On Spiritual Capacity.

Philippians 3.

J. S. B.

Christian Friend vol. 18, 1891, p. 103.

I would desire to say a few words on the subject of spiritual capacity, its use and its expenditure by the believer. I believe it is a subject of immense importance to each one who by grace has been saved, and has received the Spirit of God. And I would further press it as a matter of exercise for our consciences, as to how far we are making the best use of the grace that has been conferred upon us by God - a capacity unknown to Old Testament saints, which I gather from the apostle's allusion to the state of the saints in the first dispensation in speaking of this; this spiritual capacity superseding entirely the power of the eye, the ear, and the heart of man; that is, all human faculties, whether cultivated or otherwise. (1 Cor. 2:9-10.)

We find that there were twelve disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19) who had not received the Holy Ghost. A very rare case to find such. These are the exception to the rule. But I speak of the normal state of things tonight, which is, that every believer has the Spirit dwelling in him, consequent on the finished work of Christ on the cross. (Ephesians 1:13.)

Now I do not mean by spiritual capacity that which we find exhibited in Hebrews 11. There, I think, we have the energy of faith. The chapter is simply a list of feats that faith can accomplish. As I might say of a good horse, "That horse can do anything." But I could not say, when Abraham by faith "looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God," that it was the exercise of this spiritual capacity, but rather that his faith rose above his tent and his altar, and penetrated the purpose of God with regard to the city which He had prepared for them, which the apostle does not describe here, though probably in the next chapter. In Old Testament times the Holy Ghost wrought, Peter tells us; but now He dwells, which is a very marked distinction. I could not say that waiting for the city which God had prepared was any grasp of heavenly things. Our spiritual capacity is quite apart from our natural, physical, or mental capacities; and all these put together would not help us to grasp or enjoy our spiritual blessings; and if all this is true, should there not be the greatest care possible as to how I can use it to the greatest advantage? In other words, How can I invest my money for the best interest? I cannot afford to risk it, and at the same time I want to get the best interest with security. It is my capital, and I must take care of my capital. As I read an account the other day of a celebrated singer who had been engaged by a London company for the season; but after a short time she was required to change her key, which she at once resisted and refused, saying, "If I do so I should injure my voice, and my voice is my capital"; and it cost her £1000, as the engagement had to be broken. There was a person who valued her capital, knowing that that was the priceless thing she possessed. And so I would insist on the fact that our spiritual capacity is one of the most valuable things we possess; for it is by it we make our eternal fortune, by it we gather fruit unto life eternal, and apprehend that for which Christ has apprehended us, and enjoy the fruits of the land before we reach the heavenly country - the things which Old Testament saints only knew in type, and knew nothing beyond, so that when Hezekiah suddenly received the notice of his removal from their midst, he wept and mourned.

But there is not a believer here tonight who should not rejoice in the fact that he is superior to, and of another order from, Hezekiah, or any saint of Hebrews 11. Surely not one of those had the capacity of which I am speaking, because not one there was or could be united to a glorified Christ by the Holy Ghost, which gives power for this entirely new order of capacity. Now the use or misuse of this will determine our progress in heavenly things here, and more, our position in the kingdom by-and-by, and, I might say, our safety in the course as believers. Then it is of the utmost importance that we should be cautious, that nothing is allowed to lessen our capital. I read part of Philippians 3:5-21 to show a man, like one of old, whose force had not abated, and point you to a few sentences: "I counted loss for Christ"; "I count all things but loss"; "I do count but dung"; "to win Christ"; "I press forward to the mark," etc. These are the expressions of one who for the time being drops his character as apostle, and takes the place of leader in the spiritual race, exhibiting distinct spiritual energy; not wasting an atom of it; not stopping to turn aside and look at the dead body of a man, like those in the case of Asahel (2 Sam. 2); or as some we find today occupied with evil doctrines to see how much good they contain, wasting time and spiritual energy - like testing adulterated coin to find the amount of silver in them. What a useless task! Decline of spiritual energy is like the feeble circulation in a dying man; it is felt in the extremities; very small things show it, like a straw the way of the wind.

I will refer you now to some incidents of Old Testament Scripture to show you more clearly what I mean; and first I take the man whose hair fell off his head. (Lev. 13:40.) That hair in Old Testament Scripture is a figure of natural strength will not be contested by any here. When Samson had his hair on, neither man nor beast could touch him. He slew the lion in the day of his Nazariteship, and got the honey, which he ate and distributed to his kindred. There was no honey in the live lion, nothing but growls; he must be killed to get the honey. I mean, when we have killed our foes by spiritual energy we get the honey from them; no honey in live lions. Well, Samson lost his hair, and his power was gone, "and he wist not that the Lord was departed from him." How far we may get from God without knowing it! His hair gone, his power gone, he was at once the easy prey of his enemies, who put his eyes out; and he was a helpless creature, led by a lad, through his disobedience. He never regained his sight, though, says the Spirit of God, "his hair began to grow again after he was shaven." And now he makes the most of it; and at the great Philistine feast he brought down the whole house, and killed more at his death than in his life, but he died himself at the same time.

Then having established a little the meaning of hair, we return to the bald-headed man of Leviticus 13. The fact of losing his hair did not make him unclean; but in the place of the baldness came the leprosy. Then he was unclean, and outside the camp.

It is a serious thing to have a bald head in spiritual things - weakness set in first, then the disease. Weakness of itself is no disease, but it pre-disposes to any epidemic. How very different the effect of a chill, for instance, on a strong man and a weak one! The former shakes it off easily, but it may kill the latter. I feel, with all the troubles around us today, that in most cases there was predisposition; and thus it is so important that we should not lose a hair. Jehovah told Ephraim that he had grey hairs, and did not know it; but not many years afterward he found it out, when carried away captive by the powerful Assyrian king, Shalmaneser. If we neglect the warnings of God, we find it out to our cost sooner or later. I take one more case, for evidence in spiritual things is of the greatest moment. When Amalek fought with Israel in Rephidim, he could only catch the hindmost. "All that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary." This is Jehovah's comment on the battle of Exodus 17, in His notes, Deuteronomy 25, the book in which He keeps a private account of the wilderness journey.

I close with two cases in New Testament times. In two great corrective epistles of Paul he singles-out a peculiar state he designates as spiritual. He says, "The spiritual discerns all things"; and if a man thought himself a prophet or spiritual, he would recognize Paul's instructions to be the Lord's commandments. In Galatians the spiritual could restore an overtaken one. I believe both these to be in contrast with the carnal and the legal. The Lord give us to maintain the capacity, and keep it ever increasing. J. S. B.