By Samuel Logan Brengle
Who is He?
Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you."
0n that last eventful evening in the upper room, just after the Passover feast, Jesus spoke to His disciples about His departure and, having commanded them to love one another, He besought them not to be troubled in heart but to hold fast their faith in Him, assuring them that, though He was to die and leave them, He was but going to the Father's many mansioned house to prepare a place for them.
But already they were troubled; for what could this death and departure mean but the destruction of all their hopes, of all their cherished plans? Jesus had drawn them away from their fishing-boats, their places of custom and daily employment, and inspired them with high personal and patriotic ambitions, and encouraged them to believe that He was the Seed of David, the promised Messiah; and they hoped that He would cast out Pilate and his hated Roman garrison, restore the kingdom to Israel, and sit on David's throne, a King, reigning in righteousness and undisputed power and majesty for ever. And then, were they not to be His ministers of state and chief men in His kingdom?
He was their Leader, directing their labours; their Teacher, instructing their ignorance and solving their doubts and all their puzzling problems; their Defence, stilling the stormy sea and answering for them when questioned by wise and wily enemies.
They were poor and unlearned and weak. In Him was all their help; and what would they do, what could they do, without Him? They were without social standing, without financial prestige, without learning or intellectual equipment, without political or military power. He was their all and without Him they were as helpless as little children, as defenceless as lambs in the midst of wolves. How could their poor hearts be otherwise than troubled?
But then He gave them a strange, wonderful, reassuring promise. He said: "If ye love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever" (John xiv. 15, 16). 1 am going away, but Another shall come who will fill My place. He shall not go away, but abide with you for ever, and He "shall be in you ". And later He added: " It is expedient for you " -that is, better for you-" that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come" (John xvi. 7).
Who is this other One-this Comforter? He must be some august divine Person, and not a mere influence or impersonal force; for how else could He take and fill the place of Jesus? How else could it be said that it was better to have Him than to have Jesus remaining in the flesh? He must be strong and wise, and tender and true, to take the place of the Blessed One who is to die and depart. Who is He?
John, writing in the Greek language, calls Him Paraclete, but in English we call Him Comforter. But Paraclete means more, much more than Comforter. It means " one called in to help: an advocate, a helper'. The same word is used of Jesus in I John ii. i : "We have an Advocate (a Paraclete, a Helper) with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous." just as Jesus had gone to be the disciples" Advocate, their Helper in the heavens,
so this other Paraclete was to be their Advocate, their Helper on earth. He would be their Comforter when comfort was needed; but He would be more; He would be also their Teacher, Guide, Strengthener, as Jesus had been. At every point of need there would He be as an ever-present and allwise, almighty Helper. He would meet their need with His sufficiency; their weakness with His strength; their foolishness with His wisdom; their ignorance with His knowledge; their blindness and short-sightedness with His perfect, all-embracing vision. Hallelujah! What a Comforter! Why should they be troubled?
They were weak, but He would strengthen them with might in the inner man (Eph. iii. 16). They were to give the world the words of Jesus, and teach all nations (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20); and He would teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance whatsoever Jesus had said to them (John xiv. 26).
They were to guide their converts in the right way, and He was to guide them into all truth (John xvi. 13) They were to attack hoary systems of evil, and inbred and actively intrenched sin, in every human heart; but He was to go before them, preparing the way for conquest, by convincing the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John xvi. 8). They were to bear heavy burdens and face superhuman tasks, but He was to give them power (Acts i. 8). Indeed, He was to be a Comforter, a Strengthener, a Helper.
Jesus had been external to them. Often they missed Him. Sometimes He was asleep when they felt they sorely needed Him. Sometimes He was on the mountains, while they were in the valley vainly trying to cast out stubborn devils, or wearily toiling on the tumultuous, wind-tossed sea. Sometimes He was surrounded by vast crowds, and He entered into high disputes with the doctors of the law, and they had to wait till He was alone to seek explanations of His teachings., But they were never to lose this other Helper in the crowd, nor be separated for an instant from Him, for no human being, nor untoward circumstance, nor physical necessity, could ever come between Him and them for, said Jesus, He shall be in you,.
From the words used to declare the sayings, the doings, the offices and works of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, we are forced to conclude that He is a divine Person. Out of the multitude of Scriptures which might be quoted, note this passage which, as nearly as is possible with human language, reveals to us His personality: " Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers.... As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed into Seleucia " (Acts xiii. 1 -4)
Further on we read that they " were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia', and when they would have gone into Bithynia, " the Spirit suffered them not" (Acts xvi. 6, 7)
Again, when the messengers of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, were seeking Peter, " the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them" (Acts x. 19-20)
These are but a few of the passages of Scripture that might be quoted to establish the fact of His personality,His power to think, to will, to act, to speak; and if His personality is not made plain in these Scriptures, then it is impossible for human language to make it so.
Indeed, I am persuaded that if an intelligent heathen, who had never seen the Bible, should for the first time read the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, he would say that the personality of the Holy Spirit is as clearly revealed in the Acts as is the personality of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. In truth, the Acts of the Apostles are in a large measure the acts of the Holy Spirit, and the disciples were not more certainly under the immediate direction of Jesus during the three years of His earthly ministry than they were under the direct leadership of the Spirit after Pentecost.
But, while there are those that admit His personality, yet in their loyalty to the divine Unity they deny the Trinity, and maintain that the Holy Spirit is only the Father manifesting Himself as Spirit, without any distinction in personality. But this view cannot be harmonized with certain Scriptures. While the Bible and reason plainly declare that there is but one God, yet the Scriptures as clearly reveal that there are three Persons in the Godhead-Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The form of Paul's benediction to the Corinthians proves the doctrine: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen" (2 Con xiii. 14)
Again, it is taught in the promise of Jesus, already quoted, "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter... the Spirit of truth " (John xiv. 16, 17). Here the three Persons of the Godhead are clearly revealed. The Son prays; the Father answers; the Spirit comes.
The Holy Spirit is "another Comforter', a second Comforter succeeding the first who was Jesus, and both were given by the Father. Do you say, " I cannot understand it'? Neither can I. Who can understand it? God does not expect us to understand it. Nor would He have us puzzle our heads and trouble our hearts in attempting to understand it or harmonize it with our knowledge of arithmetic.
Note this: it is only the fact that is revealed; how there can be three Persons in one Godhead is not revealed. The how is a mystery, and is not a matter of faith at all; but the fact is a matter of revelation, and therefore a matter of faith. I myself am a mysterious trinity of body, mind and spirit. The fact I believe, but the how is not a thing to believe. It is at this point that many puzzle and perplex themselves needlessly.
In the ordinary affairs of life we grasp facts, and hold them fast, without puzzling ourselves over the how of things. Who can explain how food sustains life; how light reveals material objects; how sound conveys ideas to our minds? It is the fact we know and believe, but the how we pass by as a mystery unrevealed. What God has revealed, we believe. We cannot understand how Jesus turned water into wine; how He multiplied a few loaves and fishes and fed thousands; how He stilled the stormy sea; how He opened blind eyes, healed lepers and raised the dead by a word. But the facts we believe. Wireless telegraphic messages are sent over the vast wastes of ocean. That is a fact, and we believe it. But how they go need not be our concern. That is not something to believe.
An old servant of God has pointed out that it is the fact of the Trinity, and not the manner of it, which God has revealed and made a subject for our faith.
But while the Scriptures reveal to us the fact of the personality of the Holy Spirit (and it is a subject for our faith) to those in whom He dwells, this fact may become a matter of sacred knowledge, of blessed experience.
How else can we account for the positive and assured way in which the apostles and disciples spoke of the Holy Ghost on and after the day of Pentecost, if they did not know Him? Immediately after the fiery baptism, with its blessed filling, Peter stood before the people, and said: " This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts ii, 16, 17); then he exhorted the people and assured them that if they would meet certain simple conditions they should I receive the gift of the Holy Ghost ". He said to Ananias, "Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? " (Acts v. 3). He declared to the High Priest and Council that he and his fellow-apostles were witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, and added, So is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him" (Acts v. 32). Without any apology or explanation, or "think so" or "hope so", they speak of being "filled (not simply with some new, strange experience or emotion, but) with the Holy Ghost'. Certainly they must have known Him. And if they knew Him, may not we?
Paul says: " Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth" (i Cor. ii. 12, 13). And if we know the words, may we not know the Teacher of the words?
John Wesley says: The knowledge of the Three-One God is interwoven with all true Christian faith, with all vital religion. I do not say that every real Christian can say, with the Marquis de Renty, " I bear about with me continually an experimental verity, and a fullness of the ever-blessed Trinity. I apprehend that this is not the experience of " babes ", but rather " fathers in Christ. But I know not how anyone can be a Christian believer till he "hath the witness in himself', till the Spirit of God witnesses with his spirit that he is a child of God; that is, in effect, till God the Holy Ghost witnesses that God the Father has accepted him through the merits of God the Son.
Not that every Christian believer adverts to this; perhaps, at first, not one in twenty; but, if you ask them a few questions, you will easily find it is implied in what they believe.
I shall never forget my joy, mingled with awe and wonder, when this dawned upon my consciousness. For several weeks I had been searching the Scriptures, ransacking my heart, humbling my soul, and crying to God almost day and night for a pure heart and the baptism with the Holy Ghost, when one glad, sweet day (it was January 9, 1885) this text suddenly opened to my understanding: I If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John i. 9); and I was enabled to believe without any doubt that the precious Blood cleansed my heart, even mine, from all sin. Shortly after that, while reading the words of Jesus to Martha-- I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (John xi- 25, 26)-instantly my heart was melted like wax before fire; Jesus Christ was revealed to my spiritual consciousness, revealed in me, and my soul was filled with unutterable love. I walked in a heaven of love. Then one day, with amazement, I said to a friend: " This is the perfect love about which the Apostle John wrote but it is beyond all I dreamed of. In it is personality. This love thinks, wills, talks with me, corrects instructs and teaches me." And then I knew that God the Holy Ghost was in this love, and that this love was God, for" God is love".
Oh, the rapture mingled with reverential, holy fear for it is a rapturous, yet divinely fearful thing-to be indwelt by the Holy Ghost, to be a temple of the Living God! Great heights are always opposite great depths, and from the heights of this blessed experience many have plunged into the dark depths of fanaticism. But we must not draw back from the experience through fear. All danger will be avoided by meekness and lowliness of heart; by humble, faithful service; by esteeming others better than ourselves, and in honour preferring them before ourselves; by keeping an open, teachable spirit; in a word, by looking steadily unto Jesus, to whom the Holy Spirit continually points us; for He would not have us fix our attention exclusively upon Himself and His work in us, but also upon the Crucified One and His work for us, that we may walk in the steps of Him whose Blood purchases our pardon, and makes and keeps us clean.
HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED?