When we go to church, we should go in the consciousness that we in the communion of the saints will meet God. We cannot expect, nor will we receive a blessing unless we behold God with the eye of faith and listen to what he has to say to us. We also speak to him, but out speaking can only be a response to what he says to us. To listen with absorbed attention is very difficult, it is especially difficult to listen thus to God. It is so easy for our thoughts to wander. And yet the soul that succeeds in hearing the words of God is richly rewarded. The psalmist declares: —“The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Jehovah is dean, enduring forever. The ordinances of Jehovah are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold. Sweeter also than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned. In keeping them there is a great reward.” Our prayer should constantly be to be enabled to listen and to hear and understand what God says to us his children.
When we have the privilege of witnessing the administration of the sacrament of baptism we should follow with rapt attention the words which God speaks in and through this sacrament. It is the Triune God who speaks. We have made the attempt to bring to your attention what the Father and the Son say. The Holy Spirit also speaks.
When we are baptized into the name of the Holy Spirit he speaks to us about the part he takes in our salvation. He gives us the assurance that he will dwell in us, and sanctify us to be members of Christ, imparting to us that which we have in Christ, namely, the washing away of our sins and the daily renewing of our lives, till we shall .finally be presented without spot among the assembly of the elect in life eternal.
The very purpose of the coming of the Holy Spirit in this world is to dwell in the hearts of God’s people. God, the Father makes a covenant with us and adopts us for his children and heirs. He looks down from heaven with eyes of love and watches over us, guiding us in all circumstances of life. God, the Son comes down to us from heaven to dwell with us. He is the Immanuel, God with us. He becomes like unto us in all things, sin excepted. He carries our sin and guilt and becomes the Author of our Salvation and the Finisher of our faith. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). But the Holy Spirit is God in us. He makes us a temple of God.
We are mindful that this indwelling in us is an indwelling of the Triune God. Jesus declared: —“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 abode with him” (John 14:23). But even though we cannot exclude from any work of God anyone of the three Persons, it is also true that in the different works of grace one of the three is more emphasized than the other two. The indwelling of the Triune God is in and through the Holy Spirit. We are temples of the Holy Spirit.
In the sacrament of Baptism the Holy Spirit assures us that he will dwell in us, not as guest and for a time; but that he takes possession of us and will dwell in us forever and make us what we ought to be. He does not only dwell in the church in general, but he assures me that he will dwell in me.
Who shall ever measure the height and the depth of this marvelous grace? How careful we are in selecting the home in which we and our dear ones will live. We look for the best our means can allow. But the Holy Spirit comes down from heaven to dwell in the heart of one who is cursed because of his sin and iniquity. The heart of a sinner is described by Jesus: “From within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness; all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21–23). Such is the dwelling place chosen by him whose name is Holy; by him, who loves the good, but hates the evil. How great the love and grace which will stoop down to select a sinful human heart as his dwelling place.
He comes into that heart to work. He is the life-giving spirit. This he was in creation, “the Spirit of God was brooding upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). This he also is in the work of recreation. He comes to live in the heart of the sinner, who is spiritually dead, and he brings first of all spiritual life.
The Holy Spirit assures us in our baptism that he will sanctify us to be members of Christ. To be sanctified as members of the glorious body of Christ it is necessary that we are separated from the root of sin in which we were conceived and born. The Holy Spirit cuts us from the root of the first Adam and grafts us upon the root of the last Adam, Jesus Christ. This is the miracle of grace which makes the dead sinner a living member of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit assures us that organic, living union with Christ will result in growth and development, which will lead to the bearing of fruit.
He will impart to us that which we have in Christ. He will do the work for which the Christ has sent him. The Holy Spirit takes it out of the Christ and gives to us what he has merited for us. He will lead us into all truth. Of him we are in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. What we have in Christ is made our personal possession by the work of the Holy Spirit. He imparts unto us the forgiveness of sins. He gives us this in distinction from the Father who justifies us by decree; in distinction from the Son, who justifies us by his sacrifice. The Holy Sprit realizes the eternal decree of the Father and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ by giving us a new heart, by making us a new creature.
This is not accomplished in a moment. He works in us a daily renewing of our lives. Every child of God is conscious of this activity of the Spirit. We are transformed from glory to glory after the image of Christ. It is a slow and painful progress. The apostle Paul speaks of this in the seventh chapter of his epistle to the Romans. But we may rest assured that the Spirit will not depart from us. He will complete in us the work of sanctification. Some day we shall be presented among the assembly of the elect without sin and take our place in the church triumphant to serve God in perfection unto aU eternity.
The Triune God speaks peace unto his people in the sacrament of baptism. Those who have ears to hear and hearts to perceive never grow weary in listening to the message of blessed assurance. In the sanctuary it is made plain, “I am continually with thee. Thou has holden my right hand. Thou wilt guide me with thy counsel amI afterward receive me into glory” (Psalm 73:23, 24).