An Exhortation for Those Desiring the Office of Bishop or Elder - by B. P. AydelottPastoral Theology and Expository Preaching Articles
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
An Address Delivered before the Student, of the Theological Seminary at Xenia.
DEAR BRETHREN: In a previous address, your attention was called to the “importance and necessity of vital Christianity in. the case of Gospel ministers” a subject than which none can be more important to each of us personally. This, from the very nature of the ministerial office, lies at the foundation of all our comfort and happiness in the discharge of its duties. Without, not only an experience, but a deep felt experience of the Divine life in our own souls, the words addressed to others will be but empty sounds to ourselves. There will be nothing in them to nerve and strengthen the soul for work or for warfare. A Sovereign God may employ men to point others the way to Heaven, while they, themselves, shall not be permitted to enter. We should, therefore, earnestly cultivate in ourselves a principle of personal holiness. We should be urged to a most impartial self-examination, lest while we labor in the vineyard of the Lord, bearing the burden and heat of the day, we should be found at the close, but hirelings. If Paul, the aged, found it necessary to keep his body under, lest while he preached the Gospel to others, he himself should be a cast-away, how much more should those of less attainments! So far as the scenes of a judgment day are revealed, nothing falls with such crushing weight and startling solemnity upon the ear, as the godless minister’s application at the gate of Heaven, and his rejection. “Lord! Lord! have I not prophesied in thy name?” pleads the rejected candidate for honor and happiness. ” I never knew you,” is the brief but decisive answer of Him who holds the keys of Heaven. Much of the bitterness of that hour arises from his disappointment. Beginning with deceiving others, he has become so expert as finally to deceive himself. How thorough, then, should be the work of self-examination, lest while we labor in the Lord’s harvest, the lamentation should be ours—” The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Hoping that you have first given your own selves to the Lord, let us call your attention to a subject intimately connected with this, and equally necessary to your efficiency in preaching the Gospel—The anointing of the Spirit, the essential qualification for the Gospel Ministry.
The power which has been manifested, from time to time, in the Church, has ever been an inexplicable mystery to her enemies and the world. Seeing nothing more of the source of her power than what appears in her external character, we need not wonder at their inability to comprehend wherein her great strength lies. The wisest of infidel philosophers stands confounded at the success which attended the labors of the few illiterate fishermen, to whom was first committed the work of the Ministry. They have ransacked every nook and corner of the fields of human philosophy and history, for an explanation which would satisfy reason—which would account for this result on natural principles— but all in vain. Their theories have been at once unsatisfactory and self contradictory.
But while human reason here exhausts herself in fruitless efforts, to the faith of the humble follower of Jesus all is plain. He knows from experience, in what consists the power of the Church. The riddle, ” When she is weak, then she is strong,” is no longer a mystery. The interpretation is, ” My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness.” ” Her life is hid with Christ in God.” The Evangelist explains it in one sentence:” The Lord wrought with them.” The power of the Church, weak in herself, which has ever secured success in her labors, is neither more nor less than the pulsations of the heart of Jesus, throbbing in her, and giving life, and energy, and power, to the most distant members. The life of the Church is the life of Christ; her power is the power of Christ. It is He dwelling in her, and operating through her. It is not another life which He gives her, but the life, the Divine life which dwells in Himself. She is His body. It is not one life which beats in this heart, and another which animates these distant members. It is not one life which resides in the vine, and another which makes fruitful the branches. So it is not one life which is in Christ the head, and another which is in His body, the Church.
This life is communicated to her by His Holy Spirit; yea, it is His Holy Spirit which dwells in her. Consequently, in proportion as this Spirit is poured out upon her, in that proportion will she be qualified for Christ’s work. If this be so, how important, yea, how essential is it, that those to whom the work of the Ministry is committed, should be, in an especial manner, “endued with power from on high.”
To the Holy Spirit belongs the work and the honor of applying the salvation which Jesus has wrought for us. So important was a strict adherence to this arrangement, entered into in the council of eternity, that when Jesus came to preach the Gospel, of which He is the author, He must be qualified for it by this anointing of the Spirit. Hence it is said, “He was anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows.” At his baptism, John saw the Spirit descending like a dove, and it abode upon Him. He was anointed with the Spirit above measure as a qualification for preaching the Gospel. ” The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek.” Those who are called to the same work, must be abundantly endued with the same Spirit. They must be clothed in like mind with Christ.
But in regard to this qualification for the Gospel Ministry, we are not left to inference, even from such safe premises as these. Jesus, when about to ascend to the Father, gave a charge to His disciples to preach the Gospel, and accompanies it with a promise of the Spirit. ” And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you, but tarry ye at Jerusalem till ye be endued with power from “on high.” Though the work to which they had been called, was an important work, and though the fields in which they were to labor were white already to the harvest, still they were not permitted to enter immediately upon it. Though they had received the Spirit of adoption, they had not yet received the Spirit of power. They might plead that the work was urgent—that while they tarried, many sinners were going down to eternal death— yet the command of Christ was imperative; they must tarry till they receive this Spirit of anointing. That which was required of the Apostles, is required of all their successors in the work of the Ministry. That which was given to them, in the fulfillment of the promise, so far as it related to that which would give efficacy to the Gospel in the conversion of sinners, is still made good to Christ’s ministers, who, by faith, embrace the promise, and seek it after the due order. It was a promise which had been frequently made to the Church by the Prophets, and to be fulfilled in these last days. Isaiah says, ” I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring, and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.” Joel says, ” And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” This had, upon the day of Pentecost, a partial, and only a partial fulfillment. Glorious as was the result of that day’s labor, it was but an earnest, a first fruit of that harvest of souls which the Church shall yet reap. When God shall cause His Spirit to come down as rain upon the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth, then shall this handful of corn upon, the tops of the mountains shake with fruit like Lebanon.
But let us inquire, what is this anointing of the Spirit which Christ has promised, and which He requires of all His ambassadors? Perhaps some one is ready to reply: It was fulfilled in the bestowment of miraculous gifts upon the Apostles. If so, there can be little in it which will personally interest yon in preparing for the ministry; for the time for such gifts is past. Is this, then, the import of the promise? It is true, there was a promise to the Apostles of power to work miracles. But what was the design of this power? Was there any thing in it which gave additional efficacy to the Gospel in reclaiming sinners? An affirmative answer would reflect upon the character of Zion’s King. If so, wisdom would have required the continuance of these gifts to the Church. The power of working miracles was given to the Church for a special and temporary purpose, and the conversions under the labors of the Apostles were, in no degree, attributable to it.
Miracles were for the confirmation of the truth that Jesus was the Messiah—that having been crucified, lie was raised again from the dead, and had ascended to Heaven. Farther than this, they had no power; and farther than this, the Head of the Church had no design in granting power to perform them. It pleased God on the day of Pentecost, as well as on all other occasions, to save them that believe not by showing miracles, but by the “foolishness of preaching.” If you will carefully examine Luke’s account of the labors and conversions of that day, you will find the means employed were the plain preaching of Christ crucified. When the gift of tongues was witnessed by the people, the effect was thus described:” And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others, mocking, said, These men are full of new wine.” This was the extent of the power of miracles alone. But when Peter had rehearsed the simple story of the cross—had told them of Jesus, who was delivered, crucified and slain—that in Him was fulfilled the words of David, ” Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption,” and that that same Jesus whom they had crucified was both Lord and Christ, they were pricked in their hearts, and cried, ” Men and brethren, what shall we do?” We have dwelt upon this because of our proneness to think there was some power granted to the Apostles for the conversion of sinners, which we are not to expect. We thus excuse ourselves for want of similar success, by virtually throwing the blame on the want of efficiency in the means which Christ has appointed. Let it be remembered that every element of power which the Apostles had, is still promised to their successors in the ministerial office. (We say above, ministerial, as distinguished from apostolical. The Apostles, as such, were WITNESSES for Christ; none other could be Apostles. (See Acts, i:21, 22). Do you ask, then, in what consists this anointing of the Spirit, which makes the preached Gospel the power of God unto salvation? We answer:
1. The Holy Spirit is given as a Spirit of Divine knowledge. It is the work of the Spirit to take of the things that are Christ’s, and show them unto us. This Divine illumination consists ill the clear discovery of the truths of the Gospel in their spirituality. We can not limit the Holy One, but until the Spirit of Divine light comes from Christ, we have no Scriptural grounds to hope for success in preaching the Gospel. But when He who has caused the light to shine out of darkness, shines into the heart, giving the light of their peculiar office, will be found, if honestly examined, to be a mere pretense to cover over self-aggrandizing schemes, which must, if successful, drive out. ” the Spirit of the Lord” and true “liberty” from the Church; and reduce its subjects to a most unchristian bondage—abject tools to ecclesiastical tyrants—fit instruments for ultimately destroying all freedom from among men. The doctrine of Apostolic Succession is the grand lever of the Man of Sin. The knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, that heart becomes a mirror, reflecting back upon the dark places of the earth, the light of the Sun of Righteousness. The light which is reflected from the heart, imbued with the Spirit of Divine illumination, is the same light which shines directly from Christ. A mirror placed in such a position as to reflect the rays of the sun, sends back not only its light, but its warmth, and genial influences. The light of Christ may lose something from the imperfection of the mirror which reflects it, but just in proportion as the heart receives it, in that proportion will it faithfully reflect it, and in the same proportion have we a right to expect its influence will be felt. This, you will observe, is a figure for which we are indebted to Divine inspiration. When the glory of the Lord is risen upon Zion, then shall she arise and shine. The result is, the Gentiles shall see her light, and kings shall come to the brightness of her rising. Many shall fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows.
This illumination will manifest itself in the words and countenance of Him who is filled with the Holy Ghost. He has, through that Spirit, as was Moses in the mount, been in the enjoyment of the most intimate communion with God, and, like Him, his face will shine. When Stephen was brought before the council, all that sat there saw his face as it had been the face of an angel. It was the light that filled his own soul, speaking in the expression of his countenance. If you would preach the Gospel with power, you must seek to be filled with this Divine light; seek this unction from the Holy One, by which you will know all things, and which from your heart will penetrate the hearts of those who hear, you.
2. You must receive this Spirit, as a Spirit of wisdom. There may be much knowledge, and yet little of that wisdom “which is from above, first pure, and then peaceable.” It is the promise of Christ to His servants, that they shall be endued with the Spirit of wisdom—a wisdom which will direct their words and actions under the most perplexing circumstances. ” I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries can not gainsay, nor resist.” When Stephen was brought before the council, this promise was fulfilled, and Luke records it in the very language of the promise:” And they could not resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spake.” He had traced the historic evidence that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was the Messiah, and they were cut to the heart.
This was not a gift peculiar to Apostolic times. The same Spirit has often been as abundantly poured out on the ministers of God, in later times. Luther was filled with the Spirit of wisdom, whether standing before his most powerful enemies, or preaching the Gospel to the most abandoned sinners. Though operating differently, it was in both cases a Spirit which they could neither gainsay nor resist. Armed with the “sword of the Spirit,” and endued with wisdom to use it skillfully, he encountered, one after another, the most bitter adversaries, and they trembled before him. Many others, whom we might name, have been, in a similar manner, filled with the Holy Spirit. The history of the Reformation in the countries of our ancestors, affords many such examples. Occasional instances have been witnessed in the Church from time to time; enough to show, that if this Spirit has not been more generally received, the fault is with ourselves. It is an essential qualification for the work of the Ministry: and when God shall fulfill His promise, and make the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose, this characteristic will be the general rule, and not the exception.
3. [f you would be qualified for the work of the Ministry, you must be endued with the Spirit of courage. We do not refer to what is necessary in times of persecution— times when you may be called to seal your testimony with your blood. Under the most favorable circumstances, in which you can expect to preach the Gospel, this Spirit of courage will be necessary. The Gospel which you are to preach, in all its teachings, comes in conflict with principles which reign supreme in the human heart. The heart of every man is filled with bitter opposition. It requires, then, no small degree of courage to speak this word which strikes at the root of human pride, and especially to speak it before the great ones of the world. It was this Spirit of courage from Christ, which enabled the Apostles to reprove and exhort, with so much fidelity and fearlessness, those whose hands had crucified the Lord of Glory. These were men in authority. They had crucified the Lord, and they had power, also, to crucify the disciples, yet with what calm dignity and boldness they answered the command to speak no more in this name. ” Whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” Again:” We ought to obey God rather than men.” When they had been beaten, they departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name; and daily in the temple and in every house they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus Christ.
This word must be spoken before kings with the same solemn authority with which it is spoken to the humblest auditor. Nothing but the anointing of the Spirit can prepare you for this. This was that which changed the faithless, cowardly disciples, who, on the night of their Master’s betrayal, and in the hour of his crucifixion, forsook Him and fled, to the bold and fearless spirits, who encountered the most violent opposition unmoved. All that was given to the Apostles is promised to you. This anointing of the Spirit was the secret of Luther’s courage when summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms. Of that tribunal, D’Aubigne says:” Never had man appeared before so august an assembly.” More than this: it was an assembly many of the most powerful of whose members thirsted for the Reformer’s blood— men whom Luther well knew had been trained in a school, whose first lesson is that no faith shall be kept with heretics. Behold, a man of humble station, with no weapon but the “Word of God, standing erect, and undismayed, before earthly dignitaries, and they quailing before him. When his friends were filled with fear, his soul, sustained by the Divine Spirit, was alone calm. When others remonstrated, on account of his feeble health, he replies:” If I can not perform the journey as a man in health, I will be carried there in a litter.” When Spalatin sent him the brief remonstrance, “Abstain from entering Worms,” he replies:” If there were as many devils in Worms, as there are tiles on its roofs, I would enter it.” You can not fail to recognize, here, the same Spirit which had formerly strengthened Paul. When his friends besought him not to go up to Jerusalem, he answers:” What mean ye, to weep and to break my heart? I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” These words were no vain boasts. The men who uttered them, knew whom they had trusted. It was the language of the Spirit of Christ who dwelt in them. If you would know how an humble monk could stand before kings and emperors, who thirsted for his blood, go and study that agonizing, wrestling prayer, uttered in broken accents, in which he supplicates the Divine protection and support. That prayer lifts the veil and reveals the secret power of the Reformation, as well as the source of that courage which has sustained the faithful ministers of God in all ages of His Church.
Whatever be the character of the times in which you will be called to preach the Gospel, this Spirit of courage will be necessary. The world is still the same bitter enemy to the Church and the Gospel. It may have changed somewhat its manner of warfare. It may have clothed itself in garments of light, and assumed the attitude and address of a friend; but while its words are smoother than oil, in its heart is war. Its very friendship is enmity.
4. The Spirit of Christ with which He has promised to endue His ministers, is a Spirit of love; love for Christ^ and love for the souls of men. This was the Spirit which was preeminently in Christ Jesus, and which is essential to every minister of His Gospel. By this He would test Peter. Thrice He addresses the searching question, “Lovest thou Me?” This was the qualification for the work of feeding His sheep and lambs. The love of Jesus is that which draws sinners unto Him. In this consists much of the power which He exercised over men. The throbbings of Divine love appeared in every word and act of His life. When He entreated sinners, it was in the tenderest accents of compassion. When He pronounces judgment upon men, He still manifests that He loved them. He speaks to Jerusalem’s rebellious children, and weeps over their sin and their sufferings:” 01 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thon that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not.” Again, He drew near to the city, and wept over it, saying, ” If thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace, hut now they are hid from thine eyes.” When He saw the multitude lie was moved with compassion, because they fainted, and were scattered, as sheep having no shepherd. Such were some of the breathings of the Savior’s love. Thus He drew sinners as with the bands of a man.
If you would win souls to Jesus, you must drink deeply of the same Divine fountain. It is not enough that you so know the love of God as to be able to discourse clearly and even eloquently upon it. It is not enough that you show sinners the love of God, in giving His Son, and the love of Jesus in offering Himself for our sins. Your words must be steeped in the love with which your own hearts are filled. That love which is shed abroad in the heart, by the Holy Ghost, must evidence itself in all your intercourse, and your pleadings with sinners. When the love of Christ constrains you, let that love be made” manifest in the consciences of those who hear you.
The biography of the most Successful ministers of the Gospel proves that they were men filled with love; that they were governed by no selfish motive, but by a supreme desire that Christ should be glorified’ in the salvation of men. You have heard the memorable words of the heavenly-minded Rutherford, when preaching the Gospel to sinners. When the fire of Divine love burned within his own soul, he exclaims, “Your heaven would be two heavens to me.” It was a word of power, kindling a flame of love in the hearts of many who heard it. M’Cheyne, one of the most godly and successful ministers with which the Church of Scotland was ever blessed, adopts the words as his own, and with the same happy effect, to show that he desired their salvation, not for his own honor, but that Christ might be glorified; he adds, ” And if it please the-Lord to give mo a crown from among you, I do hero promise in His sight, that I will cast it at His feet, saying, ‘ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever/ ” There is an irresistible power in such love as this. Though your hearers may not be able to tell what it’ is which so influences, yet feeling its power, they will say with the two disciples, ” Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us, and while He opened to us the Scripture?”
All these things, the Spirit of knowledge, of wisdom, of courage, and of love, constitute that Spirit of power with which Christ has promised to anoint His ministers. This made the preaching of Paul ” not the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but the demonstration of the Spirit and power.” This still makes the Gospel ” come, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” It was this anointing of the Spirit above measure, which constrained the Jews to say of our Lord, ” Never man spake like this man.” Remember that the word of Jesus spoken by His servants, whom He has endued with His Spirit, is no less irresistible than when spoken by Himself. The Son of God now glorified, and the Holy Spirit given, this Word has often manifested its power in a greater degree than when spoken by the Lord. In giving a greater success to His ministers than attended His own preaching, He glorifies His Spirit. Paul explains it thus:” We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For He who hath caused the light to shine out of darkness, hath sinned into our heart, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” It is hardly necessary, my brethren, to guard you against the idea that this anointing of the Spirit will, in any degree, supersede the necessity of diligence in acquiring a knowledge of Divine truth. While Christ has made the most encouraging provision for you, by giving His Spirit, He will require a faithful cultivation of all the powers lie hath given you. He may have given you two, five or ten talents, but whatever it may be He will require it. While you are fervent in spirit, it becomes you to be diligent in business also. This is true of any natural powers of eloquence which He may have given any of you. The idea that pulpit eloquence consists in mere animation, or natural oratory, is certainly the lowest possible view of it. If any of you anticipate that by such means you can make the Gospel the power of God unto salvation, you arc doomed to disappointment. As well may you expect, by the same means, to raise up children to Abraham from the stones of the valley.’ The true idea of pulpit eloquence consists in the outgoings of a heart deeply imbued with the Spirit of Christ; the rays of Divine light and love with which your own hearts are filled, going forth in words and actions, and penetrating the hearts of sinners, infusing the joy, and warmth of light and love there. Though, this is the essential characteristic of true eloquence, yet the natural powers of oratory with which any of you may “be endowed are neither to be despised, nor their cultivation neglected. But let them be consecrated to Christ; let them, be humbly employed as a means which the Holy Spirit alone can make effectual in the salvation of men.
That this anointing of the Spirit is an essential qualification for the work of the ministry, is evident, not only from the promise of Christ, but from, the nature of the work. It is nothing less than raising tbe dead. The voice of the Gospel is a voice which calls those who are dead to come forth. You will be set down in the midst of a valley full of dry bones—very many, and, lo! very dry. To these bones you will be commanded to prophesy. It will not be strange, if in a moment of doubt and discouragement you should ask, “Can these bones live?” It is evident no word which, you can speak, will, by its own power, raise them up. It was not until the prophet had called upon the Spirit to come and breathe upon these slain, that they lived. The work of saving sinners is accurately described by this parable of the prophet. How forcibly, then, should the words of Christ come to those who propose to engage in this work:” Without Me ye can do nothing.” Paul strengthens himself in God, and says, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me.” ” This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Often the most eloquent and seemingly zealous preachers, have labored with all their power for many years, applying with all human skill the threatenings and promises of the Divine Word, and yet are compelled to take up the lamentation, ” Who hath believed our report, and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for naught, and in vain.” On the other hand, one, in all natural qualifications much inferior, “with stammering lips, and another tongue,” preaches the Gospel in simplicity, and in the power of the Spirit, and it is made effectual in bringing many sons to glory. Such instances, and they are not few, can only be accounted for on the principle, that all qualifications, without this anointing of the Spirit, will avail nothing: that this, according to our proposition, is the essential qualification for the Gospel ministry. The question, then, becomes one of the first importance: How is this Spirit of anointing to be obtained? It is plain we are each one responsible to Christ, to the Church, and to the world, in this matter. If we possess not the Spirit, the fault is with ourselves. It cannot be found in any unwillingness of Christ to send the promise of the Father upon us. He exercises the same power and authority as when He so abundantly endued His apostles. God still rebukes us by the question of the prophet, ” 0 Thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?” There is nothing of which it may be more truly said than this:” Ye have not, because ye ask not.” Christ commanded His disciples to tarry at Jerusalem till they should receive the promise of the Father. But were they to tarry there in idleness, and with no concern about the time when the Spirit should come? Nay, verily. They did not so understand the command. They were earnest suppliants for the Spirit. ” They all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.” They knew that though the Spirit would he given at the appointed time, yet they must be earnest in the use of the means. They were engaged in prayer on the day of Pentecost, when they received such copious showers of the Spirit.
If the ministry would now receive the Spirit, it must be in answer to their own prayers and the prayers of the Church. It is not God’s method of procedure with His Church, to do great things for her till He has made her feel her need, and given a spirit of prayer to seek His blessing. He will first pour out His Spirit as a spirit of grace and of supplication. This, as the accompaniment of a faithful ministry, is the instrumentality by which He will bring again Zion. When Ho shall set watchmen upon the walls of Jerusalem, who shall not hold their peace, day nor night; lie will also give a praying people who will not keep silence, nor give Him rest, till He establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
If you would be endued with power from on high, it must be in answer to your prayers—prayers arising from a deep sense of your insufficiency for the work which you have in view. If you have ever had any proper conceptions of this work, you have felt its greatness and your weakness. How deeply solemn is the consideration that the word which you preach must prove the savor of life unto life, or of death unto death. It was -this which pressed from Paul, the inquiry, “Lord, who is sufficient for these things?” But what an additional responsibility comes with the consideration, that your failure to seek the Spirit may make your word the savor of death unto death.
Seek, then, the Spirit of Christ most importunately and perseveringly. Think not, on any account, of going to the work without it. Moses, as the leader of the Lord’s people, is very bold, and sets us a good example of importunity. lie had asked many things and received all, and yet he has still another request, which, if not granted, ho will not go. ” If Thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence.” Fear not that a prayer-hearing God will be weary, or become offended with your boldness in prayer, for His Spirit. You have every encouragement at His throne. You come by the blood of Jesus; by a new and living way which lie hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. You come through Him whom the Father heareth always; therefore, you have cause to persevere. Remember the wrestling Patriarch. “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.” When he wept and made supplication, he had strength with God; yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed.
Ask, in the exercise of a firm faith, that he is willing, yea in that he might give. Sometimes men pray very earnestly, but as if they felt that God was unwilling to give. This is not the true spirit of prayer. If you come to His throne of grace, by that new and living way, which Jesus has consecrated, you will ” come in the full assurance of faith.” Without faith you can do nothing. Emphatically is this true of your efforts at God’s throne. “This is the victory, even your faith,” by which alone you can overcome there. This is your strength in prayer. ” All things, whatsoever ye shall ask, believing, ye shall receive it.” God delights to hear the prayer of His servants for grace to qualify them for the work of the ministry.
You are attending this school of the prophets, for the express purpose of fitting yourselves for preaching the Gospel. While you are diligent in business, be also fervent in spirit. While you tarry here, seek to be endued with power from on high. Remember what your Lord has a right to expect of you. He freely offers you all that is necessary for efficiency in your work. If you are not successful, the fault is not with Him, “but with you. It is an easy escape to throw the blame of want of success on the hardness and impenitency of this generation, but it is deceiving ourselves; and, at least, indirectly charging Christ with appointing means inadequate to the accomplishment of the end. The power of the Gospel for salvation, is still the same, as when three thousand were converted in one day; and men’s hearts are no harder now than then. It may be a testimony against myself and many others, but I must insist that the means which Christ has appointed are perfectly adapted to the work of saving sinners. They are the same which were so efficient in the days of the Apostles. If they prove inadequate now to produce such results, the sin and the responsibility rest with the ministry and members of the Church. It is because they have not secured the co-operation of the Spirit of God. The command which Heaven addresses to you is, ” Ask what I shall give you.” Let your answer be, ” Give me wisdom and knowledge.” Christ addresses each one of you as Elijah did Elisha, saying, ” What wilt thou?” Let your response be, ” That I may receive a double portion of thy Spirit.”