By Aaron Hills
A Christian Obligation and How to Obtain the Blessing.
I. Christians are under obligation to be sanctified. Eph. 5: 18, "Be filled with the Spirit.'' Hab. 2: 3, "Though it tarry wait for it, because it will surely come." Mal. 3: 1, "The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple." 1 Cor. 3: 11, "Ye are the temple of God."
1. This is a universal obligation of all Christians. This is not supposed to be the case; but there can be no question about it. The ringing exhortation of the Bible is, "Let us cease to speak of the first principles and press on (be borne on) unto perfection." Who shall say that this command, "Be filled with the Spirit," is not as imperative as the command not to steal? It is not optional with the believer whether to have this blessing or not. It is his imperative duty, as soon as the Holy Sanctifier sheds light on this truth, for the young believer to go forward and seek and obtain the blessing.
The neglect to obey God's positive command, "Be ye holy for I am holy," involves a risk of the forfeiture of the justified relation that no person should rashly assume.
But Bishop Taylor declared: "This is not merely a question of the personal salvation of the individual, but one on which hangs conditionally the salvation of the world. The power of the church will be proportionate to the holiness of her individual members. . . . Why is it that we grapple so feebly and ineffectively with Mohammedanism, and the various forms of heathenism? Why is it that even in Christian countries comparatively so few even profess to be loyal to God? Why is it that the large majority of our children brought up at our family altars, and trained in the nursery of our churches, the Sunday school, go out into the world unblushing rebels against God?
"Why is it that the Christian Church, instead of pushing a bold, aggressive warfare, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, is quietly reposing in barracks and spiritual hospitals, maintaining a feeble defensive, and unable to resist the forces of worldliness and sin, and the corrupting tide of infidelity itself? It is a want of heart purity in her individual members. We have a sickly, dwarfish type of Christianity which is proving itself to a demonstration quite inadequate to meet the demands of her mission to save the world,"
Mrs. Catherine Booth, in one of her magnificent addresses, said: "What a tide of lamentation and mourning reaches us all round the land as to the deadness, coldness, and dearth of Christian Churches! We cannot help feeling that there is a great want somewhere. The Gospel is the same power that it ever was, 'the power of God unto salvation' where then is the lack? I say most unhesitatingly that the great want is the power of the Holy Ghost."
"What numbers of ministers, elders, deacons, leaders, Sabbath-school teachers, and the like have come to me confessing that they have been working with little results. This is how I account for a want of results, the want of the direct, pungent, enlightening, convicting, restoring, transforming power of the Holy Ghost. Let me remind you, and it makes my soul almost reel when I think of it, that God holds us responsible for all the good we might do if we had this Holy Spirit power. Do not deceive yourself. He will have the five talents with their increase. He will not have an excuse for one. He will say: "You knew where you could have got the power. You knew the conditions. You might have had it. Where are the souls you might have saved? O friends, these are solemn and awful realities."
Finney said: "If we are not filled with the Spirit, our guilt amounts to disobedience to God. It amounts to all the good we might do if we had the Spirit of God in as great, measure as possible, but good which is now all undone because we are without this power. Our guilt is also measured by all the evil we do in consequence of not having the Spirit."
2. Each true Christian may seek this blessing with full assurance that he may obtain it. Whatever is obligatory upon believers, each believer may realize in his own life. Only be sure you are a son or a daughter of God in a justified state. Have the witness of the Spirit that you are born again; then never entertain a doubt that you are an heir of all the covenant blessings and promised grace of God. "The promise is unto all ... even as many as the Lord our God shall call." He has told each one of us: "This is the will of God even your sanctification." "For God hath called you unto sanctification" (1 Thess. 4: 3, 7).
3. Christians of any age or degree of Christian experience may hopefully seek the blessing. This is literally true. It is not a question of education or culture or years in Christian service. People unable to read have had a marvelous anointing of the Spirit, while profound theologians and ripe scholars have missed the way. I have known a child just entering her teens to receive the filling of the Spirit unto sanctification, while in the name family were two generations of elders, of one and two score years of Christian experience, and gray in honors and service, who were as far from the great prize as when they first began the Christian life.
John Wesley wrote: "We have all been wanting. We have not made it a rule as soon as ever persons are justified, to remind them of going on to perfection. Whereas this is the very time preferable to all others. They have then the simplicity of little children, and they are fervent in spirit, ready to cut off a right hand, or to pluck out a right eye. But if we once suffer this fervor to subside, we shall find it hard enough to bring them again even to this point." He tells us of a young girl, Grace Paddy, who was convicted of sin, converted to God, and renewed in love all within twelve hours.
4. None should be discouraged by the time occupied in the preparatory process. It may take days, or weeks, or months, according as we are apt pupils of the Master. The Disciples at Pentecost prayed for the blessing ten days. Dear Dr. Keen and his wife sought together the "enduement of power from on high" for seven days; and the great blessing came that never left him, until he was glorified, after a quarter of a century of triumphant service. Some get the blessing the first time they ever hear it preached. Remember, God will wait no longer than you make it necessary for Him to wait, by your own failure in complying with the conditions. Only seek Him with all your hearts, with patience and perseverance. "If the blessing tarry, wait for it. It will surely come. It will not tarry."
5. Avoid forming any preconceived opinion or plan as to what your experience shall be when the blessing comes upon you. Some souls have a thrilling, overwhelming experience, when the Sanctifier comes. These are the experiences that are most likely to find their way into print, and they sometimes produce discouragement in others. Mrs. Jonathan Edwards, and Finney and Moody, and Carradine, and others had an excess of glory pour through their being that overwhelmed them. Yet Dr. Carradine sweetly writes: "It is not a necessary feature of sanctification. The majority do not have such an excess of feeling. It is a purifying and filling of the soul rather than a prostration of the body." Some laugh; some shout; some weep. Some are possessed by a heavenly calm. It matters not which, so the heart is cleansed.
6. The Lord whom ye seek "shall suddenly come." John Wesley reached these correct principles:
(1) Christian perfection implies deliverance from all sin.
(2) It is received merely by faith.
(3) It is instantaneously given, in a moment.
(4) We are not to expect it at death but every moment. He wrote: "As long as we thought it was to come gradually, we had few witnesses to full salvation. . . . The body of sin, the carnal mind must be destroyed; "the old man" must be slain, or we can not put on 'the new man' which is created after God in righteousness. But this is done in a moment. To talk of this work being gradual would be nonsense, as much as if we talked of gradual justification."
II. Conditions of Receiving the Blessing. Multitudes of Christians wish to get rid of the carnal mind that is enmity against God. Many are weary of moral defeats, and would like to enter upon a life of victory. Large numbers long for a relief from internal conflicts and sigh for cleansing of heart and soul, for purity and power.
Well, their hunger and thirst may be satisfied. There are some spiritual conditions to be complied with, and then the longed-for goal will be fully reached.
1. The First Condition is a Conviction of Want. Black Amanda Smith wrote: "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 a conviction of guilt; now it was a conviction of want. As the hart panted after the water-brook, so my soul panted after God, the living God."
Now this dear saint's conviction of want is usually the first condition of receiving the Holy Spirit. Hence Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" those who are conscious of a soul need of something more. Nothing short of this deep sense of need will lead one to earnestly seek the blessing. Hannah Whitehall Smith, after eight years of Christian experience said: "My heart was ill at ease. ... I resolved, I wrestled, I strove, and I lashed myself up to attain to more faithfulness. But all in vain! I said, If this is all the Christian life has to offer, it is a bitterly disappointing thing."
Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote about herself: "There is an undercurrent of perplexity and unhappiness about my spiritual state. Why am I thus restless? Why do I not have all God wants me to have? Ah, why not? Every effort of mine breaks like a wave upon a rock. We reason, reflect, resolve and pray, weep, strive, love, love to despair, and all is vain,"
Andrew Murray wrote: "The believer must be convicted and brought to the confession of being in the carnal stale. What may be termed a second conviction of the utter impotence of the flesh to do good, and its mighty power to do evil. "Blessed are those who have such a conviction. It is a sign that God is moving on their hearts for sanctification
2. The Second Condition is Repentance. Unless Christians were sanctified immediately after conversion, and were converted early in life, they will certainly grieve for having kept the sanctifying Savior out of His full possession of their nature so long, and for the resulting failures of life. A Christian lady once said to the writer: "How can God ever forgive my past?" "Blessed are they that mourn," for wrong words spoken, questionable deeds done, duties neglected, opportunities wasted, usefulness impaired, cleansing deferred, holiness hindered, and perhaps souls lost because they did not have clean hearts filled with the Holy Spirit.
3. A Third Condition is to feel its importance. The one hundred and twenty in the upper chamber have been commissioned to represent Jesus, and disciple the world! How would they feel about it? Peter would remember his fickleness and blasphemy, and lying, and cowardice. Thomas would remember his doubting, and James and John their unholy ambition, and Martha her fretting. Mrs. Catherine Booth said: "God never gave this gift to any soul who had not come to the point where he would sell all he had to get it." Torrey said: "No man ever got this blessing who thought he could get along without it." We can imagine those disciples fell before the Lord, and cried: "O Lord, we are not like these; as we are we cannot represent thee before men, and in our helplessness we cannot face our enemies and thine and overcome them. We might as well die, here and now, as to attempt to overcome the world, as we are. Take all sin, and fear out of our hearts and make us like thee. Give us the enduement of power." They wanted the blessing, and cried for it, as hungry children cry for bread.
4. Another Condition is to believe that the Promise is for you. Not merely for Paul and John, and John Wesley, and Finney, but for you. Dr. Daniel Steele writes: "I took the promise, 'verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you.' I wrote my name in the promise, making it read, 'I say unto you, Daniel Steele.' "Dr. A. J. Gordon wrote: "The filling of the Spirit belongs to us as a covenant privilege," because we are the children of God. Dr. Lowrey wrote: "It is a prime necessity to bring yourself to the conviction that sanctification is for you. The Scripture affords ample ground for such a blessed faith.
1. Jesus prayed for it. John 17: 17.
2. Jesus died for it. Eph. 5: 25 and Heb. 13: 12.
3. God wills it. 1 Thess. 4: 3. 1 Thess. 5: 24.
4. God promises it. 1 Thess. 5: 24.
5. God commands it, 1 Pet. 1: IS.
What more ground of confidence can any soul demand, that you may seek this blessing, with the expectation of receiving it? The blessing is for you.
5. Hunger and thirst for it. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." One must desire the blessing intensely, with a real craving of soul. A lazy, indifferent, feeble desire never obtained this blessing. We once said to an audience: "You may pray for the baptism with the Holy Spirit until your tongues are tired; but as long as you fight holiness, and reject it, He will not come (1 Thess. 4: 7, 8). On the way out of church, a lady said: "I see my mistake; I have long prayed for the Holy Spirit, but all the time I have opposed holiness. I now see that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of holiness." She consented to be sanctified and at once the Spirit came.
David B. Updegraff, the saintly Quaker, writes as follows: "I hated pride, ambition, evil tempers, and vain thoughts, but I had them for all that. There came into my heart a great hunger and thirst to be filled with the fullness of God." Anna M. Hammer, a great temperance worker, writes: "Finally a great hunger of soul came on me. I knew that nothing but the 'anointing that abideth' would satisfy my soul. I was in deep conviction for three days in an agony of tears, as one said to me 'dying hard' But all this time, the hunger and aching increased, till I could no longer resist the pleadings of the Spirit." Hannah Whitehall Smith says: "I began to long after holiness. . . . My whole heart panted after entire conformity to the will of God."
Rev. J. O. Peck, D. D., writes: "A deep heart hunger began to be realized for a clean heart. I was not backslidden and my ministry was never more fruitful; but the hunger of my soul grew more imperious. I went to a holiness camp meeting and confessed how I was hungering,' It will be noticed in what similar language all these people depict the deep longing of their souls for a holy heart. The forerunner of sanctification is usually a desire for it so intense that it can be fitly likened to "hunger and thirst," as Jesus said.
6. The Sixth Condition is Obedience. God says: "He gives the Holy Spirit to them that obey Him" (Acts S: 32). An illustration is furnished by the Bible itself of this condition. Jesus told the five hundred believers to tarry in Jerusalem till they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, the blessing promised of the Father which they should soon receive. Only one hundred and twenty obeyed, Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him (Luke 11: 13) And He commanded His followers to tarry and pray for the blessing till it came. They obeyed, and prayed in that upper chamber, and the blessing came. How many got the blessing? The one hundred and twenty who obeyed. Who failed to receive it? Those who did not obey. Obedience means obeying in everything.
Mr. Torrey tells of a woman who prayed and struggled for this blessing until people thought she would go crazy in the intensity of her desire. Every time she prayed some little gew-gaw in her hair was the sticking point with her. She prayed and prayed and that would come up every time. At last, one day, when in prayer, she put her hand to her head and tore it from her hair, and threw it across the room. Immediately the Spirit came because she had settled a principle that she would obey God.
Mrs. Maggie Van Cott of the United States has led seventy-five thousand souls to Christ. When she was converted she laid aside all her jewelry, of which she had been vain, but one ring. As often as she prayed for sanctification, the Spirit said: "Put away your ring." At last, one day, when dealing with seekers at the altar, she saw that her ring was attracting the attention of a seeker and she took it off. Immediately the Spirit came. She had settled it, that she would obey the slightest whisper of God. We know of a man who prayed in agony for hours until he consented to give up selling tobacco in his store. He did not use it; but God would not even let him sell it, and be sanctified. We know another man to seek the blessing at the altar for nine days until he consented to leave the Masonic lodge. Nobody can get the blessing and have any controversy with God. Whatever the Spirit condemns in habit or life must be given up in the spirit of implicit obedience, or it is useless to seek His sanctifying work in the heart.
7. The Seventh Condition is full consecration. God's Word is: "Present yourselves unto God as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." Consecration is the actual present surrender to God of our whole being and all we possess. It is the turning over of ourselves to the Lord to be owned and used by Him, just as a master owns a slave. The ground of it is Christ's ownership. He created us. He preserves us. He bought us with His blood. He has a triple right to us, and in consecration we recognize the right. Consecration is not an act of feeling. It is an act of will. It can be performed without feeling. It is a simple recognition of God's claim upon us for the service of all our God-given powers. Rev. B. K. Pierce, D. D., writes: "On my knees I wrote out an entire surrender of myself, body, soul, and substance; and all pertaining to me, and I solemnly signed my name to it."
Rev. Isaiah Reid presents this as a proper form of consecration for this blessing: "O Lord, in view of this thing thou hast besought of me to do, I hereby now do really consecrate myself unreservedly to Thee, for all time and eternity. My time, my talents, my hands, feet, lips, will, my all, my property, my reputation, my friends and family, my entire being, a living sacrifice to be, and to do, all thy righteous will; for the cleansing of my nature from indwelling sin, I seek the sanctification of my soul."
Prof. Dougan Clark, the Friend, says: "The essence of consecration is in the sentence, 'yield yourselves unto God.' When you yield yourselves you yield everything else. Consecration is not to God's service, or His work, or to the church, or to the missionary cause, but to God Himself. Yield yourselves unto God." Consecration does not mean the giving up of your sins, or vices, or depraved appetites, or forbidden indulgences. We cannot consecrate our alcohol, or our tobacco, or our opium, or our card-playing, or dancing or theater-going. He wants none of these things. Actual and known sins must be abandoned at conversion.
He wants all the good things; the son Isaac, most precious to our heart, laid on the altar.
An English periodical had this:
Amanda Smith says: "You must make your consecration complete and you must make it eternal."
8. The Last Condition is Faith. One might take all the seven steps already described, and still remain without the blessing.
The Children of Israel marched out of Egypt and entirely across the desert to the very border of the Promised Land, and halted on the wrong side of the border. For lack of faith they did not get into Canaan. Jude says: "The Lord having saved a people out of the land of Egypt destroyed them that believed not the second time" (v. 5). With faith, they might have gone in before sundown. Jesus said: "Sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26: 18). We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith," said Paul (Gal. 3: 14). "Our hearts are purified by faith" (Acts 15: 8, 9), all other conditions lead to this and without faith, and all of them would end in failure.
Dr. A. J .Gordon wrote: "It is the duty and privilege of believers to receive the Holy Ghost for sanctification, by a definite act of appropriating faith, just as we received Jesus Christ by faith for justification. It is as sinners that we accept Christ by faith for justification; it is as sons, that we accept the Spirit by faith for sanctification"
Dr. Steele says: "My faith had three things to master; the Spirit, 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. For several hours I clung by naked faith. Suddenly, I became conscious of a mysterious power . . . melting my heart."
Dr. Carradine says: "Is everything upon the altar? If so, who is the altar? Paul tells you it is Christ. What does the altar do? God says: "The altar sanctifies the gift." Will you take God at His word? You must believe that Christ makes you holy right now. Will you take that step, and receive full salvation? Plant yourself on God's Word. Dare to believe it, and hold on till the witness comes."
Andrew Murray says: "Who are ready to come into this life and claim their heritage as a child of God?"
(1) Say tonight. I must be filled with the Spirit.
(2) I may be filled with the Spirit. God does not give a must without a may.
(3) I would be filled with the Spirit. I long for it.
(4) I shall be filled with the Spirit. O God, I give myself to Thee eternally. I claim the filling of the Spirit. Thou givest it."