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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Having the Holy Spirit # 5

"Having not the Spirit" (Jude 19)

Beware of supposing that a man may have the Holy Spirit when there is no outward evidence of His presence in the soul. It is a dangerous and unscriptural delusion to think so. We must never lose sight of the broad principles laid down for us in Scripture: "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth." "In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God" (1 John 1:6; 3: 10).

You have heard, I doubt not, of a wretched class of Christians called Antinomians. They were persons who boast of having an interest in Christ, and say they are pardoned and forgiven, while at the same time they live in wilfull sin and open breach of God's commandments. You have been told, I dare say, that such people are miserably deceived. They are going down to hell with a lie in their right hand. The true believer in Christ is "dead to sin."  Every man that has real hope in Christ "purifieth himself even as He is pure." (1 John 3:3).

But I will tell you of a delusion quite as dangerous as that of the Antinomians, and far more specious. That delusion is, - to flatter yourself you have the Spirit dwelling in your heart, while there are no fruits of the Spirit to be seen in your life. I firmly believe that this delusion is ruining thousands, as surely as Antinomianism. It is just as perilous to dishonor the Holy Spirit, as it is to dishonor Christ. It is just as offensive to God to pretend to an interest in the work of the Spirit, as it is to pretend to an interest in the work of Christ

Once for all, I charge my readers to remember that the effects which the Spirit produces are the only trustworthy evidences of His presence. To talk of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you and yet being unseen in your life, is wild work indeed. It confounds the first principles of the Gospel: it confounds light and darkness, nature and grace, conversion and unconversion, faith and unbelief, the children o God and the children of the devil.

There is only one safe position in this matter. There is only one safe answer to the question, "How shall we decide who have the Spirit?" We must take our stand on the old principle laid down by our Lord Jesus Christ: "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:20). Where the Spirit is there will be fruit: he who has no fruit of the Spirit has not the Spirit. A work of the Spirit unfelt, unseen, inoperative, is a positive delusion. Where the Spirit really is He will be felt, seen, and known.

3. Let me, in the last place, describe the particular effects which the Spirit produces on the souls in which He dwells.

I regard this part of the subject as the most important of all. Hitherto I have spoken generally of the great leading principles which must guide us in inquiring about the work the the Holy Spirit. I must now come closer, and speak of the special marks by which the presence of the Holy Spirit in any individual heart may be discerned. Happily, with the Bible for our light, these marks are not hard to find out.

Some things I wish to premise before entering fully into the subject. It is needful in order to clear the way.

(a) I grant freely that there are some deep mysteries about the work of the Spirit. I cannot explain the manner of His coming into the heart. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." (John 3;8). I cannot explain why He comes into one heart and not into another. - why He condescends to dwell in this man and not in that. I only know that so it is. He acts as a sovereign. To use the words of the Church Catechism, He sanctifieth "the elect people of God." But I remember also that I cannot explain why I was born in Christian England, and not in heathen Africa. I am satisfied to believe that all God's work is well done. It is enough for me to be in the King's court, without being of the King's counsel.

(b) I grant freely that there are great diversities in the operations by which the Spirit carries on His work in men's souls. There are differences in the ages at which He begins to enter the heart. With some He begins young, as with John the Baptist and Timothy: with some he begins old, as with Manasseh and Zacchaeus. There are differences in the feelings which He first stirs up in the heart. He leads some by strong terror and alarm, like the jailer at Philippi. He leads some by gently opening their hearts to receive the truth, as Lydia, the purple seller. There are differences in the time occupied in effecting this complete change of character. With some the change is immediate and sudden, as it was with Saul when he journeyed to Damascus: with others it is gradual and slow, as it was with Nicodemus the Pharisee. There are differences in the instruments He uses in first awakening the soul from its natural death. With some He uses a sermon, with others the Bible, with others a tract, with others a friend's advice, with others a sickness or affliction, with others no one particular thing that  can be distinctly traced. All this is most important to understand. To require all persons to be squared down to one kind of experience is a most grievous mistake.

(c) I grant freely that the beginnings of the Spirit's work are often small and imperceptible. The seed from which the spiritual character is formed is often very minute at first. The fountain-head of the spiritual life, like that of many a mighty river, is frequently at its outset a little trickling stream. The beginnings therefore of the Spirit's work in a soul are generally overlooked by the world, very frequently not duly valued and encouraged by other Christians - and almost without exception thoroughly misunderstood by the soul itself which is the subject of them. Let that never be forgotten. The man in whom the Spirit begins to work is never hardly aware, till long afterwards, that his state of mind about the time of his conversion arose from the entrance of the Holy Spirit.

But still, after all these concessions and allowances, there are certain great leading effects which the Spirit produces on the soul in which He dwells, which are always one and the same. Those who have the Spirit may be led at first by different paths, but they are always brought sooner or later, into one and the same narrow way. Their leading opinions in religion are the same; their leading desires are the same; their general walk is the same. They may differ from one another widely in their natural character, but their spiritual character, in its main features, is always one. The Holy Spirit always produces one general kind of effects. Shades and varieties there are no doubt in the experience of those on whose hearts He works, but the general outline of their faith and life is always the same.

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 6)

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