The fifth and last necessary preparative for the reception of the Holy Spirit is the unwearied waiting and watching for the real coming of the Holy Spirit, in the blessed exercise of prayer. The first disciples and believers had indeed the promise, that the Holy Spirit should be sent and imparted to them, even as we, eternal praise and thanks be to God! likewise possess it; but at what time and hour he would come, was not told them; doubtless, in order that they might hold themselves in readiness, every day—yea, every hour and moment for his coming. Hence they waited, not only two or three days, but even ten whole days together for his coming. Their reason might have thought, and come to this conclusion: ‘We have already waited so many days, and yet nothing has transpired. We will now go home again, and meet together again after sometime.’ No, my dear friends! the firstborn believers did not act thus; but they continued true to their text; they remained with one accord together, and continued incessantly in prayer and supplication; and I feel assured, that they would not have become weary of it, if they had had to wait another ten days longer. Now it is this very state of mind, my dearest friends! which is required of us. God has waited so long for us, for me and you, for some ten, for others twenty or thirty years, and we are unwilling to wait a little while for him? He will assuredly not let us wait as long for him, as he has been obliged to wait for us. But that our watching and waiting may be of a proper kind, and be successful, we must turn entirely away from all created things, and appear in the presence of God, with a heart entirely empty, and hungering and thirsting after grace, so that we may boldly say, ‘Lord, here is my vessel, here I wait, here I continue lying on the brink of the waters; here, O my God! I expect the promised power from on high, with perfect resignation and in child-like confidence, that thou wilt, in due time, fulfill thy promise! Thou hast promised thy Holy Spirit to me; and thou wilt also perform. Do not look at my poverty and wretchedness, my nakedness and destitution; for it is for this very reason I need thy grace the most; on this very account I am worthy of compassion.’ It is thus that a soul, which is entirely turned away from the world, and directed to God, and which hungers and thirsts after God, waits in a right and proper manner, and therefore shall be filled with the blessings of salvation, and most assuredly made partaker of the Holy Spirit. When the beggar, at the door, has said, ‘Give me a morsel of bread!’ he does not immediately go away, but waits; and if he is left to stand long, he repeats his request, again and again, until he has really received what he desires. And although he be refused, yet he continues to beg, and does not move until he be attended to. So ought we also to act. We must stand at the door of God’s grace, and wait, until we have received what we ask for. And though it may often seem, as though he would not hear us; yet we ought still to continue our requests, and not move, until he has really granted us his favours, and fulfilled his promise in us. If it sometimes seems long to us, so that we are compelled to exclaim, ‘Lord, how long will thou be unmindful of us? How long dost thou hide thy face from us? My soul is in terror! O Lord, how long!’ Yet we ought still to be of good courage, and firmly believe, that help will come, at an hour when we least expect it; that he will suddenly and all at once hasten to us, comfort, and refresh us, even as he did his dear disciples, to whom, after long waiting, he at length, all at once and instantaneously appeared. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Thus suddenly does it occur, in the present day, with many souls. Many, who, with all sincerity of heart, have frequently waited, sighed, and prayed, for many years together, are sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly endued with power from on high; and when they have almost given it up for lost, and are saying to themselves, ‘it is over with us, the Lord has forgotten us;’ he suddenly comes, all at once, to put to shame their little faith, and lets the light of his grace shine upon them.
Therefore, my dearest friends, though we may have to wait ever so long, nay, even till our dying hour; yet it would still repay the trouble; it would even then be an invaluable favor, to receive the Holy Ghost, as a comforter in all our necessities. Therefore, my beloved! who, like myself, have long waited, hungered, and thirsted, long stood before the Lord, in prayer and supplication, and have long held the vessels of your hearts open: let us not grow weary. It deserves to be waited for a hundred, nay even a thousand years. They that have had the slightest experience of it, must confess and say, that such a moment sufficiently repays and rewards a hundred years of waiting. O how shall we feel, when we eventually live to see a day of Pentecost! What sweet joys, what blessedness shall we feel, when we perceive and experience, that the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts, and reveals himself in our spirits! What shall we then experience? I will tell you. We shall experience that the sanctifying Spirit will exalt God and his kingdom within us, and on the contrary, that he will cast us down and every thing of a created nature within us, to the ground, and cause us to have the greatest contempt for it. We shall experience, that every thing, out of God, is nothing; but that God is all in all; that he is the treasure hid in the field, for the sake of which, the man sells all; and that the reason why we have hitherto found it so difficult to follow him in this, and to give up the trifling things of this mortal state, for the sake of this treasure: is solely because there was still within us, a hidden and unknown God, although we mistakenly imagined, that we had already found and experienced him. I have said, that the Holy Ghost will exalt God and his kingdom, and on the contrary, cast down all created things within us, and bring them into contempt. This is expressed in the second verse of the words we have read, when it is said, “And there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and filled the whole house, where they were sitting.” This is a principal effect, and a very perceptible property of the Pentecostal Spirit. The more the Spirit of Jesus Christ enters into the heart, the more will the world and the creature be cast down in it, by his power, as by a mighty wind. As great and estimable, as they may have previously been in our eyes: so little and despicable are they now. As much as we were satisfied with ourselves before: so miserable are we now in our own eyes, and we henceforth regard ourselves as the most wretched and despicable of men. We then recognize the utter nakedness and nothingness of all that we have hitherto admired, esteemed, sought, and loved, because that season, that Pentecost has reached us, of which it is predicted, saying, “the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under foot, and the Lord of Hosts alone shall be for a crown of glory and for a diadem of beauty to the residue of his people;” (Isa. xxviii.) that “the day of the Lord of Hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low, and the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Chap. ii. 12—18.) On this Pentecost, therefore, will all that is earthly and transitory in the individual, be humbled and annihilated. O how worthless, how utterly worthless will all created things, which men so highly esteem, and regard as important appear, when the uncreated eternal Good, manifests itself in their hearts! They will then be unable sufficiently to wonder at their former blindness, nor comprehend how it was possible, they could so mistake, as to prefer the shadow to the substance, forsake the living fountain, and hew out to themselves broken cisterns, that can hold no water. The disregard of earthly things and of ourselves also, is the first and essential operation of the holy Pentecostal Spirit.
This Spirit, secondly, enkindles in our hearts the love of God and of Jesus Christ. “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and sat upon each of them.” This Spirit becomes a fire in the heart, which was previously cold, and inflames it with holy love towards God and Christ; by it, the heart is made glowing and ardent. For when the fiery wind, the divine fire of love, enters into the heart: everything, that is earthly and transitory is cast down to the ground: but God alone is highly valued and esteemed. The individual feels within him the tenderest affection towards his God and Saviour. Hence Christ says of the Holy Spirit, “When he shall come, he will glorify me.” (John xvi.) What is meant by this? It implies thus much, that he will make known and reveal him to mankind as their Lord and God, as their Redeemer and Saviour; and also cause every knee to bow before him, as the only begotten Son of God; because no man can call him Lord, without the Holy Spirit. In a soul, therefore, in which the Holy Spirit finds an abiding dwelling, and in which he can firmly establish himself—in such a soul is Christ glorified, in the centre of the heart, and valued, honored, and loved supremely. The individual could previously pronounce with coldness, and in a superficial manner, the precious words, ‘Jesus, dearest Lord!’ But now his inmost part adores, as often as he even only thinks of God, and him, whom he hath sent, Jesus Christ. This knowledge of God causes all that is within him to rejoice and to esteem itself blessed. Now the more we despise the world, and all that is in it—the more we depart from ourselves—the more God and Christ are our lot and our portion—the more abundantly have we received the holy Pentecostal Spirit, and the more full we are of it, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
Now this is the third operation of the Holy Pentecostal Spirit, that when he enters into the heart, he fills it entirely, so that the world finds no more room or place in it, because this guest, makes himself sole Lord and Master of it. The first disciples and believers were so entirely taken possession of by this blissful dominion of the Pentecostal Spirit, that they were no longer master of their own tongues or any other member, but were compelled as it were, to speak, even as the Spirit gave them utterance. They could no longer speak, according to their own judgment, knowledge, and learning. No! they were constrained to do and speak as the Holy Spirit would have them. Thus it fares with every one, with whom the Holy Spirit takes up his residence; he then experiences the blissful dominion of our Lord Jesus Christ in his heart. The Holy Spirit is then the sceptre, which is sent forth out of Zion into our hearts; for he takes possession of all our will and desire, all our actions and deportment, all our inclinations and affections, and makes us entirely subject to him. He dwells in our hearts, like a king of the realm in his palace; he ordains and accomplishes in us that, which is pleasing and acceptable to him; he creates in us another principle and beginning of life; he becomes to the soul, as it were, the life of her life; he renews her daily, more and more, in the image of him that created her, and forms her into a temple of truth and righteousness, yea to a living temple of God and Jesus Christ. All the glory of earthly kings and princes are only vain shadows and child’s-play compared with a single Pentecostal heart, which is deemed worthy of receiving the Spirit of Jesus Christ, in such plenitude.
Now see, my dearest friends, to be brief, such great things has the Lord our God in store for us! Therefore, why do we stop short at mean and inferior things, nay at real shadows, and child’s play? Why do we cleave, like the brute beasts, continually to the earth? Why do we root, like the mole, for such things, which can never satiate, never satisfy, never afford rest to our immortal spirits? God has created and redeemed us, in order that we may become partakers of his divine nature and living temples of the Holy Spirit. Now how does our conduct accord with this most sacred intention of God, if it only loves what is earthly, and makes it evident, that we are not heavenly, but earthly and carnal minded? Every heart has the nature of that, of whose spirit and sentiment it is possessed, and by which it is governed. If the spirit and the fashion of this world govern us, we have an earthly and carnal nature, and as many vices within us, as a carnally-minded heart, impregnated with the spirit of the world, is wont to breed, and can consequently have as little intercourse with God, as little as we are partakers of the divine nature. If the Spirit of God and Jesus Christ possesses or leads us, we have a divine nature, and are thus capable of acting as temples of the Holy Spirit, and of being most intimately united with God.
Now then, my dear brethren and fellow-called! Let us with the divine assistance press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, with all possible earnestness. Let us so run, in the course, the race which God has set before us, that we may obtain, and to this end, abstain as much as possible from all other things! Truly, since so great a fullness is promised us, let us most greedily seize hold of it! Let us continually watch and be sober, and look, every one at each other, to incite him forward. And if it be, that as a despised little flock, we are scorned and persecuted with Christ, let us look unto Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of faith, who, although he might have possessed joy, endured the cross, despising the shame. (Heb. xii. 2.) Now, as our head is gone before us in the path of the cross, ought we not willingly and gladly, as his members, to follow him? How shameful would it be for a soldier, if, in battle, he would not follow his commander-in-chief, when going before him, but drew back! Therefore, as a valiant soldier not only considers it his duty, but even the greatest honor to follow his general, step by step, and to suffer every inconvenience with him, so ought we, if we wish to be true members and soldiers of Christ, not only to esteem it our duty, but all joy and the greatest honor, when it is granted us to suffer for Christ’s sake. O happy are we, when we can say, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter!” For “if we suffer with him, we shall also be exalted with him to glory.” These light afflictions, which are but temporary, will yield us an eternal and exceeding weight of glory. Let the world continue to laugh at and ridicule us, because we do not run to the same excesses as they do: we know that the Spirit, which rests upon us, is the Spirit of glory and of God; on their part, he is blasphemed, but on our part he is glorified.” (1 Peter iv. 4—14.) We know that the beauty of the children of God is not outward, but consists in the hidden man of the heart, immoveable, in a quiet spirit. “Yea, we know, that our life is hid with Christ in God, and that when Christ who is our life shall appear, on the great day of the third general manifestation in glory: we also shall appear with him in glory.” (Col. iii. 3, 4.) Amen. Thus be it unto us! We have now heard weak and imperfect words. We must have spirit, we must have power, from above, that we may apply the word we have attended to, to the salvation of our souls. Bow yourselves therefore with me, most humbly, before the ever-present Saviour. Let us unanimously, with believing hearts and ardent desires, call upon him to grant us his gracious influences and his blessing, and thus pour out our hearts before him.
Lord Jesus! who art anointed with the balm of the Holy Spirit without measure, who hast purchased gifts for us, invaluable gifts, infinite gifts! We desire to honor thee, as the only source of all good, which we are able to receive in time and eternity. Let our hearts adore, praise, and love thee, thou great restorer, for having so deeply condescended to us, poor mortals, to us poor children of men, as to take upon thee our body, soul, and spirit, in order, by this most intimate union, to become such a one, by whose means, the life of God might be again imparted to us, thy fellow creatures.
Sweetest Saviour, Jesus! we have meditated upon thee, as the exalted One at the right hand of the Father, on the throne of thy glory; we now desire to honor and adore thee as such, by thy Holy Spirit. O let thy Holy Spirit, who has granted us this pleasing and unexpected opportunity of testifying of thee at this time—let this Spirit glorify thyself and thy truth in all our hearts! O that it may not be merely words, that it may not be a passing sound, but may it be and continue to be a power in the hearts of each of us! O Lord Jesus, make up, by the power of thy Spirit, for the imperfection of all our discourses! Let thy Holy Spirit become more and more master of our tongues, and teach us to declare the wonderful works of our God, that, inwardly animated by this Spirit, we may increasingly know, love and experience thee, our Saviour, in our hearts, as the true life. Blessed Jesus! thou knowest the souls of all now before thee. O dearest Saviour! do we possess thy Spirit, or is the spirit of the world still Lord and Master in many or any of our hearts? Now, thou all-searching Spirit, and thou only light, go from heart to heart, search us and try us, and examine what our intention is, whether we give room to thy Spirit, or to the spirit of the world in our hearts; who it is that rules over us, who it is that governs in us. Dearest Saviour! are there any here, who have hitherto been slaves of Satan, who have hitherto let themselves be filled with such infernal powers, and unhappily suffer themselves to be ruled by a Master, whom they themselves are unwilling to acknowledge? O inspire them with a holy terror! let thy Spirit in the exercise of his office as a reprover, sacredly disturb their hearts, in order that they may now submit themselves to thy gracious sceptre! Yea, search us, O Lord! try every one of us, whether thy Spirit still finds something to reprove in us, whether there is not still something worldly, something vain, something impure in us, which cannot stand before thy pure and glorious eyes. O Lord Jesus, let it be this moment discovered by thy Holy Spirit, reproved by thy Spirit, removed by thy Spirit, and by thy gracious judgments! Say unto each of our hearts, “Cast out, what thou hast in thy mouth, that tastes of the bitter waters, in order that the crystal stream in thy centre, may become a clear spring, and a river of God.
O thou fountain of eternal love and grace, teach us, with unwearied desire to hunger after thee; teach us to preserve ourselves from all false security and false liberty, in the course and conflict we have commenced! O dearest Jesus I who didst so frequently rouse thy disciples when inclined to slumber; awaken us to alacrity and to fresh earnestness and animation, that we may also begin to give room to thy Spirit in our hearts, and cast ourselves anew at thy feet, for the purpose of renewing our covenant with thee, our Saviour.
Do thou also, Lord Jesus! remove from the souls thou hast called, all offences and stumbling-blocks, and conduct them into love and brotherly unanimity. By thy Spirit of love, let us be made more simple, more childlike. O that those may become one heart and one soul, who are called in thee, the Eternal one, to the same eternal good and the same blissful country! O inflame our hearts with love to thee; inflame them with pure lore to thee, and to each other; do thou bind and unite us in one mind, that as united, we may, with the desires of our hearts, bear down thy Spirit upon us; especially do thou favor us with fresh devotion in prayer. O Lord Jesus, teach us by thy Spirit; teach thy servant and all present, what it is to pray aright; how we ought to recollect ourselves from all dissipation of spirit, and be silent before thee; how we ought to believe in thee as present, honour thee as present, wait upon thee as present, and not be weary! O Lord Jesus, thou didst bless thy disciples, when thou didst ascend to heaven, so that they could quietly sit and wait, and not be weary; bless us therefore also, Lord Jesus! with this grace, that we may possess collected hearts, and praying, find thee more and more and thy Holy Spirit in our hearts! O Lord Jesus! strengthen us in courage and in faith, that we may not grow faint nor despond, and although we may have to wait, and to wait long; do thou at length arise with power from on high, in these latter days; and as thou hast already, as a wind, cast down so many hearts, and rendered them subject to the sceptre of thy grace, move also in a more general manner; let many thousands be called unto thee. O let the promise in the prophets be more completely fulfilled, and may thy Spirit be poured out upon all flesh, that old and young, children, youths, and maidens, may prophecy, and the whole earth be filled with thy Spirit!
O Lord Jesus! grant, especially, that it may be said anew of us, respecting thy Spirit, they were all full of the Holy Spirit! Here are vessels; fill, in the hearts of all of us, every empty vessel, which thou canst fill. O give us at least a drop; let us not go away cold nor hungry from hence; let us not keep the day of Pentecost, without experiencing something of thy Spirit! O eternal Spirit of power and love, descend from on high, and be Lord and Master in every heart, that we may be translated, more and more, from the image of Satan and his kingdom into the kingdom of light, and be transformed into the image of our God, from glory to glory. Worthy and holy Spirit of grace, be continually our guest; be our constant guide in the narrow path to eternity; and when, at length, we lay down our heads on our dying beds, and endure the last conflict and the mortal blow, O let thy Spirit be our comforter in all our necessities, who is able to tranquillize our souls, who bears witness with our spirits that we are thy children, and who is able to impress the seal upon our hearts, that we may eternally behold thy face! Now unto God the Father, Son, and Spirit, the thrice-blessed God, be glory both now and forever and ever. Amen.
Gerhard Tersteegen, “The Out-Pouring of the Holy Spirit,” Spiritual Crumbs from the Master’s Table, (London: John F. Shaw, 1837), pp. 212-264.
Quotations of Gerhard Tersteegen