"THE PERSONALITY OF POWER"
S D GORDON
QUIET TALKS ON POWER
Back to S D Gordon Page
A Personally Conducted Journey
Everyone enjoys the pleasure of travel; but nearly all shrink back from its tiresomeness and drudgery. The transportation companies are constantly scheming to overcome this disagreeable side for both pleasure and business travel. One of the popular ways of pleasure travel of late is by means of personally conducted tours. A party is formed, often by the railroad company, and is accompanied by a special agent to attend to all the business matters of the trip. A variation of this is to arrange for a group of congenial people to accompany some well-known accomplished gentleman. This gives the trip, not alone the convenience of having all business matters cared for, but also the decided enjoyment which this gentleman's wide knowledge and experience, and personal contact incidentally give. There are some criticisms however of such parties, from the standpoint of greatest comfort and of freedom in moving about
Probably the very pleasantest way-the ideal way, to travel anywhere, either in our own home land, or abroad-is to form a party of only a very few persons, mutually congenial, and personally agreeable, one of whom is an experienced traveler, to whom checking baggage, buying tickets, studying time-tables, planning connections and all the rest of that sort of thing which, to most, is disagreeable drudgery, to whom all that is mere pleasant detail; and who in addition knows all the ground you will cover, the best hotels, the inconveniences to avoid, the desirable places and things, and who finds rare enjoyment in making the trip delightful and inspiring, and restful too, to these dear friends of his.
For instance if the trip is a foreign one beginning with a run through Great Britain it would add immensely to have such a friend in London who knew that great whirling world-metropolis, as you know your own home. After a bit you may slip over the Channel to Holland. It is only a few hours away, but the strange language, new custom- house rules, new usages, new sights, different sort of people, all make it a totally different world. A few hours will bring you into Sweden, or west from the hollow-landed Dutch to the higher-landed Germans, or south through Belgium into sunny France, and so on. And in each place the customs, and language, and sights, and people, the food, the sleeping arrangements, and apparently everything, especially to a stranger, are totally different. It is this very variety-the constant change of surroundings-that constitutes much of the charm of it all. There is nothing so refreshing and invigorating as that. But on the other hand to an entire stranger who has no guide, it is apt to be confusing and wearisome. And the tiresome side often overcomes the pleasant side. Now this is what I am saying, that, if there are just a few together, and this experienced traveler, who is also a dear friend, is one of them, the trip is radically changed. You move in a new world. He can talk Dutch in Holland, and German in Germany, Swedish in Scandinavia, and French in Switzerland. He sees the baggage past the customs officials, and provides restful stopping places, and keeps the disagreeables away from you. He knows the places to visit, and is familiar with the historic occurrences, and is a quiet, cheery companion, and if with it all he has an unlimited letter-of-credit, and makes you feel that somehow you are favoring him by letting him help you out when you run short-that, I say, would be the ideal way of traveling.
Now why take so much time speaking about all that? Listen! I will tell you why. Living is like traveling. Life is a journey. It is a trip through a strange land where you have never been before, and you never know a moment ahead where you are going next. Strange languages, strange scenes, strange dilemmas; new tangles, new experiences, and some old ones with new faces so you do not know them. It is just as chock-full of pleasure and enjoyment as it can be, if you could only make some provision for the drudgery and hard things that seem to crowd in so thick and fast sometimes, as to make people forget the gladness of it.
Now I have something to tell you that seems too utterly good to be believed, and yet keeps getting better all the way along. It is this: the Master has planned that your life journey shall be a personally conducted one on this ideal plan. It was said a night or two ago that the Master has thought into your life and made arrangement for all it's needs. Let me add tonight this further fact: He has arranged with His best friend, who is an experienced traveler, to go with you and devote Himself wholly to your interests.
Some of you, I am afraid, will smile, and think that I am just indulging in a fancy sketch-drawing on my imagination. And so I pray our Master to burn into our hearts that it is plain, matter-of-fact truth, for every day life. I would say that it is cold fact were it not that such a fact can never be cold.
TopPower is a Person
Each of these talks, you have noticed, has led up to the one idea of surrender. That word surrender stands for one side only of a transaction-our side. As in all transactions, there is another side-His side to whom the surrender is made. Tonight we want to take a step in advance and talk about the part which Jesus has in this surrender-transaction. All truth goes in pairs. The partnership word with surrender is mastery. Surrender on my part is followed by mastery on His part. There are two personalities in this transaction. You are one: an important one, but only one. Tonight we shall try to get a better acquaintance with the other one. The One who assumes control of the surrendered life, who is to be our personal guide and friend.
Will you recall again the Master's good-bye Olivet message, and notice just what it means? Listen to the very words: "Ye shall receive power." Let me ask you-what is power? Will someone give a simple definition of that word? There are four words, four of the commonest, most familiar in our language, for which I have not been able to find a definition. If someone here can help me I will be grateful. They are the words life, light, love, and power. What do they mean? I can find plenty of statements about them, descriptions of what each of these is like, but no definitions.
What is life? Recently I looked into the statement regarding life made by three of the most famous English scientists of the nineteenth century, whose names are household words. I read them carefully. The wisdom and keenness of observation they show are amazing. But when I had studied and read them repeatedly I found myself asking-what is life? They have described readily the functions and characteristics of life, but have not told what it is. They do not seem to know. Do you?
What is light? Will someone tell me? The
corpuscular theory, which the famous Newton advocated, is long since abandoned. The later wave theory is pretty generally accepted, and yet they cannot all agree upon that. These people say that light is a part of the kind of energy called radiant energy. Now, we all know what light is! The sun of course is not light, only a light-holder and distributor. According to the oldest record we have of the creation, light existed before these light-holders, the sun and moon and stars.
What is love? Well, you all know, I hope. Pity the poor man who does not know by experience what love is. But you cannot tell what it is. "Oh!" you say, "it is emotion." Yes, so is hate, its very opposite. "Well, love is affection." Yes. What is affection? "Well, it is a pleasurable feeling, or regard, which may be very intense, and which leads us to unlimited sacrifice if need be. It is a devotion that grips the soul tremendously." That is true; yet that is only telling what love is like. No simple, plain definition of love, or light or life has ever been formed yet by man so far as I can learn.
What is power? You may say it is force. And what is force? "Well, force is a form of energy." What is energy? "Well," you reply, "it is a strong inward movement whose strength is very impressive." Someone says "power is ability." And ability? "Well, that is the innate power to do something. And so we get to use our word in the attempted definition itself, which is simply talking in a circle. We can find good descriptive words, but no defining words.
Now mark a singular fact. In the writings of John, in this old book I have here, you will find a few statements regarding these things which combine wondrous simplicity of language with marvelous, yes, unfathomable, depth of meaning. First, about life: in chapter one, verse four, of the gospel:-"in Him was life," being an evident allusion to the remarkable Genesis statement: "the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." Then, about love: in chapter four, verse seven, of his first epistle:-"love is of God"; coupled with the twice spoken words "God is love" in the same chapter. About light: in chapter one, verse five, of the same epistle, "God is light."
I know some of you, perhaps some skilled theologian here, is saying to himself, "Those are statements of moral truths." And I understand that that is the common conception. But I want to state here my own profound conviction, based on the Spirit-breathed words of John, that some day, when we shall know about all these deep things, we shall be finding that there is a basis not only of moral truth, but of far more than moral truth underlying those profoundly simple statements.
And I believe in that day we shall find that life-all life-is, in some actual, marvelous way, the out-breathing of God's own being. And that light is the inherent radiance of His person and face, and that the universal passion of love is the throbbing pulse-beat of His own great heart.
Now why take time to speak about these things tonight when we are talking about power? I will tell you why. Because they give the intensest practical significance to a similar statement about that word power with which we are greatly concerned just now.
Mark the language Luke uses in describing that memorable Olivet scene in which we are so deeply interested in these talks together. The old King James version reads: "ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you." The revised version puts it in this way, "ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you." Some of you have probably noticed that some editions give a marginal note, which, in this case, proves to be the literal reading namely: ye shall receive power the Holy Spirit coming upon you. Not “after," nor "when," but simply "the Holy Spirit coming," etc. That is to say, the Holy Spirit is power. That you will observe fits in with the form of statement John uses. The Holy Spirit in control, unhindered, unhampered, means power manifest in the life. That is the profound truth of God's book. And as a bit of side evidence it is striking to observe that all Scripture statements throughout fit in with that conception. Power is a person. Not some thing, nor influence, nor sentiment, nor some working upon our hearts at a distance by God seated up yonder on the throne. That were wonderful indeed. But a person, called the Holy Spirit, living in me-shall I make it very definite by saying, living in my body?-that is power. If restrained by sin, or disobedience, or ignorance, or willfulness of any sort, then power restrained, held in check, not evident. If utterly unrestrained, given free sway and control-ah! then power manifest, limitless, wonderful, all exercised in carrying out God's will in, and with, and through me.
And the marvelous message I bring you from the old Book of God is this: The Master has sent a dear friend of His, and of yours, who is experienced, and strong, and loving, personally to conduct you through your daily life, and His presence unrestrained, means power unlimited.
A Significant Name
Do you remember that heart-to-heart talk that Jesus had with the eleven disciples that last night they spent together in the upper room? John tells us about it in chapters thirteen to sixteen. The Master talks a great deal that night, about some One else, who was coming to take His place with them. They did not understand what He meant till afterwards. He packs more into that one evening's talk about this coming One than all He had said before, put together. Notice that now He gives a name, a new name, to this person, repeated four times that night. It is an intensely significant name-the Comforter. Will you remember, and keep constantly in mind, the actual meaning of that new name? it is simply this: one called alongside to help.
Let me attempt to suggest a little of its practical meaning.
Here is a little girl standing on the curbstone downtown on Broadway in New York, with a bundle in her arms. She has been sent on an errand, and wants to get across the street. But the electric cars are whizzing past in both directions, and wagons, and carriages, and omnibuses, and horses jam the street from curb to curb, and she cannot get across. She stands there gripping her bundle, watching eagerly for a chance, and yet afraid to venture. But the jam seems endless, and she grows very tired, and by and by the corners of her mouth begin to twitch down suspiciously, and a big tear is just starting in each eye. just then a big policeman steps up, one of the finest, six feet tall, and heavy and broad. He seems like a giant to her. He stoops down. Would you imagine he had such a gentle voice? "What's the matter?" "Can't- get-'cross." Oh! is that all; he'll fix that. And he takes her little hand in his with a reassuring "come along." And along she goes, past cars, under horses' heads, close up to big wheels. She is just as small as before, and just as weak. But though her eyes stay pretty big, the tears are gone, and there is an air of confidence, because this big, kind-hearted giant by her side is walking across the street as though he owned the whole place, and he is devoting his entire attention to her. That policeman is a comforter in the strict meaning of the word.
Here is a boy in school, head down close to the desk, puzzling over a "sum." It won't "come out." He figures away, and his brow is all knitted up, and a worried look is coming into his face for he is a conscientious little fellow. But he cannot seem to get it right and the clouds gather thicker. By and by the teacher comes up and sits down by his side. It awes him a little to have her quite so close. But her kindliness of manner mellows the awe. "How are you getting along?" "Won't come out right"-in a very despondent tone. "Let me see, did you subtract that . . . ?" "Oh-h-h! I forgot that," and a little light seems to break, as he scratches away for a few moments; then pauses. "And this figure here, should it be. . . ." "Oh-h-h, I see." More scratching, and a soft sigh of relief, and the knitting brows unravel, and the face brightens. The teacher did not do the problem for him. She did better. She let him feel her kindly interest first of all, and gave just the light, experienced touch that showed him the way out, and yet allowed him the peculiar pleasure of getting through himself. That is what "Comforter" means.
One summer a friend suggested to me spending a week on Lake Chautauqua. I did not have the money to spare, and so told him I was not sure I could arrange to get away. But he seemed to divine the basis of my objection, and insisted on my going along. We went. I had very little money with me. I got on the train without a ticket, took a seat in the parlor car, stopped at the best hotel, had a choice room on the ground floor, patronized the well-ordered dining-room regularly, and made free use of the place. And all the time I had practically no money with me. But would you believe me I was not a particle concerned about paying for those privileges. Never felt less concern about anything in my life. You know why. I had a trustworthy friend with me who was concerned for me.
Now these are simple suggestions, illustrating partly the meaning of that marvelous name Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit. I will send another Comforter, one who will be right by your side to help, sympathetic, experienced, strong; and He will stay with you all the time. In the kitchen, in the sitting-room, the sick-room, with the children, when work piles up, when things jangle or threaten to, when the baby's cross, and the patching and sweeping and baking, and all the rest of it seem endless, on the street, in the office, on the campus, in the store, when tempted-almost slipped, when opportunity opens for a quiet personal word, everywhere, every time, in every circumstance, one alongside to help. Is not that wonderful?
TopA Pictorial Illustration
There is one bother about illustrations: they never do tell all the truth. They never are as vivid, not as good as the truth, that is when you are talking about our Master, or His arrangements. The very best illustrations of Bible truth are Bible illustrations. Now there is a striking pictorial illustration back in the Old Testament of the meaning of this name of the Holy Spirit. It is in the story of a most remarkable journey from Egypt to the border line of Palestine. The journey was remark- able for two things. First, for the sort of country it was through. It is a trackless waste of sand, that spreads over thousands of square miles. It was infested with venomous serpents and scorpions, and is described as "all that great and terrible wilderness,” “a waste howling wilderness," and "a land of deserts and pits, of drought and of the shadow of death, that none passed through, and where no man dwelt." Think of taking a trip through a country like that! But it was even more remarkable because of the transformation that took place in the travelers. For a mob of four millions of people was changed into a well-organized nation. The explanation given is fully as remarkable as the trip, and the transformation. It must strike very strangely on the cold, matter-of-fact ears of this materialistic world we dwell in. It is this: that the Lord God Himself actually went with them in person, and lived with them, and took immediate charge of everything. He had promised Moses, their leader, that He would do this. Just how definite or indefinite a thing that meant to Moses' mind we cannot know. But it became very definite and tangible that memorable night of departure from the iron furnace of Egypt. For there was a real physical evidence of His presence. There appeared a column or pillar of fleecy-like cloud which came down close to the ground, and which every one could plainly see. At night time it shone and flamed as a pillar full of partly concealed fire. God's voice spake out of it in their hearing. And that presence-cloud never left them. In spite of complaints, and criticisms, and rebellions of the most mean and exasperating kind, it never left them until they had safely arrived at the border line of the promised Palestine.
Now it is extremely fascinating in tracing that journey to notice just what that cloud came to mean to them. If you will run rapidly through the three wilderness books, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, you will find there twenty distinct incidents which illustrate how God's actual presence in that cloud was made very real to them in practical affairs. In those incidents there are ten different ways in which they were made to feel that powerful Presence.
At the outset it is mentioned that the chief purpose was "to lead them the way," and, by night "to give them light." Five incidents speak of bodily nourishment, including fresh food daily, with occasional extras, and a full supply of pure living water. Five speak of protection from bodily harm. Two tell of the defeat of an enemy. Once there is chiding for ingratitude. Six times rebuke or punishment for sin. In four they are held back when dead-set on a very wrong course. Twice there is instruction in their leader's plan for them. Three times a fuller manifestation of Himself, and each time this is preceded by obedience on their part in some particular matter. Once there is a special plan suggested for relief in managing the nation's affairs. And then the fact is stated that whenever Moses went apart to talk with God the cloud descended lower, that is, God came nearer when Moses desired to talk with Him. So you see, the cloud meant guidance through that trackless desert, food supplies, protection, defeat for the enemy, chiding, restraint, punishment, instruction, help in business matters, a more intimate manifestation of the glorious personality of their Guide, and a gracious coming nearer whenever desired. Was not that a real practical presence of the great God with them all those days?
Now that is the Bible's own graphic illustration of the meaning of that new name given to the Holy Spirit, by Him who knew Him best, Comforter-one alongside to help.
On A Higher Level
Before we leave that illustration we must notice a very significant thing which is no small part of the truth illustrated. Though the cloud appeared the very night of that sudden going out of Egypt, and was never absent from them, by day or by night, yet a full year afterwards there was a new experience. By God's direction a special tent was made and set up in which He said He would dwell. It was known as God's dwelling place, the tent of meeting, the tabernacle, the tent of testimony. When everything concerning its setting up had been fully done as specified then there was an experience the most remarkable they had yet had with God. It was a new manifestation of the glorious presence of their unseen Friend-Guide. It is twice said that the tent was "filled" with His glory. And this nearer disclosure, which God gave of Himself, was so marvelously glorious and overpowering that even Moses, who had spent almost twelve weeks in that mount with God, in closer intimacy than any one else-even Moses was not able to enter into the tent, So over-awing was that Presence.
Now it is of intensest interest to mark four things about that experience. First of all, before it came, there was obedience to God's instructions. Eighteen times within the narrow limits of the last two pages of the Exodus record, it is said that Moses and the people did everything, in every particular, just exactly as "the Lord commanded Moses." There was explicit obedience before anything else. Then followed the wondrous infilling of the tent with God's presence. The third thing is particularized very carefully: all their movements were directed and controlled by that Presence. Clearly the only safe rule for living in that terrible desert, was to plan to live a planless life so far as their own planning was concerned. Besides the last two verses of Exodus which emphasize this, I find that in my revised Oxford edition forty-five lines in the ninth chapter of Numbers are given to telling how exactly they were guided, and how explicitly they followed their Guide. It seems almost at first reading as though there was a decidedly needless repetition. You seem to understand the thing easily enough without that. But as one reads it again, and yet again, slowly, it begins to dawn upon the mind that the purpose is to put marked emphasis on this feature of their new life in the wilderness. The people would rise in the morning, and probably the first thing done was to look out toward the cloud to learn if there was to be any change that day. And so during the day there would come to be an instinctive habit of watching that cloud. They might remain in a new camping place for months, or only for a few weeks, or, possibly only for a few days. They never knew a day ahead. They lived literally a day at a time. It was certainly a hand-to-mouth existence so far as the daily manna was concerned. But then it was from His hand to their mouths and that made a great difference. It was equally so in their movements and in all of their new life. When, one morning as thousands of heads peep out, the cloud is seen to have lifted up from over the tent, the next question was-which direction? It might be toward the west, or it might be just the opposite, toward the east. Both the time of going, and the direction, and the pace were regulated by the presence of their Friend in that cloud. Their life was a life of obedience to the will of their wise, loving Companion.
The fourth thing was intimacy of intercourse. It is a little unfortunate that in reading our Bibles we sometimes allow the gaps that come in the printing to break the continuity of thought. There is a break for instance between the last verse of Exodus and the first verse of Leviticus. The reading is meant to be continuous, and shows that after the infilling, and the explanation about guidance, that God “called" Moses to Him and commenced talking about their new life. Now in connection with that call, and all their after talks, notice a remarkable statement in the last verse of that long seventh chapter of Numbers. It explains just how God talked with Moses. Listen: "Whenever Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with Him, then he heard the voice speaking unto him from above the mercy-seat that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He speaketh unto him." There was the living, loving voice of their Companion-God, which Moses could plainly hear, and which others heard, talking familiarly and intimately about all their affairs. Several times when in doubt what to do Moses promptly went off into the tent, then the cloud would come down nearer, and Moses would state his difficulty, and back would come that clear distinct voice with an answer. Group up those four things-obedience; the never-to-be-forgotten infilling; the controlling guidance; and intimate companionship.
That is the very best illustration I can find of the meaning of that word which Jesus now chooses out and uses as the new name which would most vividly tell what the Holy Spirit was to be to all believers after His own departure. All that the presence of God in that pillar was to those people, and to Moses personally, all that the Holy Spirit will be to you. And my own conviction is that Jesus had that Old Testament scene in His mind. For if you will turn again to that last night's talk you will find a striking repetition of the steps or peculiarities of that wilderness experience. Though here the whole experience is on a much higher, finer plane. There is a closeness of personal regard, a depth of that deepest of all loves, friendship love, that is not found in the Old Testament story, except perhaps between Moses himself and God.
But now read the twenty-first verse of the fourteenth chapter of John: "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him." And the twenty-third verse adds to it: "If a man love Me, he will keep My word: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him and make Our abiding place with him." Notice: there is obedience; it is accepted as an evidence of love: there is a return love-a new, higher, reciprocal love: then there is a revealing of Himself; and, constant abiding. Now run your eye through the remaining part of that evening's conversation and you can quickly pick out these words: "teach," "bring to your remembrance," "guide," "bear wit- ness of me," "tell you coming things," "tell you about me."
Does that not parallel remarkably the wilderness experience? Only it is all put on such a higher plane. There is a fullness, and richness, and tenderness, of personal intimacy here. The Presence in the wilderness was for the national life: here it is peculiarly for the personal life. There He dwelt actually in the heart of the nation. Here He dwells actually in one's own very person. And then, too, now He can do so much more in us because so much more has been done for us through the person of Jesus.
TopHow To Find The Meaning
May I say right here plainly: there seems to be even yet in some quarters a hazy idea about the Holy Spirit being a person. It is extremely common, even among people of excellent Christian training, to find Him referred to, both in prayer and speech as it. Could anything be more disrespectful or insulting, if it were intentional instead of being thoughtless or, in ignorance, as I am sure it really is. Imagine my speaking of the pastor of this church in that way. "It is a good preacher. It is a helpful pastor." You smile, and he smiles. But if I said it repeatedly, and in sober earnest, you know how insulted he would be. I suppose that the use of the word "itself" for the Holy Spirit in the eighth chapter of Romans is largely responsible for this. The revisers have properly substituted the word "himself." That very usage so common has doubtless accustomed many persons to a vague idea of the personality of the Spirit. And yet apart from that, there is without doubt much mistiness, and uncertainty, in some minds, because of the difficulty of thinking of a person without a form. It seems impossible for our minds to grasp the idea of existence without bodily shape, yet of course we believe in a personal God. Probably another reason is that the Holy Spirit's work is not to speak of Himself but of Another-of Jesus. He is Jesus' representative, and is constantly absorbed in filling us with thoughts of His Chief. And when our minds are most deeply stirred with thoughts of Jesus then it is that in that very fact of being so stirred we have clearest evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence within us. His very faithfulness to His mission has led to Himself suffering depreciation at our hands, through our ignorance.
I am sure it must help us all decidedly in getting a clear-cut, sharply defined idea of His personality to notice the language Jesus uses in speaking of Him that night. For instance, notice that in our English version the personal pronouns "he," “whom," "him," "which" (used in the sense of who as is common with the British translators), occur twenty-four times. A study of the actual words used would prove helpful and interesting. One of them, used several times, is peculiarly emphatic, its meaning being equivalent to the expression "that person there."
And then notice the words used to describe what this person will do: "He shall teach," "bring to your remembrance” “bear witness of Me," "convict the world of" three distinct things, "shall guide," "shall hear," "shall speak," "shall declare," "shall glorify Me” “shall take of Mine and declare it unto you." Every one of these ten different expressions imply intelligence and discrimination, and therefore of course personality. And then added to this is the name given to Him here of which so much has been said.
May we take just another look at that name-The Comforter-as we close our talk together? I wish with my whole heart, and I pray, that a vivid sense of the meaning of that name may be one result of this evening's meeting. I was traveling alone in Germany one hot July day on a train going down to the city of Worms. It was quite hot and I was very tired, and my head aching, I distinctly remember. The conductor came along and objected to my ticket. Before leaving this country, I thought I knew a little of German, enough to worry through on. My ideas on that subject changed a trifle over there, however. That day my tired ears refused to recognize any familiar sounds on the conductor's lips, and my tired tongue refused to utter anything satisfactory to him. And there I was, a complete stranger in a strange land too tired to think or have any mental resources, not knowing but I might be put off at the next station. In fact just tired enough for fine worrying. It looked blue for a few moments. But not for long. A young man by my side, a Jew, spoke to me in excellent English. Was any sound ever so welcome! He straightened the conductor out, and then we fell to talking together. He proved to be a very intelligent, agreeable companion. I found his home was in the city where I was going. So we got off there together, and he simply devoted himself to me for the day. He took me up to a good hotel, and while I was eating dinner, went and got his brother who had been in America, and who entertained me while I ate. Then he took me to his father's home, a large old mansion, overlooking the famous Luther monument, where I rested a while. And then a quick run to a few interesting points, and finally when leaving time came, he insisted on accompanying me to the station, and making sure I had a good seat, and then bade me a gracious good-bye.
That day lingers in my memory as one of the green spots of that trip. It touched me to think that my Master graciously sent one of His own despised race to be my friend. Do you not think that that man, experienced where I was ignorant, and so sympathetic, was a living illustration to me of Jesus' name for the Holy Spirit-one called alongside to help?
One day recently, riding on a Lake Shore train in Ohio, I chanced to notice the conductor stopping to speak to a little girl sitting behind me. Then I noticed that she was alone and crying a little, quietly. She did not answer his questions, but he must have been a father, I thought, because he seemed to understand so well. Speaking to a kind-faced motherly looking woman in the next seat, he had the little girl go back and sit beside her, next to the window. They did not talk much, if any, I noticed. But the girl was snuggled up close, and I knew from her face that she felt the warm sympathy of that friendly presence, and that the terrible feeling of loneliness had gone. Is not that woman another illustration of that name Comforter? Her mere presence was all that was needed to clear the skies and change the atmosphere for the little lone and lonely traveler.
But Jesus Himself has a very striking way of making clear just what He meant, by coupling another word with that new name the first time He used it. He says, "I will send another Comforter." The comparison is with Himself. He is one comforter. The Holy Spirit another one. The only other time this word is used is by John in his first epistle, and is translated by our word advocate, and refers to Jesus. Jesus practically says: "You know what I have been to you these months past." And they would think through the close intimacy of nearly two years. How He had spoken with unmistakable plainness when they were in the wrong, but also how loving with a strong love He had been, how patient, and gentle, and resourceful, and how He seemed to yearn over them that they might grow into His ideal for them. "Now," He says, "I am going away, but I will send you another one who will be to you all that I have been-and more." And more! That comparative more, either spoken or implied, runs all through this last long confidential talk. "More, much more, because I go unto the Father." Jesus crucified, risen, glorified can do much more by far in us by His other self, the Holy Spirit, than He could in person on the earth those years. And the wondrous meaning of that "another comforter" to you and me, my friends, tonight is simply this: it is the same as though the Lord Jesus had actually come back again and you had Him all to yourself-and more.
But I cannot tell you the meaning of that wonderful name. Nor yet the wondrous charm of Him, who, for our sakes, embodies it. You may put together all these illustrations in the attempt to get a real, close-up, idea of what Jesus meant in that love-gift of His to you. And then you will not know. There is really only one way to gain that knowledge. It is this: take the step which belongs to your side of the transaction between you and the Master. Surrender yourself to Him to be changed and cleansed and used as He may choose. Then He will begin at once working out the side that belongs to Him. You shall be filled with His presence. Then you will begin to know. Then you can sing-
I have a wonderful guest,
Who speeds my feet, who moves my hands,
Who strengthens, comforts, guides, commands,
Whose presence gives me rest.
He dwells within my soul,
He swept away the filth and gloom;
He garnished fair the empty room,
And now pervades the whole.
And you shall go on knowing more and better until the day dawn and the shadows flee away.
Of the twenty incidents referred to, three do not directly mention the cloud, and in two others it is over the mount, with its characteristics much intensified. The references are given for those who will want to get closer up to this famous illustration.
Guidance: Ex. 13:21-22, with Numbers 14:14.
Bodily nourishment: Ex. 15:25; 16:13-14,45; 17:6. Numbers 11:31-32. 20:1-12.
Protection from bodily harm: The nation-Ex. 14:19-20. The leaders-Num. 14:10 and on. 16:19 and on. 16:42 and on. 20:1-12.
Defeat of an enemy: Ex. 14:24-31; 17:8-16.
Chiding: Ex. 16:4-7,10-12.
Rebuke or punishment for sin: Numbers 11:33; 12:1-10; 14:10 and on; 16:19 and on; 42 and on; 20:1-12.
Held back from wrong: Numbers 14:10 and on; 16:19 and on; 42 and on; 20:1-12.
Instruction and training: Ex. 19:9,16 and on; 24:15-18.
Fuller manifestation: Ex. 34:5 and on; 40:34-38. Lev. 9:6,23.
Special plan of relief in management: Numbers 11:16,17,25.
Coming nearer: Ex. 33:7-11, Revised Version.
Back to S D Gordon Page