By Daniel Steele
KNOWING THE HOLY SPIRIT.
IN what sense may believers know the Comforter? Jesus, who sends Him, assured His disciples that they should know Him because of His intimate relation to them, dwelling with them and ultimately being in them. The indwelling would be true after His future coming. If we fulfil the condition, which is love to Christ certified by obedience, we shall receive the Comforter and shall know Him. Of course we shall know when we receive so important a person. It will be a crisis marking a new era in our lives. It is evident that this is not inferential knowledge, though this is important as a confirmation. It comes from noting the fruits of the Spirit described in the Bible and comparing them with the Christian graces observed in ourselves, love, joy, peace, etc. Knowledge of God in the scriptural sense is assimilative. No man can truthfully say that he knows the Comforter when these fruits of the Spirit are absent. But knowledge of a person includes more than an acquaintance with his works. I had known the military career of Gen. Grant, and had read his brief despatches after his battles, but I had no personal acquaintance with that great soldier till one day in June, 1865, he permitted me to be presented to him and to shake hands with him on the veranda of a Saratoga hotel. I then for the first time knew Ulysses S. Grant.
In like manner we may have such a second-hand knowledge of the Paraclete as we find in the Holy Scriptures and in the testimony of persons filled with the Spirit, while strangers to the personal Holy Spirit. It is one thing to know much about Him; it is quite a different thing to have an intuitive perception of Him, and to feel the thrilling and transforming touch of His hand, and to commune with Him by day and by night more intimately than with any earthly friend. This is the kind of knowledge invoked in the so-called apostolic benediction. We do not understand that in our knowledge of the Holy Spirit we differentiate Him from the Father and the Son, though some eminent Christians testify to an acquaintance with each Person of the adorable Trinity, one in substance, but three in subsistences. If such a knowledge has been given to any believers, it is quite exceptional. It may be universal in the future world; it is certainly very rare in this. In our present state it is enough for us to receive the love of God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, commingled in one blissful stream descending through the channel of the Holy Ghost. A distinctive knowledge of each person would tend to divide the divine substance and to lead to tritheism, three Gods.
In the scheme of revelation the Father revealed Himself in His incarnate Son. After His visible form was received by the cloud which hid Him from the eyes of His gazing disciples on the day of His ascension, the Paraclete was sent down to testify of the absent God-Man, to keep Him in the world's thought and to glorify Him who came to glorify the Father. Hence the Paraclete glorifies both the Father and the Son when He glorifies the Son. Hence Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church, "That the Father would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." This and other texts show that it is not the mission of the Comforter to give prominence to Himself, but to Christ, to whom He bears witness. Thus "when a messenger comes to tell a king, when a witness gives a testimony for his friend, neither speaks of himself. And yet, without doing so, both the messenger and the witness, in the very fact of giving their' evidence, draw our attention to themselves, and claim our recognition of their presence and trustworthiness. And just so the Holy Spirit, when He testifies of Christ and glorifies Him, must be known and acknowledged in His divine commission and presence." (Andrew Murray.) It is in this sense that we are to have a knowledge of the Paraclete while He holds up the light for us to see the Father in His adorable Son.
The apostles knew nothing of an unconscious incoming and indwelling of the personal Paraclete. Unconscious regeneration in water-baptism and unconscious reception of the Holy Spirit through a bishop's hands in confirmation are doctrines lacking Biblical proof, the only proof possible after the exclusion of consciousness. The philosophy of the mind seems to require that the introduction of another personality to me, a person, must be with my assured knowledge. If a human person enters my library and addresses me while writing these words, I know it. Shall I not know it if a divine person knocks at the door of my heart and, at my invitation, enters? Will not His personal presence be self-evidencing? Will not His testimony to my adoption prove that He is a Person because He has faculties responsive to my own? If He takes up his abode in me, and converses with me and inspires love in me to Him and the other Persons whom He represents, shall I not be conscious of His personal presence? Love is a spiritual energy which goes forth only toward persons, never toward things. We admire pictures and statuary, but we love persons only. "It is because the presence of the Spirit as the indwelling teacher in every believer is so little known and recognized in the Church, and because, as the result of this, the workings of the Spirit are greatly limited, that there is so much difficulty and doubt, so much fear and hesitation about the recognition of the virtues of the Spirit." (Andrew Murray.) This spiritual incertitude, these hazy Christian experiences and weakening and distressing doubts in respect to fundamentals—the truth of Christ and personal salvation through Him — are the natural product of nebulous preaching on the subject of the offices of the Holy Spirit. This defective preaching comes from a negative experience of the fulness of the Spirit. Conversions take the type of doctrines. The Wesleys, after a long and painful search, received the direct witness of the Spirit to the forgiveness of sins. They immediately began to preach this doctrine, strange to that era of spiritual death, though shining in the New Testament as clearly as the midday sun. People were converted by thousands, of whom John Wesley testified that ninety-nine out of every hundred could tell the exact time of their saving acceptance of Christ. This is not the ratio of clear-cut conversions with a date among modern Methodists, because the offices of the Holy Spirit are not now so prominently and constantly held up before the people in the ministrations of the pulpit. What is the remedy? Let the pulpit be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Let preacher and layman who desire to know the promised Paraclete and to realize His indwelling, study the teaching of the Bible on this theme, especially the promises in the fourth Gospel. Gather these promises together and study them earnestly, and then turn to the Pentecostal fulfilment in the Acts, and to the full development and application of this doctrine by the apostolic writers, especially John and Paul. Approach these epistles athirst to find the artesian well of "waters springing up unto everlasting life," and to drink evermore therefrom. Study prayerfully and with faith all that the Spirit of inspiration has put on record respecting Himself and His indwelling and blessed work in your heart. Study in dependence on the Spirit, who alone can unlock the Word that He has inspired. Study with a will ready to follow whither the Spirit may lead, and with a complete self-surrender to God and that perfect self-effacement which Paul describes as a double crucifixion, " the world has been crucified unto me, and I unto the world " (Gal. vi. 14). Consecration is indispensable to the successful study of this high theme. It clarifies the intellect, dispels prejudices and misconceptions, and unifies and strengthens all the faculties. In this attitude of hearty consent to the leading of the Spirit, obedience to Christ and crucifixion of the flesh, the persevering believer will soon, find the Spirit working in him, first as a search-light revealing impurities and mixed motives never discovered before. Then, if the will consents to their removal, the Spirit will entirely cleanse the temple of the heart and permanently fill it with His glorious presence. He will beautify His sanctuary with the entire galaxy of" Christian virtues. He will strengthen its walls and make them impregnable to all assaults from without, and He will insure loyalty within by His constant indwelling " who yearneth for us even jealously" (James iv. 5, Revised Version, margin). We must remember that in both the natural and the spiritual world knowledge is preceded by faith. We must believe the Holy Ghost before we can know Him. Every altitude of higher knowledge must be the result of a stronger trust. Faith must be the habit of the soul that aspires after constant growth. Faith ever has to do with the invisible and the seemingly unreal. The Paraclete is unseen to the natural eye, and the inner eye of reason does not recognize His existence. Hence faith is the only door for the Spirit to enter and the only atmosphere in which He can dwell. There is no way of knowing the Holy Spirit but by possessing Him and being possessed by Him, just as there is no way of knowing life but by living. In fact the Holy Spirit is the life of the believing human spirit. The spiritual life is as real to consciousness as the natural life.
The declaration of Christ is, "Ye know him, for he abideth with you, and shall be in you." We see no form. We hear no sound. We feel the touch of no hand. The Spirit does not address any one of the five senses when He creates the soul anew. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned by minds quickened into spiritual life by the omnipotent Spirit, the giver of life. In regeneration the Spirit is inscrutable, His act of new creation is to the subject a fact, a something done in an unfathomable depth below his consciousness. This fact is recognized only by its effects. He knows that he is a new man, that he is fundamentally changed in all his tendencies, that he is released from his accusing conscience, that his past sins are forgiven and that he is no longer cowering beneath the wrath of God, but basking in the sunshine of His love. He no longer thinks of Him as a police judge sentencing him to a deserved punishment, but as a loving Father. The filial feeling has been suddenly and mysteriously inspired in his bosom, and he hears with his spiritual ear new words sounding in his heart, "Abba, Father." Almost involuntarily he utters them with his lips. He is conscious of a spiritual transformation. The personal agent he does not perceive. In fact the personality of your most intimate friend you have never directly seen. Personality is spiritual and is recognized only by its effects — words, smiles and other actions. You may therefore know the Holy Spirit's personality by His works in your own consciousness, as certainly as a son may know his father with whom he has daily intercourse. We say this to show that spiritual knowledge has the same certitude as our knowledge of men and things around us.
"It happens sometimes that the indwelling of Christ and God and His Spirit signalizes itself with such an energy in the believer that the human individual life is overflowed and swallowed up by the divine as a river of delight. ... In other cases it is certified that the walk of the Christian is in heaven actually (Phil. iii. 20, compare Zech. iii. 7), by the fact that the future glory is not merely revealed to his perception as a subject of hope (I Cor. ii. 9, 10), but is given him for a moment to see and share in by way of foretaste." 1 This is a state of ecstasy, the highest experience of heavenly blessedness and of a knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The recipe for the attainment of this knowledge is found in Matt. v. 8, Luke x. 22.
Some may be inclined to ask another question, How do we recognize the Holy Spirit? How do we know that it is He and not some lying spirit who is speaking to us? The how of all knowledge is mysterious. The philosophers are not agreed in the method of our knowledge of the external world. Some assert that we know only our own sensations and ideas, and therefore we are not sure that there is a material world external to our minds. These idealists are inclined to apply the same reasoning to Christian experience and to insist that it is all subjective in its origin, that there is no God in it, that all the changes supposed to be wrought by a divine person outside of us, regenerating, forgiving, witnessing, sanctifying and indwelling, are from hidden causes in our own minds. This kind of reasoning would deny the existence of any human personality outside of ourselves, as well as any material existence. It would reduce all phenomena to our own consciousness and ourselves to a string of sensations. All these absurdities must follow the admission that all our religious experiences are only varying states of our own thoughts and feelings with no external cause. Such a conclusion we are not prepared to accept. When the morning light dispels the darkness, I know that the sun has arisen, and I do not need a candle to see him rise. So when amid the gloom of condemnation for my sins, while trusting in Jesus Christ, a light suddenly shoots into my mind and a voice within cries "Abba, Father," and the feeling of dread is suddenly changed to filial love toward God, I know that a divine messenger is announcing forgiveness of my sins. This divine sunrise is self-evidencing. I need no rush-light of human philosophy or testimony to certify it. What has taken place is that my dead soul has been made alive. This life has quickened my dormant power of spiritual perception, so that I know by unerring intuition the presence of God the Holy Spirit. "To know the Spirit," says Murray, " is the divine foundation of certainty." Christian experience rests upon the same basis with mathematics and all philosophy — " self-evident truth, the activity of the immanent God in the human soul." (Joseph Cook.)
But we are not left without some light upon the question how we know the Holy Comforter. John says, "Ye know him, for he shall be in you," or as the Revised Version, "He is in you," the future being by prolepsis spoken of as present, as Alford thinks. The abiding indwelling of the Spirit is assumed to be in the consciousness of the believer.
He who knows the Holy Spirit will always have the Spirit's fruit as a confirmation of His inmost indwelling. But the knowledge is not the result of the fruit, but its cause. He must know in order to have love, joy, peace, etc. He knows directly by intuition, and not inferentially. Hence he needs not to be told by some experienced Christian, "This is the Holy Ghost." He needs no such introduction. The Spirit of truth brings His own credentials with Him, which even the most illiterate can read. He may not be able to tell the distinctive marks by which the voice of the Spirit is distinguished from the suggestions of his own heart, but he instinctively feels them.
He recognizes the Spirit of God as a solid and eternal reality, while the world with its glitter of gold, and rank, its style, pomp and power, is a brilliant but vanishing vapor. Hence he is ready, if he must choose between grieving the Spirit and the loss of all earthly good, to go to a martyr's death at the stake or block with shouts of joy. If you think I am theorizing, read Ulhorn's "Conflict of Christianity with Paganism" and Fox's "Book of Martyrs."
He who knows the Spirit quickly recognizes the stranger who has the same knowledge, when all the rest of mankind fail to discern the invisible seal of God in his forehead.
He does not look at the denominational badge. He is free from any overweening partiality to some particular earmark when the name of Jesus is on the sheep, for the Spirit of God dwells in all real saints.
'' Names and sects and parties fall;
Thou, O Christ, art all in all."
The explanation of this fact is that the Paraclete is the bond of union, the Spirit of life, connecting each believer with all others by uniting them with our risen Lord. We have in our modern times telephones, which so transmit speech as to bind up into a social union and possible daily converse millions of people separated by hundreds and even thousands of miles. This is possible only by having all the wires meet at a common centre. This centre of Christian union and communion through the Holy Ghost is our glorified and adorable Lord Jesus. The agency of electricity in the social union of mankind is a faint reflection of the agency of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual union of Christians. The wonders of science on the plane of nature are of small account when compared with the wonders of the Spirit on the plane of the supernatural.
That the Paraclete may be received unconsciously is a corollary of the doctrine that He may be imparted by the hands of a bishop apostolically ordained. There is room for great error in the idea that the Holy Spirit is given in the rite of confirmation while the supposed recipient is in utter ignorance of this important event. For neither do the lips nor the lives of a majority of persons confirmed attest any real reception of the Sanctifier. It is in keeping with that baptismal regeneration which produces no change in the consciousness, conduct or character. The Holy Spirit received and not known may withdraw and not be missed. That reception of the Spirit of adoption uttering not the cry "Abba, Father," and certifying His incoming only by what Phillips Brooks styles the myth of apostolic succession, must be a delusion and a snare founded on the false maxim, Ubi ecclesia, ibi Spiritus, Where the Church is, there is the Spirit; instead of the converse based on the Holy Scriptures and common sense, Ubi Spiritus, ibi ecclesia, Where the Spirit is, there is the Church. Archbishop Whately intimates that he whose hope of final salvation rests on his ability to prove the apostolic validity of the sacraments has a painfully dubious prospect of inheriting eternal life.