And now let me finish by a few practical remarks which arise naturally out of the matter it contains.
(a) Would you know, first of all, what is your own immediate duty?
You ought to examine yourself calmly about the subject which I have been trying to set before you. You ought to ask yourself seriously how the doctrine of the Holy Spirit affects your soul. Look away, I beseech you for a few minutes, to higher things than the things of earth, and more important things than the things of time. Bear with me, while I ask you a plain question. I ask it solemnly and affectionately, as one who desires your salvation, - Have you the Holy Spirit?
Remember, I do not ask whether you think all I have been saying is true, and right, and good. I ask whether you yourself, who are reading these lines, have within you the Holy Spirit?
Remember, I do not ask whether you believe that the Holy Spirit is given to the Church of Christ, and that all who belong to the Church are within reach of His operations. I ask whether you yourself have the Holy Spirit in your own heart?
Remember, I do not ask whether you sometimes feel strivings of conscience, and good desires flitting about within you. I ask whether you have really experienced the quickening and reviving work of the Holy Spirit upon your heart?
Remember, I do not ask you to tell me the day or month when the Spirit began His work in you. It is enough for me if fruit trees bear fruit, without inquiring the precise time when they were planted. But I do ask, Are you bringing forth any fruits of the Spirit?
Remember, I do not ask whether you are a perfect person, and never feel anything evil within. But I do ask, gravely and seriously, whether you have about your heart and life the marks of the Spirit?
I hope you will not tell me you do not know what the marks of the Spirit are. I have described them plainly. I now repeat them briefly, and press them on your attention.
1. The Spirit quickens men's hearts. 2. The Spirit teaches men's minds. 3. The Spirit leads to the Word. 4. The Spirit convinces of sin. 5. The Spirit makes draws to Christ. 6. The Spirit convinces of sin. 5. The Spirit makes men spiritually minded. 8. The Spirit produces inward conflict. 9. The Spirit makes men love the brethren. 10. The Spirit teaches to pray. These are the great marks of the Holy Spirit's presence. Put the question to your consciences like a man, - Has the Spirit done anything of this kind for your soul?
I charge you not to let many days pass away without trying to answer my question. I summon you, as a faithful watchman knocking at the door of your heart, to bring the matter to an issue. We live in an old, worn-out, sin-laden world. Who can tell what "a day may bring forth?" Who shall live to see another year? Have you the Spirit? (Proverbs 17:1).
(b) Would you know, in the next place, what is the grand defect of the Christianity of our times?
The grand defect I speak of is simply this, - that the Christianity of many people is not real Christianity at all. I know that such an opinion sounds hard and shockingly uncharitable. I cannot help that: I am satisfied that it sadly true. I only want people's Christianity to be that of the Bible; but I doubt exceedingly, in many cases, whether it is so.
There are multitudes of people, I believe, who go to church or chapel every Sunday merely as a form. Their fathers or mothers went, and so they go; it is the fashion of the country to go, and so they go; it is the custom to attend a religious service and hear a sermon, and so they go. But as to real, vital, saving religion, they neither know nor care anything about it. They can give no account of the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel. Justification, and regeneration, and sanctification are "words and names" which they cannot explain. They may have a sort of vague idea that they ought to go to the Lord's Table, and may be able to say a few vague words about Christ, but they have no intelligent notion of the way of salvation. As to the Holy Spirit, they can scarcely say more about Him than that they have heard His name, and repeated it in the Belief.
Now, if any reader is conscious that his religion is such as I have described, I will only warn him affectionately to remember that such religion is utterly useless. It will neither save, comfort, satisfy, nor sanctify his soul. And the plain advice I give him is to change it for something better without delay. Remember my words, It will not do at the last.
(c) Would you know, in the next place, one truth in the Gospel about which we need to be especially jealous in this day?
The truth which I have in view is the truth about the work of the Holy Spirit. All truth no doubt is constantly assailed by satan. I have no desire for a moment to exaggerate the office of the Spirit, and to exalt Him above the Son and Center of the Gospel, Jesus Christ. But I do believe that, next to the priestly office of Christ, no truth in the present day is so frequently lost sight of, and so cunningly assailed, as the work of the Holy Spirit. Some injure it by ignorant neglect; their talk is all about Christ. They can tell you something about "the Saviour;" but if you ask them about that inward work of the Spirit which all who really know the Saviour experience, they have not a word to say. Some injure the work of the Holy Spirit by taking it all for granted. Membership of the Church, participation of the Sacraments, become their substitutes for conversion and spiritual regeneration. Some injure the work of the Spirit by confounding it with the action of natural conscience. according to this low view, none but the most hardened and degraded of mankind are destitute of the Holy Spirit. Against all such departures from the truth let us watch and be on our guard. Let us beware f leaving the proportion o Gospel statements. Let one of our chief watchwords in the present day be, - No salvation without the inward woke of the Holy Spirit! No inward work of the Holy Spirit unless it can be seen, felt, and known! No saving work of the Spirit which does not show itself in repentance towards God, and living faith towards Jesus Christ!
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 10)