The Work of the Spirit in Man

Job. 32:8.---' There is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty giveth them understanding' [RV].

The two words 'spirit' and 'inspiration' are of course only different forms of the same word, and the spirit in man is that capacity in him which enables him to become the recipient of the Almighty's inspiriting. It is so much ability on man's part to receive a Divine inbreathing set over against the power there is on God's part to communicate a Divine inbreathing. 'There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.'

And so the first work of inspiration is to create in us fresh personal vigor, and new spiritual animation. We work at our own characters as a painter works at his canvas, and a sculptor at his marble. It is only painted canvas and elaborated marble when it is done. It does not breathe. It shows no pulse-beat. Character cannot be constructed. It cannot be put together. It needs first of all a principle that is animated, and one, therefore, that is animating. It wants an impulse more glowingly, determined, and passionate than anything we are possessed of naturally. It is all a mistake that we cannot be good and manly without being scrupulously and studiously good. There is too much mechanism about our virtue. And the same thought works itself out in all variety of fine expression and deep suggestion in Pauline exhortations to Christian living and doing. We need nothing so much as a determining life-force at the core of character, an impulse from out the very soul of God, that shall hold us in its warm, steady, and irresistible grip, and impel us with a momentum that has the very pressure of Jehovah in it. If we have attained to a live manliness, and a heart so fed from out the veins of the Divine life that the throbbings of our heart synchronize with the throbbings of God's heart, we are in no danger. "All virtue to be safe must be enthusiastic," it has been said, and well said, if we will understand by enthusiasm here that which the word itself etymologically [the history of a word since tracing its earliest form] imports---so enthusisim simply means 'God in us.'

Endowed with this mysterious possession of inner life, with all its vastness of possible good, man studied its nature, examined its powers, explored it backwards in search of its source. The search brings them in contact with a vaster life than their own, a life which lays upon them its obligations, its imperatives. And so they became enthusiastic [original] by power of a force that is behind them, the great Original which seeks to express itself within and through them. And so they move on to great things; to greater than they know. "The man who goes the farthest," said Cromwell, "is the man who does not know where he is going." But he is sure that Another knows. The original man is a man of large convictions. He has to believe much in order to do much. Says a French writer: "Le peu Que nous cryons tient au peu que nous sommes" [the littleness of our belief is a measure of the littleness of our character]. To believe nothing is to do nothing. The most conspicuous figures in history have been people of the widest, firmest faith. They have cut so deep into the world's life because of the immensity of the pressure behind them. Whether it is Augustine in the fifth century, or Bernard in the twelfth, or Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth, or Luther in the Sixteenth, the originators of the world's best and deepest life have ever been men of belief.

And yet, observe, these men were always something more than their creed. They derived their force from their vital connection with the highest that they knew. They fed at the sources of life. And this life, which dominated them, delighted to show itself richer, subtler forms than the beliefs which they held. The character in them was so far beyond words. The personality they had reached had become a tree on which grew all manner of fruits. Their followers felt a fascination which could not be put into speech, because it was beyond speech. It is holiness which gives the world its great surprises. Thinking nothing of itself, it is the greatest self the world possesses. Our own age, has, in large measure, to reform its convictions; but its one chance of progress is in men and women whose allegiance is as true as theirs of old to the highest and best; whose life, open as was theirs to the infinite, receives from it the continuous reinforcement of its incalculable forces.

Another work of inspiration is to create in us fresh and vivid perceptions of the Divine truth: 'In His light we shall see light.' It is nothing short of inspiration that qualifies us to apprehend the truth of God's Word. Our prayers often imply as much. But in this, as in other matters, our prayers are often at a higher level than our practice or our philosophy. We need as much inspiration to enable us to read the Bible as it authors needed to fit them to write it. The faculty that will solve a problem of geometry is not the faculty that will solve a problem of Scripture. 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God . . . neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.' When the Psalmist would behold wondrous things in the Scriptures he cried to God, 'Open thou mine eyes.' And this leads us on to a word respecting Christian opinion and Christian creed.

No Christian creed is ever constructed. It may grow, but it can never be built. It cannot be put together from the outside any more than character can. The reference here is not to men's philosophy of religion, but to Christian creed in its closest and best sense. A Christian creed is a matter of the individual. It is a form in which he shapes his own experience of the things of God and of his own soul. It is putting into the vernacular of his own thought what God has shown to him of the Divine being and ways. A creed in its truest sense cannot, then, be taught any more than holiness can be taught. It is a matter between each man and God, and has to do with what God has shown him of Himself. In point of directness and personalness every true creed will be like that of the man whose eyes had been opened: "I can see"; inclusive of what he knew for himself, exclusive of all hearsay. Every Christian creed is like Peter's creed, of which Christ said, 'Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven'---an inspired creed. We might define a creed as the way in which a Christian states to others what God has first revealed in him. In this case it will be sure to bear upon it a good deal of the man himself, his personal idiosyncrasies, just as the books of the Bible tell us a great deal about the humanness of the men who were inspired to write them. No two men, therefore, will have exactly the same creed.

Once more, the inspirations of the Almighty qualify us for all kinds of holy doing. We make toilsome work of doing good because we do not let the inspirations of God work in us, and we make irksome work of doing good because we do not let the inspirations of God work through us. There, too, we are strangers to our privileges and traitors to our prerogatives. The world is full of Divine energy, energy material and energy spiritual, and it all waits to be used for human empowerment. And our inventors and mechanics and manufacturers are incomparably prompt in availing themselves of the physical energies of God than we are in adopting into our spiritual work His spiritual energies. Mechanics, the world over, are harnessing the cosmic forces of the world to our busy world's work. Water, wind, electricity, steam are all doing our errands. The industries of the world are all of them leaning back upon the willing might of God. But Divine spiritual power that is waiting to energize itself is kept out of the service by men's unfaith in its utility. Workers in the cause of Christ wear themselves out, shorten their lives, and exhaust their powers, because from egotism or unbelief they will operate the machinery of the Church by their own sheer strength, when they might interface the ponderous mechanism of the Church to the enginery of the sky, might prolong their own powers and augment their own serviceableness, by letting spiritual agencies, like industrial ones, be bound to the dynamics of heaven and worked by the inspirations of the Almighty.

We have more than enough of systems, of machinery, which, whether more or less perfect, will not go of itself. We may have done all that of ourselves we can do, and the moving spring may yet be wanting. 'The spirit of the living creature is in the wheels.'

And just where our national dread of enthusiasm is the strongest, we have surely many enthusiasts among us, soldiers who go upon a spiritual warfare at their own cost, and builders who expect with such materials as earth can furnish to reach even unto Heaven. Yet God is a spirit, and Man is also a spirit, and all work that is done between God and Man must be done in the spirit---must be worked into shape from the center outwards. The life that lies at the circumference of its guiding idea lies there but in faint outline, feebly drawn, like the outermost ripple on disturbed waters. We are anxious to spread the knowledge of God. This is our work, the end to which Christian exertion is chiefly directed, but before we can pursue it to any result, God must also work a work within us, upon the deepening of which the extension of Christ's kingdom naturally, inevitably follows. For they who are rooted in the Lord will in Him bud and blossom, and fill the face of the earth with fruit.

In Him, timothy maranatha

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