James Smith, 1856
That the Holy Spirit is in the church of Christ, and will abide with that church forever, is a glorious fact — a fact which should produce confidence, excite hope, and draw forth fervent prayer. But, though the Spirit is in the church, it is to be feared that the church is not very spiritual, or does not receive very full or large supplies of the Spirit of Christ. The fountain is still in the garden — but the streams do not flow as they once did to irrigate and fructify it. There is a languor and comparative barrenness in the church.
Why is this? Is the Spirit less loving, or less willing to communicate to the mystical body of Jesus? O no; that cannot be. He is now, both in His nature, disposition, and resources — all that He was on the day of Pentecost, and on those occasions when it was said, "the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great multitude believed and turned to the Lord." The church may change, the blessed Spirit never can. But though the Spirit cannot change in His nature, He maybe vexed and grieved — and consequently withhold His communications. May not this be the case at present? Is there not reason to believe it is? I think so.
But how have we grieved the Spirit?
It may be that we have not exalted and honored Jesus in our ministry as we should.
We may have kept back and concealed the glorious doctrines of free and discriminating grace.
We may have relied too much upon the means employed, instead of relying wholly upon the Spirit as the divine agent.
We may have secretly imbibed some false notions as to power and ability in ourselves, apart from the constant renewing of the Holy Spirit.
We may have become proud of our position, numbers, wealth, and instruments.
We may have sought our own honor, instead of seeking the honor and glory of the Lord Jesus only and exclusively.
We may have looked to learning, logic, argument, eloquence, or even earnestness, to bring souls to God, instead of the secret, sovereign influence of the blessed Spirit.
We may have forgotten our calling — to witness for Christ; and our proper position — waiting for Christ,
Alas! have not many of us become worldly, conceited, self-satisfied, and indifferent?
Have we not neglected to exercise confidence in the promise, and to plead right heartily with God daily in the name of Jesus, expecting the blessing? I fear so!
It is certain that we are not as lively, spiritual, active, unearthly, or successful, as the Pentecostal church was; yet the promise is the same, the gospel is the same, the Spirit is the same, and the loving heart of our Heavenly Father is the same. We need stirring up and rousing! There ought to be with us, as with Reuben once, "great searchings of heart."
Self-examination would lead to detection,
detection would produce humiliation,
humiliation would urge us to prayer,
such prayer would take hold on God,
and God would condescend to allow himself to be held by us, as by Jacob, until he blessed us.
Brethren, are not these things so? Can we deny them? Ought we to excuse them? Should we try to conceal them? I think not. Shall we not rather fall under them, seek grace to be deeply humbled for them, and unite in the use of all appropriate means to bring about a change?
The church of Christ is unquestionably low, in a low place. It is not for lack of men, or money, or learning, or planning, or facilities to carry on God's work. The great need, is the power and unction of the Holy Spirit. We need to realize that all the spiritual energy, vigor, and success of the church flows from the Holy Spirit! That as a gift, He may be sought, as God He may be worshiped, and, as promised, may be confidently expected when sought aright. If, then, we wish to see Jesus exulted and honored; our Heavenly Father glorified in this fallen world; the Lord's people vigorous, industrious, and successful in their work; sinners brought in great numbers to the cross and the church; and the devil disconcerted, defeated, and driven from us — then let us unite to seek the putting forth of the power of the Holy Spirit among us.
Reader, what do you say? Will you agree that, at least, once, twice, or oftener each day, if possible — that you will go to the throne of grace, purposely to seek this blessing from our Heavenly Father, and persevere until you obtain it, or die in the attempt? Will you? Is it worthwhile doing so? Is it desirable? Would it pay? For some are always looking for profits. Should you not like to sit under a powerful ministry, to witness the power of God in the hearts and lives of the hearers of the Word, and to see hundreds flocking into the church, until churches must lovingly divide, and unite to erect new houses of prayer in every direction? If your heart is right, you have already said, "I should."
Well, then, shall we set about it at once? Let us go alone, at once, and upon our knees, before a heart-searching God; purpose, and seek grace to carry out that purpose, that we will daily (more than once in the day) snatch a few minutes from this greedy world, and plead with God to pour out His Spirit upon ministers and missionaries, teachers, village preachers, tract distributors, and the entire church. Especially that He will begin with ourselves, filling us with the Holy Spirit; so that we may enter into the truth, drink into the mind of Christ, labor mightily for God, and be very successful in winning souls.
What do you say? Are you prepared to carry this out? Will you take your pen and sign the following: "I, being deeply convinced that the church in general, and myself in particular, stand in need of the putting forth of the power of the Holy Spirit — do hereby solemnly engage, in the sight and presence of God, who searches the heart, once at least, in each day, to go directly to the throne of grace, on purpose to plead with my God and Father, that He will pour out His Spirit in all the fullness of His gifts and graces upon the church in general, and upon my own soul particularly. Witness my hand this day of ______, 1856."
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
With energy divine;
And on this poor benighted soul
With beams of mercy shine.
From the celestial hills,
Life, light, and joy dispense;
And may I daily, hourly feel
Your quickening influence.
Melt, melt this frozen heart;
This stubborn will subdue;
Each evil passion overcome,
And form me all anew.
Mine will the profit be.
But yours shall be the praise;
And unto you I would devote
The remnant of my days!