Work, Power, and Union
James Smith, 1860
The great thing in religion is power. The power of the Holy Spirit. It is that which changes the heart, rules the will, and molds the character. Without this power — the word is preached in vain, and ordinances yield us no profit. We are absolutely dependent upon it — in order to be spiritually useful. It clothes God's servants with authority, fires them with holy zeal, and makes them burning and shining lights. All believers should pray much for this power, for it made the apostles what they were, and enabled them to achieve the wonders that they did. Hence we read in reference to their most successful and happy time, "And with great power, the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all." Acts 4:33.
Their Work. This was to bear witness to a fact which they knew, and were commanded to publish; a fact necessary to be made known for the glory of God, the honor of Christ, and the salvation of man. That fact was the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which proved him truthful, for he had said, "I will rise again the third day." The resurrection proved him to be divine, for he claimed equality with the Father. The resurrection proved him victorious, for if every enemy had not been conquered, he could not have burst his bonds, thrown open his prison doors and come forth into open day. The resurrection proved him the Savior, who can save, who alone can save, by whom all must be saved or perish. On the fact of the resurrection — rests the truth of the gospel, the character of the Savior, and the salvation of man! How necessary then that it should be well attested, and publicly proclaimed.
Their Energy. "With great power the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." They spoke with authority and boldness, and the power of the Spirit accompanied their testimony. This power had been promised, Jesus said, "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you."
This power had been prayed for, for ten successive days they met and pleaded with God for the blessing. It was obtained, for on the day of Pentecost, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. They were now employed, for being qualified and commissioned, they spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus.
The power they received was effectual, for it subdued sinners by thousands, it fortified the preachers against all opposition, and it cemented and bound believers together, so that they had but one heart and one soul.
Their Crown. "Great grace was upon them all." This made them holy — for it conformed them to Jesus. It made them humble — and they had low thoughts of themselves. It made them loving — and they deeply sympathized both with saints and sinners. It made them active — and they were willing to do, or give, anything that they could. It united and made them one — so that no one said that anything he possessed was his own. It made them graceful — so that the multitude admired, and the magistrates wondered at them. There was a beauty stamped upon them, a generosity displayed by them, and a happiness experienced within them — which reflected honor on their principles and profession.
Brethren, see what we ought to do. We should witness to God's truth, in order to which — we must know it, enjoy it, and feel its power. We should witness to Christ's victory, who spoiled principalities and powers, conquered death and the grave, and is now crowned with glory at God's right hand. We should witness to the gospel's claims. It claims the credit, the confidence, and the obedience of every human soul. It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance. Worthy of being believed, received, and obeyed by all.
See also, what we should seek — power, great power. We know the facts of the gospel, we have an opportunity to publish the gospel, we continually preach the gospel — but we lack power — the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us then be deeply convinced of our need of it, let us strongly and ardently desire it, and then let us individually, unitedly and importunately pray for it.
We may have it — but if we would, we must seek it. We may have it — but if we would we must make up our minds that we will not be put off without it. God has it, God has promised it. God is prepared to give it — but are we prepared to receive it? If so, we shall ask and receive — and then our joy will be full.
See what will unite, elevate, and adorn the churches, great grace. Great grace being on all who believe. Grace in God — is his glory; and grace from God — will make us glorious, even as God is glorious. Men have tried many things to make the church united — but all have failed. Creeds will not do it. A particular form of Church government will not do it. Pains and penalties will not do it. But grace will, if there is great grace, there will be great affection, great humility, and great activity in Christ's cause — and where these are, contentions will cease, divisions will be unknown, and all will be harmony and love.
Gracious God, give great grace unto your people, that they may resemble you, and reflect your glory! Gracious Savior, give great grace to those whom you have saved by your blood, that they may become one, one in heart, one in purpose, one in aim — one spiritually, and one openly and publicly. Gracious Spirit, give great grace to all who have been quickened by you, that they may live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and be one, as the Father, the Son, and your blessed self, are one. O that once more, the Lord's people may be all of one heart, and one soul, and that great grace may be upon them all!