By Rev. Asa Mahan
MISCELLANEOUS SUGGESTIONS IN REGARD TO THIS DOCTRINE.
CAUTIONS TO THOSE WHO ARE SEEKING THIS BAPTISM.
Individuals who set their hearts upon obtaining this anointing, not infrequently find themselves perplexed with certain difficulties and temptations, which beset their inquiries and prayers, arising from their inward, experiences. and from doubts brought to their mind from without. Permit us to give certain cautions to such as are in this state.
1. Avoid forming any conceptions of the manner in which this baptism will come upon you, or of the peculiar experiences which you might have under its influence. Christ told His disciples that they should "receive power" after that "the Holy Ghost came upon them" and to "tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high;" but of the manner in which the Spirit should be given, and of the special forms of their inward experiences and outward lives after they should be "filled with the Holy Ghost," He left them in total ignorance.
Had they, instead of spending their time in preparing their hearts, dedicating their lives, and waiting in prayer and supplication for the fulfillment of the promise, perplexed their minds with inquiries, How will the Spirit be given, and what will be the effects? we doubt whether the promise would ever have been realized in their experience. Let no such thoughts have place in your minds; but seek, and search, and watch, and pray, until the "Comforter is sent unto you." Then, as you "read the precious Scriptures with new eyes," as you "behold with open face the glory of the Lord," as your faith in Christ fills you "with joy unspeakable and full of glory," and as "your fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ," then, and not till then, will or can you know the effect of His incoming to your souls.
2. Our second caution and admonition is this, Do not be perplexed or alarmed at your inward experiences and your emotions, especially while seeking this baptism. Individuals are often amazed and discouraged by the disclosure to their minds of internal corruption, "secret faults," and evil tendencies and habits, the existence of which they had hardly suspected. They are frequently led to doubt their conversion, and almost despair of ever being delivered from the condition of unworthiness in which they see themselves to be placed.
No such experiences should create alarm or irresolution. God is preparing His own way within you, and the glory of His manifestation will be proportioned to the thoroughness with which "the fountains of the great deep" of the soul have been previously broken up. The inward state of the soul during the preparatory process is often like the appearance of a house at the time of the annual or semi-annual cleansing. All is confusion, disorder, and dustiness, but the prudent housewife is not alarmed or perplexed at the appearance of things around her. She foresees universal order and cleanliness as the final result, and knows that everything is tending to that desired end.
For the same reason none of the experiences to which we have referred should disturb the soul seeking "the renewal of the Holy Ghost." Only let your heart be fixed on the "mark set before you." Put away sin as it appears, dedicate all to Christ, and seek, and watch, and pray until God shall come and make "your bodies temples of the Holy Ghost."
3. Our last caution is this: Do not be discouraged at the time occupied in this preparatory process. The apostles and their associates waited more than forty days for "the promise of the Father." Do not give up if you have to wait through even a longer period. God in this way may prove and try you, to see whether you will or will not "seek Him with all your heart, and with all your soul," and with all "patience and perseverance." He will fulfill His promise in you, if You do not "become weary and faint in your minds" while seeking Him.
COUNSELS AND ADMONITIONS
1. Settle definitely and fully in your own minds "whether there be any Holy Ghost," any special baptism, "sealing and earnest of the Spirit," any special "enduement of power from on high," to be expected and sought by believers, and assured to them by Divine promise, after "they have believed in Christ." If God has given no such promise, it is presumption and vain in us to plead it at the throne of grace.
If God has given such a promise, and we are not fully assured of the fact, we shall seek for the blessing in a hesitating, doubting, and double-minded state, which will prevent our receiving anything of the Lord." First of all, then, "be fully persuaded in your own minds" whether God has, in fact and form, given such a promise. When you find that He has done soand you will thus find if you carefully and prayerfully "search the Scriptures whether these things are so," then take hold of the promise with the firm hand of faith, and plead it in earnest prayer as the unchangeable Word of God.
2. While you, in fixed purpose of heart, separate yourselves from all sin, and unreservedly dedicate yourselves to Christ, never for a moment after that entertain a doubt of your acceptance with God, or of your title to all the privileges of the sons of God, until you are conscious of taking that consecration back. Our faith in the promise, and our interest in it, will be weak and unsteady if we doubt of our sonship. When we thus give up sin, and accept of Christ, we have the assurance from His Word that we are, and shall be, "accepted in the Beloved."
When you are conscious of thus giving up your sins, and dedicating yourselves to Christ, reckon yourselves as children of God, and as having a direct and personal interest in all the promises. Never suffer your mind to doubt or halt on this question.
3. From that moment contemplate your title to the gift of the Spirit as absolute, by virtue of your faith in Christ, and sonship with God. "The promise is to you." Hold it up before your own heart, and before the throne of grace, as such. Never permit your assurance here to waver for a moment; you are in covenant relations with Christ, and Christ is bound to you by covenant, to "send you he Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost."
4. Finally, while you thus place yourselves as sinners, "saved by grace" within the circle of "the everlasting covenant," continue to search and inquire, and wait and pray, and pray and wait, until "the Holy Ghost shall fall upon you." Continuing thus "in prayer and supplication," "God will do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think." You "will be filled with the Spirit," and God will become "the everlasting light of your souls." Only be steadfast in faith, enduring in patience, and persevering and instant in prayer, and ere long "your light will go forth as brightness, and your salvation as a lamp that burneth."
THE DISCIPLINE OF THE SPIRIT
Individuals who receive "the sealing and earnest of the Spirit" sometimes find their inward experience not to accord, in certain important respects, with their prior anticipations. They fail to keep in mind that God is "leading them in a way which they know not," and that the Spirit cannot do for them all that they need, unless He leads them through various forms of external and internal experience. The present is preparatory to an endless future. That this preparation may be fully consummated, the Christian virtues in all their diversified forms, must be fully developed and perfected.
Each virtue takes form only under specially adapted circumstances and influences. That character may be "perfect and entire, wanting nothing," "patience must have her perfect work." Patience is the outgrowth of endurance under the pressure of heavy responsibilities, "fiery trials," and "great tribulations." It would not be wisdom or love on the part of the Spirit to free us from those "trials of faith" requisite to our perfection in the highest forms of Christian virtue.
"Everlasting consolations and good hope through grace" can come to the soul only when it is burdened with some great sorrow. The Spirit will not spare us the latter, when we must be led through it to reach the former. Victory, "through the blood of the Lamb and the word of his testimony," implies prior conflict with temptation. To prepare us for "a crown of glory which fadeth not away," and that we may stand revealed to eternity as having been "more than conquerors through Him that loved us," He will lead us to "fight the good fight of faith," to "stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." In short, we are to expect, under the teachings and discipline of the Spirit, just those forms of external and internal trial necessary to the development and perfection in us of all forms of Christian experience and character.
The believer is not only being fitted for immortality under the leadings of the Spirit, but is also to be employed in this life for special work in the edification of the Church and the good of the ungodly, and is constantly being prepared for the exigencies of his high and holy calling. No one can be qualified for such a work without being led through many and diverse forms of experience, both joyful and afflictive.
Paul had great perplexity and trouble through "the thorn in the flesh." That trouble, however, resulted not only in immortal benefits to him personally, but in incalculable good to the Church and the world. By means of the discipline through which he then passed he was fitted for a higher sphere of influence and usefulness than was otherwise possible to him; and by means of the Divine consolation which he received in all this discipline, he was rendered "able to comfort them who were in trouble, by means of the comfort wherewith he was comforted of God."
Every trial of faith, patiently endured, not only increases and establishes our graces, but enlarges our capacities for every good word or work. In all the different forms of discipline to which we are subjected, the Spirit leads us on to higher and higher degrees of Divine life, and into special ways of usefulness; and He will lead us through every phase of experience requisite to bring us to these ends.
We need to keep all these facts before us. Otherwise we may not only fail to "walk in the Spirit," but may quench Him also, and thus put out the Light of our souls. When we open our hearts to receive the Spirit, we give ourselves wholly up to Him, to be molded, guided and disciplined by Him, not according to our ideas, but according to His infallible knowledge of our various necessities, and according to the diverse exigencies of our sacred calling.
But while our experiences under the guidance of the Spirit may and will be, in the respects referred to, endlessly diversified, in certain other respects they will be fixed and permanent. In every "trial of faith" "patience will have her perfect work," because "as our day is so shall our strength be." In every conflict with the world, the flesh, and the powers of darkness we shall be "more than conquerors." In every furnace of affliction we shall "learn obedience from the things which we suffer." When "troubled on every side," we shall "not be distressed;" when "perplexed," we shall "not be in despair;" when "persecuted," we shall "not be forsaken;" when "cast down," we shall "not be destroyed;" when "weak, we shall be strong;" and even when "bearing about in our bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus," "the life also of Jesus will be made manifest in our bodies."
Nor will the light of God ever go out in our hearts while this baptism remains in us: Our peace in Him, our conscious sonship with Him, our acquiescence in His will, our resignation under every allotment of Providence, our quietness and assurance, our "fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ" will never be interrupted. We shall "serve God without fear, in righteousness and holiness before Him all the days of our lives."
Nor will our experiences be without their raptures. In seasons, not few nor far between, there will be "the shoutings of a king" in the center of our hearts. "Visions will come and go." This side of the celestial city, "the glory of God will shine" in our hearts, and "the Lamb be the light thereof." "Our joy will be full." Remember, reader, "all things are possible to him that believeth." "Have faith in God," and "you shall be established."
TEMPTATIONS AND ERRORS
The Christian life as well as the worldly has its peculiar and special inward temptations, and its peculiar and special liabilities to attack from human and Satanic influences from without. Every advance into the Divine life, from the nature and circumstances of the case, subjects the mind to forms of temptation and trial not incident to the same life in its lower developments. When the soul receives "the sealing and earnest of the Spirit," it has new and higher power than it had before, for every form and exigency of the Christian life and warfare; but is still subject to its own peculiar forms of trial and temptation.
To be prepared to meet such trials and temptations, we need to understand our state and relations when we have received the Holy Ghost. In this state, for example, we are not free from all liability to sin; nor are we released from the necessity of watchfulness and prayer against temptation to sin. We may quench and "grieve the Holy Spirit, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption." All warnings and admonitions of the New Testament indicate the truth of these statements. Nor are we free from liability to error on subjects not essential to the purity and perfection of the Christian life. Paul and Barnabas were both "good men, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." Yet they differed in judgment in respect to Mark, and separated in their mission on account of that difference. Both were honest, but Paul was in the wrong, and afterwards in his epistles did full justice to Mark. When on his last journey to Jerusalem, he met with disciples who admonished him, "through the Spirit," that "he should not go to Jerusalem." Yet he went, "bound in the Spirit, to Jerusalem." Nor did they, in what they said, nor he, in what he did, grieve or quench the Holy Spirit. On such subjects the Spirit does not impart infallible guidance. On a very few questions in moral philosophy and theology, Brother Finney and myself have arrived at opposite conclusions. Yet each has the same assurance as before, that the other is "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," and never were our mutual love and esteem stronger than now. We differ just where minds under the influence of the purest integrity and the highest form of Divine illumination are liable to differ.
We may be "full of the Holy Ghost," and pressed beyond measure to utter the truths which are burning within, "as a fire shut up in our bones," and yet have need of circumspection, and be liable to error in regard to the times and seasons when we shall prophesy. To this liability the apostle refers when he gives directions how those who are under Divine illumination must conduct themselves in the Church assemblies, affirming that "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets;" that "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace;" and that "all things must be done decently, and in order." Nor does the gift of the Spirit supersede the necessity of education and careful study. Timothy had received this gift; yet Paul exhorts even him to "give attendance to reading," to "meditate upon these things," and to "study to show himself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." What, then, are some of the errors and temptations incident to this higher life? They are, evidently, among others, the following:
1. Temptation to Spiritual Pride.
Every believer who receives the gift of the Spirit becomes a new Christian, renewed in the essential elements of the inner and outer life, and has a form of life which will attract the attention of the Church and world. "His righteousness will go forth as brightness, and his salvation as a lamp that burneth." Hence the danger of making self the object of thought and conversation, and of thinking and speaking of self in the spirit of self-glorification. It is proper, and a duty, to tell others what the Lord has done for us, provided the supreme motive is not to glorify self, but to magnify the grace, and love, and saving power of Christ. When the mind begins to revolve about self as its center, it ceases, to the same extent, to revolve about Christ; and when it glories in self, it ceases to glory in the cross of Christ, and will soon be the object of Divine reprobation.
2. Spiritual Presumption.
When the power of the Spirit comes upon us, we walk forth in "the liberty of the sons of God," and have a sovereign control over all our propensities, and all forms of temptation. In such liberty, we are liable to forget "wherein our great strength lieth," to relax in our watchfulness and prayer, and thus our hearts are exposed to "the fiery darts of the evil one." When in this liberty we must ever keep in mind that "we stand by faith," and must "not be highminded, but fear." We must gird ourselves with the whole panoply of God, and "watch unto prayer," if we would "stand in the evil day."
3. Mistaking the true and proper sphere of Divine teaching and illuminating.
When the Spirit is given, and we begin to "read the precious Scriptures with new eyes," we may be tempted to undervalue all other forms of knowledge, and to neglect study, and all proper use and cultivation of our own powers. In the whole process of the spiritual life we are "laborers together with God." Divine teaching does not supersede study and research in us, any more than our own proper activity supersedes Divine teaching.
We have known individuals who have attained to the highest forms of the higher life afterwards "make shipwreck of the faith," by assuming that they were infallibly taught all forms of revealed truth, and then bitterly denouncing as unspiritual, worldly, sensual, and devilish, all who questioned any of their nudest absurdities. We have known individuals, once deeply spiritual, by imperiously placing themselves above all need of human teaching, under the claim that they were taught of God, manifest the most proud, boastful, fanatical, and hateful spirit and character of which we can conceive.
We have known ministers of bright promise, and who were once "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," become empty and void in their own hearts, and utterly powerless with the Church and world, and that because they relied upon Divine teaching to the neglect of study, inquiry, watching unto prayer, and the diligent use and cultivation of their own faculties. The best and safest state possible to us is to "receive the Spirit," and "walk in the Spirit." The worst and darkest state into which we can fall is to have the light of God kindled in our hearts, and then to quench it.
If you, reader, shall "receive the Spirit," and "walk in the light, as God is in the light," you will continuously "behold with open face the glory of the Lord, and be changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord;" you will, as "the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty," "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God;" every virtue, in its purest and divinest developments, will take form in your character. "Giving all diligence," you will "add to your faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity;" and after you have finished your work of fruitfulness, goodness, and duty, "an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." But if at any time you shall lack these things, it will be because you have become "blind, and cannot see afar off, and have forgotten that you were cleansed from your old sins." If you continue thus blind and forgetful, "God will have no pleasure in you," and Christ will "take your part out of the Book of Life."
4. Pride of Character, which manifests itself in an unwillingness to confess error, or sin when actually committed, is another form of temptation, against which all who attain to this higher life should be specially on their guard. With the Spirit in our hearts, we need not sin, but we may sin. We may even "grieve" and "quench the Holy Spirit of God." Should we sin, there is but one way to escape the consequences, and recover what we have lost"repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Yet the reputation which we possess, and the profession we make, will present a strong temptation to cover, instead of confessing, our sins.
Let the strictest integrity always be manifested right here, and God, if we have sinned, will "restore to us the joy of His salvation, and uphold us by His free Spirit," and never "take the Holy Spirit from us." So, when we err in judgmentand the Spirit does not render us infalliblelet our meek humility always manifest itself in a prompt and ingenuous confession of the fact. We shall, in such a case, never fail to "serve God unto all pleasing."
As far as the discussion and elucidation of doctrine are concerned, we here draw this treatise to a close. Other topics of great importance connected with the whole subject will be presented in subsequent pages. If the reader has derived as much benefit in the perusal of these chapters thus far, and from the great truth which they are designed to teach, as the author has in their preparation, he and yourself, no doubt, will have cause of mutual thanksgiving for an eternity to come. The eclipse of this great doctrine to the Church ever has been and ever will be an eclipse of her faith on the one hand, and of her vision of "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" on the other.
But the unveiling of this doctrine to the faith and experience of the Church will be to her "the brightness of her rising," to which Gentiles, and kings, and the ends of the earth shall be drawn. The movement of the sacramental host has been, hitherto with glorious exceptions, very much that of a dead march or a funeral procession. Our favorite hymns have breathed notes of sorrow and sadness, rather than notes of gladness and joy. We have made a virtue of speaking and singing of our burdens under the heavy yoke of sinful propensities, of "aching voids within"induced by the remembrance of "peaceful hours" once enjoyed, but long since passed away, and sighings after the "blessedness we knew when first we saw the Lord." The remembrance of that early blessedness seems to present the highest Christian joy of which the mass of believers now have a conception.
Ever since that good hour when the writer "beheld with open face the glory of the Lord," he has had no form of experience answering at all to that just referred to. "The days of our mourning are ended." So will yours be, reader, when through the baptism of the Spirit you shall comprehend, as is your privilege, "what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Nor is the day distant, we trust, when all Christians "will cease their mourning," and "the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away."
We all, reader, shall enter into that blessedness as soon as the way of the Lord is prepared in our hearts. If you "have not received the Holy Ghost since you believed," and have read this treatise without the conviction that such a blessing is yours by promise, then an impenetrable veil hangs between you and all the blessedness of the higher life. If the reading of this treatise has induced in your mind the conviction that you may be "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise," and you go on your way without making the attainment of this crowning blessing of the Christian life your fixed and immutable purpose, you will, for less than "one morsel of meat," part with your birthright to "the glorious liberty of the sons of God." If, on the other hand, you have found that "these things are so," and from this moment onward shall watch, and wait, and pray, until Christ shall "send the promise of the Father upon you," then will you also "comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, and be filled with all the fullness of God." You shall rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; prove all things; hold fast that which is good; and the very God of peace shall sanctify you wholly, and your whole spirit, and soul, and body shall be preserved blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. v. 16-23.