With the Holy Ghost.
THE chapter with this caption may have relevancy to some modern advocates of Christian Perfection, but is not relevant to the doctrine as taught by Wesley and Wesleyan standard theologians. For rhetorical reasons, Wesley used at least twenty-five phrases to indicate this state of grace. But among these, “the baptism of the Spirit,” “the fullness of the Spirit,” “the coming of the Comforter,” are not found. In speaking of “a second change,” of being “saved from all sin and perfected in love,” he says: “If they like to call this ‘receiving the Holy Ghost,’ they may; only the phrase, in that sense, is not scriptural, and not quite proper; for they all ‘received the Holy Ghost’ when they were justified. God then “sent forth the Spirit of his Son into their hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father.’” It seems that Charles Wesley was not so careful in this particular, since John quotes him as saying to him: “Your day of Pentecost is not fully come; but I doubt not it will; and you will then hear of persons sanctified as frequently as you do now of persons justified.” Fletcher does not positively affirm the entire sanctification of “the multitude of them that believed” in the happy “days of Pentecost.” He says:
While many of them are perfect in love, many might have the imperfection of their love only covered over by a land flood (which Americans call a freshet) of peace and joy in believing.
Hence we conclude that the phrase, baptism or fullness of the Spirit,” may mean something less than entire sanctification.
baptism may be what we may call ecstatic fullness of the Spirit, the freshet
just mentioned, which temporarily conceals but does not remove the evils of the
heart. Sometimes this flood of divine power may prostrate the body without
cleansing the soul. I once saw in a prayer meeting in my father’s ample
kitchen a young woman lying prostrate and motionless till midnight, under what
the Methodists of that time called “the slaying power,” whom, within less
than six months, I saw on her way to a ball where she danced all night. It was a
temporary emotional fullness of the Spirit, leaving no permanent moral effect.
Again, there may be what we may call a charismatic fullness of the Spirit. The
person, whether a real Christian or not, may be filled with some extraordinary
gift or charism of the Spirit. In his Sermon on the Mount our Lord Jesus teaches
that such a gift may exist where there is no grace, and never was: “Many will
say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in
thy name have cast out demons? and in thy name wrought miracles? Then will I
profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Wesley’s note is, especially to preachers of the Gospel, both searching and
admonitory. They may “write books, and preach excellent sermons;” “even
the working of miracles is no proof that a man has saving faith.” In his note
on faith to remove mountains he says: “But it is certain the faith which is
here spoken of does not always imply saving faith. Many have had it who thereby cast
out devils, and yet will at last have their portion with them.” In 1
Corinthians 13:1–3, Paul implies that a high degree of miracle-working faith
may exist without love. This faith is named as one of the nine charisms or
extraordinary gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8–11. Says Dr.
John Robson, in his recent lucid book, The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete:
It is a very solemn and awful fact that there may be enduement of the Spirit without life in the Spirit, service in the kingdom without being born into the kingdom. Hence, we have such a character as Balaam endued with the highest prophetic gifts of the Spirit, and yet living a life of enmity with God and his people. Hence, we have to the present day occasional instances of men of high evangelistic power, a means of blessing to others, and yet living in sin. Our Lord tells us that there will be many such.
But there is another kind of fullness of the Spirit which must imply entire sanctification—the permanent gracious presence in the soul of the Holy Spirit, in his fullness, not as an extraordinary gift, but as a person having the right of way through soul and body, having the keys to even the inmost rooms, illuminating every closet and pervading every crevice of the nature, filling the entire being with holy love. This we may call the ethical fullness, or fullness of righteousness, to distinguish it from the ecstatic and the charismatic fullness. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” But as these adjectives are not used in the Scriptures, the phrase “fullness of the Spirit” is not a certain proof text of entire sanctification. Yet it is quite certain that the baptism or fullness of the Spirit—as a grace, not as a gift—never occurs till after the new birth by the Spirit. It is certain that it indicates a marked transition of uplift in the spiritual life, which some call endowment for service, and others entire sanctification. I have said that Wesleyan theologians do not ground the doctrine of Christian perfection, as initiated by entire sanctification, on this class of proof texts. Yet, in popular phrase, for the sake of variety in testimony, these texts are largely used. Whether we read Acts 19:2: “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” as Bengel, Meyer, and others do, or “when ye believed,” as the Revised Version does, is immaterial. It is evident that the persons addressed as disciples and believers were lacking some great spiritual blessing necessary to the perfection of their Christian character and to their highest efficiency. What a blessing to universal Methodism if this question should be earnestly pressed home upon all our Church members, without waiting to determine to a hair’s breadth just exactly how much it means.
Our author’s chapter on the baptism of the Spirit might have been included in his discussion of irrelevant texts, on none of which do our standard theologians ground the doctrine of Christian perfection. It is to be regretted that he did not take more space for his explanation of the texts considered as relevant.