"And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin..."
— John 16:8
"The Convictive Power of the Holy Ghost"
To convince the world of sin is much more than to convince the world of crime. The world was satisfied
with rough definitions and therefore has unhappily used the words crime and sin as equivalent terms.
This is a fatal error. There may be sin where there is no crime, but wherever there is crime there is sin
to account for it. Society is organized to defend itself against crime, yet every member of it is guilty of
sin. This has to be made clear by the Holy Ghost. How?
Society condemns murder, so in His reasoning with us the Holy Ghost begins with this admission, and
proceeds to say, you condemn murder, you must find out how murder begins. It begins with unholy
anger. That anger may not have spoken a word, yet the fact that you have given place for it in the secret
of your heart you are guilty of murder in the sight of God. The Holy Ghost is required to teach us that.
Without him the human can never know this awesome truth.
Society could only go so far as to make a difference between murder and manslaughter; there society
stopped, being unable to go any farther. It is here the Holy Ghost begins to work, taking crime to
pieces tracing it back to its origin, and having found it, the Spirit said, this is murder. The outward
deed was a social outrage, but this hatred in the heart, this unbridled passion is the murderer.
"Whosoever hateth his brother without a cause is a murderer." Thus we are brought to a more
discriminating definition that has never before been raised. Those of us who have walked up and down
in society as blameless men suddenly find ourselves in the presence of a new law of judgment, and are
compelled to admit that if murder is traceable into the region of motive, it is possible that we are
murderers in the sight of God.
Society has made murder penal, but has not been able to set falsehood among the crimes, which are to
be punished by law. Society treats falsehood more spiritually than murder. So we come into a higher
region of the operation of the Holy Ghost. We ourselves make further admissions in this case than we
are prepared to make in the matter of murder. For example, we say that a man may act a lie as well as
tell one. He may use words with two meanings, that he may guard himself and mislead others by
mental reservations. These are great admissions, far more spiritual than were made in the case of
murder. What more can the Holy Ghost do? No more is needed if the object is merely to secure self-
conviction. Yet more is possible.
The Holy Ghost says that a form of words may be true, and yet may express a lie. A conversation may
be reported verbatim, yet, by mere change of tone, by the omission of a facial expression, by a skillful
variation of pause or emphasis, the report may be a false hood from beginning to the end.
Farther and deeper still a man may be false to himself. He may actually have treated himself so
dishonestly as to have destroyed the ability to know right from wrong. His conscious is seared as with a
hot iron and human speech has lost all value as a medium. Some men are spoken of as "given over to
believe a lie." That says the conscience has become an instrument of self-delusion. Under such
circumstances the man is something more than a liar, he himself is actually a lie. When a man is guilty
of lying there may be some hope of restoration, but when the man himself is a living lie, the whole
nature is in so false a condition as to leave no opportunity of recovery. Under such conditions who but
the Holy Ghost can undertake the work of convincing the heart of sin?
The process becomes more spiritual still. Murder and falsehood are acts condemned by every man who
has any sense of social decency; but what of the virtues that are praised by society? God does not see as
man sees. "Man looketh on the outward appearance but God looketh on the heart." The form of
godliness is to be distinguished from its power. An example from every day life will help us to see the
meaning of this.
Take an act of giving, and let it be outwardly the choicest specimen of its class; the gift is large, most
timely in its presentation. Many people were blessed. The gift was given with much cordiality. Beyond
this point society does not carry its judgment, "man looketh on the outward appearance..." Where
man ends the all-searching Spirit begins. He holds the candle of the Lord over the secret places of the
heart. He tries the motive behind the gift. He says in effect, your love did not go with your gift, it was a
bribe by which you bought reputation and good standing among men. The gift was not given to the
poor it was given to you. Here then is the point of departure from such cases as murder and falsehood,
the point of excellent appearance, but the motive is wrong.
We are now upon the line every point of which adds to our knowledge of spiritual realities, as
distinguished from formal facts. How near, for example, are we to the point which shows prayer itself
may be a lie. We turned from murder with a sense of disgust, we turned from falsehood with a sense of
shame, but what of the prayers approved for every charm of expression and tone? Could our religion
be the chief of our immoralities? You prayed in the house of your friend, and made your prayer the
medium of personal compliment to his supposed Excellencies. You praised the creature to the Creator,
making mention of his virtues, but not once hinting of his sin. Would you have so prayed if the man
had not been listening? We must answer the question honestly. Would you have called him God's dear
servant if he had been a mile away? So the time of mere definition is passed, and the time of direct and
irresistible application has come.
There is more. Even if we are not guilty of any of the great points already mentioned, there is another
kingdom wherein the divine judgment is set up. The kingdom of unuttered desire and thought. Every
man has two lives, the life of motive, and the life of behavior, into the first none can enter but the
Spirit. "He knoweth our thoughts afar off." Before it is a complete thought, when it is to dim and
outline to have any relation to the uses of human speech, The Holy Ghosts declared the quality and
meets to it the judgment of righteousness. Into your mind there came that which was only a hint of a
thought, yet it struck you like a thunderbolt, so evil even in its incompleteness. These are the
visitations, which when rightly understood, show a man that there is something worse than crime, and
makes him impatient with the deceitful comforters who would "heal his hurt only slightly."
We come back to the point with which we started, namely, "The Spirit of truth will convince the world
of sin." The Holy Ghost will so vividly show the nature of sin, that those who thought themselves the
best example of human society will be affected with the keenest compunction because of what they
know themselves to be in the presence of God. Without the Holy Ghost there will be no such
conviction. Without conviction Jesus Christ cannot be understood. Where there is no conviction there
will be no pressure of necessity. Where there is no thirst who cares for the fountain? Jesus Christ
cannot come in the absence of conviction, and where the Holy Ghost is ignored, or looked upon as
being optional, there can be no conviction.
The Neo-Pentecostal Church has learned how to be religious, and is no longer dependent upon the
Holy Ghost. By her own statistics only sixteen percent of her members have been filled with the Spirit.
The Spiritual wreckage of this tragic departure from the Spiritual, is evident in every sector of the
Church. There is absolutely no connection between believing and behavior in the modern Pentecostal
Church. With the absence of the Holy Ghost the Pentecostal Church, being void of conviction, has been
filled with Tares. (Imitation saints.) The results, murderers, adulterers, and liars, sing in her choir,
usher in her isles, teach in her Sunday school, and preach in her pulpits. Is it any wonder that true
In the light of what has been written we may see the way clear to some practical conclusions. First, all
attempts to establish a satisfactory life on the basis of what is commonly known, as morality must be
given up. To overcome, to truly be holy before God, we must walk in the Spirit. "Walk in the Spirit and
you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh." (Galaltians 5:16) To walk in the Spirit the believer must first
be filled with the Spirit. We cannot be right with one another until we are right with God, so the Holy
Ghost says that you must be Born again before you can be profoundly and truly moral. For the
morality of the Born again one to be expressed in life he must be "filled with the Spirit." To walk in the
Spirit means to be under the control of the Will of God. To the degree that a man subtracts any thing
from the sovereignty of God's control, and transfers it to himself, he assumes that it is possible to
create a satisfactory morality without divine help. The NeoPentecostal Church assumes this.
Second, all hopes founded upon what are thought to be different degrees of sin must be abandoned.
There are different degrees of crime, but the question does not turn upon crime at all. The murderer is
undoubtedly a greater criminal than the thief; but the murderer is something more than a murderer
and the thief is something more than a thief. The murder and theft are accidental forms, nothing more.
For all purposes of criminal law it may be sufficient to classify men according to the mere accidents of
their mischievous behavior, so that punishment may be assigned proportionally. But when the offense
is between God and man another standard comes in. Would you send a murderer and a skeptic to the
same hell? It is not the murderer, accidentally as such, that is sent to hell, nor the skeptic, accidentally
as such, that is shut out of heaven. The question is one of death, and not disease, of the heart and not
of the hand. Left to ourselves as a community of men, or a congregation called a Church, we can set
upon comparisons, and contrasts, and actually be horrified at the atrocious sins committed around us;
but introduced into the presence of God, and Searched by the Holy Ghost, we feel that a look may be
blasphemy and that unkindness may be cruel as murder.
The thing to be understood is that sin is spiritual, and that it is to be judged spiritually without
reference to the vulgarity or noise, which may make it socially noticeable. Without the Holy Ghost
living in and through the believer the Church cannot be the Church.