Wherever these five great marks of the Spirit are wanting, we have just cause to be afraid about a man's soul. Visible Churches may endorse him, sacraments may be administered to him, forms of prayer may be read over him, ministers may charitably speak of him as "brother," - but all this does not alter the real state of things. The man is in the broad way that leadeth to destruction. Without the Spirit he is without Christ. Without Christ he is without God. Without God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, he is in imminent danger. The Lord have mercy upon his soul!
I hasten on now towards a conclusion. I desire to wind up all I have been saying by a few words of direct personal application.
(1) In the first place, let me ask a question of all who real this paper. It is a short and simple one, and grows naturally out of the subject. "Have you, or have you not, the Spirit of Christ?"
I am not afraid to ask this question. I will not be stopped by the commonplace remark that it is absurd, enthusiastic, unreasonable to ask such questions in the present day. I take my stand on a plain declaration of Scripture. I find an inspired Apostle saying, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His." I want to know what can be more reasonable than to press on your conscience the inquiry, "Have you the Spirit of Christ?"
I will not be stopped by the foolish observation, that no man can tell in this world whether or not he has the Spirit. No man can tell! Then what was the Bible given to us for? Where is the use of the Scriptures if we cannot discover whether we are going to heaven or hell? The thing I ask can be known. The evidences of the Spirit's presence in the soul are simple, plain, and intelligible. No honest inquirer needs miss the way in this matter. You may find out whether you have the Holy Spirit.
I entreat you not to evade the question I have now asked. I beseech you to allow it to work inwardly in your heart. I charge you, as ever you would be saved, to give it an honest answer. Baptism, Church-membership, respectability, morality, outward correctness, are all excellent things. But do not be content with them. Go deeper: look further. "Have you received the Holy Spirit? Have you the Spirit of Christ? *
(2) Let me, in the next place, offer a solemn warning to all who feel in their own consciences that they have not the Spirit of Christ. That warning is short and simple, if you have not the Spirit, you are not yet Christ's people: you are "none of His."
Think for a moment how much is involved in those few words, "none of His." You are not washed in Christ's blood! You are not clothed in His righteousness! You are not justified! You are not interceded for! Your sins are yet upon you! The devil claims you for his own! The pit opens her mouth for you! The torments of hell wait for you!
I have no desire to create needless fear. I only want sensible people to look calmly at things as they are. I only want one plain text of Scripture to be duly weighed. It is written "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." And I say in the sight of such a text, if you die without the Spirit, you had better never have been born.
(3) Let me, in the next place, give an earnest invitation to all who feel that they have not the Spirit. That invitation is short and simple. Go and cry to God this day in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured down on your soul.
There is every possible encouragement to do this. There is warrant of Scripture for doing it. "Turn you at my reproof, - I will pour out my Spirit upon you. I will make known my words unto you." If ye, 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." (Proverbs 1:23; Luke 11:13). There is warrant in the experience of thousands for doing it. Thousands will rise at the last day, and testify that when thy prayed they were heart, and when they sought grace, they found it.Above all, there is warrant in the person and character of our Lord Jesus Christ. He waits to be gracious. He invites sinners to come to Him. He rejects none that come. He gives "power to all who receive Him by faith and come to him, to become the sons of God." (John 1:12).
Go then to Jesus, as a needy, wanting, humble, contrite sinner, and you shall not go in vain. Cry to Him mightily about your soul, and you shall not cry to no purpose. Confess to Him your need, and guilt, and fear, and danger, and He will not despise you. Ask, and you shall receive. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you. I testify to the chief of sinners this day, that there is enough in Christ, and to spare, for your soul. Come, come: come, this very day. Come to Christ!
(4) Let me, in the last place, give a parting word of exhortation to all readers of this paper who have received the Spirit of Christ, to the penitent, the believing, the holy, the praying, the lovers of the Word of God. That exhortation shall consist of three simple things.
(a) For one thing, be thankful for the Spirit. Who has made you to differ? Whence came all these feelings in your heart, which thousands around you know not, and you yourself knew not at one time? To what do you owe that sense of sin, and that drawing towards Christ, and that hunger and thirst after righteousness, and that taste for the Bible and prayer, which, with all your doubts and infirmities, you find within your soul?
Did these things come of nature? Oh, no! Did you learn these things in the schools of this world? Oh, no: no! They are all of grace. Grace sowed them, grace watered them, grace began them, grace has kept them up. Learn to be more thankful. Praise God more every day you live: praise Him more in private, praise Him more in public, praise Him in your own family, praise Him above all in your own heart. This is the way to be in tune for heaven. The anthem there will be, "What hath God wrought?"
(b) For another thing, be filled with the Spirit. Seek to be more and more under His blessed influence. Strive to have every thought, and word, and action, and habit, brought under obedience to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Grieve Him not by inconsistencies and conformity to the world. Quench Him not by trifling with little infirmities and small besetting sins. Seek rather to have Him ruling and reigning more completely over you every week that you live. Pray that you may yearly grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ. This is the way to do good to the world. An eminent Christian is a light-house, seen far and wide by others, and doing good to myriads, whom he never knows. This is the way to enjoy much inward comfort in this world, to have bright assurance in death, to leave broad evidences behind us, and at last to receive a great crown.
(c) Finally, pray daily for a great outpouring of the Spirit on the Church and on the world. This is the grand want of the day: it is the thing that we need far more than money, machinery, and men. The "company of preachers" in Christiandom is far greater than it was in the days of Paul; but the actual spiritual work done in the earth, in proportion to the means used, is undoubtedly far less. We want more of the presence of the Holy Spirit, more in the pulpit, and more in the congregation, more in the pastoral visit, and more in the school. Where He is, there will be life, health, growth, and fruitfulness. Where He is not, all will be dead, tame, formal, sleepy and cold. Then let every one who desires to see an increase of pure and undefiled religion, pray daily for more of the presence of the Holy Spirit in every branch of the visible Church of Christ.
~J. C. Ryle~
* It is a good sign of grace when a man is willing to search and examine himself, whether he be gracious or not. There is a certain instinct in a child of God, whereby he naturally desires to have the title of his legitimation tried; whereas a hypocrite dreads nothing more than to have his rottenness searched into." (Hopkins)