The Spirit of God and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost: Part 3

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THE recognition of this “baptism of the Holy Ghost” is the church's responsibility, and should, in these days of departure from the truth, be acknowledged and carried out, by a withdrawment from all the sects of Christendom, the existence of which violates this “unity of the Spirit,” and by a refusal to cooperate with any, and all, who accept and build upon this general declension which we see around. To make this condition a common ground of alliance in confederated action is the sin of the day, and to use it as a platform for united prayer and supplication to God, as is, alas I so usual amongst the sects, is sad. Thus to turn round what is our shame, and reproach, and default, into an occasion (not of repentance and confession), but of combined effort by prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit, and for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, is a very grave artifice of the enemy.
The one grand distinguishing mark of Christianity was the promise of the Father, which was fulfilled by the descent of the Holy Ghost, as “the other Comforter,” and “He was to abide with us forever.” The outward manifestation of His power, in the way of miracles, gift of tongues, raising the dead, and recovering of sight, may have been withdrawn judicially from the church, because the presence of the Holy Ghost has been forgotten, and treated as a thing of the past, and almost out of mind. Even in these last days, just on the eve of the Lord's own coming and the church's rapture, it is made the absorbing object of united supplication by the sects that the Spirit may be poured out, or that the Pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost may be received.
The resource of faith now is in true repentance and confession; not in conferences for the descent or baptism of the Holy Ghost, but by “praying in the Holy Ghost, and building ourselves up on our most holy faith, keeping ourselves in the love of God,” &c. The remedy is not by unbelief in a new form, and repeated by Christians towards the Holy Ghost, as it once was by Israel in reference to the Lord, saying, “who shall bring him down from above,” but what saith it? “The word is nigh thee,” &c. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
The relief is to be found in the unfailing grace of God to those who still get into the place of His mind through His word, by the teaching and guidance of the Holy Ghost, which remaineth amongst us, “whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Confession that He has been sinned against, and dishonored, and grieved, is the right and true exercise of soul before God in days like these. Dependence on the grace of Christ, and the Lord's unchanging love to His own, are the open doors for the reliance of faith, in any departure from Himself above, or in forgetfulness of the Holy Ghost's presence and operations on the earth. But to refuse humiliation and confession (which would be so proper) because of this sin against the Holy Ghost, and to combine in earnest prayer for His bestowment or outpouring, and baptism, is to overlook the church's responsibility, and to take an antagonistic position to the truth of the dispensation. It is virtually to say His descent at Pentecost has been falsified or forfeited, and that it depended not upon the promise of the Father and the Son “to abide with us forever,” but on the faithfulness of the church to Christ.
Any who at this present time have, on the other hand, taken this ground of confession and humiliation on account of the sin of the professing church, and refused to join in united prayer that God would send down the Spirit afresh, have found by faith and obedience the sufficiency of the Lord's love, and the real presence of the Holy Ghost in their midst. Unbelief and Saul's armor have been by them refused, to make room for dependence and the power of the Spirit.
The twos and threes who thus meet together now throughout this kingdom, and in other lands, have found the faithfulness of Christ in their weakness to be more than enough, and there “am I in the midst of them” has been the rallying-point in many a time of trial. “Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name,” has often cast them in the confidence of dependence upon the grace and sympathy “of him that is holy, and him that is true,” who has, in faithful love, “set before them an open door, and no man can shut it.” Not by might, nor by power, “but by my Spirit,” saith the Lord, has been their refuge: and the encouraging words of Paul to Timothy (“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” for patience and endurance, on the one hand; or else, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” for conflict, on the other) have strengthened the feeble knees in prayer, and nerved the outstretched arm in the hour of danger, Instead of entreaty for the Holy Ghost to be sent (a more unhindered power in the Spirit has ever been their request). And they remember the word of the Lord by Haggai to Israel, in their declension and apostasy, “Yet now be strong.... for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts.” This recovery and power lay in the fact of Jehovah's presence in their midst, as it is in these perilous times too: for the “foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity."
After the manner also “in which the Holy Spirit was with Moses and the people,” when Jehovah brought them up out of Egypt with His glorious arm, as has been previously referred to, so Haggai says in his prophecy, “according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remaineth among you, fear ye not.” The confidence and assurance of the remnant with Zerubbabel rested upon the word, “for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts,” having for its counterpart, “so my Spirit remaineth among you,” and they proved by faith and obedience their sufficiency to be in the living God. Unbelief, especially in an evil day, may easily turn the path of faith and dependence into a provocation, as did Israel in the wilderness, or as does the professing church now.
Forgetfulness or ignorance of “the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost” on earth, or of “the Lord's faithful love to His own” which are in the world “unto the very end,” has caused the prayers and supplications of Christians to be neither in the truth nor in the Spirit. Their persistent maintenance of sectarian systems and church establishments, which not only prove, but are themselves, the departure from scripture, as respects the glorified Head of the church in heaven, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost into one body on the earth, has stopped the way for ages to the manifestation of this “unity of the Spirit.” This denial of the one body on earth has, on the other hand, thrown open its floodgates for union with the world, as seen in the multiplied religious and political associations of to-day, crowned by “an Evangelical Alliance.” As the legitimate fruit of this spiritual fornication, the truth, of Christianity, and of the rights of the Son of man on high, have been sacrificed to the world's advancement. The formative power of the Holy Ghost for quickening and gathering men out of the world into oneness with the ascended Lord, as Head over all things to the church, has been in this way surrendered to “the prince of the power of the air,” for the advancement of man in the flesh where he is, and the development of his faculties, in order to make the wrong world what it seems to be. Besides this downward road of departure from the glory of God by the responsible church on the earth, and from the glory of Christ in His Headship in heaven, through the wiles of the enemy, there still lies, as we have seen, the unbelief of the Lord's own people as to the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost with us forever—not merely to quicken those who are dead in sins, and to dwell in those who are thus born of God, but to “baptize the members of Christ into one body, and to make them drink into one Spirit."
The Holy Ghost, ever true to the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son, has not changed in the work which brought Him down at Pentecost, but is carrying it out; and “my Spirit remaineth among you,” together with, “I am in your midst,” are the rallying assurances for faith and obedience today. No sect on earth, and the refusal of any, and every one of them, clears the way back “to the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace,” and opens the heart to the abiding truth and preciousness of the “baptism of the Holy Ghost.” It is not by abandoning to the enemy's craft the great fact of our dispensation, namely, the Spirit's presence in power on the earth, “to gather together in one the children of God,” or by having recourse to united prayer, and begging that He may be sent in power to baptize, that any who are in the snare will get out of the spider's web, but by the acknowledgment of the truth, that He abideth faithful to the objects which brought Him here, and thus take their places in the one body.
“Be strong,” “fear not,” are handed down for faith from generation to generation. Moses rehearsed them to Joshua, with the addition from Jehovah Himself, “As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee.” Haggai, in the last days of Israel's past history, reassures the remnant of their sufficiency for an evil day (and in the midst of general departure too) by the abiding faithfulness of God, and the presence of His Spirit. “I counsel thee to buy of me—gold tried in the fire,” &c., are the encouraging words to “him that hath an ear” to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. Let all be careful not to reduce the Holy Ghost's presence in formative power in the church of the living God down to our own individual relations to Christ, and the Spirit's operations in us, wonderful and blessed as these are, lest we should be satisfied merely with what He witnesses of to us, and of which He is the earnest and seal, and so overlook the glory of the Head.
May our hearts, in the sense and enjoyment of all that is individual, be the more free to acknowledge what is collective and corporate, by the Spirit's power, and baptism into one body, for the glory of Christ, the Lord, and for the glory of God the Father, in another relation to Himself personally, as “the members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” That the Lord nourishes and cherishes these members now is a present fact, and proof of what the Holy Ghost has come down to gather together in the unity of the Spirit. He abides with us, in the exercise of this divine power which unites the members thus to Christ, and forms the body on the earth, in hope of the approaching nuptial day.
In conclusion, let our corporate relations to Christ end the body, at this present time, be understood, in the love that nourishes and cherishes each one of His members, and be added to our individual ones, that many who desire to know the truth of the church of God, but are still in the sects around, may take their place outside them all, in the true unity of the Spirit, and by this acknowledgment of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, as members of Christ, and of the same body, refuse to be schismatic, and bad builders.
May many be thus practically led into the realization of their oneness with Christ and the church, that in the enjoyment of an extended communion and fellowship with all saints, they may “endeavor to keep” it with those who do. Beware of surrendering “the church of the living God,” and the truth of “the body and bride of Christ,” and the necessary “baptism of the Holy Ghost,” as present realities, to the enemy of Christ's glory, and to human tradition. The object of Satan is to keep man where he is, and to make him active, benevolent, and philanthropic, in the darkness of this “present evil age,” of which he is the ruler. He seeks to get Christians off the ground of their heavenly calling, that they may religiously become citizens and dwellers upon the earth, and so deny their dignity as God's fellow-workmen in another order of things, for the new creation of God, with the second Adam, our glorified Lord and Head.
Satan encourages any use of Christianity or Christ, yea, and of the Holy Ghost, that can be applied for the improvement of the world, and the advancement of mankind in it, and thus triumphs over those who blindly accept the slavery “of sweeping and garnishing the strong man's house,” as false to their confession of Christ, in positive separation of life, and walk on earth; as well as untrue in a daily denial of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
J. E. B.