John the Baptist said,
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Mt 3:11 ESV)
Although I had heard about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal camp before and I had indeed found some hints in John of the Cross’s autobiographic entries as well, yet as IT would happen to me, I had no clue what THIS could be. Therefore I asked God to help me grasp that overwhelming experience that finished my justification process, during which I had been feeling my own sinfulness to an increased degree as a very painful fire burning in my heart for many weeks in 2008.
Our God was so gracious to point me to Charles G. Finney’s autobiography where I found my own experiences confirmed. Finney who was an American Presbyterian minister and leader in the in the United States in the 19th century offered a very helpful narrative that answered many of the questions I had at that time.
Since I do not want to repeat myself and write down that part of my own testimony once again, I’ll only offer the link to the blog post where I described that kind of spiritual anointing (i.e. the Baptism in the Holy Spirit). If you might check it out, see https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/my-testimony/. There you can find my rather brief account at the end of the second chapter “1995 – 2008: Years of the Wilderness“.
But now I want to introduce you to Charles Finney’s very detailed description.
It was on the 10th of October, and a very pleasant day. I had gone into the woods immediately after an early breakfast; and when I returned to the village I found it was dinner time. Yet I had been wholly unconscious of the time that had passed; it appeared to me that I had been gone from the village but a short time.
But how was I to account for the quiet of my mind? I tried to recall my convictions, to get back again the load of sin under which I had been laboring. But all sense of sin, all consciousness of present sin or guilt, had departed from me. I said to myself, “What is this, that I cannot arouse any sense of guilt in my soul, as great a sinner as I am?” I tried in vain to make myself anxious about my present state. I was so quiet and peaceful that I tried to feel concerned about that, lest it should be a result of my having grieved the Spirit away. But take any view of it I would, I could not be anxious at all about my soul, and about my spiritual state. The repose of my mind was unspeakably great. I never can describe it in words. The thought of God was sweet to my mind, and the most profound spiritual tranquility had taken full possession of me. This was a great mystery; but it did not distress or perplex me.
I went to my dinner, and found I had no appetite to eat. I then went to the office, and found that Squire W- had gone to dinner. I took down my bass-viol, and as I was accustomed to do, began to play and sing some pieces of sacred music. But as soon as I began to sing those sacred words, I began to weep. It seemed as if my heart was all liquid; and my feelings were in such a state that I could not hear my own voice in singing without causing my sensibility to overflow. I wondered at this, and tried to suppress my tears, but could not. After trying in vain to suppress my tears, I put up my instrument and stopped singing….
There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for some time afterward, that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary it seemed to me that I saw him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet. I have always since regarded this as is most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed to me a reality, that he stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance. It seemed to me that I bathed his feet with my tears; and yet I had no distinct impression that I touched him, that I recollect.
I must have continued in this state for a good while; but my mind was too much absorbed with the interview to recollect anything that I said. But I know, as soon as my mind became calm enough to break off from the interview, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had made of large wood was nearly burned out. But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received at mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in as manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings.
No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, “I shall die if these wavers continue to pass over me.” I said, “Lord, I cannot bear any more;” yet I had no fear of death.
How long I continued in this state, with this baptism continuing to roll over me and go through me, I do not know.
In this state I was taught the doctrine of justification by faith, as a present experience. That doctrine had never taken any such possession of my mind, that I had ever viewed it distinctly as a fundamental doctrine of the Gospel. Indeed, I did not know at all what it meant in the proper sense. But I could now see and understand what was meant by the passage, “ Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I could see that the moment I believed, while up in the woods all sense of condemnation had entirely dropped out of my mind; and that from that moment I could not feel a sense of guilt or condemnation by any effort that I could make. My sense of guilt was gone; my sins were gone; and I do not think I felt any more sense of guilt than if I never had sinned.
This was just the revelation that I needed. I felt myself justified by faith; and, so far as I could see, I was in a state in which I did not sin. Instead of feeling that I was sinning all the time, my heart was so full of love that it overflowed. My cup ran over with blessing and with love; and I could not feel that I was sinning against God. Nor could I recover the least sense of guilt for my past sins. Of this experience I said nothing that I recollect, at the time, to anybody; that is, of this experience of justification.
Source: Charles Grandison Finney, Memoirs of Reverend Charles G. Finney, Written By Himself (New York: A.S. Barnes, 1876), 18–21.
If you like, you can read more of that book online here: https://archive.org/stream/memoirsofrevchar00finnuoft#page/n37/mode/2up.
In closing, allow me to point out that God deals differently with everyone of us. We need not think that we all ought to have the same spiritual experiences. Some of us have them earlier in their life, some later, some not at all. Only God knows the WHYS and the WHENS.
Furthermore, I’d like to add that there are different sorts of anointing we can receive from God.
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a one-time experience that justifies us before God so that we finally forget our sinful past completely. Yet God does not stop to anoint us when we have been baptized in that particular way. Actually, in several cases God anoints some people before the Baptism in the Holy Spirit which eventually makes us fully Christ’s possession, His beloved Bride, and God’s children and heirs with Christ. When we have been baptized that way, we are also sealed with Holy Spirit (cf. Eph 1:13), and from then on we have the full assurance of faith in our hearts which nobody could ever take away from us again.
Sometimes God gives an anointing when He wants special things to be done which humans normally are not able to do. In such cases these persons receive supernatural authority so that they can do exactly what God wants in a certain situation. Just think of Peter’s courageous sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36).
As for me, I experience such an anointing (or unction) sometimes when God wants me to write, say, or do something which I would NEVER dare to do of my own accord. Then He pours so much light into my mind and heart that I almost can’t cope with it [honestly!! 😛 ] although I gladly admit that it feels very good, too… 😉 But at the same time the Holy Spirit increases the fear of God inside me so that I can solely look to God and no longer to human beings which could be offended by my “God-driven” doing. Since I am a very weak and rather shy person by nature, I always wonder what happens with me, then. In fact, I sense that the power of God is something that cannot be described at all…..