Maynard James (1902-1988) was born in Bargoed, South Wales. In 1927 he became a student at the well-known Methodist training school, Cliff College, England, where he studied under the renowned Samuel Chadwick and was soon nicknamed “Holiness James.” It was while at Cliff College that James founded the Trekkers, a group of young men who traveled from town to town and village to village preaching the gospel. His span of ministry included church administration, evangelism, pastoring, and publishing. He ministered alongside evangelists Leonard Ravenhill, Duncan Campbell, and Jack Ford for several years. He served for nearly 50 years as the editor of The Flame magazine (now defunct), from which this article is taken.
IT WAS AT A CONVENTION in Cornwall. After preaching on the text John 7:38-39, I went into the counseling room where an intelligent youth was seeking earnestly to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Almost tearfully, he told me that about twelve months previously, he had asked the Lord for the Holy Spirit. “But,” he said, “I have only a trickle.” He longed for the “rivers of living water” that Jesus had promised to those who believe on Him. He belonged to that host of Christians who say to the Lord:
“Rivers” is Thy promise,
This shall be our plea,
Less than this can never
Meet our cry for Thee:
Tired of lukewarm service,
And the loss it brings,
We would live entirely
For eternal things.
Most of Christ’s important statements about the Holy Spirit are found in John’s Gospel. None is more vivid than His promise in chapter 7, verses 38 and 39: “He that believeth in me, as the scripture hath said from within him [his innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive.”
It was on the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus uttered such stirring words. This festival lasted for seven days, although an eighth day was added as a time of “holy convocation.”
Every morning, for seven days, a procession headed by a priest and accompanied with music went from the Temple of Jerusalem to the Pool of Siloam. There the priest filled a golden vase with water and carried it to the Temple amid the joyful shouts of the people. Then he poured the water upon the western side of the altar of burnt offerings. At the same time, another priest poured a drink offering of wine upon the eastern side of the altar. During this act, the congregation chanted the words of the “Hallel” (Psalms 113 to 119).
This symbolism was undoubtedly connected with the gift of the latter rain, which was at that season. It spoke also of the gift of water, which was so vital in the East. The Jews at the Feast of Tabernacles must have recalled that time when, as their fathers thirsted in the wilderness, the life-giving waters gushed from the rock smitten by Moses.
It was on the last great day of the feast, probably the eighth, that Jesus stood up and made His dramatic announcement. It was all the more dramatic because (as some Bible scholars believe), no water was carried from the Pool of Siloam on the eighth day. It was a waterless day.
In His revolutionary statement Jesus spoke of the promise, purpose, and pathway of the Holy Spirit’s fullness in the human heart.
The Promise of the Spirit’s Fullness
No promise in the Old Testament is more important than the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower the soul of man. Ever since Adam, through the Fall in Eden, had lost the grace and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, men had groaned in their bondage and longed for their forfeited inheritance. But in their own strength, they were powerless to regain what, in Adam, they had lost. However, the darkened sky had been lightened by God’s gracious promise that one day the Holy Spirit would return in plentitude to indwell the sons of men. Through Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel, that promise was reiterated (Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 36:26, 27; Joel 2:28, 29).
When Jesus came, He confirmed and clarified what He termed “the promise of the Father.” By His atoning death, resurrection, and ascension, He made possible the fulfillment of that promise. Being exalted to the throne of God, He received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, that He might “pour” Him upon obedient hearts (Acts 2:33).
It is vital to note that Christ’s promise of the fullness of the Spirit was not made to sinners. It was for His disciples, for those who believe on Him. Elsewhere (John 14:17), Jesus plainly said that the world could not receive the Comforter.
The Purpose of the Spirit’s Fullness
How significant is the emphasis Jesus placed upon the penetration of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s heart: “Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.”
The Greek word koilia (translated “belly” in the A. V.) speaks of the very foundation of human personality, or as the mystics might render it, “the central depths” of the soul. This teaches us that before there can be the outflow of divine power from our lives, there must be the incoming of the Holy Spirit to possess the deepest recesses of our being.
Over 90 times in Scripture, the adjective “holy” is used of the Spirit. He is the Spirit of holiness, and so it is inconceivable that any indwelling sin can remain in the heart when He has penetrated into and fully possessed the koilia of our personality. The Holy Spirit comes to give us, as it were, a spiritual “spring cleaning.” He enters not only into the upper stories and ground floor of our being; He possesses also the basement of our personality. The subconscious is cleansed by His all-pervasive efficacy. There are plenty of Christians who long for power and yet are unwilling for the deep, inward cleansing of their nature.
I had a big surprise when preaching in a church in California some years ago. A young lady was seeking the Spirit’s fullness and seemed to be in earnest. But when I told her that inner purity preceded the outflow of divine power, she exclaimed: “Cannot I be filled with the Holy Spirit without having a pure heart?” I replied: “No, you cannot.” Realizing the true purpose of the Holy Spirit for her life, she refused to obey the light from heaven and left the counseling room sadder than when she had entered it.
How illuminating is Ezekiel’s vision of the life-giving, healing waters that flowed from under the altar in the house of God. Those waters are clearly a picture of the Spirit-filled life from which issue the streams of divine grace and power, bringing blessing and healing to needy humanity. But it is significant that the living waters did not begin to flow until the altar had been thoroughly purged and purified (43:26). So it is with the Christian life. The altar of the heart must be entirely sanctified by the Holy Spirit before the coveted power can flow out. This is always the divine order.
Samuel Chadwick made a revealing confession when he said: “The blessing I sought was power. The blessing God had for me began further in and deeper down. Power was conditioned. The truth that sanctifies begins with a cleansing of heart and motive, a life surrendered to the divine will, and a personality possessed by and filled with the Holy Spirit.”
If purity of heart can be termed the negative side of Pentecost, then the positive side of the blessing is surely power for effective service.
The Holy Ghost does not possess us simply that we might have inward rapture. He comes right into the heart so that He might flow out from us to thirsty souls around. The waters in Ezekiel’s vision flowed toward the desert. God, the Holy Ghost, will never enter any sphere which has no outlet. As William Luff has put it:
God fills the soul that it may pour
The fullness on another heart:
Not that the filled with good may store
The good God giveth to impart.
Jesus illustrated this life of power by the figure of rivers of living water flowing from the inner depths of the sanctified Christian.
In the Holy Spirit is power that is abundant, spontaneous, irresistible, and life-giving. Not a well, or a spring, or even a single river—but “rivers.” What a picture of abundance is this! Pentecost always speaks of overflowing fullness—enough and to spare.
The feast of Pentecost was during the wheat harvest in Palestine, at the time of the ripening of the summer fruits. God had promised such abundant crops to an obedient Israel that when Pentecost came, the farmers were to leave the corners of their fields, along with the gleanings, for the benefit of the poor.
Not only is this power of the Spirit in abundant supply, it is also spontaneous. The rivers of living water flow (they are not forced) from the inner depths of the purified heart. We have to pump water from a well or else let down a bucket to get a supply. But rivers flow spontaneously.
How tragic is the spectacle of Christian leaders trying to organize faith, or prayer, or love. It simply cannot be done. It is just like forcing an unwilling horse to the water trough but unable to make him drink!
We may be able to attract a crowd to a well-advertised service; we may put on an extremely clever and interesting program. But by human endeavor we can never make people intercessors and soul-winners. Only God, the Holy Ghost, can do that. It is only when the Spirit himself is poured forth into the heart that the Christian can truly say: “There is a love constraining me to go and seek the lost.”
When Peter and John were commanded by the Sanhedrin to stop preaching and teaching about Jesus, they exclaimed: “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
The Spirit-anointed John Bunyan confessed: “I preached what I felt, what I smartingly did feel.” There will be no lack of happy, eager witnesses for Christ in our churches when believers are filled with the Holy Spirit. The reluctant “Must I?” will be changed to the joyous “May I?”
How comforting to the weak, handicapped Christian is the guarantee of the Lord himself that rivers of living water shall flow from him when the Holy Ghost takes possession. His power is irresistible; no demons or wicked man can stay its flow. Try to dam up mighty rivers and see what happens! They must have an outlet; a channel must be made for them.
So with the Spirit-filled life. God has promised not only to dwell in us but also to “walk about” in us (2 Cor. 6:16). Not only God in residence in the human soul but the almighty God in action in a humble believer!
Whatever be our circumstances, however difficult our lot, life in the Holy Ghost will make us irresistible for God. Satan may be allowed to cast us into the fiery furnace, but he is powerless to stop the “Form of the Fourth” from stepping into the furnace along with us.
With the bride in the Song of Solomon, the Spirit-possessed Christian exclaims: “Awake O north wind; and come thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.” The biting north wind of adversity or the pleasant south wind of prosperity—all will have the same effect upon the entirely sanctified heart. The sweet spices will flow out for the benefit of others.
The Pathway of the Spirit’s Fullness
How assuring are the words of Scripture: “This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe [put their trust] in him should receive.”
The language of many Christian hearts is this:
My soul crieth out for the Spirit,
I’m hungering and thirsting to know
The fullness of blessing He giveth;
Now fill me while humbly I bow.
In praying for our Pentecost, we must realize that the Holy Ghost does not come according to men’s preconceived ideas and plans. He travels along a divinely appointed pathway. It is via the risen and exalted Christ. It is Christ who baptizes with the Holy Ghost. It is He who has received of the Father the promise of the Spirit so that He might pour Him forth unto men. By the Holy Spirit, we are baptized into the mystic body of Christ at our conversion. But it is Jesus alone who baptizes His own people with the Holy Spirit.
So Jesus declared: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” In order to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the seeking soul must do three things:
- Go to Christ directly and ask Him for the coveted blessing. Look away from all else: fix the gaze on the spotless Lamb of God.
- Go to Him with a thirsty heart, longing more than anything else on earth to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It is only those who hunger and thirst after righteousness who are filled. Only the fully consecrated believer can obtain Christ’s coronation gift—the gift of the Holy Spirit’s fullness.
- Ask in simple, childlike faith. The Day of Pentecost has fully come. There is no longer any need to wait ten days in an upper room. The command to every Christian is to “be filled [now] with the Spirit.” This word in Ephesians 5: 18 is in the present tense. If God commands His children to be filled now with the Holy Spirit, then no Christian has the right to remain unfilled one hour after receiving the divine imperative. That being so, then (and we speak reverently) God has no right to withhold from the trusting soul for a single moment what He has commanded it to receive now.
In Galatians 3:14, we have the golden key that unlocks the gate into blessing. It reads: “That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” God is sovereign, and He has the exclusive right to give whatever outward manifestation of the Spirit is pleasing to Him. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all…. But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:4, 6, 11).
Then follow the inevitable questions: “Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor. 12:29, 30).
There is but one answer to these questions. It is “No.”
Let us leave the outward manifestations to the ordering of a wise God. What we can claim, without the slightest fear of being denied, is the incoming of the Holy Spirit himself in response to simple faith. And that is all that really matters: that the blessed Comforter should come into the trusting heart as president—forever afterwards guiding, keeping, and empowering, and revealing to the soul the transcendent beauty of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Then, and then only, will the Christian be fully satisfied. It may well be that just now some reader is earnestly praying:
Less than Thyself O do not give,
In might Thyself within me live,
Come, all Thou hast and art!
Then let that seeking soul take the next decisive step and, resting on the sure promises of God, cry out:
Holy Ghost, I now receive Thee!
I accept Thy mighty power:
And by faith, I claim Thy promise,
In this solemn, sacred hour.
Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire;
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost Thy sev’nfold gifts impart.
Thy blessèd unction from above
Is comfort, life, and fire of love;
Enable with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight.
Anoint and cheer our soilèd face
With the abundance of Thy grace;
Keep far our foes, give peace at home;
Where Thou art Guide, no ill can come.
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And Thee, of both, to be but One;
That through the ages all along
This, this may be our endless song. (Rhabanus Maurus)
This article, and 27 others, can be found in The Spirit of Holiness & Power: An Anthology on the Holy Spirit, by Ralph I. Tilley, editor.