The one true God and His Spirit
The "knowledge of God" is an essential
feature of Christian attainment, according to the apostolic standard.
Those "who know not God" are among those whom vengeance
is to overtake (2 Thess.1:8). Knowledge of God is the basis of
sonship to God. Without it, we cannot enter the divine family.
How can we love and serve a being whom we do not know? Knowledge
is the foundation of all. It is the rock upon which everlasting
life itself is built. "This is life eternal, that they might
know thee, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
we find this knowledge? We cannot find it where we please. It is
to be found only where God has placed it. It is to be found in the
Scriptures. We cannot get it anywhere else. Nature tells
us something. The consummate wisdom of all her arrangements - the
ineffable skill displayed in the construction of even the smallest
creature, show us the presence, in the universe, of a supreme designing
and perfect intelligence, but nature can do no more. It can tell
us God is, because he must be, but it can tell us nothing of his
being, his character, his purpose, his will with regard to man,
or his object in forming the universe. Speculations on these points
only lead to the monstrosities of ancient and modern heathenism.
That a revelation of himself has
come from the Creator of all things will excite the highest admiration
and gratitude in every mind that is enabled to realise what this
stupendous privilege means. Peace now and life everlasting for the
endless ages coming is easily spoken of: but who can measure the
wealth of wellbeing involved in the words? This wealth comes with
the knowledge God has given: and the knowledge he has given us comes
to us through the Bible, and through no other mediumship in our
But we are in a peculiar position
with regard to this knowledge. It no longer shines before us in
its pristine simplicity and glory. Along with almost every other
item of divine truth, it has been covered up in the most dangerous
way by the organised Apostasy from original truth, which obtained
ascendancy in Christendom very early in the Christian era. The Apostasy
does not professedly deny the God revealed in the Bible. On the
contrary, it makes an ostentatious profession of belief in him.
It holds up the Bible in its hand and declares it to be the source
of its faith that the God of Israel is its God. In this way, the
impression is made universally that the God of popular religion
is the God of the Bible, so that in reading the Bible, people do
not read critically on the subject, but necessarily and as a matter
of course, recognise the popular God in the phrases by which the
Bible designates the God of Israel. If the case were otherwise -
if popular theology in words denied the God of the Jews, and asserted
its own conceptions in opposition to Hebrew revelation, there would
be a greater likelihood that people would come to a knowledge of
what God has truly revealed concerning himself, because they would
be prepared to sit down clear-headedly, discriminatingly, and independently
to ascertain what the Deity of Hebrew revelation is. As it is, people
are misled, and find the greatest difficulty in rousing themselves
to an apprehension of the difference between the orthodox God and
the Bible Deity, and the importance of discerning it.
Popular theology says that God is
three eternal elements, all equally increate and self-sustaining,
and all equally powerful, each equally personal and distinct from
the other, and yet all forming a complete single personal unity.
There is, say they, "God the Father, God the Son, and God the
Holy Spirit", each "very God", each without a beginning,
each omnipotent and separate from the other, and yet all one.
If we ask why one of these elements
should be called the Father, not having preceded or given existence
to the others; and why another should be called the Son, not having
been brought into existence by the Father, but co-eternal with him;
and why the third should be called the Holy Spirit, since both "God
the Father" and "God the Son" are holy and spiritual,
we are not met with an explanation. Popular theology contents itself
with saying that the truth is so - that there are three in one and
one in three: that as to how such a thing can be, it cannot say,
as it is a great mystery. Mystery indeed! There are mysteries enough
in creation - things, that is, that are inscrutable to the human
intellect, such as the ultimate nature of light and life; but Trinitarianism
propounds - not a mystery, but a contradiction - a stultification
- an impossibility. It professes to convey an idea, and no sooner
expresses it than it withdraws it, and contradicts it. It says there
is one God, yet not one but three, and that the three are not three
but one. It is a mere juggle of words, a bewilderment and confusion
to the mind, all the more dangerous, because the theory for which
it is an apology, employs in some measure the language of the Bible,
which talks to us of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
When we look at the Bible representation
of the "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit", we find it in accord
with a rational conception of things, enlightening the understanding
as well as satisfying the heart - agreeing with experience, as well
as revealing something beyond actual observation. We find it to
supply that consistent and intelligible information of the First
Cause of all things which man craves, and information of a character
such as would be expected to come from such a source.
To begin with "The Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ " (Ephesians 3:14), as God is apostolically
described, who was made known to Israel by the angels, revealed
through the prophets, and manifested in Jesus. The first thing revealed
about him is his absolute unity. He is declared to be one.
This is one of the most conspicuous features of what is revealed
on the subject. We submit a few illustrations of the testimony:
Moses to Israel:
"Hear, O Israel, the Lord
our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy
Jesus to one of the Scribes:
"Jesus answered him, The
first of all the commandments, is, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our
God is one Lord" (Mark 12:29).
Paul to the Corinthian believers:
"To us there is but one
God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we
in him" (1 Corinthians 8:6).
Paul to the Ephesians:
"There is one
God and Father of all,
who is above all, and through all, and
in you all" (Ephesians 4:6).
Paul to Timothy:
"There is one
God, and one mediator between God and men, the man
Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).
With these statements agree the
Almighty’s declarations of himself of which the following
"I am God, and there
is none else . . . and there is none like me, declaring
the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that
are not yet done" (Isaiah 46:9-10).
"I am the Lord, and there
is none else: there is no God beside me"
"Thus saith the Lord, the
King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts: I am the
first and I am the last, and beside me there is no
God...Is there a God beside Me? Yea, there is no
God; I know not any" (Isaiah 44:6,8).
These testimonies say that all things
are out of the Father. But where is the
father? Does his name not imply that he is the
source? And, being the Source, is he not the centre
of creation? Some shrink from the suggestion that Deity has a located
existence. Why should they? The Scriptures expressly teach the located
existence of Deity. We submit the evidence:
Paul says God dwells
"in the light
which no man can approach unto" (1Timothy 6:16).
Here is a localisation of the person
of the Creator. If God were on earth in the same sense in which
he dwells in light unapproachable, what
could Paul mean by saying that man cannot approach? If God dwells
in unapproachable light, he must have
an existence there, which is not manifested in this mundane sphere.
This is borne out by Solomon's words:
"God is in heaven,
and thou upon earth, therefore let thy words be few" (Ecclesiastes
Jesus inculcates the same view in
the prayer which he taught his disciples: "Our Father which
art in heaven".
So does David:
"He (the Lord) hath looked
down from the height of his sanctuary;
from heaven did the Lord behold the
earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner" (Psalm 102:19-20).
even the heavens, are the Lord’s;
but the earth hath he given to the children of men" (Psalm
Solomon in the prayer by which he
dedicated the temple to God made frequent use of this expression:
"Hear thou in
heaven thy dwelling place" (1 Kings 8).
It is impossible to mistake the
tenor of these testimonies: they plainly mean that the Father of
all is a person who exists in the central heaven of
heavens as he exists nowhere else. By his Spirit in
immensely-filling diffusion, he is everywhere present in the sense
of holding and knowing, and being conscious of creation to its utmost
bounds; but in his proper person, all-glorious, beyond human power
to conceive, he dwells in heaven.
Consider the ascension of our Lord,
after his resurrection, and mark its tendency in this direction.
"He was parted from them,
and carried up into heaven" (Luke
and Mark reiterates the statement:
"He was received up into
heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark
These statements can only be understood
on the principle that the Deity has a personal manifested existence
in "the heavens". What part
of the wide heavens this honoured spot may occupy, we cannot and
need not know.
There is great and invincible repugnance
to this evidently Scriptural and reasonable, and beautiful view
of the matter. It is the popular habit, where serious views of God
are entertained at all, to conceive of him as a principle or energy
in universal diffusion - without corporeal nucleus, without local
habitation, "without body or parts". There is no ground
for this popular predilection, except such as philosophy may be
supposed to furnish. Philosophy is a poor guide in the matter. Philosophy,
after all, is only human thought. It can have little weight in a
matter confessedly beyond human ken. The question is, What is revealed?
We need not be concerned if what is revealed is contrary to philosophical
conception of the matter. Philosophical conceptions are just as
likely to be wrong as right. Paul warns believers against the danger
of being spoiled through philosophy (Colossians 2:8). Philosophy
or no philosophy, the Scriptures quoted plainly teach that the Father
is a tangible person, in whom all the powers of the Universe converge.
There is other evidence in the occurrences
at Mount Sinai. There Moses had intercourse with the Deity. We will
not say that the Being with whom he had this intercourse was actually
the eternal one, because it is evident,
from what Stephen and Paul teach, that it was an angelic manifestation
(Acts 7:38,53; Hebrews 2:2); and because John declares no man hath
seen God at any time (John 1:18). Yet it is affirmed that to Moses
it was a similitude of Jehovah (Numbers 12:8). It was, therefore,
a manifestation of the Deity; and, if so, it illustrated the reality
of the Deity; for the Deity must be higher, greater, and more real
than his subordinate manifestations. The testimony is as follows:
"The Lord said unto Moses,
Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud,
that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee
for ever.... Be ready against the third day: for the third day
The LORD will come down in the sight
of all the people upon Mount Sinai . . . And it came to pass on
the third day in the morning, that there were thunders
and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the Mount,
and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud, so that all the people
that were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people
out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the nether
part of the Mount.
And Mount Sinai was altogether
on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in
fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke
of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.... And God spake
all these words (the ten commandments) . . . And all the people
saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the
trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it,
they removed and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak
thou with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us lest
we die.... And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near
unto the thick darkness, where God was.
And the Lord said unto Moses, ye have seen that I have talked
with you from heaven", etc. (Exodus 19:9,11,16-18: 20:1,18-22).
All subsequent reference to these
things is founded on the idea that they are related to a real person
and presence. Thus we read:
"With (Moses) will I speak
mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches, and
the similitude: of the Lord shall he
behold" (Numbers 12:8).
"And the Lord spake unto
Moses face to face, as a man speaketh
unto his friend" (Exodus 33:11).
"And there arose not a prophet
since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face"
Now, though the manifestation witnessed
in these cases was a manifestation through angelic mediumship, yet
the manifestation speaks to us of a Being higher and more real than
that manifestation. It helps the mind to climb to some conception
(though necessarily superficial and inadequate) of him
"who maketh his angels spirits;
his ministers a flaming fire" (Psalm 104:4);
"who is light, and in whom
is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5);
"who inhabiteth eternity"
"who is a consuming fire"
"whom no man hath seen, nor
(on account of our grossness and weakness of nature) can see;
who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man
can approach unto" (1 Timothy 6:16);
"who is of purer eyes than
to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity" (Habakkuk
"who is the everlasting God,
the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who fainteth not,
neither is weary, and there is no searching of his understanding"
"Who hath measured the waters
in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span,
and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed
the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath
directed the Spirit of the Lord, or, being his counsellor, hath
taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him
and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge,
and showed to him the way of understanding? . . . All nations
before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him less than
nothing, and vanity. To whom, then, will ye liken God? or what
likeness will ye compare unto him?" (Isaiah 40:12-18).
"Who can, by searching, find
out God?" (Job 11:7).
"Behold, God is great, and
we know him not; neither can the number of his years be searched
out. His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings"
(Job 36:26; 34:21).
The testimony before us is, that
God is the only underived and self-sustaining existence in the universe.
All other forms of life are but incorporations of the life which
is in him - so many subdivisions of the stream which issues from
the great fountainhead. The following statements affirm this view:
"The King of kings, and Lord
of lords, who only hath immortality
dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto" (1
we live, and move, and have our being"
"For of him, and through
him, and to him are all things"
"To us there is but one God,
the Father, of whom are all things"
(1 Corinthians 8:6).
Popular theology teaches that God
made all things "out of nothing". This is evidently one
of many errors that have long passed current as truth. It has proved
an unfortunate error; for it has brought physical science into needless
collision with the Bible. Physical science has compelled men to
accept it as an axiomatic truth that "out of nothing, nothing
can come", and having been led to believe that the Bible teaches
that all things have been made out of nothing, they have dismissed
the Bible as out of the question on that ground alone. They have
taken refuge by preference in various theories that have recognised
the eternity of material force in some form or other.
The Bible teaches that all things
have been made out of God - not out of nothing. It teaches, as the
passages quoted show, that God, as the antecedent, eternal power
of the universe, has elaborated all things out of himself. "Spirit",
irradiating from him, has, under the fiat of his will, been embodied
in the vast material creation which we behold. That Spirit now constitutes
the substratum of all existence, the very essence and first cause
of everything. All things are "in God", because embraced
in that mighty effluence which radiating from himself, fills all
space, and constitutes the basis of all existence. In this way God
is omnipresent; his consciousness is en rapport with all creation
by reason of the universal prevalence of his Spirit, which is one
with his personal Spirit-substance, in the way that light is one
with the body of the sun. The idea of God’s omniscience is
too high for us to readily grasp, but we see it illustrated on a
small scale in the fact that the human brain in certain sensitive
states is conscious of everything within the radius of its own nervous
effluence. Though located in the heavens, the Creator, by his universal
Spirit, knows everything; and his infinite capacity of mind enables
him to deal with everything, contemplatively or executively, as
the case may require.
The Spirit is much spoken of throughout
the whole course of Scripture. We are introduced to it as early
as the first chapter of Genesis, and only part from its company
in the last chapter of Revelation. We get a key to the subject in
the fact testified, that the Father is "spirit" in his
personal substance ("God is spirit" - John 4:24), and
that the Spirit in its diffusion has to do with the Father, for
he styles it "My spirit" (Genesis 6:3). Nehemiah says,
"Thou testifiedst against
them (our fathers) by thy spirit in
thy prophets" (Nehemiah 9:30).
The Father and the Spirit are one.
yet there is a distinction between the Father and the Spirit as
to the form in which they are presented to our apprehension. Of
the former, as we have seen, it is testified that he dwells "in
heaven in unapproachable light", and is therefore, located;
while of the latter, it is declared that it is everywhere alike.
"Whither shall I go from
thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy even there shall
thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me; if I say,
Surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light
about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee, but the night
shineth as the day. The darkness and the light are both alike
to thee" (Psalms 139:7-12).
But, in addition to its universality
of diffusion, the Spirit is also presented in the aspect of an agency
used by the Father in the accomplishment of his designs. Thus, in
speaking of the origin of the various tribes of living creatures
that inhabit the earth, David says,
"Thou sendest forth thy
spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the
face of the earth" (Psalm 104:30).
"By his spirit he hath garnished
the heavens" (Job 26:13).
"The spirit of God hath made
me; and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job
"The Spirit of God moved
upon the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2).
Also, how frequently throughout
the history of Israel we read the words that the "Spirit of
God came upon" this and that prophet, when anything wonderful
was accomplished (e.g., Judges 15:14). All prophecy and revelation
were communicated in the same way.
"Thou testifiedst . . . by
Thy spirit in Thy prophets" (Nehemiah 9:30).
"I am full of power by the
spirit of the Lord" (Micah 3:8).
"Holy men of God spake as
they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).
Spirit concentrated under the Almighty’s
will, becomes Holy Spirit, as distinct from spirit in its free,
spontaneous form. In the one, we are in the domain of fixed law;
in the other, God is in communion with us for words of wisdom or
works of power, independently of fixed law. It is given to but few
to experience this form of the Spirit’s manifestation. It
is given to none in the present day. The apostles were the recipients
of it on the day of Pentecost. Its power was real and felt. Its
influx was accompanied with the sound of a mighty wind, that shook
the material fabric of the building in which they were assembled.
Its results were manifest, God’s hand was upon the apostles,
and they were endowed with powers above natural law. They were enabled
by the Spirit to speak fluently in languages they had never learnt;
not in unknown tongues, but words which were identified by the bystanders
as the current languages of the time. These bystanders were Jews
and proselytes from the various countries of the globe, assembled
to keep the feast of Pentecost at Jerusalem. When they heard the
apostles, they said:
"Are not all these which
speak Galileans? And how hear we every man in our
own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, and
Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea
and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in
Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of
Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them
speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God" (Acts 2:7-11).
By the same power, the apostles
were instructed in things they did not know naturally, according
to the promise of Christ.
"When he, the Spirit of Truth,
is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak
of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak,
and he shall show you things to come" (John 16:13).
It also endowed them with miraculous
power, evinced in the instantaneous cure of disease, the raising
of the dead, and other wonderful works. The Spirit was the medium,
instrumentality, or power by which these things were done. It was
a reality, a palpably present something pervading the persons of
the apostles. Thus, from the body of Paul "were brought unto
the sick, handkerchiefs, or aprons, and the diseases departed from
them, and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11-12).
The healing spirit-power in Paul could be conveyed in conducting
media, and brought medically to bear on the afflicted. Thus, also
the shadow of Peter crossing the sick was efficacious for cure (Acts
5:15). The same peculiarity is apparent in the case of Jesus, to
whom the Spirit was given without measure (John 3:34). When a certain
afflicted woman in a crowd came stealthily behind him and touched
the hem of his garment, that she might receive benefit, Jesus "perceived
that virtue had gone out of him" (Luke 8:46; Matt.14:35-36).
These miraculous powers were necessary
to qualify the apostles for the performance of the work they had
to do. That work was to bear witness to the resurrection of Christ
(Acts 2:22), as the basis of the truth built upon that fact. Now,
how could they have done this with any effect if their testimony
had not been miraculously confirmed? How could they have obtained
credence to the naturally incredible announcement that a man publicly
executed by the Romans had been secretly raised from the dead, unless
their words had been confirmed by the power alleged to be on their
side? It is true the apostles were witnesses, in a natural sense,
of the fact that Christ was alive, and would have steadily maintained
their testimony to the fact, even if God had not worked with them,
but how could the work of getting many to believe their testimony
have been accomplished? The earnest protestation of belief on the
part of the apostles, though it might have influenced a few, could
not have produced that widespread conviction which was necessary
to the creation of the Body of Christ. The effusion of the Holy
Spirit did this. By the manifestation of supernatural powers, it
bore witness to the truth of what the apostles declared. It is said,
"They went forth, and preached
everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word
with signs followings" (Mark 16:20).
Paul describes the case in similar
"The great salvation which
at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed
unto us by them that heard him, God also bearing them witness
with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of
the Holy Spirit" (Hebrews 2:3-4).
In this sense, the Holy Spirit is
styled a witness of Christ’s resurrection;
"The God of our fathers raised
up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree, ... and we are his
witnesses of these things, and so is also the Holy
Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him"
This is in accordance with what
Christ had said:
"When the Comforter is come,
whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of
Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.
And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from
the beginning" (John 15:26-27).
The power granted to the apostles
for the confirmation of their testimony, was deposited in them as
heavenly treasure in an earthen vessel, and they had the power of
imparting it to others. This is evident from an incident recorded
in Acts 8. Philip, the evangelist, went down to Samaria, and so
proclaimed the truth (of which miraculous attestation was produced
by him), that many believed and were baptised; but these did not
at the time receive the gift of the Holy Spirit:
"Now when the apostles which
were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of
God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they were come
down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit
(for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptised
in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands on
them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that
through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit
was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power,
that, on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit"
This power of bestowing the Spirit
was invariably exercised where the truth was received. In almost
every case recorded, the reception of the Spirit followed the reception
of the truth. It was, indeed, a matter of promise that this should
be so. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said,
"Repent, and be baptised
every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission
of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; for
the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that
are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call"
This promise was realised in the
experience of the churches founded in the days of the apostles.
The spirit distributed to believers its preternatural powers in
different forms and degrees. Paul says:
"There are diversities of
operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But
the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit
withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;
to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another
faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the
same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy;
to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues;
to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh
that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally
as he will" (1 Corinthians 12:6-11).
The object of this general diffusion
of spiritual power in apostolic times, is thus stated by Paul:
"He gave some apostles; and
some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers,
for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,
for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the
unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto
a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness
of Christ, that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and
fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight
of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive"
This is perfectly intelligible.
If the early churches, consisting of men and women fresh from the
abominations and immoralities of heathenism, and without the authoritative
standard of the completed Scripture which now exists, had been left
to the mere power of apostolic tradition intellectually received,
they could not have held together. The winds of doctrine, blowing
about through the activity of "men of corrupt minds",
would have broken them from their moorings, and they would have
been tossed to and fro in the billows of uncertain and conflicting
report and opinion, and finally stranded in hopeless shipwreck.
This catastrophe was prevented by the gifts of the Spirit. Properly
qualified men, morally and intellectually, were made the repositories
of these gifts, and empowered to "speak and exhort, and rebuke
with all authority". They "ruled" the communities
over which they were placed, feeding the flock of God over which
the Holy Spirit had made them overseers, taking the oversight thereof,
not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a
ready mind, neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but
being ensamples to the flock (Acts 20:28; 1Pet.5:2-3). In this way
the early churches were built up and edified. The work of the apostles
was conserved, improved, and carried to a consummation. The faith
was completed and consolidated by the voice of inspiration, speaking
through the spiritually-appointed leaders of the churches. By this
means the results of gospel-preaching in the first century, when
there were no means of a rapid circulation of ideas such as we have
today, instead of evaporating to nothing, as, otherwise, they would
have done, were secured and made permanent, both as regards that
generation and succeeding centuries.
But it must be obvious that the
case stands very differently now. There is no manifestation of the
Spirit in these days. The power of continuing the manifestation
doubtless died with the apostles; not that God could not have transferred
it to others, but that he selected them as the channels of its bestowment
in their age, and never, so far as we have any evidence, appointed
"successors". There are many who claim to be their successors;
but it is not the word but the power of a man that must be taken
as the test in this matter. Let those who think they have the Spirit
produce their evidences. There is a great outcry about the Holy
Spirit in popular preaching; but nothing more. There are phenomena
which are considered outpourings of the Holy Spirit; but they bear
no resemblance to those of apostolic experience, and, therefore,
must be rejected. They are explicable on natural principles.
When an exciting and highly mesmeric
preacher gets a crowded audience, it is not a great wonder if his
inflammatory exertions are successful in stimulating the susceptible
among his hearers, to a state of mind corresponding with his own.
He but uses a natural means, which evokes a natural result. If any
of the natural conditions are wanting, the result is impaired to
that extent. The "spirit", for instance, never descends
to the same extent at an outdoor meeting as in a crowded chapel,
especially if the day be windy. It is not dispensed so liberally
to half-filled as to well-packed halls. It does not come so quickly
at the bidding of a dull temperament and barren imagination, especially
if the man be of small stature - as it does to that of a lusty,
exciteable, well-built man, or a nervous, wiry, emphatic man. The
reason is, that all these conditions are unfavourable to the play
of latent magnetism of the human system.
Were it the Holy Spirit that attended
these operations, it would overleap all barriers, and not only so,
but its result would be of a more worthy and permanent character
than the impressions made at "revival meetings", and rather
more in harmony with what the Spirit has said through its ancient
media, than the sentiments induced at these gatherings. But the
fact is, it is not the Holy Spirit at all. It is the mere spirit
of the flesh worked up into a religious excitement - an excitement
which subsides as rapidly as the agency of its inception is withdrawn.
The result of an intelligent apprehension of what the word of God
teaches and requires, is different from this; this has its seat
in the judgment, and lays hold of the entire mental man, creating
new ideas and new affections, and, in general, evolving a "new
man". In this work, the Spirit has no participation, except
in the shape of the written word. This is the product of the Spirit
- the ideas of the Spirit reduced to writing by the men of God who
were moved by it. It is, therefore, the instrumentality of the Spirit,
historically wielded: the sword of the Spirit by a metaphor which
contemplates the Spirit in prophets and apostles in ancient times,
as the warrior. By this, men may be subdued to God - that is, enlightened,
purified, and saved, if they receive the word into good and honest
hearts, and "bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty,
and some a hundred". By this they may become "spiritually
minded", which is "life and peace" (Romans 8:6).
from Christendom Astray by Robert Roberts with slight amendments
to reflect the current state of affairs among the nations. Copies
of this excellent guide to understanding the Bible are available
by contacting us).