|As the Dew.|
There is another very important bit needed to complete the circle of truth we are going over together in these quiet talks. Namely, the daily life after the act of surrender and all that comes with that act. The steady pull day by day. After the eagle-flight up into highest air, and the hundred yards dash, or even the mile run, comes the steady, steady walking mile after mile. The real test of life is here. And the highest victories are here, too.
I recall the remark made by a friend when this sort of thing was being discussed: -- |I would make the surrender gladly but as I think of my home life I know I cannot keep it.| There was the rub. The day-by-day life afterwards. The habitual steady-going when temptations come in, and when many special aids, and stimulating surroundings are withdrawn. This last talk together is about this afterlife. What is the plan for that? Well, let us talk it over a bit.
Have you noticed that the old earth receives a fresh baptism of life daily? Every night the life-giving dew is distilled. The moisture rises during the day from ocean, and lake, and river, undergoes a chemical change in God's laboratory and returns nightly in dew to refresh the earth. It brings to all nature new life, with rare beauty, and fills the air with the exquisite fragrance drawn from flowers and plants. Its power to purify and revitalize is peculiar and remarkable. It distils only in the night when the world is at rest. It can come only on clear calm nights. Both cloud and wind disturb and prevent its working. It comes quietly and works noiselessly. But the changes effected are radical and immeasurable. Literally it gives to the earth a nightly baptism of new life. That is God's plan for the earth. And that, too, let me say to you, is His plan for our day-by-day life.
It hushes one's heart with a gentle awe to go out early in the morning after a clear night when air and flower and leaf are fragrant with an indescribable freshness, and listen to God's voice saying, |I will be as the dew unto Israel.| That sentence is the climax of the book where it occurs. God is trying through Hosea to woo His people away from their evil leaders up to Himself again. To a people who knew well the vitalizing power of the deep dews of an Oriental night, and their own dependence upon them, He says with pleading voice, |I will be to you as the dew.|
The setting of that sentence is made very winsome. The beauty of the lily, and of the olive-tree; the strength of the roots of Lebanon's giant cedars, and the fragrance of their boughs; the fruitfulness of the vine, and the richness of the grain harvest are used to bring graphically to their minds the meaning of His words: |as the dew.|
Tenderly as He speaks to that nation in which His love-plan for a world centered, more tenderly yet does He ever speak to the individual heart. That wondrous One who is |alongside to help| will be by the atmosphere of His presence to you and to me as the dew is to the earth -- a daily refreshing of new life, with its new strength, and rare beauty and fine fragrance.
Have you noticed how Jesus Himself puts His ideal for the day-by-day life? At that last Feast of Tabernacles He said, |He that believeth on me out of his inner being shall flow rivers of water of life.| Jesus was fairly saturated with the Old Testament figures and language. Here He seems to be thinking, of that remarkable river-vision of Ezekiel's. You remember how much space is given there to describing a wonderful river running through a place where living waters had never flowed. The stream begins with a few strings of water trickling out from under the door-step of the temple, and rises gradually but steadily ankle-deep, knee-deep, loin-deep, over-head, until flood-tide is reached, and an ever rising and deepening flood-tide. And everywhere the waters go is life with beauty, and fruitfulness. There is no drought, no ebbing, but a continual flowing in, and filling up, and flooding out. In these two intensely vivid figures is given our Master's carefully, lovingly thought out plan for the day-by-day life.
In actual experience the reverse of this is, shall I say too much if I say, most commonly the case? It seems to be so. Who of us has not at times been conscious of some failure that cut keenly into the very tissue of the heart! And even when no such break may have come there is ever a heart-yearning for more than has yet been experienced. The men who seem to know most of God's power have had great, unspeakable longings at times for a fresh consciousness of that power.
There is a simple but striking incident told of one of Mr. Moody's British campaigns. He was resting a few days after a tour in which God's power was plainly felt and seen. He was soon to be out at work again. Talking out of his inner heart to a few sympathetic friends, he earnestly asked them to join in prayer that he might receive |a fresh baptism of power.| Without doubt that very consciousness of failure, and this longing for more is evidence of the Spirit's presence within wooing us up the heights.
The language that springs so readily to one's lips at such times is just such as Mr. Moody used, a fresh baptism, a fresh filling, a fresh anointing. And the fresh consciousness of God's presence and power is to one as a fresh act of anointing on His part. Practically it does not matter whether there is actually a fresh act upon the Spirit's part, or a renewed consciousness upon our part of His presence, and a renewed humble depending wholly upon Him. Yet to learn the real truth puts one's relationship to God in the clearer light that prevents periods of doubt and darkness. Does it not too bring one yet nearer to Him? In this case it certainly suggests a depth and a tenderness of His unparalleled love of which some of us have not even dreamed. So far as the Scriptures seem to suggest there is not a fresh act upon God's part at certain times in one's experience, but His wondrous love is such that there is a continuous act -- a continuous flooding in of all the gracious power of His Spirit that the human conditions will admit of. The flood-tide is ever being poured out from above, but, as a rule, our gates are not open full width. And so only part can get in, and part which He is giving is restrained by us.
Without doubt, too, the incoming flood expands that into which it comes. And so the capacity increases ever more, and yet more. And, too, we may become much more sensitive to the Spirit's presence. We may grow into better mediums for the transmission of His power. As the hindrances and limitations of centuries of sin's warping and stupefying are gradually lessened there is a freer better channel for the through-flowing of His power.
A Transition Stage.
Such seems to be the teaching of the old Book. Let us look into it a little more particularly. One needs to be discriminating in quoting the Book of Acts on this subject. That book marks a transition stage historically in the experience possible to men. Some of the older persons in the Acts lived in three distinct periods. There was the Old Testament period when a salvation was foretold and promised. Then came the period when Jesus was on the earth and did a wholly new thing in the world's history in actually working out a salvation. And then followed the period of the Holy Spirit applying to men the salvation worked out by Jesus. All these persons named in the Book of Acts lived both before and after the day of Pentecost, which marked the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Book of Acts marks the clear establishing of the transition from the second to the third of these three periods. Ever since then men have lived after Pentecost. The transitional period of the Book of Acts is behind us.
Men in Old Testament times both in the Hebrew nation and outside of it were born of the Spirit, and under His sway. But there was a limit to what He could do, because there was a limit to what had been done. The Holy Spirit is the executive member of the Godhead. He applies to men what has been worked out, or achieved for them, and only that. Jesus came and did a new thing which stands wholly alone in history. He lived a sinless life, and then He died sacrificially for men, and then further, arose up to a new life after death. The next step necessary was the sending down of the divine executive to work out in men this new achievement. He does in men what Jesus did for them. He can do much more for us than for the Old Testament people because much more has been done for us by God through Jesus. The standing of a saved man before Pentecost was like that of a young child in a rich family who cannot under the provisions of the family will come into his inheritance until the majority age is reached. After the Son of God came, men are through Him reckoned as being as He is, namely in full possession of all rights conferred by being a born son of full age. Now note carefully that this Book of Acts marks the transition from the one period to the other. And so one needs to be discriminating in applying the experiences of men passing through a transition period to those who live wholly afterwards.
The after-Pentecost teaching, that is the personal relation to the Spirit by one who has received Him to-day, may best be learned from the epistles. Paul's letters form the bulk of the New Testament after the Book of Acts is passed. They contain the Spirit's after-teaching regarding much which the disciples were not yet able to receive from Jesus' own lips. They were written to churches that were far from ideal. They were composed largely of people dug out of the darkest heathenism. And with the infinite patience and tact of the Spirit Paul writes to them with a pen dipped in his own heart.
A rather careful run through these thirteen letters brings to view two things about the relation of these people to the Holy Spirit. First there are certain allusions or references to the Spirit, and then certain exhortations. Note first these allusions. They are numerous. In them it is constantly assumed that these people have received the Holy Spirit. Paul's dealing with the twelve disciples whom he found at Ephesus suggests his habit in dealing with all whom he taught. Reading that incident in connection with these letters seems to suggest that in every place he laid great stress upon the necessity of the Spirit's control in every life. And now in writing back to these friends nearly all the allusions to the Spirit are in language that assumes that they have surrendered fully and been filled with His presence.
There are just four exhortations about the Holy Spirit. It is significant to notice what these are not. They are not exhorted to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit nor to wait for the filling. There is no word about refillings, fresh baptisms or anointings. For these people, unlike most of us to-day, have been thoroughly instructed regarding the Spirit and presumably have had the great radical experience of His full incoming. On the other hand notice what these exhortations are. To the Thessalonians in his first letter he says, |Quench not the Spirit.| To the disciples scattered throughout the province of Galatia who had been much disturbed by false leaders he gives a rule to be followed, |Walk by the Spirit.| The other two of these incisive words of advice are found in the Ephesian letter -- |Grieve not the Spirit of God,| and |be ye filled with the Spirit.|
These exhortations like the allusions assume that they have received the Spirit, and know that they have. The last quoted, |be ye filled,| may seem at first flush to be an exception to this, but I think we shall see in a moment that a clearer rendering takes away this seeming, and shows it as agreeing with the others in the general teaching.
This letter to the Ephesians may perhaps be taken as a fair index of the New Testament teaching on this matter after the descent of the Spirit; the after-teaching promised by Jesus. It bears evidence of being a sort of circular letter intended to be sent in turn to a number of the churches, and is therefore a still better illustration of the after-teaching. The latter half of the letter is dealing wholly with this question of the day-by-day life after the distinct act of surrender and infilling. Here are found two companion exhortations. One is negative: the other positive. The two together suggest the rounded truth which we are now seeking. On one side is this: -- |Grieve not the Spirit of God,| and on the other side is this: -- |be ye filled with the Spirit.| Bishop H. C. G. Moule calls attention to the more nearly accurate reading of this last, -- |be ye filling with the Spirit.| That suggests two things, a habitual inflow, and, that it depends on us to keep the inlets ever open. Now around about these two companion exhortations are gathered two groups of friendly counsels. One group is about the grieving things which must be avoided. The other group is about the positive things to be cultivated. And the inference of the whole passage is that this avoiding and this cultivating result in the habitual filling of the Spirit's presence.
Fresh supplies of power then seem to be dependent upon two things. The first is this: -- Keeping the life dear of hindrances. This is the negative side, though it takes very positive work. It is really the abnormal side of the true life. Sin is abnormal, unnatural. It is a foreign element that has come into the world and into life disturbing the natural order. It must be kept out. The whole concern here is keeping certain things out of the life. The task is that of staying in the world but keeping the world-spirit out of us. We are to remain in the world for its sake, but to allow nothing in it to disturb our full touch with the other world where our citizenship is. The christian's position in this world is strikingly like that of a nation's ambassador at a foreign court. Joseph H. Choate mingles freely with the subjects of King Edward, attends many functions, makes speeches, grants occasional interviews, but he is ever on the alert with his rarely keen mind, and long years of legal training not to utter a syllable which might not properly come from the head of his home government. Never for one moment is he off his guard. His whole aim is to keep in perfect sympathy with his home country as represented by its head. He never forgets that he is there as a stranger, sojourning for a while, belonging to and representing a foreign country. So, and only so, all the authority and power of his own government flows through his person and is in every word and act. Such a man invariably provides himself with a home in which is breathed the atmosphere of his far away homeland. Now we are strangers, sojourners, indeed more, ambassadors, representatives of a government foreign to the present prince of this world. It is only as we keep in perfect sympathy with the homeland and its Head that there can flow into and through us all the immeasurable power of our King. Whatever interrupts that intercourse with headquarters interrupts the flow of power in our lives and service. We must guard most jealously against such things.
Electricity helps a man here, in the similes it suggests. For instance the electric current passing into a building is sometimes mysteriously turned aside and work seriously interrupted. A cross-wire dropping down out of place, and leaning upon the feed-wire has drawn the power into itself and off somewhere else. The cross is apt to be in some unknown place, and much searching is frequently necessary before it can be found and fixed. And all the work affected by that feed-wire waits till the fixing is done.
The spirit atmosphere in which we live is full, chock-full, of cross-currents. And a man has to be keenly alert to keep his feed-wire clear. If it be crossed, or grounded, away goes the power, while he may be wondering why.
What are some of the cross-currents that threaten to draw the power of the feed-wire? Well, just like the electric currents some of them seem very trivial. Here are a few of the commoner ones: --
Failure to keep bodily appetites under control. Intimate fellowship with those who are enemies of our Lord, it may be in some organization, or otherwise. The absence of a spirit of loving sympathy. The dominance in one's life of a critical spirit which saps the warmth out of everything it touches. Jealousy, and the whole brood which that single word suggests. Keeping money which God would have out in service for himself. Self-seeking. Self-assertion. A frivolous spirit, instead of a joyous winsomeness, or a sweet seriousness. Overworking one's bodily strength, which grows out of a wrong ambition, and is trusting one's own efforts more than God's power, and which always involves disobedience of His law for the body. Over-anxiety which robs the mind of its freshness, and the spirit of its sweetness, and whose roots are the same as overwork.
The hot hasty word. The uncontrolled temper. The pride that will not confess to having been in the wrong. Lack of rugged honesty in speech. Carelessness in money matters. Lack of reverence for the body. The unholy use between two, whose relation is the most sacred of earth, of that hallowed function of nature which has rigidly but one normal use.
Some personal habit which may be common enough, and for which plausible arguments can be made, but which does take the fine edge off of the inner consciousness of the Master's approval. Keen shrewd scheming for position by those in holy service.
Paul's Galatian letter supplies these items: -- wrangling; wordy disputes; passionate outbursts of anger; wire-pulling or electioneering, that is, using the world's methods to attain one's ends by those in God's service.
These are some of the cross-currents that are surely drawing the power out of many a life to-day. But how may one know surely about the wrong thing? Well, that One who resides within the heart is very sensitive and is very faithful. If I will jealously keep on good terms, aye on the best terms, with Him, ever listening, ever obeying, I will come to know at first touch the thing that disturbs His sensitive spirit. And to keep that thing out, uncompromisingly, unflinchingly out, is the only safeguard here.
But there will be continual testings and temptings. Testings by God. Temptings by Satan. There will be testings by God that the realness of the surrender may be made clear, and, too, that in these repeated siftings the dross may all go, and only the pure gold remain. The will must be exercised in rejecting and accepting that its fiber may be toughened. No man knows how deep is his conviction until the test comes. God will test for love's sake to strengthen. Satan will tempt for hate's sake to trip up and weaken. God's testings will give strength for Satan's temptings. And out of this double furnace the gold comes doubly purified.
Some circumstance arises involving a decision. There is a clear conviction of what the inner One prefers but it runs against our plans in which friends or loved ones are concerned who may not see eye-to-eye with us. To follow the conviction means misunderstanding and some sacrifice. And so the test is on. To be tactful, and gentle in following rigidly the clear conviction will take grace, and, will bring a refining of life's strength and fabric.
To run through this old Book and call the names is to bring to mind the men who have gone through just such testings and temptings; some with splendid victory, and some with shameful defeat.
So it comes to pass that surrender is not simply the initial act into this life of power. It must become the continuous habit. There must be a habitual living up to the act. Surrender comes to be an attitude of the will affecting every act and event of life. And by and by the instinctive measuring of everything by its relation to Jesus comes to be the involuntary habit of the life.
Friends with God.
The second thing upon which fresh supplies of power hinge is the cultivation of personal friendship with God. This is the positive side of the new life. This is the true natural life. It is the living constantly in the atmosphere of the Spirit's presence.
The highest and closest relation possible between any two is friendship. The basis of friendship is sympathy, that is, fellow-feeling. The atmosphere of friendship is mutual unquestioning trust. In the original meaning of the word, a friend is a lover. A friend is one who loves you for your sake alone, and steadfastly loves, regardless of any return, even return-love. Friendship hungers for a closer knowledge, and for a deeper intimacy. Friendship grows with exchange of confidences. Friends are confidants.
|As in a double solitude, ye think in each other's hearing.|
A man's friendships shape his life more than aught else, or all else.
Now this is the tender relation which God Himself desires with each of us. Did Jesus ever speak more tenderly than on that last Thursday night when He said to those constant companions of two years, |I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known unto you|? Out of his own experience David writes, |The friendship of the Lord is with those that reverently love Him, and He will give evidence of His friendship by showing to them His covenant, His plans, and His power.| And David knew. Abraham had the reputation of being a friend of God. He even trusted his darling boy's life to God when he could not understand what God was doing. And he found God worthy of his friendship. He spared that darling boy even though later He spared not His own darling boy. It thrills one's heart to hear God saying, |Abraham my friend.| Friendship with God means such oneness of spirit with Him that He may do with us and through us what He wills. This and this alone is the true power -- God in us, and God with us free to do as He wills.
Now trust is the native air of friendship. A breath of doubt chills and chokes. If one is filled and surrounded by trust in God as the atmosphere of his life his touch with God then becomes most intimate. Satan cannot breathe in that atmosphere. It chokes him. Air is the native element of the bird. Away from air it gasps and dies. Water is the native element of the fish. Out of water it chokes and gasps and dies. Trust is the native element of friendship -- friendship with God. A constant feeling of confidence in GOD that believes in His overruling power, and in His unfailing love, and rests in Him in the darkness when the thing you prize most is lying bound on the stony altar.
The Spirit of God is a friend, a lover. He is ever wooing us up the heights. Let us climb up. He is every wooing us into the inner recesses of friendship with Himself. Shall we not go along with Him? This is the secret of a life ever fresh with the presence of God. It is the only pathway of increasing youthfulness in the power of God.
|And in old age, when others fade,
They fruit still forth shall bring;
They shall be fat, and full of sap,
And aye be flourishing.|
A Bunch of Keys.
To those who would enter these inner sacred recesses here is a small bunch of keys which will unlock the doors. Three keys in this bunch; a key-time, a key-book, and a key-word. The key-time is time alone with God daily. With the door shut. Outside things shut outside, and one's self shut in alone with God. This is the trysting-hour with our Friend. Here He will reveal Himself to us, and reveal our real selves to ourselves. This is going to school to God. It is giving Him a chance to instruct and correct, to strengthen and mellow and sweeten us. One must get alone to find out that he never is alone. The more alone we are so far as men are concerned the least alone we are so far as God is concerned. It must be unhurried time. Time enough to forget about time. When the mind is fresh and open. One must use this key if he is to know the sweets of friendship with God.
The key-book is this marvelous old classic of God's Word. Take this book with you when you go to keep tryst with your Friend. God speaks in His Word. He will take these words and speak them with His own voice into the ear of your heart. You will be surprised to find how light on every sort of question will come. It is remarkable what a faithful half-hour daily with a good paragraph Bible in wide, swift, continuous reading will do in giving one a swing and a grasp of this old Book. In time, and not long time either, one will come to be saturated with its thought and spirit. Reading the Bible is listening to God. It is fairly pathetic what a hard time God has to get men's ears. He is ever speaking but we will not be quiet enough to hear. One always enjoys listening to his friend. What this Friend says to us will change radically our conceptions of Himself, and of life. It will clear the vision, and discipline the judgment, and stiffen the will.
The key-word is obedience: a glad prompt doing of what our Friend desires because He desires it. Obedience is saying |yes| to God. It is the harmony of the life with the will of God. With some it seems to mean a servile bondage to details. It should rather mean a spirit of intelligent loyalty to God. It aims to learn His will, and then to do it. God's will is revealed in His word. His particular will for my life He will reveal to me if I will listen, and, if I will obey, so far as I know to obey. If I obey what I know, I will know more. Obedience is the organ of knowledge in the soul. |He that willeth to do His will shall know.|
God's will includes His plan for a world, and for each life in the world. Both concern us. He would first work in us, that He may work through us in His passionate outreach for a world. His will includes every bit of one's life; and therefore obedience must also include every bit. A run out in a single direction may serve as a suggestion of many others.
The law of my body, which obeyed brings or continues health is God's will, as much as that which concerns moral action. Our bodies are holy because God lives in them. Overwork, insufficient sleep, that imprudent diet and eating which seems the rule rather than the exception, carelessness of bodily protection in rain or storm or drafts or otherwise: -- these are sins against God's will for the body, and no one who is disobedient here can ever be a channel of power up to the measure of God's longing for us.
And so regarding all of one's life, one must ever keep an open mind Godward so as to get a well balanced sense of what His will is. Practice is the great thing here. This is school work. By persistent listening and practising there comes a mature judgment which avoids extremes in both directions. But the rule is this: cheery prompt obeying regardless of consequences. Disobedience, failure to obey, is breaking with our Friend.
These are the three keys which will let us into the innermost chambers of friendship with God. And with them goes a key-ring on which these keys must be strung. It is this: -- implicit trust in God. Trust is the native air of friendship. In its native air it grows strong and beautiful. Whatever disturbs an active abiding trust in God must be driven out of doors, and kept out. Doubt chills the air below normal. Anxiety overheats the air. A calm looking up into God's face with an unquestioning faith in Him under every sort of circumstance -- this is trust. Faith has three elements: knowledge, belief and trust. Knowledge is acquaintance with certain facts. Belief is accepting these facts as true. Trust is risking something that is very precious. Trust is the life-blood of faith. This is the atmosphere of the true natural life as planned by God.
|If a wren can cling
To a spray a-swing
In a mad May wind, and sing, and sing,
As if she'd burst for joy;
Why cannot I,
In His quiet arms, beneath His sky,
Unmoved by earth's annoy?|
Shall we take these keys, and this key-ring and use them faithfully? It will mean intimate friendship with God. And that is the one secret of power, fresh, and ever freshening.
There is a simple story told of an old German friend of God which illustrates all of this with a charming picturesqueness. Professor Johan Albrecht Bengal was a teacher in the seminary in Denkendorf, Germany, in the eighteenth century. |He united profound reverence for the Bible with an acuteness which let nothing escape him.| The seminary students used to wonder at the great intellectuality, and great humility and Christliness which blended their beauty in him. One night, one of them, eager to learn the secret of his holy life, slipped up into his apartments while the professor was out lecturing in the city, and hid himself behind the heavy curtains in the deep recess of the old-fashioned window. Quite a while he waited until he grew weary and thought of how weary his teacher must be with his long day's work in the class-room and the city. At length he heard the step in the hall, and waited breathlessly to learn the coveted secret. The man came in, changed his shoes for slippers, and sitting down at the study table, opened the old well-thumbed German Bible and began reading leisurely page by page. A half-hour he read, three-quarters of an hour, an hour, and more yet. Then leaning his head down on his hands for a few minutes in silence he said in the simplest most familiar way, |Well, Lord Jesus, we're on the same old terms. Good-night.|
If we might live like that. Begin the day with a bit of time alone, a good-morning talk with Him. And as the day goes on in its busy round sometimes to put out your hand to Him, and under your breath say, |let's keep on good terms, Lord Jesus.| And then when eventide comes in to go off alone with Him for a quiet look into His face, and a good-night talk, and to be able to say, with reverent familiarity: |Good-night, Lord Jesus, we are on the same old terms, you and I, good-night.| Ah! such a life will be fairly fragrant with the very presence of God.
Hosea xiv: 5.
John vii: 37-39.
Ezekiel xlvii: 1-12.
1 Thessalonians iv: 8
1 Corinthians xii: 1-11.
2 Corinthians xi: 4
Galatians iii: 2-5; iv: 6; v: 5, 18,[D] 22-25.
Romans viii: 1-27, xv: 13.
Colossians i: 8.
Philippians iii: 3.
Titus iii: 5-6.
[Transcriber's Note D: Original had |18, 18,|]
Acts xix: 1-7.
1 Thessalonians v: 19.
Galatians v: 16.
Ephesians iv: 30.
Eph. v: 18.
One beauty of the revised version is its paragraphing.