Subtitled “Paul’s vision and the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”
Confidence, November-December 1917.
Preached at Kingsway Hall, London, 28 May 1917.
The Pentecostal Evangel, 21 April 1928.
I want to speak this afternoon of Pentecost and the fullness of the Spirit, and of what God is able to do with any man who is yielded to him. We are here today for one purpose, and that is, to kindle one another with a holier zeal than ever has possessed us before. I believe there is a greater need for us today in the world than ever. There is a more broken spirit abroad in our land than for a long time past, and no one can meet the need today but the man filled with God. God has promised to fill us. You may be filled with the mighty power of God, and yet in a way not realize it, and yet know that you are being used by a power apart from yourself, a power that keeps you from self-exhibition. Just as the sun by its mighty power brings certain resources to nature, so I believe the power of God in the human soul, the power filling it with himself, is capable, by living faith, of bringing about what otherwise could never be accomplished. May God by his Spirit this afternoon prepare us for what he has to say.
I want to draw your attention to Acts 26.12-19, where we are told of the light from heaven and the voice which arrested Paul in his way to Damascus, and of his conversion, and of the commission given to him to go unto the gentiles to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, and of the fact that he “was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.” You remember how it is stated, in Acts 9, that for three days after this vision Paul was blind; he was in a state in which he could not see, in a state of broken-heartedness, I suppose. And then God had him.
It is a wonderful thing when God gets you. You are not much good for anything until God gets you. When God gets you you are loose and you are bound; you are free, but you can act only as he wills for you to act; and when you act only for him there is in the process that which brings out something mighty for all time. Well, Paul had first to come to this time of crying, weeping, contrition, heart-meltedness, yieldedness. He had done all he could in the natural, but the natural had only brought him to a broken place, to blindness, to helplessness, and this must come out of Paul’s life before he could have the life of God. When we have altogether parted with our own, as it were, then there is a possibility of God’s likeness being made manifest in us, of the water of life filling us, and not only fertilizing our own life, but flowing from us as a river that will touch others; and no one can tell what a river can do when it is set aflow by God, because when God is in the plan everything works mightily and harmoniously. I pray God the Holy Ghost that at all times I should cease from anything except that thing which God wants to bring out, and not I.
There are so many wonderful things about a life filled with the Holy Ghost that one feels almost as if one were a machine and could never stop speaking of them. There are so many opportunities and such great forces that can never come along any other line. When Jesus has come to a place where he will not make bread for himself, I find that he reaches a place where he can make bread for thousands. And when I come to a place where I will not do anything for myself, then God will do something for me, and I will gladly do anything for him that he may desire me to do. That is in the order of the baptism. It is when we cease to clothe ourselves that God clothes us, and it is the clothing wherewith he clothes us that covers all our nakedness.
In his helplessness and brokenness Paul cries: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” That cry reached to heaven, and as a result there came a holy man, touched with the same fire and zeal that filled his Master, and he laid his hands upon Paul and said, “Receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.”
[Tongues (by Wigglesworth) and interpretation: “The living touch of the river of the life of God is that which makes all things akin, and brings a celestial glory into the human heart, and phrases that meet the kindled desire therein.”]
When God moves a man his body becomes akin with celestial glory all the time, and the man says things as he is led by the Holy Ghost who fills him. When we are filled with the Holy Ghost we go forth to see things accomplished that we could never see otherwise. First of all, Paul has a vision. There is always a vision in the baptism of the Spirit. But visions are no good to me except I make them real, except I claim them as they come, except I make them my own; and if your whole desire is to carry out what the Spirit has revealed to you by vision, it will surely come to pass. Lots of people lack the power because they do not keep the vision, because they do not allow the fire which has come to infuse into them and continue to burn. There must be a continuous burning on the altar. Holy Ghost power in a man is meant to be an increasing force, an enlargement. God has never anything of a diminishing type. He is always going on. And I am going on. Are you going on? It is necessary, I tell you, to go on. You must not stop in the plains; there are far greater things for you on the hilltops than in the plains.
Jesus took particular care of Paul; he did not rush him through the business. Some people think that everything ought to be done in a tremendous hurry. With God it is not so. God takes plenty of time, and he has a wonderful way of developing things as he goes along. Nothing that you undertake will fail, if only you do not forget what he has told you, and if you act upon it. You really cannot forget that which the Holy Ghost brings right into your heart as his purpose for you. A man baptized by the Holy Ghost is no longer a natural man; he is forced by the Spirit, he is turned into another man. Joshua and Caleb could not say anything less than that “God, who has taken us and let us see the land, he will surely give us the land.” Where are you fixed? Is God the Holy Ghost arranging things for you, or are you arranging things according to your own plan? A man filled with the Holy Ghost has ceased to be, in a sense; he has come to a rest, he has come to where God is working, to a place where he can “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” What do I mean? I mean that such a man has ceased from his own works and abilities and associations. He will not trust his own heart; he relies only on the omnipotent power of the Most High, he is girded with Another. The man baptized with the Holy Ghost will always keep in touch with his Master in the passing crowd, or wherever he may be. He has no room for anything that steps lower than the unction that was on his Master, or for anything that hinders him from being about his Master’s business. If you are baptized by the Holy Ghost, you have no spiritual food apart from the word of God, you have no resources but those that are heavenly; you have been “planted” with Christ, and have “risen with him,” and you are “seated with him in heavenly places”; your language is a heavenly language, your source of inspiration is a heavenly touch; God is enthroned in your whole life, and you see things “from above,” and not from below.
A man that is baptized with the Holy Ghost has a Jesus mission. He knows his vocation, the plan of his life. God speaks to him so definitely and really that there is no mistaking about it. Thank God for the knowledge which fixes me so solidly upon God’s word that I cannot be moved from it by any storm that may rage. The revelation of Jesus to my soul by the Holy Ghost brings me to a place where I am willing, if need be, to die on what the word says. The three Hebrew children said, “We are not careful to answer thee in this matter”; and when a man of God by the Spirit is quickened he never moves toward, or depends upon, natural resources. The furnace “one seven times more” heated is of no consequence to the men who have heard the voice of God; the lions’ den has no fearfulness for the man who opens his windows and talks to his Father. The people who live in the unction of the Spirit are taken out of the world in the sense that they are kept in the world without being defiled by the evil of the world.
But let us come back to this wonderful vision that Paul had. I want you to see how carefully the Lord deals with him. Verse 16: “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee.” Do not you see how carefully the Lord works? He shows Paul the vision as far as Paul can take it in, and then he says: “There are other things in the which I will again appear unto thee.” Did he ever appear unto Paul after that? Certainly he did. But Paul never lost this vision; he kept it up, so to speak. What was there in the vision that held him in such close association with Jesus Christ that he was ready for every activity to which he was led by the Holy Ghost? There were certain things he had to do. Look, for instance, at Galatians 1.15-16. There you will find a very wonderful word—a word that has had a great impression upon me in relation to the subject of the continuation of the baptism. “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” Now read together the words: “Therefore I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,” and “I conferred not with flesh and blood.”
There is no man here this afternoon who can be clothed in the Spirit, and catch the fire and zeal of the Master every day and many times in the day, without he ceases in every way to be connected with the “arm of flesh” which would draw him aside from the power of God. Many men have lost the glory because they have been taken up with the natural. If we are going to accomplish in the Spirit the thing God has purposed for us, we can never turn again to the flesh. If we are Spirit-filled God has cut us short and brought us into relationship with himself, joined us to Another, and now he is all in all to us. You may have a vision of the Lord all the time you are in a railway train, or in a tramcar, or walking down a street. It is possible to be lonely in the world and to be a Christian, without what? Without you cease to be a natural man. I mean that the Christian ought to have such an unction as to realize at any moment, whether in the presence of others or alone, that he is with God. He can have a vision in the tramcar, or in the railway train, even if he has to stand with others in front or behind him; or he can have a vision if he is there alone.
Nehemiah stood before the king because of trouble in Jerusalem which had nigh broken his heart. He was sorrowful, and it affected his countenance; but he was so near to God that he could say: “I have communed with the God of heaven.” And if we believers are to go forth and fulfill God’s purpose with us, the Holy Spirit must be constantly filling us and moving upon us until our whole being is on fire with the presence and power of God. That is the order of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The man is then ready for every emergency.
Now it is a most blessed thought—it struck me as I was reading at our assembly on Sunday morning—that in the holy, radiant glory of the vision that was filling Paul’s soul, the people became so hungry after it that until midnight they drank in at the fountain of his life, and as he was pouring forth a young man fell down from the third loft, and Paul, in the same glorious fashion, as always, went down and embraced him and pressed the very life from himself into the young man, and brought him back to life. Always equipment for emergency, a blessed, holy equipment by God! Someone calls at your door and wants to see you particularly; but you cannot be seen till you are through with God. Living in the Holy Ghost, walking in the divine likeness, having no confidence in the flesh, but growing in the grace and knowledge of God, and going on from one state of glorious perfection unto another state of perfection—that is it. You cannot compare the Holy Ghost to anything less, but something more, than ever you thought about with all your thoughts. That is the reason why the Holy Ghost has to come into us to give us divine revelations for the moment. The man that is a “partaker of the divine nature” has come into a relationship where God imparts his divine mind for the comprehension of his love and of the fellowship of his Son. We are only powerful as we know that source, we are only strong as we behold the beatitudes and all the wonderful things and graces of the Spirit.
It was a necessity that Jesus should live with his disciples for three years, and walk in and out amongst them and manifest his glory, and show it forth day by day. I will show you why it was a necessity. Those men believed in God. But this Messiah had continually, day by day, to bring himself into their vision, into their mind, into their very nature. He had to press himself right into their life to make them a success after he had ascended to heaven. He had to show them how wonderfully and gracefully and peacefully he could move the crowds. You remember that the house to which they brought the sick of the palsy, and in which he was speaking to the people, was so crowded that they could not come nigh unto him except by uncovering the roof and dropping the man through. The way to the cities was so pressed with the people who were following Jesus and his disciples, that he and they could hardly get along, but he always had time to stop and perform some good deed on the journey thither. What he had to bring home to the minds and hearts of the disciples was that he was truly the Son of God. They never could accomplish what they had to accomplish until he had proved that to them, and until he had soared to the glory. They could only manifest him to others when he had imparted his life into the very core of their nature, and make others confess that they were astonished, and that “we never saw things like this.” It was the Son of God traveling in the greatness of his strength to manifest before those disciples the keynote of truth that no one could gainsay. They had been with him and seen his desire, his craving, his lust to serve God. Yes, he lusted to be like God in the world manifesting him so that they might see what Philip had missed when Jesus said to him, “Hast thou not seen the Father?” He wanted them to be clothed with the Spirit, baptized by the Spirit.
Some people get a wrong notion of the baptism. The baptism is nothing less than the third person of the blessed trinity coming down from the glory, the executive Spirit of the triune God indwelling your body, revealing the truth to you, and causing you sometimes to say “Ah!” till your bowels yearn with compassion, as Jesus yearned, to travail as he travailed, to mourn as he mourned, to groan as he groaned. It cannot be otherwise with you. You cannot get this thing along a merely passive line. It does not come that way. But, glory be to God, it does come. Oh that God might bring from our hearts the cry for such a deluge of the Spirit that we could not get away till we were ready for him to fulfill his purpose in us and for us.
I had a wonderful revelation of the power of God this last week. If there is anything I know about this baptism it is this: That it is such a force of conviction in my life that I am carried, as it were, through the very depths of it. Sometimes we have to think; at other times we have not time to think, and it is when we are at our wits’ end that God comes and brings deliverance. When you are at your wits’ end, and you throw yourself on the omnipotent power of God, what a wonderful transformation there is in a moment.
I went to a house where they were very much distressed. It is a peculiar thing, but it is true, that the Spirit of the Lord upon one either binds people together or makes them tremendously fidgety or restless, that they have to come to some place of decision. I know nothing like the mighty power of the Spirit; it works so harmoniously with the will of God. I was talking to the people in that house, and a young woman was there, and she said, “Oh, Father, I ought to have relief today. I am sitting here and I do know what to say, but somehow I feel that this whole trouble ought to go today.” “What trouble?” I said. “For six years I have not been able to drink. I cannot drink. I go to the tea-table and cannot drink. My body has gone down.”
I knew what it was. It was a devil in the throat. You say, “You must be very careful.” Well, I don’t care whom I affront by saying that; I believe the devil is the root of all evil, and it is a serious thing for a beautiful young woman who had perfect health, otherwise to be, as a result of that one thing, so disorganized in her mind and body. I knew it was the power of Satan. How did I know? Because it attacked her at a vital point, and it got her mind on that point, and when it got her mind on that point she went downhill, and she said, “I dare not drink; if I do I shall choke.” I asked the father and mother to go out, and then I said to the young woman, “You will be free and you will drink as much as you want as soon as I have done with you, if you will believe. As sure as you are there you will drink as much as you want.”
Our brethren are going out into the streets tonight, and I may be amongst them, and they will be preaching, and they will say definitely, “Everyone that believeth can be saved.” They will mean, everyone that believeth can be healed. The same truth. They will emphasize it over and over again. They have no more right to emphasize that than I have a right to say “He was wounded for my transgressions, he was bruised.” So I said to her, “Now, dare you believe?” “Yes, I believe that in the name of Jesus you can cast the evil power out.” I then laid my hands upon her, and I said, “It’s done; you drink.” She went laughingly, praise God, and drew the first glass of water and drank. “Mother! Father! Brother!” she said, “I’ve drunk one glass!” There was joy in the house.
What did it? It was the living faith of the Son of God. Oh, if we only knew how rich we are, and how near we are at the fountain of life! “All things are possible to him that believeth.” When Aeneas, who had kept his bed eight years, was told by Peter to “Arise and make thy bed, and he arose immediately,” what did it? A life clothed with the Spirit.
[Tongues (by Wigglesworth) and interpretation: “The living water is falling and making manifest the Christ mission to those who will enter in by a living faith. Nothing can hinder the life-flow to those who believe, for all things are possible to them that believe.”]
I wonder how many people there are here this afternoon who have missed the point. If I talked to you for a short time you would probably say to me, “I had a wonderful vision when I was baptized.” I want you to notice that this vision that Jesus gave to Paul was right on the threshold of his baptism. An inspired life is always on the very open door of the quickening of that life by the Spirit. I want you to notice also that when a man is born of God, or when, as it were, God is born into the man, and he becomes a quickened soul to carry out the convictions of the life of the Spirit of God in him—when he is born of God, instantly on the threshold of this new birth there comes a vision of what his life is to be. The question is whether you dare go through with it, whether you are going to hold on to the very thing the Holy Ghost brought to you, and never lose sight of it, but press on in a life of devotion to God and of fellowship and unity with him.
That is what Paul did, that is what Jesus did, and that is what we all have to do. In this connection I want to say advisedly that when we are baptized with the gift of tongues we must not allow tongues to entertain us, nor he entertained with speaking in tongues. When you have accomplished one thing in the purpose of God for you, he mean you to go forward and accomplish another. As soon as you accomplish one thing it is, so to speak, no more to you, and God will enlarge you and fit you for the next thing he wants you to do.
When I was baptized in the Holy Ghost there was the unfolding of a new era of my life, and I passed into that and rejoiced in the fact of it, and others with me. But the moment I reached that, God has been ready with another ministry for me. If you are careful to watch for God, God is always caring for you. Jesus said: “If you honor me here, I will honor you yonder.” Whatever it may be that you are working out for God here, he is working out a far greater, a divine, glory for you. You have no need to be constantly talking of what you are going to appear like in the glory. The chief thing you are to watch is that you realize within yourself a deeper manifestation of the power of God today than yesterday, that you have something more clear today of the mind of the Spirit than you had the day before, that nothing comes between you and God to cloud your mind. You are to see a vision of the glory of God more today than yesterday, and to be living in such a state of bliss that it is heavenly to live. Paul lived in that ecstasy because he got into a place where the Holy Ghost could enlarge him more and more. I find that if I continually keep my mind upon God, he unfolds things to me, and if I obediently walk before God and keep my heart pure and clean and holy and right, he will always be lifting me higher than I have ever expected to be.
How does it come? On this line. In Romans 12.1, Paul speaks about a certain place being reached—he speaks about an altar on which he had laid himself. When he had experienced the mercies of the Lord he could do no other than make a presentation of his body on the altar, and it was always to be on the altar and never to be taken off. As soon as he got there he was at the place where the Holy Ghost could bring out of him “things new and old,” and, as we read in his epistles, “things” which Peter said were “hard to be understood.” How was that? Because he so lived in the Spirit that God brought his mind into Paul’s mind, so that the apostle could write and speak, as an oracle of the Holy Ghost, things which had never been in print before, things portraying the mind of God; and we read them today and drink them in as a river, and we come out of the epistles, as it were, clothed with mighty power, the power of God himself.
How does it come? It comes when we are in a place low enough, and where God can pour in, pour in, pour in. Paul could say that not one thing that God had spoken of him had failed. In Acts 26 and Romans 15, you will find that he accomplished the whole of what Jesus said he would accomplish, when he was re-organized, or filled, or in-filled by the mighty power of God. God wants to do the same for you and for me, according to the gifts he has bestowed upon us. Shall we stop short of what he says we ought to be?—shall we cease to come into line with the mind which is always thinking for our best?—shall we cease to humble ourselves before him who took the way of the cross for us?—shall we cease to withhold ourselves from him who could weep over the doomed city, from the Lord Jesus Christ who “trod the winepress alone”? —shall we cease to give him our all? To what profit will it be if we hold back anything from him who gives us a thousand times more than ever he asks from us? In Hebrews 2 he says he is going to bring many sons to glory. Let that be your vision. If you have lost the vision, he is tender to those who cry to him; from the broken heart he never turns away, and they that seek him with a whole heart will find him.
As I speak to you this afternoon I feel somehow that my heart is very much enlarged, that my compassion for my Lord is intensified, that nothing is too hard. The people in the days of the apostles took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and I feel there is a measure of grace given to the man who says, “I will go all the way with Jesus.” What is that measure of grace? It is a girding with hopefulness in pressing forward to the goal that God would have us reach. But it is important that we forget not Paul’s words, “Let no man take thy crown.” He saw there was a possibility lest any man who had been the means of sowing the good seed of the gospel should lose that for which God had apprehended him.
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In closing, let me remind you that the Holy Ghost has brought us here. For what purpose has he brought us? Can anyone have come here, either seeker or speaker, without a cry to God to make some men today, as it were, flames of fire? My passion is that God shall endue this convention with such an unction and cry that you won’t be satisfied until you feel the very members of your body all on fire with a Spirit-kindled unity. It is not too late to don the girdle today, it is not too late to put on the armor of God, to put on the shield, to put on the sandals better than ever before. This afternoon God wants me to know, and you to know, that experimentally we have only touched the very frill, the very edge, of this outpouring of the Spirit. If we do not allow God to fill us with himself he will choose somebody else. If we do not fall into line with the will of God, there will be somebody else who will. God is able to raise up men to carry out his behests. The children were crying out one day, and the disciples rebuked them. “No,” he said, “if these were to hold their peace, the very stones,” of which he could make bread —he could make them cry out.
I have a Jesus like that, who can speak the word, and the thing is done; I have a Jesus indwelling me and vitalizing me with a faith that believes it is true; I have a Jesus within me who has never let me get faint-hearted or weary. Let us press on in faith along the line of God’s will and the outpouring which we have longed to see will come. Cheer up, hold on, never let go the vision; be sure it is for you just as much as for anybody else, and God will surely make it come to pass. Never look down, because then you will only see the ground and miss the vision. All blessings come from above; therefore keep your eye on Jesus. Never weary. If you do not fall out by the way, he will be with you to strengthen you in the way. Hallelujah!