object of this book is to take up this subject of the Holy Spirit, that they may see from whom to expect this power. In the teaching of Christ, we find the last words recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, the 28th chapter and 19th verse, "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Here we find that the Holy Spirit and the Son are equal with the Father -- are one with Him, "teaching them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Christ was now handing His commission over to His Apostles. He was going to leave them. His work on earth was finished, and He was now just about ready to take His seat at the right hand of God, and He spoke unto them and said: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth." All power, so then He had authority. If Christ was mere man, as some people try to make out, it would have been blasphemy for Him to have said to the disciples, go and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and in His own name, and in that of the Holy Ghost, making Himself equal with the Father.
There are three things: All power is given unto Me; go teach all nations. Teach them what? To observe all things. There are a great many people now that are willing to observe what they like about Christ, but the things that they don't like they just dismiss and turn away from. But His commission to His disciples was, "Go teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." And what right has a messenger who has been sent of God to change the message? If I had sent a servant to deliver a message, and the servant thought the message didn't sound exactly right -- a little harsh -- and that servant went and changed the message, I should change servants very quickly; he could not serve me any longer. And when a minister or a messenger of Christ begins to change the message because he thinks it is not exactly what it ought to be, and thinks he is wiser than God, God just dismisses that man.
They haven't taught "all things." They have left out some of the things that Christ has commanded us to teach, because they didn't correspond with man's reason. Now we have to take the Word of God just as it is; and if we are going to take it, we have no authority to take out just what we like, what we think is appropriate, and let dark reason be our guide.
It is the work of the Spirit to impress the heart and seal the preached word. His office is to take of the things of Christ and reveal them unto us.
Some people have got an idea that this is the only dispensation of the Holy Ghost; that He didn't work until Christ was glorified. But Simeon felt the Holy Ghost when he went into the temple. In 2d Peter, i.21, we read: "Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." We find the same Spirit in Genesis as is seen in Revelation. The same Spirit that guided the hand that wrote Exodus inspired also the epistles, and we find the same Spirit speaking from one end of the Bible to the other. So holy men in all ages have spoken as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
I was a Christian a long time before I found out that the Holy Ghost was a person. Now this is something a great many don't seem to understand, but if you will just take up the Bible and see what Christ had to say about the Holy Spirit, you will find that He always spoke of Him as a person -- never spoke of Him as an influence. Some people have an idea that the Holy Spirit is an attribute of God, just like mercy -- just an influence coming from God. But we find in the fourteenth chapter of John, sixteenth verse, these words: "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever." That He may abide with you forever. And, again, in the same chapter, seventeenth verse: "Even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can not receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you." Again, in the twenty-sixth verse of the same chapter: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you."
Observe the pronouns "He" and "Him." I want to call attention to this fact that whenever Christ spoke of the Holy Ghost He spoke of Him as a person, not a mere influence; and if we want to honor the Holy Ghost, let us bear in mind that He is one of the Trinity, a personality of the Godhead.
THE RESERVOIR OF LOVE.
We read that the fruit of the Spirit is love. God is love, Christ is love, and we should not be surprised to read about the love of the Spirit. What a blessed attribute is this. May I call it the dome of the temple of the graces. Better still, it is the crown of crowns worn by the Triune God. Human love is a natural emotion which flows forth towards the object of our affections. But Divine love is as high above human love as the heaven is above the earth. The natural man is of the earth, earthy, and however pure his love may be, it is weak and imperfect at best. But the love of God is perfect and entire, wanting nothing. It is as a mighty ocean in its greatness, dwelling with and flowing from the Eternal Spirit.
In Romans v, 5, we read: "And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us." Now if we are co-workers with God, there is one thing we must possess, and that is love. A man may be a very successful lawyer and have no love for his clients, and yet get on very well. A man may be a very successful physician and have no love for his patients, and yet be a very good physician; a man may be a very successful merchant and have no love for his customers, and yet he may do a good business and succeed; but no man can be a co-worker with God without love. If our service is mere profession on our part, the quicker we renounce it the better. If a man takes up God's work as he would take up any profession, the sooner he gets out of it the better.
We can not work for God without love. It is the only tree that can produce fruit on this sin-cursed earth, that is acceptable to God. If I have no love for God nor for my fellow man, then I can not work acceptably. I am like sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. We are told that "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost." Now, if we have had that love shed abroad in our hearts, we are ready for God's service; if we have not, we are not ready. It is so easy to reach a man when you love him; all barriers are broken down and swept away.
Paul when writing to Titus, second chapter and first verse, tells him to be sound in faith, in charity, and in patience. Now in this age, ever since I can remember, the Church has been very jealous about men being unsound in the faith. If a man becomes unsound in the faith, they draw their ecclesiastical sword and cut at him; but he may be ever so unsound in love, and they don't say anything. He may be ever so defective in patience; he may be irritable and fretful all the time, but they never deal with him. Now the Bible teaches us, that we are not only to be sound in the faith, but in charity and in patience. I believe God can not use many of his servants, because they are full of irritability and impatience; they are fretting all the time, from morning until night. God can not use them; their mouths are sealed; they can not speak for Jesus Christ, and if they have not love, they can not work for God. I do not mean love for those that love me; it don't take grace to do that; the rudest Hottentot in the world can do that; the greatest heathen that ever lived can do that; the vilest man that ever walked the earth can do that. It don't take any grace at all. I did that before I ever became a Christian. Love begets love; hatred begets hatred. If I know a man loves me first, I know my love will be going out towards him. Suppose a man comes to me, saying, "Mr. Moody, a certain man told me to-day that he thought you were the meanest man living." Well, if I didn't have a good deal of the grace of God in my heart, then I know there would be hard feelings that would spring up in my heart against that man, and it would not be long before I would be talking against him. Hatred begets hatred. But suppose a man comes to me and says, "Mr. Moody, do you know that such a man that I met to-day says that he thinks a great deal of you?" and though I may never have heard of him, there would be love springing up in my heart. Love begets love; we all know that; but it takes the grace of God to love the man that lies about me, the man that slanders me, the man that is trying to tear down my character; it takes the grace of God to love that man. You may hate the sin he has committed; there is a difference between the sin and the sinner; you may hate the one with a perfect hatred, but you must love the sinner. I can not otherwise do him any good. Now you know the first impulse of a young convert is to love. Do you remember the day you were converted? Was not your heart full of sweet peace and love?
THE RIGHT OVERFLOW.
I remember the morning I came out of my room after I had first trusted Christ, and I thought the old sun shone a good deal brighter than it ever had before; I thought that the sun was just smiling upon me, and I walked out upon Boston Common, and I heard the birds in the trees, and I thought that they were all singing a song for me. Do you know I fell in love with the birds? I never cared for them before; it seemed to me that I was in love with all creation. I had not a bitter feeling against any man, and I was ready to take all men to my heart. If a man has not the love of God shed abroad in his heart, he has never been regenerated. If you hear a person get up in prayer-meeting, and he begins to speak and find fault with everybody, you may know that his is not a genuine conversion; that it is counterfeit; it has not the right ring, because the impulse of a converted soul is to love, and not to be getting up and complaining of every one else, and finding fault. But it is hard for us to live in the right atmosphere all the time. Some one comes along and treats us wrongly, perhaps we hate him; we have not attended to the means of grace and kept feeding on the word of God as we ought; a root of bitterness springs up in our hearts, and perhaps we are not aware of it, but it has come up in our hearts; then we are not qualified to work for God. The love of God is not shed abroad in our hearts as it ought to be by the Holy Ghost.
But the work of the Holy Ghost is to impart love. Paul could say, "The love of Christ constraineth me." He could not help going from town to town and preaching the Gospel. Jeremiah at one time said: "I will speak no more in the Lord's name; I have suffered enough; these people don't like God's word." They lived in a wicked day, as we do now. Infidels were creeping up all around him, who said the word of God was not true; Jeremiah had stood like a wall of fire, confronting them, and he boldly proclaimed that the word of God was true. At last they put him in prison, and he said: "I will keep still; it has cost me too much." But a little while after, you know, he could not keep still. His bones caught fire; he had to speak. And when we are so full of the love of God, we are compelled to work for God, then God blesses us. If our work is sought to be accomplished by the lash, without any true motive power, it will come to nought.
Now the question comes up, have we the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, and are we holding the truth in love? Some people hold the truth, but in such a cold stern way that it will do no good. Other people want to love everything, and so they give up much of the truth; but we are to hold the truth in love; we are to hold the truth even if we lose all, but we are to hold it in love, and if we do that, the Lord will bless us.
There are a good many people trying to get this love; they are trying to produce it of themselves. But therein all fail. The love implanted deep in our new nature will be spontaneous. I don't have to learn to love my children. I can not help loving them. I said to a young miss some time ago, in an inquiry meeting, who said that she could not love God; that it was very hard for her to love Him -- I said to her, "Is it hard for you to love your mother? Do you have to learn to love your mother?" And she looked up through her tears, and said, "No; I can't help it; that is spontaneous." "Well," I said, "when the Holy Spirit kindles love in your heart, you can not help loving God; it will be spontaneous." When the Spirit of God comes into your heart and mine, it will be easy to serve God.
The fruit of the Spirit, as you find it in Galatians, begins with love. There are nine graces spoken of in the sixth chapter, and of the nine different graces Paul puts love at the head of the list; love is the first thing -- the first in that precious cluster of fruit. Some one has put it in this way: that all the other eight can be put in the word love. Joy is love exulting; peace is love in repose; long suffering is love on trial; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in action; faith is love on the battlefield; meekness is love at school; and temperance is love in training. So it is love all the way; love at the top; love at the bottom, and all the way along down these graces; and if we only just brought forth the fruit of the Spirit, what a world we would have; there would be no need of any policemen; a man could leave his overcoat around without some one stealing it; men would not have any desire to do evil. Says Paul, "Against such there is no law;" you don't need any law. A man who is full of the Spirit don't need to be put under law; don't need any policemen to watch him. We could dismiss all our policemen; the lawyers would have to give up practicing law, and the courts would not have any business.
THE TRIUMPHS OF HOPE.
In the fifteenth chapter of Romans, thirteenth verse, the Apostle says: "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost." The next thing then is hope.
Did you ever notice this, that no man or woman is ever used by God to build up His kingdom who has lost hope? Now, I have been observing this throughout different parts of the country, and wherever I have found a worker in God's vineyard who has lost hope, I have found a man or woman not very useful. Now, just look at these workers. Let your mind go over the past for a moment. Can you think of a man or woman whom God has used to build His kingdom who has lost hope? I don't know of any; I never heard of such an one. It is very important to have hope in the Church; and it is the work of the Holy Ghost to impart hope. Let Him come into some of the churches where there have not been any conversions for a few years, and let Him convert a score of people, and see how hopeful the Church becomes at once. He imparts hope; a man filled with the Spirit of God will be very hopeful. He will be looking out into the future, and he knows that it is all bright, because the God of all grace is able to do great things. So it is very important that we have hope.
If a man has lost hope, he is out of communion with God; he has not the Spirit of God resting upon him for service; he may be a son of God, and disheartened so that he can not be used of God. Do you know there is no place in the Scriptures where it is recorded that God ever used even a discouraged man. Some years ago, in my work I was quite discouraged, and I was ready to hang my harp on the willow. I was very much cast down and depressed. I had been for weeks in that state, when one Monday morning a friend, who had a very large Bible class, came into my study. I used to examine the notes of his Sunday-school lessons, which were equal to a sermon, and he came to me this morning and said, "Well, what did you preach about yesterday?" and I told him. I said, "What did you preach about?" and he said that he preached about Noah. "Did you ever preach about Noah?" "No, I never preached about Noah." "Did you ever study his character?" "No, I never studied his life particularly." "Well," says he, "he is a most wonderful character. It will do you good. You ought to study up that character." When he went out, I took down my Bible, and read about Noah; and then it came over me that Noah worked 120 years and never had a convert, and yet he did not get discouraged; and I said, "Well, I ought not to be discouraged," and I closed my Bible, got up and walked down town, and the cloud had gone. I went down to the noon prayer-meeting, and heard of a little town in the country where they had taken into the church 100 young converts; and I said to myself, I wonder what Noah would have given if he could have heard that; and yet he worked 120 years and didn't get discouraged. And then a man right across the aisle got up and said, "My friends, I wish you to pray for me; I think I'm lost;" and I thought to myself, "I wonder what Noah would have given to hear that." He never heard a man say, "I wish you to pray for me; I think I am lost," and yet he didn't get discouraged! Oh, children of God, let us not get discouraged; let us ask God to forgive us, if we have been discouraged and cast down; let us ask God to give us hope, that we may be ever hopeful. It does me good sometimes to meet some people and take hold of their hands; they are so hopeful, while other people throw a gloom over me because they are all the time cast down, and looking at the dark side, and looking at the obstacles and difficulties that are in the way.
THE BOON OF LIBERTY.
The next thing the Spirit of God does is to give us liberty. He first imparts love; He next inspires hope, and then gives liberty, and that is about the last thing we have in a good many of our churches at the present day. And I am sorry to say there must be a funeral in a good many churches before there is much work done, we shall have to bury the formalism so deep that it will never have any resurrection. The last thing to be found in many a church is liberty.
If the Gospel happens to be preached, the people criticise, as they would a theatrical performance. It is exactly the same, and many a professed Christian never thinks of listening to what the man of God has to say. It is hard work to preach to carnally-minded critics, but "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Very often a woman will hear a hundred good things in a sermon, and there may be one thing that strikes her as a little out of place, and she will go home and sit down to the table and talk right out before her children and magnify that one wrong thing, and not say a word about the hundred good things that were said. That is what people do who criticise.
God does not use men in captivity. The condition of many is like Lazarus when he came out of the sepulcher bound hand and foot. The bandage was not taken off his mouth, and he could not speak. He had life, and if you had said Lazarus was not alive, you would have told a falsehood, because he was raised from the dead. There are a great many people, the moment you talk to them and insinuate they are not doing what they might, they say: "I have life. I am a Christian." Well, you can't deny it, but they are bound hand and foot.
May God snap these fetters and set His children free, that they may have liberty. I believe He comes to set us free, and wants us to work for Him, and speak for Him. How many people would like to get up in a social prayer-meeting to say a few words for Christ, but there is such a cold spirit of criticism in the Church that they dare not do it. They have not the liberty to do it. If they get up, they are so frightened with these critics that they begin to tremble and sit down. They can not say anything. Now, that is all wrong. The Spirit of God comes just to give liberty, and wherever you see the Lord's work going on, you will see that Spirit of liberty. People won't be afraid of speaking to one another. And when the meeting is over they will not get their hats and see how quick they can get out of the church, but will begin to shake hands with one another, and there will be liberty there. A good many go to the prayer-meeting out of a mere cold sense of duty. They think "I must attend because I feel it is my duty." They don't think it is a glorious privilege to meet and pray, and to be strengthened, and to help some one else in the wilderness journey.
What we need to-day is love in our hearts. Don't we want it? Don't we want hope in our lives? Don't we want to be hopeful? Don't we want liberty? Now, all this is the work of the Spirit of God, and let us pray God daily to give us love, and hope, and liberty. We read in Hebrews, "Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus." If you will turn to the passage and read the margin -- it says: "Having, therefore, brethren, liberty to enter into the holiest." We can go into the holiest, having freedom of access, and plead for this love and liberty and glorious hope, that we may not rest until God gives us the power to work for Him.
If I know my own heart to-day, I would rather die than live as I once did, a mere nominal Christian, and not used by God in building up His kingdom. It seems a poor empty life to live for the sake of self.
Let us seek to be useful. Let us seek to be vessels meet for the Master's use, that God, the Holy Spirit, may shine fully through us.
"Know, my soul, thy full salvation;
Think what Spirit dwells within thee;
Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
"I AM so weak, dear Lord! I can not stand
I am so needy, Lord! and yet I know
It is so sweet to trust Thy word alone!
There were strange soul-depths, restless, vast, and broad, Unfathomed as the sea,