By Aaron Hills
Conditions Of Receiving The Blessing -- "Conviction Of Want" -- Feel Its Importance -- Believe It Is For You -- Hunger And Thirst
Mrs. Amanda Smith, a negress, was very definitely converted when a slave in 1856. Twelve years later, under the labours of Dr. Inskip she received the second blessing of sanctification. She has since then been a wonderfully successful evangelist, labouring with the enduement of Spirit-power, in the United States and England and Africa, turning thousands to righteousness, and leading multitudes of others into the sanctified life. She often speaks with fifty ministers and learned doctors of divinity and Bishops on the platform behind her, and she is the peer of any of them in spiritual power. Last summer she entered the building where the General Conference of the M. E. Church was assembled in Cleveland, and the whole body rose to their feet and gave her an ovation.
I quote the following brief extract from a speech of hers delivered in England:
"I had now begun to seek entire sanctification. I asked an elder what was meant by being 'pure in heart' 'Oh child,' he said, 'that means you must come as near to it as you can.' I went home, but oh, this hunger and thirst after righteousness was not satisfied. When I was convicted for holiness I was in a clearly justified state. I had no doubt about my acceptance with God. When I was converted it was conviction of guilt, now it was conviction of want. As the heart pants after the water brook, so my soul panted after God, the living God. 'That comes to me what I want,' I said, 'it's God!' The elder said, 'You must come to it as near as you can. What is the use of fretting yourself. Do all you can. Visit the sick, sing, pray!' But the hunger went on, and when I read, 'Rejoice when men persecute you,' I felt that was not my experience; there was a feeling of retaliation. And when they spoke about me and blamed me, I wanted to justify myself instead of leaving it all with God. Then I read, ' This is the will of God, even your sanctification.' I went to the old deacon and asked, 'What's the meaning of this?' 'Oh,' he said, ' that's the blessing people get just before they die.' Well, I didn't want to die; I wanted to live and work for God; and when they told me, 'you'll never live this life till you die,' I wanted to live and not to die."
This quaint address leads me to say:
I. That this dear black saint's "conviction of want" is usually the first condition of receiving the Holy Spirit. "Blessed are the poor in spirit." People who think they are spiritually "rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing, and know not that they are miserable and poor and blind and naked" will heed no counsel to seek the "white raiment" of holiness. The consciously "poor in spirit" are "those who seek and gain the treasures of the kingdom of heaven. Those who want and seek, receive. Those who are satisfied to be puling babes, chronic spiritual weaklings, desiring just enough religion to act as a "fire-insurance policy," will not care to hear about any higher spiritual attainments. A deacon of the writer's church once said in prayer-meeting. he would be abundantly satisfied if he got into heaven. Evidently he was not "coveting earnestly the best gifts," or seeking "the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ," or longing for an "abundant entrance," or desiring the reward of "t hose who turn many to righteousness." No; he was satisfied with the least amount of religion that would get him through, as a brand plucked from the burning, even though the "wood, hay, and stubble " of his unworthy life were all consumed! Fire-insurance religion! Such people will never become sanctified, till they have a conviction of want.
Dear Mother Booth said in Exeter Hall, in an address on holiness: "I think it must be self-evident to every one present that it is the most important question that can possibly occupy the mind of man. How much like God can we be? -- how near to God can we come on earth preparatory to our being perfectly like him, and living, as it were, in his very heart for ever and ever in heaven?.... The mystery of mysteries to me is how any one, with any measure of the Spirit of God, can help looking at the blessing of holiness and saying, 'Well, even if it does seem too great for attainment on earth, it is very beautiful and very blessed; I wish I could attain it.' . . . And yet, alas! we do not find it so. In a great many instances the very first thing professing Christians do is to resist and reject this doctrine of holiness, as if it were the most foul thing on earth.
"I heard of a gentleman saying, a few days ago -- a leader in one circle of religion -- that for anybody to talk about being holy showed that they knew nothing of themselves and nothing of Jesus Christ. I said: 'Oh, my God! it has come to something if holiness and Jesus Christ are at the antipodes of each other. I thought he was the centre and foundation of holiness. I thought it was in him only we could get any holiness, and through him that holiness could be wrought in us.' But this poor man thought this idea to be absurd."
Now Amanda Smith and Catherine Booth were right. It was the religious leader who was utterly wrong -- densely ignorant of himself and of Christ. These two women had been convicted of a great want, which regeneration did not meet, and they knew Jesus as the full supply of their want: a "sanctifying," "uttermost" Saviour. Let us hear the cry of want of two other great souls whose writings have been as "precious ointment poured forth."
Hannah Whitall Smith writes: "I was converted in my twenty-sixth year, in Philadelphia. Never since that time have I doubted my conversion, or had a moment's fear about my acceptance with God, or my present possession of eternal life. My guarded education in the Society of Friends had separated me from the vain fashions and amusements of the world, and my chief interests were all centred around the religion of Jesus Christ as the only object really worthy of serious thought or attention.
"But my heart was ill at ease. That I grew in knowledge I could not deny; but neither could I deny that I did not grow in grace; and, at the end of eight years of my Christian life, I was forced to make the sorrowful admission that I had not even as much power over sin as when I was first converted. In the presence of temptation, I found myself weakness itself. It was not my outward walk that caused me sorrow, though I can see now that was far from what it ought to have been; but it was the sins of my heart that troubled me -- coldness, deadness, want of Christian love, intellectual apprehension of truth without any corresponding moral effects, roots of bitterness, want of a meek and quiet spirit -- all those inward sins over which the children of God are so often caused to mourn. I could not but see that sin still had more or less dominion over me, and I did not come up to the Bible standard, The Christian life contemplated there was a life of victory and triumph; my life was one of failure and defeat. The commands to be holy and blameless, the sons of God without rebuke, seemed almost a mockery to me. At times I went through agonies of conflict in my efforts to bring about a different state of things. I resolved, I prayed, I wrestled, I strove; I lashed myself up into the belief that all I held most dear in life could continue to be mine only as I attained to more faithfulness and devotedness of walk. But all was vain, and it seemed worse than vain. 'When I would do good evil was present with me.' I could see no hope of deliverance but in death. At times a new discovery of truth would seem to carry me above temptation, and my heart would rejoice at the thought that now at last I had found the secret of living. But after awhile, as the truth became familiar, I found to my bitter sorrow, that it seemed to lose its power, and I was left as helpless as ever. ... I would redouble my efforts, and go through the same weary round of conflicts and struggles again, only, of course, to meet with the same bitter defeat. I felt that my life, in spite of earnestness and devotedness, was a failure. Often I said to myself that if this was all the gospel of Christ had for me, it was a bitterly disappointing thing." (Forty Witnesses, pp. 144-148).
Here was the ''conviction of want," which drove this dear soul to Christ for complete salvation -- the sequel to which we will give later.
Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote: "For some three or four years past there has been in my mind a subdued undercurrent of perplexity and unhappiness in regard to myself in my religious experience. I have often thought when sifting myself, 'Why am I thus restless? Why not at peace? I love God and Jesus Christ with a real and deep devotion, and in general I mean to conform my life to him. I am as consistent as many Christians, more; then why not satisfied? I could conceive of a style of Christian devotion as much higher than my present point, as my present position is above that of the world. The more I groaned in spirit, and longed and prayed, the more inveterate and determined and unsubdued seemed every opposing desire ..... 'Am I then not a Christian?' thought I. Then why do I, why have I, loved Christ -- loved him so deeply as I know I have, nay, as I know I do? I can not tell. I think I love him above all; yet certainly my will is at best only in a small degree subjected to his. 'Well, then,' I thought, 'if you see that entire union and identity of your will with Christ is the thing, why do you not have it? Just, give up all these separate interests. Unite your soul to him in a common interest. Why not? Ah! why not? Words of deep meaning to very one who tries that vain experiment! Every effort breaks like a wave upon a rock. We reason, reflect, resolve, and pray, weep, strive, love -- love to despair; and all in vain. In vain I adjured my soul. 'Do you not love Christ? Why not, then, cut wholly loose from all these loves, and take his will alone? Is it not reasonable, since you can be blessed in no other way? What else can you do? Something said to me, 'You are a Christian, perhaps, but not a full one.' 'Learn of me,' said Christ. 'and ye shall find rest.' I perceive that the New Testament ideal of a Christian was different from and higher than what I ever tried or purposed to be; that I was only trying at parts, and allowedly in some things living below. ... The question was distinctly proposed to me, 'Will you undertake and make a solemn and earnest effort to realize the full ideal of Christ's plan, though not one other Christian should?' The obstacles were many. 'It will do no good to try. With a lower standard have I striven, wept, prayed, despaired in vain; and shall I undertake this? I shall never do it.'
"This was my discouragement. 'How can I see God clearer than I have seen him? Can I ever be searched and penetrated and bowed by a deeper love than I have known, and which yet has been transient, has never wholly subdued me? Can I make deeper, sincerer resolutions? No. Can I have more vivid views? No. What then?' I thought of this passage: 'I will love him, and my Father will love him; and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.' 'That is it,' I thought. 'Christ has been with me by visits and intervals; this permanent abode is what I have not known.' Again: 'Abide in me and I in you.' A steady, ever present Christ within, who should exert an influence steady as the pulse of my soul. This I needed. I copied that class of texts. I prayed with prayer unceasing that Christ would realize them. I despaired of bending my will; I despaired of all former and all present efforts; but at his word I resolved to begin and go for the whole .....
What was the result? When self-despair was final and I merely undertook at the word of Christ, then came long-expected and wished-for help. All changed. Whereas once my heart ran with a strong current to the world, now it runs with a current the other way. What once it cost an effort to remember, now it costs an effort to forget. The will of Christ seems to me the steady pulse of my being, and I go because I can not help it. Sceptical doubt can not exist. I seem to see the full blaze of Shechinah everywhere. I am calm, but full, everywhere and in all things instructed, and find I can do all things through Christ."
That has all the ring of a genuine soul experience. What all the excellent religious training of her father's household, and early piety, and regenerating grace, and visions of truth, and solemn vows, and agonizing prayers, and many tears could not effect, must still be wrought in her. An indwelling, sanctifying Christ must come in and "abide'' in her to cast out the "old man" of sin and be her very life, the steady pulse of her being."
Dr. Carradine tells of an aged minister who had steadily opposed holiness for three years, as many a younger minister does; but he came into the meeting for holiness and suddenly and unexpectedly arose and said:
You all know me to be a Christian man, and so I am. I walk with God, and yet I feel that there is something here in my heart that needs to be taken away, a something that is not right." Says Dr. Carradine: "I will never forget the solemnity of the face and attitude, and especially the way in which the old man of God placed his long, bony finger on his breast, working it as he spoke, as if he would penetrate his heart and extract that dark, disturbing, worrying something within."
Andrew Murray says: "The believer must be convicted, and brought to the confession of his being in the carnal state. You know that before a sinner can be converted, he must be convicted of sin; he must know and confess his transgressions and his lost estate. Just so, believers must see that they are in a wrong state; before they get into the spiritual life they must be brought under conviction of the shame and evil of this carnal state (I. Cor. iii. 1-3). There is a great difference between conviction before conversion and this. Then, that which principally occupied the mind was the thought, 'I am lost, I am under condemnation'; the great idea was the greatness of his transgressions, and the desire to have them pardoned. There were two things that he was not convicted of: that his nature is utterly sinful, the other that there are many heart sins, that he has never known. This is the reason why God brings a believer in to what might be termed a second, conviction. It is most needful that he be fully convicted of two things -- the utter impotence of the flesh to do any good, and the mighty power of the flesh to work evil. The flesh is ruling him. He has the Spirit of God in him, and why does he yet do these things? It is just the seventh of Romans: 'I am struggling to do right and I can not.' Oh, friends, it is when a man is brought under conviction of the utter impotence of the flesh to do good, its helplessness, that he will understand why he lost his temper, and why pride comes up, and why he speaks wrong words. The Holy Spirit convicts of pride as being of the flesh; unloving thoughts toward wife or child or servant; self-pleasing before God and man. And so he needs an entire deliverance different from that at conversion. Then he was delivered from the curse of sin; now he wants deliverance from the power of sin" (Spiritual Life, pp. 9, 10).
When the readers of this book get over their serene satisfaction over their religious condition, and, feel their grave need of riddance from the "sin that dwells in them," and of the consequent ''purifying of their hearts by faith" -- that "conviction of want" will be the first condition of receiving the "Baptism with the Holy Ghost."
II. The second condition of receiving the blessing is repentance for having kept the sanctifying Saviour out of his full possession of your being so long, and for the resulting failures of your life. A lady who had been a church member and Christian for many years said not long ago in one of my revival meetings: "How can God ever forgive my past?" " Blessed are they that mourn," with such a sorrow. "For wrong words spoken, questionable deeds done, evil thoughts harboured, duties neglected, enjoyment lost, usefulness impaired, cleansing deferred, holiness hindered, and perhaps souls lost because of this 'keeping out' of the King from his rightful place in the heart, there must be deep, heartfelt contrition and besides this the foul indignity offered him by compelling him to either wait or go away, when for long months, or perhaps longer years, with kingly robes, he stood knocking and waiting admittance, demands repentance in 'sack-cloth and ashes,' and even then none but he would forgive so unprovoked an insult" (Christ Crowned Within, p. 172).
III. If you would have this great blessing that renovates the soul and brings it into the image of Christ, you must feel its importance. Take that group of one hundred and twenty disciples in the upper chamber. Their Lord has left them a charge to be his representatives -- the "salt of the earth," the "light of the world," to "go and disciple all nations." There they are gathered in secret, so far as we know not a rich or educated or influential person among them. Represent Jesus! disciple all nations! How would they feel about it? Peter would remember his fickleness and lying and blasphemy and cowardice. Thomas would remember his doubting, and John and James -- the hot-headed sons of thunder -- would remember their passion and ambition, and all would remember the shouts of the mad rabble that raged about the cross of their divine Lord, before which they trembled and fled, and which they still must face. They would be sadly conscious that everybody and everything -- even their own hearts -- were against them. We can imagine they would fall on their faces in prayer and cry: "O Lord, we are not like thee; as we are, we can not represent thee before men, and in our helplessness we can not face our enemies and thine, and overcome them. We might as well die here and now as to attempt to confront the world as we are. Take all sins out of our hearts, make us like thee, and equip us for service. Give us the enduement of power." Thus they would go down on their faces and wait before God day after day in utter self-abasement. They appreciated its importance. "They wanted this one thing, and they were there to get it. They cared for nothing else but that. They cried for it as hungry children cry for bread. They wanted it," and sought the blessing as if determined to have it. Mrs Booth says: "God never gave this gift to any human soul who had not come to the point that he would sell all he had to get it. Oh, it is the most precious gift he has to give in earth or in heaven -- to be filled with the Spirit, filled with himself, taken possession of by God, moved, inspired, energized, empowered by God, by the great indwelling Spirit moving through all our faculties, and energizing our whole being for him. That is the greatest and most glorious gift he has. He is not likely to give it to people who do not highly appreciate it, and so highly that they are willing to forego all other gifts for it -- everything else, creature love, creature comfort, ease, enjoyment and aggrandizement for this one thing" (Aggressive Christianity; Filled with the Spirit, p. 8).
Brother Torrey says: "No man ever got this blessing who thought he could get along without it."
IV. Another condition is: Believe that the promise is for you. General Booth very wisely observes that a person must be convinced that if he seeks deliverance from sin, and power to serve Christ, with all his heart he will find it. Unless a man believes the blessing to be attainable, he will not seek it with all his heart. Unbelief concerning the possibility of securing the prize would paralyse effort and make the prayer of faith impossible. Nobody tries to build a ladder to the moon, because nobody believes success in the enterprise attainable. God says the promise is unto you. Believe and strive, as for a goal actually within sight and reach.
Dr. Daniel Steele, speaks of his receiving the blessing as follows: "I was then led to seek the conscious and joyful presence of the Comforter in my heart. Having settled the question that this was not merely an apostolic blessing, but for all ages -- 'He shall abide with you forever' -- I took the promise: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.' The 'verily' had to me all the strength of an oath. Out of the 'whatsoever' I took all temporal blessings, not because I did not believe them to be included, but because I was not then seeking them. I then wrote my own name in the promise, not to exclude others, but to be sure that I included myself. Then writing underneath these words, 'Today is the day of salvation,' I found that my faith had three points to master -- the Comforter, for me, NOW. Upon the promise I ventured with an act of appropriating faith, claiming the Comforter as my right in the name of Jesus." That preliminary settling of the question that the blessing was not merely for the apostles, but for all Christians of all ages, according to Scripture -- "Ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, for the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call " -made it possible for Dr. Steele's faith to claim the Comforter as the right of a son of God. The filling of the Spirit belongs to us as a covenant privilege," says Dr. A. J. Gordon. When every Christian settles that fact beyond all doubt or question, that, in addition to the spiritual blessing received at conversion, "there is another blessing corresponding in its signs and effects to the blessing received by the apostles at Pentecost -- a blessing to be asked for and expected by Christians still, and to be described in language similar to that employed in the book of the Acts," he will be ready to hear how to obtain the Baptism with the Holy Ghost, the filling of the sanctifying Spirit of God. "To bring yourself," says Dr. Lowrey, "under the conviction that holiness is for you is a prime necessity. How is this to be done? First, consider the power by which it is to be accomplished, the unlimited power of God, which reaches you through the unlimited merit of Christ. We admit that to create a clean heart in a sinner is a greater work than to create a world or light up a sun. But we must remember God has imposed upon himself the task of cleansing us from all sin. And we read, 'All things are possible with God.' Whatever does not involve sin, nor imply a contradiction, God can do. And, certainly, to save a man from all moral wrong (with his consent) is not committing sin; nor does it contradict any known truth, much less clash with any attribute of God. Second, consider the fact that the atonement provides for (your) personal holiness. Inspire your drooping spirits by the recollection that this was the chief purpose of Christ's mission. Again stimulate your faith by the truth that God has promised full redemption in the most positive and explicit manner: 'Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you' " (Possibilities of Grace, pp. 294-296). Let these truths of Holy Writ burn into your mind a deep conviction that this unspeakable blessing is for you.
V. A still further indispensable condition of receiving this crowning gift is a hunger and thirst for it. To all who have that holy longing described by such figures of speech God sends special promises. "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty . . I will pour my Spirit " (Isa. xliv. 3). "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matt. v. 6). Ah, we must hunger and thirst for this blessing. We feel that as parents, teachers, Christians, preachers, we can not get along without it. I said to an audience not long ago: "You may pray for the Holy Spirit till your tongues are tired, but as long as you fight holiness he will not come to your souls." At the close of my address a lady came forward and said: "Ah, I see my mistake. For years I have been pleading for the baptism with the Holy Spirit, but all the time I have been rejecting and fighting the doctrine of holiness as a possible experience of God's people. I now see that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit o f Holiness." That is precisely it; that truth was never stated better. "The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Holiness." When he comes he brings holiness to the heart. God could not safely bestow such a mighty power upon people who will not accept holiness. To pray for this baptism while fighting sanctification or holiness is a waste of breath. "I can not take another step in Christian service," said Torrey, "till I know I am baptised with the Holy Ghost." Here was his sharp appetite crying out for God. The feast of grace is provided only for appetites, not for dainty, sated dyspepsia. Dr. Lowrey writes: "The proposition of the Saviour is equally true in nature and grace. A man who does not relish food can not receive it. He will grow lean and die in the midst of plenty. The same may be affirmed of the Christian. No appetite means no fatness, and soon no life. He may read and sing about holiness, and hear it preached, and even ask its bestowment in the words of prayer, and yet if there be no soul hunger for it not a single step can be taken towards its realization. If the human stomach be charged with food which it loathes, it will be found impossible for the organ to assimilate it. It may be good and nourishing matter, but the absence of a corresponding appetite will prevent the system from taking in and appropriating its nutritious quality. It is so with the mind. It may be crammed even to satiety with the most exalted truths, and the soul may be practiced in all devout recitals of worship, and still if there is no craving for spirituality, signified by the outward forms, the richest truth and sublimest service will be nothing more to the worshiper than 'sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.' Unless he 'hunger and thirst after righteousness' he will come and go unfilled."
"But the reader may say, 'I find myself destitute of this indispensable hunger, and consequently, according to the argument, holiness is not attainable to me.' But this does not release you from responsibility, for you can command hunger and thirst. Appetite itself is created by healthy conditions, whether physical or spiritual..
.. Let the Christian's reading, conversation, habits of life, and associations, be irreligious, and he will find in himself a disrelish for spiritual things. I do not think it possible for a man to love holiness who loves novels, or craves the staple matter of our secular newspapers. Nor is it possible for a man to find zest in sanctified and sanctifying literature who frequents the theatre and other common resorts of worldly men. The same may be said of those who participate in popular amusements or mingle in the hilarities of fashionable society. Such frivolities and vices create revulsions to holiness. And wherever Christians make worldly customs and tainted literature their element, soul-hunger for purity is sure to die out. A candle can not burn in foul air that settles in old wells and cisterns. No more can a flame of holy love exist in an atmosphere of unchristian habits, though not grossly wicked" (Possibilities, pp. 298-303).
But the man who gives himself to the Word and prayer, and papers and books which tend to the knowledge and love of God, will soon find a deep hunger for holiness created in his soul.
For proof of all we are saying let us read some of God's living epistles, written in human hearts. Here is the testimony of the sainted Friend, David B. Updegraff: "I hated pride, ambition, evil tempers, and vain thoughts, but I had them, for all that, and they were apart of me. Not as acts to be repented of and forgiven, but as dispositions lying behind the acts, and promptings thereto, natural to the 'old man' and inseparable from his presence in my being. I began to ask God, with a measure of faith, to 'cast him out.' Along with this desire there came a great hunger and thirst to be 'filled with all the fullness of God.' I longed for a clean heart and constant spirit."..... "I went upon my knees with the resolute purpose of 'presenting my body a living sacrifice to God.' There passed quickly before me the obstacles in the way, and the things to be suffered for Jesus' sake -- the misapprehensions, suspicions, and revilings of carnal professors, as well as the conflicts with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Selfishness, pride, and prejudice joined forces and rose in rebellion, while the 'Old man' pleaded for his life. But I could not, would not, draw back. 'Vile affections' were resolutely nailed to the cross, and those things that 'were gain to me 'denominational standing, friends, family, business, possessions, time, talent, and reputation -- were irrevocably committed to the sovereign control and disposal of my Almighty Saviour. With my all upon the altar, I had no sooner reckoned myself 'dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God,' than the 'Holy Ghost fell ' upon me. Instantly I felt the melting and refining fire of God permeating my whole being. I had entered into rest" (Forty Witnesses, pp. 29, 30).
Anna M. Hammer, the famous temperance worker, gives her experience as follows: "Finally a great HUNGER OF SOUL came upon me. I knew there were in the corners of my heart things known only to myself and God, and I realized that nothing short of 'the anointing that abides' would satisfy my soul and fit me fully as a worker for God. In July, 1880, the first assembly of the Woman's Holiness Camp-meeting was held at Camp Tabor, N. J. I went there with the fixed intention to get all the Lord had in reserve for me. I was under deep conviction of soul, and for three days I was in an agony of tears, as one friend said, 'dying hard.' I held out on points which now seem very ridiculous, but then they assumed proportions which appeared serious enough. But all this time the hunger and the aching increased till I could no longer resist the pleadings of the Spirit, and then came my second consecration. I said, 'Lord, all I have and all I ever will have; all I am and all I ever may be; all I know and all I ever m ay know, I put now upon the altar.' I knew the altar sanctified the gift, and I bound my offering to the 'horns of the altar' and 'waited for the fire.' For hours I was prostrate; my soul was in quiet communion with God. The thought of the Fatherhood of God peculiarly struck me, and I raised my head to confirm the thought, when with the action the anointing came" (Forty Witnesses, p. 138).
Hannah Whitall Smith says: "I began to long after holiness. I began to groan under the bondage to sin in which I was still held. My whole heart panted after entire conformity to the will of God and unhindered communion with him."
Moody said: "Let it be the cry of your heart day and night. ... Young men, you will get this blessing when you seek it above all else. For months I had been hungering and thirsting for power in service. I had come to that state I think I would have died of I had not got it. I remember I was walking the streets of New York. I had no more heart in the business I was about than if I had not belonged to this world at all. The blessing came upon me suddenly like a flash of lightning, right there on the street. The power of God seemed to come upon me so wonderfully that I had to ask God to stay his hand. I was filled with a sense of God's goodness, and felt as though I could take the whole world to my heart.
"I remember I used to take a pride in having the largest congregation in Chicago on a Sunday night. Two godly women used to come and hear me. One of them came to me one night after I had preached very satisfactorily, as I thought. I fancied she was going to congratulate me on my success; but she said: 'We are praying for you.' I wondered if I had made some blunder, that they talked in that way. Next Sunday they were there again, evidently in prayer while I was preaching. One of them said: 'We are still praying for you.' I could not understand it, and said: 'Praying for me! Why don't you pray for the people? I am all right.' 'Ah,' they said, 'you are not all right; you have not got power; there is something lacking, but God can qualify.' I did not like it at first, but I got to thinking it over, and after a little time I began to feel a desire to have what they were praying for. They continued to pray for me, and the result was that at the end of three months God sent this blessing on me. I want to tell you this: I would not for all the world go back to where I was before 1871" (Forty Witnesses, pp. 269-270).
Rev. J. O. Peck, D. D., writes: "God never left me a single year without a gracious revival, in which many souls were given as the seals of my ministry. Never had my pastorate been more favoured with the divine blessing than at Springfield; but in the summer of 1872, a deep heart hunger that I had never known began to be realized. I had not lost spirituality, as far as I could judge of my condition. I longed for, I scarcely knew what. I examined myself and prayed more earnestly, but the hunger of my soul grew more imperious. I was not plunged in darkness, or conscious of condemnation; yet the inward craving increased. The result of these weeks of heart-throes was a gradual sinking of self, a consuming of all selfish ambitions and purposes, and a consciousness of utter emptiness. Then arose an unutterable longing 'to be filled.' I had been prejudiced against the National Camp-Meeting Association. But a conviction was borne in upon me, as clear and unmistakable as my identity, that if I would go to that meeting, and confess how I was hungering, I would be filled with the Holy Spirit. I went, frankly told my errand there, and sought the prayers of all. I told them I wanted 'the fullness' that night, and felt it was the divine will to give it that hour. I then descended to the altar and knelt before the Lord. By simple faith I was enabled to take Christ as my sufficiency to fill and satisfy my hungry soul. The instant I received Christ as my 'wisdom, righteousness and sanctification,' the stillness and emotionlessness of absolute quiet permeated my whole being. The tempter seductively suggested: 'The Spirit is withdrawn, and you are doomed to disappointment.' As quick as thought came my reply: 'with or without feeling, I here and now take Christ as my all in all.' I knew that moment he was my complete Saviour. At once the most delicious experience was mine that I can conceive! No joy, no rapture; but something sweeter, deeper than anything before known -- 'the peace of God that passes all understanding!' It settled in upon me deeper and deeper, sweeter and sweeter, till I seemed 'filled with all the fullness of God' " (Forty Witnesses, p. 296).
Reader, have you ever felt this hunger and thirst of soul for the Holy Spirit's coming with his sanctifying power? If not, by deliberate withdrawal from the world, and by shutting yourself up with the Word and with God in prayer develop an appetite for holiness -- a heart hunger for God. It is the antecedent of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost.