By Charles Finney
You may have the Holy Spirit because God has promised to give Him to those that ask. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” (Luke 11:13). If you ask for the Holy Spirit, God has promised to give Him to you.
God has commanded you to have Him. He says in the Bible, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). When God commands us to do a thing, it is the highest possible evidence that we can do it. It is essential to your growth in grace that you should be filled with the Spirit. It is as important as it is that you should be sanctified. It is as necessary as it is that you should be useful and do good in the world. If you do not have the Spirit of God in you, you will dishonor God and disgrace the Church.
Why many do not have the Spirit.
It may be that you live a hypocritical life. Your prayers are not earnest and sincere. Thus you may do many things to grieve the Spirit so that He cannot dwell in you.
Others have so much levity that the Spirit will not dwell in them. The Spirit of God is solemn and serious, and will not dwell in those who give way to thoughtless levity.
Others are so proud they cannot have the Spirit; and yet such persons will pretend to be at a loss to know why it is they do not enjoy religion! Some are so worldly-minded, love property so well, and are trying so hard to get rich that they cannot have the Spirit. How can He dwell in them when all their thoughts are on things of the world?
Others do not fully confess and forsake their sins, and so cannot enjoy the Spirit’s presence. They will confess their sins in general terms, perhaps, and are ready always to acknowledge that they are sinners, or they will partially confess some particular sins. But they do it reservedly, proudly, guardedly, as if they were afraid they would say a little more than is necessary. But with such confession God is not satisfied. He knows whether you have gone to the full length of honest confession and taken all the blame that belongs to you. If your confessions have been constrained and wrung from you, do you suppose you can cheat God? “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Unless you humble yourself and confess your sins honestly, and make amends where you have done injury, you have no right to expect the Spirit. “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Lk. 14:11).
Others are neglecting some known duty and that is the reason why they have not the Spirit. They once had the spirit of prayer, but neglecting their duty they grieved the Spirit away. If you have neglected any known duty, and thus lost the spirit of prayer, you must humble yourself before God. God has a controversy with you. You have refused obedience to God and you must retract it. You may have forgotten your duty but God has not, and you must set yourself to recall it to mind and repent.
Perhaps you have resisted the Spirit of God. Perhaps you are in the habit of resisting the Spirit. In preaching, when something has been said that reached your case, your heart rose up against it and resisted it. The fact is that you do not, on the whole, desire the Spirit. This is true in every case in which you do not have the Spirit. People may sometimes desire the Spirit of God because of the comfort and joy of heart that He brings. You may set yourself to pray earnestly for it, and to pray for a revival of religion; but, on the whole, you are unwilling it should come. You have so much to do that you cannot attend to it, or it will require so many sacrifices that you cannot bear to have it.
There are some things you are not willing to give up. You find that if you wish to have the Spirit of God dwell in you, you must give up the world. You must make sacrifices, and so, on the whole, you do not wish to have Him come, unless He will consent to dwell in you and let you live as you please — but that He will never do.
The great guilt of not having the Spirit of God.
Your guilt is just as great as the authority of God is great, which commands you to be filled with the Spirit; and yet there are many people who do not blame themselves at all for not having the Spirit. They even think themselves quite pious Christians because they go to prayer meetings and partake of the sacrament, though they live year after year without the Spirit of God.
Your guilt is equal to all the good you might do if you had the Spirit of God in a great measure, and it is your duty to have Him. As you might have Him, how much good might you do! Here is a blessing promised and you can have it by doing your duty. You are entirely responsible to the Church and to God for all the good that you might do. A man is responsible for all the good that he can do.
This article, formerly called, Work of the Holy Spirit, was condensed and revised, and may be reproduced and distributed.