Request for the Pouring Out of the Holy Spirit

John 3:34  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Beloved Brother,—I believe that the request for the Hold Spirit is a proof that the professing church denies itself, any more than ever now, that God has, in a remarkable manner, manifested the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth. He has acted in an extraordinary manner, has almost shown Himself to sight, so to speak. I perfectly understand that we are called to bear with expressions which betray ignorance, when the desire of the heart is good and according to God, and that God can grant these ignorant prayers according to His own wisdom.
Individually, I do not take offense when a Christian prays that God would pour out His Spirit upon the church but if the professing church present this request, it is saying, We are unbelieving with regard to the presence of the Holy Ghost, that which has made us to be the church. But now that God has manifested His presence by an action of His Spirit, such as has not been seen since the day of Pentecost, they do not recognize, any more than before, that He is present by His Spirit. They pray that He would send Him, that He would pour out the Spirit, but they do not believe in His presence in the church.
Already, in Ireland, the Presbyterian clergy are trying to put a stop to lay-preaching, that is to say, to that liberty which was the effect of the powerful action of the Spirit of God. We see these young souls placed under the direction of unconverted ministers, so-called, or else under the direction of those who oppose assurance of salvation.
I believe that we may very rightly ask that the Spirit should act more powerfully in us, in the church. This is a thing much to be desired. One can ask for oneself to be filled with the Holy Spirit; and it is always well to try and take the good side, as much as possible, of what is said by the heart of a Christian. But it is none the less true, that the request for a greater measure of the Holy Spirit flows from unbelief as to His personal presence in the church; and the fruits of this unbelief will be met with again.
... I think we must take the passage which you quote, with its context: "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure." The direct application of it is to Christ. I believe the principle to be absolute. When God gives His Spirit, He does not give Him by measure. He has given Him now, in virtue of the ascension of Christ, and being given, the Spirit is here. It is not a question of measure, but the presence of a Person who distributes, who unites, who leads, who bears witness, &c., and he who says "a measure of the Spirit" denies His presence and His personal action; and it is a very grave and serious form of practical unbelief in the church. I would bear with ignorance, but if any were formally to reject the truth of the presence of the Spirit sent down to earth, I should have a difficulty in associating myself with that.
February 10th, 1860.