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The Power from on High.
This enduement of the Spirit, this holy baptism, has remained with the Church in all ages. With what power did the apostles give witness to the resurrection of Christ! How society was revolutionized and the very customs of earth changed! Men in high places, as well as low places, trembled at the preaching of Paul. Ephesus was in an uproar and Athens was moved. They said at Thessalonica: “ These that have turned the world upside down have come hither also.” I hear the apostles saying : “ Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place.” How successful was the loving John in winning souls for his Master, and with what power did Peter preach while the Holy Ghost fell on those who heard! We know but little about the earlier centuries; and yet the names of an illustrious few have been handed down to us.
What power was given to St. Ambrose! See the multitudes that gathered around St. Chrysostom! How they hung on his lips and how greatly they were moved! Erasmus said of him: “I know not whether more to admire the indefatigableness of the man or of his hearers." Under the preaching of Luther immense multitudes were swayed, and all Northern Europe was agitated. Under the preaching of Wickliffe, or rather of the missionaries whom he sent out, England was also stirred to its depths. Knox inflamed the mind of Scotland, as well as made its queen to tremble. In the days following the Reformation multitudes gathered in the suburbs of Paris and Antwerp to sing Christian songs and engage in religious services, when no churches were opened to them; and they were dispersed and scattered only by such rivers of blood as flowed on St. Bartholomew's Day. Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium were all scenes of intense religious power, until the Inquisition, the fagot, and the sword put hundreds of thousands coolly to death. Livingstone, in Scotland, when only twenty-seven years of age, was selected by his brethren to preach a Monday-morning sermon, after the communion service at Shotts. He made
effort to be released; but, failing, he spent the whole night in prayer and religious conference, and then preached a sermon under which, it is said, at least five hundred were awakened. He says: “I
Its Manifestations in Great Preachers. 133
never preached one sermon which I would be earnest to see wryte but two. The one was on one Munday after the communion at Shotts, and the other was on one Munday after the communion at Holyrood; and both these times I had spent the whole night before in conference and prayer with some Christians, without any more than ordinary preparation. Otherways my gift was rather suited to simple common people than to learned and judicious auditors.” But if Livingstone had written his sermon the power would not have appeared. Whitefield's sermons on paper are not
remarkable. Nor is this strange. For the anatomist has not been able to find the life in a single seed. Baxter was exceedingly successful in the ministry, and it was said of him : “He always spoke as one who saw God and felt death at his back.” Fletcher, of Madeley, frequently so affected his audiences that some minutes would pass before he could resume his sermon. Look at Whitefield and Wesley, and see how thoroughly society was stirred to its very foundations; how the colliers listened, with uplifted faces and streaming eyes, to the Word of Life; and how the rabble on the commons, like wild beasts in their nature, were tamed and sobered under their preaching. I heard Cardinal Manning say, in a sermon in London, that had it not been for the preaching of John Wesley no man could tell into how deep a degradation England would have sunk. Listen to the preaching and prayers of Calamy, and see how the multitude was stirred.
Witness the ministry of Chalmers. It is said that Professor Young, who occupied the chair of Greek in the University, on one occasion 66
was so electrified that he leapt up from his seat upon the bench near the pulpit, and stood, breathless and motionless, gazing at the preacher, until the burst was over, the tears all the while rolling down his cheeks.” Dr. Wardlaw describes one scene he witnessed as follows: “It was a transcendently grand, a glorious burst. The energy of the Doctor's action corresponded. Intense emotion beamed from his countenance. I cannot describe the appearance of his face better than by saying, as Foster said of Hall, it was 'lighted up almost into a glare.' The congregation-in so far as the spell under which I was
Preparation for the Incoming of
allowed me to observe them---were intensely excited, leaning forward in the pews like a forest bent under the power of the hurricane, looking steadfastly at the preacher and listening in breathless wonderment. One young man, apparently by his dress a sailor, started to his feet and stood till it was over. As soon as it was concluded there was (as invariably was the case at the close of the Doctor's bursts), a deep sigh, or rather a gasp for breath, accompanied by a movement through the whole audience." Look at Kentucky and Tennessee at the beginning of this century, and what wonderful phenomena occurred among Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists! People gathered from ten to fifty miles to attend the meetings. Thousands were converted, and most strange phenomena accompanied them. Look at Moody and Sankey in our own day, and see the thousands who have attended their services, and how many hearts have been touched.
The attainment of this ministerial power should be the object of the most intense desire. I do not suppose that all may
be equally robed with it. It is an attribute of divine sovereignty, to give it to whomsoever He will, and in what measure He will ; but when I remember that through His Spirit alone good can be accomplished, that God calls men to the ministry for the purpose of saving souls, that He is glorified by their success, that He has promised to be with them and in them, that He has promised that if they would ask they would receive, I cannot doubt that there is a rich manifestation of the Spirit ready for every minister, that he may be thoroughly prepared for his glorious office. What, then, shall he do that he may be most eminently successful ? First, there should be an entire consecration of every
moment of time and of every power of body and soul to the service of God. If we expect the divine Spirit to dwell in us, the heart should be made ready for His reception. Like the sacrifices of old, we, as living sacrifices, should be without spot and blemish. “Know ye not," says the apostle, "that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost ?” “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” That Spirit is to dwell with us and abide in us. Every faculty, every power, belongs wholly to
The Power from on High.
God; and we, set apart for His service, have a grand and holy mission among men. As Jesus took upon Him the form of a servant, and cared for the sorrows and miseries of the wretched, so our divine commission does not separate us from the masses of men about us. We are to mingle with them, to sympathise with them, to love and save them.
Secondly, there must not only be consecration, but carnest prayer. It is God's pleasure to be entreated. Prayer is necessary, not only that we may receive, but that we may be in a condition to receive. We must first feel deeply the need of the Holy Spirit, that we may recognize the responsibility laid upon us, the magnitude of the work, and our own insufficiency, and that there is no power adequate but that of the Holy Spirit.
for it; we wait for it. As the disciples waited ten days from the Ascension to the Day of Pentecost, so must we wait until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high ; but we must wait as they waited, fulfilling our duty, praising and blessing God. We must wait expectantly. We must wait, assuredly, not for any miraculous power, not for conscious endowment, but with the full conviction that God will so take possession of our memory, reason, and imagination, of our strength and of our learning, that each and all of them, vitalized by His own power, shall be made to glow with such heat that they shall burn their way by the truth to the hearts and consciences of those who
Thirdly, to intense prayer must be added fasting. If I am asked how fasting can bring spiritual power, I cannot answer satisfactorily. I simply know that Jesus said : " This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." He had given His disciples power against unclean spirits, yet there was one brought to them which they could not cast out. It raged only with more fury because of their words. But when Jesus came, the sorrowing father appealed to Him. One word was sufficient, and the unclean spirit fled. The bewildered disciples asked the Lord why they could not cast him out, and received the answer I have quoted. This implies different degrees of spiritual power-power sufficient to reach some hearts, but not all. But
Results of the Incoming of
who that loves his Master does not covet a power sufficient to rescue the vilest of the vile, and to bring the worst offenders to the foot of the cross? While I cannot tell how fasting operates, yet I can see that, joined to prayer, it adds to its intensity. Who has not felt a sorrow that made him for a time regardlessof food? Who has not been so absorbed that he has forgotten the hours and passed beyond the time of his meals? With a dear one on the bed of death, how tasteless and valueless is food ? So; if there be an intensity of prayer that absorbs the soul, we become like Him who said : “I have meat to eat that ye know not of." My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me."
Again, it adds to the intensity of purpose. The men who sought the life of Paul bound themselves with an oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. This strengthened the intensity of their purpose. When David prayed for the life of his child, he took no meat until news was brought to him that the child was dead. He would have but one deșire ; he would do but one thing. So the minister is so anxious to receive spiritual power, so anxious to rescue souls from ruin, so anxious to build up the Church of Christ, that sometimes he has little relish for his food. At other times, such is the cry of his soul, that he resolves to take no meat until his prayer prevails with God. This intense desire fits the soul for holy communion and for sublime purposes. Its whole power has become centred in one thing. As the ball, when the rifle is aimed at the mark, strikes to its centre, so the minister, having but one aim, his whole soul absorbed with one thought, finds his words going directly to the hearts of his hearers. How wonderful the example of Christ! Pure and spotless, He needed no. prayers for Himself. He prayed for others, for His disciples, for the world. He continued whole nights in prayer, while loving disciples yielded to sleep. He prayed for others as they would not pray for themselves. He needed no fasting for Himself, yet see Him fasting forty days and nights in the wilderness, after which the angels came and ministered unto Him, and He came out of the wilderness to heal the sick and raise the dead. All night in prayer He was transfigured; and Moses and Elias came