THE COMING OF THE HOLY GHOST.
It is a stupendous conception that in the last two thousand years iniquity has grown so awful, and the world-situation so critical, that a Person of the Godhead has had to be locally resident on the earth, to hold the world for God. When our Lord left the earth, the Holy Ghost came, and when the Holy Ghost leaves with the rapt, the Lord will return. In the shock of the events about us, and with - dare I use the words? - a restiveness of the Spirit, expressed in sudden gusts of revival which possibly portend the immense movements of the Holy Ghost that are yet to come, and not knowing the cataclysms immediately ahead, it is vital that we should get back to our stupendous truths and bedrock facts.
Power fell in the Upper Room (Acts
1: 8). A whole world to be
evangelized; an entire
So in the person of the Holy Ghost there descended into the Church, and abides in it, an enormous reservoir of life; and the descent of the [Holy] Spirit was marked by a burst of conversion never exceeded in the history of the world. “There were added unto them in that day about THREE THOUSAND souls” (Acts 2: 41). The Rabbis hold that Pentecost fell on the day on which the Law was given at Sinai: if so, the designed contrast of the Law and the Gospel is wonderful; for when the Law was founded, three thousand souls were slain in one day (Ex. 32: 28); when Grace was founded, three thousand were made alive in one day. Moses tells what we ought to do, and it ends in death: Jesus sends the [Holy] Spirit to do it, in us and through us, and it ends in life. Why does such enormous power reside in the Church for life? Because the Holy Ghost is God. No coming of a spirit could give [spiritual] life: none but Deity can regenerate - the Father quickeneth (John 5: 21), the Son quickeneth (John 5: 21), the Spirit quickeneth (John 6: 63): so the Psalm, foretelling the miraculous gifts and orders conferred by the ascended Christ, adds “that the Lord God might dwell among them” (Ps. 16). Until the Holy Ghost arrived, we read of no tortured consciences, no broken hearts, no sobbing multitudes. God has in Himself mighty reservoirs of conversion and when God came into the Church, in its very first day, the Church multiplied twenty-five fold. John Elias, preaching at Pwllheli, in Wales, a district in low spiritual ebb, chose as his text “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered”; and his words rushed from him like flames of fire, and 2,500 souls were added to the churches around as a consequence of that one sermon. But the number of Pentecost was not reached. The local church is the universal Church in miniature; and those three thousand, drawn “from every nation under heaven,” foreshadowed the Church of all ages in whose midst is an enormous reservoir of life.
A second inexhaustible reservoir of power resident in the Church in the person of the Holy Ghost is the power for sanctity: the descent of the [Holy] Spirit was marked by a collective sanctity without precedent and without repetition in the history of the world. “As many as were possessors of houses or lands sold them, and distribution was made unto each, as anyone had need” (Acts 4: 34). An entire Church, some five thousand souls, voluntarily abandons its whole property for love’s sake; a Jewish Church, to whom, of all races, this triumph of grace was most miraculous; “a company,” as Calvin says, “of angels rather than men.” The burst of love was so warm, the urge of the [Holy] Spirit so mighty, the heaven in the heart so complete, that “not one” - in all these thousands – “said that aught of the things that he possessed was his own, but sold them, and laid the prices at the apostles’ feet.” Nor is it only love, the first fruit of the Spirit: joy is named again and again, even at prison doors (Acts 5: 41). So it was in the Indian Revival: “From 10 a.m. until midnight” - except for meals – “twelve solid hours the church was crowded: scores of men were almost beside themselves with spiritual ecstasy. It was a sight never to be forgotten to see such a vast assembly beside themselves with joy.” So we might run down the whole gamut of the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5: 22): the reservoir of potential sanctity lodged in the Church has never been fathomed, and never even known.
Not only was the arrival of the Holy Ghost marked by a burst
of conversion without a parallel, and a degree of collective sanctity never
equalled before or since: it also introduced a reservoir of fearful
disciplinary power; and the Spirit acted with a severity as appalling as any in
the whole history of the Church. “Ananias fell down and gave
up the ghost: Sapphira fell down immediately at his feet and gave
up the ghost” (Acts 5: 5, 10).
The [Holy] Spirit’s action becomes deeply more significant
when we compare it with judgments on unbelievers. Simon the Magician and Elymas
the Sorcerer, as unsaved and therefore less responsible, escape with a far
lighter doom: in the very heart of the Church’s dawn, God, locally present, so judged the secrets of the assembly as to
inflict an instant death-penalty on leading members of the
So the Holy Ghost has descended into the Church never to be dislodged: His coming, like the Second Advent, was, and will be again (Joel 2: 28),* secret, yet instantly apparent; expected, yet utterly dateless: and as the Lord’s sign is a Star, for He is the Light of the world; so the Spirit’s sign is a Tongue, for He is the transmitter of God’s whole mind in every language of earth. “When the waves of the last agony of a submerging world break, yet once more, and louder than ever, goes forth the call of a vast and infinite compassion.”
[* All arguments that would destroy the possibility of revival before the Parousia would, in 1500 A.D., have proved the huge awakening of the Reformation equally impossible.]
Beloved, should the brook run dry
And should no visible supply
Gladden thine eyes, then wait to see
God work a miracle for thee:
Thou canst not want, for God has said
He will supply His own with bread.
His word is sure. Creative power
Will work for thee from hour to hour,
And thou, with all Faith’s Host, shalt prove
God’s hand of power, God’s heart of love.