The Glorious Ministry Of The Spirit
By John Willison
"How shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory" (2 Cor. 3:8-9).
By the Spirit’s ministry, many weak and feeble souls have been wonderfully strengthened and encouraged, power hath been given to the faint, and strength increased to them that had no might. The feeble have been made like David, and all their discouragements and complaints removed. They who could perform no duty, bear no burden, encounter no danger, have been wonderfully strengthened both for work and warfare, duty and difficulty. And they have been fortified against all fears, corruptions, temptations, afflictions, and persecutions, and made to say with David, "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident" (Psa. 27:3). And with Paul, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13).
Fellowship and Communion with God
The ministry of the Spirit is glorious in regard to the glorious fellowship and communion with God, which souls thereby attain to in the ordinances. Then He makes good that word to them, "I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul" (Jer. 31:25). Then He puts more gladness in their hearts, than when corn, and wine, and oil do abound. Then He makes their doubts and unbelief to vanish, and all their clouds and darkness, fears and jealousies, to flee away. Now, they attain to this blessed fellowship when He gives them such discoveries of a crucified Jesus, and His infinite fullness and suitableness to their case, as fills them with joy and peace in believing, and in laying the stress of their souls, and burden of their guilt upon Him. He helps them to embrace and apply the promises of the covenant, and to lay claim to them as their own, and say, "This and that promise is mine" – and plead like David, "Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope" (Psa. 119:49). And the pleading and feeding on a promise doth afford much inward sweetness and satisfaction to the soul.
He also affords them such delight in God’s work, such strength in performing of duty, that it is their meat and drink to do His will, and they reckon a day in His courts better than a thousand elsewhere. So that, though sometimes they have come to duties with a deadness, and in straightenings of spirit, yet they have obtained such relief, that with Hannah they have been helped to pour out their hearts to God in prayer, and have gone away with their countenances no more sad. He gives them such discoveries of God’s love to their souls through Christ, as fills them with inward hope and consolation; yea, sometimes such a strong assurance of God’s favor, and of the pardon of their sins, and of the glory to be revealed, that their souls are made to overflow with joy.
Renewal and Revival
Let me exhort all the hearers of the Gospel, to pray earnestly to God for the ministry of the Spirit to them, as it hath been to our ancestors in this land in former days, and as it is this day in other countries. Let us cry with the church, "Renew our days as of old" (Lam. 5:21). And let us with David, "See Thy power and Thy glory…in the sanctuary" (Psa. 63:2), as in former times. And with Isaiah, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old" (Isa. 51:9). Let us plead with the church, "We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old…Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord?...Arise for our help, and redeem us for Thy mercies’ sake" (Psa. 44:1, 23, 26).
It would be as wind to the sails, oil to the wheels, and make souls to run the ways of God’s commands without fainting or wearying. It would loose our bonds, enlarge our hearts, and give freedom from Satan’s temptations, and strong lusts. It would revive drooping souls, turn their water into wine, their sorrow into joy, their fears into holy confidence, their doubts into Godly assurance, their complaints into praises, and make them to sing in the ways of the Lord. It would satisfy their souls, and all their faculties, as with marrow and fatness, bring light to the mind, freedom to the will, strength to the memory, peace to the conscience, and life to all graces. Yea, it would make the soul to grow in grace and fast ripen for heaven. It would make professors of religion grow more sincere in duties, more fervent in prayer, more attentive in hearing, more frequent in meditation, more practical in knowledge, more edifying in converse, more humble for defects, and more thankful for mercies.
Great Need for the Spirit’s Ministry
Consider the melancholy case of the church for want of the ministry of the Spirit. Her beauty is quite marred, her gold becomes dim, and her most fine gold is changed. Her womb is barren, her breasts dry, and her ordinances dead and lifeless. Satan reigns and prevails, and precious souls are an easy prey to his teeth. And believers themselves fall under sad languishings and decays. Whereas the Spirit’s ministry would soon change the face of affairs, and roll away the reproach of barrenness under gospel means, wherewith enemies are apt to upbraid us, saying, "Where is your God? Where is the fruit of your many sermons, fasts and prayers, and solemn communions?" It was like a sword in David’s bones when they said unto him, "Where is thy God?" (Psa. 42:10).
Take a view of the largeness of Satan’s kingdom in the world: How great is the number of his subjects! And will not every loyal subject of Christ be concerned and troubled to see the devil possessing such large territories, when their Redeemer has but a little flock! Oh, can you see your King’s country overspread with enemies as thick as grasshoppers, when Christ’s armies are pitched before them like two little flocks of kids, and not be affected and grieved for it! Now the lonely remedy for it is, to pray for the glorious ministry of the Spirit. This would soon make a mutiny and desertion in Satan’s camp, diminish his followers, and increase the army and kingdom of our dear Jesus.
Rare and Rich Blessings
A day of the ministry of the Spirit would bring many rare and rich blessings along with it, such as discoveries of the Redeemer’s glory, convictions of the evil and vileness of sin, many crowns of victory, and triumph to Christ, great additions to His friends and followers. Then gospel light would shine clear, saving knowledge increase, ignorance and error vanish, riches of free grace would be displayed, and Satan be bound up. Then ministers and ordinances would be lively, secure sinners would be awakened, dead souls would live, hard hearts would be melted, strong lusts subdued, and many sons and daughters born to God. Such a day would heal divisions, cement breaches, make us all of one heart and mind, and bring down heaven to earth. This would redress our grievances, remove our complaints, and unite Christ’s scattered flock. It would make true religion and holy persons to be in esteem, vice to be in disgrace, and iniquity as ashamed to hide its face. Then Sabbaths and communions would be days of heaven. Prayer and praise, spiritual converse, talking of Christ and redeeming love, would be our chiefest delight. Oh, then, pray for such a time.
Seek the Spirit’s Ministry
What shall we do that our prayers may be prevalent for the glorious ministry of the Spirit to the church and land?
Take the following directions:
1. Let us lament after a departed God, as the penitent Israelites did, "All the house of Israel lamented after the Lord" (1 Sam. 7:2). They were sensible of their loss, confessed they had sinned Him away, and wrestled for His return.
2. Search out the Achan in the camp, old or late sins, which may provoke God to withhold His Spirit from us. Mourn bitterly for it; apply to the blood of Jesus for pardon; abhor and put it away.
3. Be thankful for the least droppings of the Spirit, entertain them kindly and plead that they may be the forerunners of a greater shower.
4. Use arguments in prayer for the ministry of the Spirit. Plead the multitude of dry bones which are scattered up and down the valley of vision. How general is the deadness both among minister and people! And nothing can revive them but the breath of the Lord. Cry, with the prophet, "Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live" (Ezek. 37:9). Plead your inability to do any spiritual good thing without the Spirit. "Lord, we can neither pray, praise, mourn, believe, repent, meditate, read, hear, or communicate, without the ministry of the Spirit; we can do nothing spiritually; all we do is in a natural, carnal way, which cannot be pleasing to Thee." Plead also the promises of the new covenant, which are free and absolute concerning the giving of the Holy Spirit; such as those in Isaiah 64:3 and Ezekiel 36:26. God would have us to turn these His promises into prayers, if we would share in them; for He saith, after making them, that He will be "enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them" (Ezek. 36:37).
Remember that Christ still invites you to come to Him for every thing, and for the Spirit among the rest.
– Condensed from The Balm Of Gilead For Healing A Diseased Land: With The Glory Of The Ministration Of The Spirit And A Scripture Prophecy by John Willison.