“TRY the spirits whether they are of God.”
In all ages of the world, from the dawn of creation until now, living witnesses to God’s immortal truth have tenanted their houses of clay, travailing in pain and sorrow, it is true, but none the less unceasingly breathing forth praise and adoration to Jehovah, and testifying often in the midst of most awful ordeals, to the salvation found only in the arm of the mighty God, the fortress of his people in all ages in time and forever in eternity.
In all ages of the world, from the dawn of creation until now, have been those ever ready to curse the saints, to inflict all manner of persecutions upon them, striving to beguile them in the name of the Lord (?) and with a mask of seeming saintliness to fall down and worship Baal, and to leave the Shepherd of Israel. Bat he whose goings forth have been established upon the Rock Christ Jesus, is there to stay, and though often menaced by worldly adversaries and persecuted in most hideous fashion, has invariably come forth from the fiery furnace bearing not a single scent of smoke, with his gold not tarnished nor lustre dimmed.
Against these enemies of the doctrine of God our Savior, the apostle sounds the warning note, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Even at that time, so soon after the manifestation of God in the flesh, false prophets have arisen, so cunning as to almost deceive the very elect.
Many come to the saints filled with the holy Spirit of God, animated by a desire to speak to them concerning his goodness and glory, trusting that God will bless their labors to the edification of the saints and to the upbuilding of Zion. Others come to the saints filled with the spirit of their father, the devil, animated by a desire to gain a good name for themselves, and to win a high place among men, stopping not from hanging salvation upon conditions, and clothing poor, puny man with a fancied glory of his own. Having their eye not single to the glory of God, they deem it an unimportant thing to leave him in the background.
But all who would teach in Zion, no matter by what spirit they are animated, are ushered before God’s most awful tribunal, the highest court before which a man can possibly be brought, and from which there is no appeal; the church of the Most High. Here, in the hearts of all God’s children, is a judgment-seat erected, and here, too, are unfurled the banner and standard of the truth. By this, the saints “try the spirits whether they are of God.” Upon the spirits before them, they set their seal entitling them to serve the Lord in his most holy temple, or banishing them from their presence forever. Among all these spirits, the “man diligent in business, shall stand before kings.” Every saint is a king and a priest to God, and before this most regal company only he whose business lies at wisdom’s gate, whose whole desire is to praise the Lord for his salvation and mercy to usward, and whose testimony upon the walls of Zion declares him as the Rock and his work as perfect; only he, I say, can stand before this royal priesthood, the assemblage of the saints.
Such is the primary interpretation of the language of John quoted in the beginning. Now, briefly, lot us glance at the secondary or experimental side of it.
None but those who have traveled it, can know how rough is the road from earth to heaven. Now it rises over the summit of a lofty mountain, then dropping a little, it pursues its course along a level plain, farther on, it suddenly drops and is lost to view among the dark recesses of some narrow valley only to rise again to climb the mountain where, lo, the golden sunlight gilds its highest point. How many different moods of mind possess the christian wayfarer all in a single day. Now doubting, now fearing, now mounting a pinnacle of hope, now plunging into the depths of ‘despair, now calmly resting in sweet deliverance from the pit. Whether held in the bonds of the spirit of prayer, whether imprisoned in meshes of the spirit of hope, whether held by the spirit of grief, we constantly cry out, “Is this God or the devil?” “Is this the kind of affliction the Lord’s people have, or are the whole human race partakers of it? Thus daily does the child of God try the spirits which possess him, to discover whether they are of God or of Satan, whether they are the evidences of the indwelling of grace, or the cropping out of the propensities of the flesh. His constant inquiry is: “Am I, or am I nor, one of the heaven-born sons of grace!” and only as the Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit, do we realize that we are the children of God. Today you may not know that the spirit which holds you is of God, but to-morrow, God will interpret your experiences, and by his Spirit, which is always your indwelling guide, bearing witness with and testifying-to your spirit or experience, you will know what the past means. It is by the future that we understand the present, and by the present that we interpret the past. Next year you will realize how much God has been with you this year, but now, as he walks with you daily, you are not aware that it is he, so confident do you feel sometimes that he has left you. This is because you are in the cleft of the rock, and his hand is over you so that you see only his back parts, places where he has been, and not where he is now.
HORACE H. LEFFERTS.
1322 Vise St., Philadelphia., Pa., Feb. 4, 1902.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 70., No. 5.
MARCH 1, 1902.