By Daniel Steele
THE FULNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
IT is sometimes said that Christ's new commandment, "Love one another," is the eleventh commandment. In the same way we have the twelfth in Paul's mandatory precept, "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. v. 18). There is an error quite widely spread in the Church, that the baptism or fulness of the Spirit is not universally obligatory, but rather that it is an elective experience, a privilege and not an imperative duty. We note that the passive voice, "be filled," implies that we cannot actively fill ourselves, but that the Spirit is present like the atmosphere and ready instantly to fill every vacuum. It is ours to create a vacuum by an unreserved self-surrender to Christ as both Saviour and Lord. This implies strong faith. In truth, faith is man's only capacity to receive God. He cannot enter us through the senses, for they report only material things; nor can the Spirit enter the soul through the reason, which apprehends only relations, not realities. Therefore faith is the only door by which the Spirit comes into the human spirit. Man, a spirit, is an image of God the Spirit. The creature is made for the occupancy of the Creator, and he finds his highest joy only when as a temple he is "the habitation of God through the Spirit."
It is quite evident that purity is a prerequisite to this indwelling fulness of the Spirit. This is the divine order: first cleansed, then filled. All filling presupposes emptying. It is true that the baptism of the Spirit has been sought and received as a full endowment for service. But a careful examination of such experiences reveals the fact of the Spirit's revelation of an inward bias to moral evil, and also of the seeker's full consent to its extermination by the purifying fire of the Spirit before He takes up His abode within. This consent is a part of his irreversible and all-embracing self-surrender to Christ, the great Physician, whose healing power is preparatory to the full endowment with the Holy Spirit.1
Turning to our Greek Testament we note that the command "Be filled with the Spirit" is in the present tense, denoting not a mechanical fulness once for all, but a vital fulness, a constant appropriation and a perpetual reception, a ceaseless drinking and a ceaseless thirst. Hence the paradox of Charles Wesley:
"Insatiate to this spring I fly;
I drink, and yet am ever dry."
The thirst is for more of the same kind, not for anything different, like the thirst of a perfectly healthy babe. "But the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well [artesian] of water springing up into everlasting life." The need of an increase of this water is not excluded. Says Calvin: "The Holy Spirit is a gushing fountain ever flowing, so that they who have been renewed by spiritual grace are in no danger of becoming completely dry," so far as the supply is concerned. There is danger of a diminishing appropriation till the soul has ceased to -drink. Says Bengel, "Truly that water, as far as it depends on itself, has in it an everlasting virtue; and when thirst returns the defect is on the part of the man, not of the water."
"We may insensibly and without raising the suspicion of our Christian friends lose the life of the Spirit, and preserve at the same time deceitful appearances. For when the Holy Spirit withdraws from the soul He sometimes allows the forms which He has created to remain. The oil is exhausted, but the lamp is there; prayer is offered and the Bible read; the going to church is not given up, and, to a certain degree, the service is enjoyed; in a word, religious habits are preserved, and, like the corpses found at Pompeii, which were in a perfect state of preservation and in the very position in which death had surprised them, but which were reduced to ashes by contact with the air, so the blast of trial, of temptation or that of the final judgment will also destroy those spiritual corpses." (Tophel.)
There is a fulness of the Spirit of the emotional kind which is liable to great fluctuations. It is genuine but not deep. It does not have permanent and staying qualities. It is often received amid the tidal wave of the faith and sympathy of a multitude, and begins to decline when the social magnetism is dispelled by separation from the jubilant throng in the temple or camp. The Spirit seems to pervade only the upper and more easily reached currents of the soul; the depths of the being, the inner life where the will dwells and character has its roots, have not been reached. Their experience is like what Fletcher calls "a land flood," a spring freshet, and not a river steadily flowing from springs so deep as not to be affected by summer's drought and winter's cold. Corresponding to the stony-ground converts to Christ, who receive with joy the word into the shallow soil and immediately send up a flush of green which as quickly withers away, is a class of Pentecostal professors whose uneven ecstatic experiences are a stumblingblock to many Christians and a great hindrance to the experimental reception by the mass of believers of the most precious truths of the gospel, especially the promise of the Father and of the Son, the gift of the Comforter. Whenever He is deliberately received in the fulness of His offices and the permanence of His indwelling, men of power are raised up, and anointed women go forth to successful labor in the harvest fields of the world.
Many a professed Christian now a cipher in influence would become mighty in advancing the kingdom of Christ if he were filled with the Pentecostal gift. "The apostles were good men before the baptism of the Pentecost. But how dull of apprehension were they though they listened to the instructions, not of a prophet who was of the earth, therefore earthly and speaking from the earth, but of Him who was from heaven and above all, and who spake the very words of God. How little they saw the glory or felt the power of the truth they heard! Yet they knew more, believed more, loved more than all the rest of mankind. They possessed truth which flesh and blood had not revealed unto them, but the Father in heaven. 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life.' But when the Holy Ghost fell on them what a glorious transformation! It was as if meridian day had burst upon them from the obscurity of an eclipse. As with tongues of fire they spoke forth the wonders which, though they knew them before, they till now had not known. God had passed before them and proclaimed His name, shown them His glory. The Spirit had taken the all-glorious beams that blaze from the face of Christ and had carried them deep into their hearts. The chambers of their inner being had become all luminous, and every ray of light there glowed with a dissolving, melting warmth. The fountains of the great deep of their sensibilities were broken up, and floods of happy tears were shed over a thousand remembrances of their beloved Lord. His instructions, His miracles, His holiness, His love, His majesty, His sufferings, His resurrection, His seat at His Father's right hand, His whole manifestation and work stood before them in a new and resplendent light and bathed in glory." (John Morgan, D. D.)