“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often
would I have gathered thy children
together, even as a hen gathereth her
chickens under her wings, and ye
The Scripture teaches not only that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and with Him Love, but also that He sheds abroad that Love in our hearts.
This shedding abroad does not refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit’s Person, for a person can not be shed abroad. He comes, takes possession, and dwells in us; but that which is shed abroad must consist of numberless particles. The verb “to pour out” (to shed abroad) is used primarily of water, grain, or fruit; i.e., of liquids or solids composed of parts or particles of one kind, passing from one vessel into another. In Scripture the verb is used metaphorically. Hannah said: “I ‘have poured out my soul before the Lord”
With reference to God, we read that He poured out the fierceness of His anger upon His enemies; and again, “that He shall pour out the Spirit of prayer and supplication.” In the first passage, the metaphor is borrowed from the hail-storm which overtakes the traveler and prostrates him. So shall the blows of divine wrath descend like hail upon the heads of its enemies and prostrate them. And in the second it is signified that with overwhelming power His people shall be constrained to prayer.
In this latter sense, the Scripture frequently applies it to the advent of the Holy Spirit. Both prophets and apostles declare that the Lord shall pour out His Spirit upon all. Finally, we read
It may be objected—and this deserves careful consideration—that in this thought we contradict our former statement, that it is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person in the Trinity, who takes possession of the heart and, dwells therein; for we now say that it is, not the Person who comes in, but a working, an element, a power which is poured out. But, instead of being contradictory, these two are the same; only, by their mutual connection, they give us a more correct insight—and that is just what we need. When I carry a lighted lamp into a dark room, I enter as the light-bearer, while at the same moment the light is poured out in the room. These two should not be confounded. I am not poured out, but the light. I enter the room, but the light is carried into it. And this is exactly what the Holy Spirit does. When He enters the heart the brightness of His Person is poured out therein.
It is true that in these cases the Holy Spirit is mentioned in a somewhat modified sense, but when we speak of the light the same is true. Of an approaching light we say, “There comes the light,” altho we know that some one carries the light. At sunrise we say, “The sun is rising,” altho it would be more correct to say: “The light of the sun is rising.” In like manner the name of the Holy Spirit is used in Scripture in a twofold way: first, with reference to the Third Person in the Trinity; secondly, with reference to the heavenly brightness and blessed activity which He carries with Himself. And instead of being more or less incorrect, this two-fold use of the name is much more correct with reference to the Holy Spirit than when it refers to artificial light or to the sun. We should remember that there is a difference between the lamp and its radiating light; and that the immense body of the sun and its light are also two different things. But this is not so with reference to the Holy Spirit. There is no difference between Himself and His operations. We make the distinction to assist our representation, but in reality it has no existence. Where the Holy Spirit is, there He works; and where He works, there is the Holy Spirit. They are the same. The one is even unthinkable without the other.
There is an advantage in the use of the metaphor “to pour out.” It teaches that the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in the congregation of the elect is neither inactive, nor from compulsion keeping himself aloof from their persons; but that He can not come among them without pouring Himself out in them. And, dwelling in the elect, He does not slumber, nor does He keep an eternal Sabbath, in idleness shutting Himself up in their hearts; but as the divine Worker He seeks from within to fill their individual persons, pouring the stream of His divine brightness through every space.
But we should not imagine that every believer is instantly filled and permeated with that brightness. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit finds him filled with all manner of evil and treachery. Iniquities are piled up on every side. Horrible sins rise from underneath. The consciousness of his bitter, spiritual misery harasses him. Moreover, his heart is divided by many walls and partitions. Even the brightest light can not penetrate the whole at once; and by far the greater part remains for the present at least in deepest darkness.
From this it follows that, when the Holy Spirit has entered man’s heart, His task is not ended, but only just begun—a task so difficult that the power of the Holy Spirit alone can perform it. His method of procedure is not with divine power to force a man as tho he were a stock or block, but by the power of love and compassion so to influence and energize the impulses of the feeble will that it feels the effect, is inclined, and finally consents to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Being once firmly established, He gradually subjects the most hidden impulses and intentions of the saint’s personality to the power of His Love, in order thus to prevail. For this end He uses at once the external means of the preached Word which penetrates the consciousness and takes hold of the person, and the internal operation of blessing the Word and making it effectual. This operation is different in each person. In one it proceeds with marvelous rapidity; in another, progress is exceedingly slow, being checked by serious reaction which in some rare cases is overcome only with the last breath. There are scarcely two men in whom this gracious operation is completely the same.
It may not be denied that the Holy Spirit often meets serious opposition on the part of the saint: not from enmity, for he is an
And the Holy Spirit bears all this resistance with infinite pity, and overcomes it and casts it out with eternal mercy. Who that is not a stranger to his own heart does not remember how many years it took before he would yield a certain point of resistance; how he always avoided facing it; restlessly opposed it, at last thought to end the matter by arranging for a sort of modus vivendi between himself and the Holy Spirit? But the Holy Spirit did not cease, gave him no rest; again and again that familiar knock was heard, the calling in his heart of that familiar voice. And after years of resistance he could not but yield in the end; it became like fire in his bones, and he cried out: “Thou, Lord, art stronger than I; Thou hast prevailed.”
In this way the Holy Spirit breaks down every wall of partition, pouring out His light in all the heart’s empty spaces, gradually opening every door, gaining access to the soul’s most secret chambers, even to the vaults underneath the structure of our being, until finally, either before or in death, the outpouring of His brightness is complete in all our personality, and the whole heart has become His temple.
This task is executed only by means of Love. The Holy Spirit allows Himself to be grieved, provoked, and insulted; but He never yields. He is never weary of repeating the same thing to the ear that once was deaf. In our past or present there can be no sin, however base, of which He does not comfort us, which He does not pardon. He gives healing balm for every inward wound. He always has a word in good season for all that are weary. It is Love always filling us with shame; but at the same time ever uplifting, never despairing, unceasing in its devotion.
It is not merely a Love for men in general, but in the most exclusive sense a personal Love for the individual; not only Love for the redeemed taken as a multitude, but a Love individual, peculiarly tinted to meet the special peculiarity of our being. It is not only a pity for all who suffer, like that of the nurse for the patients
Hence the divine patience in winning thee. One might say:. “There are thousands of others whom He might take and influence with much less trouble perhaps.” But that is not the question. With all the depth of His divine Love He sought thee personally. It is Love in the richest, purest, tenderest sense of the word.
The Holy Spirit prevails by loving us, by proving His Love, by breathing Love, while, at the same time, His victory carries Love into our hearts. Allow Him to enter your soul, and He will carry Love therein, which imperceptibly imparts itself to your heart and inclination. We yield, not because we are compelled by superior power, but being drawn by Love, we are so affected that we can not resist it.
And this is the glorious, divine, and beautiful art of which the Holy Spirit is the chief Artist. He alone understands it, and they whom He has taught. All other love is but a feeble shadow or faint imitation. Not until through Love the Holy Spirit has prevailed can Love enter our hearts, and then we, the formerly sinful and selfish, learn to appreciate Love.
Calvin College. Last modified on 08/11/06. Contact the CCEL.