Coming into Cleveland harbor one evening, just after nightfall, a number of passengers were gathered on the upper deck eagerly watching the colored breakwater lights and the city lights beyond. Suddenly a general curiosity was aroused by a small boat of some sort, on the left, scudding swiftly along in the darkness like a blacker streak on the black waters. A few of us who chanced to be near the captain on the smaller deck above, heard him quietly say, "Turn on the searchlight." Almost instantly an intense white light shone full on the stranger-boat, bringing it to view so distinctly that we could almost count the nail-heads, and the strands in her cordage.
If some of us here to-night have made the prayer suggested in our last talk together -- Lord Jesus, show me what there is in my life that is displeasing to Thee, that Thou wouldst change -- we will appreciate something of the power of that Lake Erie searchlight. There is a searchlight whiter, intenser, more keenly piercing than any other. Into every heart that desires, and will hold steadily open to it, the Lord Jesus will turn that searching light. Then you will begin to see things as they actually are. And that sight may well lead to discouragement. Many a hidden thing, which you are glad enough to have hidden, will be plainly seen. How is it possible, you will be ready to ask, for me to lead the life the Master's ambition has planned for me, with such mixed motives, selfish ambitions, sinfulness and weakness as I am beginning to get a glimpse of -- how is it possible?
There is one answer to that intense heart-question, and only one. We must have power, some supernatural power, something outside of us, and above us, and far greater than we, to come in and win the victory within us and for us.
If that young man whose inner life is passion-swept, one tidal wave of fierce temptation, hot on the heels of the last, until all the moorings are snapped, and he driven rudderless out to sea -- if he is to ride masterfully upon that sea he must have power.
If that young woman is to be as attractive, and womanly winsome in the society circle where she moves, as she is meant to be, and yet able to shape her lips into a gently uttered, but rock-ribbed no when certain well-understood questionable matters come up, she must have power. If society young people are to remain in the world, and yet not be swayed by its spirit: on one side not prudish, nor fanatical, nor extreme, but cheery, and radiant, and full-lived, and yet free of those compromising entanglements that are common to society everywhere, they must have a rare pervasive power.
For that business man down in the sharp competition of the world where duty calls him, to resist the sly temptations to overreach, to keep keenly alert not to be overreached; and through all to preserve an uncensorious spirit, unhurt by the selfishness of the crowd -- tell me, some of you men -- will that not take power? Aye, more power than some of us know about, yet.
For that same man to go through his store and remove from shelf or counter some article which yields a good profit, but which he knows his Master would not have there -- Ah! that'll take power.
It takes power to keep the body under control: the mouth clean and sweet, both physically and morally: the eye turned away from the thing that should not be thought about: the ear closed to what should not enter that in-gate of the heart: to allow no picture to hang upon the walls of your imagination that may not hang upon the walls of your home: to keep every organ of the body pure for nature's holy function only -- that takes mighty power.
For that young man to be wide-awake, a pusher in business, and yet steadily, determinedly to hold back any crowding of the other side of his life: the inner side, the outer-helpful side, the Bible-reading- and secret-prayer- and quiet personal-work-side of his life, that will take real power.
It will take a power that some of us have not known to let that glass go untouched, and that quieting drug untasted and unhandled. If the rear end of some pharmacies could speak out, many a story would startle our ears of struggles and defeats that tell sadly of utter lack of power.
It takes power for the man of God in the pulpit to speak plainly about particular sins before the faces of those who are living in them; and still more power to do it with the rare tactfulness and tenderness of the Galilean preacher. It takes power to stick to the Gospel story and the old book, when literature and philosophy present such fine opportunities for the essays that are so enjoyable and that bring such flattering notice. It takes power to leave out the finely woven rhetoric that you are disposed to put in for the sake of the compliment it will bring from that literary woman down yonder, or that bright, brainy young lawyer in the fifth pew on the left aisle. It takes power to see that the lips that speak for God are thoroughly clean lips, and the life that stands before that audience a pure life.
It takes power to keep sweet in the home, where, if anywhere, the seamy side is apt to stick out. How many wooden oaths could kicked chairs and slammed doors tell of! After all the home-life comes close to being the real test of power, does it not? It takes power to be gracious and strong, and patient and tender, and cheery, in the commonplace things, and the commonplace places, does it not?
Now, I have something to tell you to-night that to me is very wonderful, and constantly growing in wonder. It is this -- the Master has thought of all that! He has thought into your life. Yes, I mean your particular life, and made an arrangement to fully cover all your need of power. He stands anew in our midst to-day, and putting His pierced hand gently upon your arm, His low, loving, clear voice says quietly, but very distinctly, "You -- you shall have power." For every subtle, strong temptation, for every cry of need, for every low moan of disappointment, for every locking of the jaws in the resolution of despair, for every disheartened look out into the morrow, for every yearningly ambitious heart there comes to-night that unmistakable ringing promise of His -- ye shall have power.
The Olivet Message.
Our needs argue the necessity of power. And the argument is strengthened by the peculiar emphasis of the Master's words. Do you remember that wondrous Olivet scene? In the quiet twilight of a Sabbath evening a group of twelve young men stand yonder on the brow of Olives. The last glowing gleams of the setting sun fill all the western sky, and shed a halo of yellow glory-light over the hilltop, through the trees, in upon that group. You instantly pick out the leader. No mistaking Him. And around Him group the eleven men who have lived with Him these months past, now eagerly gazing into that marvelous face, listening for His words. He is going away. They know that. Coming back soon, they understand. But in His absence the work He has begun is to be entrusted to their hands. And so with ears and eyes they listen intently for the good-bye word -- His last message. It will mean so much in the coming days.
Two things the Master says. The first is that ringing "go ye" so familiar to every true heart. The second is a very decisive, distinct "but tarry ye." What, wait still longer! Tarry, now, when your great work is done! Listen again, while His parting words cut the air with their startling distinctness "but tarry ye -- until ye be endued with power."
I could readily imagine impulsive Peter quickly saying, "What! shall we tarry when the whole world is dying! Do we not know enough now?" And the Master's answer would come in that clear, quiet voice of His, "yes, tarry: you have knowledge enough, but knowledge is not enough, there must be power."
There is knowledge enough within the christian church of every land -- aye, knowledge enough within the walls of this building to-night to convert the world, if knowledge would do it. Into many a life, through home training, and school, and college, has come knowledge, while power lingers without -- a stranger. Knowledge -- the twin idol with gold to American hearts -- is essential, but, let it be plainly said, is not the essential. Knowledge is the fuel piled up in the fireplace. The mantel is of carved oak, and the fenders so highly polished they seem almost to send out warmth, but the thermometer is working down toward zero, and the people are shivering. The spark of living fire is essential. Then how all changes! There must be fire from above to kindle our knowledge and ourselves before any of the needed results will come.
There is no language strong enough to tell how absolutely needful it is that every follower of Jesus Christ from the one most prominent in leadership down to the very humblest disciple, shall receive this promised power.
Look at these men Jesus is talking to. There is Peter, the man of rock, and John and James, the sons of thunder. They were with the Lord on the Transfiguration Mount, and when He raised the dead. They were near by during the awful agony of Gethsemane. They were admitted nearer to the Master's inner life than any others. There is quiet matter-of-fact Andrew, who had a reputation for bringing others to Jesus. There is Nathanael, in whom is no guile. It is to these men that there comes that positive command to tarry. If they needed such a command, do not we?
"Yes," someone says, "I understand that this power you speak of is something the leaders and preachers must have, but you scarcely mean that there is the same necessity for us people down in the ranks, and that we are to expect the same power as these others, do you?" Will you please call to mind that original Pentecost company? There were one hundred and twenty of them. And while there was a Peter being prepared to preach that tremendous sermon, and a John to write five books of the New Testament and probably a James to preside over the affairs of the Jerusalem Church, and possibly a Stephen, and a Philip, yet these are only a few. By far the greater number, both men and women, are unnamed and unknown. Just the common, every-day folk, the filling-in of society; aye, the very foundation of all society. They had no prominent part to play. But they accepted the Master's promise of power, and His command to wait, as made to them. And as a result they, too, were filled with the Holy Spirit, that wonderful morning. I think, very likely, "the good man of the house" whose guest Jesus was that last night was there, and all the Marys, including the Bethany Mary, who simply sat at His feet, and the Magdalene Mary, and housekeeper Martha, and maybe that little lad whose loaves and fishes had been used about a year before. That was the sort of company that prayerfully, with one accord, not only waited but received that never-to-be-forgotten filling of the Holy Spirit.
Certainly, as some of you think, the preacher must have this power peculiarly for his leadership. But just as really he needs it because he is a man for his living, to make him sweet and gentle and patient down in his home: to make him sympathetic and strong in his constant contact with the hungry hearts he must meet. That young mechanic must have this promised power if he is to live an earnest, manly life in that shop. That school girl, whose home duties crowd her time so; that keen-minded student working for honors amid strong competition; these society young people; these all need, above all else, this promised power that in, and through, and around and above all of their lives may be a wholesomely sweet, earnest Christliness, pervading the life even as the odor of flowers pervades a room.
Do you remember Paul's list of the traits of character that mark a christian life -- love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faithfulness, self-control? Suppose for a moment you think through a list of the opposites of those nine
If that father is so to live at home before those wide-awake, growing boys that he can keep up the family altar, and instead of letting it become a mere irksome form, make it the green, fresh spot in the home life, he must have this promised power, for he cannot do it of himself. I presume some of you fathers know that.
There is that mother, living in what would be reckoned a humble home, one of a thousand like it, but charged with the most sacred trust ever committed to human hands -- the molding of precious lives. If there be hallowed ground anywhere surely it is there, in the life of that home. What patience and tirelessness, and love and tact and wisdom and wealth of resource does that woman not need! Ah, mothers! if any one needs to tarry and receive the power promised by the Son of that Mary, who was filled with the Holy Spirit from before His birth for her sacred trust, surely you do.
Here sits one whose life plans seem to have gone all askew. The thing you love to do, and had fondly planned over, removed utterly beyond your reach and you compelled to fit in to something for which you have no taste. It will take nothing less than the power the Master promised for you to go on faithfully, cheerfully just where you have been placed, no repining, no complaining, even in your innermost soul, but, instead, a glad, joyous fitting into the Father's plan with a radiant light in the face. Only His power can accomplish that victory! But His can. And His may be yours for the tarrying and the taking.
Let me repeat then with all the emphasis possible that as certainly as you need to trust Jesus Christ for your soul's salvation, you also need to receive this power of the Holy Spirit to work that salvation out in your present life.
A Double Center.
It has helped me greatly in understanding the Master's insistent emphasis upon the promise of power to keep clearly in mind that the christian system of truth revolves around a double center. It is illustrated best not by a circle with its single center, but by an ellipse with its twin centers. There are two central truths -- not one, but two. The first of the two is grained deep down in the common Christian teaching and understanding. If I should ask any group of Sabbath school children in this town, next Sabbath morning, the question: What is the most important thing we christians believe? Amid the great variety in the form of answer would come, in substance, without doubt, this reply: "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." And they would be right. But there is a second truth -- very reverently and thoughtfully let me say -- of equal importance with that; namely, this: the Holy Spirit empowereth against all sin, and for life and service. These two truths are co-ordinate. They run in parallel lines. They belong together. They are really two halves of the one great truth. But this second half needs emphasis, because it has not always been put into its proper place beside the other.
Jesus died on the cross to make freedom from sin possible. The Holy Spirit dwells within me to make freedom from sin actual. The Holy Spirit does in me what Jesus did for me. The Lord Jesus makes a deposit in the bank on my account. The Spirit checks the money out and puts it into my hands. Jesus does in me now by His Spirit what He did for me centuries ago on the cross, in His person.
Now these two truths, or two parts of the same truth, go together in God's plan, but, with some exceptions, have not gone together in men's experience. That explains why so many christian lives are a failure and a reproach. The Church of Christ has been gazing so intently upon the hill of the cross with its blood-red message of sin and love, that it has largely lost sight of the Ascension Mount with its legacy of power. We have been so enwrapt with that marvelous scene on Calvary -- and what wonder! -- that we have allowed ourselves to lose the intense significance of Pentecost. That last victorious shout -- "It is finished" -- has been crowding out in our ears its counterpart -- the equally victorious cry of Olivet -- "All power hath been given unto Me."
The christian's range of vision must always take in two hill-tops -- Calvary and Olivet. Calvary -- sin conquered through the blood of Jesus, a matter of history. Olivet -- sin conquered through the power of Jesus, a matter of experience. When the subject is spoken of, we are apt to say: "Yes, that is correct. I understand that." But do we understand it in our experience? So certainly as I must trust Jesus as my Saviour so certainly must I constantly yield my life to the control of the Spirit of Jesus if I am to find real the practical power of His salvation.
As surely as men are now urged to accept Jesus as the great step in life, so surely should they be instructed to yield themselves to the Holy Spirit's control that Jesus' plan for their lives may be carried through.
You remember in the olden time the Hebrew men were required to appear before God in the appointed place three times during the year. At the Passover, and at Pentecost, and again at the harvest home feast of Tabernacles. So it is required of every man of us who would fit his life into God's plan that he shall first of all come to the Passover feast, where Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. And then that he shall as certainly come to the great Pentecost feast, or feast of first fruits where a glorified Passover Lamb breathes down His Spirit of power into the life. And then he is sure to have a constant attendance at a first-fruits feast all his days, with a great harvest home festival at the end.
I said there were two central truths. Will you notice that the gospels put it also in this way, that Jesus came to do two things -- not one thing, but two things -- in working out our salvation. That the first is dependent for its practical power upon the second, and the second is the completing or carrying into effect of the power of the first. That the first -- let me say it with great reverence -- is valueless without the second.
What was Jesus' mission? Would you not expect His forerunner to understand it? Listen, then, to his words. When questioned specifically by the official deputation sent from the national leaders at Jerusalem, he pointed to Jesus, and declared that He had come for a two-fold purpose. Listen: "Behold the Lamb of God who beareth away the sin of the world"; and then he added, and the word comes to us with the peculiar emphasis of repetition by each of the four gospel scribes -- "this is He that baptizeth with the Holy Spirit." That was spoken to them originally without doubt in a national sense. It just as surely applies to every one of us in a personal sense.
Mark also the emphasis of Jesus' own teachings regarding this second part of His mission. At the very beginning He spoke the decided words about the necessity of being born of the Spirit. And we are all impressed with that fact. But observe that several times, in the brief gospel record, He refers the disciples to the overshadowing importance of the Spirit's control in the life. And that He devotes a large part of that last long confidential talk which John records, to this special subject, pointing out the new experiences to come with the coming of the Spirit, and holding out to them as the greatest evidence of His own love the promise of power.
It adds intense emphasis to all this to note that Jesus Himself, very Son of God, was in that wonderful human life of His utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit. At the very outset, before venturing upon a single act or word of His appointed ministry, He waits at the Jordan waters, until the promised anointing of power came. What a picture does that prayerfully waiting Jesus present to powerless men to-day! From that moment every bit and part of His life was under the control of that Holy Spirit. Impelled into the wilderness for that fierce set-to with Satan, coming back to Galilee within the power of the Spirit, He himself clearly stated more than once, that it was through this anointing that He preached, and taught, and healed, and cast out demons. The writer to the Hebrews assures us that it was through the power of the Eternal Spirit that He was enabled to go through the awful experiences of Gethsemane and Calvary. And Luke adds that it was through the same empowering Spirit that He gave commandment to the apostles for the stupendous task of world-wide evangelization. And then at the very last referring them to that life of His, He said: "As the father hath sent Me even so send I you." Let me ask if He, very God of very God, yet in His earthly life intensely human, needed that anointing, do not we? If He waited for that experience before venturing upon any service, shall not you and I?
But we must turn to the book of Acts to get fully within the grip of this truth. For it, with the epistles fitting into it, is peculiarly the Holy Spirit book, even as the Old Testament is the Jehovah book and the gospels with Revelation the Jesus book. The climax of the gospels is in the Acts. What is promised in the gospels is experienced in the Acts.
Jesus is dominant in the gospels; the Spirit of Jesus in the Acts. He is the only continuous personality from first to last. He is the common denominator of the book. The first twelve chapters group about Peter, the remaining sixteen about Paul, but distinctly above both they all group about the Holy Spirit. He is the one dominant factor throughout. The first fourth of the book is fairly aflame with His presence at the center -- Jerusalem. Thence out to Samaria, and through the Cornelius door to the whole outer non-Jewish world; at Antioch the new center, and thence through the uttermost parts of the Roman empire into its heart, His is the presence recognized and obeyed. He is ceaselessly guiding, empowering, inspiring, checking, controlling clear to the abrupt end. His is the one mastering personality. And everywhere His presence is a transforming presence. Nothing short of startling is the change in Peter, in the attitude of the Jerusalem thousands, in the persecutor Saul, in the spirit of these disciples, in the unprecedented and unparalleled unselfishness shown. It is revolutionary. Ah! it was meant to be so. This book is the living illustration of what Jesus meant by His teaching regarding His successor. It becomes also an acted illustration of what the personal christian life is meant to be.
The Spirit's presence and the necessity of His control is deep-grained in the consciousness of the leaders in this book. Leaving the stirring scenes at the capital the eighth chapter takes us down to Samaria. Multitudes have been led to believe through the preaching of a man who has been chosen to look after the business matters of the church. Peter and John are sent down to aid the new movement. Note that their very first concern is to spend time in prayer that this great company may receive the Holy Spirit.
The next chapter shifts the scene to Damascus. A man unknown save for this incident is sent as God's messenger to Saul. As he lays his hand upon this chosen man and speaks the light-giving words he instinctively adds, "and be filled with the Holy Spirit." That is not recorded as a part of what he had been told to do. But plainly this humble man of God believes that that is the essential element in Saul's preparation for his great work.
In the tenth chapter the Holy Spirit's action with Cornelius completely upsets the life-long, rock-rooted ideas of these intensely national, and intensely exclusive Jews. Yet it is accepted as final.
With what quaint simplicity does the thirteenth chapter tell of the Holy Spirit's initiation of those great missionary journeys of Paul from the new center of world evangelization? "the Holy Spirit said, etc." And how like it is the language of James in delivering the judgment of the first church council: -- "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us."
Paul's conviction is very plain from numerous references in those wonderful heart-searching and heart-revealing letters of his. But one instance in this Book of Acts will serve as a fair illustration of his teaching and habit. It is in the nineteenth chapter. In his travels he has come as far as to Ephesus, and finds there a small company of earnest disciples. They are strangers to him. He longs to help them, but must first find their need. At once he puts a question to them. A question may be a great revealer. This one reveals his own conception of what must be the pivotal experience of every true follower of Jesus. He asks: "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed?"
But they had been poorly instructed, like many others since, and were not clear just what he meant. They had received the baptism of John -- a baptism of repentance; but not the baptism of Jesus -- a baptism of power. And Paul at once gives himself up to instructing and then praying with them until the promised gift is graciously bestowed. That is the last we hear of those twelve persons. Some of them may have been women. Some may have come to be leaders in that great Ephesian Church. But of that nothing is said. The emphasis remains on the fact that in Paul's mind because they were followers of the Lord Jesus they must have this empowering experience of the Holy Spirit's infilling.
Plainly in this Book of Acts the pivot on which all else rests and turns is the unhindered presence of the Holy Spirit.
If you will stop a while to think into it you will find that a rightly rounded christian life has five essential characteristics. I mean essential in the same sense as that light is an essential to the eye. The eye's seeing depends wholly on light. If it does not see light, by and by, it cannot see light. The ear that hears no sound loses the power to hear sound. Light is essential to the healthful eye: sound to the ear: air to the lungs: blood to the heart. Just as really are these five things essential to a strong healthful christian life.
The second of these is a heart-love for the old Book of God. Not reading it as a duty -- taking a chapter at night because you feel you must. I do not mean that just now. But reading it because you love to; as you would a love letter or a letter from home. Thinking about it as the writer of the one hundred and nineteenth psalm did. Listen to him for a moment in that one psalm, talking about this book: "I delight," "I will delight," "My delight" -- in all nine times. "I love," "Oh! how I love," "I do love," "Consider how I love," "I love exceedingly," again nine times in all. "I have longed," "My eyes fail," "My soul breaketh," speaking of the intensity of his desire to get alone with the book. "Sweeter than honey," "As great spoil," "As much as all riches," "Better than thousands of gold," "Above gold, yea, above fine gold." And all that packed into less than two leaves. Do you love this Book like that? Would you like to? Wait a moment.
The third essential is right habits of prayer. Living a veritable life of prayer. Making prayer the chief part not alone of your life, but of your service. Having answers to prayer as a constant experience. Being like the young man in a conference in India, who said, "I used to pray three times a day: Now I pray only once a day, and that is all day." Feet busy all the day, hands ceaselessly active, head full of matters of business, but the heart never out of communication with Him. Has prayer become to you like that? Would you have it so? Wait a moment.
The fourth essential is a pure, earnest, unselfish life. Our lives are the strongest part of us -- or else the weakest. A man knows the least of the influence of his own life. Life is not mere length of time but the daily web of character we unconsciously weave. Our thoughts, imaginations, purposes, motives, love, will, are the under threads: our words, tone of voice, looks, acts, habits are the upper threads: and the passing moment is the shuttle swiftly, ceaselessly, relentlessly, weaving those threads into a web, and that web is life. It is woven, not by our wishing, or willing, but irresistibly, unavoidably, woven by what we are, moment by moment, hour after hour. What is your life weaving out? Is it attractive because of the power in it of His presence? Would you have it so? Would you know the secret of a life marked by the strange beauty of humility, and fragrant with the odor of His presence? Wait just a moment.
The fifth essential is a passion for winning others one by one to the Lord Jesus. A passion, I say. I may use no weaker word than that. A passion burning with the steady flame of anthracite. A passion for winning: not driving, nor dragging, but drawing men. I am not talking about preachers just now, as preachers, but about every one of us. Do you know the peculiar delight there is in winning the fellow by your side, the girl in your social circle, to Jesus Christ? No? Ah, you have missed half your life! Would you have such an intense passion as that, thrilling your heart, and inspiring your life, and know how to do it skillfully and tactfully?
Let me tell you with my heart that the secret not only of this, but of all four of these essentials I have named lies in the first one which I have not yet named, and grows out of it. Given the first the others will follow as day follows the rising sun.
What is the first great essential? It is this -- the unrestrained, unhindered, controlling presence in the heart of the Holy Spirit. It is allowing Jesus' other Self, the Holy Spirit, to take full possession and maintain a loving but absolute monopoly of all your powers.
My friend, have you received this promised power? Is there a growing up of those four things within you by His grace? Does the Holy Spirit have freeness of sway in you? Are you conscious of the fullness of His love and power -- conscious enough to know how much there is beyond of which you are not conscious? Does your heart say, "No." Well, things may be moving smoothly in that church of which you are pastor, and in that school over which you preside. Business may be in a satisfactory condition. Your standing in society may be quite pleasing. Your plans working out well. The family may be growing up around you as you had hoped. But let me say to you very kindly but very plainly your life thus far is a failure. You have been succeeding splendidly it may be in a great many important matters, but they are the details and in the main issue you have failed utterly.
And to you to-night I bring one message -- the Master's Olivet message -- "tarry ye." No need of tarrying, as with these disciples, for God to do something. His part has been done, and splendidly done. And He waits now upon you. But tarry until you are willing to put out of your life what displeases Him, no matter what that may mean to you. Tarry until your eyesight is corrected; until your will is surrendered. Tarry that you may start the habit of tarrying, for those two Olivet words, "Go" and "tarry," will become the even-balancing law of your new life. A constant going to do His will; a continual tarrying to find out His will. Tarry to get your ears cleared and quieted so you can learn to recognize that low voice of His. Tarry earnestly, steadily until that touch of power comes to change, and cleanse, and quiet, and to give you a totally new conception of what power is. Then you can understand the experience of the one who wrote: --
"My hands were filled with many things
"My hands were stained with marks of toil,
"My hands were growing feverish
"My hands were strong in fancied strength,
 Gal., 5:22.