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The great men of history have all had to “go away" in order to wield the full measure of their influence. The living among us are the dead. The men who are dominating our affairs are not those who have the trumpet at their lips, but those who have gone into God's acre, many of them lying in unknown graves “unwept, unhonored and unsung.'
The influence of Jesus, while he sojourned as a man among men, was inconsiderable as compared with that which he exerted afterward. ceeded in gathering a little group of fishermen and other humble folk about him; and that, apparently, was all. His announced plan was to revolutionize history and turn the world upside down; and this meager following was all there was to show for it!
All bodily presence is weak. It seemed impossible for Jesus even to impress upon his disciples an adequate thought of his divine nature and authority so long as they were able to say, “Behold he is with us and one of us." One night while they were rowing across the sea of Galilee the storm fell suddenly and they were overwhelmed with fear. What was their Master's power to them? Yet he was only three miles away!
So sensuous was their faith that it reached only to their finger-tips. For their sake, therefore, as well as for the world's sake, he must vanish out of their sight; like Lycurgus, who, having prepared a code of laws for Sparta, and perceiving that his personal presence was a hindrance to the just ob
servance of that code, mysteriously disappeared and never again was seen among men. But he left his influence behind him. It was because he found the fulcrum of his lever outside the world that his name is mentioned among the great lawgivers of the world to-day.
His bequest.- But Christ has nothing to say of such considerations as these. The reason which he gives for his going away is that he was to leave behind him a bequest which should be a manifold equivalent for every loss. "If I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go I will send him unto you."
In the history of our world there have been three divine dispensations. The first was the dispensation of the Father, which continued from the creation until the advent of Christ, a period of about four thousand years. The second was the dispensation of the Son, which continued for a brief period of about thirty years; it was like a sun spot on the mountains, which lingers for a moment and is gone. The third is the dispensation of the Spirit, in which we are living to-day. At the ascension of Christ the work of the kingdom on earth was transferred to the Holy Spirit; and he, as its executive, will carry it on until the restitution of all things.
So Jesus said farewell and went his way. What then? For a time his followers were overwhelmed with sorrow, feeling that all was over.
But after his resurrection Christ reappeared and remained with his disciples forty days, long enough to satisfy them that whereas he had died he was now alive forevermore, and to mark out for them the plan of the campaign which was to eventuate in the restoration of the world to God. At the close of that period he met them at Olivet, breathed on them, saying, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit!" and gave them the great commission, "Go, evangelize!" Then the heavens opened to receive him.
Ten days later, while the disciples were praying in an open court in Jerusalem, the Spirit came with a sound as of a rushing, mighty wind; and the beginning of the new administration was signalized by the conversion of three thousand souls in a single day!
Personality of the Holy Spirit.-We are living in this dispensation of the Spirit; and it is obviously of the utmost importance that we should understand the meaning of it. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal something or other, an affluence, an effluence, an influence or anything of the sort. He is the third person of the Godhead. His personality is as real as that of the Father or that of the Son. He is the Executive of this dispensation, under whose authority and control we, as followers of Christ, meet all responsibilities and discharge al duties.
It is nearly nineteen hundred years since Jesus
advised his disciples that they were to act henceforth under this direction; and think of the millions on millions of people in the world who have never heard his gospel ! Nor can the Church expect to realize its best possibilities so long as its ministers and members fail to recognize the leadership of the Spirit, and the fact that they themselves, in order to meet their responsibilities under the great commission, must be baptized with fire and power and made conscious partners in the transcendent work of the Spirit of God.
The convicting power of the Spirit.—The influence of the Holy Ghost, as the great dynamic in human history, is here clearly indicated in the teaching of Christ. He says of the Comforter, “When he is come he will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment."
Of sin. He will convict the world of sin, "because they believe not on me."
The average man has a totally inadequate sense of sin. At the best, he regards it as a violation of law. He sees clearly enough that theft, arson, forgery, murder and adultery are sins. In fact, however, they are merely symptoms of sin, like eruptions which indicate an inward malady. And when we try to cure sin with chains and prisons and scaffold trees, we are simply doctoring the visible symptoms of it.
But here comes the Holy Ghost to correct this
misapprehension. He teaches us that sin in any form whatsoever is not only a violation of law, divine or human, but enmity against God.
This is getting down to the root of the matter. The thief, the drunkard and the drab are sinners, certainly; any child knows that. But how about the smug, decorous, respectable malefactor who does not wear his vices on his sleeve for daws to peck at? What about the man who keeps within the bounds of statutes and ordinances but has no place in his life for God? Is he also a sinner? The Holy Ghost says yes. Why? Because he breathes God's air, lives on his bounty, is a constant beneficiary of his goodness and yet has not the grace to say, "I thank you !"
If this were all it would be bad enough; but the head and front of his offending is that when God sends his only-begotten Son into the world to die for his redemption, he will have none of him! So said Peter to the assembled multitudes on the day of Pentecost, “Jesus of Nazareth ... him .. ye by the hands of lawless men did crucify and slay.” They were guilty of a thousand sins; but this was the greatest of all.
To reject Christ is to crucify him afresh; and what a sin have we here in the light of this gospel age! This is the revolt of the sinner against God. It is worse than theft and murder and adultery rolled into one. But tell that to the respectable sinner and he will smile at you. The Holy Ghost must come and uncover his heart. And when the