The Power of the Spirit
by James Smith, 1861
God has done great things for his people — but he has not done all that he is willing to do. Unasked he gave his Son — but he wishes us to ask for his Spirit — for more of his presence, power, and grace we are to plead. Every believer may have more of the Spirit than he has, so may any individual church. More of the Spirit would make us more like Christ, fill us with joy and peace, and make us abound in hope.
Beloved, "the power of the Holy Spirit," (Romans 15:13) is greatly needed at the present day, by almost all of us, and by almost all our churches. Let us think of that power, pray for that power, and may the Lord fill us full of it. Consider,
Its NATURE.It is not physical force, or anything resembling it, for it acts on mind according to its nature, not interfering with its freeness of action, or accountability. It treats us as men, not as brute beasts. It is compared to three powerful elements.
To the wind, which is invisible, useful, and strong.
To water, which is softening, cleansing, and fructifying.
To fire, which purifies, ratifies, and melts.
It is something like the power of music, which attracts, captivates, and charms. Or the power of scenery, which fascinates, rivets, and delights. Or like the power of life, as it operates in vegetables, animals, and intelligent beings.
It is secret, no one can discern it — but by its effects; it comes secretly, works secretly, and its manner of acting is a secret.
It is sovereign — it is exerted, directed, and regulated in sovereignty. No one can command it; and in many of its actings, no one can control it.
It is effectual — it changes the heart, it renews the will, and it transforms the life. It comes to accomplish the Lord's purposes, to fulfill his promises, and to answer his people's prayers — and it never fails.
It is the power of God, and therefore omnipotent. It is the power of the Spirit of God, and therefore spiritual.
Our NEED of this Power.We need it. We deeply need it, for the gospel is inefficient without it. No matter who preaches it, or how it is preached; eloquence and earnestness, simplicity and sincerity, affection and tenderness, all may be employed — but all will be in vain, without "the power of the Spirit of God."
Sinners cannot be converted without it. The Spirit's power alone — can raise the dead in sin, open the blind eyes, unstop the deaf ears, or new create the soul. We may change a man's opinions, and he may reform his life — but he is still under the power of spiritual death, still an enemy to God, and still walking after the course of this world — until quickened by "the power of the Spirit of God."
Anxious souls will not receive Christ without it. They will doubt and fear, attend ordinances and perform duties — but as to opening the heart, receiving the Savior, and enthroning him in the affections — this they will never do until they experience the working of "the power of the Spirit of God."
The believer will not thrive, or grow in grace, or abound in the knowledge of Christ — but will be a poor, weak, stunted plant — without "the power of the Spirit of God."
The backslider will not be restored, and brought back to the Savior and his fold; but will become hardened in sin, and will go on from bad to worse, except "the power of the Spirit of God" be exerted in his experience.
The church will not be vigorous, nor will the pastor be successful — unless the Spirit puts forth his power — influencing, ruling, and controlling the whole.
O how dependent we are, both as individuals and communities, on "the power of the Spirit of God!"
The MEANS necessary to obtain it.If we would enjoy the power of the Spirit, we must seek it — but we shall never seek it, unless we are deeply convinced of our need of it. We must feel that we are shut up to this; and that do what we will, let circumstances be ever so favorable, and suitable means be ever so plentiful — yet without the direct putting forth of the power of the Spirit, all will be in vain. There must be deeply imbedded in our souls, and constantly rising up from our hearts, so as to influence and regulate our lives — a desire for this necessary and invaluable blessing. Desire is the life of prayer, and we shall never pray for the power of the Spirit, so as to obtain it, unless it is the one absorbing desire of the soul.
We must also have faith in the promise, and also in the God who made it. Coming to God, we must believe that he has it, and that he has the heart to give it — his word informs us that he has it, and his promise assures us that he is ready to bestow it.
It must then be sought in earnest, united, and persevering prayer. Unless our prayers are earnest, it is clear that we do not feel our need, or heartily desire it; unless our prayers are united, we cannot claim the promise made to social prayer for this and similar blessings; and unless we persevere until we obtain, it is clear that there is something wrong, or deficient in our experience. O that every member of Christ's church, deeply felt the need of "the power of the Spirit" in this our day, that every bosom glowed with a desire to possess it, that each one had a simple and steady faith in the promise, and that all would unite to plead fervently and perseveringly with God for this invaluable blessing.
Reader, do you feel the need of the power of the Spirit of God? Do you realize that it is necessary for yourself, for your family, for the church of God, and for the world at large? Have you the deep seated conviction, that the Gospel is inefficient without the Spirit's power, that no sinners will be converted, that no anxious souls will become decided, that no backsliders will be reclaimed, that believers will not grow and thrive, and that the church will not be strong, vigorous, and fruitful without "the power of the Spirit of God?" Are you anxious that the Spirit should be poured upon us from on high, that so our personal religion may be deepened, that the church, the garden of the Lord may flourish and grow, and that the wilderness may rejoice and blossom as the rose? Do you heartily believe the promise, that our Heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit unto those who ask him? Without this, our efforts will be feeble, our prayers will be languid, and our hope will only be fitful.
Life is not more necessary to the flower in order to its growth, or the sun to our system in order to its fertility — than is faith in God, and in the promises he has given, to our success at the throne of grace. Do you feel any responsibility on this point? Surely, if the Spirit is so deeply needed, if he is promised to the prayers of God's people, and if you can pray — then there is some responsibility resting upon you in reference to the matter.
Has God, by his Apostle, commanded us to be filled with the Spirit? Ephes. 5:10. Does not this suppose that the Spirit may be obtained? Does it not lay us under a solemn obligation to seek to obtain this filling? If when Israel was dying with thirst in the desert, and God commanded Moses to take his rod and strike the rock, that the waters may flow out to supply them — Moses had neglected or refused to do so, and the people had perished for want — could he have been held guiltless? And when all around us we see sinners perishing, and the Church languishing, and we know that the one thing needed is the power of the Holy Spirit, and that God has commanded us to seek it, and has promised to give it in answer to our prayers, if we, from whatever cause — neglect to seek and obtain this living, life-giving water, and souls perish from the lack of it, or the Lord's church is fruitless and withering — can we be held guiltless?
It is in vain to say, "God can give it without our prayers." We know he can — and he could have given Israel water without sending Moses to strike the rock. But God is a sovereign, and in sovereignty — he chose to work through such instrumentality, so that man was honored; and yet held accountable. And so it is in this case, it is God's method and it is our duty to bow to it, acquiesce in it, and carry it out — and we are faulty if we do not. Shall we then have the power of the Holy Spirit? Will you, reader, help to obtain it? In your private prayers, in your family devotions, in your social meetings, and in the church of God, will you plead for it? Will you, to use the prophet's words, "Give him no rest," until he opens the windows of Heaven, and pour us out this blessing in rich and copious abundance!