Promise Of The Spirit 5

W. W. Prescott

It seems as though we were learning from day to day how much instruction there is for us in the experience of the apostles as they were commissioned to go forth to their work, and as they were endowed with the power for the work. Going on with the thought that was suggested last evening, notice how striking is the parallel between the condition of that time and the condition of the present time under which the work of the message is to be done.

The apostles were few in number, - men who had no standing in the world at that time, and they were forced, under the very circumstances of the case, to depend upon some power, - some influence outside of themselves. Think of it for a moment. They had no institutions of learning. They had no publishing houses. In a certain sense they had nothing. And yet they had that without which you may have institutions of learning, you may have publishing houses, you may have organizations unnumbered, and yet be utterly unable to do the work of God. They had the power of the Spirit.

Notice what they had to meet. The whole power of the world was against them. There was no government at that time under which they could begin their work under favorable circumstances, and then branch out into countries less favorable. There was one power that ruled the world, and that power was opposed to any religion the tendency of which was to stir up men’s minds, or to turn them in any way from the worship of the gods recognized by the State. And to have a company of men, comparatively unknown, with but few followers, come out with a new religion, the tendency of which was most decidedly to stir men’s minds and turn them away from the established religion, - to have them not only profess this religion, and teach this religion, but claim the right to profess it and teach it, and claim the right in the face of the law to disregard the State religion and to turn just as many as possible against it - nothing could be more exasperating to an arbitrary power than just that position. And that was the position taken by the apostles. In the face of a law whose penalty to men of their rank was death; in the face of the law not to teach any new religion, nor to turn men’s minds away from the religion recognized by the State, they went out, and that, too, under the express command of Jesus Christ, to preach that gospel to every creature.

Now some power must attend them, greater than the power of the State; and that power came to them on the day of Pentecost. And so they were told to tarry in the city of Jerusalem, to wait for the promise of the Father, that they should receive power after that the Holy Ghost was come upon them. How is it to-day? Here is a people of no particular standing in the world, a people that can make no boast of learned men; a people that as compared with other denominations can make no boast of institutions of any sort; no ground of this kind upon which to rest any claim to attention in the world. Although we may think that we have educational institutions, and publishing houses, and sanitariums, and all that, yet anyone who knows the situation, knows that when you compare these facilities with those possessed by other denominations, there is nothing upon which to rest any claim of attention before the world. And now we stand with every earthly power against this work, our own government having turned in such a way that religious liberty is really at an end. The principle of religious liberty has been abolished now. And yet the command comes to-day with greater power than ever to this people, Go and give this message. Go everywhere and give this message, and that, too, as I read last evening, in the face of all opposition. There is to be no compromise. There is not to be even the appearance of wavering. The message is not to be softened down in the least, but in the plainest manner, truths unpalatable are to be taught.

In the time of the apostles the one truth which was the most unpalatable was to say to the people that they had crucified Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory. Now the one truth most unpalatable is to say, that the image to the beast has been made in this country, and that those who now, with the facts plainly before them, intelligently choose the Sunday institution are receiving the mark of the beast in doing so. And it is our business to tell them so now. Now that is an unpalatable truth. Not only that, but as a matter of fact, the time will soon be here when it will be practically as unpalatable a truth to tell them that there is life and salvation only in Jesus Christ; to tell them that they do not know anything about justification by faith. And how shall we tell it unless we know the truth concerning it? I say that it will be just as unpalatable to them to tell them that truth as to tell them that in receiving the Sunday institution they are receiving the mark of the beast. So the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will be equally unpalatable to teach in every nation.

Perhaps some have thought we have now found a doctrine upon which we shall have clear sailing, and that we can always preach justification by faith, and people will agree with us. It is not so. That is to say, it is not so if the genuine Protestant doctrine of justification by faith is preached, and not the papal doctrine of justification by faith, and it will be received as a favorable message, just as we can preach the papal doctrine of the sabbath, and it will be received. But if the Protestant - the true Christian - doctrine of the Sabbath is taught, and likewise if the true Christian doctrine of justification by faith is taught, the time is near at hand when one will be just as unpalatable as the other, and both will meet with the same opposition. And yet we are taught that we have a message that we are not to cringe to declare, and we are not to beg the pardon of the people for telling them the truth.

Now I thought possibly some might draw the conclusion from my other remarks - perhaps more from the way in which the matter was said than anything else - that the way to approach people was to go out and say, You did it. That is, as though the apostles went out before these men and audiences with fierceness of spirit declaring to them, You are murderers. I want to tell you, it is in no such way that the message will go with power, because the power will not be in the fierce spirit of denunciation, but in the tenderness of love. But how shall we preach such a message as that in the tenderness of love, unless we have the mind of Jesus Christ? How can we go to people who are directing every effort to unjustly oppress us, to drive us from our homes, to bring the heavy hand of the civil law upon us, and tell them just what they are doing, in the spirit of love and tenderness, unless he who is love and who is tenderness dwells in our hearts? There is no other way. It is not natural for us to love people that are doing all they can to injure us. And our bearing a particular denominational name does not put love in the heart.

The example of Christ in his teaching is then to be ever before us. Remember his denunciations of the Scribes and Pharisees, as he called them hypocrites; but remember that when he uttered those scathing denunciations it was in the spirit of the utmost tenderness. When we read those words we cannot see the tears that flowed from his eyes; but it is nevertheless true that such was the case. So it was when he wept over Jerusalem, the place where he was treated as in no other place, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” It was with the most earnest longing that they might receive him, and with no spirit of hardness because they rejected him. He had only the deepest sorrow, because when they rejected him they were bringing death and destruction upon themselves. That was the spirit of it.

Let me read a few sentences from the manuscript of the forthcoming new “Life of Christ”:-

“Jesus did not repress one word of truth. But in his intercourse with the people he exercised the greatest tact and thoughtful attention. He was never rude; never heedlessly spoke a severe word; never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He spoke the truth, but always in love. He denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity, but tears were in his eyes as he uttered his scathing rebukes.” [I tell you, nothing short of that same spirit dwelling in our hearts will enable us to follow that example in the plain message which we have to give]. “He wept over Jerusalem, the city he loved, who refused to receive him, the way, the truth, and the life. They had rejected him, the Saviour, but he regarded them with pitying tenderness and sorrow so deep that it broke his heart. His life was one of self-denial and constant care for others. He never made truth cruel, but manifested a wonderful tenderness for humanity. Every soul was precious in his eyes. He always bore himself with divine dignity, yet he stooped with the tenderest compassion and regard to every member of the family of God. In all he saw fallen souls whom it was his mission to save.”

Remember that we are to follow the example of Christ in his teachings, but the only way that we can do this, as it is true that the only way we can manifest his character in anything, is that he shall dwell in us, and do the teaching in us, and manifest his own character through us. It is utterly impossible for us to address ourselves to the task of manifesting the character and the Spirit of Christ. How can a man show that which he does not possess? How can love be the ruling motive of the heart, and show itself in every action of the life, if that love has never been shed abroad in the heart? for love comes only from God. “We love, because he first loved us.” Love is of God, and the power that is to be in the teaching now, - the power for which we are to look, is to manifest itself in such a way as to be perfectly evident to every one that the power is of God, and not of any man.

When Peter and John stood with that holy boldness before that council and declared that it was in the name of Jesus that the man was healed; when they had put them aside and conferred a little, do you remember the conclusion to which they came? It was, that they had been with Jesus. Now two things follow from that. First, the power was manifested in such a way, and these men gave glory to God in such a way, that even their enemies were forced to confess, much against their will, that the power was of God through Jesus Christ, and so the glory went to him. And, second, after they had thus confessed that these men had been with Jesus, and therefore that the power was the power of Jesus Christ, when they opposed it they confessedly opposed Jesus Christ, and not the men.

So it must be in this work. It must be apparent that the power is of God in Christ, and not in the human instrument. And it must be so apparent that even the enemies will be forced to confess it, and then their opposition will be confessedly not against the human instrument, but against God in Christ, who is the power in them. So, eloquence will not win this battle. Strategy will not win this battle. Human plans will not win this battle. Advice volunteered by men wise in the world will not, when followed, win this battle. God will manifest his power in this work in such a way as to make it perfectly evident to all that it is the power of God, and that no one shall glory in flesh. And the power is to be in the deep love. That is the power of God.

It is satanic to compel people. When Satan can hold persons in his service by the allurements of the world, he holds them in that way. When those allurements fail to hold, then he begins to bring the pressure to bear upon them, and pressure of any kind, to force the will, is satanic. And therefore laws that are made to force the will in things of religion are the very essence of the spirit of Satan. God wins by love, and when love fails to win, he does not use force. I have sometimes stood almost overwhelmed in the presence of this thought. The very God of the universe, who creates all things by his word, who upholds all things by the word of his power, holds himself in abeyance at the command of the human will. And God, whose power is such that by the mere breath of his mouth we should all fail and be destroyed, . . . Nay, more; God, whose power keeps us in life, even though we are rebelling against him whose power sustains us and gives us the very power which we use against him; that very God stands and holds his power in abeyance, waiting the consent of the human will.

God holds out every inducement. His love draws; but when any man says No, and continues to say No, he controls the situation. The time will come, to be sure, when God will manifest his power, and when those who have persisted in rebellion will be destroyed; but during this time of probation God waits on the human will in matters of religion. To compel the conscience is satanic. To win a loyal, loving service is God-like. Now when we go out to carry the message of God for all people in the world, the idea of compulsion should be left out, and the winning power of love should be displayed. And before it can be displayed through the instrument, it must be displayed in the instrument.

Well, what has this to do with the outpouring of the Spirit? Simply this. What is the first fruit of the Spirit? Love. More than that. Read with me Rom.5:1-5: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] which is given unto us.”

It is worth noticing that the word here rendered “shed abroad” is the very word that is used in Peter’s discourse, quoting from Joel in Acts 2:17: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.” And as the Spirit poured out, so love is poured out in the heart, and the measure of the freeness of the gift of the Spirit is the measure of love in the heart. So when there comes the outpouring of the Spirit into any individual’s heart, there comes with it a flood-tide of love, and in that love is the power for the message. You will remember in this connection Jer.31:3: “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”

I will read Gal.3:1: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.” Paul had had such an experience himself in crucifixion with Jesus Christ that when he preached that truth to the Galatians it came to them with the same force as though the crucifixion had actually taken place in their presence. Who can describe a shipwreck like the one who has been shipwrecked? Who can describe a crucifixion like one who has been crucified? And said Paul: “I am crucified with Christ.” Now when one has been crucified with Christ in his own experience, he can tell people of the love of that Saviour who was crucified for them, in a way that brings the matter before their minds as though the event actually occurred in their presence; and when that is presented, as it can be only by one who has himself been crucified, if people are not moved by the love of God in the gift of his Son, and the love of Christ in his death for them, there is no power under heaven that can move them. And in my very heart I have had the utmost pity for anyone whose heart was not melted by that exhibition of the love of God in Christ. It seems as though a heart of stone would melt before it.

But the laborer with God cannot present by any words of his, by any command of language which he may possess, that picture to other minds, as it is in his mind. Words cannot convey the thing itself. Words make the picture, but it is only the Spirit of God that can present that to other minds. You know how that is in our own experience. You read a familiar text of Scripture. How much does it mean to the different ones in a congregation of two thousand persons? It means just what that text has been in actual experience to the individual. Just that. When you preach to people to whom these thoughts are new, whose hearts have not been touched with these things, how can you preach to them in a way to reach hearts? It must be just as it was in the days of the apostles. It was not the words that were used, but it was because the Holy Spirit took those words and made the impression upon the heart itself. So when those simple words were spoken there, the people who heard, saw the picture of Jesus Christ as he actually was. This is because the Spirit of God knows the mind of Jesus Christ, knows the love of Christ, and can present it as it really is.

When we present these truths our only hope is that the Spirit of God, in the heart of the listener, co-operating with the spirit in us presenting these truths will make the impression, will present the truth in its fullness and will give those who are in darkness such pictures of the light of God, such pictures of the love of Christ, as will win them. It is not in the power of eloquent words, it is not in the power of personal magnetism to do it. Nothing but the Spirit of God with the laborer, poured upon the people as he speaks to them, will do the work. Just as the Holy Ghost fell on the people when Peter spoke, so it must when we speak.

You remember the discourse of Stephen in the seventh chapter of Acts. When he was going over that very familiar history in such a simple way, what was the Holy Ghost doing? The Holy Ghost was with the people, and saying to them, Do you not see that means you? Do you not see what he is coming to? Stephen was not telling them that. Stephen was simply repeating the facts of history that were familiar to all of them, but as he worked along in his discourse the Holy Spirit kept working with that people, saying, Don’t you see how that means you? Don’t you see what he is coming to? Don’t you see that condemns you every step of the way? And before he could finish the discourse and make the application himself, the Spirit had gone away beyond him, and they were ready to put him to death for a conclusion which he had not drawn himself, but which the Spirit had been impressing on their hearts. They were ahead of him in his discourse. That is the power of the Spirit in itself.

There is another thought that I would like to speak of in the remainder of the hour. How are we to distinguish between the power that will attend this message, and the power that will attend the false message? because there is to be a power, Nay, there is now a power attending falsehood and its proclamation. Why, I want to say to you that unless we have the power of God to meet it, we will be swamped as certain as the world. This is certainly so. It is of no use for a man knowingly to go and butt his head against a solid stone wall. But it is just as sensible for a man to do that as for one now in the face of the testimony that a new life and power has come up from beneath, and is taking hold of all Satan’s agencies; - it is just as much lacking in sense and good judgment for one to go out now from this Conference knowingly to meet that power unless he is assured that God is with him, as it would be to run his head squarely against a stone wall. That is the truth. That power of the opposition is real, and we shall know it. How then are we to distinguish between the power that is to be in this message and the power that is to be in the false message? Let me read a brief extract from “Early Writings,” pages 46 and 47. The general subject is the end of the 2300 days. After describing the trouble of the Advent people at that time, at the end of the 2300 days, and their relation to others about them, who refused the light and turned from it, the writer says:-

“I saw the Father rise from the throne, and in a flaming chariot go into the holy of holies within the vail, and sit down. Then Jesus rose up from the throne, and the most of those who were bowed down arose with him. I did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitudes after he arose, and they were left in perfect darkness. Those who arose when Jesus did, kept their eyes fixed on him as he left the throne and led them out a little way. Then he raised his right arm and we heard his lovely voice (recognized the voice of the True Shepherd, it is a lovely voice) saying, ‘Wait here; I am going to my Father to receive the kingdom; keep your garments spotless (buy the white raiment), and in a little while I will return from the wedding and receive you to myself.’ Then the cloudy chariot, with wheels like flaming fire, surrounded by angels, came where Jesus was. He stepped into the chariot and was borne to the holiest where the Father sat. There I beheld Jesus, a great High Priest, standing before the Father. On the hem of his garment was a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate. Those who rose up with Jesus would send up their faith to him in the holiest, and pray, ‘My father, give us thy Spirit.’ Then Jesus would breathe upon them the Holy Ghost. In that breath was light, power, and much love, joy, and peace.

“I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, ‘Father, give us thy Spirit.’ Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence; in it there was light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, and peace.”

What is this lesson? The faith that finds Jesus finds him in the Holiest now. What was the message to the churches? “Behold I have set before thee an open door and no man can shut it,” and those who look for the light of glory in the face of Jesus Christ, must look to him through that open door in the holiest. Those who are still looking at the same place as of old to find him, are prepared to receive the deception. Now the thought is, that in this influence which Christ breathes, there is light, and power, and much love, joy, peace. In the influence that comes from Satan, - and that influence is now here in a special manner, there will be light, - and no wonder, for he fashioneth himself as an angel of light. You will remember the lesson we had on Sabbath on that question of light; there will be light and much power, but no sweet love, joy, peace. That is to say, the power will be the satanic power of compulsion. The power in the true message will be the winning power of love. That must be the difference; that is the difference. So if we have the message for this time in power, it will be with much love, joy, peace; and that in spite of the oppressive laws, - yea, in spite of threats of loss of life itself, - there will be much joy and peace in it all.

See how nicely these things come together. I will read two or three verses. John 20:21,22: “Then said Jesus unto them again, Peace be unto you; as my Father has sent me even so send I you,” [and those words are for us to day.] “And when he had said this he breathed on them and saith to them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” Now what was coupled right with it? “Peace be unto you.” So he said to his disciples, “My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled.” They were to go forward with joy in the Lord, and were to have holy joy and holy peace all the time. He is our peace, and if we possess him we shall possess peace in its fullness. He is my beloved. If we possess him we shall possess love in its fullness. Read Rom.14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Rom.15:13, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost.” You see how it all fits together; the Holy Ghost will have light and power in it for us. It will also have much love, joy, peace; and in that way it will differ from the power that will attend the false message; and that love, that joy, that peace can only be possessed by those in whom Jesus Christ himself dwells. “Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your heart.”

I spoke of the necessity of the Holy Spirit making the picture before the mind of the people, and in conclusion will read an illustration:- “Some of you have seen the great picture that was painted by Muncakszy of the Christ. That picture was being exhibited in Canada, at Toronto, I think, and there came a rude, rough, wicked sailor to see it. He entered the room at the time of day when there were no others there; and paying his money to the woman who sat inside the door, he came in and stood for a moment, looking at the canvas as though he would glance at it and go away. But as he looked he could not turn. He stood there with his eyes fixed on that central figure of majesty and love. In a few moments, he took off his hat and let it fall upon the floor. After a few moments more he sat down upon a seat, and then he reached down and picked up a book that described the picture, and began to read; and every few seconds his eyes would turn toward the canvass and toward the figure of Christ. The lady who sat by the door saw him lift up his hand and wipe away some tears. Still he sat; five, ten, fifteen sixty minutes went by, and still the man sat there as though he could not stir. At last he rose, and coming softly and reverently toward the door, he hesitated, to take one last look, and said to the woman who sat there: ‘Madam; I am a rough, wicked sailor; I have never believed in Christ; I have never used His name except in an oath; but I have a Christian mother, and my old mother begged me to-day before I went back to sea, to go and look at the picture of the Christ. To oblige her I said I would come, and I have come. I did not believe that anybody believed in Christ; but as I have looked at that form and that face I have thought that some man must have believed in Him, I am going out from this time to be a believer in Jesus Christ and a follower of His.’ Oh beloved, as I heard that story, the tears came unbidden to my eyes, and my heart glowed with a mighty longing. I thought if a poor, weak man, living himself in a godless land, could take his brush and preach on canvass, and cause our Christ to glow upon it, until a rough, rude, wicked, licentious man should be won to believe him, what might not my God do if he might paint Christ in me - nay, if he might reproduce Christ in a human life, that the life might be Christ’s and that men might come to believe on Him.”

Taken from the General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 13, 1893