Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.'
Jesus said: ' Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit' (John iii. 5, 6). And Paul wrote to the Romans that, ' If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His' (viii. 9).
So it must be that every child of God, every truly converted person, has the Holy Spirit in some gracious manner and measure, else he would not be a child of God; for it is only ' as many as are led by the Spirit of God ' that ' are the sons of God ' (Rom. viii. 14)
It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, who makes us feel how good and righteous, and just and patient God is, and how guilty we are, and how unfit for Heaven, and how near to Hell. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to true repentance and confession and amendment of life; and when our repentance is complete, and our surrender is unconditional, it is He who reasons with us calms our fears, soothes our troubled hearts, banishes our darkness, and enables us to look to Jesus and believe on Him for the forgiveness of all our sins and the salvation of our souls. And when we yield and trust, and are accepted of the Lord, saved by grace, it is He who assures us of the Father's favour and notifies us that we are saved. ' The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.' He is I the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father' (Rom. viii. 15, 16).
And His that gentle voice we hear,
Soft as the breath of even,
That checks each fault, that calms each fear,
And speaks of Heaven.
It is He who strengthens the new convert to fight against and overcome sin, and it is He who begets within him a hope of fuller righteousness through faith in Christ.
And every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are His alone.
Blessed be God for this work of the Holy Spirit within the heart of every true child of His!
But, great and gracious as is this work, it is not the fiery pentecostal baptism with the Spirit which is promised; it is not the fullness of the Holy Ghost to which we are exhorted. It is only the clear dawn of the day, and not the rising of the day-star. This is only the initial work of the Spirit. It is perfect of its kind, but it is preparatory to another and fuller work, about which I wish to write.
Jesus said to His disciples concerning the Holy Spirit, that 'the world (the unsaved, unrepentant) cannot receive ' Him, ' because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him'; because they resist Him, and will not permit Him to work in their hearts. And then Jesus added, 'but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you.' He had begun His work in them, but there was more to follow, for Jesus said, ' and shall be in you' (John xiv. 17)
When a man is building himself a house, he is in and out of it and round about it. But we do not say he lives in it until it has been completed. And it is in that sense that Jesus said, ' He dwelleth with you.' But when the house is finished, the owner sweeps out all the chips and saw-dust, scrubs the floor, lays down his carpets, hangs up his pictures, arranges his furniture, and moves in with his family. Then he is in the fullest sense within it. He abides there. Now, it is in that sense that Jesus meant that the Holy Spirit should be in them. This is fitly expressed in one of our songs:
Holy Spirit, come, 0 come,
Let Thy work in me be done!
All that hinders shall be thrown aside;
Make me fit to be Thy dwelling.
Previous to Pentecost He was with them, using the searching preaching of John the Baptist, and the life, the words, the example, the sufferings, and the death and resurrection of Jesus as instruments with which to fashion their hearts for His indwelling. As the truth was declared to them in the words of Jesus, pictured to them in His doings, exemplified in His daily life, and fulfilled in His death and His rising from the dead, the Holy Spirit wrought mightily within them; but He could not yet find perfect rest in their hearts; therefore He did not yet abide within them.
They had forsaken all to follow Christ. They had been commissioned to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, to cast out devils. Their names were written in Heaven. They were not of the world, even as Jesus was not of the world, for they belonged to Him and to the Father. They knew the Holy Spirit, for He was with them, working in them, but not yet living in them, for they were yet carnal; that is, they were selfish, each seeking the best place for himself. They disputed among themselves as to which should be the greatest. They were bigoted, wanting to call down fire from Heaven to consume those who would not receive Jesus, and forbidding those who would not follow them to cast out devils in His name. They were positive and loud in their professions of devotion and loyalty to Jesus when alone with Him. They declared they would die with Him. But they were fearful, timid and false to Him when the testing time came. When the mocking crowd appeared and danger was near, they all forsook Him and fled; while Peter cursed and swore, and denied that he knew Him.
But the Holy Spirit did not forsake them. He still wrought within them and, no doubt, used their very mistakes and miserable failures to perfect within them the spirit of humility and perfect self-abasement in order that they might safely be exalted. And on the day of Pentecost His work of preparation was complete, and He moved in to abide for ever. Hallelujah!
And this experience of theirs before Pentecost is the common experience of all true converts. Every child of God knows that the Holy Spirit is with him; realizes that He is working within, striving to set the house in order. And with many who are properly taught and gladly obedient this work is done quickly, and the heavenly Dove, the Blessed One, takes up His constant abode within them; the toil and strife with inbred sin is ended by its destruction, and they enter at once into the Sabbath of full salvation.
Surely this is possible. The disciples could not receive the Holy Spirit till Jesus was glorified; because not until then was the foundation for perfect, intelligent, unwavering faith laid. But since the day of Pentecost, He may be received immediately by those who have repented of all sin, who have believed on Jesus and been born again. Some have assured me that they were sanctified wholly and filled with the Spirit within a few hours of their conversion. I have no doubt that this was so with many of the three thousand who were converted under Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost.
But often this work is slow, for He can only work effectually as we work with Him, practising intelligent and obedient faith. Some days the work prospers and seems almost complete, and then peace and joy and comfort abound in the heart; at other times the work is hindered, and oftentimes almost or quite undone, by the strivings and stirrings of inbred sin, by fits of temper, by lightness and frivolity, by neglect of watchfulness
and prayer, and the patient, attentive study of His word; by worldliness, by unholy ambitions, by jealousies and envyings, by uncharitable suspicions and harsh judgments and selfish indulgences, and slowness to believe.
' The flesh lusteth against the Spirit' (Gal. v. 17), seeks to bring the soul back under the bondage of sin again, while the Spirit wars against the flesh, which is ' the old man ', ' the carnal mind'. The Spirit seeks to bring every thought into ' captivity . . . to the obedience of Christ ', to lead the soul to that point of glad, wholehearted consecration to its Lord, and that simple, perfect faith in the merits of His Blood which shall enable Him to cast out ' the old man ', destroy ' the carnal mind' and, making the heart His temple, enthrone Christ within.
Here on earth a temple stands,
Temple never built with hands;
There the Lord doth fill the place
With the glory of His grace.
Cleansed by Christ's atoning Blood,
Thou art this fair house of God.
Thoughts, desires, that enter there,
Should they not be pure and fair?
Meet for holy courts and blest,
Courts of stillness and of rest,
Where the soul, a priest in white,
Singeth praises day and night;
Glory of the love divine,
Filling all this heart of mine.
My brother, my sister, what is your experience just now? Are you filled with the Spirit? Or is the old man still warring against Him in your heart? Oh, that you may receive Him fully by faith just now!
'HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED? '
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