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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Holy Spirit # 6

(b) Is there a Romanist, or semi-Romanist reading this paper, who tried to persuade himself that all baptized people, and members of the Church, as a matter of course, have the Holy Spirit? I tell you plainly that you are deceiving yourself, if you dream that the Spirit is in a man, when His presence cannot be seen. Go and learn this day that the presence of the Holy Spirit is to be tested, not by the name in the register, or the place n the family pew, but by the visible fruits in a man's life.

(c) Is there a worldly man reading this paper, who regards all claims to the indwelling of the Spirit as so much enthusiasm and fanaticism? I warn you also to take heed what you are about. No doubt there is plenty of hypocrisy and false profession in the Churches; no doubt there are thousands whose religious feelings are mere delusion. But bad money is no proof that there is no such thing as good coin: the abuse of a thing does not destroy the use of it. The Bible tells us plainly that there are certain hopes, and joys, and sorrows, and inward feelings, inseparable from the work of the Spirit of God. Go and learn this day that you have not received the Holy Spirit, if His presence within you has not been felt.

(d) Is there an excuse-making indolent person reading this paper, who comforts himself with the thought that decided Christianity is an impossible thing, and that in a world like this he cannot serve Christ? Your excuses will not avail you. The power of the Holy Spirit is offered to you without money and without price. God and learn this day that there is strength to be had for the asking. Through the Spirit, whom the Lord Jesus offers to give to you, all difficulties may be overcome.

Is there a fanatic reading this paper, who fancies that it matters nothing whether a man stays at home or goes to church, and that if a man is to be saved, he will be saved in spite of himself? I tell you also this day, that you have much to learn. God and learn that the Holy Spirit ordinarily works through the use of means of grace, and that it is by "hearing" that faith generally comes into the soul." (Romans 10:17).

I leave this branch of my subject here, and pass on. I leave it with a sorrowful conviction that nothing in religion so shows the blindness of natural man as his inability to receive the teachings of Scriptures on the manner of the Holy Spirit's operations. To quote the saying of our Divine Master, - "The world cannot receive Him." (John 14:17). To use the words of Ambrose Serle: "This operation of the Spirit hath been, and ever will be, an incomprehensible business to those who have not known it in themselves. Like Nicodemus, and other masters in Israel, they will reason and re-reason, till they puzzle and perplex themselves, by darkening counsel without knowledge; and when they cannot make out the matter, will give the strongest proof of all that they know nothing of it, by fretting and raving, and calling hard names, and saying, in short, that there is no such thing."

4. I propose, in the last place, to consider the marks and evidences by which the presence of the Holy Spirit in a man's heart may be known.

Last as this point comes in order, it is anything but last in importance. In fact, it is that view of the Holy Spirit which demands the closest attention of every professing Christian. We have seen something of the place assigned to the Holy Spirit in the Bible. We have seen something of the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit to a man's salvation. We have seen something of the manner of the Holy Spirit's operations. And now comes the mighty question, which ought to interest every reader: "How are we to know whether we are partakers of the Holy Spirit? By what marks may we find out whether we have the Spirit of Christ?"

I will begin by taking it for granted that the question I have just asked may be answered. Where is the use of our Bibles, if we cannot find out whether we are in the way to heaven? Let it be a settled principle in our Christianity, that a man may know whether or not he has the Holy Spirit. Let us dismiss from our minds once and for ever the many unscriptural evidences of the Spirit's presence  with which thousands content themselves.  Reception of the sacraments and membership of the visible Church are NO proofs whatever that we "have the Spirit of Christ." In short, I call it a short cut to the grossest antinomianism to talk of a man having the Holy Spirit so long as he serves sin and the world.

The presence of the Holy Spirit in a man's heart can only be known by the fruits and effects He produces. Mysterious and invisible to mortal eye as His operations are, they always lead to certain visible and tangible results. Just as you know the compass needle to be magnetized by its turning to the north - just as you know there is life in a tree by its sap, buds, leaves and fruits, just as you know there is a steersman on board a ship by its keeping a steady regular course, just so you may know the Spirit to be in a man's heart by the influence He exercises over his thoughts, affections, opinions, habits and life. I lay this down broadly and unhesitatingly. I find no safe ground to occupy excepting this. I see no safeguard against the wildest enthusiasm, excepting in this position. And I see it clearly marked out in our Lord Jesus Christ's words: "Every tree is know by his own fruit." (Luke 6:44).

But what are the specific fruits by which the presence of the Spirit in the heart may be known? I find no difficulty in answering that question. The Holy Spirit always works after a certain definite pattern. Just as the bee always forms the cells of its comb in one regular hexagonal shape, so does the Spirit of God work on the heart of man with one uniform result. His work is the work of a master. The world may see no beauty in it: it is foolishness to the natural man. But "he that is spiritual discerneth all things." (1 Corinthians 2:15). A well-instructed Christian knows well the fruits of the Spirit of God. Let me briefly set them before you in order. They are all clear and unmistakable, "plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge." (Proverbs 8:9).

(1) Where the Holy Spirit is, there will always be deep conviction of sin, and true repentance for it. It is His special office to convince of sin. (John 16:8). He shows the exceeding holiness of God. He teaches the exceeding corruption and infirmity of our nature. He strips us of our blind self-righteousness. He opens our eyes to our awful guilt, folly and danger. He fills the heart with sorrow, contrition, and abhorrence for sin, as the abominable thing which God hateth. He that knows nothing of all this, and saunters carelessly through life, thoughtless about sin, and indifferent and unconcerned about his soul, is a dead man before God. He has not the Spirit of Christ.

~J. C. Ryle~

(continued with # 7)

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