Modern Commentary Related to Chapter X
KEYS OF INITIATION IN PRACTICAL THEOLOGY.
Is’t possible! A sinful man like me,
A candidate for heaven’s mystery!
May I approach the gate and enter in,
Be wash’d and cleans’d from all my former sin,
Renew’d in spirit, and partake the power
Of bless’d Theology from this good hour.
The student of this deeply interesting science, who has traced, with us, the thrilling incidents of its history on earth, till he finds it restored in all its beauties, and its powers taking root in the earth, to bear eternal fruit, will, doubtless, feel a desire to be instructed in the first principles—the ordinances or means by which he may personally partake of its benefits, and exercise its gifts.
There are certain qualifications, or personal preparations indispensably necessary, without which, no person can be a proper candidate for blessings so divine.
First. He must believe in Jesus Christ, and in the testimony of the Apostle, or commissioned officer, to whom he looks for the administration of these blessings.
Secondly. He must forsake a sinful course of life; must deny himself of every impure or unlawful indulgence; must do right with his fellow creatures, and determine to keep the commandments of Jesus Christ.
With these qualifications he comes to the Apostle, Elder, or Priest of the Church of the Saints, who, after a covenant on the part of the candidate to forsake his sins, and keep the commandments of Jesus Christ, goes down into the water with him, and there buries him, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for remission of sins, and then raises him from his watery grave.
This ordinance is to represent the death, burial and resurrection of
Jesus Christ, and is called Baptism.
Having passed through this ordinance, the hands of some one, or more, of the authorised Priesthood, are next laid upon the head of the candidate, in the same sacred names, and the gift of the Holy Spirit is confirmed upon him. This baptism of water and of the Spirit is called a new birth; and it is in reality a repetition of the natural birth, or entrance into the elements of a new existence.
To realise this, the student must be indoctrinated in the philosophy of his natural birth, which involves three principles; viz.—”The spirit, the water and the blood.”
The embryo formation of the human body, is commenced and sustained by blood and spirit, in the womb of nature, where, until the period of birth, it floats in the element of water. At birth, then, it is literally born of water, that is, it emerges from that element in which it has been so long immersed, into a different element, called the atmosphere, which then becomes a necessary element of existence.
To be born again, then, is to enter into the same element, suspend the breath in the watery womb, and emerge from that element into the atmosphere, and again gasp the first breath in the new creation; while, at the same time, the blood of Atonement is applied to the individual, for remission of sins, and is followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit of promise. As it is written—”There are three that bear record on the earth; the spirit, the water, and the blood.”
The things of this visible creation, are the patterns of things in the invisible world; and are so arranged as to exactly correspond—the one answering to the other, as face to face in a mirror.
The immersion in water, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for remission of sins; and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which follows according to promise, by the laying on of the hands of the holy Priesthood; were instituted from before the foundation of the world, as a pattern of the birth, death, resurrection and new life of man.
The candidate is now initiated into the first principles of the science of Divine Theology. His mind is quickened, his intellectual faculties are aroused to intense activity. He is, as it were, illuminated. He learns more of divine truth in a few days, than he could have learned in a life time in the best merely human institutions in the world.
His affections are also purified, exalted, and increased in proportion. He loves his heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, with a perfect love. He also loves the members of the Church, or the body of Christ, as he loves his own soul; while his bosom swells with the tenderest sympathies, and emotions of good will and benevolence, for all mankind. He would make any sacrifice which might be expedient, to do good. He would lay down his life most cheerfully, without one moment’s hesitation, or regret, if required of him by the cause of truth.
He also feels the spirit of prayer and watchfulness continually, and pours out his soul in the same, and finds he is answered in all things which are expedient. He is now in a fit capacity to exercise some one or more of the spiritual gifts.
He may perhaps speak in power, in the word of wisdom, in the word of knowledge, in prophecy, or in other tongues. He may see a vision, dream an inspired dream, or possess the gift to be healed, or to heal others, by the laying on of hands in the name of Jesus Christ.
To impart a portion of the Holy Spirit by the touch, or by the laying on of hands; or to impart a portion of the element of life, from one animal body to another, by an authorized agent who acts in the name of God, and who is filled therewith, is as much in accordance with the laws of nature, as for water to seek its own level; air, its equilibrium; or heat, and electricity, their own mediums of conveyance.
This law of spiritual fluid, its communicative properties, and the channel by which it is imparted from one person to another, bear some resemblance, or analogy, to the laws and operations of electricity. Like electricity, it is imparted by the contact of two bodies, through the channel of the nerves.
But the two fluids differ very widely. The one is a property nearly allied to the grosser elements of matter; not extensively endowed with the attributes of intelligence, wisdom, affection, or moral discrimination. It can therefore be imparted from one animal body to another, irrespective of the intellectual or moral qualities of the subject or recipient. The other is a substance endowed with the attributes of intelligence, affection, moral discrimination, love, charity, and benevolence pure as the emotions which swell the bosom, thrill the nerves, or vibrate the pulse of the Father of all.
An agent filled with this heavenly fluid cannot impart of the same to another, unless that other is justified, washed, cleansed from all his impurities of heart, affections, habits or practices, by the blood of atonement, which is generally applied in connexion with the baptism of remission.
A man who continues in his sins, and who has no living faith in the Son of God, cannot receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of any agent, however holy he may be. The impure spirit of such a one will repulse the pure element, upon the natural laws of sympathetic affinity, or of attraction and repulsion.
An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection, of will, wisdom, love, power and gift, which is possessed by God Himself.
But these are possessed by man, in his rudimental state, in a subordinate sense of the word. Or, in other words, these attributes are in embryo; and are to be gradually developed. They resemble a bud—a germ, which gradually developes into bloom, and then, by progress, produces the mature fruit, after its own kind.
The gift of the Holy Spirit adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, developes, cultivates and matures all the fine toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It developes beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigour, animation and social feeling. It developes and invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, invigorates, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.
In the presence of such persons, one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of a sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, er sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview—”O what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! His countenance and spirit gave me more assurance, than a thousand written recommendations, or introductory letters.” Such is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and such are its operations, when received through the lawful channel—the divine, eternal Priesthood.