The Holy Spirit's Presence.

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 11
IT is of the utmost moment to all the people of God to ascertain whether the Holy Ghost has returned to heaven since Pentecost, and has to be sent again on every fresh occasion of blessing, or whether He remained, and still remains, on earth with us, since that great event.
More than eighteen hundred years ago a small company of the disciples of Jesus were accustomed to meet in an upper chamber for prayer and supplication, in expectation of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1). They were feeble and fearful (John 20:19, 2019Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19‑20)), and quite unenlightened as to the counsels of God respecting the calling of the Gentiles and the Church. They still had, for the most part, Jewish views and feelings (Acts 1:66When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)), with prejudices which nothing but the action and direct authority of the Spirit of God afterward sufficed to overcome (Acts 10:45-47; 11:151845And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, 47Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? (Acts 10:45‑47)). Besides this, they had no power to preach or declare the word of God, and were specially directed by the Lord Himself to wait until this was conferred on them by the baptism of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:4-84And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:4‑8)).
This state of things continued until the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, which is thus described: “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" (Acts 2).
Thus was fulfilled the promise of Christ, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:1616And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; (John 14:16)).
His presence changed the aspect of everything. Courage and confidence succeeded to fear, and weakness was exchanged for power and boldness in public testimony for Christ. They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance. Besides which, the Church is now first spoken of as an existent body that could be added to (Acts 2:4747Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:47)), the unity and love which characterized its members becoming conspicuous to all, whilst the living agency of the divine Spirit of Truth was seen in their continuing steadfast in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and breaking of bread, and prayers-four all-important things' (Acts 2:44-4744And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:44‑47)).
The conversions which took place under the ministry of the word by the apostle Peter were many. On one day three thousand were brought in (Acts 2:4141Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)), and on another five thousand (Acts 4:44Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)). But these conversions were not the out, pouring of the Spirit. They were the blessed effects of the Holy Spirit's presence making itself felt upon the hearts of sinners. These things ought not to be confused.
In Acts 4 an attempt is made by the leading authorities of the Jewish nation to put a stop to this work of God. The apostles are threatened and commanded not to speak any more in the name of Jesus. This leads to prayer—prayer to God to carry on His work, to convert, to save, and bless. It seems like the first great prayer-meeting of which we have any account after the descent of the Holy Ghost. But for what do they ask? Not that the Holy Ghost may come, or be sent, for they know Him to be there with them. They ask that boldness may be given them to speak the word of God in face of all opposition, and that the name of Jesus may be magnified by the display of its power among men. The answer came at once. "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." With great power the apostles gave testimony of the resurrection of the Lord, Jesus; great grace rests on all, with unity of heart and mind, and multitudes, both of men and women, were added to the Lord (Acts 5:1414And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) (Acts 5:14)). From this we may gather what our prayer should be, whether for ourselves or for sinners around us.
If the Holy Ghost had returned to heaven, then should we indeed have to pray that He might be sent again. But to what a condition of weakness and desolation would the Church be reduced! How could she then bear testimony to the world? How uphold the name of Christ, or the truth of God on earth? Blessed be God, the Holy Ghost is not gone back to heaven. He still dwells in the Church, and in every believer. As long as the Church remains on earth, so long will the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, be her companion and support and guide. He is given to lead her into all truth, and to take of the things of Christ, and show them to her, and so to glorify Christ in the hearts of those that are His.
How, then, it may be asked, are the times of revival that have occurred at, different periods in the history of the Church to be accounted for?
To this the reply may be readily given, that not only the existence of the Church itself, but all the blessing that has come to the Church since Pentecost—all its guidance through difficulties and dangers, and its support against the power of Satan—all spiritual ministry for the edification of the saints-all the spread of the gospel, and the maintenance of the truth of God on earth—all the testimony borne to the efficacy of the blood of Christ-all the revivals that have ever occurred—all the conversions which have ever taken place, whether few or many, whether suddenly or more gradually,—all is due to the great fact of the presence of the Holy Ghost here on earth. Just as a reservoir in a town supplies all its different parts with water, so does the Spirit of God here present maintain all the functions of spiritual life in the people of God, and afford an abundant supply of their necessities, and the wants of sinners, where there is dependence and the prayer of faith, to draw it out.
Surely it ought to encourage us to know that we have this divine and blessed Person here with us as an abiding source of strength and consolation. He cannot fail in His care for the Church, and He has but to put forth His power and the work is done. And it may well stimulate our souls to look to God, that as He has done so much for us in giving us this divine and almighty Comforter, so His power may be displayed for our blessing and the awakening of sinners.
It will be evident to everyone how strengthening to faith and encouraging to prayer, and every other effort for the conversion of sinners, the sense of the abiding presence of the Comforter must be. How weakening, as well as erroneous, is the supposition that the Holy Ghost has gone back to heaven, and has to be brought down again by prayer, whenever any fresh and extended blessing is desired. Nor can it be denied that the petitions which are constantly heard, for the Holy Spirit to "come" or "descend," are utterly inconsistent with the thought of His being here, and show that those who utter them are unconscious of His presence, or they certainly would not ask for it. The same might be said for the most part of the frequent use of the word "outpouring" of the Spirit, inasmuch as it is generally used to express all that took place at Pentecost, which was far more than the conversion of sinners, though that, as we have seen, accompanied it.
From these things also we may believe, that when Christians are assembled like the disciples of old (Acts 4) to seek for blessing from God, and the extension of the work of God around them—in the name of Christ and in dependence on the Spirit of God—His presence will be there to preside among them, and to guide them in their prayers, and show them what to do. And if His presence is looked for as a sovereign and divine Person, it will lead us to leave things in His hands, to order and direct for the common profit, and for the glory of God (1 Cor. 12:1111But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Corinthians 12:11)).