The Baptism With the Holy Spirit # 2
Can any honest heart deny that sacraments, church prayers, and well-read sermons leave multitudes of learned and unlearned, men and women, priests and people, as unaltered in their self-will, self-pity, and self-indulgence as they leave children unchanged in their childish follies? It matters not what religious name is given to the old earthly man of Adam's bestial flesh and blood, whether he zealously contend for every sound Protestant doctrine, or popish dogmas, or Jewish feast days - or for various political parties. Under all these names the unregenerate, natural man has but one and the same nature, without any other difference but that which time and place, education, complexion, hypocrisy, and worldly wisdom may make in him. By such a man, whether he be papist or Protestant, the gospel is only kept as a book, and all that is within it is only so much condemnation to the keeper, just as the Pharisee zealously preserved the Books of the Law and Prophets, only to be more fully condemned by them. The coming of Christ to live by His Spirit in the hearts of redeemed men is God's full answer and only salvation from this false religion of self-effort.
Woe to every man who ignores the testimony of the holy messenger from God, that Elias who prepared the way of the Lord!" I indeed baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose, he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matthew 3:11). Suppose that this which John the Baptist said of Christ is not our faith, that we do not receive it as the Word of God in which we are firmly to stand. Then be as expert in doctrine as we will, we have made as sure and solemn a rejection of the truth as did those blind rabbis who received not the testimony of John.
A fire and Spirit baptism from above was the news which John published to the world when he proclaimed that the kingdom of God was at hand. When Christ appeared to His disciples forty days, talking of this kingdom, He promised this same baptism in the Spirit, saying that it was essential or they could not be His witnesses in power. And if this fire and Spirit from above has not baptized us into a birth of the life of God in our souls, we have not found that blessing and the kingdom of God to which both John and Christ bore witness. But if - still worse - we are so bewitched through a blind worship of the dead letter of doctrine as to become writers and preachers against this inward heavenly fire and Spirit, we are at once with those to whom our Lord said, "Woe unto you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, who shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither ye them that are entering to go in" (Matthew 23:13).
A divine love, as the blossom and fragrance in every fruit of the Spirit, is that which above all marks those who have entered into this baptism which Christ gives. There is nothing that so much exalts our Lord to His true place in our hearts as this heavenly love. It cleanses and purifies like a holy fine, and all selfish desires fall away before it. Everything that is good and holy grows out of it, and it becomes a continual source of all virtue and pious practises. This love flows out towards all of God's creatures because they are His, the creation of His goodness. For when we love God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our strength, we shall necessarily love those beings that are created by Him to be the objects of His own eternal love. If I have or despise any man in the world, I hate that which God cannot hate, and despise that which He loves. And can I think that the heavenly fire of God's love burns in my heart, while I hate that which was created in His image and exists only by the continuance of His love towards it?
The impossibility of this is plainly stated by John: "If any man says he loves God, and hates his brother, he is a liar" (1 John 4:20).
Since it was the sins of the world that made the Son of God become a compassionate, suffering, Advocate for all mankind, no one is of the Spirit of Christ except he that has the utmost compassion for sinners. There is no greater sign of your own baptism in the Spirit than when you find yourself all love and compassion towards them that are very weak and sinful, and especially towards those who oppose or misuse you. "He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in Him" (1 John 4:16). Nor is there greater reason for repentance than when you find yourself angry and offended at the behavior of others.. A man naturally fancies that it is his own exceeding love of virtue that makes him unable to despise another, and cannot bear the fellowship of a third, he supposes it all to be proof of his own high sense of virtue, his love of God, and just hatred of sin. And yet one would think that a man needed no other cure for this attitude of heart than this one reflection: if this had been the spirit of the Son of God, if His hatred of sin had been of this sort, there had been no redemption for sinners.
Though God hates sin, He loves the sinner. We must then set ourselves against sin as we do against sickness and disease, by showing love and tender compassion to those who suffer from it. This therefore we may take for a certain rule, that the more the divine nature and life of Jesus is manifest in us, and the higher our sense of righteousness and virtue, the more we shall pity and love those who are suffering from the blindness, disease, and death of sin. The sight of such people then, instead of raising in us a haughty contempt holier-than-thou indignation, will rather fill us with such tenderness and compassion as when we see the miseries of a disease. Such is the holy flame of divine love that kindles upon those who offer themselves as a sacrifice unto God and are truly filled with His Spirit.
(continued with # 3)