Patrick of Ireland: A Devotional History
Patrick refers a number of times in his Confession to spiritual guidance through dreams in the night. He was either a zealous mystic with a wild and vivid imagination or a man in touch with God—a man, like Enoch who walked with God and like Moses with whom the Lord spoke as to a friend. I will let Patrick speak for himself concerning his devotional life: “I would wake to pray before dawn in all weathers, snow, frost, rain; and I felt no harm and there was no listlessness in me—as I now realise, it was because the Spirit was fervent within me” (Confession, sec. 16). Notice his wording here—“the Spirit was fervent in me.” He is not speaking of his activity but of the activity of the Spirit in him.
Patrick speaks of dreams in the night in which he heard the voice of God. He says he woke out of his sleep “overjoyed” (Confession, sec. 24). As he slept again, in the dim and misty figures of a dream, he says he saw one “praying there powerfully and groaning; and meanwhile I was dumbfounded and astonished and wondered who it could be that was praying within me, but at the end of the prayer He spoke and said that He was the Spirit, and so I awoke and remembered the apostle’s words: ‘The Spirit helps the weaknesses of our prayer; for we do not know what to pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspeakable groans which cannot be expressed in words’ (Romans 8.26) and again: ‘The Lord our advocate intercedes for us’ (cf. l John 2.1)” (Confession, sec. 25).
Believer, does this seem foreign? It does, sadly. Perhaps it is because we are so far removed from primitive and vital Christianity. Beware of limiting the Holy Spirit; don’t let the modern Charismatic chaos make you skeptical. Don’t be content with a sterile and lifeless intellectual religion. Pray for personal revival. Walk with God, talk with Him, and “covet earnestly the best gifts”—the Spirit of God, not just dwelling but working in you.
“There is a way in which the Spirit leads the sons of God, a way that others do not know. He enlightens them with respect to their duty, by making their eye single and pure, whereby the whole body is full of light. He enables men to understand the commands and counsels of God’s Word, and rightly to apply them.”—Jonathan Edwards