By Horatius Bonar
The Holy Spirit begins, carries on, and consummates in us all spiritual feeling, all spiritual worship, all spiritual life and energy. There be nothing more hollow and unreal than religion without the Holy Spirit. That which is external and superficial, that which manifests itself in mere dress, and music, and routine service may flourish without Him; no, can only flourish in His absence. But the deep and the real must be His work from first to last. The Spirit is absolutely necessary to a religion of love, and liberty, and joy. Mere 'religiousness' is at every man's command. Any man may get it up in a day. But 'spirituality' comes from above, and is the product of the Spirit dwelling and working in the heart.
The 'bustle' of the present day hinders our discernment of this difference; no, it grieves the Spirit provoking Him utterly to depart; thus leaving us with a hollowness of heart which yields no rest nor satisfaction, and which cannot be acceptable to God. The Spirit of God loves retirement and silence; it is then He penetrates into our hearts.
It is the Holy Spirit who has been the life of the Church. When He came, all was life; when He departed, all was death. Nothing was lacking so long as He was in the midst, and when He left nothing could compensate for His withdrawal. When He was present, the Church was the garden of the Lord. When He forsook her, every herb and flower of that garden withered. It was the fulness of the Spirit's power, possessed and exercised by holy men, awakening, quickening, sanctifying, that wrought the mighty changes which history records.
Formalism, routine, and external religion, the excitements of mysticism- these are poor substitutes for the life, and glow, and energy of the Holy Spirit. Nothing but His own presence can avail to lift us out of the unreal religiousness into which we have fallen; to transform creeds into realities, and the bodily bowing of the head, or bending of the knee, into spiritual worship; turning the "dim religious light" into the sunshine of a heavenly noon; drawing out of our hymnals the deep 'heart music' of divine and blessed song; delivering us alike from Rationalism and Ritualism, from a hollow externalism, and from an impulsive and unreasoning fanaticism.
It is His presence only that can vitalize ordinances; clothe ministry with power; unite the broken Church; fill the void of aching hearts; impart to service, liberty and gladness; ward off error; and make truth mighty, filling our sanctuaries with living worshipers, and sending forth men of might to preach the everlasting gospel; and to proclaim, as in primitive days, the Christ that has come, and the Christ that is to come again.
The Spirit has come, in His love, to quicken the dead in sin; and He is daily moving upon the face of the waters; bringing life out of death. Nor is His arm shortened, that it cannot save.
The Spirit has come, in His love, to give light for darkness. Nor is there any human heart too dark for Him to illumine. He lights up souls. He lights up Churches. He lights up lands, making those who sit in darkness to see a great light.
The Spirit has come, in His love, to gather in the wanderers, far and near. No strayed one has gone too far into the wilderness for Him to follow and to bring back. The "ends of the earth" form the vast region into which His love has gone forth to seek, and find, and save.
The Spirit has come, in His love, to guide the doubting heart. He takes lovingly and gently the hand of the perplexed and inquiring, and leads them into the way of peace. He knows all their troubles and fears, so that they need not fear being misunderstood. He teaches their ignorance and shows them their mistakes, and points their eye to the cross.
The Spirit has come, in His love, to bind up the broken-hearted. His name is the Comforter, and His consolations are as abundant as they are everlasting. "Comfort, comfort my Persons," are the words which he has written down for every sorrowful one (Isa 40:1). In all trial, bereavement, pain, sorrow, let us realize the love of the Spirit. That love comes out most brightly and most tenderly in the day of mourning. In the chamber of sickness or of death, let us find strength and peace in the presence, companionship, and sympathy of the gracious Spirit.
The Spirit has come down, in His love, to seek after the backslider. From a heart that once owned Him, He has been driven out, and He has retired sorrowfully. But He has not ceased to desire a return to His old abode. He still pities, and yearns, and beseeches. "Turn, you backsliding children, for I am married unto you," are His words of longing and pity.
The Spirit has come, in His love, even to the mis-believing and the deluded, seeking to remove the mists with which a rebellious intellect has compassed itself about; and to lead them out into life, and love, and day. They are groping for an idea; and He brings them into contact with a Person, even God Himself. They are crying vaguely for knowledge; and He presents to them the wisdom deposited in the Person of the Word made flesh. They are in search of sympathy for their wounded hearts; and He places Himself before them in the fulness of His all sympathizing love. They are asking for a creed of certainty and perfection, on which their faith may rest; He offers Himself to them as a living and unerring Teacher- the Author of an infallible Book, all whose pages sparkle with the love of its loving Author. They crave beauty in worship, something to please the eye- aesthetic beauty, as they call it! He draws the eye to Him who is "the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely."
The Spirit has come, in His love, to build up His own. He seeks to fill, with His holy presence, the soul into which He has come. He wants, not a part of the man, but the whole- body, soul, and spirit- the entire being, that it may be altogether conformed to Himself. He has come to His temples, and His purpose is to make them in reality, what they are in name, the "habitation of God, the temples of the Holy Spirit."