The Mission and
Necessity of the Holy Ghost
[from The Improvement Era, III:116-122]
When virtue and vitality are exhausted and the terminus of declining years is reached, the spirit then pursues its immortal exodus, leaving behind only a relic of cold, lifeless clay which, before it was deprived of its vital forces, rejoiced and sorrowed among the great throng of mortality. This life-giving union made manifest in spirit and body symbolizes very uniquely the relation that the Holy Ghost bears to the true Church of God. In other words, as the body when separated from the spirit is rendered powerless and passive so it is with the Church and members in particular when not in possession of this divine gift. To say it is purely indispensable to all true followers of Jesus is to present the matter in terms of mildness rather than with the stress which should accompany it. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God, without which no man can comprehend the things of God. "For what man knoweth the things of man save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God."---I. Cor. 2:11.
A careful consideration of the following passage of scripture will enable us to appreciate and sense more keenly the infinite importance that attaches itself to the subject now in hand. Nicodemus, visiting Christ by night, was informed by the Son of God that, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."---John 3:5. In this we perceive that the birth of the Spirit or the Holy Ghost is a necessary qualification or step in the preparation which one makes while here on earth and by which his eternal destiny is shaped; we learn also the
order, in which the birth of the Spirit comes, namely: after the baptism of water, as Christ told Nicodemus in the passage just quoted, that a man must be "born of water" first and then "of the Spirit."
By reference to the words of the Apostle Peter spoken on the day of Pentecost-Acts 2: 38---we see that the Holy Ghost was not only promised to the people whom Peter addressed, nor was the promise limited to the apostolic age---or one hundred or two thousand years---but the apostle says: "The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." The idea that this inestimable blessing was meant only for the early Christians is absurd, and we at once discard it as false. Sad and cheerless, indeed, would be the spiritual aspect of man were it true, as many modern divines assert that it is, that the Holy Ghost was given only to establish the church, and is now no longer needed. Have we reached a point in this world, I ask, that it is no longer necessary for man to work out a salvation? Has the Lord repealed or modified his original plan so that men may now unheed his laws and still continue to walk in his fear and admonition? Truth and reason answer, No. We still need the Holy Ghost to guide us aright. The apostle to the gentiles says: "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed, and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."----I Cor.12: 3. No reasonable man will affirm that an acknowledgment of Christ is not imperatively essential to salvation, and according to the above passage no man can truly make that acknowledgment unless in possession of the Holy Ghost.
No fact in scripture is made more conspicuous than this, and yet thousands of people who call themselves Christians and teachers of Christians, while they acknowledge the Holy Ghost as being a constituent of the gospel, they divest it of all its primitive powers, destroy its purpose and mission and transmute its nature, which amounts to the same thing as an open denial of the thing itself. In other words, in one breath they acknowledge it a divine gift from God extended to all his children, while in the next breath they deny its powers and fruits, which is equivalent to a denial of the thing itself. For of what service is the engine where no steam is generated to put its machinery into motion? So it is with the Holy
Ghost. Man feeds the divine gift with noble deeds and obedience, and enjoys as remuneration, its powers and fruits so necessary to his spiritual development.
To acquire this divine gift, so indispensable to the future happiness of man, all the laws and requirements preceding it must be obeyed and lived up to. These are respectively, faith in the Father and Son, followed by true and godly repentance, which means to leave off sin and work righteousness. After this determination to serve God, we become fit subjects for the next step---baptism, which is performed in the way Christ instituted, by immersion, and by some person who has been called of God as was Aaron, through a prophet, and thus authorized to do this baptizing. When these conditions have been complied with, we are then entitled to the Holy Ghost, accompanied with all the powers and fruits characteristic of the same. If this be not the case then the word of God surely is at fault.
Peter and other apostles, when on trial before the high priest, said: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree, * * * and we are his witnesses of these things; and so is the holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."---Acts 5:30-32. From this we see again that it was not only promised to the apostles, but, as before stated, to all that obey God. Its possession comes only by virtue of the abandonment of all worldly influences and practices whose natures are not elevating and in harmony with that which is honest and virtuous. An attempt to trace the course of an eagle in the air would savor no less of success than the attempt of him who undertakes to enjoy and understand the things of God when his mind and body are defiled and tarnished by the pernicious influences and degenerate habits of the world. "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."---John 14: 15-17. Here we see plainly that the gift is not for the world, but for those only who believe and obey.
The significance and value of the divine gift are made evident in the twenty-sixth verse of the last chapter quoted from, which
reads: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." A part of its mission, then, was to strengthen the memory, to aid in preaching and teaching so that every principle and exhortation advanced would be in accord with Godís word, and hence of priceless worth to them for whom they were meant. When the apostles taught the flock, they did it not by the enticing words of manís wisdom but would speak as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost. This is the only method to preach the gospel and preach it in a way that it will tend to the edification of the flock. Extemporaneous preaching gives the Lord a chance to dictate, and in this manner those things which are most needed on each occasion will be expounded and brought to light; but when the shepherd spends the entire week to weave the sermon, sparing no polish that would add new melody to its poetical and oratorical ring, it seems to me that the Lord is left out entirely and that the Holy Ghost, whose mission was to aid the ambassadors of Christ, is expunged, and the wavering ability of man brought in as a substitute. Brilliant preaching that wafts people to heaven on beds of ease does very well for this life, but the all-important question is, will it retain its brilliancy in the life to come and answer the requirements made of us by God. It is quite necessary, of course, that the successful minister be a man of great learning; yet, in all cases the Holy Spirit should control the disposition and expression of this knowledge.
Moreover, the Holy Ghost is to guide us into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak; and he will show us things to come.óJohn 16:13. We here see another grand thing in the mission of the Holy Ghost. How essential it is that we be guided into all truth! Truth alone will save us, and its deeply hidden gems are brought to the surface only through the power of the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, he would show us things to come; and the prophecy has always been a characteristic of Godís people and should be sought after and enjoyed by all true believers of today.
Thus far in our discussion we have seen, first, that man in order to fulfill the law and thereby gain eternal life must be born of the
Spirit, or, which amounts to the same thing, receive the Holy Ghost; second, man must have the Holy Ghost, otherwise he cannot say, and say truly, that Jesus is the Lord, which confession is indispensable to his salvation; third, man cannot understand and teach the gospel properly without the divine gift; fourth, by it we are guided into all truth. Bearing in mind these various and necessary things accorded man by virtue of the Holy Ghost, let us now search the scriptures and find, if possible, through what channel this glorious gift comes forth to man.
The eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles is very explicit on this particular point. We read in this chapter of Philip, an evangelist of the gospel, going to Samaria, at which place he remained for some time preaching the good word of Christ. By his teachings many of the Samaritans were converted and Philip baptized both men and women. When the news that Samaria had received the word of God reached the apostles which were at Jerusalem they sent unto them Peter and John who when they were come down prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost, for as yet he had fallen upon none of them, only (showing that matters as yet were incomplete), they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus; and now comes the point upon which the stress must be placed, then laid they their hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost.
In this it is clear that the Holy Ghost was given by the laying on of hands, or, in other words, the people of Samaria were "born of the Spirit" by the laying on of hands by ordained and chosen apostles of Christ. That it took men of authority to officiate in this, is made patent in the case of Simon, who, when he saw that the Holy Ghost was given by the laying on of the apostles' hands, offered them money, saying, give unto me that power that on whomsoever I lay my hands he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter rebuked him for his proposition, telling him that the gift of God was not purchased with money; also, that he had neither part nor lot in the matter, for his heart was not right in the sight of God. This is one evidence, then, that the Holy Ghost comes by the laying on of hands; also, that only divinely commissioned men may officiate in the ordinance.
As another decisive proof along this line, we read of Paul's ex-
perience at Ephesus, which is recorded in the nineteenth chapter of Acts. The apostle going into Ephesus and finding certain disciples, inquired of them as to whether they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed. To the apostle's surprise, they replied that they had not so much as heard of the Holy Ghost. They were then baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; and now again for the vital point: and when Paul had laid his hands on them the Holy Ghost came on them and they spake with tongues and prophesied. This, then, is another infallible evidence that the Holy Ghost is bestowed by the laying on of hands, and as shown in the last paragraph comes after, and not before, baptism.
The laying on of hands is the divine way of conferring the Holy Ghost. Because people have ceased to practice it, does not in the least nullify the doctrine or get man into heaven without complying with it. The gospel stands just as it is, and men may make it bend to suit their notions in this life, but when the race of mortality is run, they will be judged according to its every principle and wherein they have failed, instead of the gospel bending to remedy their mistakes they will have to make restitution for their neglect and transgressions.
Paul, in writing to Timothy, exhorted him to stir up the gift of God which was in him by the putting on of his hands. There are numerous other evidences that bear out the doctrine for which I am contending, but I will seek only to add one more to the many already adduced, after which I feel confident that all thinking people at least, will make no hesitancy in bearing testimony to the authenticity and reasonableness of my argument.
The passage of scripture that I now have in mind is one that bears so directly and conclusively upon the doctrine of the laying on of hands that it seems no man can deny its force without closing his eyes to the light of reason, and in fact to everything that partakes of the nature of logic and truth. The Apostle John in his second epistle and ninth verse says, "Whosoever transgresseth, and, abideth not it the doctrine of Christ, hath not God." If we must abide in Christ's doctrine let us find out what his doctrine is. This calls forth the passage referred to at the beginning of this paragraph. It is found in the sixth chapter of Hebrews, beginning at the first verse, and reads thus: "Therefore leaving the principles
of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God; of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." These are doctrines of Jesus Christ in which man must abide or lose his salvation---faith, repentance, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
In what way, I pray, can modern Christendom account for doing away with the doctrine of the laying on of hands, when the apostle weaves it in the salvation fabric and makes it a point of no smaller moment than faith or baptism? How can one consistently believe in the doctrine of faith and at the same time deny the doctrine of the laying on of hands, when the apostle places them together, giving no man authority to denounce either or to accept one and reject the other?
Some may say, the laying on of hands was practiced in the early days, but it is not necessary now. If this be so, then I ask, from what source do you get authority to draw such a conclusion? If you can relegate the laying on of hands to the apostolic period, you can do likewise with every doctrine of the Messiah, for one is as pure and essential as another.
This concludes the discussion of the Holy Ghost. Of necessity, I have had to be brief and from this fact have omitted many points, all of which would reflect light upon the subject had space permitted me to use them. I beg of the reader to weigh carefully the above argument. Paul, the apostle, preached the laying on of hands and he says, "Though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed." Let us not attempt to get to heaven on a part of the gospel.