Chapter 14 of Soul-Help Papers
“And I went in the heat of my spirit.”
— Ezekiel 3:14 —
“My heart was hot within me;
while I was musing the fire burned.
Then spake I with my tongue…”
— Psalm 39:3 —
“But His word was in my heart
as a burning fire shut up in my bones,
and I was weary with forbearing,
and I could not stay.”
— Jeremiah 20:9 —
learn to desire God.”2
I have found that inward tone and temper of spirit is much more precious than the condition of the outside weather. A sensitive spirit is a heritage indeed, if only it is sensitive to spiritual things. But woe to that soul whose nature is at the call of every outside annoyance. What an easy time Satan has in keeping such in hot water! If untoward environment meets inward distractions, and tumult of feelings, and unsettled disputes between right and wrong in the home of conscience, peace does not come to rest. On the other hand, if outside disturbances find at the front door of entrance the blessed quiet that the peace of God brings, the battle is all but won. Satan flees at the sight of real inward joy and present consciousness of the applied atoning blood. The peace of a fully saved soul abiding in the light furnishes Satan no ground of entrance. The “way in the way”3 has no ground upon which Satan can place his feet for any advantage. It is rather in the midst of tumult and inward commotion, when the very floodtide is in by reason of outward commotion and storm-beat, that the tempter seeks occasion to come in on some unsuspected and unrecognized driftwood.
When outward disturbance prevails, it is always a time of danger. There are certain outward things that trigger a certain heat of the spirit, which in an instant of time may turn into that which is no longer good. A few drops of ink in a glass of water soon tinge every ounce of it; so a small drop of retaliation in the righteously stirred heart, moved with holy indignation, may turn the whole inner atmosphere into a veritable storm center for the devil. How often has a well-balanced soul become “set on fire of hell” by the utterance of a single word,4 when under powerful temptation. How much of unholy passion, overflowing all the banks of control, has been awakened by an indecent word, or look, or motion. We cannot order our environment in all respects. The more, therefore, depends on our inward quiet and peace of soul. If the house is secure, the storm will not likely shake it with serious damage. If the roof is sound, there is little danger from rain. If the building is complete, and the January heater in full glow, one may laugh at the blinding, destructive snowstorm without.
Paul came to a place where he could look out and say from the depths of his soul, “None of these things move me.”5 This possession of the soul in patience is a rare position to reach. It takes “angry words to stir up strife”;6 what then if there be no anger in the words? We need this grace for our influence on others, as well as for our own well-being. If impure words stir up impurity, then for others as well as ourselves, we need cleansing. If error in the tongue be the granary which furnishes seed for the field of another, how much we then need to be of sound speech that cannot be condemned!7
This inward weight, clearness, cleanness, and tone of spirit is a fountain of spiritual possibilities, and is the fertile soil out of which God’s choice saints are made. This inward “heat of the spirit” is that atmosphere which God most effectually uses in the saving of other souls. It seems to be the favorable medium through which God most easily communicates Himself. So the most loving and kind words always have in them the most of God’s goodness for us. The tender helpfulness of the Samaritan had more of God in it toward the man who fell among thieves than all the mitered priests and officiating Levites.8 Heat stands for inward glow of spiritual activity. So when the prophet said he “went in the heat of his spirit,” he meant he went under the power of intense spiritual light, and under the inspiration of a fully awakened and intensified stir of spirit.
Too often we have but operated as men that dream, rather than as men with a fully awakened spirit.9 As this “heat of the spirit” brought the prophet to what he could not otherwise see or hear, so we, when we walk in this renewed and intensified spirit, come into such largeness of soul, such masterful dominance of our besetments,10 that we seem to ourselves, and perhaps to others, like giants refreshed with new wine. Consciousness that one has not told a lie when charged with it becomes at once the foundation for inward assurance of peace, and the courage for self-defense if needed. So the consciousness of inward rightness and victory becomes at once self-protective. Each of these inward victories puts on outward expression to correspond. The inward soul clothes the outward man with its own self. The heat of the inward fire glows outside. To make others warm, I must be warm.
How shall I have a hot spirit? Keep out of the cold. Maclaren11 says, “Coldness is akin to sin.”12 Avoid sin. Keep out of its atmosphere. Warmth of spirit and carelessness about the distinction between right and wrong never thrive well together. Keep near the spiritual radiators God has provided for the purpose of keeping warm. Abide within the circle of those who are spiritual, in walk and talk and association. Seek spiritual worship where there is real “fire from above.”13 Avoid reading, watching, and listening to that which secularizes the mind, and especially that kind of mind entertainment which destroys spiritual appetite. You have much responsibility for making your own sunshine. You have been careless in this, perhaps. It has never come into your mind that you can do much to help yourself improve your spiritual health. Consider at once your place and times of secret prayer, and time spent in quiet over the Bible. Look well to testimony, and especially to real spiritual activity. All these things contain God’s tinderwood; but they do not burn, mind you, till you strike fire.
Looking within, there is a wide field for survey. When we are told “possess your souls in patience,”14 we are to understand that there is much to do in the way of this “possession.” Possession means a degree of mastery of your own spirit, and this means power to make it pay attention in given directions, to restrain it here, and apply it yonder. It means also a certain degree of knowledge and skill. We need wisdom to direct, and skill to manage. There is so much unprofitable thought. It may not be bad necessarily, but there is no spiritual gain in it. We are apt to think that if the reading or thinking in hand is not bad, that it is good enough. This is a mistake. When we come to hunt for spiritual values, many things which are good in themselves have no profit in them for us.
I was raised on a farm.15 I always liked agriculture. I read the papers. I watched the improvements. I am not blind to all these legitimate interests; but to sit down now and read up on all these things, though the information is not by any means bad, is of no profit to my spiritual life. Good people waste millions of precious hours in this way.
There is also a line of indulgence of certain unprofitable frames and tempers of the mind which are all unfavorable to the increase of the spirit’s fire. While we all have ebbs and flows of this inward life that we are unable to account for, there is such a thing as a kind of pouting, “dumpy” frame of mind and temper of spirit that at the least brings one no good, and may very well actually result in the extinguishing of fires already aglow in some of the soul’s chambers. When one has studied this inward meteorology so as to read the storm signals, and be able to prepare for a cold wave before it strikes, it is a great advantage. There are hot waves of temptation that blow in certain localities and not in others. Learn this fact and keep out of their draft.
There is also a certain undue sensitiveness of spirit in wrong directions, which will grow on one if one is not careful; and in time it makes unceasing trouble as it turns every little appearance of slight or indifference into some imaginary offense. We go off hurt. We are dulled in feeling and benumbed in interest. The devil takes advantage of the situation, and after a spell of fire extinguishing, we arouse to the fact that we have lost ground, and all because we allowed a little wave of suspicion to creep in. This inward watchfulness over the frames and tempers of the spirit is as needful as the outlook over the external sources of temptation.
Another area for watchfulness is “Study to be quiet.”16 There is such a thing as noise and confusion in the spirit’s ear, such that the voice of the Holy Spirit is not heard above the din and commotion. This confounding noise and bustle may be of the world around us, or it may come from the tumult and inward commotion on the deep sea of the spirit. Sorrow may have come; regret and remorse may have reached the soul over some great loss; love may have seen its home and hopes blasted; a test may have revealed an unsuspected weakness; or in some other way the great deep of the heart has been in such commotion that all other voices for the time seem silent. Or our need for quietness may be because we are usually so full of talk that we hardly ever give God time to talk to us. If we pray, it is all monologue and not dialogue. So we find it hard to be quiet enough to hear the voice that can say, “Peace, be still.”17 As a mother hushes her baby, not by explaining all incomprehensible things to it, but rather by pressing it closer to her breast, so Jesus would quiet us by drawing us closer to Himself, were we still enough to hear His voice and learn what He means. But we cannot, for we are not sufficiently quiet to hear His voice.
If you want “heat of spirit,” learn to desire God. Burn with desire. They that hunger and thirst are those whom God feeds.18 They who “draw near” are those who find God near.19 While David “mused,” the fire burned. God is always hunting those who are seeking Him. He stops to look after them. The eternal regulation of heaven is that they that “seek shall find.”20 This desire to be in such touch with God that this fire shall continually catch in the soul, is that in us which most mightily brings Him to us, or, rather, makes way for Him to reach us, fully loaded with all we need.
Faber beautifully says:
Most good is the brisk, wholesome service of fear,
And the calm, wise obedience of conscience sweet:
And good are all worships, all loyalties dear,
All promptitudes fitting, all services meet.
But none honors God like the thirst of desire,
Nor possesses the heart so completely with Him:
For it burns out the world with the swift ease of fire,
And fills life with good works till it runs o’er the brim.
…Oh, then wish more for God, burn more with desire,
Covet more the dear sight of His face:
Pray louder, pray longer for the sweet gift of fire
To come down on thy heart with its whirlwinds of grace.21
- The text itself is public domain. The original book, Soul-Help Papers, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2008 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's Soul-Help Papers. ↩
- Title image created using a photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger on https://unsplash.com/@eberhardgross. ↩
- This is probably a reference to a famous quote from a letter by John Wesley, the “more excellent way” within the good way:
“From long experience and observation I am inclined to think that whoever finds redemption in the blood of Jesus, whoever is justified, has then the choice of walking in the higher or the lower path. I believe the Holy Spirit at that time sets before him the ‘more excellent way,’ and incites him to walk therein; to choose the narrowest path in the narrow way; to aspire after the heights and depths of holiness—after the entire image of God. But if he does not accept this offer, he insensibly declines into the lower order of Christians. He still goes on in what may be called a good way, serving God in his degree, and finds mercy in the close of life, through the blood of the covenant.”
(Note that Evangelist Thomas Cook also used this quote in the epigraph of his famous book, New Testament Holiness.) The “fully saved soul,” which Reid mentions in the previous sentence, is fully saved because, in addition to salvation from sins and their penalty, it is saved from the power of inbred sin. ↩
- The allusion is to James 3:6. ↩
- Acts 20:24 ↩
- Probably meant to be a paraphrase of Proverbs 15:1b. ↩
- Paul’s words from Titus 2:8 have been slipstreamed into the end of the sentence. ↩
- Jesus tells this story in Luke 10:29-37. ↩
- The allusion is to Psalm 126:1. ↩
- Besetments: that is, difficulties ↩
- Reid refers to a famous Baptist minister and one of the most popular expositional preachers of his time, Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910). ↩
- The quote is from Maclaren’s sermon on Mark 9:49, “Salted with Fire,” from the volume devoted to the Gospel of Mark in the multi-volume set, Exposition of Holy Scripture. ↩
- This might be an allusion to Lamentations 1:13, but considering the doleful context of that verse, it’s far more likely that Reid is quoting from the last line of William Mackay’s famous hymn We Praise Thee, O God, also known as Revive Us Again. ↩
- Luke 21:19 ↩
- Actually, Reid grew up on two farms, the first one in his birthplace of Walnut Ridge, Indiana (northwest of Salem in Jefferson County), and, during his teenage years, on a farm in Des Moines County, just south of Rising Sun, Iowa. ↩
- 1 Thessalonians 4:11 ↩
- Mark 4:39 ↩
- This alludes to Matthew 5:6. ↩
- The thought here is from James 4:8. ↩
- Matthew 7:8 ↩
- From Frederick Faber’s exquisite prayer-hymn, Desire of God. ↩