God is the source of all spiritual power, and should be sought for constantly in two ways -- by meditation in His word, and by secret prayer -- if we would have and retain power.
Several years ago I was 'specialing' at a New England corps, commanded by a rather gifted Ensign. He appeared to be much impressed by my familiarity with and use of the Bible, and one day remarked that he would be willing to give a fortune, if he had it, for an equal knowledge of the Scriptures. He was much taken back when I assured him that he was quite mistaken as to the strength of his desire, for if he really wanted to get acquainted with his Bible, he could easily do so by spending the hour and more that he gave to the newspapers each day, in prayerful study of God's word.
Men are everywhere crying and sighing for power and the fullness of the Spirit, but neglecting the means by which this power and fullness are secured.
The saintly Fletcher said, 'An eager attention to the doctrines of the Holy Spirit made me in some degree overlook the medium by which that Spirit works; I mean the word of truth, by which that heavenly fire warms us. I rather expected lightning than a steady fire by means of fuel.'
Glad, believing, secret prayer, and patient, constant meditation in the word of God will keep the sanctified man full of power, full of love and faith, full of God.
But neglect of these results in spiritual weakness and dryness, joyless labour and fruitless toil, and, unless a remedy is found, spiritual death will surely, if not swiftly, follow. If any reader of this has lost the power and sweetness of his experience through neglect of these simple means, he will not receive the blessing back again by working himself up into a frenzy of agony in prayer, but rather by quieting himself and talking plainly to God about it, and then hearkening diligently to what God says in His word and by His Spirit. Then peace and power will soon return, and need never be lost any more. Hallelujah!
Most people give about ten hours a day to their bodies for eating, and drinking, and dressing, and sleeping, and maybe a few minutes to their souls. We ought to give at least one solid hour every day to restful, loving devotion with Jesus over our open Bible, for the refreshing, developing and strengthening of our spiritual life. If we would do this, God would have an opportunity to teach, correct, inspire and comfort us, reveal His secrets to us, and make spiritual giants of us. If we will not do this, we shall surely be spiritual weaklings all our days, however we may wish to be strong.
The devil will rob us of this hour if we do not steadfastly fight for it. He will say, 'Go and work,' before we have gained the spiritual food that strengthens us for work. The devil's piety and eager interest in God's work is amazing when he sees a man upon his knees! It is then that he transforms himself into an angel of light, and woe be to the soul that is deceived by him at this point!
I do thank God that, for many years, as a Field Officer, a Divisional Officer, and a Spiritual Special, He has helped me to resist the devil at this point, and to take time with Him until my soul has been filled with His glory and strength, and made triumphant over all the power of the enemy. Glory to God!
'And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified '(Acts xx. 32).
Testify To The Blessing
'And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony ' (Rev. xii. 11).
A lieutenant got the blessing of a clean heart in one of my meetings the other day, and then told us that he had had the blessing once before but had lost it because he failed to testify to it. The devil suggested that it was a great thing to testify to cleansing from all sin; that people would not understand it; that they would criticize him; that he would do better to live it and say nothing about it; and so on. He heeded these suggestions, kept quiet, and so lost the blessing.
That is an old trick of the devil's, by which he has cheated many a soul out of this pearl of greatest price.
Paul says: 'For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation' (Rom. x. 10). The confession is as necessary as the believing. We insist upon this in the matter of justification and it is equally important in the matter of sanctification. If we do not testify definitely, humbly and constantly to the blessed experience, we put our light under a bushel and it goes out.
The late Miss Frances E. Willard received the blessing definitely, was filled with joy and the sweet peace of Heaven and gave a burning testimony of the fulness of the Spirit. Soon afterwards she became a teacher in a ladies' school in a section of the country where there was much controversy over the doctrine of holiness. She was advised by her mistaken friends to keep still about sanctification, which she did. Years afterwards she sorrowfully wrote: 'I kept still until I soon found I had nothing in particular to keep still about. The experience left me. That sweet persuasiveness, that heaven in the soul of which I came to know in Mrs. Palmer's meeting, I do not now feel.'
Fletcher of Madeley, whom John Wesley believed to be the holiest man that had lived since the days of the Apostle John, made this confession to his people: 'My dear brethren and sisters, God is here, I feel Him in this place; but I would hide my face in the dust, because I have been ashamed to declare what He has done for me. For many years I have grieved His Spirit, but I am deeply humbled and He has again restored my soul. Last Wednesday evening He spoke to me by these words: "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. vi. 11). I obeyed the voice of God; I now obey it, and tell you all to the praise of His love, I am freed from sin, dead unto sin and alive unto God. I received this blessing four or five times before, but I lost it by not obeying the order of God, who has told us, "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." But the enemy offered his bait under various colors to keep me from a public declaration of what God had wrought. When I first received the grace, Satan made me wait awhile till I saw more of the fruits. I resolved to do so, but I soon began to doubt the witness which before I had felt in my heart, and I was in a little while sensible that I had lost both.
'A second time after receiving this salvation (with shame I confess it) I was kept from being a witness for my Lord by the suggestion, "Thou art a public character; the eyes of all are upon thee; and if; as before, by any means thou lose the blessing, it will be a dishonor to the doctrine of heart holiness." I held my peace, and again forfeited the gift of God.
'At another time I was prevailed upon to hide it by reasoning thus: "How few even of the children of God will receive this testimony! Many of them suppose that every transgression of the Adamic law is sin, and therefore, if I profess myself to be free from sin, all these will give my profession the lie. Because I am not free in their sense, I am not free from ignorance, mistakes and infirmities. I will therefore enjoy what God hath wrought in me, but I will not say I am perfect in love." Alas! I soon found again: "He that hideth his Lord's talent, and improveth it not, from that unprofitable servant shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have."
'Now, my brethren, you see my folly. I have confessed it in your presence, and now I am resolved before you all to confess my Master. I will confess Him to all the world. And I declare unto you in the presence of God the Holy Trinity, I am now dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God, through Jesus Christ, who is my indwelling holiness.'
This confession put Mr. Fletcher on record, and was the beginning of a life of holiness that has but few parallels for beauty and power. It is only at this point of glad, definite testimony that Christian life and experience become irresistibly catching, like fire when it bursts into flame.
Those who profess this blessing are often accused of boasting. But this is not true. They are simply declaring that Jesus has done for them what He died to do -- that is, to save them from sin, and they do it in the spirit of a man who, healed of a deadly disease, declares what the doctor has done for him. It is done to bring honour to the doctor, and to encourage other poor sufferers to apply to him; and to withhold such testimony in the presence of multitudes of needy ones would be a crime.
David said: 'My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof; and be glad' (Ps. xxxiv. 2). Hallelujah!
As for me, I feel I am under a solemn obligation to let everybody know that Jesus is alive and that He can save to the uttermost.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise be thankful unto Him, and bless His name' (Ps. C. 4).
In every thing give thanks' (i Thess. v. 18).
As lilies of the valley pour forth perfume, so good hearts pour forth thanksgiving. No mercy is too small to provoke it, no trial too severe to restrain it. As Samson got honey from the carcass of the lion he slew, and as Moses got water from the flinty rock, so the pure in heart are possessed of a sort of heavenly alchemy, a divine secret by which they get blessings out of all things, and for which there is giving of thanks.
A jubilant old saint in Boston came down to hoary hairs in deepest poverty and had to live on the charity of such friends as God raised up, and He raised them up. Bless His name! He who fed Elijah in the wilderness by the brook and in the poverty-stricken home of the desolate widow, found a way to feed His child in Boston. God is not blind, nor deaf; nor indifferent, nor indigent. He is not 'the silent God' that some people in their self-conceit and wayward unbelief suppose. He knows how to be silent, and how to hide Himself from the proud in heart. But He cannot hide Himself anywhere in His big universe from childlike faith and pure, obedient, longsuffering, patient love. Hallelujah!
This old saint believed, obeyed and rejoiced in God, and He raised up friends to supply her needs. Now, one day one of them went upstairs with a dinner for the old lady, and as she came to the door, she heard a voice within, and thinking there was a visitor present, and delicately wishing that her charity should not be a cause of embarrassment, she stopped and listened. It was the voice of the old Christian at her table, and she was saying, 'O Father, I do thank Thee with all my heart for Jesus and this crust.'
To her thankful heart that crust was more than a feast and a well-filled cupboard and a fat bank account to him who has not a trustful, thankful spirit.
I heard of a rich man the other day who killed himself because he feared he might become poor. He was poor. Jesus said, 'A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth' (Luke xii. 15), and no more does a man's real riches; but rather in the spirit with which he possesses them.
Heaven is not parceled off into lots and estates. The angels own nothing and yet they possess all things and are eternally rich. And so with the true saint that trusts God and loves and obeys and is thankful.
The stars in their courses fight for him. He is now in harmony with the elemental and heavenly forces and eternal laws of the universe of God, and all things work together for his good. Not a hair of his head falls without God's notice. Not a desire rises in his heart but God's great heart throbs responsive to fulfill it, for does not the Psalmist say, 'He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him'? (Ps. cxlv. 19). Not simply the fervent prayer, but the timid, secret desire that has not been voiced in prayer, shall be fulfilled. And how dare God do that? Because holy fear will not allow a desire that is not in harmony with God's character and the interests of His Kingdom.
Napoleon gave blank checks on his bank to one of his marshals. One complained to the Emperor that the drafts made were enormous and should not be allowed. 'Let him alone; he trusts and honors me, and I will trust him,' said Napoleon. God puts all things at the command of His saints, and trusts them while He asks them to trust Him. Why, then, should we not be thankful?
Nothing will keep the heart so young and banish carking care so quickly and smooth the wrinkles from the brow so certainly, and fill the life with such beauty, and make one's influence so fragrant and gracious and shed abroad such peace and gladness as this sweet spirit of thankfulness.
This spirit can and should be cultivated. There is much in the lot of each of us to be thankful for. We should thank Him for personal liberty, and for the measure of health we have. There is a good old soul up the Hudson who for thirty years or thereabouts has been lying in bed, while her bones have softened, and she is utterly helpless and always in pain, but she praises and praises and praises God.
We should thank Him that we are not insane, that our poor minds are not unbalanced and rent and torn by horrid nightmares and dread and nameless terrors and deep despair and wild and restless ravings. We should thank Him for the light and blessings of civilization, past mercies, present comforts and future prospects; for food, with the appetite to eat it, and the power to digest it, raiment to wear, books to read; for the Church, The Salvation Army, the open Bible, the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, the glorious possibility of escape from the penalty and the power, the consequences and the character of sin; for home and friends, and Heaven bending over all, with God's sweet invitation, 'Come!' Truly, we have much to thank God for, but if we would be thankful, we must set our hearts to do it with a will. We grumble and complain without thought, but we must think to give thanks. To murmur and repine is natural, to give thanks -- to really give thanks -- is supernatural, is gracious, is a spirit not earth-born, but comes down from God out of Heaven, and yet, like all things from God, it can be cultivated.
David said, 'I will praise Thee' (Ps. ix. 1). He put his will into it. Daniel 'prayed, and gave thanks' (Dan. vi. 10) three times a day. David outdid Daniel, for he says, 'Seven times a day do I praise Thee' (Ps. cxix. 164).
Know this, that if you are not thankful your heart is yet bad, your soul unclean, for good hearts and pure souls are thankful. So go to the root of the matter and get rid of sin and get filled with the Holy Spirit. Flee to Jesus for riddance from the unholy spirit, and the subtle selfishness that possesses you.
People who live in the midst of foul odors and harsh sounds cease to smell and hear them, but if for a while they could slip away to the sweet air and holy quiet of the woods and fields, and then return to their noxious and noisy homes, their quickened senses would be shocked by their noisome surroundings. And so selfish people often live in themselves so long that they do not realize their selfishness and sin, except as light from Heaven falls upon them. But when God's sweet breath blows over them and His light shines into them, then they are amazed at themselves. When some humble saint, full of faith and joy and the Holy Ghost, crosses their path, if they will but look, they may see themselves as in a glass.
But especially is this so when we look at Jesus; and if we continue, the look will transform us. It is of this that the Apostle speaks when he says, 'But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord' (2 Cor. iii. 18). And when this change has taken place, the joy of Jesus will be poured into the heart and praise will well up and bubble forth in thanksgiving as an unfailing fountain of sweet waters, filling it with joy, and earth, your little corner of earth, with peace, and gladdening all who see and hear. But if that change has not fully taken place in you, do not withhold the praise that is God's due, but think of His loving-kindness and tender and multiplied mercies, and begin to thank Him now, and your very giving of thanks will help to hasten the change. Begin now! Praise the Lord!