Some may be inclined to ask another question, How do we recognize the Holy Spirit? How do we know that it is He and not some lying spirit who is speaking to us?
The how of all knowledge is mysterious. The philosophers are not agreed in the method of our knowledge of the external world. Some assert that we know only our own sensations and ideas, and therefore we are not sure that there is a material world external to our minds. These idealists are inclined to apply the same reasoning to Christian experience and to insist that it is all subjective in its origin, that there is no God in it, that all the changes supposed to be wrought by a divine person outside of us, regenerating, forgiving witnessing, sanctifying and indwelling, are from hidden causes in our own minds. This kind of reasoning would deny the existence of any human personality outside of ourselves, as well as any material existence. It would reduce all phenomena to our own consciousness and ourselves to a string of sensations. All these absurdities must follow the admission that all our religious experiences are only varying states of our own thoughts and feelings with no external cause. Such a conclusion we are not prepared to accept. When the morning light dispels the darkness, I know that the sun has arisen, and I do not need a candle to see him rise. So when amid the gloom of condemnation for my sins, while trusting in Jesus Christ, a light suddenly shoots into my mind and a voice within cries "Abba, Father," and the feeling of dread is suddenly, changed to filial love toward God, I know that a divine messenger is announcing forgiveness of my sins. This divine sunrise is self-evidencing. I need no rush-light of human philosophy or testimony to certify it. What has taken place is that my dead soul has been made alive. This life has quickened my dormant power of spiritual perception, so that I know by unerring intuition the presence of God the Holy Spirit. "To know the Spirit," says Murray, "is the divine foundation of 'certainty." Christian experience rests upon the same basis with mathematics and all philosophy — "self evident truth, the activity of the immanent God in the human soul." (Joseph Cook.)
But we are not left without some light upon the question how we know the Holy Comforter. John says, "Ye know him, for he shall be in you," or as the Revised Version, "He is in you," the future being by prolepsis spoken of as present, as Alford thinks. The abiding indwelling of the Spirit is assumed to be in the consciousness of the believer.
He who knows the Holy Spirit will always have the Spirit's fruit as a confirmation of His inmost indwelling. But the knowledge is not the result of the fruit, but its cause. He must know in order to have love, joy, peace, etc. He knows directly by intuition, and not inferentially. Hence he needs not to be told by some experienced Christian, "This is the Holy Ghost." He needs no such introduction. The Spirit of truth brings His own credentials with Him, which even the most illiterate can read. He may not be able to tell the distinctive marks by which the voice of the Spirit is distinguished from the suggestions of his own heart, but he instinctively feels them.
He recognizes the Spirit of God as a solid and eternal reality, while the world with its glitter of gold, and rank, its style, pomp and power, is a brilliant but vanishing vapor. Hence he is ready, if he must choose between grieving the Spirit and the loss of all earthly good, to go to a martyr's death at the stake or block with shouts of joy. If you think I am theorizing, read Ulhorn's "Conflict of Christianity with Paganism" and Fox's "Book of Martyrs."
He who knows the Spirit quickly recognizes the stranger who has the same knowledge, when all the rest of mankind fail to discern the invisible seal of God in his forehead.
He does not look at the denominational badge. He is free from any overweening partiality to some particular earmark when the name of Jesus is on the sheep, for the Spirit of God dwells in all real saints.
"Names and sects and parties fall;
Thou, O Christ, art all in all."
Thou, O Christ, art all in all."
The explanation of this fact is that the Paraclete is the bond of union, the Spirit of life, connecting each believer with all others by uniting them with our risen Lord. We have in our modern times telephones, which so transmit speech as to bind up into a social union and possible daily converse millions of people separated by hundreds and even thousands of miles. This is possible only by having all the wires meet at a common center. This center of Christian union and communion through the Holy Ghost is our glorified and adorable Lord Jesus. The agency of electricity in the social union of mankind is a faint reflection of the agency of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual union of Christians. The wonders of science on the plane of nature are of small account when compared with the wonders of the Spirit on the plane of the supernatural.
— from The Gospel of the Comforter, Chapter 22.