by J. C. Ryle
What then are these general effects which the Spirit always produces on those who really have Him? What are the marks of His presence in the soul? This is the question which now remains to be considered. Let us try to set down these marks in order.
1. All who have the Spirit are quickened by Him, and made spiritually ALIVE. He is called in Scripture, “The Spirit of life.” (Rom. 8:3.) “It is the Spirit,” says our Lord Jesus Christ, “who quickens.” (John 6:63.) We are all by nature dead in trespasses and sins. We have neither feeling nor interest about true religion. We have neither faith, nor hope, nor fear, nor love. Our hearts are in a state of torpor; they are compared in Scripture to a stone. We may be alive about money, learning, politics, or pleasure—but we are dead towards God. All this is changed when the Spirit comes into the heart. He raises us from this state of death, and makes us new creatures. He awakens the conscience, and inclines the will towards God. He causes old things to pass away, and all things to become new. He gives us a new heart; He makes us put off the old man, and put on the new. He blows the trumpet in the ear of our slumbering faculties, and sends us forth to walk the world as if we were new beings.
How unlike was Lazarus shut up in the silent tomb, to Lazarus coming forth at our Lord’s command! How unlike was Jairus’ daughter lying cold on her bed amidst weeping friends, to Jairus’ daughter rising and speaking to her mother as she was accustomed to do! Just as unlike is the man in whom the Spirit dwells to what he was before the Spirit came into him.
I appeal to every thinking reader. Can he whose heart is manifestly full of everything but God–hard, cold, and insensible—can he be said to “have the Spirit”? Judge for yourself.
2. All who have the Spirit are taught by Him. He is called in Scripture, “The Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” (Eph. 1:17.) It was the promise of the Lord Jesus, “He shall teach you all things.” “He shall guide you into all truth.” (John 14:26; 16:13.) We are all by nature ignorant of spiritual truth. “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God—they are foolishness to him.” (1 Cor. 2:14.) Our eyes are blinded. We neither know God, nor Christ, nor ourselves, nor the world, nor sin, nor heaven, nor hell, as we ought. We see everything under false colors. The Spirit alters entirely this state of things. He opens the eyes of our understandings. He illumines us; He calls us out of darkness into marvelous light. He takes away the veil. He shines into our hearts, and makes us see things as they really are! No wonder that all true Christians are so remarkably agreed upon the essentials of true religion! The reason is that they have all learned in one school—the school of the Holy Spirit. No wonder that true Christians can understand each other at once, and find common ground of fellowship! They have been taught the same language, by One whose lessons are never forgotten.
I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who is ignorant of the leading doctrines of the Gospel, and blind to his own state—can he be said to “have the Spirit “? Judge for yourself
3. All who have the Spirit are led by Him to the SCRIPTURES. This is the instrument by which He specially works on the soul. The Word is called “the sword of the Spirit.” Those who are born again are said to be “born by the Word.” (Eph. 6:17; 1 Peter 1:23.) All Scripture was written under His inspiration—He never teaches anything which is not therein written. He causes the man in whom He dwells to “delight in the law of the Lord.” (Psalm 1:2.) Just as the infant desires the milk which nature has provided for it, and refuses all other food–so does the soul which has the Spirit desire the sincere milk of the Word. Just as the Israelites fed on the manna in the wilderness, so are the children of God taught by the Holy Spirit to feed on the contents of the Bible.
I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who never reads the Bible, or only reads it formally—can he be said to have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.
4. All who have the Spirit are convinced by Him of SIN. This is an especial office which the Lord Jesus promised He should fulfill. “When He has come, He shall reprove the world of sin.” (John 16:8.) He alone can open a man’s eyes to the real extent of his guilt and corruption before God. He always does this when He comes into the soul. He puts us in our right place. He shows us the vileness of our own hearts, and makes us cry with the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” He pulls down those proud, self-righteous, self-justifying notions with which we are all born, and makes us feel as we ought to feel, “I am a sinful man, and I deserve to be in hell!” Ministers may alarm us for a little season; sickness may break the ice on our hearts; but the ice will soon freeze again if it is not thawed by the breath of the Spirit! Convictions not wrought by Him will pass away like the morning dew.
I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can the man who never feels the burden of his sins, and knows not what it is to be humbled by the thought of them—can he have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.
5. All who have the Spirit are led by Him to CHRIST for salvation. It is one special part of His office to “testify of Christ,” to “take of the things of Christ, and to show them to us.” (John 15:26; 16:15.) By nature we all think to work our own way to heaven—we fancy in our blindness that we can make our peace with God. From this miserable blindness the Spirit delivers us. He shows us that in ourselves we are lost and hopeless, and that Christ is the only door by which we can enter heaven and be saved. He teaches us that nothing but the blood of Jesus can atone for sin, and that through His mediation alone God can be just and the justifier of the ungodly. He reveals to us the exquisite fitness and suitableness to our souls of Christ’s salvation. He unfolds to us the beauty of the glorious doctrine of justification by simple faith. He sheds abroad in our hearts that mighty love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Just as the dove flies to the well-known cleft of the rock, so does the soul of him who has the Spirit flee to Christ and rest on Him. (Rom. 5:5.)
I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who knows nothing of faith in Christ, be said to have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.
6. All who have the Spirit are by Him made HOLY. He is” the Spirit of holiness.” (Rom. 1:4.) When He dwells in people, He makes them follow after love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, faith, patience, temperance.” He makes it natural to them, through their new “Divine nature,” to count all God’s precepts concerning all things to be right, and to “hate every false way.” (2 Pet 1:4; Ps. 119:128.) Sin is no more pleasant to them—it is their sorrow when tempted by it; it is their shame when they are overtaken by it. Their desire is to be free from it altogether. Their happiest times are when they are enabled to walk most closely with God—their saddest times are when they are furthest off from Him.
I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can those who do not even pretend to live strictly according to God’s will, be said to have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.
7. All who have the Spirit are SPIRITUALLY MINDED. To use the words of the Apostle Paul, “those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:5.) The general tone, tenor, and bias of their minds is in favor of spiritual things. They do not serve God by fits and starts—but habitually. They may be drawn aside by strong temptations; but the general tendency of their lives, ways, tastes, thoughts and habits, is spiritual. You see it in the way they spend their leisure time, the company they love to keep, and their conduct in their own homes. And all is the result of the spiritual nature implanted in them by the Holy Spirit. Just as the caterpillar when it becomes a butterfly can no longer be content to crawl on earth—but will fly upwards and use its wings, so will the affections of the man who has the Spirit be ever reaching upwards toward God.
I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can those whose minds are wholly intent on the things of this world be said to have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.
8. All who have the Spirit feel a CONFLICT within them, between the old nature and the new. The words of Paul are true, more or less, of all the children of God, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh–so that you cannot do the things that you would.” (Gal. 5:17.) They feel a holy principle within their bosoms, which makes them delight in the law of God—but they feel another principle within, striving hard for the mastery, and struggling to drag them downwards and backwards. Some feel this conflict more than others—but all who have the Spirit are acquainted with it; and it is a token for good. It is a proof that the ‘strong man armed’ no longer reigns within, as he once did, with undisputed sway. The presence of the Holy Spirit may be known by inward warfare as well as by inward peace. He who has been taught to rest and hope in Christ, will always be one who fights and wars with sin.
I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who knows nothing of inward conflict, and is a servant to sin, the world, and his own self-will, can he be said to have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.
9. All who have the Spirit LOVE others who have the Spirit. It is written of them by John, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” (1 John 3:14.) The more they see of the Holy Spirit in anyone, the more dear he is to them. They regard him as a member of the same family, a child of the same Father, a subject of the same King, and a fellow-traveler with themselves in a foreign country towards the same father-land. It is the glory of the Spirit to bring back something of that brotherly love, which sin has so miserably chased out of the world. He makes people love one another for reasons which to the natural man are foolishness—for the sake of a common Savior, a common faith, a common service on earth, and the hope of a common home. He raises up friendships independent of blood, marriage, interest, business, or any worldly motive. He unites people by making them feel they are united to one great center, Jesus Christ.
I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who finds no pleasure in the company of spiritually-minded people, or even sneers at them as saints—can he be said to have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.
10. Finally, all who have the Spirit are taught by Him to PRAY. He is called in Scripture, “The Spirit of grace and supplication.” (Zech. 12:10.) The elect of God are said to “cry to Him night and day.” (Luke 18:7.) They cannot help it—their prayers may be poor, and weak, and wandering—but pray they must; something within them tells them they must speak with God and lay their needs before Him. Just as the infant will cry when it feels pain or hunger, because it is its nature, so will the new nature implanted by the Holy Spirit oblige a man to pray. He has the Spirit of adoption, and he must cry, “Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:6.)
Once more I appeal to every thinking reader. Can the man who never prays at all, or is content with saying a few formal heartless words, can he be said to have the Spirit? For the last time I say, Judge for yourself.
Such are the marks and signs by which I believe the presence of the Holy Spirit in a man may be discerned. I have set them down fairly as they appear to me to be laid before us in the Scriptures. I have endeavored to exaggerate nothing, and to keep back nothing. I believe there are no true Christians in whom these marks may not be found. Some of them, no doubt, stand out more prominently in some, and others in others. My own experience is distinct and decided—that I never saw a truly godly person, even of the poorest and humblest classes, in whom, on close observation, these marks might not be discovered.
I believe that marks such as these are the only safe evidence that we are traveling in the way that leads to everlasting life. I charge everyone who desires to make his calling and election sure, to see that these marks are his own. There are high-flying professors of religion, I know, who despise the mention of “marks,” and call them “legal.” I care nothing for their being called legal, so long as I am satisfied they are scriptural. And, with the Bible before me, I give my opinion confidently, that he who is without these marks is without the Spirit of God.
Show me a man who has these marks, and I acknowledge him as a child of God. He may be poor and lowly in this world; he may be vile in his own eyes, and often doubt of his own salvation. But he has that within him which only comes from above, and will never be destroyed, even the work of the Holy Spirit. God is his, Christ is his. His name is already written in the book of life, and before long heaven will be his own.
Show me a man in whom these marks are not to be found, and I dare not acknowledge him to be a true Christian. I dare not as an honest man; I dare not as a lover of his soul; I dare not as a reader of the Bible. He may make a great religious profession; he may be learned, high in the world, and moral in his life. It is all nothing if he has not the Holy Spirit. He is without God, without Christ, without solid hope, and, unless he changes, will at length be without heaven.
And now let me finish this paper by a few PRACTICAL REMARKS which arise naturally out of the matter which it contains.
(a) Would you know, first of all, what is your own immediate duty? Listen, and I will tell you.
You ought to examine yourself calmly about the subject which I have been trying to set before you. You ought to ask yourself seriously how the doctrine of the Holy Spirit affects your soul. Look away, I beseech you, for a few minutes, to higher things than the things of earth, and more important things than the things of time. Bear with me, while I ask you a plain question. I ask it solemnly and affectionately, as one who desires your salvation—Have you the Spirit?
Remember, I do not ask whether you think all I have been saying is true, and right, and good. I ask whether you yourself, who are reading these lines–have within you the Holy Spirit?
Remember, I do not ask whether you believe that the Holy Spirit is given to the Church of Christ, and that all who belong to the Church are within reach of His operations. I ask whether you yourself have the Spirit in your own heart?
Remember, I do not ask whether you sometimes feel strivings of conscience, and good desires flitting about within you. I ask whether you have really experienced the quickening and reviving work of the Spirit upon your heart?
Remember, I do not ask you to tell me the day or month when the Spirit began His work in you. It is enough for me if fruit trees bear fruit, without inquiring the precise time when they were planted. But I do ask–Are you bringing forth any fruits of the Spirit?
Remember, I do not ask whether you are a perfect person, and never feel anything evil within. But I do ask, gravely and seriously, whether you have about your heart and life the marks of the Spirit?
I hope you will not tell me you do not know what the marks of the Spirit are. I have described them plainly. I now repeat them briefly, and press them on your attention.
1. The Spirit quickens men’s hearts.
2. The Spirit teaches men’s minds.
3. The Spirit leads to the Word.
4. The Spirit convinces of sin.
5. The Spirit draws to Christ.
6. The Spirit sanctifies.
7. The Spirit makes people spiritually minded.
8. The Spirit produces inward conflict.
9. The Spirit makes people love the brethren.
10. The Spirit teaches to pray.
These are the great marks of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Put the question to your conscience like a man—Has the Spirit done anything of this kind for your soul?
I charge you not to let many days pass away without trying to answer my question. I summon you, as a faithful watchman knocking at the door of your heart, to bring the matter to an outcome. We live in an old, worn-out, sin-laden world. Who can tell what “a day may bring forth?” Who shall live to see another year? Have you the Spirit? (Prov. 27:1.)
From Having the Spirit by J. C. Ryle