We are in the midst of a marked revival of interest in the Person and work of the Holy Sprit. More books, booklets and tracts upon that subject have issued from the press during the last eighty years than in all previous time since the invention of the printing. Indeed, within the last twenty years more has been written and said upon the doctrine of the Holy spirit than in the preceding eighteen hundred years. Doubtless much good has been done. Doubtless in so far as the testimony has been according to Scripture it has been the divine answer alike to the false mysticism of the day--spiritualism, theosophy, Christian science (falsly so called)--and to the current denial of the supernatural which is enervating modern Christianity.
But along with this good is much evil. Much which has been written and said is distinctly unbiblical; much, of which so strong a statement would not be warranted, has the grave demerit of interpreting Scripture by experience, instead of subjecting experience to the test of Scripture. Something is confidently asserted because the writer has "felt" it. Not infrequently the Spirit has been put into the place of Christ. Much of this mass of testimony is deeply legal in its spirit. Believers are set upon various works to the end that they may receive the baptism with the Spirit. They are directed to pray, to emmpty themselves, to die to self and the world. Husbands and wives are directed to "die" to each other. Natural affection is branded as idolatry. In many ways asceticism is inculcated, and made conditional if the Spirit is to be received in His fullness.
Very few of the more recent writings upon the Holy Spirit distinguish the dispensational aspects of the question, or take account of the progressive unfolding of the doctrine of His Person and work. In these papers the endeavor will be made to state these vital things with clearness and simplicity. At present it may suffice to say, that in respect of no other doctrine of Scripture is an understanding of its progressive revelation more absolutely essential. The writings referred to add to the confusion of mingling together the past, middle-past, and present offices and operations of the Spirit, the farther discord of presenting the personal experiences of the Apostles as the pattern of the believer's experience now. The fact that the Apostles began as Jews, the true Israel of God, seeing in Jesus the promised Messiah, and then to be, with Christ as chief corner-stone, the foundation stones of the church, seems utterly forgotten by the more part of recent writers upon the Holy Spirit. They speak of new Pentecosts without reflecting that they might with equal appropriateness speak of new Nativities. It should be obvious to the most careless student of Scripture that just as the Son of God had been acting in and toward the world from the first, but at last made a true Advent at the Nativity; so the Holy Spirit, who had been acting in and toward the world from the first at last made a true Advent at Pentecost.
Furthermore, it is rare indeed to find the relationships of the spirit properly associated with his offices. In Scripture these are carefully discriminated. The undeniable result of all this is that many earnest children of God are in utter confusion of mind upon this profoundly vital subject; and the peril is that in very weariness and discouragement thousands will turn from the study of types and prophecies, sadly convinced that the truth is so hidden away as that no one may hope to come to clearness of vision of it.
The present writer is persuaded, on the contrary, that, while many of the operations of the Spirit (as His agency in the new birth) are beyond human analysis and defination, the doctrine of His Person, relationships, and offices is transparently simple. The purpose, then, of these Plain Papers is to set forth that doctrine in a plain and Biblical way. That is all. The reader of these Papers will not, therefore, expect them to constitute an elaborate treatise; still less to present or defend a theory. The writer aspires to do no more than to set in order things which are in confusion and to leave his readers face to face with their actual privileges and responsibilities in respect of the divine Spirit who came into the world on the day of Pentecost for purposes as definite and simple as those which, some thirty-three years before Pentecost, brought the divine Son into the world.