Table of Contents
Davison, W.T. – The Indwelling Spirit is a 1911 work with 16 chapters on the indwelling Holy Spirit in us. Gifts, Fruit, prayer, tides, plenitude, spirit of Truth, etc. Davison, W.T. – The Indwelling Spirit is a 16 chapter work on the indwelling of the Spirit, gifts, fruit, freedom, prayer, tides, plenitude, etc. Davison was Weslyan.
06/29/2020 Version 2 is now available! I have checked a lot of the formatting problems and fixed them, and some OCR (not all).
Davison – The Indwelling Spirit
THE INDWELLING SPIRIT
BY W. T. DAVISON, M.A., D.D. (1846-1935) Wesleyan Minister
PRINCIPAL OF RICHMOND COLLEGE, SURREY
MEMBER OF THE FACULTY OF THEOLOGY AND EXAMINER
IN DIVINITY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
HODDER AND STOUGHTON
LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO
More theWord works on the Indwelling Spirit
- Davison – The Indwelling Spirit v2
- Luginbill Pneumatology Holy Spirit
- Whitefield – Indwelling of the Spirit, the Common Privilege of All Believers
Contents of Davison Indwelling Spirit
1. Divine Immanence 1
2. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament . . 27
3. The Spirit in the Psychology of St. Paul . . 57
4. The Gifts of the Spirit 79
5. The Fruit of the Spirit 97
6. Spiritual Freedom 119
7. Prayer in the Spirit 135
8. The Spirit of Holiness 151
9. The Tides of the Spirit 17
110. The Holy Spirit and Christian Missions 193
11. The Spirit of Truth Teacher of Teachers 213
12. The Plenitude of the Spirit 233
13. A Spirit-Filled Church 253
14. The Indwelling Christ 267
15. The Hidden Life 295
16. Mystical Religion
More theWord works on the Holy Spirit
- Aitken – The Revealer Revealed
- Allen – The Price of God’s Miracle Working Power
- Anonymous – The Fire Within
- Anthology of the Holy Spirit DC#01
- Anthology on the Holy Spirit
- Arminius On The Sin Against the Holy Spirit
- Arthur – Tongue of Fire
THE following pages obviously do not contain a systematic treatment of the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit. They contain suggestions only, not a comprehensive survey of a great properly speaking, an illimitable subject. Greater completeness in the study of this topic is indeed most desirable, but perhaps completeness of plan and systematic outline are not the chief requisites in an attempt to describe the influence upon the human spirit of that Divine Breath which bloweth where it listeth, and whose chief characteristic it is to surpass human thought and expectation. Complaints have been frequently made as to the lack of adequate treatment of this central doctrine of Christianity, a deficiency largely remedied of late by works such as are named in the selected list of books that follows.
The Holy Spirit is God imparting Himself directly to the consciousness and experience of men. Hence the subject is approached in this volume from the side of experience, rather than of dogma; of Biblical exposition, rather than of philosophical discussion; of life and practice, rather than of theological speculation. An attempt is, however, indirectly made to show that the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit meets the needs and claims of modern religious life better than certain philosophico-religious theorizings
that ignore or disparage the teaching of the New Testament. The connection between the various chapters which compose the book, though not logically close, is real and vital; and it will be seen that some of the chief aspects of the work of the Spirit that are of present-day importance have been either directly or indirectly treated. The writer’s deep conviction is, that greater emphasis needs to be laid upon God’s work in man, the presence of Christ, by and through the Holy Spirit, in the hearts and lives of Christians, even if it be at the expense of interesting questions of doctrine that are of necessity largely speculative.
The substance of Chapters 12. 13. and 14. has been delivered in the form of sermons on special occasions, and the style of spoken address has not been altered. Part of Chapter 15. was given at a meeting of the National Free Church Council, whilst Chapter 16. originally appeared as an article in the London Quarterly Review, and I am indebted to the courtesy of the Editor for permission to re-publish it. All these portions of the book are reproduced at the instance of those who had previously heard or read them. The bearing of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit upon the myriad forms of mystical religion, referred to in the last chapter, has, of necessity, been only touched in passing. It deserves careful and continuous treatment.
Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto, 376 A.D.
John Owen, Pneumatologia, Works, Ed. Goold, 1869.
John Goodwin, Pier o ma to Pneumatikon; or A Being filled with the Spirit, 1670; Reprinted 1867.
J. C. Hare, Mission of the Comforter, 1846.
Smeaton, Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, 1882.
W. P. Dickson, St. Paul’s Use of the Terms Flesh and Spirit, 1883.
Gunkel, Die Wirkungen desheiligen Geistes, 1899.
Lechler, Die Biblische Lehre des//. G, 1899.
Weinel, Die Wirkungen desGeistes, 6- 5. 1899.
Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit, Translated by De Vries, 1900.
Walker, The Spirit and the Incarnation, 1899.
Swete, The Holy Spirit in the New Testament, 1909.
Downer, The Mission and Administration of the Holy Spirit, 1909.
Denio, The Supreme Leader, Boston, 1910.
Irving Wood, The Spirit of God in Biblical Literature, 1904.
Arthur, Tongue of Fire, 1856.
Selby, The Holy Spirit and Christian Privilege, 1894.
Welldon, The Revelation of the Spirit, 1902.
J. R. Illingworth, Personality Human and Divine, 1894, and
Divine Immanence, 1898.
Inge, Christian Mysticism, 1900.
Von Hiigel, Mystical Element in Religion, 1908.
Rufus Jones, Studies in Mystical Religion, 1909.
James Burns, Revivals, their Laws and Leaders, 1909.
Rudolph Eucken, The Life of the Spirit, 1909, Translated by F. 50. Pogson; Christianity and the New Idealism, Translated by 50. J. and W. R. Boyce Gibson, 1909.
10. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY (continued)
Also, the related portions of the works of Oehler, Schultz, and A. B. Davidson on Old Testament Theology; and those of Beyschlag and G. B. Stevens on New Testament Theology.
Aso Schmiedel’s article on “ Spiritual Gifts “ in Encyclopaedia Biblica, Swete’s on “Holy Spirit” in Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, and Cremer’s article “ Heiliger Geist” in HerzogHauck’s Real-Encyklopadie.
“ Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?
Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?” Ps. 139:7.
“God is Spirit… in essence simple, in powers various, wholly present in each and being -wliolly everyivhere;…
shared without loss of ceasing to be entire, after the likeness of the sunbeam, whose kindly light falls on him who enjoys it, yet illumines land and sea and mingles with the air” BASIL.
“ To find God everywhere, you must everywhere seek for nothing but Him.” RUYSBROEK.
“No picture to my aid I call,I shape no image in my prayer; I only know in Him is all
Of life, light, beauty everywhere, Eternal Goodness here, and there.” WHITTIER.
Sample Chapter Chapter 8 THE TIDES OF THE SPIRIT
” He giveth not the Spirit by measure.” JOHN 3:34.
“God is not dumb that He should speak no more; If thou hast wanderings in the wilderness And findest not Sinai, tis thy soul is poor. 11
], R. LOWELL.
“For while the tired waves, vainly breaking f
Seem here no painful inch to gain, Far back, through creeks and inlets making, Comes silent, flooding in, the main.”
A. H. CLOUGH.
” One accent of the Holy Ghost This heedless world hath never lost.”
” Whatever God is in Himself, His manifestations to us do not lie still before us in the sleep of a frozen sea; they break out of this motionless eternity, they sweep in mighty tides of nature and of history . . . and have the changing voice oj many waters.” JAS. MARTINEAU.
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IN a noble sermon with the above title Dr. Martineau comments on the fact that “Jesus, as His custom was, went into the synagogue on the sabbath day,” vin dicating what he calls the “Christian habit of seasonal and local worship,” finding in “the occasionalism of piety, not its shame, but its distinctive glory.” The intermittency of devout affections, he adds, is a sign, not of poverty or weakness, but of their intrinsic grandeur and “their accurate accordance with what is highest in God’s realities.” In one of the apt meta phors which are characteristic of Dr. Martineau’s style, he says, “God has so arranged the chronometry of our spirits that there shall be thousands of silent moments between the striking hours.”
If the thought be once admitted, it seems desirable, or even necessary, to follow it further. The mystic seeks to raise all moods to the level of the highest, and always to live in the very Holy of holies. The worldly man distrusts the very attitude of contem plative dreaming, and finds a level path by immersing himself in business and pleasure and leaving the element of worship out of his life. If both of these are wrong for different reasons, some kind of tidal action must be traced in the workings of the Spirit.
Twice in twenty-four hours there may be high and low water; spring-tides and neap-tides are marked as the months go round; now the wind drives the rising waves shoreward, now, blowing backward from the
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land, it retards their progress. The wind itself who can measure and predict? Yet mutable and unfettered as are the air-currents, science is reducing some of them to order. Trade-winds and monsoons blow steadily, in winter from the north-east, during half the year from the south-west, bringing welcome rains. Study of the movements of the earth, of the action of high mountain ranges, of the different temperature of continents, of the currents that pass from land to sea, from sea to land, has taught many lessons of regularity where men have hitherto found only caprice.
When the Divine breath of morning moves, no man can tell whence it comes, or whither it goes; the Holy Spirit quickens where and as He lists. But surely none will say that His movements are without order or meaning? Law is traced in physics, in biology, in psychology, varying in character with phenomena, but order of some kind is discernible throughout nature.
It is less easy to discern and calculate as the scale of being rises, least of all is it to be readily traced in the complex history of man. But nowhere are prin ciples of order lacking, and reverent search delights to trace them in the workings of the spirit of man as well as of his mind and body. That they are no less present in the relations between the Divine and the human spirit may well be accepted by faith, and it may be said that it is increasingly becoming matter of knowledge. Nothing but good can come from reverent inquiry into the order and methods of working of the Spirit of God among men, if we keep clear of the danger of setting bounds to the Divine grace and the foolish pride of supposing that our feeble general izations are more than tentative guesses at the methods of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.
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In individual life we are compelled to recognize periodicity. Day and night, summer and winter, youth and age, sickness and health, constitute successive conditions of human existence. None can evade or ignore them, and spiritual life is in its own way affected by them. Epochs occur in every life when physiological processes are completed or when mental development culminates; there are periods when moral habits become fixed, or when a new start is made and new stages of the journey are undertaken. Spirit has its history, as well as mind and body, though it is not confined within the same limits, nor subject to the same forces. It is impossible to draw an artificial line be tween judgment, conscience, imagination, faith; and if in some of these regions what may be called tidal movements are recognizable, this implies no interference with spiritual freedom, but it does show that laws of spiritual growth are discernible in the midst of a complex and often quite inexplicable history.
Changing moods what forms a more fruitful theme of moralizing than the rapid, startling, unaccountable succession of these in every life? Some are directly attributable to more or less obscure physical conditions.
The ” unstable ” nervous temperament forms a recogniz able type, yet even instability has its own laws and conditions which the physician at least partly understands.
The influence of the crowd on the individual, of the individual on the crowd, the incidence of panic and the control of its storms, the swaying of gusts of passion, the rise of waves of enthusiasm are all these to be marked merely as paroxysms forming irreducible exceptions to a regular observable order? No student of human nature supposes for a moment that they
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are merely disorderly, arbitrary or unaccountable, though their occurrence raises questions more than can be accounted for in his philosophy. All that may be known concerning them is unquestionably of importance in a study of the workings of the Spirit of God upon human life, whether in the individual, the community, the nation or the race.
Special attention has been given of late years to the phenomena of adolescence. The results of study as given by Professor Stanley Hall and others are most instructive in their bearing upon the whole life, and not least the life of religion. Professor William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience is one of the best-known contributions to a fruitful field of study, and it gives the sanction of an eminent name to a mode of treatment which a generation ago would have been considered beneath the dignity, or beyond the sphere, of science. The psychology of religion has advanced rapidly within the last two decades.
Religious instincts are now recognized as part of the essential furniture of human nature, their development and manifestation are better understood, and an in ductive study of the phenomena of religious experience has opened up a new field in which already ordered paths are beginning to be made.
Dr. Starbuck, an American scholar who is largely quoted by William James, says in one of his books, “Conversion belongs almost exclusively to the years between ten and twenty-five it is a distinctively adolescent phenomenon.” 1 To some the statement may sound absurd, others might call it profane. But if we modify its epigrammatic form by saying that experience shows that a radical, abiding change of religious nature rarely occurs before twelve years of 1 Psychology of Religion, p. 28.
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age, is most frequent from the fourteenth to the twentieth year, that it is rare after the age of thirty, and that “if conversion has not occurred before twenty the chances are small that it will ever be experienced, we are moving in a region of undoubted facts which most people can confirm, and which bear an important moral lesson. Narrow down the inquiry still further, and it will be found that the years just before and after sixteen are in many respects crucial. Tables of statistics are usually misleading, and in a subject like this they are useful only within very narrow limits.
Dr. Starbuck’s curves and squares are not diagrams in a proposition of Euclid. Some of his phraseology jars upon the reader. Instead of saying with him, “We may safely lay it down as a law,” it would be better to say that some investigation tends to show that in women “there are two tidal waves of religious awakening at about thirteen and sixteen, followed by a less significant period at eighteen; while among the males the great wave is at about sixteen, preceded by a wavelet at twelve, and followed by a surging-up at eighteen or nineteen.” 1 And it would be more appropriate to say that the normal period for a deep and radical spiritual change in man lies somewhere between the innocence of childhood and the fixed habits of maturity, whilst the nature is still impressible and preserves a certain capacity for spiritual insight which, if then unused, tends in later life to diminish and disappear.
The objections which arise to what may seem to be a determination of religion by statistics are obvious, but they do not apply to an inquiry carefully conducted. It is of course true that tables of averages form no guide to individual cases. Of course it is also true that no such careful observations in human 1 op. tit., p. 34.
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psychology fetter the operations of the Spirit of God.
It may also be admitted that in one sense these figures contain nothing new; that every one knew long ago that childhood and youth form the plastic period during which all impressions ought to be made that are intended to be deep and lifelong. The objection is raised from another quarter that it is a dangerous thing to make the processes of mind dependent upon physiological processes, and to attempt to connect the highest thoughts and aspirations of the human spirit with the natural stages of puberty.
It spite of all objections it remains true that the careful study of childhood and youth made by experts like Professor Stanley Hall has not only been of the highest value in education, but that it has an import ant bearing on religion. It is not scientific to make mental processes dependent on bodily functions, or to resolve the spiritual side of man’s nature into the physical. But that the two are connected is certain, and it is pure gain to know as much as we may about the working of both that the relation between them may be more clearly understood. Adolescence is a crisis in the history of the human organism which has many aspects and bearings, intellectual and moral and aesthetic, as well as physical; why should it be sup posed that the spiritual nature is entirely unaffected.
Conversion is not a matter of chronology, but all that affects the history and growth of a man concerns those who are chiefly interested in his highest development, and it especially concerns the religious teacher to understand all that may be known of the mutual action and reaction of body, mind and spirit, thought, feeling and will.
Especially may help thus be gained to understand some of the tidal movements in the life of religion.
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The Spirit of God is always brooding over the world of human spirits, drawing, striving, seeking most of all when mind and heart are most susceptible. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of these facts for parents, teachers, pastors and all who have young life in their charge, that certain tides of life should be rightly caught and used and carried up to high-water mark in the formation of noble characters and useful lives.
But adolescence is only one phase of one period.
Some events in life form landmarks marriage, the birth of children, sickness, bereavement, figure in the lives of all, and none of them leave us just as they found us. The most important epochs cannot be named and timed. Periods of doubt, of deep disturbance of faith; periods of enlargement of outlook and sympathy; periods when the mental and moral strength is rapidly and mightily knitted and devel oped; periods of the advent of power in character who can define these, or describe when they came and how they pass? Yet they are as real as the pas sage of callow youth into mature manhood, and some of them are much more significant. If these had been more carefully studied, more would have been learned concerning the tidal movements of mental and spiritual life. It is enough for the moment to say that all changes, great and small, subtle and patent, are great opportunities; that the Divine Spirit will use them if human spirits are awake to their significance. It may or may not be correct to render the obscure words found in Ps. Iv. 19: “Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God,” but it is matter of common experience that God is most easily forgotten in a regular, unbroken round of prosperous, comfortable existence. The wine that settles on its lees
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and is not emptied from vessel to vessel preserves its original taste and flavour unweakened. This process may sometimes be useful for producing a fine vintage, but in man or nation it is usually no commendation to say that “his taste remaineth in him and his scent is not changed.” However unwelcome the process, straining is necessary, and the refining produced by pouring from jar to jar, but the stage is a critical one and needs skilful handling.
Changes in human life are not chance occurrences, but whether they are blessings or curses depends on the use made of them. The Divine Spirit is always at hand to make them minister to growth and advancement; intermittent epochs are to be expected in His training of individual human nature, subject as it necessarily is to the law of periods. If the sails of the boat are set to catch the propitious breeze when it blows, all is well; but it may sigh idly through unprepared rigging and pass unused away. It is significant that in the well-worn quotation from Shakespeare the part which describes the “tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood,” is so familiar, while the latter part
“Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries,”
which is the more frequently illustrated in fact, should be by general consent forgotten. The loss of opportunities can only be remedied by the quickening Spirit of God, who can bind all winds and times and tides in humble ministration, to bring the vessel to her desired haven.
The sacred words “Ye are a temple of God, and the Holy Ghost dwelleth in you ” are true both of the
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individual and the community. But in both cases the gracious inhabiting described is a dynamic, not a static, condition; it implies the ever fresh incoming of a new energy, and no man can say by what steps it will proceed, or what will be its history, course and issues. As the principle of periodicity is discernible in the growth and development of the individual, so assuredly has it been present in the history of the community. But to trace its operation is no light task.
Pentecost was a great event. The records in the Acts are so scanty that we cannot study its significance and its sequels in detail. But the narrative makes it clear that in a short period there was a change in the disciples of Christ corresponding to the change called “conversion ” in the individual, and that they were endued with the power of the Spirit in a very special sense. What has been the subsequent history of the Church? It cannot be described as mere degeneration, it has certainly not been one of uninterrupted progress. What we actually find is a chequered history full of life, fascination, advance alternating with failure and disappointment. The ministry of charismatic gifts made way for the ministry of appointed officers. As the age of persecutions passed away, the Church developed her regular order, her ecclesiastical codes, her more or less elaborate ritual.
The process may be described as one of consolidation, and without such organization probably the Church could not have survived; but it brought its own dangers and difficulties with it. Ere long a protest became necessary against the growing ecclesiasticism and the substitution of form for substance, of letter for spirit, which is always the peril of prosperity.
Montanism was anything but a satisfactory protest,
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and in any case it was ineffectual. The slowly developed history of the primitive, the mediaeval and the modern Church is full of suggestion as to the actual workings of the Spirit of God in Christian communities. It exhibits neither unbroken progress nor steady decadence, but progress on the whole, though in unexpected ways. The advance is that of the in coming tide, with flux and reflux of individual waves and periods of apparent stagnation. Or it may be more fitly compared to a spiral curve, which winds round and round to almost the same point again, yet is marked by a real, though very gradual, rise upwards.
It is perhaps truer still to say that the curves of progress have hardly any distinguishable law to deter mine them, but that they do possess a significance which the lapse of centuries is slowly making more and more intelligible. The working of the Spirit in the Church is in any case a “tidal ” movement.
If it be, we cannot be surprised. Such periodicity is manifest wherever life exists, and in human history similar phenomena attend the progress of civilization and the rise and decay of nations. Intellectual advance is marked by intermittent dark ages, with bright gleams preparing for the dawn of brighter days. Moral progress is discernible, but society after each new advance sinks back, if not to its previous level, still exhibiting a measure of decadence in comparison with a recent zenith of attainment. If the history of religion is marked by similar phenomena, it is but what might be expected as we watch the Divine Spirit at work with frail and mutable human material. And if we ask at one stage, Why this mighty quickening? the answer is that God’s Spirit has been energetically at work. And if again, Why not steady advance under such Divine dynamic? the
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answer is, Because the human material takes the Divine impress imperfectly, or retains it feebly, or generations rapidly succeeding one another prevent the gain in moral and spiritual power from being permanent. Such is the description briefly given by St. John of the period from the Creation to the Incarnation. The light shines in the midst of darkness, he tells us in the first chapter of his gospel, the darkness cannot wholly overcome it, but neither does the light wholly banish the gloom, which seems alternately to gather and recede, though gradually its dusky veil is being withdrawn before the dawn of victorious day.
The very phrase “religious movement” is suggestive. The word “revival” speaks for itself of a life which seems continually to need renewing. Christ came to earth at His first Advent, He will return to earth a second time for judgment, but how often does He “come” to His people meanwhile? The Holy Spirit was “poured out” on the day of Pentecost; there have been many “visitations ” of the Spirit since, and will be many more until the consummation of the ages. But why should these be isolated, with long weary intervals? Why, as Jeremiah pleaded, should “the hope of Israel be as a sojourner in the land, as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night?
The answer is returned for the modern Church, as for the ancient congregation, that the Lord’s arm is not shortened, not His ear heavy, nor His love wavering and uncertain, but that His people’s sin and unfaithfulness prevent Him from granting what they ask, but are not in a condition to receive. The worst evil of all in the history of Church and nation is when the prophet has to declare in the name of God who is ready to give waters in the wilderness and rivers
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the desert, “thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
Plethora brings surfeit “A lamp’s death when, replete with oil, it chokes; A stomach’s when, surcharged with food, it starves.”
Abundance of religious knowledge and privilege and grace, when unused or abused, brings a state of darkness and deadness beyond all others dangerous.
Hence the sharp messages to some of the seven churches, Repent and do the first works, or I will take thy candlestick out of its place. The capacity of the Church to receive is the measure of God’s ability to bestow at the moment. Only when the times were ripe could Christ come as a babe born in Bethlehem; only in the fulness of the times can He come a second time in glory at the consummation of the ages; surely the periods between, as the seasons are ripening, are similarly ruled and ordered? It becomes then imperative to ask, How much is being done meanwhile by way of hastening the period of spiritual harvest.
Here lies the great problem of the Church in every age.
Can anything like a law of periodicity be discerned in the history of the Churches? What are some of the signs and causes of the alternating advance and retrogression of Christ’s kingdom in the earth? To give a few hints as to observed sequences is all that is possible here. Even to attempt so much within the compass of a few pages may well seem bold and futile. But a glance along the line of history shows some such successive pictures as these.
(i) The growth and advance of a church brings prosperity, creates the need of careful construction
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in order to conserve the increase realized. Then follows a not unnatural dependence on external order and machinery; formalism sets in, with a corresponding diminution of spiritual energy and deterioration of spiritual character.
(2) The environment of the world is always present, and is most powerfully felt, not in times of persecution, but when the world is most favourably inclined towards the Church. Prosperity increases the numbers of the Church and lowers the level of earnestness and devotion. Spiritual energy begins to fail at the source; there is not power enough to work the elaborate machinery.
(3) A period of languor follows, of lukewarmness in spiritual affections, of comparative apathy concerning the highest things. The Church holds its own for a while in status and numbers, but progress is arrested. No decadence is very markedly visible, but life is perishing within; regiments are not being renewed, and the army is sinking into a mere force on paper.
(4) But if the Church have any life at all, there will be many who cannot bear that this state of things should continue. The first sign of real change is the dawn of a spirit of deep contrition and humility.
The Church’s best friends are those who frankly face the facts and fearlessly point out the mischief. They may be called prophets of evil, but like Jeremiah during the captivity, like “Mr. Recorder” in Bunyan’s town of Mansoul, the unpopular preacher is the messenger of life.
(5) There follows secret and importunate prayer on the part of the faithful few. The story of Malachi iii.
is repeated, and they that fear the Lord speak often one to another. In a local church the whole turn of
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the tide has been traced before now to one poor invalid, or humble Christian in a garret the “quiet in the land,” who from the time of the Psalmist onwards have proved themselves to be the salt of the earth. In religion, at all events, it has been shown again and again that “progress is not from above, but from below.” A return to first principles follows, and that means the germ of new life. Secretly the contagion of goodness spreads, and the ground is being made ready for new seed.
(6) At this stage possibly a great leader may arise.
It is difficult to exaggerate the value of a great personality. Augustine, Bernard, Savonarola, Luther, Loyola, Knox, Wesley, Newman, are but specimens of names emblazoned in history, whilst a crowd of undistinguished but faithful men have been as influential in their own places for keeping the torch alight and passing it on unextinguished to the next generation.
(7) Often there has followed the formation of a Church within a Church. In order to leaven the whole mass, a morsel of leaven must be concentrated to do its work. Such was the moving principle in monasticism at the beginning; such the real significance of the societies of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Reformers before the Reformation, Beguines and Beghards, the Brethren of the Common Lot, the Brethren of the Free Spirit. Such were the Mendicant Friars at their first institution, though the ideals of Francis and Dominic had begun to fade and die down almost before their own lives were ended.
Such were the Society of Friends in the seventeenth century, the Covenanters in Scotland, the Camisards in France, the Methodists in England before the time when they began to spread over the whole world. In
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these movements some new doctrines may have been broached, more usually new power has been infused into old beliefs. St. Paul has been re-discovered in every great revival of Christianity; again and again the watchword “Back to Christ! ” has been sounded.
If only men had rightly understood to what Christ they were professing to return!
(8) Then, after crowds have gathered; after interest has been awakened, a large ingathering secured; after enthusiasm has been aroused and the public mind been stirred, too often an inexplicable change has come. The rising flame has been checked and hindered and begun to die down, first zeal has not proved lasting, a falling away begins, and men exclaim, sometimes with a sigh, sometimes with ill-concealed delight, that another religious movement has spent its strength and run its course.
Much may have been gained meanwhile. Drunkenness has passed into sobriety; a general reformation of habits has taken place; generous contributions have proved the genuineness of inward renewal; envy, jealousy and slander have given way before the spirit of mutual forgiveness and tenderness; all are prepared to acknowledge that a mighty power for good has been at work. But declension follows revival, and the hearts of good men are made sad, as if God had forgotten His people and the Spirit of grace had taken His departure.
But this current interpretation of history is not adequate. Nothing is more remarkable in the history of the Christian religion than its vitality in the midst of serious, and, it might have been thought, fatal,
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corruptions and its perennial and unquenchable power of Renewal. There can be only one explanation of this. Christianity is an abstraction and can not renew itself. Christians are frail and erring mortals. The power of self-quickening, even in the very midst of decay and death, which has marked the history of Christendom, is to be traced to the change less, tireless working of the Spirit of Christ, who is the Spirit of the ever-living, ever-working Almighty God. To the wandering children of men there is a voice that says
“One band ye cannot break the force that clip And grasps your circles to the central light; Yours is the prodigal comet’s long ellipse, Self-exiled to the farthest verge of night, Yet strives with you no less that inward might No sin hath ever imbruted; ” and those who have felt the constraining influence of the Spirit who brings home to the human heart the power of uttermost Divine self-sacrifice on the Cross, can understand how again and again when man’s wilfulness and rebellion, his blind folly, his selfish lust and hate and greed, his formalism and apathy, seem to have extinguished the Divine spark in the world, and well-nigh in the Church, the Spirit of Christ has wrought a new miracle, and not only healed the sick but raised the dead. There is always one answer to the question: Can these bones live.
O Lord, Thou knowest. He who holds the winds in his fists knows that the breath from the four winds is divinely ready to breathe on these slain that they may live.
The word “revival,” like so many other noble ones, has been degraded. In many minds it is associated with a brief series of excited meetings, fiery exhorta-
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tions and hysterical responses, producing a commotion in town or village for a few short months, accompanied by transient reformation on the part of many, and real and abiding good wrought in the hearts of a few to be followed by reaction, relapse and retrogression. The word revival should have a broad and deep significance. It is well to leave watching the fuss and foam of a few waves in a corner creek to trace the ebb and flow of the broad sea. A movement in a Christian nation, or in the Church as a whole, which perceptibly renews the springs of religious life and leaves the level of moral and spiritual life perceptibly higher than it had been before is a movement of revival, and its rise and progress can be traced. Some have limited its utmost duration to half-a-century, others consider that if it lasts a generation of five-and-twenty or thirty years it is all that can be expected. No arithmetic can make the calculation.
But the lifetime of a great leader is limited, and in thirty years or so one generation of mankind passes, and another, trained under different influences, suc ceeds; so that, unless the self-propagating power of the new spiritual life be vigorous, decline in energy may be expected. But amongst the multitude of Church historians none has yet been found competent to trace out the working of a “law of revivals..
Nothing of the kind is to be attempted here. The natural impatience of the human mind with what it considers to be the slowness and irregularity of the Divine methods should, however, be checked by the thought that Order is even to our vision discernible amidst the welter and confusion of human history.
The history of the Church is not exempt from the apparent confusion, and in it is to be discerned the same gracious Order. But “short views” will not
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suffice. And in the attempt to survey long periods and use large maps, much will still have to be left in uncertainty, and faith will often have to take the place of sight. One principle, however, will carry the devout student a long way.
When King Arthur’s Round Table is dissolved and its good knights find no successors, and its prince and leader is about to pass away, it is natural for Sir Bedivere to cry that “the true old times are dead,” and that he goes forth companionless, as the days and years darken round him. He finds it hard to believe that one good custom should ever corrupt the world. But it is customs that do corrupt men. As soon as the valuable use and habit, toilsomely acquired and strenuously maintained, has settled down into a mere mechanical movement of the soul, it dies and needs to be dissolved, that from its ashes new life may spring. God fulfils Himself, not in one way, but in many ways. He still speaks in many parts, by many fashions. Though He has spoken once in His Son, though the Spirit of His Son is one throughout the ages, the languages of men are so many that the Divine voices need to be multiplied if all are to be reached. One generation hardly understands the dialect of its predecessor, and those who mourn the decay of old times and customs may take heart among “new men, strange faces, other minds,” that the city of God remaineth and the Spirit of God, who in the beginning brooded over chaos, can replace the old order, which was good, by the new, which alone can suffice for new needs.
A study of revival movements in the past shows that no single type of leader is preserved, no uniform type of method will succeed. Conviction of sin and whole some fear of retribution are necessary as well as the
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preaching of grace and a gospel of forgiveness. Francis and Dominic differed, as Luther and Calvin differed, and as Wesley and Whitefield agreed to differ, in theology, in temperament, in utterance. Wyclif was a forerunner of Knox, but Knox did not follow in the lines of Wyclif. Any student of a reformation must find room for an Erasmus before the movement begins, and for a Melanchthon when it is over, if the whole story is to be told. And he must not forget that when the history of one reformation is over, a counter-reformation which points in a different direction may begin, and both may be necessary if those mighty plans and processes are to be carried out that are to prepare for the restitution of all things.
It is easier to study the past than to understand the present, and it is impossible to forecast the future.
God’s people are generally agreed that a revival is needed, and there are times when it would seem to be very nearly imminent. The darkest hour is before the dawn, but it must be remembered that the dawn is not the noontide. Those who profess to under stand the signs of our own times have been telling us that u the next revival must be ethical.” That is either a truism or an impossibility. No religious quickening is worth anything which does not bring moral improvement in its train. But no amount of moral improvement will produce religious quicken ing, though, as in the work of John the Baptist, it may prepare the way. So with the social reforms that are preached as a panacea. Improvement in the organization and habits of society is a result, not a cause, the fruit of a good tree, not its trunk or root.
Fuller light upon history has shown our generation the need of more than individual renewal, if the kingdom of God is to come indeed. But it is revival
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of religion that is needed, not revival of interest in sanitation. The last step men are inclined to take is the first that is needed the recognition of radical evil in the human heart and earnest seeking after God to set it right. The chief cause of decline in religion is the neglect of regard for the direct work of the Holy Spirit. The invariable sign that renewal is at hand is to be found in a contrite, importunate, persistent seeking after His quickening power.
It is this fact which often delays the hoped-for day. Men in the Church as well as in the world shrink from confession and shun humiliation and contrition. The self-reproach, self-denial and self-discipline which prepare the way for self-renewal are not pleasant or easy processes. It is proverbially harder to raise a decaying Church than to start a new one. Vested interests are the chief enemies of civil and political reforms. In Church life, as in society, “custom lies upon us with a weight, heavy as frost and deep almost as life.” It would seem as if open sin were easier to cure than religious formalism. Christ reserved His severest denunciations for the religion falsely so called which was hindering the development of new and vigorous religious life. St. Paul strove hard to reach the fossilized hearts of his countrymen and kinsfolk according to the flesh, but again and again in the synagogues he was compelled to cry, Since ye thrust from you the new spiritual truth and the quickening spiritual life, lo! we turn to the Gentiles. The only unpardonable sin is wilful, deliberate, persistent resistance to the Holy Spirit. For the individual, the Church, the nation, that will leave room for Him to do His own work, all things are possible and all things will soon become new.
Davison, W.T. - The Indwelling Spirit is a 1911 work with 16 chapters on the indwelling Holy Spirit in us. Gifts, Fruit, prayer, tides, plenitude, spirit of Truth, etc.
|Author:||William Theophilus Davison|
|Date:||June 13, 2020|
Davison, W.T. - The Indwelling Spirit is a 16 chapter work on the indwelling of the Spirit, gifts, fruit, freedom, prayer, tides, plenitude, etc. Davison was Weslyan.
|Date:||June 29, 2020|