By Daniel Steele
TESTINGS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
THE great condition on which the Paraclete is given to any believer is love to Christ evinced by obedience. He may think that he loves Christ and be sadly mistaken. His Christ may be a false Christ, a figment of his own imagination, a liberalistic Christ who will save all men on their own terms, or a fragmentary Christ with justice and all the sterner qualities omitted. There is many a nominal, but only one real and saving Christ. Hence tests are required to prove whether we are really obedient to the true Christ, whether, in the words of John Wesley, "naked we are willing to follow a naked Saviour." This means whether at the loss of all things — property, friends and reputation — we will follow a pauper Christ with no hope, of any reward this side of the resurrection of the just, and possibly a chance for martyrdom. Will we sell all to buy the pearl of great price? Essentially this test is required of all: "Will you hold all else as cheap, yea, worthless, in comparison with Christ?" The literal divesting ourselves of all our possessions which are necessary to give us a foothold of vantage and usefulness may never be required by the Spirit. Christ required it of but one person. If he had obeyed promptly, I doubt not that Christ would have taken the will for the deed and would have made him His steward to hold and administer the estate in the interest of his Master, honoring every draft he should make.
In the nature of the case there are definite limits within which the Spirit applies His tests. He never requires us to do wrong, to violate our own sense of right. To deny this is to open the door for the worst forms of fanaticism and to justify the most flagrant iniquity. It will not do to cite the command to Abraham to sacrifice his son. He may have deemed it his parental right to take the life he had imparted. This instance affords no argument against our position, for the whole transaction, the command and the interposition, are on the plane of the supernatural. Nor does the Spirit require any one to disobey the code of minor morals, good manners.
It should be noted that tests may be presented by Satan when a believing soul is aspiring to receive the fulness of the Spirit—tests repulsive and offensive, in order to discourage a perfect self-surrender to God. At such times a cultivated Christian woman says that she is always confronted with the question whether she will, uninvited and unauthorized, make public addresses for Christ in the waiting-rooms of railroad stations, hotel parlors and steamboat saloons. Her sense of propriety prompts her to say "No." Another well-balanced woman is asked, when in the act of consecrating all to God, whether she is willing to be like some slattern who professes to be wholly the Lord's, and deems it a sin to make her toilet before a mirror. Her good taste says " No." A man of a bilious temperament, subject to wasting fevers, is asked, while in the act of supreme surrender to Christ, whether he is willing to go to the Congo Mission. Knowing his disability and the adverse opinion of medical experts, and not being eager for a martyr's crown in six months, he says " No." In all these cases this negative answer is used by the tempter to shake the believer's trust in Christ and cheat him of his full heritage. What he should do is to put all these questions aside and to promise that after receiving the desired blessing he will follow his best light derived from the indwelling Spirit, the Holy Scriptures, his own God-given common sense, his own abilities, his circumstances, providential openings and shuttings, and the godly judgment of the church to which he belongs. By thus doing he will thwart the adversary and receive the Sanctifier.
Says F. B. Meyer: "Expect the Holy Ghost to work in, with and for you. When a man is right with God, God will freely use him. There will rise up within him impulses and inspirations, strong strivings, strange resolves. These must be tested by Scripture and prayer, and if evidently of God they must be obeyed. But there is this perennial source of comfort: God's commands are enablings. He will never give us a work to do without showing exactly how and when to do it, and He will give the precise strength and wisdom we need. Do not dread to enter this life because you fear that God will ask you to do something you cannot do. He will never do that. If He lays aught on your heart, He will do so uninvited; as you pray about it the impression will continue to grow, so that presently, as you look up to know what He wills you to say or do, the way will suddenly open, and you will probably have said the word or done the deed almost unconsciously. Rely on the Holy Ghost to go before you to make the crooked places straight and the rough places smooth. Do not bring the legal spirit of' must' into God's free service. 'Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.' Let your life be as effortless as theirs, because your faith shall constantly hand over all difficulties and responsibilities to your ever-present Lord. There is no effort to the branch in putting forth the swelling clusters of grapes — the effort would be to keep them back."
But we must be discriminating in this matter, and not ascribe to the evil spirit tests which are for our benefit presented by the good Spirit. Says George Bowen: "The Spirit of God sometimes tests the peace of Christians in this way: A man has been for years enjoying a good measure of what he regards as Christian peace. Suddenly he is made to see himself by the light of a most intense holiness, and his former conceptions of his sinfulness and of the evil of all sin are augmented a thousand-fold. Straightway his peace is gone. His faith utterly fails. He finds himself sinking in deep waters. The mention of the righteousness of Christ fails to satisfy him. The Christ that he has been looking at all along was one that would save from a moderate amount of sin, such as he then knew of in himself; he has yet to become acquainted with a Christ able and willing to save from such a dire ruin as he is now conscious of. His past peace, his past faith, are now ascertained to have partaken very largely of the nature of delusion. Happy for him that he has discovered the inadequacy of his faith while it is yet the day of grace! Sad, unspeakably sad, is the fate of many whose faith is not thus tested in their lifetime."
The great danger is that Christians will test themselves, not by the Holy Scriptures illumined and applied by the Holy Spirit, but by the average type of Christian character and attainment. This average is usually low, and this kind of testing, "measuring themselves by themselves," tends to a still lower standard quite near to that vague and indistinct line of demarcation which shades off into the world. We cannot believe that God is pleased with an average piety. Stalker says that the Hebrew prophets addressed nations and were satisfied with national obedience, but "Jesus Christ discovered the individual." Hence He can be satisfied only with marked individuality in the development of all the graces of the Spirit.
Let no man deem it profitable to hide from himself the evil lurking in his own heart. The peace thus secured will not long endure. It is an illusion. No one can afford to rest in a treacherous peace. Absolute safety lies in receiving from the Spirit of truth the intense light that He sheds upon sin, the disease, and upon Christ, the unfailing Physician if called in season.