"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" LUKE xi. 13.
"THEN Jairus came to the Lord Jesus to entreat His help for his dying daughter, and he learned by the way the sorrowful tidings that she had already died, Jesus said: " Be not afraid: only believe." l Face to face with a trial in which man was utterly helpless, the Lord called upon him to put his trust in Himself. There was but one thing that suited his case or could help him: "only believe." Many a thousand times has that word been
1 Luke viii. 50. 137
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the strength of God’s children, where so far as man was concerned all hope was lost and success appeared to be impossible. So here also, whilst we are on our way to search for and know the full Pentecostal blessing, we have need of this word. In view of the inconceivable preciousness of the blessing, and of the divine element in it, it will indeed be only the wonder-working power of God that can make this exceeding grace a reality within us. Let us only be silent before God; here also we shall hear the voice of Jesus saying to us: " Be not afraid, only believe: God will do it for you."
It is nothing less than this that is the aim of this word of our Lord concerning the divine assurance that, much more readily than an earthly father will give his children bread, will God give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. We should regard it as quite unnatural on the part of a father if he did not give his child bread; how much more, then, shall not God give the Holy Spirit, yea, all the promised fulness of the Spirit, to those that ask Him. In the midst of all our thinking and speaking, all our praying and hoping, the fundamental element in our spiritual life must be the firm confidence that the Father will give His child His full heritage. God is spirit: He desires in His eternal love to obtain full possession of us; but He can do this in no other manner than by giving us His Spirit. As surely as He is God, will He, child of God, fill thee with His Holy Spirit. Without that faith you will never succeed in your quest of this blessing. That faith will give you the victory over every difficulty. Therefore, " be not afraid: only believe." Hear the voice of Jesus: "Said I not unto thee that if thou believest thou shalt see the glory of God?"
Let us listen to these three great lessons.
Although you cannot comprehend or explain everything by the mere power of your understanding, still: " only believe."
There are many preliminary questions which arise at once in connection with this subject, and which tempt us to resolve that we shall first take in and understand everything about
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it before we expect the blessing. Two of these questions I shall venture to mention now.
The first is: whence must this blessing come, from WITHIN or from ABOVE? Some earnest Christians will say at once that " it must come from WITHIN." The Holy Spirit descended upon the earth on the day of Pentecost and was given to the Christian community. At the moment of conversion He comes into our heart. We have therefore no longer to pray that He may be given to us: we have simply to recognise and use what we already have. It is not as if we had to seek to have more of the Spirit: we have Him in the fulness of the gift as it is. It is rather the Holy Spirit who must have more of us. As we yield ourselves entirely to Him He will entirely fill us. It is from WITHIN that the blessing must come: the fountain of living water is already there; the fountain has only to be opened and every obstruction cleared out of the way and the water shall stream forth. It must spring from WITHIN.
On the other hand, there are not a few that say, " No; it must come from ABOVE." When,
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on the arrival of the day of Pentecost, the Father bestowed the Spirit, He did not give Him away beyond His own control. The fulness of the Spirit still remains in God. God bestows nothing apart from Himself, to work without or independently of His will. He Himself works only through the Spirit, and every new and greater manifestation of the Spirit’s power comes directly from ABOVE. Long after the day of Pentecost the Spirit came down again from heaven at Samaria and Cesarea. In His fulness He is in heaven still; and it is from God in heaven that the fulness of the Spirit is to be ever waited for.
Brother Christian, pray, do not linger till by reasonings of your own you have decided which of these representations is the right one. God can bless men in both ways. When the flood came all the fountains of the abyss were broken up and the sluices of heaven were opened. It came simultaneously from beneath and from above. God is prepared to bless men in both of these methods. He desires to teach us to know and honour the Spirit who is already within us. He would fain also bring us to
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wait upon Himself in a spirit of utter dependence, and to beseech Him that He as our Father would give us our daily bread, the new, the fuller influx of His Spirit. I entreat you not to suffer yourself to be held back by such a question as this. God understands your petition. He knows what you would have. Believe that God is prepared to fill you with His Spirit; let that faith look up to Him with unceasing prayer and confidence. He will give the blessing.
The other question is: Does this blessing come gradually or at once? Will it manifest itself in the shape of a silent, unobserved increase of the grace of the Spirit or as a momentary, immediate outpouring of His power? It must suffice for me to say here again that God has already sent this blessing in both modes, and will continue to do so still. What must take place at once is this: there must be a definite resolve to place the whole life unreservedly under the control of the Spirit, and a conviction of faith that God has accepted this surrender. In the majority of cases this is done at once. It must at last come to this,
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perhaps after a long course of seeking and praying, that the soul shall present itself to God for this blessing in one definite, irrevocable act, and shall believe that the offering is then sanctified and accepted upon the altar. Thence forth, whether the experience of the blessing comes at once and with power, or comes quietly and gradually, the soul must maintain its act of self -dedication and simply look to God to do His own work.
Thus in dealing with all such questions the chief concern is- this: "only believe " and rest in the FAITHFULNESS OF GOD. Hold fast this one principle: God has given us a promise that He will fill us with His Spirit. It is His work to make His promise an accomplished fact. Thank God for the promise even as you would thank Him for the fulfilment of it. In the promise God has already pledged Himself to you. Rejoice in Him and in His faithfulness. Be not held back by any questions whatever. Set your heart on what God will do, on Himself from whom the blessing must come. The result will be certain and glorious.
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Although you receive but little help from others, or even encounter opposition, still: " only believe"
It is one of the saddest tokens of the un- spiritual condition of the Church that so many are content with things just as they are, and have no desire to know more of this seeking for the reality of the Spirit’s power. They point to the present purity of doctrine, to the prevailing earnestness of preaching, to the generous gifts which are made for the maintenance of religious works and the enterprises of philanthropy, to the interest which is manifested in the cause of education and of missions, and they say that we ought rather to give God thanks for the good we see around us. Such people would condemn the language of Laodicea, and would refuse to say that they were rich and increased in goods and had need of nothing, 1 and yet there are some traces of this spirit in what they say. They do not consider the injunction to be " filled with the Spirit." They have forgotten the 1 Rev. iii. 17.
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command to prophesy to the Spirit and say: " Come from the four winds, Breath, and breathe upon the slain, that they may live." l When you speak of these things you will receive little encouragement from them. They do not understand what you mean. They believe indeed in the Holy Spirit, but their eyes have not been opened to the fact that more of the Spirit, the fulness of the Spirit, is the one thing needful for the Church.
There are others who will agree with you when you speak of this need, and yet will really give you even less encouragement. They have often both thought and prayed over the matter, but no benefit has accrued from the effort: they have made no real progress. They bid you look to the Church of earlier times, and say that it was never much otherwise than it is now. What you say of the poverty and weakness of the Church in its relations to the world is true: your representation of the promise of God is glorious: all that you expect from the mighty working of the Spirit it is the highest degree desirable; but it is not to be obtained. These
1 Ezck. xxxvii. 9. 10
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people belong to the generation of the ten spies who were sent to spy out Canaan: the land is glorious, but the enemy in possession is too strong: we are too weak to overcome them. Lack of consecration and of willingness to surrender everything for this blessing is the root of the unbelief, and has made them incapable of exercising the courage of Caleb when he said: "Lot us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." 1
My brother, if you would be filled with the Spirit, do not suffer yourself to be held back by such reasonings. " Only believe " and strengthen yourself in the omnipotence of God. Do not say: is God able? Say rather: God is ABLE. The God who was able to raise Christ from the dead is still mighty in the midst of His people, and is able to reveal His divine life with power in your heart. Hear His voice saying to you as to Abraham: " I am God Almighty: walk thou before My face and be perfect." 2 Set your heart without distraction on what God has said that He will do, and then on the Omnipotence which is prepared to bring the promise to accomplish-
1 Num. xiii. 30. 2 Gen. xvii. 1.
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ment. Pray to the Father that He would grant unto you to be strengthened with might by His Spirit. Adore Him who is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask and think, and give Him the glory. Let faith in the Omnipotence of God fill your soul and you will be full of the assurance that, however difficult, however improbable, however impossible it may seem, God can fill us with His Spirit. "Only believe."
Although everything in you appears entirely unfit for this Messing and unworthy of it, still: " only believe."
When one prays for this blessing of being filled with the Spirit, the thought will spring up unbidden, of what one’s life as a Christian has already been. The believer thinks of all the workings of divine grace in his heart, and of the incessant strivings of the Spirit. He thinks of all his efforts and prayers, of his past attempts at entire surrender and the appropriation of faith. He then looks upon what he is at the moment, upon his unfaithfulness and sin and helplessness,
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and he becomes dispirited. In the lapse of so many years so little progress has been made. The past testifies only of failure and unfaithfulness. What avails it to think that the future will be any better? If all his praying and believing of earlier days have been of so little avail, why should he now dare to hope that everything is to be transformed at once? He presents to himself the life of a man full of the Holy Spirit, and alongside it he sets his own life as he has learned to know it, and it becomes impossible for him to imagine that he shall ever be able to live as a man full of the Spirit. For such a task he is once for all unfit, and feels no courage to make the attempt.
Christian, when such thoughts as these throng in upon you there is but one counsel to follow, and that is: "only believe." Cast yourself into the arms of your Father who gives His children the Holy Spirit much more readily than an earthly father gives bread. Only believe, and count upon THE LOVE OF GOD. All your self- dedication and surrender, all your faith and integrity is not a work by which you have to move God or make Him willing to bless you.
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Far from it. It is God that desires to bless you, and that will Himself work everything in you. God loves you as a father and sees that, to be able to live in perfect health and happi ness as His child, you have need of nothing but this one thing to be full of His Spirit. Jesus has by His blood opened up the way to the full enjoyment of this love. You must learn to enter into this love, to abide in this love, and by faith to acknowledge that it shines upon you and surrounds you, even as the light of the sun illumines and animates your body. Begin to trust this love. I do not say in its willingness: no in its unspeakable longing to fill you entirely with itself. It is your Father, whose love waits to make you full of His Spirit. He Himself will do it for you.
And what does He crave at your hands? Simply this, that you yield yourself to Him in utter unworthiness, nothingness, and impotence, to let Him do this work in you. He is prepared to take charge of all the preparatory work. You may be sure that He will help you by His Spirit. He will strengthen you with might in the inner man, silently and hiddenly, yet
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none the less surely, to abandon everything that has to be given up and to receive this treasure. He will help you in the faith of appropriation to rest in His word and to wait for Him; and He will hold Himself responsible for all the future. He will make provision that you shall be able to walk in the fulness of this blessing.
You have perhaps already formed a very high idea of what a man must be that is filled with the Spirit of God, and you see no chance of your being able to live in such a fashion. Or it may be that you have not been able to form any idea of it whatever, and are on that account afraid to strive for a life which is so unknown to you. Christian, abandon all such thoughts. The Spirit alone, when He is once in you, will Himself teach you what that life is, for He will work it in you. God will take upon Himself the responsibility of making you full of the Spirit, not as a treasure which you must carry and keep, but as a power which is to carry and keep you. Therefore, Soul, " only believe ": count upon THE LOVE OF YOUE FATHER.
In His promise of the blessing and the power of the Spirit the Lord Jesus always pointed to
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God the Father. He called it " the promise of the Father." 1 He directed us to the faithfulness of God: " He is faithful that promised." 2 He directed us to the power of God: the Spirit was, as power from on high, to come from God Himself. 3 He directed us to the love of God: it is as a Father that God is to give this boon to His children. Let every thought of this blessing and every desire for it only lead us to God. Here is something that HE must do, that He must give, that HE, HE ALONE, must work. Let us in silent adoration set our heart upon God: He will do something for us. Let us joyfully trust in Him: He is able to do above all praying and thinking. His love will, so willingly, bestow upon us a full blessing. Therefore, " only believe ": God will make me full of the Spirit. And say humbly: Behold the servant of the Lord. Let Him do to me what is good in His sight. Be it unto me according to Thy word* " Faithful is He that calleth you,