Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

May 5, 1896

Operation of the Holy Spirit Made Manifest in the Life

By Mrs. E. G. White

At infinite cost, provision has been made that men shall reach the perfection of Christian character. Those who have been privileged to hear the truth, and have been impressed by the Holy Spirit to receive the Holy Scriptures as the voice of God, have no excuse for becoming dwarfs in the religious life. By exercising the ability which God has given, they are to be daily learning, and daily receiving spiritual fervor and power, which have been provided for every true believer. If we would be growing plants in the Lord's garden, we must have a constant supply of spiritual life and earnestness. Growth will then be seen in the faith and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no half-way house where we may throw off responsibility, and rest by the way. We are to keep advancing heavenward, developing a solid religious character. The measure of the Holy Spirit we receive, will be proportioned to the measure of our desire and the faith exercised for it, and the use we shall make of the light and knowledge that shall be given to us. We shall be entrusted with the Holy Spirit according to our capacity to receive and our ability to impart it to others. Christ says, “Every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth.” He who truly seeks for the precious grace of Christ, will be sure not to be disappointed. This promise has been given to us by Him who will not deceive us. It is not stated as a maxim or a theory, but as a fact, as a law of the divine government. We can be assured that we shall receive the Holy Spirit if we individually try the experiment of testing God's word. God is true; his order is perfect. “He that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Light and truth will shine forth according to the desire of the soul. O that all would hunger and thirst after righteousness, that they might be filled!

Those men who calculate just how religious exercises should be conducted, and are very precise and methodical in diffusing the light and grace that they seem to have, simply do not have much of the Holy Spirit. If they had more of the Spirit of God, they would meddle less with the experiences of men who have received this divine gift in large abundance. There is much need of the testimony that was given to Nicodemus. Jesus said unto Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus was astonished as well as indignant at these words. He regarded himself as not only an intellectual, but a pious and religious man. But Christ said again to him, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so [are a few who profess to believe the truth?—No.] is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” Nicodemus was unbelieving. He could not harmonize this doctrine of conversion with his understanding of what constituted religion. He could not explain to his own satisfaction the science of conversion; but Jesus showed him, by a figure, that it could not be explained by any of his precise methods. Jesus pointed out to him the fact that he could not see the wind, yet he could discern its action. He might never be able to explain the process of conversion, but he would be able to discern its effect. He heard the sound of the wind which bloweth where it listeth, and he could see the results of its action. The operating agency was not revealed to view; men could not tell whence it came, or whither it went. They could not define by what law it was governed; but they could see what it produced by its action. No human reasoning of the most learned man can define the operations of the Holy Spirit upon human minds and characters; yet they can see the effects upon the life and actions. The Holy Spirit is a free, working, independent agency. The God of heaven uses his Spirit as it pleases him, and human minds and human judgment and human methods can no more set boundaries to its working, or prescribe as to the channel through which it shall operate, than they can say to the wind, “I bid you to blow in a certain direction, and to conduct yourself in such and such a manner.”

Though we cannot see the Spirit of God, we know that men who have been dead in trespasses and sins, become convicted and converted under its operations. The thoughtless and wayward become serious. The hardened repent of their sins, and the faithless believe. The gambler, the drunkard, the licentious, become steady, sober, and pure. The rebellious and obstinate become meek and Christlike. When we see these changes in the character, we may be assured that the converting power of God has transformed the entire man. We saw not the Holy Spirit, but we saw the evidence of its work on the changed character of those who were hardened and obdurate sinners. As the wind moves in its force upon the lofty trees and brings them down, so the Holy Spirit can work upon human hearts, and no finite man can circumscribe the work of God. The Spirit of God is manifested in different ways upon different men. One under the movings of this power will tremble before the word of God. His convictions will be so deep that a hurricane and tumult of feeling seem to rage in his heart, and his whole being is prostrate under the convicting power of the truth. When the Lord speaks forgiveness to the repenting soul, he is full of ardor, full of love to God, full of earnestness and energy, and the life-giving Spirit which he has received cannot be repressed. Christ is in him, a well of water springing up into everlasting life. His feelings of love are as deep and ardent as was his distress and agony. His soul is like the fountain of the great deep broken up, and he pours forth his thanksgiving and praise, his gratitude and joy, until the heavenly harps are tuned to notes of rejoicing. He has a story to tell, but not in any precise, common, methodical way. He is a soul ransomed through the merits of Jesus Christ, and his whole being is thrilled with the realization of the salvation of God.

Others are brought to Christ in a more gentle way. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” You cannot see the operating agency, but you can see its effects. When Nicodemus said unto Jesus, “How can these things be?” Jesus said to him, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” A teacher in Israel, a man among wise men, a man who supposed that he was able to comprehend the science of religion, and yet stumbling at the doctrine of conversion! He was not willing to admit truth, because he could not understand all that was connected with the operation of the power of God; and yet he accepted the facts of nature, although he could not explain or even comprehend them. Like other men of all ages, he was looking to forms and precise ceremonies as more essential to religion than the deep movings of the Spirit of God.

The very work that Christ declared necessary in the case of Nicodemus is the very work that needs to be done for those men who think that everything pertaining to religion must be done in a precise, methodical way. They need to be born again; and how the new birth is accomplished matters not, so long as the heart is renewed. When the prayer is sincerely offered, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me,” the voice of the Lord answers, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” The renewed heart will have no plants of selfishness to cultivate. Pride will be seen in its sinfulness, and will be expelled. It is not for the human clay to find fault with the molding process of the potter, but to submit to be molded in any way. Every soul must submit to the Lord before he can be made a vessel unto honor, to be filled with the renewing, sanctifying grace of Christ.

There are many men in the ministry who need to take home to themselves the words that Christ spoke to Nicodemus. They may regard themselves as expositors of the Scriptures, and yet may make the most simple doctrines of that Bible, the most essential truth, the most practical experience in godliness, a mystery to their hearers. No man, no matter how high his calling or responsibility, can fully understand the word of God, unless he practices the word in his daily life. If the truth is made practical, then he gives expression in his character to the comfort and peace of God that passeth understanding. A child in years may be able to comprehend the meaning of the practical lessons of Christ, when the most learned masters and teachers are ignorant of their significance. Jesus answered and said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemeth good in thy sight.”

It is a dangerous thing for men to resist the Spirit of truth and grace and righteousness, because its manifestations are not according to their ideas, and have not come in the line of their methodical plans. The Lord works in his own way, and according to his own devising. Let men pray that they may be divested of self, and may be in harmony with heaven. Let them pray, “Not my will, but thine, O God, be done.” Let men bear in mind that God's ways are not their ways, nor his thoughts their thoughts; for he says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” In the instruction that the Lord gave Gideon when he was about to fight with the Midianites,—that he should go out against his foes with an army of three hundred blowing trumpets, and carrying empty pitchers in their hands, and shouting, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon,—these precise, methodical, formal men would see nothing but inconsistency and confusion. They would start back with determined protest and resistance. They would have held long controversies to show the inconsistency and the dangers that would accompany the carrying on of the warfare in such an extreme way, and in their finite judgment they would pronounce all such movements as utterly ridiculous and unreasonable. How unscientific, how inconsistent, would they have thought the movements of Joshua and his army at the taking of Jericho! “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.” Where were the scientific methods in this manner of warfare?

(Concluded next week.)

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