|Home Introduction||Personal Balance||Church Balance||Links|
|Pastor's Heart||Housechurch||Reading List||About Us||Contact Us|
Title: Absolute Surrender
Creator(s): Murray, Andrew (1828-1917)
Print Basis: First published in 1895. This edition, Chicago: Moody
Rights: Public Domain
CCEL Subjects: Classic; Non-Fiction; All
LC Call no: BV4501
Practical religion. The Christian life
Scanned and corrected by Claude King, September 1999. This text is in
public domain and was first published in 1895.
and Other Addresses
Moody Press - Chicago
"The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love"
Separated unto the Holy Ghost
Impossible with Man, Possible with God
"O Wretched Man that I Am"
"Having Begun in the Spirit"
Kept by the Power of God
"Ye Are the Branches"
"And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and
there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots:
and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he
sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto
him, Thus saith Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives
also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of
Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I
am thine and all that I have" (I Kings 20: 1-4).
What Ben Hadad asked was absolute surrender; and what Ahab gave was
what was asked of him--absolute surrender. I want to use these words:
"My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I
have," as the words of absolute surrender with which every child of
God ought to yield himself to his Father. We have heard it before, but
we need to hear it very definitely -- the condition of God's blessing
is absolute surrender of all into His hands. Praise God! If our hearts
are willing for that, there is no end to what God will do for us, and
to the blessing God will bestow.
Absolute surrender -- let me tell you where I got those words. I used
them myself often, and you have heard them numberless times. But in
Scotland once I was in a company where we were talking about the
condition of Christ's Church, and what the great need of the Church
and of believers is; and there was in our company a godly worker who
has much to do in training workers, and I asked him what he would say
was the great need of the Church, and the message that ought to be
preached. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly:
"Absolute surrender to God is the one thing."
The words struck me as never before. And that man began to tell how,
in the workers with whom he' had to deal, he finds that if they are
sound on that point, even though they be backward, they are willing to
be taught and helped, and they always improve; whereas others who are
not sound there very often go back and leave the work. The condition
for obtaining God's full blessing is absolute surrender to Him.
And now, I desire by God's grace to give to you this message -- that
your God in Heaven answers the prayers which you have offered for
blessing on yourselves and for blessing on those around you by this
one demand: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into
His hands? What is our answer to be? God knows there are hundreds of
hearts who have said it, and there are hundreds more who long to say
it but hardly dare to do so. And there are hearts who have said it,
but who have yet miserably failed, and who feel themselves condemned
because they did not find the secret of the power to live that life.
May God have a word for all!
Let me say, first of all, that God claims it from us.
God Expects Your Surrender
Yes, it has its foundation in the very nature of God God cannot do
otherwise. Who is God? He is the Fountain of life, the only Source of
existence and power and goodness, and throughout the universe there is
nothing good but what God works, God has created the sun, and the
moon, and the stars, and the flowers, and the trees, and the grass;
and are they not all absolutely surrendered to God? Do they not allow
God to work in them just what He pleases? When God clothes the lily
with its beauty, is it not yielded up, surrendered, given over to God
as He works in it its beauty? And God's redeemed children, oh, can you
think that God can work His work if there is only half or a part of
them surrendered? God cannot do it. God is life, and love, and
blessing, and power, and infinite beauty, and God delights to
communicate Himself to every child who is prepared to receive Him; but
ah! this one lack of absolute surrender is just the thing that hinders
God. And now He comes, and as God, He claims it.
You know in daily life what absolute surrender is. You know that
everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and
service. I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely
surrendered to the one work of writing, and that pen must be
absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it.
If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. This coat is
absolutely given up to me to, cover my body. This building is entirely
given up to religious services. And now, do you expect that in your
immortal being, in the divine nature that you have received by
regeneration, God can work His work, every day and every hour, unless
you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot. The Temple of Solomon
was absolutely surrendered to God when it was dedicated to Him. And
every one of us is a temple of God, in which God will dwell and work
mightily on one condition -- absolute surrender to Him. God claims it,
God is worthy of it, and without it God cannot work His blessed work
God not only claims it, but God will work it Himself.
God Accomplishes Your Surrender
I am sure there is many a heart that says: "Ah, but that absolute
surrender implies so much!" Someone says: "Oh, I have passed through
so much trial and suffering, and there is so much of the self-life
still remaining, and I dare not face the entire giving of it up,
because I know it will cause so much trouble and agony."
Alas! alas! that God's children have such thoughts of Him, such cruel
thoughts. Oh, I come to you with a message, fearful and anxious one.
God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength,
or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you. Do we
not read: "It is God that worketh in us, both to will and to do of his
good pleasure"? And that is what we should seek for -- to go on our
faces before God, until our hearts learn to believe that the
everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong, to
conquer what is evil, and to work what is well-pleasing in His blessed
sight. God Himself will work it in you.
Look at the men in the Old Testament, like Abraham. Do you think it
was by accident that God found that man, the father of the faithful
and the Friend of God, and that it was Abraham himself, apart from
God, who had such faith and such obedience and such devotion? You know
it is not so. God raised him up and prepared him as an instrument for
Did not God say to Pharaoh: "For this cause have I raised thee up, for
to show in thee my power"?
And if God said that of him, will not God say it far more of every
child of His?
Oh, I want to encourage you, and I want you to cast away every fear.
Come with that feeble desire; and if there is the fear which says:
"Oh, my desire is not strong enough, I am not willing for everything
that may come, I do not feel bold enough to say I can conquer
everything" -- I pray you, learn to know and trust your God now. Say:
"My God, I am willing that Thou shouldst make me willing." If there is
anything holding you back, or any sacrifice you are afraid of making,
come to God now, and prove how gracious your God is, and be not afraid
that He will command from you what He will not bestow.
God comes and offers to work this absolute surrender in you. All these
searchings and hungerings and longings that are in your heart, I tell
you they are the drawings of the divine magnet, Christ Jesus. He lived
a life of absolute surrender, He has possession of you; He is living
in your heart by His Holy Spirit. You have hindered and hindered Him
terribly, but He desires to help you to get hold of Him entirely. And
He comes and draws you now by His message and words. Will you not come
and trust God to work in you that absolute surrender to Himself? Yes,
blessed be God, He can do it, and He will do it.
God not only claims it and works it, but God accepts it when we bring
it to Him.
God Accepts Your Surrender
God works it in the secret of our heart, God urges us by the hidden
power of His Holy Spirit to come and speak it out, and we have to
bring and to yield to Him that absolute surrender. But remember, when
you come and bring God that absolute surrender, it may, as far as your
feelings or your consciousness go, be a thing of great imperfection,
and you may doubt and hesitate and say:
"Is it absolute?"
But, oh, remember there was once a man to whom Christ had said:
"If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that
And his heart was afraid, and he cried out:
"Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief."
That was a faith that triumphed over the Devil, and the evil spirit
was cast out. And if you come and say: "Lord, I yield myself in
absolute surrender to my God," even though it be with a trembling
heart and with the consciousness: "I do not feel the power, I do not
feel the determination, I do not feel the assurance," it will succeed.
Be not afraid, but come just as you are, and even in the midst of your
trembling the power of the Holy Ghost will work.
Have you never yet learned the lesson that the Holy Ghost works with
mighty power, while on the human side everything appears feeble? Look
at the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane. We read that He, "through the
eternal Spirit," offered Himself a sacrifice unto God. The Almighty
Spirit of God was enabling Him to do it. And yet what agony and fear
and exceeding sorrow came over Him, and how He prayed! Externally, you
can see no sign of the mighty power of the Spirit, but the Spirit of
God was there. And even so, while you are feeble and fighting and
trembling, in faith in the hidden work of God's Spirit do not fear,
but yield yourself.
And when you do yield yourself in absolute surrender, let it be in the
faith that God does now accept of it. That is the great point, and
that is what we so often miss -- that believers should be thus
occupied with God in this matter of surrender. I pray you, be occupied
with God. We want to get help, every one of us, so that in our daily
life God shall be clearer to us, God shall have the right place, and
be "all in all." And if we are to have that through life, let us begin
now and look away from ourselves, and look up to God. Let each believe
-- while I, a poor worm on earth and a trembling child of God, full of
failure and sin and fear, bow here, and no one knows what passes
through my heart, and while I in simplicity say, O God, I accept Thy
terms; I have pleaded for blessing on myself and others, I have
accepted Thy terms of absolute surrender -- while your heart says that
in deep silence, remember there is a God present that takes note of
it, and writes it down in His book, and there is a God present who at
that very moment takes possession of you. You may not feel it, you may
not realize it, but God takes possession if you will trust Him..
God not only claims it, and works it, and accepts it when I bring it,
but God maintains it.
God Maintains Your Surrender
That is the great difficulty with many. People say: "I have often been
stirred at a meeting, or at a convention, and I have consecrated
myself to God, but it has passed away. I know it may last for a week
or for a month, but away it fades, and after a time it is all gone."
But listen! It is because you do not believe what I am now going to
tell you and remind you of. When God has begun the work of absolute
surrender in you, and when God has accepted your surrender, then God
holds Himself bound to care for it and to keep it. Will you believe
In this matter of surrender there are two: God and I -- I a worm, God
the everlasting and omnipotent Jehovah. Worm, will you be afraid to
trust yourself to this mighty God now? God is willing. Do you not
believe that He can keep you continually, day by day, and moment by
Moment by moment I'm kept in His love;
Moment by moment I've life from above.
If God allows the sun to shine upon you moment by moment, without
intermission, will not God let His life shine upon you every moment?
And why have you not experienced it? Because you have not trusted God
for it, and you do not surrender yourself absolutely to God in that
A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that.
Yes, it has something far more than difficulties: it is a life that
with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the
power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a
life to which we are destined, and a life that is possible for us,
praise God! Let us believe that God will maintain it.
Some of you have read the words of that aged saint who, on his
ninetieth birthday, told of all God's goodness to him -- I mean George
Muller. What did he say he believed to be the secret of his happiness,
and of all the blessing which God had given him? He said he believed
there were two reasons. The one was that he had been enabled by grace
to maintain a good conscience before God day by day; the other was,
that he was a lover of God's Word. Ah, yes, a good conscience is
complete obedience to God day by day, and fellowship with God every
day in His Word, and prayer -- that is a life of absolute surrender..
Such a life has two sides -- on the one side, absolute surrender to
work what God wants you to do; on the other side, to let God work what
He wants to do.
First, to do what God wants you to do.
Give up yourselves absolutely to the will of God. You know something
of that will; not enough, far from all. But say absolutely to the Lord
God: "By Thy grace I desire to do Thy will in everything, every moment
of every day." Say: "Lord God, not a word upon my tongue but for Thy
glory, not a movement of my temper but for Thy glory, not an affection
of love or hate in my heart but for Thy glory, and according to Thy
Someone says: "Do you think that possible?"
I ask, What has God promised you, and what can God do to fill a vessel
absolutely surrendered to Him? Oh, God wants to bless you in a way
beyond what you expect. From the beginning, ear hath not heard,
neither hath the eye seen, what God hath prepared for them that wait
for Him. God has prepared unheard-of-things, blessings much more
wonderful than you can imagine, more mighty than you can conceive.
They are divine blessings. Oh, say now:
"I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do only what God
It is God who will enable you to carry out the surrender.
And, on the other side, come and say: "I give myself absolutely to
God, to let Him work in me to will and to do of His good pleasure, as
He has promised to do."
Yes, the living God wants to work in His children in a way that we
cannot understand, but that God's Word has revealed, and He wants to
work in us every moment of the day. God is willing to maintain our
life. Only let our absolute surrender be one of simple, childlike, and
God Blesses When You Surrender
This absolute surrender to God will wonderfully bless.
What Ahab said to his enemy, King Ben-hadad -- "My lord, O king,
according to thy word I am thine, and all that I have" -- shall we not
say to our God and loving Father? If we do say it, God's blessing will
come upon us. God wants us to be separate from the world; we are
called to come out from the world that hates God. Come out for God,
and say: "Lord, anything for Thee." If you say that with prayer, and
speak that into God's ear, He will accept it, and He will teach you
what it means.s.
I say again, God will bless you. You have been praying for blessing.
But do remember, there must be absolute surrender. At every tea-table
you see it. Why is tea poured into that cup? Because it is empty, and
given up for the tea. But put ink, or vinegar, or wine into it, and
will they pour the tea into the vessel? And can God fill you, can God
bless you if you are not absolutely surrendered to Him? He cannot. Let
us believe God has wonderful blessings for us, if we will but stand up
for God, and say, be it with a trembling will, yet with a believing
"O God, I accept Thy demands. I am thine and all that I have. Absolute
surrender is what my soul yields to Thee by divine grace."
You may not have such strong and clear feelings of deliverances as you
would desire to have, but humble yourselves in His sight, and
acknowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self-will,
self-confidence, and self-effort. Bow humbly before him in the
confession of that, and ask him to break the heart and to bring you
into the dust before Him. Then, as you bow before Him, just accept
God's teaching that in your flesh "there dwelleth no good thing," and
that nothing will help you except another life which must come in. You
must deny self once for all. Denying self must every moment be the
power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession
When was Peter delivered? When was the change accomplished? The change
began with Peter weeping, and the Holy Ghost came down and filled his
God the Father loves to give us the power of the Spirit. We have the
Spirit of God dwelling within us. We come to God confessing that, and
praising God for it, and yet confessing how we have grieved the
Spirit. And then we bow our knees to the Father to ask that He would
strengthen us with all might by the Spirit in the inner man, and that
He would fill us with His mighty power. And as the Spirit reveals
Christ to us, Christ comes to live in our hearts forever, and the
self-life is cast out.
Let us bow before God in humility, and in that humility confess before
Him the state of the whole Church. No words can tell the sad state of
the Church of Christ on earth. I wish I had words to speak what I
sometimes feel about it. just think of the Christians around you. I do
not speak of nominal Christians, or of professing Christians, but I
speak of hundreds and thousands of honest, earnest Christians who are
not living a life in the power of God or to His glory. So little
power, so little devotion or consecration to God, so little perception
of the truth that a Christian is a man utterly surrendered to God's
will! Oh, we want to confess the sins of God's people around us, and
to humble ourselves. We are members of that sickly body, and the
sickliness of the body will hinder us, and break us down, unless we
come to God, and in confession separate ourselves from partnership
with worldliness, with coldness toward each other, unless we give up
ourselves to be entirely and wholly for God.
How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and
in the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human energy
-- our will and our thoughts about the work -- is continually
manifested, and in which there is but little of waiting upon God, and
upon the power of the Holy Ghost! Let us make confession. But as we
confess the state of the Church and the feebleness and sinfulness of
work for God among us, let us come back to ourselves. Who is there who
truly longs to be delivered from the power of the self-life, who truly
acknowledges that it is the power of self and the flesh, and who is
willing to cast all at the feet of Christ? There is deliverance.
I heard of one who had been an earnest Christian, and who spoke about
the "cruel" thought of separation and death. But you do not think
that, do you? What are we to think of separation and death? This:
death was the path to glory for Christ. For the joy set before Him He
endured the cross. The cross was the birthplace of His everlasting
glory. Do you love Christ? Do you long to be in Christ, and not like
Him? Let death be to you the most desirable thing on earth -- death to
self, and fellowship with Christ. Separation -- do you think it a hard
thing to be called to be entirely free from the world, and by that
separation to be united to God and His love, by separation to become
prepared for living and walking with God every day? Surely one ought
"Anything to bring me to separation, to death, for a life of full
fellowship with God and Christ."
Come and cast this self-life and flesh-life at the feet of Jesus. Then
trust Him. Do not worry yourselves with trying to understand all about
it, but come in the living faith that Christ will come into you with
the power of His death and the power of His life; and then the Holy
Spirit will bring the whole Christ -- Christ crucified and risen and
living in glory -- into your heart.
"THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE"
I want to look at the fact of a life filled with the Holy Spirit more
from the practical side, and to show how this life will show itself in
our daily walk and conduct.
Under the Old Testament you know the Holy Spirit often came upon men
as a divine Spirit of revelation to reveal the mysteries of God, or
for power to do the work of God. But He did not then dwell in them.
Now, many just want the Old Testament gift of power for work, but know
very little of the New Testament gift of the indwelling Spirit,
animating and renewing the whole life. When God gives the Holy Spirit,
His great object is the formation of a holy character. It is a gift of
a holy mind and spiritual disposition, and what we need above
everything else, is to say:
"I must have the Holy Spirit sanctifying my whole inner life if I am
really to live for God's glory."
You might say that when Christ promised the Spirit to the disciples,
He did so that they might have power to be witnesses. True, but then
they received the Holy Ghost in such heavenly power and reality that
He took possession of their whole being at once and so fitted them as
holy men for doing the work with power as they had to do it. Christ
spoke of power to the disciples, but it was the Spirit filling their
whole being that worked the power.
I wish now to dwell upon the passage found in Galatians 5:22:
"The fruit of the Spirit is love."
We read that "Love is the fulfilling of the law," and my desire is to
speak on love as a fruit of the Spirit with a twofold object. One is
that this word may be a searchlight in our hearts, and give us a test
by which to try all our thoughts about the Holy Spirit and all our
experience of the holy life. Let us try ourselves by this word. Has
this been our daily habit, to seek the being filled with the Holy
Spirit as the Spirit of love? "The fruit of the Spirit is love." Has
it been our experience that the more we have of the Holy Spirit the
more loving we become? In claiming the Holy Spirit we should make this
the first object of our expectation. The Holy Spirit comes as a Spirit
Oh, if this were true in the Church of Christ how different her state
would be! May God help us to get hold of this simple, heavenly truth
that the fruit of the Spirit is a love which appears in the life, and
that just as the Holy Spirit gets real possession of the life, the
heart will be filled with real, divine, universal love.
One of the great causes why God cannot bless His Church is the want of
love. When the body is divided, there cannot be strength. In the time
of their great religious wars, when Holland stood out so nobly against
Spain, one of their mottoes was: "Unity gives strength." It is only
when God's people stand as one body, one before God in the fellowship
of love, one toward another in deep affection, one before the world in
a love that the world can see--it is only then that they will have
power to secure the blessing which they ask of God. Remember that if a
vessel that ought to be one whole is cracked into many pieces, it
cannot be filled. You can take a potsherd, one part of a vessel, and
dip out a little water into that, but if you want the vessel full, the
vessel must be whole. That is literally true of Christ's Church, and
if there is one thing we must pray for still, it is this: Lord, melt
us together into one by the power of the Holy Spirit; let the Holy
Spirit, who at Pentecost made them all of one heart and one soul, do
His blessed work among us. Praise God, we can love each other in a
divine love, for "the fruit of the Spirit is love." Give yourselves up
to love, and the Holy Spirit will come; receive the Spirit, and He
will teach you to love more.
God Is Love
Now, why is it that the fruit of the Spirit is love? Because God is
And what does that mean?
It is the very nature and being of God to delight in communicating
Himself. God has no selfishness, God keeps nothing to Himself. God's
nature is to be always giving. In the sun and the moon and the stars,
in every flower you see it, in every bird in the air, in every fish,
in the sea . God communicates life to His creatures. And the angels
around His throne, the seraphim and cherumbim (sic) who are flames of
fire -- whence have they their glory? It is because God is love, and
He imparts to them of His brightness and His blessedness. And we, His
redeemed children -- God delights to pour His love into us. And why?
Because, as I said, God keeps nothing for Himself. From eternity God
had His only begotten Son, and the Father gave Him all things, and
nothing that God had was kept back. "God is love."
One of the old Church fathers said that we cannot better understand
the Trinity than as a revelation of divine love -- the Father, the
loving One, the Fountain of love; the Son, the beloved one, the
Reservoir of love, in whom the love was poured out; and the Spirit,
the living love that united both and then overflowed into this world.
The Spirit of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of
the Son is love. And when the Holy Spirit comes to us and to other
men, will He be less a Spirit of love than He is in God? It cannot be;
He cannot change His nature. The Spirit of God is love, and "the fruit
of the Spirit is love."
Mankind Needs Love
Why is that so? That was the one great need of mankind, that was the
thing which Christ's redemption came to accomplish: to restore love to
When man sinned, why was it that he sinned? Selfishness triumphed --
he sought self instead of God. And just look! Adam at once begins to
accuse the woman of having led him astray. Love to God had gone, love
to man was lost. Look again: of the first two children of Adam the one
becomes a murderer of his brother.
Does not that teach us that sin had robbed the world of love? Ah! what
a proof the history of the world has been of love having been lost!
There may have been beautiful examples of love even among the heathen,
but only as a little remnant of what was lost. One of the worst things
sin did for man was to make him selfish, for selfishness cannot love.
The Lord Jesus Christ came down from Heaven as the Son of God's love.
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." God's Son
came to show what love is, and He lived a life of love here upon earth
in fellowship with His disciples, in compassion over the poor and
miserable, in love even to His enemies, and He died the death of love.
And when He went to Heaven, whom did He send down? The Spirit of love,
to come and banish selfishness and envy and pride, and bring the love
of God into the hearts of men. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
And what was the preparation for the promise of the Holy Spirit? You
know that promise as found in the fourteenth chapter of John's Gospel.
But remember what precedes in the thirteenth chapter. Before Christ
promised the Holy Spirit, He gave a new commandment, and about that
new commandment He said wonderful things. One thing was: "Even as I
have loved you, so love ye one another," To them His dying love was to
be the only law of their conduct and intercourse with each other. What
a message to those fishermen, to those men full of pride and
selfishness! "Learn to love each other," said Christ, "as I have loved
you." And by the grace of God they did it. When Pentecost came, they
were of one heart and one soul. Christ did it for them.
And now He calls us to dwell and to walk in love. He demands that
though a man hate you, still you love him. True love cannot be
conquered by anything in Heaven or upon the earth. The more hatred
there is, the more love triumphs through it all and shows its true
nature. This is the love that Christ commanded His disciples to
What more did He say? "By this shall all men know that ye are my
disciples, if ye have love one to another."
You all know what it is to wear a badge. And Christ said to His
disciples in effect: "I give you a badge, and that badge is love. That
is to be your mark. It is the only thing in Heaven or on earth by
which men can know me."
Do we not begin to fear that love has fled from the earth? That if we
were to ask the world: "Have you seen us wear the badge of love?" the
world would say: "No; what we have heard of the Church of Christ is
that there is not a place where there is no quarreling and
separation." Let us ask God with one heart that we may wear the badge
of Jesus' love. God is able to give it.
Love Conquers Selfishness
"The fruit of the Spirit is love." Why? Because nothing but love can
expel and conquer our selfishness.
Self is the great curse, whether in its relation to God, or to our
fellow-men in general, or to fellow-Christians, thinking of ourselves
and seeking our own. Self is our greatest curse. But, praise God,
Christ came to redeem us from self. We sometimes talk about
deliverance from the self-life -- and thank God for every word that
can be said about it to help us -- but I am afraid some people think
deliverance from the self-life means that now they are going to have
no longer any trouble in serving God; and they forget that deliverance
from self-life means to be a vessel overflowing with love to everybody
all the day.
And there you have the reason why many people pray for the power of
the Holy Ghost, and they get something, but oh, so little! because
they prayed for power for work, and power for blessing, but they have
not prayed for power for full deliverance from self. That means not
only the righteous self in intercourse with God, but the unloving self
in intercourse with men. And there is deliverance. "The fruit of the
Spirit is love." I bring you the glorious promise of Christ that He is
able to fill our hearts with love.
A great many of us try hard at times to love. We try to force
ourselves to love, and I do not say that is wrong; it is better than
nothing. But the end of it is always very sad. "I fail continually,"
such as one must confess. And what is the reason? The reason is simply
this: Because they have never learned to believe and accept the truth
that the Holy Spirit can pour God's love into their heart. That
blessed text; often it has been limited! -- "The love of God is shed
abroad in our hearts." It has often been understood in this sense: It
means the love of God to me. oh, what a limitation! That is only the
beginning. The love of God is always the love of God in its entirety,
in its fullness as an indwelling power, a love of God to me that leaps
back to Him in love, and overflows to my fellow-men in love-God's love
to me, and my love to God, and my love to my fellow-men. The three are
one; you cannot separate them.
Do believe that the love of God can be shed abroad in your heart and
mine so that we can love all the day.
"Ah!" you say, "how little I have understood that!"
Why is a lamb always gentle? Because that is its nature. Does it cost
the lamb any trouble to be gentle? No. Why not? It is so beautiful and
gentle. Has a lamb to study to be gentle? No. Why does that come so
easy? It is its nature. And a wolf -- why does it cost a wolf no
trouble to be cruel, and to put its fangs into the poor lamb or sheep?
Because that is its nature. It has not to summon up its courage; the
wolf-nature is there.
And how can I learn to love? Never until the Spirit of God fills my
heart with God's love, and I begin to long for God's love in a very
different sense from which I have sought it so selfishly, as a comfort
and a joy and a happiness and a pleasure to myself; never until I
begin to learn that "God is love," and to claim it, and receive it as
an indwelling power for self-sacrifice; never until I begin to see
that my glory, my blessedness, is to be like God and like Christ, in
giving up everything in myself for my fellow-men. May God teach us
that! Oh, the divine blessedness of the love with which the Holy
Spirit can fill our hearts! "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
Love Is God's Gift
Once again I ask, Why must this be so? And my answer is: Without this
we cannot live the daily life of love.
How often, when we speak about the consecrated life, we have to speak
about temper, and some people have sometimes said:
"You make too much of temper."
I do not think we can make too much of it. Think for a moment of a
clock and of what its hands mean. The hands tell me what is within the
clock, and if I see that the hands stand still, or that the hands
point wrong, or that the clock is slow or fast, I say that something
inside the clock is not working properly. And temper is just like the
revelation that the clock gives of what is within. Temper is a proof
whether the love of Christ is filling the heart, or not. How many
there are who find it easier in church, or in prayer-meeting, or in
work for the Lord -- diligent, earnest work -- to be holy and happy
than in the daily life with wife and children and servant; easier to
be holy and happy outside the home than in it! Where is the love of
God? In Christ. God has prepared for us a wonderful redemption in
Christ, and He longs to make something supernatural of us. Have we
learned to long for it, and ask for it, and expect it in its fullness?
Then there is the tongue! We sometimes speak of the tongue when we
talk of the better life, and the restful life, but just think what
liberty many Christians give to their tongues. They say:
"I have a right to think what I like."
When they speak about each other, when they speak about their
neighbors, when they speak about other Christians, how often there are
sharp remarks! God keep me from saying anything that would be
unloving; God shut my mouth if I am not to speak in tender love. But
what I am saying is a fact. How often there are found among Christians
who are banded together in work, sharp criticism, sharp judgment,
hasty opinion, unloving words, secret contempt of each other, secret
condemnation of each other! Oh, just as a mother's love covers her
children and delights in them and has the tenderest compassion with
their foibles or failures, so there ought to be in the heart of every
believer a motherly love toward every brother and sister in Christ.
Have you aimed at that? Have you sought it? Have you ever pleaded for
it? Jesus Christ said: "As I have loved you ... love one another." And
He did not put that among the other commandments, but He said in
"That is a new commandment, the one commandment: Love one another as I
have loved you."
It is in our daily life and conduct that the fruit of the Spirit is
love. From that there comes all the graces and virtues in which love
is manifested: joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness; no
sharpness or hardness in your tone, no unkindness or selfishness;
meekness before God and man. You see that all these are the gentler
virtues. I have often thought as I read those words in Colossians,
"Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of
mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering," that
if we had written, we should have put in the foreground the manly
virtues, such as zeal, courage and diligence; but we need to see how
the gentler, the most womanly virtues are specially connected with
dependence upon the Holy Spirit. These are indeed heavenly graces.
They never were found in the heathen world. Christ was needed to come
from Heaven to teach us. Your blessedness is longsuffering, meekness,
kindness; your glory is humility before God. The fruit of the Spirit
that He brought from Heaven out of the heart of the crucified Christ,
and that He gives in our heart, is first and foremost -- love.
You know what John says: "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love
one another, God dwelleth in us." That is, I cannot see God, but as a
compensation I can see my brother, and if I love him, God dwells in
me. Is that really true? That I cannot see God, but I must love my
brother, and God will dwell in me? Loving my brother is the way to
real fellowship with God. You know what John further says in that most
solemn test, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is
a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can
he love God whom he hath not seen?" (I John 4:20). There is a brother,
a most unlovable man. He worries you every time you meet him. He is of
the very opposite disposition to yours. You are a careful businessman,
and you have to do with him in your business. He is most untidy,
unbusiness-like. You say:
"I cannot love him."
Oh, friend, you have not learned the lesson that Christ wanted to
teach above everything. Let a man be what he will, you are to love
him. Love is to be the fruit of the Spirit all the day and every day.
Yes, listen! if a man loves not his brother whom he hath seen -- if
you don't love that unlovable man whom you have seen, how can you love
God whom you have not seen? You can deceive yourself with beautiful
thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your
love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge
your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love
your brother. The fruit of the Spirit is love.
And what is the reason that God's Holy Spirit cannot come in power? Is
it not possible?
You remember the comparison I used in speaking of the vessel. I can
dip a little water into a potsherd, a bit of a vessel; but if a vessel
is to be full, it must be unbroken. And the children of God, wherever
they come together, to whatever church or mission or society they
belong, must love each other intensely, or the Spirit of God cannot do
His work. We talk about grieving the Spirit of God by worldliness and
ritualism and formality and error and indifference, but, I tell you,
the one thing above everything that grieves God's Spirit is this want
of love. Let every heart search itself, and ask that God may search
Our Love Shows God's Power
Why are we taught that "the fruit of the Spirit is love"? Because the
Spirit of God has come to make our daily life an exhibition of divine
power and a revelation of what God can do for His children.
In the second and the fourth chapters of Acts we read that the
disciples were of one heart and of one soul. During the three years
they had walked with Christ they never had been in that spirit. All
Christ's teaching could not make them of one heart and one soul. But
the Holy Spirit came from Heaven and shed the love of God in their
hearts, and they were of one heart and one soul. The same Holy Spirit
that brought the love of Heaven into their hearts must fill us too.
Nothing less will do. Even as Christ did, one might preach love for
three years with the tongue of an angel, but that would not teach any
man to love unless the power of the Holy Spirit should come upon him
to bring the love of Heaven into his heart.
Think of the church at large. What divisions! Think of the different
bodies. Take the question of holiness, take the question of the
cleansing blood, take the question of the baptism of the Spirit --
what differences are caused among dear believers by such questions!
That there are differences of opinion does not trouble me. We do not
have the same constitution and temperament and mind. But how often
hate, bitterness, contempt, separation, unlovingness are caused by the
holiest truths of God's Word! Our doctrines, our creeds, have been
more important than love. We often think we are valiant for the truth
and we forget God's command to speak the truth in love. And it was so
in the time of the Reformation between the Lutheran and Calvinistic
churches. What bitterness there was than in regard to the Holy Supper,
which was meant to be the bond of union among all believers! And so,
down the ages, the very dearest truths of God have become mountains
that have separated us.
If we want to pray in power, and if we want to expect the Holy Spirit
to come down in power, and if we want indeed that God shall pour out
His Spirit, we must enter into a covenant with God that we love one
another with a heavenly love.
Are you ready for that? Only that is true love that is large enough to
take in all God's children, the most unloving and unlovable, and
unworthy, and unbearable, and trying. If my vow -- absolute surrender
to God -- was true, then it must mean absolute surrender to the divine
love to fill me; to be a servant of love to love every child of God
around me. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
Oh, God did something wonderful when He gave Christ, at His right
hand, the Holy Spirit to come down out of the heart of the Father and
His everlasting love. And how we have degraded the Holy Spirit into a
mere power by which we have to do our work! God forgive us! Oh, that
the Holy Spirit might be held in honor as a power to fill us with the
very life and nature of God and of Christ!
Christian Work Requires Love
"The fruit of the Spirit is love." I ask once again, Why is it so? And
the answer comes: That is the only power in which Christians really
can do their work.
Yes, it is that we need. We want not only love that is to bind us to
each other, but we want a divine love in our work for the lost around
us. Oh, do we not often undertake a great deal of work, just as men
undertake work of philanthropy, from a natural spirit of compassion
for our fellow-men? Do we not often undertake Christian work because
our minister or friend calls us to it? And do we not often perform
Christian work with a certain zeal but without having had a baptism of
People often ask: "What is the baptism of fire?"
I have answered more than once: I know no fire like the fire of God,
the fire of everlasting love that consumed the sacrifice on Calvary.
The baptism of love is what the Church needs, and to get that we must
begin at once to get down upon our faces before God in confession, and
"Lord, let love from Heaven flow down into my heart. I am giving up my
life to pray and live as one who has given himself up for the
everlasting love to dwell in and fill him."
Ah, yes, if the love of God were in our hearts, what a difference it
would make! There are hundreds of believers who say:
"I work for Christ, and I feel I could work much harder, but I have
not the gift. I do not know how or where to begin. I do not know what
I can do."
Brother, sister, ask God to baptize you with the Spirit of love, and
love will find its way. Love is a fire that will burn through every
difficulty. You may be a shy, hesitating man, who cannot speak well,
but love can burn through everything. God fill us with love! We need
it for our work.
You have read many a touching story of love expressed, and you have
said, How beautiful! I heard one not long ago. A lady had been asked
to speak at a Rescue Home where there were a number of poor women. As
she arrived there and got to the window with the matron, she saw
outside a wretched object sitting, and asked:
"Who is that?"
The matron answered: "She has been into the house thirty or forty
times, and she has always gone away again. Nothing can be done with
her, she is so low and hard."
But the lady said: "She must come in."
The matron then said: "We have been waiting for you, and the company
is assembled, and you have only an hour for the address."
The lady replied: "No, this is of more importance"; and she went
outside where the woman was sitting and said:
"My sister, what is the matter?"
"I am not your sister," was the reply.
Then the lady laid her hand on her, and said: "Yes, I am your sister,
and I love you"; and so she spoke until the heart of the poor woman
The conversation lasted some time, and the company were waiting
patiently. Ultimately the lady brought the woman into the room. There
was the poor wretched, degraded creature, full of shame. She would not
sit on a chair, but sat down on a stool beside the speaker's seat, and
she let her lean against her, with her arms around the poor woman's
neck, while she spoke to the assembled people. And that love touched
the woman's heart; she had found one who really loved her, and that
love gave access to the love of Jesus.
Praise God! there is love upon earth in the hearts of God's children;
but oh, that there were more!
O God, baptize our ministers with a tender love, and our missionaries,
and our colporters, and our Bible-readers, and our workers, and our
young men's and young women's associations. Oh, that God would begin
with us now, and baptize us with heavenly love!
Love Inspires Intercession
Once again. It is only love that can fit us for the work of
I have said that love must fit us for our work. Do you know what the
hardest and the most important work is that has to be done for this
sinful world? It is the work of intercession, the work of going to God
and taking time to lay hold on Him.
A man may be an earnest Christian, an earnest minister, and a man may
do good, but alas! how often he has to confess that he knows but
little of what it is to tarry with God. May God give us the great gift
of an intercessory spirit, a spirit of prayer and supplication! Let me
ask you in the name of Jesus not to let a day pass without praying for
all saints, and for all God's people.
I find there are Christians who think little of that. I find there are
prayer unions where they pray for the members, and not for all
believers. I pray you, take time to pray for the Church of Christ. It
is right to pray for the heathen, as I have already said. God help us
to pray more for them. It is right to pray for missionaries and for
evangelistic work, and for the unconverted. But Paul did not tell
people to pray for the heathen or the unconverted. Paul told them to
pray for believers. Do make this your first prayer every day: "Lord,
bless Thy saints everywhere."
The state of Christ's Church is indescribably low. Plead for God's
people that He would visit them, plead for each other, plead for all
believers who are trying to work for God. Let love fill your heart.
Ask Christ to pour it out afresh into you every day. Try to get it
into you by the Holy Spirit of God: I am separated unto the Holy
Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love. God help us to understand
May God grant that we learn day by day to wait more quietly upon Him.
Do not wait upon God only for ourselves, or the power to do so will
soon be lost; but give ourselves up to the ministry and the love of
intercession, and pray more for God's people, for God's people round
about us, for the Spirit of love in ourselves and in them, and for the
work of God we are connected with; and the answer will surely come,
and our waiting upon God will be a source of untold blessing and
power. "The fruit of the Spirit is love."
Have you a lack of love to confess before God? Then make confession
and say before Him, "O Lord, my lack of heart, my lack of love -- I
confess it." And then, as you cast that lack at His feet, believe that
the blood cleanses you, that Jesus comes in His mighty, cleansing,
saving power to deliver you, and that He will give His Holy Spirit.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love."
SEPARATED UNTO THE HOLY GHOST
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and
teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius
of. Cyrene, and Manaen ... and Saul.
"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said,
Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called
"And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them,
they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost,
departed unto Seleucia" (Acts 13:1-4).
In the story of our text we shall find some precious thoughts to guide
us as to what God would have of us, and what God would do for us. The
great lesson of the verses quoted is this: The Holy Ghost is the
director of the work of God upon the earth. And what we should do if
we are to work rightly for God, and if God is to bless our work, is to
see that we stand in a right relation to the Holy Ghost, that we give
Him every day the place of honor that belongs to Him, and that in all
our work and (what is more) in all our private inner life, the Holy
Ghost shall always have the first place. Let me point out to you some
of the precious thoughts our passage suggests.
First of all, we see that God has His own plans with regard to His
His church at Antioch had been established. God had certain plans and
intentions with regard to Asia, and with regard to Europe., He had
conceived them; they were His, and He made them known to His servants.
Our great Commander organizes every campaign, and His generals and
officers do not always know the great plans. They often receive sealed
orders, and they have to wait on Him for what He gives them as orders.
God in Heaven has wishes, and a will, in regard to any work that ought
to be done, and to the way in which it has to be done. Blessed is the
man who gets into God's secrets and works under God.
Some years ago, at Wellington, South Africa, where I live, we opened a
Mission Institute -- what is counted there a fine large building. At
our opening services the principal said something that I have never
forgotten. He remarked:
"Last year we gathered here to lay the foundation-stone, and what was
there then to be seen? Nothing but rubbish, and stones, and bricks,
and ruins of an old building that had been pulled down. There we laid
the foundation-stone, and very few knew what the building was that was
to rise. No one know it perfectly in every detail except one man, the
architect. In his mind it was all clear, and as the contractor and the
mason and the carpenter came to their work they took their orders from
him, and the humblest laborer had to be obedient to orders, and the
structure rose, and this beautiful building has been completed. And
just so," he added, "this building that we open today is but laying
the foundation of a work of which only God knows what is to become."
But God has His workers and His plans clearly mapped out, and our
position is to wait, that God should communicate to us as much of His
will as each time is needful.
We have simply to be faithful in obedience, carrying out His orders.
God has a plan for His Church upon earth. But alas! we too often make
our plan, and we think that we know what ought to be done. We ask God
first to bless our feeble efforts, instead of absolutely refusing to
go unless God go before us. God has planned for the work and the
extension of His kingdom. The Holy Ghost has had that work given in
charge to Him. "The work whereunto I have called them." May God,
therefore, help us all to be afraid of touching "the ark of God"
except as we are led by the Holy Ghost.
Then the second thought -- God is willing and able to reveal to His
servants what His will is.
Yes, blessed be God, communications still come down from Heaven! As we
read here what the Holy Ghost said, so the Holy Ghost will still speak
to His Church and His people. In these later days He has often done
it. He has come to individual men, and by His divine teaching He has
led them out into fields of labor that others could not at first
understand or approve, into ways and methods that did not recommend
themselves to the majority. But the Holy Ghost does still in our time
teach His people. Thank God, in our foreign missionary societies and
in our home missions, and in a thousand forms of work, the guiding of
the Holy Ghost is known, but (we are all ready, I think, to confess)
too little known. We have not learned enough to wait upon Him, and so
we should make a solemn declaration before God: O God, we want to wait
more for Thee to show us Thy Will.
Do not ask God only for power. Many a Christian has his own plan of
working, but God must send the power. The man works in his own will,
and God must give the grace -- the one reason why God often gives so
little grace and so little success. But let us all take our place
before God and say:
"What is done in the will of God the strength of God will not be
withheld from it; what is done in the will of God must have the mighty
blessing of God."
And so let our first desire be to have the will of God revealed.
If you ask me, Is it an easy thing to get these communications from
Heaven, and to understand them? I can give you the answer. It is easy
to those who are in right fellowship with Heaven, and who understand
the art of waiting upon God in prayer.
How often we ask: How can a person know the will of God? And people
want, when they are in perplexity, to pray very earnestly that God
should answer them at once. But God can only reveal His will. to a
heart that is humble and tender and empty. God can only reveal His
will in perplexities and special difficulties to a heart that has
learned to obey and honor Him loyally in little things and in daily
That brings me to the third thought -- Note the disposition to which
the Spirit reveals God's will.
What do we read here? There were a number of men ministering to the
Lord and fasting, and the Holy Ghost came and spoke to them. Some
people understand this passage very much as they would in reference to
a missionary committee of our day. We see there is an open field, and
we have had our missions in other fields, and we are going to get on
to that field. We have virtually settled that, and we pray about it.
But the position was a very different one in those former days. I
doubt whether any of them thought of Europe, for later on even Paul
himself tried to go back into Asia, till the night vision called him
by the will of God. Look at those men. God had done wonders. He had
extended the Church to Antioch, and He had given rich and large
blessing. Now, here were these men ministering to the Lord, serving
Him with prayer and fasting. What a deep conviction they have -- "It
must all come direct from Heaven. We are in fellowship with the risen
Lord; we must have a close union with Him, and somehow He will let us
know what He wants." And there they were, empty, ignorant, helpless,
glad and joyful, but deeply humbled.
"O Lord," they seem to say, "we are Thy servants, and in fasting and
prayer we wait upon Thee. What is Thy will for us?"
Was it not the same with Peter? He was on the housetop, fasting and
praying, and little did he think of the vision and the command to go
to Caesarea. He was ignorant of what his work might be.
It is in hearts entirely surrendered to the Lord Jesus, in hearts
separating themselves from the world, and even from ordinary religious
exercises, and giving themselves up in intense prayer to look to their
Lord -- it is in such hearts that the heavenly will of God will be
You know that word fasting occurs a second time (in the third verse):
"They fasted and prayed." When you pray, you love to go into your
closet, according to the command of Jesus, and shut the door. You shut
out business and company and pleasure and anything that can distract,
and you want to be alone with God. But in one way even the material
world follows you there. You must eat. These men wanted to shut
themselves out from the influences of the material and the visible,
and they fasted. What they ate was simply enough to supply the wants
of nature, and in the intensity of their souls they thought to give
expression to their letting go of everything on earth in their fasting
before God. Oh, may God give us that intensity of desire, that
separation from everything, because we want to wait upon God, that the
Holy Ghost may reveal to us God's blessed will.
The fourth thought -- What is now the will of God as the Holy Ghost
reveals it? It is contained in one phrase: Separation unto the Holy
Ghost. That is the keynote of the message from Heaven.
"Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called
them. The work is mine, and I care for it, and I have chosen these men
and called them, and I want you who represent the Church of Christ
upon earth to set them apart unto me."
Look at this heavenly message in its twofold aspect. The men were to
be set apart to the Holy Ghost, and the Church was to do this
separating work. The Holy Ghost could trust these men to do it in a
right spirit. There they were abiding in fellowship with the heavenly,
and the Holy Ghost could say to them, "Do the work of separating these
men." And these were the men the Holy Ghost had prepared, and He could
say of them, "Let them be separated unto me."
Here we come to the very root, to the very life of the need of
Christian workers. The question is: What is needed that the power of
God should rest upon us more mightily, that the blessing of God should
be poured out more abundantly among those poor, wretched people and
perishing sinners among whom we labor? And the answer from Heaven is:
"I want men separated unto the Holy Ghost."
What does that imply? You know that there are two spirits on earth.
Christ said, when He spoke about the Holy Spirit: "The world cannot
receive him." Paul said: "We have received not the spirit of the
world, but the Spirit that is of God." That is the great want in every
worker -- the spirit of the world going out, and the Spirit of God
coming in to take possession of the inner life and of the whole being.
I am sure there are workers who often cry to God for the Holy Spirit
to come upon them as a Spirit of power for their work, and when they
feel that measure of power, and get blessing, they thank God for it.
But God wants something more and something higher. God wants us to
seek for the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of power in our own heart and
life, to conquer self and cast out sin, and to work the blessed and
beautiful image of Jesus into us.
There is a difference between the power of the Spirit as a gift, and
the power of the Spirit for the grace of a holy life. A man may often
have a measure of the power of the Spirit, but if there be not a large
measure of the Spirit as the Spirit of grace and holiness, the defect
will be manifest in his work. He may be made the means of conversion,
but he never will help people on to a higher standard of spiritual
life, and when he passes away, a great deal of his work may pass away
too. But a man who is separated unto the Holy Ghost is a man who is
given up to say:
"Father, let the Holy Ghost have full dominion over me, in my home, in
my temper, in every word of my tongue, in every thought of my heart,
in every feeling toward my fellow men; let the Holy Spirit have entire
Is that what has been the longing and the covenant of your heart with
your God -- to be a man or a woman separated and given up unto the
Holy Ghost? I pray you listen to the voice of Heaven. "Separate me,"
said the Holy Ghost. Yes, separated unto the Holy Ghost. May God grant
that the Word may enter into the very depths of our being to search
us, and if we discover that we have not come out from the world
entirely, if God discovers to us that the self-life, self-will,
self-exaltation are there, let us humble ourselves before Him.
Man, woman, brother, sister, you are a worker separated unto the Holy
Ghost. Is that true? Has that been your longing desire? Has that been
your surrender? Has that been what you have expected through faith in
the power of our risen and almighty Lord Jesus? If not, here is the
call of faith, and here is the key of blessing -- separated unto the
Holy Ghost. God write the word in our hearts!
I said the Holy Spirit spoke to that church as a church capable of
doing that work. The Holy Spirit trusted them. God grant that our
churches, our missionary societies, and our workers' unions, that all
our directors and councils and committees may be men and women who are
fit for the work of separating workers unto the Holy Spirit. We can
ask God for that too.
Then comes my fifth thought, and it is this -- This holy partnership
with the Holy Spirit in this work becomes a matter of consciousness
and of action.
These men, what did they do? They set apart Paul and Barnabas, and
then it is written of the two that they, being sent forth by the Holy
Ghost, went down to Seleucia. Oh, what fellowship! The Holy Spirit in
Heaven doing part of the work, men on earth doing the other part.
After the ordination of the men upon earth, it is written in God's
inspired Word that they were sent forth by the Holy Ghost.
And see how this partnership calls to new prayer and fasting. They had
for a certain time been ministering to the Lord and fasting, perhaps
days; and the Holy Spirit speaks, and they have to do the work and to
enter into partnership, and at once they come together for more prayer
and fasting. That is the spirit in which they obey the command of
their Lord. And that teaches us that it is not only in the beginning
of our Christian work, but all along that we need to have our strength
in prayer. If there is one thought with regard to the Church of
Christ, which at times comes to me with overwhelming sorrow; if there
is one thought in regard to my own life of which I am ashamed; if
there is one thought of which I feel that the Church of Christ has not
accepted it and not grasped it; if there is one thought which makes me
pray to God: "Oh, teach us by Thy grace, new things" -- it is the
wonderful power that prayer is meant to have in the kingdom. We have
so little availed ourselves of it.
We have all read the expression of Christian in Bunyan's great work,
when he found he had the key in his breast that should unlock the
dungeon. We have the key that can unlock the dungeon of atheism and of
heathendom. But, oh! we are far more occupied with our work than we
are with prayer. We believe more in speaking to men than we believe in
speaking to God. Learn from these men that the work which the Holy
Ghost commands must call us to new fasting and prayer, to new
separation from the spirit and the pleasures of the world, to new
consecration to God and to His fellowship. Those men gave themselves
up to fasting and prayer, and if in all our ordinary Christian work
there were more prayer, there would be more blessing in our own inner
life. If we felt and proved and testified to the world that our only
strength lay in keeping every minute in contact with Christ, every
minute allowing God to work in us -- if that were our spirit, would
not, by the grace of God, our lives be holier? Would not they be more
I hardly know a more solemn warning in God's Word than that which we
find in the third chapter of Galatians, where Paul asked:
"Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
Do you understand what that means? A terrible danger in Christian
work, just as in a Christian life that is begun with much prayer,
begun in the Holy Spirit, is that it may be gradually shunted off on
to the lines of the flesh; and the word comes: "Having begun in the
Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" In the time of our
first perplexity and helplessness we prayed much to God, and God
answered and God blessed, and our organization became perfected, and
our band of workers became large; but gradually the organization and
the work and the rush have so taken possession of us that the power of
the Spirit, in which we began when we were a small company, has almost
been lost. Oh, I pray you, note it well! It was with new prayer and
fasting, with more prayer and fasting, that this company of disciples
carried out the command of the Holy Ghost, "My soul, wait thou only
upon God." That is our highest and most important work. The Holy
Spirit comes in answer to believing prayer.
You know when the exalted Jesus had ascended to the throne, for ten
days the footstool of the throne was the place where His waiting
disciples cried to Him. And that is the law of the kingdom -- the King
upon the throne, the servants upon the footstool. May God find us
Then comes the last thought -- What a wonderful blessing comes when
the Holy Ghost is allowed to lead and to direct the work, and when it
is carried on in obedience to Him!
You know the story of the mission on which Barnabas and Saul were sent
out. You know what power there was with them. The Holy Ghost sent
them, and they went on from place to place with large blessing. The
Holy Ghost was their leader further on. You recollect how it was by
the Spirit that Paul was hindered from going again into Asia, and was
led away over to Europe. Oh, the blessing that rested upon that little
company of men, and upon their ministry unto the Lord!
I pray you, let us learn to believe that God has a blessing for us.
The Holy Ghost, into whose hands God has put the work, has been called
"the executive of the Holy Trinity." The Holy Ghost has not only
power, but He has the Spirit of love. He is brooding over this dark
world and every sphere of work in it, and He is willing to bless. And
why is there not more blessing? There can be but one answer. We have
not honored the Holy Ghost as we should have done. Is there one who
can say that that is not true? Is not every thoughtful heart ready to
cry: "God forgive me that I have not honored the Holy Spirit as I
should have done, that I have grieved Him, that I have allowed self
and the flesh and my own will to work where the Holy Ghost should have
been honored! May God forgive me that I have allowed self and the
flesh and the will actually to have the place that God wanted the Holy
Ghost to have."
Oh, the sin is greater than we know! No wonder that there is so much
feebleness and failure in the Church of Christ!
"And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the
word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou
shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly" (LUKE
That was the turning-point in the history of Peter. Christ had said to
him: "Thou canst not follow me now." Peter was not in a fit state to
follow Christ, because he had not been brought to an end of himself;
he did not know himself, and he therefore could not follow Christ. But
when he went out and wept bitterly, then came the great change. Christ
previously said to him: "When thou art converted, strengthen thy
brethren." Here is the point where Peter was converted from self to
I thank God for the story of Peter. I do not know a man in the Bible
who gives us greater comfort. When we look at his character, so full
of failures, and at what Christ made him by the power of the Holy
Ghost, there is hope for every one of us. But remember, before Christ
could fill Peter with the Holy Spirit and make a new man of him, he
had to go out and weep bitterly; he had to be humbled. If we want to
understand this, I think there are four points that we must look at.
First, let us look at Peter the devoted disciple of Jesus; next, at
Peter as he lived the life of self; then at Peter in his repentance;
and last, at what Christ made of Peter by the Holy Spirit.
Peter the Devoted Disciple of Christ
Christ called Peter to forsake his nets, and follow Him. Peter did it
at once, and he afterward could say rightly to the Lord:
"We have forsaken all and followed thee."
Peter was a man of absolute surrender; he gave up all to follow Jesus.
Peter was also a man of ready obedience. You remember Christ said to
him, "Launch out into the deep, and let down the net." Peter the
fisherman knew there were no fish there, for they had been toiling all
night and had caught nothing; but he said: "At thy word I will let
down the net." He submitted to the word of Jesus. Further, he was a
man of great faith. When he saw Christ walking on the sea, he said:
"Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee"; and at the voice of
Christ he stepped out of the boat and walked upon the water.
And Peter was a man of spiritual insight. When Christ asked the
disciples: "Whom do ye say that I am?" Peter was able to answer: "Thou
art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Christ said: `.Blessed
art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto
thee, but my Father which is in heaven." And Christ spoke of him as
the rock man, and of his having the keys of the kingdom. Peter was a
splendid man, a devoted disciple of Jesus, and if he were living
nowadays, everyone would say that he was an advanced Christian. And
yet how much there was wanting in Peter!
Peter Living the Life of Self
You recollect that just after Christ had said to him: "Flesh and blood
hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven,"
Christ began to speak about His sufferings, and Peter dared to say:
"Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee." Then Christ
had to say:
"Get thee behind me, Satan; for thou savorest not the things that be
of God, but those that be of men."
There was Peter in his self-will, trusting his own wisdom, and
actually forbidding Christ to go and die. Whence did that come? Peter
trusted in himself and his own thoughts about divine things. We see
later on, more than once, that among the disciples there was a
questioning who should be the greatest, and Peter was one of them, and
he thought he had a right to the very first place. He sought his own
honor even above the others. It was the life of self strong in Peter.
He had left his boats and his nets, but not his old self.
When Christ had spoken to him about His sufferings, and said: "Get
thee behind me, Satan," He followed it up by saying: "If any man will
come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow
me." No man can follow Him unless he do that. Self must be utterly
denied. What does that mean? When Peter denied Christ, we read that he
said three times: "I do not know the man" ; in other words: "I have
nothing to do with Him; He and I are no friends; I deny having any
connection with Him." Christ told Peter that he must deny self. Self
must be ignored, and its every claim rejected. That is the root of
true discipleship; but Peter did not understand it, and could not obey
it. And what happened? When the last night came, Christ said to him:
"Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice."
But with what self-confidence Peter said: "Though all should forsake
thee, yet will not I. I am ready to go with thee, to prison and to
Peter meant it honestly, and Peter really intended to do it; but Peter
did not know himself. He did not believe he was as bad as Jesus said
We perhaps think of individual sins that come between us and God, but
what are we to do with that self-life which is all unclean, our very
nature? What are we to do with that flesh that is entirely under the
power of sin? Deliverance from that is what we need. Peter knew it
not, and therefore it was that in his self-confidence he went forth
and denied his Lord.
Notice how Christ uses. that word deny twice. He said to Peter the
first time, "Deny self"; He said to Peter the second time, "Thou wilt
deny me." It is either of the two. There is no choice for us; we must
either deny self or deny Christ. There are two great powers fighting
each other -- the self-nature in the power of sin, and Christ in the
power of God. Either of these must rule within us.
It was self that made the Devil. He was an angel of God, but he wanted
to exalt self. He became a Devil in Hall. Self was the cause of the
fall of man. Eve wanted something for herself, and so our first
parents fell into all the wretchedness of sin. We their children have
inherited an awful nature of sin.
Peter denied his Lord thrice, and then the Lord looked upon him; and
that look of Jesus broke the heart of Peter, and all at once there
opened up before him the terrible sin that he had committed, the
terrible failure that had come, and the depth into which he had
fallen, and "Peter went out and wept bitterly."
Oh! who can tell what that repentance must have been? During the
following hours of that night, and the next day, when he saw Christ
crucified and buried, and the next day, the Sabbath -- oh, in what
hopeless despair and shame he must have spent that day!
"My Lord is gone, my hope is gone, and I denied my Lord. After that
life of love, after that blessed fellowship of three years, I denied
my Lord. God have mercy upon me!"
I do not think we can realize into what a depth of humiliation Peter
sank then. But that was the turningpoint and the change; and on the
first day of the week Christ was seen of Peter, and in the evening He
met him with the others. Later on at the Lake of Galilee He asked him:
"Lovest thou me?" until Peter was made sad by the thought that the
Lord reminded him of having denied Him thrice; and said in sorrow, but
"Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."
Now Peter was prepared for deliverance from self, and that is my last
thought. You know Christ took him with others to the footstool of the
throne, and bade them wait there; and then on the day of Pentecost the
Holy Spirit came, and Peter was a changed man. I do not want you to
think only of the change in Peter, in that boldness, and that power,
and that insight into the Scriptures, and that blessing with which he
preached that day. Thank God for that. But there was something for
Peter deeper and better. Peter's whole nature was changed. The work
that Christ began in Peter when He looked upon him, was perfected when
he was filled with the Holy Ghost.
If you want to see that, read the First Epistle of Peter. You know
wherein Peter's failings lay. When he said to Christ, in effect: "Thou
never canst suffer; it cannot be" -- it showed he had not a conception
of what it was to pass through death into life. Christ said: "Deny
thyself," and in spite of that he denied his Lord. When Christ warned
him: "Thou shalt deny me," and he insisted that he never would, Peter
showed how little he understood what there was in himself. But when I
read his epistle and hear him say: "If ye be reproached for the name
of Christ, happy are ye, for the Spirit of God and of glory resteth
upon you," then I say that it is not the old Peter, but that is the
very Spirit of Christ breathing and speaking within him.
I read again how he says: "Hereunto ye are called, to suffer, even as
Christ suffered." I understand what a change had come over Peter.
Instead of denying Christ, he found joy and pleasure in having self
denied and crucified and given up to the death. And therefore it is in
the Acts we read that, when he was called before the Council, he could
boldly say: "We must obey God rather than men," and that he could
return with the other disciples and rejoice that they were counted
worthy to suffer for Christ's name.
You remember his self-exaltation; but now he has found out that "the
ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great
price." Again he tells us to be "subject one to another, and be
clothed with humility."
Dear friend, I beseech you, look at Peter utterly changed -- the
self-pleasing, the self-trusting, the self-seeking Peter, full of sin,
continually getting into trouble, foolish and impetuous, but now
filled with the Spirit and the life of Jesus. Christ had done it for
him by the Holy Ghost.
And now, what is my object in having thus very briefly pointed to the
story of Peter? That story must be the history of every believer who
is really to be made a blessing by God. That story is a prophecy of
what everyone can receive from God in Heaven.
Now let us just glance hurriedly at what these lessons teach us.
The first lesson is this -- You may be a very earnest, godly, devoted
believer, in whom the power of the flesh is yet very strong.
That is a very solemn truth. Peter, before he denied Christ, had cast
out devils and had healed the sick; and yet the flesh had power, and
the flesh had room in him. Oh, beloved, we want to realize that it is
just because there is so much of that self-life in us that the power
of God cannot work in us as mightily as God is willing that it should
work. Do you realize that the great God is longing to double His
blessing, to give tenfold blessing through us? But there is something
hindering Him, and that something is a proof of nothing but the
self-life. We talk about the pride of Peter, and the impetuosity of
Peter, and the self-confidence of Peter. It all rooted in that one
word, self. Christ had said, "Deny self," and Peter had never
understood, and never obeyed; and every failing came out of that.
What a solemn thought, and what an urgent plea for us to cry: O God,
do discover this to us, that none of us may be living the self-life!
It has happened to many a one who had been a Christian for years, who
had perhaps occupied a prominent position, that God found him out and
taught him to find himself out, and he became utterly ashamed, falling
down broken before God. Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow and pain and
agony that came to him, until at last he found that there was
deliverance! Peter went out and wept bitterly, and there may be many a
godly one in whom the power of the flesh still rules.
And then my second lesson is -- It is the work of our blessed Lord
Jesus to discover the power of self.
How was it that Peter, the carnal Peter, self-willed Peter, Peter with
the strong self-love, ever became a man of Pentecost and the writer of
his epistle? It was because Christ had him in charge, and Christ
watched over him, and Christ taught and blessed him. The warnings that
Christ had given him were part of the training; and last of all there
came that look of love. In His suffering Christ did not forget him,
but turned round and looked upon him, and "Peter went out and wept
bitterly." And the Christ who led Peter to Pentecost is waiting today
to take charge of every heart that is willing to surrender itself to
Are there not some saying: "Ah! that is the mischief with me; it is
always the self-life, and self-comfort, and self-consciousness, and
self-pleasing, and self-will; how am I to get rid of it?"
My answer is: It is Christ Jesus who can rid you of it; none else but
Christ Jesus can give deliverance from the power of self. And what
does He ask you to do? He asks that you should humble yourself before
IMPOSSIBLE WITH MAN, POSSIBLE WITH GOD
"And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible
with God" (Luke 18:27).
Christ had said to the rich young ruler, "Sell all that thou hast ...
and come, follow me." The young man went away sorrowful. Christ then
turned to the disciples, and said: "How hardly shall they that have
riches enter into the kingdom of God!" The disciples, we read, were
greatly astonished, and answered: "If it is so difficult to enter the
kingdom, who, then, can be saved?" And Christ gave this blessed
"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
The text contains two thoughts -- that in religion, in the question of
salvation and of following Christ by a holy life, it is impossible for
man to do it. And then alongside that is the thought -- What is
impossible with man is possible with God.
The two thoughts mark the two great lessons that man has to learn in
the religious life. It often takes a long time to learn the first
lesson, that in religion man can do nothing, that salvation is
impossible to man. And often a man learns that, and yet he does not
learn the second lesson -- what has been impossible to him is possible
with God. Blessed is the man who learns both lessons! The learning of
them marks stages in the Christian's life.
The one stage is when a man is trying to do his utmost and fails, when
a man tries to do better and fails again, when a man tries much more
and always fails. And yet very often he does not even then learn the
lesson: With man it is impossible to serve God and Christ. Peter spent
three years in Christ's school, and he never learned that, It is
impossible, until he had denied his Lord and went out and wept
bitterly. Then he learned it.
Just look for a moment at a man who is learning this lesson. At first
he fights against it; then he submits to it, but reluctantly and in
despair; at last he accepts it willingly and rejoices in it. At the
beginning of the Christian life the young convert has no conception of
this truth. He has been converted, he has the joy of the Lord in his
heart, he begins to run the race and fight the battle; he is sure he
can conquer, for he is earnest and honest, and God will help him. Yet,
somehow, very soon he fails where he did not expect it, and sin gets
the better of him. He is disappointed; but he thinks: "I was not
watchful enough, I did not make my resolutions strong enough." And
again he vows, and again he prays, and yet he fails. He thought: "Am I
not a regenerate man? Have I not the life of God within me?" And he
thinks again: "Yes, and I have Christ to help me, I can live the holy
At a later period he comes to another state of mind. He begins to see
such a life is impossible, but he does not accept it. There are
multitudes of Christians who come to this point: "I cannot"; and then
think God never expected them to do what they cannot do. If you tell
them that God does expect it, it appears to them a mystery. A good
many Christians are living a low life, a life of failure and of sin,
instead of rest and victory, because they began to see: "I cannot, it
is impossible." And yet they do not understand it fully, and so, under
the impression, I cannot, they give way to despair. They will do their
best, but they never expect to get on very far.
But God leads His children on to a third stage, when a man comes to
take that, It is impossible, in its full truth, and yet at the same
time says: "I must do it, and I will do it -- it is impossible for
man, and yet I must do it"; when the renewed will begins to exercise
its whole power, and in intense longing and prayer begins to cry to
God: "Lord, what is the meaning of this? -- how am I to be freed from
the power of sin?"
It is the state of the regenerate man in Romans 7. There you will find
the Christian man trying his very utmost to live a holy life. God's
law has been revealed to him as reaching down into the very depth of
the desires of the heart, and the man can dare to say:
"I delight in the law of God after the inward man. To will what is
good is present with me. My heart loves the law of God, and my will
has chosen that law."
Can a man like that fail, with his heart full of delight in God's law
and with his will determined to do what is right? Yes. That is what
Romans 7 teaches us. There is something more needed. Not only must I
delight in the law of God after the inward man, and will what God
wills, but I need a divine omnipotence to work it in me. And that is
what the apostle Paul teaches in Philippians 2:13:
"It is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do."
Note the contrast. In Romans 7, the regenerate man says: "To will is
present with me, but to do -- I find I cannot do. I will, but I cannot
perform." But in Philippians 2, you have a man who has been led on
farther, a man who understands that when God has worked the renewed
will, God will give the power to accomplish what that will desires.
Let us receive this as the first great lesson in the spiritual life:
"It is impossible for me, my God; let there be an end of the flesh and
all its powers, an end of self, and lot it be my glory to be
Praise God for the divine teaching that makes us helpless!
When you thought of absolute surrender to God were you not brought to
an end of yourself, and to feel that you could see how you actually
could live as a man absolutely surrendered to God every moment of the
day -- at your table, in your house, in your business, in the midst of
trials and temptations? I pray you learn the lesson now. If you felt
you could not do it, you are on the right road, if you let yourselves
be led. Accept that position, and maintain it before God: "My heart's
desire and delight, O God, is absolute surrender, but I cannot perform
it. It is impossible for me to live that life. It is beyond me." Fall
down and learn that when you are utterly helpless, God will come to
work in you not only to will, but also to do.
Now comes the second lesson. "The things which are impossible with men
are possible with God."
I said a little while ago that there is many a man who has learned the
lesson, It is impossible with men, and then he gives up in helpless
despair, and lives a wretched Christian life, without joy, or
strength, or victory. And why? Because he does not humble himself to
learn that other lesson: With God all things are possible.
Your religious life is every day to be a proof that God works
impossibilities; your religious life is to be a series of
impossibilities made possible and actual by God's almighty power. That
is what the Christian needs. He has an almighty God that he worships,
and he must learn to understand that he does not need a little of
God's power, but he needs -- with reverence be it said -- the whole of
God's omnipotence to keep him right, and to live like a Christian.
The whole of Christianity is a work of God's omnipotence. Look at the
birth of Christ Jesus. That was a miracle of divine power, and it was
said to Mary: "With God nothing shall be impossible." It was the
omnipotence of God. Look at Christ's resurrection. We are taught that
it was according to the exceeding greatness of His mighty power that
God raised Christ from the dead.
Every tree must grow on the root from which it springs. An oak tree
three hundred years old grows all the time on the one root from which
it had its beginning. Christianity had its beginning in the
omnipotence of God, and in every soul it must have its continuance in
that omnipotence. All the possibilities of the higher Christian life
have their origin in a new apprehension of Christ's power to work all
God's will in us.
I want to call upon you now to come and worship an almighty God. Have
you learned to do it? Have you learned to deal so closely with an
almighty God that you know omnipotence is working in you? In outward
appearance there is often so little sign of it. The apostle Paul said:
"I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and . .
. my preaching was ... in demonstration of the Spirit and of power."
From the human side there was feebleness, from the divine side there
was divine omnipotence. And that is true of every godly life; and if
we would only learn that lesson better, and give a wholehearted,
undivided surrender to it, we should learn what blessedness there is
in dwelling every hour and every moment with an almighty God. Have you
ever studied in the Bible the attribute of God's omnipotence? You know
that it was God's omnipotence that created the world, and created
fight out of darkness, and created man. But have you studied God's
omnipotence in the works of redemption?
Look at Abraham. When God called him to be the father of that people
out of which Christ was to be born, God said to him: "I am God
Almighty, walk before me and be thou perfect." And God trained Abraham
to trust Him as the omnipotent One; and whether it was his going out
to a land that he knew not, or his faith as a pilgrim midst the
thousands of Canaanites -- his faith said: This is my land -- or
whether it was his faith in waiting twenty-five years for a son in his
old age, against all hope, or whether it was the raising up of Isaac
from the dead on Mount Moriah when he was going to sacrifice him --
Abraham believed God. He was strong in faith, giving glory to God,
because he accounted Him who had promised able to perform.
The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to
work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You
must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work
gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for
God. I could go through Scripture and prove to you how Moses, when he
led Israel out of Egypt; how Joshua, when he brought them into the
land of Canaan; how all God's servants in the Old Testament counted
upon the omnipotence of God doing impossibilities. And this God lives
today, and this God is the God of every child of His. And yet we are
some of us wanting God to give us a little help while we do our best,
instead of coming to understand what God wants, and to say: "I can do
nothing. God must and will do all." Have you said: "In worship, in
work, in sanctification, in obedience to God, I can do nothing of
myself, and so my place is to worship the omnipotent God, and to
believe that He will work in me every moment"? Oh, may God teach us
this! Oh, that God would by His grace show you what a God you have,
and to what a God you have entrusted yourself -- an omnipotent God,
willing with His whole omnipotence to place Himself at the disposal of
every child of His! Shall we not take the lesson of the Lord Jesus and
say: "Amen; the things which are impossible with men are possible with
Remember what we have said about Peter, his self-confidence,
self-power, self-will, and how he came to deny his Lord. You feel,
"Ah! there is the self-life, there is the flesh-life that rules in
me!" And now, have you believed that there is deliverance from that?
Have you believed that Almighty God is able so to reveal Christ in
your heart, so to let the Holy Spirit rule in you, that. the self-life
shall not have power or dominion over you? Have you coupled the two
together, and with tears of penitence and with deep humiliation and
feebleness, cried out: "O God, it is impossible to me; man cannot do
it, but, glory to Thy name, it is possible with God"? Have you claimed
deliverance? Do it now. Put yourself afresh in absolute surrender into
the hands of a God of infinite love; and as infinite as His love is
His power to do it.
God Works in Man
But again, we came to the question of absolute surrender, and felt
that that is the want in the Church of Christ, and that is why the
Holy Ghost cannot fill us, and why we cannot live as people entirely
separated unto the Holy Ghost; that is why the flesh and the self-life
cannot be conquered. We have never understood what it is to be
absolutely surrendered to God as Jesus was. I know that many a one
earnestly and honestly says: "Amen, I accept the message of absolute
surrender to God"; and yet thinks: "Will that ever be mine? Can I
count upon God to make me one of whom it shall be said in Heaven and
on earth and in Hell, he lives in absolute surrender to God?" Brother,
sister, "the things which are impossible with men are possible with
God." Do believe that when He takes charge of you in Christ, it is
possible for God to make you a man of absolute surrender. And God is
able to maintain that. He is able to let you rise from bed every
morning of the week with that blessed thought directly or indirectly:
"I am in God's charge. My God is working out my life for me."
Some are weary of thinking about sanctification. You pray, you have
longed and cried for it, and yet it appeared so far off! The holiness
and humility of Jesus -- you are so conscious of how distant it is.
Beloved friends, the one doctrine of sanctification that is scriptural
and real and effectual is: "The things which are impossible with men
are possible with God." God can sanctify men, and by His almighty and
sanctifying power every moment God can keep them. Oh, that we might
get a step nearer to our God now! Oh, that the light of God might
shine, and that we might know our God better!
I could go on to speak about the life of Christ in us -- living like
Christ, taking Christ as our Saviour from sin, and as our life and
strength. It is God in Heaven who can reveal that in you. What does
that prayer of the apostle Paul say: "That he would grant you
according to riches of his glory" -- it is sure to be something very
wonderful if it is according to the riches of His glory -- "to be
strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man"? Do you not
see that it is an omnipotent God working by His omnipotence in the
heart of His believing children, so that Christ can become an
indwelling Saviour? You have tried to grasp it and to seize it, and
you have tried to believe it, and it would not come. It was because
you had not been brought to believe that "the things which are
impossible with men are possible with God."
And so, I trust that the word spoken about love may have brought many
to see that we must have an inflowing of love in quite a new way; our
heart must be filled with life from above, from the Fountain of
everlasting love, if it is going to overflow all the day; then it will
be just as natural for us to love our fellowmen as it is natural for
the lamb to be gentle and the wolf to be cruel. Until I am brought to
such a state that the more a man hates and speaks evil of me, the more
unlikable and unlovable a man is, I shall love him all the more; until
I am brought to such a state that the more the obstacles and hatred
and ingratitude, the more can the power of love triumph in me -- until
I am brought to see that, I am not saying: "It is impossible with
men." But if you have been led to say: "This message has spoken to me
about a love utterly beyond my power; it is absolutely impossible" --
then we can come to God and say: "It is possible with Thee."
Some are crying to God for a great revival. I can say that that is the
prayer of my heart unceasingly. Oh, if God would only revive His
believing people! I cannot think in the first place of the unconverted
formalists of the Church, or of the infidels and skeptics, or of all
the wretched and perishing around me, my heart prays in the first
place: "My God, revive Thy Church and people." It is not for nothing
that there are in thousands of hearts yearnings after holiness and
consecration: it is a forerunner of God's power. God works to will and
then He works to do. These yearnings are a witness and a proof that
God has worked to will. Oh, let us in faith believe that the
omnipotent God will work to do among His people more than we can ask.
"Unto him," Paul said, "who is able to do exceeding abundantly above
all that we ask or think.... unto him be glory." Let our hearts say
that. Glory to God, the omnipotent One, who can do above what we dare
to ask or think!
"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." All
around you there is a world of sin and sorrow, and the Devil is there.
But remember, Christ is on the throne, Christ is stronger, Christ has
conquered, and Christ will conquer. But wait on God. My text casts us
down: "The things which are impossible with men"; but it ultimately
lifts us up high -- "are possible with God." Get linked to God. Adore
and trust Him as the omnipotent One, not only for your own life, but
for all the souls that are entrusted to you. Never pray without
adoring His omnipotence, saying: "Mighty God, I claim Thine
almightiness." And the answer to the prayer will come, and like
Abraham you will become strong in faith, giving glory to God, because
you account Him who hath promised able to perform.
"O WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM!"
"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this
death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:24, 25).
You know the wonderful place that this text has in the wonderful
epistle to the Romans. It stands here at the end of the seventh
chapter as the gateway into the eighth. In the first sixteen verses of
the eighth chapter the name of the Holy Spirit is found sixteen times;
you have there the description and promise of the life that a child of
God can live in the power of the Holy Ghost. This begins in the second
verse: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me
free from the law of sin and death." From that Paul goes on to speak
of the great privileges of the child of God, who is to be led by the
Spirit of God. The gateway into all this is in the twenty-fourth verse
of the seventh chapter:
"O wretched man that I am!"
There you have the words of a man who has come to the end of himself.
He has in the previous verses described how he had struggled and
wrestled in his own power to obey the holy law of God, and had failed.
But in answer to his own question he now finds the true answer and
cries out: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." From that he
goes on to speak of what that deliverance is that he has found.
I want from these words to describe the path by which a man can be led
out of the spirit of bondage into the spirit of liberty. You know how
distinctly it is said: "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage
again to fear." We are continually warned that this is the great
danger of the Christian life, to go again into bondage; and I want to
describe the path by which a man can get out of bondage into the
glorious liberty of the children of God. Rather, I want to describe
the man himself.
First, these words are the language of a regenerate man; second, of an
impotent man; third, of a wretched man; and fourth, of a man on the
borders of complete liberty.
The Regenerate Man
There is much evidence of regeneration from the fourteenth verse of
the chapter on to the twenty-third. "It is no more I that do it, but
sin that dwelleth in me": that is the language of a regenerate man, a
man who knows that his heart and nature have been renewed, and that
sin is now a power in him that is not himself. "I delight in the law
of the Lord after the inward man": that again is the language of a
regenerate man. He dares to say when he does evil: "It is no more I
that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." It is of great importance to
In the first two great sections of the epistle, Paul deals with
justification and sanctification. In dealing with justification, he
lays the foundation of the doctrine in the teaching about sin, not in
the singular sin, but in the plural, sins -- the actual
transgressions. In the second part of the fifth chapter he begins to
deal with sin, not as actual transgression, but as a power. just
imagine what a loss it would have been to us if we had not this second
half of the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, if Paul had
omitted in his teaching this vital question of the sinfulness of the
believer. We should have missed the question we all want answered as
to sin in the believer. What is the answer? The regenerate man is one
in whom the will has been renewed, and who can say: "I delight in the
law of God after the inward man."
The Impotent Man
Here is the great mistake made by many Christian people: they think
that when there is a renewed will, it is enough; but that is not the
case. This regenerate man tells us: "I will to do what is good, but
the power to perform I find not." How often people tell us that if you
set yourself determinedly, you can perform what you will! But this man
was as determined as any man can be, and yet he made the confession:
"To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I
But, you ask: "How is it God makes a regenerate man utter such a
confession, with a right will, with a heart that longs to do good, and
longs to do its very utmost to love God?"
Let us look at this question. What has God given us our will for? Had
the angels who fell, in their own will, the strength to stand? Verily,
no. The will of the creature is nothing but an empty vessel in which
the power of God is to be made manifest. The creature must seek in God
all that it is to be. You have it in the second chapter of the epistle
to the Philippians, and you have it here also, that God's work is to
work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Here is a man
who appears to say: "God has not worked to do in me." But we are
taught that God works both to will and to do. How is the apparent
contradiction to be reconciled?
You will find that in this passage (Rom. 7:6-25) the name of the Holy
Spirit does not occur once, nor does the name of Christ occur. The man
is wrestling and struggling to fulfill God's law. Instead of the Holy
Spirit and of Christ, the law is mentioned nearly twenty times. In
this chapter, it shows a believer doing his very best to obey the law
of God with his regenerate will. Not only this; but you will find the
little words, I, me, my, occur more than forty times. It is the
regenerate I in its impotence seeking to obey the law without being
filled with the Spirit. This is the experience of almost every saint.
After conversion a man begins to do his best, and he fails; but if we
are brought into the full light, we need fail no longer. Nor need we
fail at all if we have received the Spirit in His fullness at
God allows that failure that the regenerate man should be taught his
own utter impotence. It is in the course of this struggle that there
comes to us this sense of our utter sinfulness. It is God's way of
dealing with us. He allows that man to strive to fulfill the law that,
as he strives and wrestles, he may be brought to this: "I am a
regenerate child of God, but I am utterly helpless to obey His law."
See what strong words are used all through the chapter to describe
this condition: "I am carnal, sold under sin"; "I see another law in
my members bringing me into captivity"; and last of all, "O wretched
man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" This
believer who bows here in deep contrition is utterly unable to obey
the law of God.
The Wretched Man
Not only is the man who makes this confession a regenerate and an
impotent man, but he is also a wretched man. He is utterly unhappy and
miserable; and what is it that makes him so utterly miserable? It is
because God has given him a nature that loves Himself. He is deeply
wretched because he feels he is not obeying his God. He says, with
brokenness of heart: "It is not I that do it, but I am under the awful
power of sin, which is holding me down. It is I, and yet not I: alas!
alas! it is myself; so closely am I bound up with it, and so closely
is it intertwined with my very nature." Blessed be God when a man
learns to say: "O wretched man that I am!" from the depth of his
heart. He is on the way to the eighth chapter of Romans.
There are many who make this confession a pillow for sin. They say
that Paul had to confess his weakness and helplessness in this way,
what are they that they should try to do better? So the call to
holiness is quietly set aside. Would God that every one of us had
learned to say these words in the very spirit in which they are
written here! When we hear sin spoken of as the abominable thing that
God hates, do not many of us wince before the word? Would that all
Christians who go on sinning and sinning would take this verse to
heart. If ever you utter a sharp word say: "O wretched man that I am!"
And every time you lose your temper, kneel down and understand that it
never was meant by God that this was to be the state in which His
child should remain. Would God that we would take this word into our
daily life, and say it every time we are touched about our own honor,
and every time we say sharp things, and every time we sin against the
Lord God, and against the Lord Jesus Christ in His humility, and in
His obedience, and in His self-sacrifice! Would to God you could
forget everything else, and cry out: "O wretched man that I am! who
shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Why should you say this whenever you commit sin? Because it is when a
man is brought to this confession that deliverance is at hand.
And remember it was not only the sense of being impotent and taken
captive that made him wretched, but it was above all the sense of
sinning against his God. The law was doing its work, making sin
exceeding sinful in his sight. The thought of continually grieving God
became utterly unbearable -- it was this brought forth the piercing
cry: "O wretched man!" As long as we talk and reason about our
impotence and our failure, and only try to find out what Romans 7
means, it will profit us but little; but when once every sin gives new
intensity to the sense of wretchedness, and we feel our whole state as
one of not only helplessness, but actual exceeding sinfulness, we
shall be pressed not only to ask: "Who shall deliver us?" but to cry:
"I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord."
The Almost-Delivered Man
The man has tried to obey the beautiful law of God. He has loved it,
he has wept over his sin, he has tried to conquer, he has tried to
overcome fault after fault, but every time he has ended in failure.
What did he mean by "the body of this death"? Did he mean, my body
when I die? Verily no. In the eighth chapter you have the answer to
this question in the words: "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the
deeds of the body, ye shall live." That is the body of death from
which he is seeking deliverance.
And now he is on the brink of deliverance! In the twenty-third verse
of the seventh chapter we have the words: "I see another law in my
members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into
captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." It is a captive
that cries: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the
body of this death?" He is a man who feels himself bound. But look to
the contrast in the second verse of the eighth chapter: "The law of
the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of
sin and death." That is the deliverance through Jesus Christ our Lord;
the liberty to the captive which the Spirit brings. Can you keep
captive any longer a man made free by the "law of the Spirit of life
in Christ Jesus"?
But you say, the regenerate man, had not he the Spirit of Jesus when
he spoke in the sixth chapter? Yes, but he did not know what the Holy
Spirit could do for him.
God does not work by His Spirit as He works by a blind force in
nature. He leads His people on as reasonable, intelligent beings, and
therefore when He wants to give us that Holy Spirit whom He has
promised, He brings us first to the end of self, to the conviction
that though we have been striving to obey the law, we have failed.
When we have come to the end of that, then He shows us that in the
Holy Spirit we have the power of obedience, the power of victory, and
the power of real holiness.
God works to will, and He is ready to work to do, but, alas! many
Christians misunderstand this. They think because they have the will,
it is enough, and that now they are able to do. This is not so. The
new will is a permanent gift, an attribute of the new nature. The
power to do is not a permanent gift, but must be each moment received
from the Holy Spirit. It is the man who is conscious of his own
impotence as a believer who will learn that by the Holy Spirit he can
live a holy life. This man is on the brink of that great deliverance;
the way has been prepared for the glorious eighth chapter. I now ask
this solemn question: Where are you living? Is it with you, "O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" with now and then a
little experience of the power of the Holy Spirit? or is it, "I thank
God through Jesus Christ! The law of the Spirit hath set me free from
the law of sin and of death"?
What the Holy Spirit does is to give the victory. "If ye through the
Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live." It is the
Holy Ghost who does this -- the third Person of the Godhead. He it is
who, when the heart is opened wide to receive Him, comes in and reigns
there, and mortifies the deeds of the body, day by day, hour by hour,
and moment by moment.
I want to bring this to a point. Remember, dear friend, what we need
is to come to decision and action. There are in Scripture two very
different sorts of Christians. The Bible speaks in Romans, Corinthians
and Galatians about yielding to the flesh; and that is the life of
tens of thousands of believers. All their lack of joy in the Holy
Ghost, and their lack of the liberty He gives, is just owing to the
flesh. The Spirit is within them, but the flesh rules the life. To be
led by the Spirit of God is what they need. Would God that I could
make every child of His realize what it means that the everlasting God
has given His dear Son, Christ Jesus, to watch over you every day, and
that what you have to do is to trust; and that the work of the Holy
Spirit is to enable you. every moment to remember Jesus, and to trust
Him! The Spirit has come to keep the link with Him unbroken every
moment. Praise God for the Holy Ghost! We are so accustomed to think
of the Holy Spirit as a luxury, for special times, or for special
ministers and men. But the Holy Spirit is necessary for every
believer, every moment of the day. Praise God you have Him, and that
He gives you the full experience of the deliverance in Christ, as He
makes you free from the power of sin.
Who longs to have the power and the liberty of the Holy Spirit? Oh,
brother, bow before God in one final cry of despair:
"O God, must I go on sinning this way forever? Who shall deliver me, O
wretched man that I am! from the body of this death?"
Are you ready to sink before God in that cry and seek the power of
Jesus to dwell and work in you? Are you ready to say: "I thank God
through Jesus Christ"?
What good does it do that we go to church or attend conventions, that
we study our Bibles and pray, unless our lives are filled with the
Holy Spirit? That is what God wants; and nothing else will enable us
to live a life of power and peace. You know that when a minister or
parent is using the catechism, when a question is asked an answer is
expected. Alas! how many Christians are content with the question put
here: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of
this death?" but never give the answer. Instead of answering, they are
silent. Instead of saying: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our
Lord," they are forever repeating the question without the answer. If
you want the path to the full deliverance of Christ, and the liberty
of the Spirit, the glorious liberty of the children of God, take it
through the seventh chapter of Romans; and then say: "I thank God
through Jesus Christ our Lord." Be not content to remain ever
groaning, but say: "I, a wretched man, thank God, through Jesus
Christ. Even though I do not see it all, I am going to praise God."
There is deliverance, there is the liberty of the Holy Spirit. The
kingdom of God is "joy in the Holy Ghost."
"HAVING BEGUN IN THE SPIRIT"
The words from which I wish to address you, you will find in the
epistle to the Galatians, the third chapter, the third verse; let us
read the second verse also: "This only would I learn of you, Received
ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are
ye so foolish?" And then comes my text -- "Having begun in the Spirit,
are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
When we speak of the quickening or the deepening or the strengthening
of the spiritual life, we are thinking of something that is feeble and
wrong and sinful; and it is a great thing to take our place before God
with the confession:
"Oh, God, our spiritual life is not what it should be!"
May God work that in your heart, reader.
As we look round about on the church we see so many indications of
feebleness and of failure, and of sin, and of shortcoming, that we are
compelled to ask: Why is it? Is there any necessity for the church of
Christ to be living in such a low state? Or is it actually possible
that God's people should be living always in the joy and strength of
Every believing heart must answer: It is possible.
Then comes the great question: Why is it, how is it to be accounted
for, that God's church as a whole is so feeble, and that the great
majority of Christians are not living up to their privileges? There
must be a reason for it. Has God not given Christ His Almighty Son to
be the Keeper of every believer, to make Christ an ever-present
reality, and to impart and communicate to us all that we have in
Christ? God has given His Son, and God has given His Spirit. How is it
that believers do not live up to their privileges?
We find in more than one of the epistles a very solemn answer to that
question. There are epistles, such as the first to the Thessalonians,
where Paul writes to the Christians, in effect: "I want you to grow,
to abound, to increase more and more." They were young, and there were
things lacking in their faith, but their state was so far
satisfactory, and gave him great joy, and he writes time after time:
"I pray God that you may abound more and more; I write to you to
increase more and more." But there are other epistles where he takes a
very different tone, especially the epistles to the Corinthians and to
the Galatians, and he tells them in many different ways what the one
reason was, that they were not living as Christians ought to live;
many were under the power of the flesh. My text is one example. He
reminds them that by the preaching of faith they had received the Holy
Spirit. He had preached Christ to them; they had accepted that Christ,
and had received the Holy Spirit in power. But what happened? Having
begun in the Spirit, they tried to perfect the work that the Spirit
had begun in the flesh by their own effort. We find the same teaching
in the epistle to the Corinthians.
Now, we have here a solemn discovery of what the great want is in the
church, of Christ. God has called the church of Christ to live in the
power of the Holy Spirit, and the church is living for the most part
in the power of human flesh, and of will and energy and effort apart
from the Spirit of God. I doubt not that that is the case with many
individual believers; and oh, if God will use me to give you a message
from Him, my one message will be this: "If the church will return to
acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is her strength and her help, and if
the church will return to give up everything, and wait upon God to be
filled with the Spirit, her days of beauty and gladness will return,
and we shall see the glory of God revealed among us." This is my
message to every individual believer: "Nothing will help you unless
you come to understand that you must live every day under the power of
the Holy Ghost."
God wants you to be a living vessel in whom the power of the Spirit is
to be manifested every hour and every moment of your life, and God
will enable you to be that.
Now let us try to learn that this word to the Galatians teaches us --
some very simple thoughts. It shows us how (1) the beginning of the
Christian life is receiving the Holy Spirit. It shows us (2) what
great danger there is of forgetting that we are to live by the Spirit,
and not live after the flesh. It shows us (3) what are the fruits and
the proofs of our seeking perfection in the flesh. And then it
suggests to us (4) the way of deliverance from this state.
Receiving the Holy Spirit
First of all, Paul says: "Having begun in the Spirit." Remember, the
apostle not only preached justification by faith, but he preached
something more. He preached this -- the epistle is full of it -- that
justified men cannot live but by the Holy Spirit, and that therefore
God gives to every justified man the Holy Spirit to seal him. The
apostle says to them in effect more than once:
"How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Was it by the preaching of the
law, or by the preaching of faith?"
He could point back to that time when there had been a mighty revival
under his teaching. The power of God had been manifested, and the
Galatians were compelled to confess:
"Yes, we have got the Holy Ghost: accepting Christ by faith, by faith
we received the Holy Spirit."
Now, it is to be feared that there are many Christians who hardly know
that when they believed, they received the Holy Ghost. A great many
Christians can say: "I received pardon and I received peace." But if
you were to ask them: "Have you received the Holy Ghost?" they would
hesitate, and many, if they were to say Yes, would say it with
hesitation; and they would tell you that they hardly knew what it was,
since that time, to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us try
and take hold of this great truth: The beginning of the true Christian
life is to receive the Holy Ghost. And the work of every Christian
minister is that which was the work of Paul -- to remind his people
that they received the Holy Ghost, and must live according to His
guidance and in His power.
If those Galatians who received the Holy Spirit in power were tempted
to go astray by that terrible danger of perfecting in the flesh what
had been begun in the Spirit, how much more danger do those Christians
run who hardly ever know that they have received the Holy Spirit, or
who, if they know it as a matter of belief, hardly ever think of it
and hardly ever praise God for it!
Neglecting the Holy Spirit
But now look, in the second place, at the great danger.
You all know what shunting is on a railway. A locomotive with its
train may be run in a certain direction, and the points at some place
may not be properly opened or closed, and unobservingly it is shunted
off to the right or to the left. And if that takes place, for
instance, on a dark night, the train goes in the wrong direction, and
the people might never know it until they have gone some distance.
And just so God gives Christians the Holy Spirit with this intention,
that every day all their life should be lived in the power of the
Spirit. A man cannot live one hour a godly life unless by the power of
the Holy Ghost. He may live a proper, consistent life, as people call
it, an irreproachable life, a life of virtue and diligent service; but
to live a life acceptable to God, in the enjoyment of God's salvation
and God's love, to live and walk in the power of the new life -- he
cannot do it unless he be guided by the Holy Spirit every day and
But now listen to the danger. The Galatians received the Holy Ghost,
but what was begun by the Spirit they tried to perfect in the flesh.
How? They fell back again under Judaizing teachers who told them they
must be circumcised. They began to seek their religion in external
observances. And so Paul uses that expression about those teachers who
had them circumcised, that "they sought to glory in their flesh."
You sometimes hear the expression used, religious flesh. What is meant
by that? It is simply an expression made to give utterance to this
thought: My human nature and my human will and my human effort can be
very active in religion, and after being converted, and after
receiving the Holy Ghost, I may begin in my own strength to try to
I may be very diligent and doing a great deal, and yet all the time it
is more the work of human flesh than of God's Spirit. What a solemn
thought, that man can, without noticing it, be shunted off from the
line of the Holy Ghost on to the line of the flesh; that he can be
most diligent and make great sacrifices, and yet it is all in the
power of the human will! Ah, the great question for us to ask of God
in self-examination is that we may be shown whether our religious life
is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy
Spirit. A man may be a preacher, he may work most diligently in his
ministry, a man may be a Christian worker, and others may tell of him
that he makes great sacrifices, and yet you can feel there is a want
about it. You feel that he is not a spiritual man; there is no
spirituality about his life. How many Christians there are about whom
no one would ever think of saying: "What a spiritual man he is!" Ah!
there is the weakness of the Church of Christ. It is all in that one
word -- flesh.
Now, the flesh may manifest itself in many ways. It may be manifested
in fleshly wisdom. My mind may be most active about religion. I may
preach or write or think or meditate, and delight in being occupied
with things in God's Book and in God's Kingdom; and yet the power of
the Holy Ghost may be markedly absent. I fear that if you take the
preaching throughout the Church of Christ and ask why there is, alas!
so little converting power in the preaching of the Word, why there is
so much work and often so little result for eternity, why the Word has
so little power to build up believers in holiness and in
consecration-the answer will come: It is the absence of the power of
the Holy Ghost. And why is this? There can be no other reason but that
the flesh and human energy have taken the place that the Holy Ghost
ought to have. That was true of the Galatians, it was true of the
Corinthians. You know Paul said to them: "I cannot speak to you as to
spiritual men; you ought to be spiritual men, but you are carnal." And
you know how often in the course of his epistles he had to reprove and
condemn them for strife and for divisions.
Lacking the Fruit of the Holy Spirit
A third thought: What are the proofs or indications that a church like
the Galatians, or a Christian, is serving God in the power of the
flesh -- is perfecting in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit?
The answer is very easy. Religious self-effort always ends in sinful
flesh. What was the state of those Galatians? Striving to be justified
by the works of the law. And yet they were quarreling and in danger of
devouring one another. Count up the expressions that the apostle uses
to indicate their want of love, and you will find more than twelve --
envy, jealousy, bitterness, strife, and all sorts of expressions. Read
in the fourth and fifth chapters what he says about that. You see how
they tried to serve God in their own strength, and they failed
utterly. All this religious effort resulted in failure. The power of
sin and the sinful flesh got the better of them, and their whole
condition was one of the saddest that could be thought of.
This comes to us with unspeakable solemnity. There is a complaint
everywhere in the Christian Church of the want of a high standard of
integrity and godliness, even among the professing members of
Christian churches. I remember a sermon which I heard preached on
commercial morality. And, oh, if we speak not only of the commercial
morality or immorality, but if we go into the homes of Christians, and
if we think of the life to which God has called His children, and
which He enables them to live by the Holy Ghost, and if we think of
how much, nevertheless, there is of unlovingness and temper and
sharpness and bitterness, and if we think how much there is very often
of strife among the members of churches, and how much there is of envy
and jealousy and sensitiveness and pride, then we are compelled to
say: "Where are marks of the presence of the Spirit of the Lamb of
God?" Wanting, sadly wanting!
Many people speak of these things as though they were the natural
result of our feebleness and cannot well be helped. Many people speak
of these things as sins, yet have given up the hope of conquering
them'. Many people speak of these things in the church around them,
and do not see the least prospect of ever having the things changed.
There is no prospect until there comes a radical change, until the
Church of God begins to see that every sin in the believer comes from
the flesh, from a fleshly life midst our religious activities, from a
striving in self-effort to serve God. Until we learn to make
confession, and until we begin to see, we must somehow or other get
God's Spirit in power back to His Church, we must fail. Where did the
Church begin in Pentecost? There they began in the Spirit. But, alas,
how the Church of the next century went off into the flesh! They
thought to perfect the Church in the flesh.
Do not let us think, because the blessed Reformation restored the
great doctrine of justification by faith, that the power of the Holy
Spirit was then fully restored. If it is our faith that God is going
to have mercy on His Church in these last ages, it will be because the
doctrine and the truth about the Holy Spirit will not only be studied,
but sought after with a whole heart; and not only because that truth
will be sought after, but because ministers and congregations will be
found bowing before God in deep abasement with one cry: "We have
grieved God's Spirit; we have tried to be Christian churches with as
little as possible of God's Spirit; we have not sought to be churches
filled with the Holy Ghost."
All the feebleness in the Church is owing to the refusal of the Church
to obey its God.
And why is that so? I know your answer. You say: "We are too feeble
and too helpless, and we try to obey, and we vow to obey, but somehow
Ah, yes; you fail because you do not accept the strength of God. God
alone can work out His will in you. You cannot work out God's will,
but His Holy Spirit can; and until the Church, until believers grasp
this, and cease trying by human effort to do God's will, and wait upon
the Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power,
the Church will never be what God wants her to be, and what God is
willing to make of her.
Yielding to the Holy Spirit
I come now to my last thought, the question: What is the way to
Beloved friend, the answer is simple and easy. If that train has been
shunted off, there is nothing for it but to come back to the point at
which it was led away. The Galatians had no other way in returning but
to come back to where they had gone wrong, to come back from all
religious effort in their own strength, and from seeking anything by
their own work, and to yield themselves humbly to the Holy Spirit.
There is no other way for us as individuals.
Is there any brother or sister whose heart is conscious: "Alas! my
life knows but little of the power of the Holy Ghost"? I come to you
with God's message that you can have no conception of what your life
would be in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is too high and too
blessed and too wonderful, but I bring you the message that just as
truly as the everlasting Son of God came to this world and wrought His
wonderful works, that just as truly as on Calvary He died and wrought
out your redemption by His precious blood, so, just as truly, can the
Holy Spirit come into your heart that with His divine power He may
sanctify you and enable you to do God's blessed will, and fill your
heart with joy and with strength. But, alas! we have forgotten, we
have grieved, we have dishonored the Holy Spirit, and He has not been
able to do His work. But I bring you the message: The Father in Heaven
loves to fill His children with His Holy Spirit. God longs to give
each one individually, separately, the power of the Holy Spirit for
daily life. The command comes to us individually, unitedly. God wants
us as His children to arise and place our sins before Him, and to call
upon Him for mercy. Oh, are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit,
are ye perfecting in the flesh that which was begun in the Spirit? Let
us bow in shame, and confess before God how our fleshly religion, our
self-effort, and self-confidence, have been the cause of every
I have often been asked by young Christians: "Why is it that I fail
so? I did so solemnly vow with my whole heart, and did desire to serve
God; why have I failed?"
To such I always give the one answer: "My dear friend, you are trying
to do in your own strength what Christ alone can do in you."
And when they tell me: "I am sure I knew Christ alone could do it, I
was not trusting in myself," my answer always is:
"You were trusting in yourself or you could not have failed. If you
had trusted Christ, He could not fail."
Oh, this perfecting in the flesh what was begun in the Spirit runs far
deeper through us than we know. Let us ask God to discover to us that
it is only when we are brought to utter shame and emptiness that we
shall be prepared to receive the blessing that comes from on high.
And so I come with these two questions. Are you living, beloved
brother-minister -- I ask it of every minister of the Gospel -- are
you living under the power of the Holy Ghost? Are you living as an
anointed, Spirit-filled man in your ministry and your life before God?
O brethren, our place is an awful one. We have to show people what God
will do for us, not in our words and teaching, but in our life. God
help us to do it!
I ask it of every member of Christ's Church and of every believer: Are
you living a life under the power of the Holy Spirit day by day, or
are you attempting to live without that? Remember you cannot. Are you
consecrated, given up to the Spirit to work in you and to live in you?
Oh, come and confess every failure of temper, every failure of tongue
however small, every failure owing to the absence of the Holy Spirit
and the presence of the power of self. Are you consecrated, are you
given up to the Holy Spirit?
If your answer be No, then I come with a second question -- Are you
willing to be consecrated? Are you willing to give up yourself to the
power of the Holy Spirit?
You well know that the human side of consecration will not help you. I
may consecrate myself a hundred times with all the intensity of my
being, and that will not help me. What will help me is this -- that
God from Heaven accepts and seals the consecration.
And now are you willing to give yourselves up to the Holy Spirit? You
can do it now. A great deal may still be dark and dim, and beyond what
we understand, and you may feel nothing; but come. God alone can
effect the change. God alone, who gave us the Holy Spirit, can restore
the Holy Spirit in power into our life. God alone can "strengthen us
with might by his Spirit in the inner man." And to every waiting heart
that will make the sacrifice, and give up everything, and give time to
cry and pray to God, the answer will come. The blessing is not far
off. Our God delights to help us. He will enable us to perfect, not in
the flesh, but in the Spirit, what was begun in the Spirit.
KEPT BY THE POWER OF GOD
The words from which I speak, you will find in I Peter 1:5. The third,
fourth and fifth verses are: "Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, which ... hath begotten us again unto a lively hope
by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance
incorruptible ... reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the
power of God through faith unto salvation." The words of my text are:
"Kept by the power of God through faith."
There we have two wonderful, blessed truths about the keeping by which
a believer is kept unto salvation. One truth is, Kept by the power of
God; and the other truth is, Kept through faith. We should look at the
two sides -- at God's side and His almighty power, offered to us to be
our Keeper every moment of the day; and at the human side, we having
nothing to do but in faith to let God do His keeping work. We are
begotten again to an inheritance kept in Heaven for us; and we are
kept here on earth by the power of God. We see there is a double
keeping -- the inheritance kept for me in Heaven, and I on earth kept
for the inheritance there.
Now, as to the first part of this keeping, there is no doubt and no
question. God keeps the inheritance in Heaven very wonderfully and
perfectly, and it is waiting there safely. And the same God keeps me
for the inheritance. That is what I want to understand.
You know it is very foolish of a father to take great trouble to have
an inheritance for his children, and to keep it for them, if he does
not keep them for it. What would you think of a man spending his whole
time and making every sacrifice to amass money, and as he gets his
tens of thousands, you ask him why it is that he sacrifices himself
so, and his answer is: "I want to leave my children a large
inheritance, and I am keeping it for them" -- if you were then to hear
that that man takes no trouble to educate his children, that he allows
them to run upon the street wild, and to go on in paths of sin and
ignorance and folly, what would you think of him? Would not you say:
"Poor man! he is keeping an inheritance for his children, but he is
not keeping or preparing his children for the inheritance"! And there
are so many Christians who think: "My God is keeping the inheritance
for me"; but they cannot believe: "My God is keeping me for that
inheritance." The same power, the same love, the same God doing the
Now, I want to speak about a work God does upon us -- keeping us for
the inheritance. I have already said that we have two very simple
truths: the one the divine side -- we are kept by the power of God;
the other, the human side -- we are kept through faith.
Kept by the Power of God
Look at the divine side: Christians are kept by the power of God.
Keeping Includes All
Think, first of all, that this keeping is all-inclusive.
What is kept? You are kept. How much of you? The whole being. Does God
keep one part of you and not another? No. Some people have an idea
that this is a sort of vague, general keeping, and that God will keep
them in such a way that when they die they will get to Heaven. But
they do not apply that word kept to everything in their being and
nature. And yet that is what God wants.
Here I have a watch. Suppose that this watch had been borrowed from a
friend, and he said to me:
"When you go to Europe, I will let you take it with you, but mind you
keep it safely and bring it back."
And suppose I damaged the watch, and had the hands broken, and the
face defaced, and some of the wheels and springs spoiled, and took it
back in that condition, and handed it to my friend; he would say:
"Ah, but I gave you that watch on condition that you would keep it."
"Have I not kept it? There is the watch."
"But I did not want you to keep it in that general way, so that you
should bring me back only the shell of the watch, or the remains. I
expected you to keep every part of it."
And so God does not want to keep us in this general way, so that at
the last, somehow or other, we shall. be saved as by fire, and just
get into Heaven. But the keeping power and the love of God applies to
every particular of our being.
There are some people who think God will keep them in spiritual
things, but not in temporal things. This latter, they say, lies
outside of His line. Now, God sends you to work in the world, but He
did not say: "I must now leave you to go and earn your own money, and
to get your livelihood for yourself." He knows you are not able to
keep yourself. But God says: "My child, there is no work you are to
do, and no business in which you are engaged, and not a cent which you
are to spend, but I, your Father, will take that up into my keeping."
God not only cares for the spiritual, but for the temporal also. The
greater part of the life of many people must be spent, sometimes eight
or nine or ten hours a day, amid the temptations and distractions of
business; but God will care for you there. The keeping of God includes
There are other people who think: "Ah! in time of trial God keeps me,
but in times of prosperity I do not need His keeping; then I forget
Him and let Him go." Others, again, think the very opposite. They
think: "In time of prosperity, when things are smooth and quiet, I am
able to cling to God, but when heavy trials come, somehow or other my
will rebels, and God does not keep me then."
Now, I bring you the message that in prosperity as in adversity, in
the sunshine as in the dark, your God is ready to keep you all the
Then again, there are others who think of this keeping thus: "God will
keep me from doing very great wickedness, but there are small sins I
cannot expect God to keep me from. There is the sin of temper. I
cannot expect God to conquer that."
When you hear of some man who has been tempted and gone astray or
fallen into drunkenness or murder, you thank God for His keeping
"I might have done the same as that man," you say, "if God had not
kept me." And you believe He kept you from drunkenness and murder.
And why do you not need believe that God can keep you from outbreaks
of temper? You thought that this was of less importance; you did not
remember that the great commandment of the New Testament is -- "Love
one another as I have loved you." And when your temper and hasty
judgment and sharp words came out, you sinned against the highest law
-- the law of God's love. And yet you say: "God will not, God cannot"
-- no, you will not say, God cannot; but you say, "God does not keep
me from that." You perhaps say: "He can; but there is something in me
that cannot attain to it, and which God does not take away."
I want to ask you, Can believers live a holier life than is generally
lived? Can believers experience the keeping power of God all the day,
to keep them from sin? Can believers be kept in fellowship with God?
And I bring you a message from the Word of God, in these words: Kept
by the power of God. There is no qualifying clause to them. The
meaning is, that if you will entrust yourself entirely and absolutely
to the omnipotence of God, He will delight to keep you.
Some people think that they never can get so far as that every word of
their mouth should be to the glory of God. But it is what God wants of
them, it is what God expects of them. God is willing to set a watch at
the door of their mouth, and if God will do that, cannot He keep their
tongue and their lips? He can; and that is what God is going to do for
them that trust Him. God's keeping is all-inclusive, and let everyone
who longs to live a holy life think out all their needs, and all their
weaknesses, and all their shortcomings, and all their sins, and say
deliberately: "Is there any sin that my God cannot keep me from?" And
the heart will have to answer: "No; God can keep me from every sin."
Keeping Requires Power
Second, if you want to understand this keeping, remember that it is
not only an all-inclusive keeping, but it is an almighty keeping.
I want to get that truth burned into my soul; I want to worship God
until my whole heart is filled with the thought of His omnipotence.
God is almighty, and the Almighty God offers Himself to work in my
heart, to do the work of keeping me; and I want to get linked with
Omnipotence, or rather, linked to the Omnipotent One, to the living
God, and to have my place in the hollow of His hand. You read the
Psalms, and you think of the wonderful thoughts in many of the
expressions that David uses; as, for instance, when he speaks about
God being our God, our Fortress, our Refuge, our strong Tower, our
Strength and our Salvation. David had very wonderful views of how the
everlasting God is Himself the hiding place of the believing soul, and
of how He takes the believer and keeps him in the very hollow of His
hand, in the secret of His pavilion, under the shadow of His wings,
under His very feathers. And there David lived. And oh, we who are the
children of Pentecost, we who have known Christ and His blood and the
Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven, why is it we know so little of what
it is to walk tremblingly step by step with the Almighty God as our
Have you ever thought that in every action of grace in your heart you
have the whole omnipotence of God engaged to bless you? When I come to
a man and he bestows upon me a gift of money, I get it and go away
with it. He has given me something of his; the rest he keeps for
himself. But that is not the way with the power of God. God can part
with nothing of His own power, and therefore I can experience the
power and goodness of God only so far as I am in contact and
fellowship with Himself; and when I come into contact and fellowship
with Himself, I come into contact and fellowship with the whole
omnipotence of God, and have the omnipotence of God to help me every
A son has, perhaps, a very rich father, and as the former is about to
commence business the father says: "You can have as much money as you
want for your undertaking." All the father has is at the disposal of
the son. And that is the way with God, your Almighty God. You can
hardly take it in; you feel yourself such a little worm. His
omnipotence needed to keep a little worm! Yes, His omnipotence is
needed to keep every little worm that lives in the dust, and also to
keep the universe, and therefore His omnipotence is much more needed
in keeping your soul and mine from the power of sin.
Oh, if you want to grow in grace, do learn to begin here. In all your
judgings and meditations and thoughts and deeds and questionings and
studies and prayers, learn to be kept by your Almighty God. What is
Almighty God not going to do for the child that trusts Him? The Bible
says: "Above all that we can ask or think." It is Omnipotence you must
learn to know and trust, and then you will live as a Christian ought
to live. How little we have learned to study God, and to understand
that a godly life is a life full of God, a life that loves God and
waits on Him, and trusts Him, and allows Him to bless it! We cannot do
the will of God except by the power of God. God gives us the first
experience of His power to prepare us to long for more, and to come
and claim all that He can do. God help us to trust Him every day.
Keeping Is Continuous
Another thought. This keeping is not only all-inclusive and
omnipotent, but also continuous and unbroken. I
People sometimes say: "For a week or a month God has kept me very
wonderfully: I have lived in the light of His countenance, and I
cannot say what joy I have not had in fellowship with Him. He has
blessed me in my work for others. He has given me souls, and at times
I felt as if I were carried heavenward eagle wings. But it did not
continue. It was too good; it could not last." And some say: "It was
necessary that I should fall to keep me humble." And others say: "I
know it was my own fault; but somehow you cannot always live up in the
Oh, beloved, why is it? Can there by any reason why the keeping of God
should not be continuous and unbroken? just think. All life is in
unbroken continuity. If my life were stopped for half an hour I would
be dead, and my life gone. Life is a continuous thing, and the life of
God is the life of His Church, and the life of God is His almighty
power working in us. And God comes to us as the Almighty One, and
without any condition He offers to be my Keeper, and His keeping means
that day by day, moment by moment, God is going to keep us.
If I were to ask you the question: "Do you think God is able to keep
you one day from actual transgression?" you would answer: "I not only
know He is able to do it, but I think He has done it. There have been
days in which He has kept my heart in His holy presence, when, though
I have always had a sinful nature within me, He has kept me from
conscious, actual transgression."
Now, if He can do that for an hour or a day, why not for two days? Oh!
let us make God's omnipotence as revealed in His Word the measure of
our expectations. Has God not said in His Word: "I, the Lord, do keep
it, and will water it every moment"? What can that mean? Does "every
moment" mean every moment? Did God promise of that vineyard or red
wine that every moment He would water it so that the heat of the sun
and the scorching wind might never dry it up? Yes. In South Africa
they sometimes make a graft, and above it they tie a bottle of water,
so that now and then there shall be a drop to saturate what they have
put about it. And so the moisture is kept there unceasingly until the
graft has had time to stroke, and resist the heat of the sun.
Will our God, in His tenderhearted love toward us, not keep us every
moment when He has promised to do so? Oh! if we once got hold of the
thought: Our whole religious life is to be God's doing -- "It is God
that worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure" -- when
once we get faith to expect that from God, God will do all for us.
The keeping is to be continuous. Every morning God will meet you as
you wake. It is not a question: If I forgot to wake in the morning
with the thought of. Him, what will come of it? If you trust your
waking to God, God will meet you in the morning as you wake with His
divine sunshine and love, and He will give you the consciousness that
through the day you have got God to take charge of you continuously
with His almighty power. And God will meet you the next day and every
day; and never mind if in the practice of fellowship there comes
failure sometimes. If you maintain your position and say: "Lord, I am
going to expect Thee to do Thy utmost, and I am going to trust Thee
day by day to keep me absolutely," your faith will grow stronger and
stronger, and you will know the keeping power of God in unbrokenness.
Kept Through Faith
And now the other side -- Believing. "Kept by the power of God through
faith." How must we look at this faith?
Faith Implies Helplessness
Let me say, first of all, that this faith means utter impotence and
helplessness before God.
At the bottom of all faith there is a feeling of helplessness. If I
have a bit of business to transact, perhaps to buy a house, the
conveyancer must do the work of getting the transfer of the property
in my name, and making all the arrangements. I cannot do that work,
and in trusting that agent I confess I cannot do it. And so faith
always means helplessness. In many cases it means: I can do it with a
great deal of trouble, but another can do it better. But in most cases
it is utter helplessness; another must do it for me. And that is the
secret of the spiritual life. A man must learn to say: "I give up
everything; I have tried and longed, and thought and prayed, but
failure has come. God has blessed me and helped me, but still, in the
long run, there has been so much of sin and sadness." What a change
comes when a man is thus broken down into utter helplessness and
self-despair, and says: "I can do nothing!"
Remember Paul. He was living a blessed life, and he had been taken up
into the third Heaven, and then the thorn in the flesh came, "a
messenger of Satan to buffet me." And what happened? Paul could not
understand it, and he prayed the Lord three times to take it away; but
the Lord said, in effect:
"No; it is possible that you might exalt yourself, and therefore I
have sent you this trial to keep you weak and humble."
And Paul then learned a lesson that he never forgot, and that was --
to rejoice in his infirmities. He said that the weaker he was the
better it was for him, for when he was weak, he was strong in his Lord
Do you want to enter what people call "the higher life"? Then go a
step lower down. I remember Dr. Boardman telling how that once he was
invited by a gentleman to go to see some works where they made fine
shot, and I believe the workmen did so by pouring down molten lead
from a great height. This gentleman wanted to take Dr. Boardman up to
the top of the tower to see how the work was done. The doctor came to
the tower, he entered by the door, and began going upstairs; but when
he had gone a few steps the gentleman called out:
"That is the wrong way. You must come down this way; that stair is
The gentleman took him downstairs a good many steps, and there an
elevator was ready to take him to the top; and he said:
"I have learned a lesson that going down is often the best way to get
Ah, yes, God will have to bring us very low down; there will have to
come upon us a sense of emptiness and despair and nothingness. It is
when we sink down in utter helplessness that the everlasting God will
reveal Himself in His power, and that our hearts will learn to trust
What is it that keeps us from trusting Him perfectly?
Many a one says: "I believe what you say, but there is one difficulty.
If my trust were perfect and always abiding, all would come right, for
I know God will honor trust. But how am I to get that trust?"
My answer is: "By the death of self. The great hindrance to trust is
self-effort. So long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and
strength, you cannot fully trust God. But when God breaks you down,
when everything begins to grow dim before your eyes, and you see that
you understand nothing, then God is coming nigh, and if you will bow
down in nothingness and wait upon God, He will become all."
As long as we are something, God cannot be all, and His omnipotence
cannot do its full work. That is the beginning of faith -- utter
despair of self, a ceasing from man and everything on earth, and
finding our hope in God alone.
Faith Is Rest
And then, next, we must understand that faith is rest.
In the beginning of the faith-life, faith is struggling; but as long
as faith is struggling, faith has not attained its strength. But when
faith in its struggling gets to the end of itself, and just throws
itself upon God and rests on Him, then comes joy and victory.
Perhaps I can make it plainer if I tell the story of how the Keswick
Convention began. Canon Battersby was an evangelical clergyman of the
Church of England for more than twenty years, a man of deep and tender
godliness, but he had not the consciousness of rest and victory over
sin, and often was deeply sad at the thought of stumbling and failure
and sin. When he heard about the possibility of victory, he felt it
was desirable, but it was as if he could not attain it. On one
occasion. he heard an address on "Rest and Faith" from the story of
the nobleman who came from Capernaum to Cana to ask Christ to heal his
child. In the address it was shown that the nobleman believed that
Christ could help him in a general way, but he came to Jesus a good
deal by way of an experiment. He hoped Christ would help him, but he
had not any assurance of that help. But what happened? When Christ
said to him: "Go thy way, for thy child liveth," that man believed the
word that Jesus spoke; he rested in that word. He had no proof that
his child was well again, and he had to walk back seven hours' journey
to Capernaum. He walked back, and on the way met his servant, and got
the first news that the child was well, that at one o'clock on the
afternoon of the previous day, at the very time that Jesus spoke to
him, the fever left the child. That father rested upon the word of
Jesus and His work, and he went down to Capernaum and found his child
well; and he praised God, and became with his whole house a believer
and disciple of Jesus.
Oh, friends, that is faith! When God comes to me with the promise of
His keeping, and I have nothing on earth to trust in, I say to God:
"Thy word is enough; kept by the power of God." That is faith, that is
When Canon Battersby heard that address, he went home that night, and
in the darkness of the night found rest. He rested on the word of
Jesus. And the next morning, in the streets of Oxford, he said to a
friend: "I have found it!" Then he went and told others, and asked
that the Keswick Convention might be begun, and those at the
convention with himself should testify simply what God had done.
It is a great thing when a man comes to rest on God's almighty power
for every moment of his life, in prospect of temptations to temper and
haste and anger and unlovingness and pride and sin. It is a great
thing in prospect of these to enter into a covenant with the
omnipotent Jehovah, not on account of anything that any man says, or
of anything that my heart feels, but on the strength of the Word of
God: "Kept by the power of God through faith."
Oh, let us say to God that we are going to prove Him to the very
uttermost. Let us say: We ask Thee for nothing more than Thou canst
give, but we want nothing less. Let us say: My God, let my life be a
proof of what the omnipotent God can do. Let these be the two
dispositions of our souls every day -- deep helplessness, and simple,
Faith Needs Fellowship
That brings me to just one more thought in regard to faith -- faith
implies fellowship with God.
Many people want to take the Word and believe that, and they find they
cannot believe it. Ah, no! you cannot separate God from His Word. No
goodness or power can be received separate from God, and if you want
to get into this life of godliness, you must take time for fellowship
People sometimes tell me: "My life is one of such scurry and bustle
that I have no time for fellowship with God." A dear missionary said
to me: "People do not know how we missionaries are tempted. I get up
at five o'clock in the morning, and there are the natives waiting for
their orders for work. Then I have to go to the school and spend hours
there; and then there is other work, and sixteen hours rush along, and
I hardly get time to be alone with God."
Ah! there is the want. I pray you, remember two things. I have not
told you to trust the omnipotence of God as a thing, and I have not
told you to trust the Word of God as a written book, but I have told
you to go to the God of omnipotence and the God of the Word. Deal with
God as that nobleman dealt with the living Christ. Why was he able to
believe the word that Christ spoke to him? Because in the very eyes
and tones and voice of Jesus, the Son of God, he saw and heard
something which made him feel that he could trust Him. And that is
what Christ can do for you and me. Do not try to stir and arouse faith
from within. How often I have tried to do that, and made a fool of
myself! You cannot stir up faith from the depths of your heart. Leave
your heart, and look into the face of Christ, and listen to what He
tells you about how He will keep you. Look up into the face of your
loving Father, and take time every day with Him, and begin a new life
with the deep emptiness and poverty of a man who has got nothing, and
who wants to get everything from Him -- with the deep restfulness of a
man who rests on the living God, the omnipotent Jehovah -- and try
God, and prove Him if He will not open the windows of Heaven and pour
out a blessing that there shall not be room to receive it.
I close by asking if you are willing to experience to the very full
the heavenly keeping for the heavenly inheritance? Robert Murray
M'Cheyne says, somewhere: "Oh, God, make me as holy as a pardoned
sinner can be made." And if that prayer is in your heart, come now,
and let us enter into a covenant with the everlasting and omnipotent
Jehovah afresh, and in great helplessness, but in great restfulness
place ourselves in His hands. And then as we enter into our covenant,
let us have the one prayer -- that we may believe fully that the
everlasting God is going to be our Companion, holding our hand every
moment of the day; our Keeper, watching over us without a moment's
interval; our Father, delighting to reveal Himself in our souls
always. He has the power to let the sunshine of His love be with us
all the day. Do not be afraid because you have got your business that
you cannot have God with you always. Learn the lesson that the natural
sun shines upon you all the day, and you enjoy its light, and wherever
you are you have got the sun; God takes care that it shines upon you.
And God will take care that His own divine light shines upon you, and
that you shall abide in that light, if you will only trust Him for it.
Let us trust God to do that with a great and entire trust.
Here is the omnipotence of God, and here is faith reaching out to the
measure of that omnipotence. Shall we not say: "All that that
omnipotence can do, I am going to trust my God for"? Are not the two
sides of this heavenly life wonderful? God's omnipotence covers me,
and my will in its littleness rests in that omnipotence, and rejoices
Moment by moment, I'm kept in His love;
Moment by moment, I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus, the glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, Oh, Lord, I am Thine!
"YE ARE THE BRANCHES"
An Address to Christian Workers
Everything depends on our being right ourselves in Christ. If I want
good apples, I must have a good apple tree; and if I care for the
health of the apple tree, the apple tree will give me good apples. And
it is just so with our Christian life and work. If our life with
Christ be right, all will come right. There may be the need of
instruction and suggestion and help and training in the different
departments of the work; all that has value. But in the long run, the
greatest essential is to have the full life in Christ -- in other
words, to have Christ in us, working through us. I know how much there
often is to disturb us, or to cause anxious questionings; but the
Master has such a blessing for every one of us, and such perfect peace
and rest, and such joy and strength, if we can only come into, and be
kept in, the right attitude toward Him.
I will take my text from the parable of the Vine and the Branches, in
John 15:5: "I am the vine, ye are the branches." Especially these
words: "Ye are the branches."
What a simple thing it is to be a branch, the branch of a tree, or the
branch of a vine! The branch grows out of the vine, or out of the
tree, and there it lives and grows, and in due time, bears fruit. It
has no responsibility except just to receive from the root and stem
sap and nourishment. And if we only by the Holy Spirit knew our
relationship to Jesus Christ, our work would be changed into the
brightest and most heavenly thing upon earth. Instead of there ever
being soul-weariness or exhaustion, our work would be like a new
experience, linking us to Jesus as nothing else can. For, alas! is it
not often true that our work comes between us and Jesus? What folly!
The very work that He has to do in me, and I for Him, I take up in
such a way that it separates me from Christ. Many a laborer in the
vineyard has complained that he has too much work, and not time for
close communion with Jesus, and that his usual work weakens his
inclination for prayer, and that his too much intercourse with men
darkens the spiritual life. Sad thought, that the bearing of fruit
should separate the branch from the vine! That must be because we have
looked upon our work as something other than the branch bearing fruit.
May God deliver us from every false thought about the Christian life.
Now, just a few thoughts about this blessed branch-life.
In the first place, it is a life of absolute dependence. The branch
has nothing; it just depends upon the vine for everything. Absolute
dependence is one of the most solemn and precious of thoughts. A great
German theologian wrote two large volumes some years ago to show that
the whole of Calvin's theology is summed up in that one principle of
absolute dependence upon God; and he was right. Another great writer
has said that absolute, unalterable dependence upon God alone is the
essence of the religion of angels, and should be that of men also. God
is everything to the angels, and He is willing to be everything to the
Christian. If I can learn every moment of the day to depend upon God,
everything will come right. You will get the higher life if you depend
absolutely upon God.
Now, here we find it with the vine and the branches. Every vine you
ever see, or every bunch of grapes that comes upon your table, let it
remind you that the branch is absolutely dependent on the vine. The
vine has to do the work, and the branch enjoys the fruit of it.
What has the vine to do? It has to do a great work. It has to send its
roots out into the soil and hunt under the ground -- the roots often
extend a long way out -- for nourishment, and to drink in the
moisture. Put certain elements of manure in certain directions, and
the vine sends its roots there, and then in its roots or sterns it
turns the moisture and manure into that special sap which is to make
the fruit that is borne. The vine does the work, and the branch has
just to receive from the vine the sap, which is changed into grapes. I
have been told that at Hampton Court, London, there is a vine that
sometimes bore a couple of thousand bunches of grapes, and people were
astonished at its large growth and rich fruitage. Afterward it was
discovered what was the cause of it. Not so very far away runs the
River Thames, and the vine had stretched its roots away hundreds of
yards under the ground, until it had come to the riverside, and there
in all the rich slime of the riverbed it had found rich nourishment,
and obtained moisture, and the roots had drown the sap all that
distance up and up into the vine, and as a result there was the
abundant, rich harvest. The vine had the work to do, and the branches
had just to depend upon the vine, and receive what it gave.
Is that literally true of my Lord Jesus? Must I understand that when I
have to work, when I have to preach a sermon, or address a Bible
class, or to go out and visit the poor, neglected ones, that all the
responsibility of the work is on Christ?
That is exactly what Christ wants you to understand. Christ wants that
in all your work, the very foundation should be the simple, blessed
consciousness: Christ must care for all.
And how does He fulfill the trust of that dependence? He does it by
sending down the Holy Spirit -- not now and then only as a special
gift, for remember the relationship between the vine and the branches
is such that hourly, daily, unceasingly there is the living connection
maintained. The sap does not flow for a time, and then stop, and then
flow again, but from moment to moment the sap flows from the vine to
the branches. And just so, my Lord Jesus wants me to take that blessed
position as a worker, and morning by morning and day by day and hour
by hour and step by step, in every work I have to go out to just to
abide before Him in the simple utter helplessness of one who knows
nothing, and is nothing, and can do nothing. Oh, beloved workers,
study that word nothing. You sometimes sing: "Oh, to be nothing,
nothing"; but have you really studied that word and prayed every day,
and worshiped God, in the light of it? Do you know the blessedness of
that word nothing?
If I am something, then God is not everything; but when I become
nothing, God can become all, and the everlasting God in Christ can
reveal Himself fully. That is the higher life. We need to become
nothing. Someone has well said that the seraphim and cherubim are
flames of fire because they know they are nothing, and they allow God
to put His fullness and His glory and brightness into them. Oh, become
nothing in deep reality, and, as a worker, study only one thing-to
become poorer and lower and more helpless, that Christ may work all in
Workers, here is your first lesson: learn to be nothing, learn to be
helpless. The man who has got something is not absolutely dependent;
but the man who has got nothing is absolutely dependent. Absolute
dependence upon God is the secret of all power in work. The branch has
nothing but what it gets from the vine, and you and I can have nothing
but what we get from Jesus.
But second, the life of the branch is not only a life of entire
dependence, but of deep restfulness.
That little branch, if it could think, and if it could feel, and if it
could speak -- that branch away in Hampton Court vine, or on some of
the million vines that we have in South Africa, in our sunny land --
if we could have a little branch here today to talk to us, and if we
could say: "Come, branch of the vine, I want to learn from you how I
can be a true branch of the living Vine," what would it answer? The
little branch would whisper:
"Man, I hear that you are wise, and I know that you can do a great
many wonderful things. I know you have much strength and wisdom given
to you but I have one lesson for you. With all your hurry and effort
in Christ's work you never prosper. The first thing you need is to
come and rest in your Lord Jesus. That is what I do. Since I grew out
of that vine I have spent years and years, and all I have done is just
to rest in the vine. When the time of spring came I had no anxious
thought or care. The vine began to pour its sap into me, and to give
the bud and leaf. And when the time of summer came I had no care, and
in the great heat I trusted the vine to bring moisture to keep me
fresh. And in the time of harvest, when the owner came to pluck the
grapes, I had no care. If there was anything in the grapes not good,
the owner never blamed the branch, the blame was always on the vine.
And if you would be a true branch of Christ, the living Vine, just
rest on Him. Let Christ bear the responsibility."
You say: "Won't that make me slothful?"
I tell you it will not. No one who learns to rest upon the living
Christ can become slothful, for the closer your contact with Christ
the more of the Spirit of His zeal and love will be borne in upon you.
But, oh, begin to work in the midst of your entire dependence by
adding to that deep restfulness. A man sometimes tries and tries to be
dependent upon Christ, but he worries himself about this absolute
dependence; he tries and he cannot get it. But let him sink down into
entire restfulness every day.
In Thy strong hand I lay me down.
So shall the work be done;
For who can work so wondrously
As the Almighty One?
Worker, take your place every day at the feet of Jesus, in the blessed
peace and rest that come from the knowledge --
I have no care, my cares are His!
I have no fear, He cares for all my fears.
Come, children of God, and understand that it is the Lord Jesus who
wants to work through you. You complain of the want of fervent love.
It will come from Jesus. He will give the divine love in your heart
with which you can love people. That is the meaning of the assurance:
"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit"; and
of that other word: "The love of Christ constraineth us." Christ can
give you a fountain of love, so that you cannot help loving the most
wretched and the most ungrateful, or those who have wearied you
hitherto. Rest in Christ, who can give wisdom and strength, and you do
not know how that restfulness will often prove to be the very best
part of your message. You plead with people and you argue, and they
get the idea : "There is a man arguing and striving with me." They
only feel: "Here are two men dealing with each other." But if you will
let the deep rest of God come over you, the rest in Christ Jesus, the
peace and rest and holiness of Heaven, that restfulness will bring a
blessing to the heart, even more than the words you speak.
But third, the branch teaches a lesson of much fruitfulness.
The Lord Jesus Christ repeated that word fruit often in that parable.
He spoke, first, of fruit, and then of more fruit, and then of much
fruit. Yes, you are ordained not only to bear fruit, but to bear much
fruit. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." In
the first place, Christ said: "I am the Vine, and my Father is the
Husbandman. My Father is the Husbandman who has charge of me and you."
He who will watch over the connection between Christ and the branches
is God; and it is in the power of God through Christ we are to bear
Oh, Christians, you know this world is perishing for the want of
workers. And it wants not only more workers -- the workers are saying,
some more earnestly than others: "We need not only more workers, but
we need our workers to have a new power, a different life; that we
workers should be able to bring more blessing." Children of God, I
appeal to you. You know what trouble you take, say, in a case of
sickness. You have a beloved friend apparently in danger of death, and
nothing can refresh that friend so much as a few grapes, and they are
out of season; but what trouble you will take to get the grapes that
are to be the nourishment of this dying friend! And, oh, there are
around you people who never go to church, and so many who go to
church, but do not know Christ. And yet the heavenly grapes, the
grapes of Eshcol, the grapes of the heavenly Vine are not to be had at
any price, except as the child of God bears them out of his inner life
in fellowship with Christ. Except the children of God are filled with
the sap of the heavenly Vine, except they are filled with the Holy
Spirit and the love of Jesus, they cannot bear much of the real
heavenly grape. We all confess there is a great deal of work, a great
deal of preaching and teaching and visiting, a great deal of
machinery, a great deal of earnest effort of every kind; but there is
not much manifestation of the power of God in it.
What is wanting? There is wanting the close connection between the
worker and the heavenly Vine. Christ, the heavenly Vine, has blessings
that He could pour on tens of thousands who are perishing. Christ, the
heavenly Vine, has power to provide the heavenly grapes. But "Ye are
the branches," and you cannot bear heavenly fruit unless you are in
close connection with Jesus Christ.
Do not confound work and fruit. There may be a good deal of work for
Christ that is not the fruit of the heavenly Vine. Do not seek for
work only. Oh! study this question of fruit-bearing. It means the very
life and the very power and the very spirit and the very love within
the heart of the Son of God -- it means the heavenly Vine Himself
coming into your heart and mine.
You know there are different sorts of grapes, each with a different
name, and every vine provides exactly that peculiar aroma and juice
which gives the grape its particular flavor and taste. just so, there
is in the heart of Christ Jesus a life, and a love, and a Spirit, and
a blessing, and a power for men, that are entirely heavenly and
divine, and that will come down into our hearts. Stand in close
connection with the heavenly Vine and say:
"Lord Jesus, nothing less than the sap that flows through Thyself,
nothing less than the Spirit of Thy divine life is what we ask. Lord
Jesus, I pray Thee let Thy Spirit flow through me in all my work for
I tell you again that the sap of the heavenly Vine is nothing but the
Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the life of the heavenly Vine, and
what you must get from Christ is nothing less than a strong inflow of
the Holy Spirit. You need it exceedingly, and you want nothing more
than that. Remember that. Do not expect Christ to give a bit of
strength here, and a bit of blessing yonder, and a bit of help over
there. As the vine does its work in giving its own peculiar sap to the
branch, so expect Christ to give His own Holy Spirit into your heart,
and then you will bear much fruit. And if you have only begun to bear
fruit, and are listening to the word of Christ in the parable, "more
fruit," "much fruit," remember that in order that you should bear more
fruit you just require more of Jesus in your fife and heart.
We ministers of the Gospel, how we are in danger of getting into a
condition of work, work, work! And we pray over it, but the freshness
and buoyancy and joy of the heavenly life are not always present. Let
us seek to understand that the life of the branch is a life of much
fruit, because it is a life rooted in Christ, the living, heavenly
And fourth, the life of the branch is a life of close communion.
Let us again ask: What has the branch to do? You know that precious,
inexhaustible word that Christ used: Abide. Your life is to be an
abiding life. And how is the abiding to be? It is to be just like the
branch in the vine, abiding every minute of the day. There are the
branches, in close communion, in unbroken communion, with the vine,
from January to December. And cannot I live every day -- it is to me
an almost terrible thing that we should ask the question -- cannot I
live in abiding communion with the heavenly Vine?
You say: "But I am so much occupied with other things."
You may have ten hours' hard work daily, during which your brain has
to be occupied with temporal things; God orders it so. But the abiding
work is the work of the heart, not of the brain, the work of the heart
clinging to and resting in Jesus, a work in which the Holy Spirit
links us to Christ Jesus. Oh, do believe that deeper down than the
brain, deep down in the inner life, you can abide in Christ, so that
every moment you are free the consciousness will Come:
"Blessed Jesus, I am still in Thee."
If you will learn for a time to put aside other work and to get into
this abiding contract with the heavenly Vine, you will find that fruit
What is the application to our life of this abiding communion? What
does it mean?
It means close fellowship with Christ in secret prayer. I am sure
there are Christians who do long for the higher fife, and who
sometimes have got a great blessing, and have at times found a great
inflow of heavenly joy and a great outflow of heavenly gladness; and
yet after a time it has passed away. They have not understood that
close personal actual communion with Christ is an absolute necessity
for daily life. Take time to be alone with Christ. Nothing in Heaven
or earth can free you from the necessity for that, if you are to be
happy and holy Christians.
Oh! how many Christians look upon it as a burden and a tax, and a
duty, and a difficulty to be often alone with God! That is the great
hindrance to our Christian life everywhere. We need more quiet
fellowship with God, and I tell you in the name of the heavenly Vine
that you cannot be healthy branches, branches into which the heavenly
sap can flow, unless you take plenty of time for communion with God.
If you are not willing to sacrifice time to get alone with Him, and to
give Him time every day to work in you, and to keep up the link of
connection between you and Himself, He cannot give you that blessing
of His unbroken fellowship. Jesus Christ asks you to live in close
communion with Him. Let every heart say: "O, Christ, it is this I long
for, it is this I choose." And He will gladly give it to you.
And then finally, the life of the branch is a life of absolute
This word, absolute surrender, is a great and solemn word, and I
believe we do not understand its meaning. But yet the little branch
"Have you anything to do, little branch, besides bearing grapes?"
"Are you fit for nothing?"
Fit for nothing! The Bible says that a bit of vine cannot even be used
as a pen; it is fit for nothing but to be burned.
"And now, what do you understand, little branch, about your
relationship to the vine?"
"My relationship is just this: I am utterly given up to the vine, and
the vine can give me as much or as little sap as it chooses. Here I am
at its disposal and the vine can do with me what it likes."
Oh, friends, we need this absolute surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The more I speak, the more I feel that this is one of the most
difficult points to make clear, and one of the most important and
needful points to explain -- what this absolute surrender is. It is
often an easy thing for a man or a number of men to come out and offer
themselves up to God for entire consecration, and to say: "Lord, it is
my desire to give up myself entirely to Thee." That is of great value,
and often brings very rich blessing. But the one question I ought to
study quietly is What is meant by absolute surrender?
It means that, as literally as Christ was given up entirely to God, I
am given up entirely to Christ. Is that too strong? Some think so.
Some think that never can be; that just as entirely and absolutely as
Christ gave up His life to do nothing but seek the Father's pleasure,
and depend on the Father absolutely and entirely, I am to do nothing
but to seek the pleasure of Christ. But that is actually true. Christ
Jesus came to breathe His own Spirit into us, to make us find our very
highest happiness in living entirely for God, just as He did. Oh,
beloved brethren, if that is the case, then I ought to say:
"Yes, as true as it is of that little branch of the vine, so true, by
God's grace, I would have it to be of me. I would live day by day that
Christ may be able to do with me what He will."
Ah! here comes the terrible mistake that lies at the bottom of so much
of our own religion. A man thinks:
"I have my business and family duties, and my relationships as a
citizen, and all this I cannot change. And now alongside all this I am
to take in religion and the service of God, as something that will
keep me from sin. God help me to perform my duties properly!"
This is not right. When Christ came, He came and bought the sinner
with His blood. If there was a slave market here and I were to buy a
slave, I should take that slave away to my own house from his old
surroundings, and he would live at my house as my personal property,
and I could order him about all the day. And if he were a faithful
slave, he would live as having no will and no interests of his own,
his one care being to promote the well-being and honor of his master.
And in like manner I, who have been bought with the blood of Christ,
have been bought to live every day with the one thought -- How can I
please my Master?
Oh, we find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for God's
blessing while we live in our own will. We should be glad to live the
Christian life according to our own liking. We make our own plans and
choose our own work, and then we ask the Lord Jesus to come in and
take care that sin shall not conquer us too much, and that we shall
not go too far wrong; we ask Him to come in and give us so much of His
blessing. But our relationship to Jesus ought to be such that we are
entirely at His disposal, and every day come to Him humbly and
straightforwardly and say:
"Lord, is there anything in me that is not according to Thy will, that
has not been ordered by Thee, or that is not entirely given up to
Oh, if we would wait and wait patiently, I tell you what the result
would be. There would spring up a relationship between us and Christ
so close and so tender that we should afterward be amazed at how we
formerly could have lived with the idea: "I am surrendered to Christ."
We should feel how far distant our intercourse with Him had previously
been, and that He can, and does indeed, come and take actual
possession of us, and gives unbroken fellowship all the day. The
branch calls us to absolute surrender.
I do not speak now so much about the giving up of sins. There are
people who need that, people who have got violent tempers, bad habits,
and actual sins which they from time to time commit, and which they
have never given up into the very bosom of the Lamb of God. I pray
you, if you are branches of the living Vine, do not keep one sin back.
I know there are a great many difficulties about this question of
holiness. I know that all do not think exactly the same with regard to
it. That would be to me a matter of comparative indifference if I
could see that all are honestly longing to be free from every sin. But
I am afraid that unconsciously there are in hearts often compromises
with the idea that we cannot be without sin, we must sin a little
every day; we cannot help it. Oh, that people would actually cry to
God: "Lord, do keep me from sin!" Give yourself utterly to Jesus, and
ask Him to do His very utmost for you in keeping you from sin.
There is a great deal in our work, in our church and our surroundings
that we found in the world when we were born into it, and it has grown
all around us, and we think that it is all right, it cannot be
changed. We do not come to the Lord Jesus and ask Him about it. Oh! I
advise you, Christians, bring everything into relationship with Jesus
"Lord, everything in my life has to be in most complete harmony with
my position as a branch of Thee, the blessed Vine."
Let your surrender to Christ be absolute. I do not understand that
word surrender fully; it gets new meanings every now and then; it
enlarges immensely from time to time. But I advise you to speak it
out: "Absolute surrender to Thee, O Christ, is what I have chosen."
And Christ will show you what is not according to His mind, and lead
you on to deeper and higher blessedness.
In conclusion, let me gather up all in one sentence. Christ Jesus
said: "I am the Vine, ye are the branches." In other words: "I, the
living One who have so completely given myself to you, am the Vine.
You cannot trust me too much. I am the Almighty Worker, full of a
divine life and power." You are the branches of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If there is in your heart the consciousness that you are not a strong,
healthy, fruit-bearing branch, not closely linked with Jesus, not
living in Him as you should be -- then listen to Him say: "I am the
Vine, I will receive you, I will draw you to myself, I will bless you,
I will strengthen you, I will fill you with my Spirit. I, the Vine,
have taken you to be my branches, I have given myself utterly to you;
children, give yourselves utterly to me. I have surrendered myself as
God absolutely to you; I became man and died for you that I might be
entirely yours. Come and surrender yourselves entirely to be mine."
What shall our answer be? Oh, let it be a prayer from the depths of
our heart, that the living Christ may take each one of us and link us
close to Himself. Let our prayer be that He, the living Vine, shall so
link each of us to Himself that we shall go away with our hearts
singing: "He is my Vine, and I am His branches -- I want nothing more
-- now I have the everlasting Vine." Then, when you get alone with
Him, worship and adore Him, praise and trust Him, love Him and wait
for His love. "Thou art my Vine, and I am Thy branch. It is enough, my
soul is satisfied."
Glory to His blessed name!
Index of Scripture References
7 7 7 7 7:6-25 7:24 7:25
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal
Library at Calvin College, http://www.ccel.org,
generated on demand from ThML source.