By Rev. Asa Mahan
It is now quite six years since the following treatise has been before the American, and upwards of four since it has been before the English public. During this period it has been read by very many individuals on both sides of the Atlantic, and that, as the author has the best reasons for believing, with much affirmed interest and profit. During this period also the central theme of the treatise, "the Promise of the Spirit," "the Baptism of the Holy Ghost," the promised "Enduement of Power from on High," which became real in the experience of the apostles and their associates at the Pentecost, and had never been vouchsafed to the Church in such forms before, has become throughout Christendom a subject of thought, inquiry, prayer, and waiting expectation, unknown in centuries past. That this treatise has contributed something to bring about this desirable and most propitious and hopeful consummation, is not a matter of doubt. That it may hereafter continue to exert an important influence to prepare the way for the approaching "brightness of the Divine rising," is still an object of hope.
The special doctrine of the treatise takes specific form from the following declaration of our Saviour to His disciples; "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 forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." The Holy Spirit had convinced these disciples of sin, had induced them to believe in Christ, to love Him, and to "keep His commandments." From the hour of their conversion He had been with them, and their bodies had been His temples. During the ten days in which those disciples "tarried in Jerusalem," waiting "the promise of the Father," the same Spirit was with them still, perfecting their obedience, intensifying their aspirations, unifying their "accord," and completing their preparation for the inward enlightenments, "enduements of power," Divine fellowships and fruitions, which were to result from the approaching "baptism." All that preceded the Pentecost was preparatory to this baptism, but no part of it. The conversion and subsequent preparation were the work of the Spirit, just as much as the baptism, and the former was indispensable to the latter. Had the apostles continued in the preparatory stage of experience, or had they gone forth to their work prior to the reception of "the promise of the Spirit," they would have remained to the end of life as they had been before, "a feeble folk," and the world would never have felt their influence. Waiting, on the other hand, "the promise of the Father," and going forth, as Christ did, "under the power of the Spirit," they soon "turned the world upside down."
The same holds true of all believers, the least as well as the greatest, under the present Dispensation, the Dispensation of the Spirit. As with the apostles and their associates, so with every believer in Jesus. After inducing "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," the Spirit abides with and works in him, as He did in them prior to the Pentecost, and for the one purpose, to perfect his love and obedience and inward preparation, that "the Holy Ghost may fall on him as He did on them at the beginning." If the convert stops short of this great consummation, and if he does this especially under the belief that he did receive "the Baptism of the Holy Ghost" in conversion, and that, consequently, nothing remains for him but a gradual increase of what he then received, he will almost inevitably remain through life in the darkness and weakness of the old, instead of going forth to his life work under "the enduements of power," spiritual illuminations, transforming visions of the Divine glory, "fellowships with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ," and "assurances of faith," "assurances of hope," and "assurances of understanding," peculiar to the New Dispensation.
Here this great doctrine is met by the counter one, that every newborn soul does receive the promised "Baptism of the Holy Ghost," and all accompanying enlightenments and "enduements of power," at the time of his conversion. In confirmation of this doctrine such passages are adduced as those which affirm that the bodies of all believers "are the temples of the Holy Ghost," "that all have been baptized into one body," and that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." All this, we teach, is true of every convert now, and has been true of every converted person since the fall. The Holy Ghost had given the disciples "repentance unto life," and "was with them" as a sanctifying presence, had made their bodies His temple, and had "baptized them into one body," prior to the Pentecost. They must have had "the Spirit of Christ, or they could not have been His." Yet, in the New Testament sense of the words, "the Holy Ghost was not given," and they were not "baptized with the Holy Ghost," until " the Pentecost had fully come." So of all converts in this dispensation. They "have the Spirit of Christ," "the Spirit is with them," and their bodies, as those of all the holy have ever been, are "His temple." This was true, and must have been true of all the converts in Samaria before Peter and John came there. Yet "the Holy Ghost had not fallen upon one of them." How any person can contemplate the revealed results of "the Baptism of the Holy Ghost," and then affirm, in the presence of palpable facts, that every such convert has received "the enduements of power" included in "the promise of the Spirit," is a mystery of mysteries to us.
But while all believers have been "baptized into one body," are we not also told that "there is one baptism?" If the believer was in his conversion, with all others, baptized "by one Spirit into one body," and may afterwards be "baptized with the Holy Ghost," is there not, it is asked, more than one "baptism of the Spirit?" If we are to infer from such language that there is one and only "one baptism," what shall we do with the argument of the Friends, that water baptism should be dispensed with? The apostle does not say that there is "one baptism" of the Spirit; but "one baptism." While he says this, he speaks in another place of "the Doctrine of Baptisms." While baptism in all its forms is "one," just as "he that planteth and he that watereth are one," that is, one in purpose, spirit, and aim, so baptism may, for aught that appears in such expressions, be as diverse in its forms as are the individualities employed in planting and watering the churches. As there is "one body with many members," and "one faith" in many forms, so there may be "one baptism" in many forms.
According to the doctrine under consideration, two blessings as simultaneously given to every convert at the moment when he believesthe pardon of sin, and "the Baptism of the Holy Ghost," with all its attendant "enduements of power," and this is the doctrine which the apostles intended to teach, and did teach. If this were so, why did Peter and John pray for the converts in Samaria, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, and not that they might receive the forgiveness of their sins?
Are we anywhere told in the New Testament that any have "received the Word of the Lord," believed in Jesus, openly confessed His name, and yet have not received the pardon of their sins? We do read of numbers, however, who thus believed, not one of whom had received the Holy Ghost at the time of believing, or after they had believed.
Take another case. Paul did put this question to the twelve believers whom he met at Ephesus; namely, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" or, as some render the original, "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" Why did he put this, and not the other question equally pertinent, if this doctrine is true, in each case, to wit: "Have ye received the pardon of your sins since ye believed?" or, "Did ye receive the pardon of your sins when ye believed?" Had he held and taught the dogma that both blessings are always and at the same moment given the instant an individual believes, he would have been just as likely to have asked if one blessing had been received, as whether the other had been, and the inquiry would have been infinitely absurd in either case.
The case of these twelve disciples is entirely clear from the reply often made to the argument based upon the revealed fact, that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost was given to the Jews at the Pentecost, to the Samaritans, and to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, not at the moment of regeneration, but "after they had believed." This was necessary, it is said, to verify for Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles, common rights and privileges in the Church of Christ. After this the Holy Ghost is never given in this form, but always in regeneration. The question of Paul (Acts xix. 1-7) was put to these believers many years after the baptisms above referred to, and after the New Dispensation had been established; however, these individuals did receive the Holy Ghost, not only "after they had believed," but after they had, as believers, been baptized (Acts xix. 5, 6). The case is too plain to require comments.
No, reader: the apostles rightly understood our Saviour, and so taught, to wit, that the condition of pardon is "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," and that the condition on which "He will baptize with the Holy Ghost" is "love and obedience," and "waiting the promise of the Father," after we have believed. Hence they taught that the Holy Ghost is given not with forgiveness, but to "those who obey God." In Ezek. xxxvi. 27 and 37, we are absolutely taught that Christ as the Mediator of the new covenant will "put His Spirit within" believers; that is, "baptize them with the Holy Ghost," "when He shall be inquired of by them to do it for them." Language is without meaning, if "the promise of the Spirit" does not await the believer after he has entered into a state of justification, and then in a state of "love and obedience," and supreme consecration to Christ, "tarries" before God until he is "endued with power from on high." Having carefully weighed the contents of this introduction, the reader will be fully prepared to enter into the interior of the work itself.