Book Review

The Tongue of Fire: Or The True Power of Christianity by Rev. W. Arthur turned out to be a great read. I got several sermons from the ideas presented in the book. I was recently asked what I was reading and I tried to explain why I read older stuff. I find most current Christian material unfulfilling. I then came upon this advice from C. S. Lewis to read from older authors because we are all trapped in our present assumptions and its good to read someone who is not trapped in those assumptions. That is not to say they are not trapped in their own set of assumptions; but it is saying that their assumptions will be different and thus you can see different things.

Here are some quotes from Pastor Arthur, published in 1856:

In the promise of a baptism of fire they would at once recognize the approach of new manifestations of the power and presence of God.

“I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away.”

He would lead them into all truth; whereas now they were constantly misapplying the plain words of Christ He would bring all things to their remembrance; whereas now they often forgot in a day or two the most remarkable teaching, or the most amazing miracles.

To found a kingdom, not over men’s persons, but “within”their souls;

Already had He proclaimed Himself King, and marked out the ministers and army, the weapon, the extent, the badge of citizenship, the statute law, the royal glory, and the duration of His kingdom. With His disciples around Him, standing on a mountain top, heaven above and earth below, He thus proclaimed His kingdom: “All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth:” here was the King. “Go:” here were the ministers and army–an embassy of peace. “Teach:” here the weapon–the Word of God. “All nations:” here the extent. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” here the badge of citizenship. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:” here the statute law. “And, lo, I am with you:” here the royal presence and glory of the kingdom. “Always, unto the end of the world:” here is duration.”

Not with doubting or weeping do they enter the city, but with “great joy;” the joy of a triumph already sealed, and of hope foreseeing triumphs to come.

He who will never use a form in public prayer, casts away the wisdom of the past. He who will use only forms, casts away the hope of utterance to be given by the Spirit at present, and even shuts up the future in the stiff hand of the past. Whatever Church forbids a Christian congregation, no matter what may be their fears, troubles, joys, or special and pressing need, ever to send up prayer to God except in words framed by other men in other ages, uses an authority which was never delegated. To object to all forms is wherein a simple and impromptu cry many never arise to heaven, is superstition.

In what tones would they tell the people that, as He used to say to those who came to Him, “Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee,” so would He now say, from heaven, to all who now lifted an eye to Him!

Ten are gone; and the conclusion is, not that of servants too idle to wait: “Our Lord delayeth His coming; we may as well sit still. He will come in His own good time.” That is not waiting: it is idling. They said, in their believing hearts, “Ten days are gone; therefore, the day of our Lord draweth nigh.

No Thomas is absent now! Not one heart has failed! “They are all in one place.” No discord or doubt have they permitted to arise–“they are all with one accord in one place” Nor are they slow or late.

the entire company met, with one heart, to renew their oft-repeated prayer. We cannot go to the house where was that upper room; nor to the site where it stood. These points are left unnoticed, after the mode of Christianity, which is in nothing a religion of circumstances, in everything a religion of principles.

That bosom has yet to learn what is the feeling of moral sublimity, which never has been suddenly heaved with an emotion of uncontrollable adoration to God and the Lamb–an emotion which, though no voice told whence it came, by its movement in the depths of the soul, further down that ordinary feelings reach, did indicate somehow that the touch of the Creator was traceable in it.

His was to be a religion of the understanding and the heart; wholly resting on the convictions and the principles, building nothing on sense, and permitting nothing to fancy.

The symbol is a TONGUE, the only instrument of the grandest war ever waged: a tongue–man’s speech to his fellow man; a message in human words to human faculties, from the understanding to the understanding, from the heart to the heart. A tongue of fire–a man’s voice, God’s truth; man’s speech, the Holy Spirit’s inspiration; a human organ, a superhuman power!

Cloven tongues sat on each of them; so that each had not only the fire-impulse to go and tell aloud the message of reconciliation, but also the fire-token that all mankind, of whatever nation, kindred, people, or tongue, were heirs alike of the Gospel salvation, and of the word whereby that salvation is proclaimed.

John the Baptist wrought no miracle: yet of him it was said that he should be “filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb.” Here the expression denotes some inward and spiritual operation, which may take place in the silence of an infant’s heart, and show its fruit in the quiet ways of childhood. Had he been filled with the Holy Ghost immediately before commencing to preach, we should have connected the former with the latter, as an official, rather than as an inward and moral, qualification.

“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Here, being “filled with the Holy Ghost” was not followed by any miraculous effects whatever, but was an inspiration, the result of which is special moral strength—strength to confront danger and shame—strength to declare all the Gospel.

It was as a spiritual power, a comforter, a guide unto all truth, a revealer of the things of God, a remembrance of the words of Christ; one who would convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; one who would embolden the Lord’s servants to bear witness before the most terrible adversaries, and would guide their lips to wise and convincing speech. Had it been His design that they should expect the Holy Spirit chiefly as a miraculous power, the leading promises would have had this aspect.

He marks the classes who shall know Him, and those who shall not. The distinction between them lies, not in apostleship or ministry, not in gifts or powers, but in being of the world, and “not of the world.” “Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

Our Lord’s expression is to be strictly noted: “The world seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him: “not, “Ye see and know Him.” In one respect the disciples and the world were to be alike: neither should see Him. Yet the disciples should “know” Him; for “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

Cloven tongues sat on each of them; so that each had not only the fire-impulse to go and tell aloud the message of reconciliation, but also the fire-token that all mankind, of whatever nation, kindred, people, or tongue, were heirs alike of the Gospel salvation, and of the word whereby that salvation is proclaimed.

Here the expression denotes some inward and spiritual operation which may take place in the silence of an infant’s heart, and show its fruit in the quiet ways of childhood. Had he been filled with the Holy Ghost immediately before commencing to preach, we should have connected the former with the latter, as an official, rather than as an inward and moral, qualification.

Here, being “filled with the Holy Ghost” was not followed by any miraculous effects whatever, but was an inspiration, the result of which is special moral strength—strength to confront danger and shame—strength to declare all the Gospel, though, in so doing, they periled very interest dear to them.

Our Lord had promised to His disciples miraculous light and power by the Spirit; but it was not as a miracle-working power that He had chiefly foretold His coming. It was as a spiritual power, a comforter, a guide unto all truth, a revealer of the things of God, a remembrance of the words of Christ; one who would convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; one who would embolden the Lord’s servants to bear witness before the most terrible adversaries, and would guide their lips to wise and convincing speech. Had it been His design that they should expect the Holy Spirit chiefly as a miraculous power, the leading promises would have had this aspect.

He marks the classes who shall know Him, and those who shall not. The distinction between them lies, not in apostleship or ministry, not in gifts or powers, but in being of the world, and “not of the world.” “Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

In one respect the disciples and the world were to be alike: neither should see Him. Yet the disciples should “know” Him; for “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” Their knowledge of Him was to come, not by sense, but by consciousness.

“That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God,” is a prayer at which we falter. Is it not too much to ask? Is it not a sublime flight after the impossible? Let us remember it is not, “That ye might contain all the fullness of God.” … Put away all thought of containing what the heavens cannot contain, but, humbly opening the year, say, “Infinite light, fill this little chamber!”

Paul wants to convey his own idea of the power of grace, as practically enabling men to do the will of God! “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” Here we have “abound” twice, and “all” four times, in one short sentence” “Abound” means not only to fill, but to overflow. The double overflow, first of grace from God to us, then of the same grace from us to “every good work,” is a glorious comment on our Lord’s word. “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”

The Spirit, as replenishing the believer with actual virtues and practical holiness, is ever kept before our eye in the apostolic writings. “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness.” Putting these various expressions together, what a view do they give of the riches of grace!—“all sufficiency,” “in all things,” “always,” “abound to every good work,” “fruitful in every good work,” “strengthened with all might,” “according to His glorious power,” “according to the power which worketh in us,” “filled with all the fullness of God”.

So with the soul: it enjoys all lights; yet, amid those of art and nature, is still inquiring for something greater. But when it is led by the reconciling Christ into the presence of the Father, and He lifts up upon it the light of His countenance, all thought of anything greater disappears.

“Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God swell in you.” Not in the flesh, yet in the body! The unconverted man has a spirit, but it is carnalized; the play of its powers—the studies of the intellect, the flights of the imagination, the impulses of the heart, are dictated by motives which all range below the sky, and halt on this side of the tomb. The spirit is the servant of the flesh; and man differs from perishing by motives which all range below the sky, and halt on this side of the tomb. The spirit is the servant of the flesh; and man differs from perishing animals chiefly in this, that for carnal purposes and delights he commands the service of a spiritual agent—his own soul. The Holy Spirit, as man’s regenerator, reverses this state of things. He quickens the spirit, and through it quickens the frame, so that instead of spiritual powers being carnalized, a mortal body is spiritualized; instead of soul and spirit being subjected by the flesh, flesh and blood become instruments of the spirit. Limbs move on works of heavenly origin and intent. Thus a direct connection is established between the will of the Supreme Spirit and the material organs of man. A purpose originates in the mind of God; by His Spirit it is silently and swiftly transmitted to the spirit of His child and by this to the “mortal body.”

God hath spoken; man has not been forgotten; guesses are not all our light; there is a Gospel, a “speech of God;” questions affecting salvation are settled; and our way to holy living and happy dying is traced by the Hand which rules both worlds.

“They all began to speak.” This shows that the testimony of Christ was not borne by the Ministry alone; that this chief work of the Church was not confined to official hands. The multitude of believers were not mere adherents, but living, speaking, burning agents in the great movement for the universal diffusion of God’s message.

When a man’s nature in boyhood produced fruits of vice and trouble, when his advancing years have steadily answered the impulse of the same nature, and his present associations are all based upon an alienation from heavenly ties; to bring him into immediate and permanent conformity to a Divine ideal of life, requires the ultimate Power of the universe, the Power which rules NATURE.

But a proof lies nearer the beast of each man. When you meant to do wrong, and had made up your mind upon it, did any instinct within you tell you that you were unable, and must seek supernatural help to carry out your intention? Never. You felt that to go forward was not only easy, but almost irresistible; was, in fact, yielding to nature. When you had made up your mind to overcome wrong inclination, and to do right, and only right, did not an instinct as unfailing as that whereby an infant searches for the breast of a mother, teach you to seek help, inward help, help against yourself? A decision to do wrong finds you strong in your own strength; a decision to conquer wrong, and do right, sends you to your knees, or makes you cry, “God help me!” If that be so, you need consult no man’s books as to what side your nature is inclined to.

Heart is the greatest thing below the sky; the nearest to the government above, that which sways intellect, and sways all things human. A work, then wrought upon heart, is the highest order of operation to which human nature can afford a sphere. Christianity professes to be a system for that which has never been otherwise professed-the renewing of bad hearts in the image of the God of heaven. To this all its powers are directed; and until this is done Christianity is but a theory.

It would have been strange, had a Church meant for man, in all his aspects, individual, domestic, national, left the space between the individual and the public unoccupied; so that Christian life must have been divided into secret and solitary intercourse with God, and public solemnities, wherein each was a stranger to each; no family life, no circles of interwoven hearts, no unbosoming of joys, sorrows, and cares, no communication “one to another” as to the soul’s health or progress. Had such a cardinal omission been traceable in Christianity, it might have raised many a question as to how the tenderest elements of our nature—the social ones—had been disregarded in forming a bond designed to unite all men in one loving brotherhood. But the spiritual life of the primitive Church is redolent of family feeling.

The regular ministry of the word is undoubtedly the prime source of teaching, and on its vigour and clearness the life of all auxiliary agency will ever depend; but those who would reject the practical and home teaching of free-hearted “fellowship,” little consider that to persons of simple mind or slow heart—that is, to the majority of mankind—the great problems, “What must I do to be saved? What is believing? Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit glory? Am I or am I not deceiving myself? How can I overcome this temptation, the sorest that ever beset a man? How can I grow in grace?” and such like, have often more light shed upon them by the plain statement of an individual as to how Diving Mercy solved them in his own case, than by any general explanation.

A religion without the Holy Ghost though it had all the ordinances and all the doctrines of the New Testament, would certainly not be Christianity.

The real grace and blessing lay in what we have called the spiritual influence of the Holy Ghost, acting on the believer’s heart; His ministerial influence, acting on the Church; His converting influence, acting on the world.

Is it that our mental perceptions are all derived through physical organs, and that, none such existing as channels between God and the soul, no communication can take place?…The organ receives an impulse from the light, the air, or other outward object, and transmits that impulse to the brain, producing a vibration there; but what a gulf between a vibration in a brain and a sensation of a soul, or an idea of heaven, or an emotion of joy.

One makes a secret fire carry a thought from his mind through a wire towards the mind of the other; a sensation is given, and both an idea and an emotion follow; but the wire feels none of them. The impulse passes along it; and the mind interprets that impulse, and turns it into the image of a dying father, a new-born babe, a ruined fortune, or a Sovereign saying, “Well done!” All the sensation, perception, emotion, lie within the mind, none of them in the wire. It is just so with organs; they transmit impulses, but they know nothing, feel nothing, and explain nothing. The power of communication is a mental power. Spirit knows, and gives knowledge.

Despair can hurl humanity no lower than to say that God, able to commune with it, enlighten, renew, and impel it, yet distantly stands away. For, if no communication exists, the reason lies in Him. To say that defect is not in His power of expression, but in our power of perception, changes nothing: if He cannot “reveal the things of God” to man, with such powers of perception as man has, He cannot adapt the expression of His own will to our state.

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” The Apostle does not say this of heaven: he is not even alluding to it; for it is “the glory that is to be revealed;” whereas he says of the “good things” here in view, “God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit”. These good things, then, are not teachings, for of them, eye, ear, and mind take cognizance; nor heaven, for it is not yet revealed; but those blessings which are “prepared” for those who come at the Lord’s call—pardon, adoption, and the favour of God…How can acts of mercy, which pass in the invisible world, be revealed to us?” the Apostle gives this simple illustration: “What man knoweth the things of man save the spirit of man that is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, save the Spirit.”

Did the mere truth suffice to renew…Unmindful of this, and not considering the danger of diverting faith from the power to the instrument, however beautiful and perfect the instrument may be, many good men, by a culpable inadvertence, constantly speak as if the truth had an inherent ascendancy over man, and would certainly prevail when justly presented. We have heard this done till we have been ready to ask, “Do they take men for angels, that mere truth is to captivate them so certainly?” ay, and even to ask, “Have they ever heard whether there be any Holy Ghost?”

The belief that the truth is mighty, and by reason of its might must prevail, is equally fallacious in the abstract, as it is opposed to the facts of human history, and to the word of God.

Truth is mighty in pure natures, error (is mighty) in depraved ones.

“He leaves, He leaves, He creates and leaves, leaves to the course of nature, leaves to general laws.” Such is the crude language we continually hear from men who would transfer the small ideas of human sense to the infinite sphere of the Godhead.

It is trifling at once with a man’s common sense, and with his most sacred hopes and fears, to tell him that he is called with the same calling as the early believers, by the voice of the same Redeemer, under the same covenant of grace, and with the same promise of adoption; but that, while his brother, ages ago, had “peace with God,” and “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” knew himself to be a child and then an heir of God, and daily felt that heaven was his home, he is to proceed on his pilgrimage without any of these comforts, and learn at the end whether or not his soul is to perish.

It is not a good service reward, but a birth-right; not a crown of distinction, but a joy of adoption. “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation; in whom after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Here the order is, “Ye heard, believed, were sealed:” no long period of doubt and labour intervenes between the believing and the sealing. The father of the prodigal does not keep him for years, working “as one of his hired servants,” before he prints the fatherly kiss of reconciliation on his cheek and on his heart.

…removes the office of sealing the adopted children of God from the Spirit, and gives it to the reason of man. They teach the seeker of salvation that, instead of looking to the Cross for mercy, till the Spirit, as the Comforter, “reveals the Son of God in his heart;” he is certainly to look to the Cross, but not to expect that to bring any such manifestation; on the contrary, he is only to learn what are the marks of a child of God, to compare his life with them, and, if it and they agree, his mind will arrive at the comfortable persuasion that he is a child of God. This is one instance of the common error of taking part of a process for the whole.

The relation of the fruit of the Spirit to the witness of the Spirit is clearly indicated to us. John says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” Here the fruit, “We love,” is made consequent on our sense of the fact, “He first loved us.” To say that we first know that God loves us, because we feel that we love Him, is to make the fruit of the Spirit the foundation of the witness of the Spirit; a relation totally repugnant to the principle announced in this text.

Anyattempt to escape the mystery involved in the Holy Spirit revealing the mercy of God to a human soul, only leads to contradictions and perplexities. To the old question, “How can these things be?” the one sufficient answer is, “They are spiritually discerned.” What the Lord spiritually reveals the soul can spiritually discern; and a Divine presence, or a Divine communication, may be assumed always to carry its own evidence with it, first to the consciousness, and then, by its fruits, to the reason. “One thing I know: whereas I was blind, now I see.”

…that the anointing of the Holy Spirit was the one thing essential in the Minister of the Gospel.

You have left mechanics, and cast yourself upon chemistry; and all your calculations must proceed on the ground that you have but to provide an instrument which will co-operate with an explosive agent. The New Testament ministry rests not on mental, emotional, or educational strength, but using each of these as occasion may serve, finds its own power in a spiritual influence; and all reasoning applied to it, without being founded on this fact, is reasoning on the rifle upon principles belonging to the bow.

The work of the Priest was not to teach, edify, warn, and forewarn, but to be the medium of access to the presence of God on His mercy-seat. As such, he has no earthly successor in Christianity: his office, we repeat, ended for ever with the atonement and ascension of our Lord.

Without clear intellectual presentation of truth, any flow of words would fail to convince or to enlighten. Without the spiritual power, any exposition or argument would fail to awaken or regenerate. The work of Paul was nothing short of a commission to “turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified;” and this he knew could never be effected except by “power and by the Holy Ghost,” working in and through whatever truth he might utter, as the bearer of God’s great message.

Learning is invaluable when associated with and adorning gifts from God, but lower than pitiable when offered as a substitute for the power of opening and enforcing the Divine oracles. Propriety, intellectualism, and ritual, have their honourable place; but when, instead of the power which penetrates the soul, we have only ceremony which fascinates the taste, or talent which regales the intellect, then are we fallen from the region of Divine to that of human things brought down from “the power of God” to “the wisdom of man.”

Where the primitive training is maintained, all the members of the Church exercise such gifts as the Spirit has distributed to them—prayer, and exhortation, and teaching, and mutual speaking one to another, and admonishing one another. Among the working believers of such a scriptural Church, a suitable proportion will ever be raised up whose gifts will fit them to lead in all offices. This is the real training school for Christian agents; a fruitful Church is her own nursery.

…that He has ordinarily allowed such unauthorized appointments to be followed by their natural consequence, until whole nations have come under the curse of a ministry who either taught another Gospel than that of the Apostles, or who, perfunctorily exhibiting the shell of the truth, set the example of denying its power; and that even where the Church had been reformed although primitive Christianity had not been generally revived. What England was a century ago—what many Protestant Churches on the Continent are at this moment, sufficiently shows that if guards are not placed at the entrance to the ministry, such as will hinder the admission of any but spiritually minded men, the course of Providence is to allow the sin to work out its own punishment.

A people whose idea of the ministry was formed by inspirations from the New Testament, would look and crave, with feelings amounting to hunger and thirst, for men “endued with power”—the true power of the Holy Ghost, awakening, converting, edifying power; power under which hearts would melt, lives would change, old men would put off the evil ways of a lifetime, and youth put on the wisdom of grey hairs, thoughtless revelry would give place to benevolent associations, and the whole neighbrouhood would begin to breathe a purer, nobler spirit.

“Ye shall be endued,” said our Lord, “with power from on high”—robed with power. This is the true robing and vestment of the Minister of God—an invisible garment of power, which sits not upon his shoulders, but upon his spirit, shading him over with a moral dignity, as if he held office from the King of kings, and conveying to every conscience before him the instinctive perception that he comes commissioned to deal with it on the things that effect its purity, and its relations with Him who planted it in man.

The intellect at once recognizes the presence of intellectual power. The emotions, also, faithfully tell whenever an emotional power is brought to bear upon them; and no less surely does the conscience of a man feel when a moral power comes acting upon it.

With one class, the highest ideal of a Christian service seems to be, that nothing should pass that could, by any possibility, offend the taste of any human being who might look uon the whole scene as an assembly for some dignified purpose. As to the pulpit, their great desire is, that the pulpit should “behave itself;” and in this country of our many a service may be found which is—“Faultily faultless, icily regular, and splendidly null.”

A class very different from those who worship properness, set up intellectualism as the substitute for power. We are far from wishing, in any way, to undervalue that great gift of God, mental vigour. Some measure of this is always implied in the commission to preach the Gospel; and the more of sense, pathos, imagination, of any real talent, a Minister may possess, the more is he fitted to give effect to his office. The talk in which some good people indulge as to the great benefit of having weak instruments in the ministry is without a tittle of Scriptural foundation…It is true that, to the wise of this world, the Cross in itself is “foolishness;” but Christ never sent fools to be its heralds.

The men whom God sends may be without the accomplishments of scholars, but never without sense and utterance.

…but never, never without power to act upon the conscience; and this, in the absence of other endowments, is often at once the scepter of a preacher’s command, and the mysterious seal of his commission.

He who speaks to us in the name of our God may bring statement as lucid and nervous as that of Moses or Matthew, wisdom as racy as that of Solomon, pathos as overwhelming as that of Jeremiah or John, argument as cogent as that of Paul, or imagination as gorgeous as that of David or Isaiah; however poetic, refined, or bold; only let him make us feel, as we always do under the hand of the Prophets and the Apostles, that all his powers are put in operation but to bring us nearer to our Redeemer.

There we see the power of the Holy Spirit, not allying itself with one order of mind, or with one stamp of composition, tamed down to a standard of properness, consecrated by the aesthetics of some small and proper men, but using every faculty that God ever gave to the human soul—every faculty of thought, illustration, and speech—hallowing by its fire all genius, all life, and all nature, touching everything and illuminating everything; so that there is not one scene of domestic life, and one one object of God’s outer world to which the tongue of the Psalmist or Prophet, or the Great Teacher Himself, has not given voice…

We repeat it, that it is not from any peculiar style, whether it be extreme plainness, or high elaboration, or what else, that we expect the ministry to acquire a world renewing power. Let the style be ruled by every man’s natural endowments, but, whatever these be, let them all be employed in the one direction of carrying out an embassy from God to the souls of sinful men.

The lowest effect (for less is no effect at all, or a negative one) which a Christian Minister can produce, is merely to please his audience; next to that ranks astonishing them: for both of these effects terminate in himself; and when a certain amount of admiration has been expended upon him, the whole harvest of his labour is reaped—a poor and scanty harvest, sufficing only to pass over the present hour, but yielding no seed for future sowing, no store for time to come.

Let but the powers given to any man play with their full force, aided by all the stores of Divine knowledge which continuous acquisitions from its fountain and its purest channels can obtain for him, and, the fire being present—the fire of the Spirit’s power and influence—spiritual effects will result.

So if a minister of the Gospel be justly described as “dry;” that is, if he give godly and candid hearers the impression that he habitually delivers Divine truths without any unction which either moves his own soul, or those of others, the fault is fatal.

There must be a soul itself in communion with the Holy One, and there must be rays of truth—God’s own truth radiated from that soul to others, along which the Spirit’s secret influence may be communicated from heart to heart.

Our Lord said, “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; yes, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to My Father.” By “greater works,” He could not mean more wonderful miracles; for the wonders wrought by His own hands had reached the limits of possibility…Beside, the “greater works” to be done are shown to have some special character from this, that “Because I go to My Father.”…We may therefore reasonably conclude, that the “greater work” than all the other works which could be done, was that work which He Himself from heaven announced to His servant Paul, as the purpose of his mission, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.”

In the progress of a man’s life it will often happen that great variations appear in his usefulness; but if he walk with God, maintain his integrity, and make steady progress in knowledge and in faith, although the form of his usefulness may change, it will never change into uselessness.

This power has but one source—the Spirit of God in the soul of man. It is the one thing that cannot be feigned.

Let us look up and hope to see, not one, or two, or three, not merely an occasional and extraordinary man, shining in the churches as with a light from on high; but let us soberly and steadily, and in prayer, expect companies of preachers, each differing from his brethren, yet all of them manifesting in some form or another that an anointing from the Holy One abides upon them, teaching them in all things, and enables them to appear before men, not only saying in words, but by their commending fruits saying to the conscience, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”

On a question so vital to the interests of mankind, no mind ought to float on the prevailing current without adopting a deliberate conviction. Was the conversion of thousands in Jerusalem, of crowds in Ephesus, in Samaria, Antioch, Corinth, Rome and elsewhere, a proof, once for all, of what God could to towards the saving of this lost world, which He designed never to repeat, and which His children would be presumptuous in expecting to see again?

New converts are the most powerful attraction that ever acts on those who are still in the world. There seems a peculiar spiritual power connected with the first love, and an impressiveness in the words, of new converts, enforced by the manifest change in them, which nothing else can exert.

The converting power is also the principal lever which Christianity can use for raising the standard of morals in nations.

One youth whom religion strengthens to walk purely among dissipated companions sends lights and stings into their consciences which mere instruction could not give, because it shows them that purity is not, as temptation says, unattainable.

The converting power is also the only means whereby Christianity raises up agents for her own propagation.

It is the Divine nature, which delights to communicate, to bestow, to purify, to save, breathed into the soul of man, and impelling it in the same course wherein Christ Himself moved.

Nothing so re-animates the zeal of old Christians as witnessing the joy and simplicity, the gratitude and fervor, of those who have been lately born of God.

The preference so carefully and even ostentatiously displayed by many good men for what are called gradual conversions over sudden ones, may have some foundation—but not in Scripture. All the conversions we find mentioned the New Testament are sudden.

One simple objection to this theory of “going on steadily” (that is , slowly) is, that it cooly consigns whole generations to hell, and leaves us with the dreadful feeling, that the best progress of the work of God is a progress which leaves the great majority of those now alive hopelessly in their sins. Another objection to this “going on steadily” is, that it is not Pentecostal; it is not primitive; it is not after the example of “the might power of god.”

Whoever, on reading that three thousand Jews were converted on the day of Pentecost, and lived holy lives afterwards, thought of exclaiming, “What a preacher Peter was!” The magnitude of the effect at once suggests a super-human cause.

In merely natural processes, persons proposing to affect the sentiments of mankind, must depend largely on their influence, their wealth, and their facilities. Christians frequently permit themselves to fall into a state of mind in which the want of all, or any of these, is taken to be fatal to their prospects of success, and the acquisition of them to be the first step towards making any impression. But wealth, influence and facilities, however great, never yet secured results in the spiritual conversion of men; while the most notable triumphs of Christianity have often been gained in the total absence of them all.

We want in this age above all wants, fire, God’s holy fire, burning in the hearts of men, stirring their brains, impelling their emotions, thrilling in their tongues, glowing in their countenances, vibrating in their actions, expanding their intellectual powers more than can ever be done by the hearts of genius, of argument, or of party; and fusing all their knowledge, logic, and rhetoric into a burning stream.

Prayer earnest, prayer united, and prayer persevering, these are the conditions; and, these being fulfilled, we shall assuredly be “endued with power form on high.”

Prayer which takes the fact that past prayers have not yet been answered, as a reason for languor, has already ceased to be the prayer of faith.

The recognition of our impotency without the Spirit, and of the absolute necessity of His presence and His power, is as needful as the recognition of the fact that, without sunshine and rain, all labour and all skill would fail to preserve the human race for one season. But the sunshine and the rain are precisely the things which cost nothing and on which we may constantly depend. So it is with the baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit. Freer than the air we breathe, freer than the rich sunbeams, freer than any of God’s other gifts, because it is the one which has cost Him most and which blesses His children most, that gift is ever at hand.

Unbelief and neglect of prayer generally go together as preventives of spiritual power.

Want of true faith and neglect of prayer are sure to make place for faith in the instrument, instead of in the power.

Another fatal hindrance is any kind of sensual indulgence. Whatever gives the least ascendancy to the body over the spirit must gradually subdue, and ultimately extinguish, the fire in the heart. This applies to all sloth, to every luxurious habit, every artificial appetite, and all the pleasures of the table.

…but all of us who have any heart for our Master’s service, any real intention to have a part in the battle for the rescue of mankind, do desire in our very hearts, yea, long with mournful longing for a tongue of fire to tell of the love of the Saviour, and of the woe of sin, in such tones that the dead ear shall tingle.

It is hard to imagine a satire on the Gospel more bitter than that it should be powerful when new to men, and impotent when familiar; that it should be good for the half barbarous, but not for those whom itself had refined; capable of captivating the inert but incapable of commanding the masculine and the energetic.

There is a natural tendency in any movement to lose intensity as it gains surface.

“Howbeit,” says St. Paul, “for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.” Thus we are deliberately forewarned to take the most singular conversion that ever occurred in the early Church, not as a discouragement because of its specialty, but as an intentional manifestation of the wonderful grace of the Redeemer, by which every sinner, in all ages, who would fain “find mercy,” may encourage himself.

The difference between preaching the Gospel with a full expectation of doing no more than saving small companies of saints from amidst multitudes of sinners, on whose shipwreck no influence is to be exercised beyond holding them a light to sink by, and of looking upon every converted man as one rescued from a common danger, who is immediately to join in rescuing the rest—is such, that in the one case, when a little is accomplished, it is looked upon as what the Gospel was sent to do; while, in the other case, every little is taken as but an earnest of the great, and the great as an earnest of the universal. While we aim at few, we shall win but few; for, that our successes shall take their proportions for our faith is the universal law of the service of Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About hansston

Pastor a church in Sparta.
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