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One of the most precious promises in the whole Word of God for this present dispensation is found in John 14:16-17:
"And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; 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."
Here the Holy Spirit is represented as another Comforter who is coming to take the place of our Lord Jesus. Up to this time our Lord Jesus had been the friend of His disciples, always at hand to help them in every emergency that arose. But now He was going, and their hearts were filled with consternation, and He tells them that while He is going Another is coming to take His place....
During the absence of our Lord, until that glad day when He shall come back again, another Person just as Divine as He, just as loving and tender and strong to help, is by my side always, yes, dwells in my heart every moment to commune with me and to help me in every emergency that can possibly arise.
The Greek word translated "Comforter" in these verses means far more than Comforter. The Greek word so translated is "Parakletos." This word is a compound word, compounded of the word "Para," which means "alongside," and "Kletos," which means "one called," so the whole word means "One called to stand alongside another," one called to take his part and help him in every emergency that arises. The thought is of a helper always at hand with His counsel and His strength and any form of help that is needed. Precious and wonderful thought!
In this thought of the Holy Spirit being a personal friend always at hand, is also a cure for all loneliness. If the thought of the Holy Spirit as an ever-present friend, always at hand, once enters your heart and stays there, you will never have another lonely moment as long as you live.
My life for the larger part of the last twenty-five years has been a lonely life. I have often been separated from my family for months at a time, sometimes I have not seen my wife for two or three months at a time, and for eighteen months I did not even once see any member of my family except my wife. One night I was walking the deck of a steamer in the South Seas between New Zealand and Tasmania. It was a stormy night. Most of the other passengers were below, seasick, and none of the officers or sailors could walk with me, for they had their hands full looking after the boat. Four of the five members of my family were on the other side of the globe, seventeen thousand miles away by the nearest route that I could get to them, and the one member of my family who was nearer was not with me that night. As I walked the deck all alone I got to thinking of my four children seventeen thousand miles away and was about to get lonesome, when the thought came to me of the Holy Spirit by my side and that as I walked up and down the deck in the night and in the storm He took every step with me, and all my loneliness was gone.
I gave expression to this thought some years ago in the City of St. Paul, and at the close of the address a physician said to me, "I wish to thank you for that thought. I am often called at night to go out alone through darkness and storm far into the country and I have been very lonely, but I will never be lonely again, for I will know that every step of the way the Holy Spirit is beside me in my doctors gig."
In this same precious truth of the Holy Spirit as a personal friend always at hand there is a cure for a broken heart. Oh, how many brokenhearted people there are in the world today. Many of us have lost loved ones, but we need not have a moments heartache if we only know "the communion of the Holy Ghost." There is perhaps here today some woman who a year ago, or it may be only a few months or a few weeks ago, or possibly a few days ago, had by her side a man whom she dearly loved, a man so strong and wise that she was freed from all sense of responsibility and care, for all the burdens were upon him. How bright and happy were the days of his companionship! But the dark day came when that loved one was taken away, and how lonely and empty and barren and full of burden and care life is today. Listen, woman, there is one who walks right by your side today, who is far wiser and stronger and more loving and more able to guide and help than the wisest and strongest and most loving husband that ever lived; ready to bear all the burdens and responsibility of life for you, yes, ready to do far more, ready to come in and dwell in your heart and fill every nook and corner of your empty and aching heart, and thus banish the loneliness and all the heartache forever.
I said this one afternoon in St. Andrews Hall in Glasgow. At the close of the address, when I went out into the reception room, a lady who had hurried out to meet me, approached. She wore a widows bonnet, her face bore the marks of deep sorrow, but now there was a happy look in her face. She hurried to me and said, "Dr. Torrey, this is the first anniversary of my dear husbands death (her husband was one of the most highly esteemed Christians in Glasgow), and I came to St. Andrews Hall today saying to myself, Dr. Torrey will have something to say that will help me. Oh," she continued, "you have said just the right word. I will never be lonesome again, never have a heartache again. I will let the Holy Spirit come in and fill every aching corner of my heart." Eighteen months passed, I was back in Scotland again, taking a short vacation on the Lochs of the Clyde, on the private yacht of a friend. One day we stopped off a point, a little boat put off the point and came alongside the steam yacht. The first one who clambered up the side of the yacht and over the rail and onto the deck was this widow. Seeing me standing on the deck she hurried across and took my hand in both of hers and with a radiant smile on her face she said, "Oh, Dr. Torrey, the thought you gave me in St. Andrews Hall that afternoon stays with me still, and I have not had a lonely or sad hour from that day to this."
But it is in our Christian work that the thought comes to us with greatest power and helpfulness. Take my own experience; I became a minister of the Gospel simply because I had to, or be forever lost. I do not mean that I am saved by preaching the Gospel; I am saved simply on the ground of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, and that alone; but my becoming a Christian and accepting Him as my Savior turned upon my preaching the Gospel. For several years I refused to come out as a Christian because I was unwilling to preach, and I felt that if I became a Christian I must preach. The night that I surrendered to God I did not say, "I will accept Christ," or "I will give up my sins"; I said "I will preach."
But if there was ever a man who by natural temperament was utterly unfitted to preach, it was I. I was an abnormally bashful boy, and a stranger could scarcely speak to me without my blushing to the roots of my hair. When I went away from home visiting with other members of my family, I could not eat enough at the table, I was so frightened to be among strangers. Of all the tortures I endured at school there was none so great as that of reciting a piece. To stand on the platform and have the scholars looking at me, I could scarcely endure it; and even when my own father and mother at home asked me to recite the piece to them before I went to school, I simply could not recite it before my own father and mother. Think of a man like that going into the ministry. Even after I was a student in Yale College, when I would go home on a vacation and my mother would have callers and send for me to come in and meet them, I could not say a word. After they were gone my mother would say to me, "Archie, why didnt you say something to Mrs. S___ or Mrs. D___?" and I would say, "Why, mother, I did." And she would reply, "You did not utter a sound." I thought I did, but it would get no further than my throat and stick there. I was so bashful that I never even spoke in a church prayermeeting until after I entered the theological seminary. Then I thought that if I were to be a preacher I must at least be able to speak in my own church prayermeeting. I made up my mind that I would. I learned a piece by heart, I remember some of it to this day, but I think I forgot some of it when I got up to speak that night. As soon as the meeting was open I grasped the back of the settee in front of me and pulled myself up to my feet and held on to it lest I should fall. One Niagara went rushing up one side and another down the other, and I tremblingly repeated as much of my little piece as I could remember, and then dropped back into the seat. At the close of the meeting a dear old maiden lady, a lovely Christian woman, came to me and said, "Oh, Mr. Torrey, I want to thank you for what you said tonight. It did me so much good, you spoke with so much feeling." Feeling? The only feeling I had was that I was scared nearly to death. Think of a man like that going into the ministry.
My first years in the ministry were torture. I preached three times a day. I committed my sermons to memory, and then I stood up and twisted the top button of my coat until I had twisted the sermon out, and then when the third sermon was preached and finished I dropped back into the haircloth settee back of the pulpit with a great sense of relief that that was over for another week. But then the dreadful thought would at once take possession of me, "Well, you have got to begin tomorrow morning to get ready for next Sunday." Oh, what a torment life was. But a glad day came, a day when the thought which I am trying to teach you now took possession of me, namely, that when I stood up to preach, that, though people saw me, there was Another whom they did not see, but who stood by my side, and that all the responsibility was upon Him and all I had to do was to get just as far back out of sight as possible and let Him do the preaching. From that day to this, preaching has been the joy of my life; Id rather preach than eat. Sometimes when I rise to preach, before I have uttered a word, the thought of Him standing beside me, able and willing to take charge of the whole meeting and do whatever needs to be done, has so filled my heart with exultant joy that I can scarcely refrain from shouting.
Just so in your Sunday School teaching. Some of you worry about your Sunday School class for fear you will say something you ought not to say, or leave unsaid something you ought to say, and the thought of the burden and responsibility almost crushes you. Listen! Always remember this, as you sit there teaching your class: There is one right beside you who knows just what ought to be said and just what ought to be done. Instead of carrying the responsibility of the class let Him do it, let Him do the teaching.
One morning I met one of the most faithful laymen I ever knew, and a very gifted Bible teacher. This Monday morning as I called upon him at his store he was greatly cast down over the failure in his class, or what he regarded as failure. He unburdened his heart to me, and I listened. Then when he had finished I said to him, "Mr. Dyer, did you not ask God to give you wisdom as you went before that class?" He said, "I did." Then I said, "Did you not expect Him to give it?" He replied, "I did." Then I said, "What right have you to doubt that He did?" He answered, "I never thought of that before. I will never worry about my class again."
Just so in your personal work. When I or someone else urges you at the close of the meeting to go and speak to someone else, Oh, how often you want to go, but you do not stir. You think to yourself, "I might say the wrong thing. I might do more harm than good." Well, you will say the wrong thing if you say it. Yes, if you say it you certainly will say the wrong thing, but trust the Holy Spirit to do the talking and He will say the right thing through you. Let Him have your lips to speak through. It may not appear to be the right thing at the time, but sometime you will find that it was just the right thing.
One night in Launceston, Tasmania, as Mrs. Torrey and I went away from the meeting my wife said to me, "Archie, I wasted the whole evening. I have been talking to the most frivolous girl you ever saw. I dont think she had a serious thought in her head, and I spent the whole evening with her." I replied, "Clara, how do you know that you wasted the evening? Did you not ask God to guide you?" "Yes." "Did you not expect Him to?" "Yes." "Well, leave it with Him." The very next night at the close of the meeting the same seemingly utterly frivolous young woman came up to Mrs. Torrey, leading her mother by the hand, and said, "Mrs. Torrey, wont you speak to my mother? You led me to Christ last night, now please lead my mother to Christ."
But I must close. There is another line of proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit, but we have no time to dwell upon it.
To sum it all up: The Holy Spirit is a person. Theoretically we probably all believed that before, but do you in your real thought of Him, in your practical attitude toward Him, treat Him as a person? Do you really regard the Holy Spirit as just as real a person as Jesus Christ, just as loving, just as wise, just as tender, just as strong, just as faithful, just as worthy of your confidence and your love, and surrender as He? Do you think of Him as a divine person always at your side? The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father into this world to be to the disciples of our Lord in this present dispensation, after our Lords departure and until His return, to be to you and me, just what Jesus Christ had been to His disciples during the days of His personal companionship with them on earth. Is He that to you? Do you know "the communion of the Holy Spirit," the companionship of the Holy Spirit, the partnership of the Holy Spirit, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the comradeship of the Holy Spirit? To put it all into a single word, I say it reverently, the whole object of this address is to introduce you to my Friend, the Holy Spirit.