This royal proclamation from the throne of God, delivered to us by His inspired prophet, appears to me to stand directly opposed to nine-tenths of the divinity of the day in which we live. Modern divines seem to take very great liberties with the word of God; and I should have mentioned, that they have taken the liberty of transposing the word “not,” with which my text opens, and so read the text, “By might, and by power, and not by my Spirit.” That seems to be the order of modern theology, which is throwing wide open the gates to admit the flood of Popery; and when Popish domination is exercised over this kingdom, there will be more guilt and more wrath from God lie upon the modern preachers and professors of the present day than upon Papists and Infidels together, because they have done more to bring in Popery by diluting the gospel down to the Popish standard. You must bear with me if I use these strong expressions; my soul is burdened with the word of the Lord, and I must unburden it. You will find that it is no uncommon thing to talk in the present day about converting all the world by creature-effort, giving money, and the like; they do not want any Divine agency—it is all to be done by man’s might and man’s money. There never was a single conversion to God yet in that way, and there never will be. Now I will keep to my text. It is “not by might,” it is not by any creature-effort, it is not by the will of man, “but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” There is a peculiar beauty, which I must detain you a little while upon, in the preparatory statements to my text, highly figurative as they are. It is plain that the Lord was revealing, by His servant Zechariah, the manner and the certainty of the building of the second temple, and two prominent characters are introduced to are notice by the prophet—Zerubbabel the governor and ruler, and Joshua the high—priest. These are set before in figures peculiarly significant, pointing to the person of Christ, who was to be both King and Priest, and setting Him before us. Well, the prophet seems to have been in a drowsy fit—and some of us do get sometimes into a drowsy fit—and he says, “He that talked with me before, came and waked me as a man that is awakened out of his sleep.” What a mercy that God puts forth His awakening power, and rouses us from our drowsy fits to attend to His voice and to His word. “And He said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps which are upon the top thereof; and two olive-trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.” What could this signify? The prophet asks the question, “What are these, my Lord” An equally figurative answer is given. If I may venture my opinion, as one that has obtained mercy, I should say that this golden candlestick was a representation of the Church of God in every age; it was so marked in the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple, and all of the same description, all of pure gold, and having seven branches—just pointing out the perfection of the number, for the number seven is always held as the number of perfection, and the purity of it. All of pure gold. There was to be no mixture, no alloy, nothing of the creature, nothing earthy, all pure gold; and you may rest assured, beloved, that when God owns His candlestick—His Church—at last, there will be nothing found but pure gold, pure spirituality, Divine life. These are what God acknowledges. Well, then you are to observe, on the top of the candlestick was a bowl, a golden bowl, full of oil, in close connection there were olive—trees, one on each side, to supply the bowl, and by certain pipes of union to supply the branches of the candlestick—so that all were to be a light. Now this, to a superficial reader, would appear highly mystical and figurative, and beyond his comprehension. Allow me to give a word of opinion a little further. I may differ from some therein, but I must give my opinion as one that has obtained mercy. Then mark, I beseech you, this golden bowl that surmounts the candlestick is above it, superior to it, and in the very center of the seven branches is the mediatorial office of Christ; and this is full of golden oil. The two olive-trees I take to point to Zerubbabel and Joshua—to the government and the priesthood, both of which belong to Christ; and we shall have no oil in our churches, no light in our candlesticks, no prosperity in Zion, but as the sovereign government of Christ is maintained, and the priestly office of Christ exercised in behalf of His Church. Then we will own no sovereignty over the Church of God but the sovereignty of Christ—we will own no priesthood over the Church of Christ but the priesthood of Christ officially. All others who assume it officially are serving the Pope of Rome thereby, and not God. The official priesthood is one of the olive-trees, and the sovereign government and kingly office of Christ the other. Both are emptying out themselves into the golden bowl, the mediatorial office of Christ; and the mediatorial headship and office of Christ over His Church, receiving from His fullness grace for grace, keeps the lamps burning—keeps the lights always alive. There is another view that may be taken of this two olive-trees, and they are to me very beautiful, because they are called in the margin two sons of oil, and I have sometimes looked at them as the two natures of Christ, His Divine nature would not communicate the oil without the human—His human nature would have none to communicate without the Divine; but put the Divine and human natures together, as well as His kingly and priestly offices, and then we have quite enough to supply the golden bowl, and as long as the golden bowl is full and “it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell,” and the golden pipes remain uncut, uninjured, and unhurt forming a union between the mediatorial office of Christ and every member of the candlestick, every member of the Church of the living God, the oil must flow, the lamp must burn, and there must be a light shining unto all that are in the house.
I have thus detained you upon the exordium, because it seemed to lay the foundation for our subject. Now you are to mark, the candlestick could give no light—an Arminian candlestick could be of no use—if there is no golden pipe of union with Christ’s covenant character. There is no oil flowing—it is all carnal and earthly, and they may rub it up and polish it as much as they will, but they cannot put any oil inside of it, and consequently there will be no shining light. Let It be further observed, that this glorious union is inseparable, for it is all gold, pure gold, and there exists, as we shall presently have to notice more in the body of the subject, such a union between Christ and His Church, in the golden bowl and the candlestick, and in every branch of it, that all the seven must receive their light from Him. Then we come to the point, that all this is figurative, and the directions to Zerubbabel to build the second temple; and when the temple was to be built, and the candlestick represented, the light to be put in it, and the supply of oil promised by God, then the declaration was to go forth that man had nothing to do with it—that man with his depravity and death should not touch it with a finger; if he did, he would pollute it. Then comes the declaration. which I want to notice, if I can get through the others time enough, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”
I. After this order let me, first of all, invite your attention to the temple to be erected. You will all allow, no doubt, that it was typical, for Christ said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it again; but this spake He of the temple of His body” literally, and the temple of His body mystically, which is His Church. I want your attention a little this morning to His temple, His Church, a holy temple, in which God condescends to manifest His glory. Now this temple is spoken of in the language of this chapter from its very foundation. The hands of Zerubbabel had laid the foundations of it, and his hand should bring forth the top-stone with shouting of—free-will has done it! Nay, it would set all heaven in uproar, it would turn all the inhabitants of heaven out of their mansions, such a shout as that. No, no, “shoutings of grace, grace unto it.” Free, sovereign, rich, discriminating grace, has done it all from the foundation to the top-stone.
Now just look a moment at the foundation which was laid by Jehovah Himself. “Behold,” saith He, “I lay in Zion for a foundation.” Well, why did not Adam lay it after he fell. He must have felt the need of it. Why did not Moses lay it? He was taught it only by type, and figure, and mystic representation. Solomon was a wise man, why did not he lay it? He could only lay the foundation of the type of it, and bring forth that. Jehovah reserves the laying of the foundation of it to Himself, “Behold I lay,” and “no other foundation can any man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11) Now just mark here that Jehovah laid the foundation for His living Church in purpose before the world began in the sacred decretive enactments of His own infinite wisdom and love, giving every member of it to the covenant Head, and registering all their names in the Book of Life. Moreover, He laid the foundation of His Church in the person of Christ according to the text we have just cited; and He is the foundation of the hope of every soul taught of God; the foundation of confidence, for all faith is the faith of the operation of God; the foundation of comfort for every member of the family of God. We exclude all besides. We do not like the man’s conduct that built his house upon the sand, for when the floods came and the winds began to blow it fell. Ah, my hearers, there are thousands and tens of thousands of sandy foundation builders in the day in which we live; and their house will tumble down about their ears so soon as God sends the wind, and the rain, and the storm, and the tempest upon it. But our foundation is laid in the person of Christ, and if the powers of darkness shall not prevail, and He says they shall not; if the gates of hell shall not prevail, there is a firm and a sure foundation, and all the family of God, the entire election of grace, those whom the Father gave to the Son, and whom the Holy Ghost registered in the Book of Life from everlasting, are all brought—(my hearer, examine this point)—are all brought sooner or later to rest their eternal all upon the person, official character, and perfect work of the Son of God; and he who rests not there exclusively, will perish everlastingly. I wish to be as positive and as clear as I can on this point. One modern writer says there is rather too much of the Boanerges about me; God helping me, there shall be more as long as I live. I cannot allow matters insulting to my God to pass unrebuked; I cannot mingle with the heresies of the day, that drown men in perdition; God keeping me in my right mind it shall be said, “He held fast His integrity to the end.”
Now let me just mark here, that the foundation being the person of Christ, all His perfections, all His attributes, all His power, all His official names, all the sacred epithets by which He is known, are all cemented in one in this foundation. It is concrete, as we showed the other day, uniting all the attributes and perfections of Deity in one immovable foundation, and it can never be prevailed against.
Well, let it be remembered that this temple that is to be built by our Zerubbabel, our precious glorious covenant Head, our Governor and Ruler, is to be occupied by God. You know Solomon, when he dedicated his temple, said—nay even before that, while it was building, the house is not for man to occupy, but for God.” Now ardently wish that it could be said of all the edifices that are called churches, whether with lofty turrets and spires or not—”This is not for man, but for God, I wish it could be said of every organized body of Christians, This is not for man, not to exalt man, not to set forth the power, ingenuity, or skill of man; not to display the intellect of man however highly cultivated, but for God; to honor God, to glorify God, as we showed last Lord’s day morning, “that God in all things might be glorified.” Now only think for one moment of what New Testament language sets forth about this temple, and the occupying of it. After the Old Testament declarations had passed by, in which God had said, “This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it,” He directed the apostle to say unto the Churches planted by his instrumentality, that they were “an habitation of God through the Spirit;” as it is written, “I will dwell in them and walk in them, and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Now I wonder where the individual is to be found who would be so grossly absurd, so completely a maniac, as to ask a house that he meant to occupy, whether it would open its own windows, or its own doors to him; what it would do to accommodate him, and how kindly it would invite him to come in. Why, you would say, “The man is fit for Bedlam to talk in this manner.” Yet here is a habitation of God, a living temple, the temple of the Holy Ghost that dwells in us; and poor, proud mortals are told that they are to do all they can to persuade God, to coax God to come in, to change His mind, and come and dwell where He never intended to dwell before. Such abominable infidelity, under the Christian name, is to me quite disgusting; and I would as soon turn infidel tomorrow as adopt such a creed. On the contrary, he who occupies the house has given directions and patterns about the very furniture of it—the ark that is in it, the candlestick that Zechariah was to set forth as producing all the light and all the good, front first to last, He not only laid the foundation, but the very hand of Zerubbabel shall bring forth the top-stone, and this because Father, Son, and Holy Ghost determined on occupying and inhabiting it to all eternity. I wonder where the person is to be found, intending to occupy a new habitation, who would not himself; if he could, go and see that all was in proper order, that everything was fit for him to occupy, that it was furnished according to his own taste and desire, He would not ask a chair whether it would allow him to sit down on it, or a table whether it would allow him to dine from it. Really, it is so ridiculous for mortals to talk-about what the creature is to do—to invite, and persuade, and coax the eternal God to be very kind to them. My hearer, God’s temple is His own, He looks upon it as His property, as His right as His Possession positively and personally, every heart of every child of God is His residence through and by grace. And still more than this, it is permanently so, and He will never quit it, He will never be turned out of it. “When the Holy Ghost comes to you,” said the Lord Jesus Christ, “He shall abide with you for ever.” So that this temple, the Church of the living God, is His eternal residence, and neither men nor devils can turn Him out of it, and I am sure He will never go out, for He is of one mind, and none can turn Him.
Moreover, union is essential, for this temple. Every stone, and every part must have its union, directly or remotely with the foundation. Believe me, beloved, this is the essence of God’s grand plan of grace—union with Jehovah; and that union too, must have existence virtually from everlasting. It must become vital in personal experience—it must become visible unto those who look on them. It is virtual, for it was settled in the council of peace, when Jesus betrothed the Church to Himself, when the Father gave the Church, by individual members, into His hand, and the Holy Ghost recorded them in union and connection with His own precious name, and they can never, never be blotted out. Moreover, this we can know nothing of personally until it becomes vital. “Abide in Me”—“I am the vine, ye are the branches; if any man abide not in me he is cast forth as a branch and withered-if a man abide in me, he bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 15:4-6) Now, that is vitality. You know what the vitality and union of the branch means. It is so emphatically one with the tree, that the sap, flowing up from the root, runs freely into the branch, and into the remotest twig. So with the Church of the living God. A vital union existing between Jesus and every living member of His Church, causes those members of His Church to be fruitful; and the fruit arises from the sap, the sap arises from the root, and the root communicating with the remotest twig and branch, some even of the little twigs, hanging heavily with fine clusters, because they receive abundance of sap and nourishment from Jesus Christ.
Just go on to mark how this union is visible. It will soon be conspicuous. If you see a broken, dead branch, hanging on a living tree, it is rather a nuisance, it puts forth no leaves, and soon becomes sear; it gives no pleasure to the eye of the beholder, and is only fit to be burned as waste. So with the professing followers of the Lamb. If there is no vital union, no real spiritual oneness with Christ, the time will come when the Saviour’s statement will be carried out to the full extent: “Every branch in me (that is nominally in me) that beareth not fruit, he taketh away.” Why, what for? To be bound in bundles for the burning. “And every branch in me that bringeth forth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” So that vital union which the believer holds with Christ, or rather Christ holds with him, produces fruit, the fruit abounds, and is conspicuous; just as we read the other morning, “That men, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven.” They mark the union and testify to the fruitfulness which nothing but the life of God in the soul could bring forth.
Just go on to observe, that this temple is a temple of renown, which is noted in all worlds; as it is written concerning the believing family of God, they are “known and read of all men;” “and as the living temple of the living God grows and rises towards the top-stone we can by no possibility be hidden when once united. As the Church rises and advances towards its consummation and perfections hell is in arms, heaven admires, Jehovah beholds the work of His hands with delight, and the saints of God exultingly exclaim with the apostle, “We are His workmanship.” No human work there, depend upon it; no patching up there, no part free will and part free grace there, no yea and nay there. They are God’s workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus, and that unto good works. The powers of darkness do not care about three fourths of the professors of the day ; there is no hostility against them—they swim along at the top of the stream like dead fish; there is nothing to oppose them in the carnal mind, so that the powers of darkness never offer any opposition. And, therefore, the good—natured black old fellow says, “If they let me alone I’ll let them alone.” But when they come to the Church of the living God, depend upon it there will be the Sanballats, and the Geshems coming forth and sadly annoying Nehemiah and his companions in the work. “What are you building this temple for? You are rebelling against the powers that be.” Well, I grant it, that the Church of God has been always rebellious against the devil and the world, though it was not meant in that sense. There never will be wanting vicious persons, who determine to be hostile to the progress of vital godliness, either in the Church at large; or in her individual members. Well, but though it is noted by the powers of darkness, and opposed, it is noted by the angelic hosts, for they are all declared to be “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation.” Moreover, it is noted by the founder and builder, whose name is God, and He watches over it night and day, nor will He allow one of its stakes to be removed, or one of its cords to be broken, or one of its living stones to be displaced. It is Jehovah’s own building, Jehovah’s own temple, and must prosper and abide until it is consummated. I am told, that a Priest was pleased to say the other day, in public company, that long before the year 1900 there would not be a single Protestant in England. I know they expect it, and they look for it; but ought not such declarations a little to awaken our zeal? I know the fellow told a lie, and it is not the first. I know that God will never leave Himself without witnesses. There may be sad havoc, there may be bloody scenes, and I believe there will be, but God will have His witnesses—His Church must thrive, His temple must be built; He will say of the temple, “Its foundation shalt be laid, and the top-stone shall be brought forth by Zerubbabel, with shoutings of, Grace, grace unto it.”
Well, let us pass on to the second head of discourse, upon which I mean to be very short. It is too dark a side for me to dwell long upon—the helplessness of the creature in all this work. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” You proud Arminians! find the man, if you can, and I will renounce my creed directly—find the man, if you can, that ever created a breath of prayer, or even put forth a single act of faith, without Divine operation. Find me the man, if you can, who ever shed a tear of repentance, as the effect of hatred to the nature of sin. There may be many men who will shed bowls pull of tears through fear of going to hell, but that is not repentance. Real repentance flows from hatred of sin, and a sight of the sufferings of Christ in consequence of it. That is never effected by might or by power. Find me the man that ever pretended to go to work to convert all the world, that ever converted one sinner. “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for his soul.” (Ps. 49:7) There never was a spiritual act put forth where no spiritual life existed, and it would be grossly absurd to expect it. Dear Toplady was perfectly correct when he said, “We deem it unreasonable to exhort unregenerate men, as such, to perform spiritual acts.” I remember, I was very young in the faith when I first read that sentence, and I a little staggered and stumbled at it, but I see now it is perfectly correct. What, then, is the position of man with regard to his soul and eternity? Why, depravity and death have rendered him powerless. When Adam fell by transgression, every drop of blood in his veins was polluted, and the sentence passed, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die; “or, as some read it, “Dying thou shalt die.” All his posterity answer exactly to the description given of the parent. “He begat Sons in his own likeness.” Mind you, he could not beget sons in God’s likeness when he had lost it. It was his own likeness that lie begat them in—a sinful, depraved likeness. It follows, then, that every child of Adam that comes into this world, and only remains long enough to express itself to be what it is, will express itself to be in old Adam likeness, will manifest itself to be a twig, a child of the fallen stock. One of our old poets, of whom I am sometimes a little fond, in discussing the matter relative to the pollution and corruption introduced by original sin, uses this simile—
“Suppose a lump of gold were made impure,
And base in every part? Then we are sure
That every inch of wire, though never so small,
That’s drawn from thence must be impure withal.”
Now the old lump of gold, after it came from the hands of the maker, became corrupt, and polluted, and defiled, and corrupted, and undone, and dead. Every inch of wire—that is every son and daughter born in his likeness, drawn out from thence, born of the old stock, must therefore be as corrupt as Adam was. The same old poet meets the objection, that the innocent are not to be condemned with the guilty, and that the children that are brought into this world are free from Adam’s taint. He argues—
“Suppose an infant should come forth
To plead his nonconsenting with his fallen head,
The law would shut his mouth with its own lid,
And say, Thou art a piece of him that did.”
Therefore he stops him with his own mouth. I thought it right to introduce these quotations, to show that we are not singular in our views of the total depravity and death of fallen nature, and the utter incapacity of that nature to do anything but sin. Well, we will look at the will. Every man says he can be saved if he will—but how is it they never will? Why just this—both the will and the power are led captive by the devil at his will. Moreover, he is said to rule in the hearts of the children of disobedience. If, then, the will is led captive by the devil at his will, and the power ruled over by the prince of the power of the air, where is man’s boasted free-will and power? Why, my hearer, I am astonished at the arrant stupidity, the positive silliness, the ten times worse than idiotism, that appears in men of mind and learning respecting divinity. They seem to me to be as really and totally dark and ignorant as the posts that support that gallery, of anything like vital godliness, I wish I could find stronger language to reprobate what my text says of the might and the power of the creature. It is “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” The might and the power of the poor fallen child of Adam is laid prostrate, and every child of Adam on the face of the earth, regenerate or unregenerate, in the Church or out of the Church—every child of Adam is under the sovereign sway of the Prince of Peace, or the sovereign sway of the prince of darkness. He is ruled in by the prince of the power of the air, or grace is reigning in him through righteousness unto eternal life.
III. Now I said I should be short upon this point, because I am very desirous of saying as much as I can upon the efficiency of which my text speaks—“By my Spirit, saith the Lord.” I hope I have said enough upon the point of man’s helplessness to convince my hearers, if there were any before unconvinced, of the grand and solemn truths which we are continually setting forth; for if there were any power, or ability, or even will in man by nature to be saved in God’s own way, Christ’s merits were useless, the Holy Spirit’s operations quite unnecessary, and the Father’s love laid at the feet of the sinner to be disposed of at his caprice. What sort of a God should we have? Certainly not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is a God of absolute sovereignty, and proclaims that sovereignty in the language of my text, “By my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Then it must follow that the first touch, the first breathing after God, the first emotion of life Divine ever known or felt in a poor sinner’s heart, is and must be by the transforming power of God the Holy Ghost. Now lay this down as a fundamental principle, and send away all the isms that would contradict it to Rome; they cannot be in a worse state of disunion there than they are; therefore let them have all these to add to their Babel. Once acknowledged this fixed principle— acknowledged by our reformers, you know, in plain words—that all holy desires, all good thoughts, and all just counsels, proceed from the Holy Ghost. Well, there is not so much as a holy desire in any child of Adam until the Holy Ghost implants it, and that too by His own transforming power. And what a wonderful work that is! No matter of astonishment that all the world should look on, and gaze with wonder. Dead stones transformed to living ones—dead sinners made alive to God. “You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1,5) You may kick a dead man about as long as you will, and he will never cry, “Oh!” You may lay as many burdens upon him as you like, and he’ll never cry out about being weary amid heavy-laden. But only let him have life, and you will hear his complaints. The sinner dead in trespasses and sins knows nothing of the life and power of godliness. Christ does not live in him; the Holy Ghost has not taken possession of him; the Father of mercies has not shed abroad His love in him. There he is in the congregation of the dead, buried in the graves of carnality, worldliness, and superstition, and unacquainted with God, Now just mark, I beseech you, what a wondrous work this work of grace is, that takes hold of materials inanimate, utterly destitute of anything like spiritual life, and makes them alive to God, through Jesus Christ.
Carry this one step further. It is not a resuscitation of the old life—it is not a mere reanimation of that which once existed—it is not putting the children of Adam in thy position which he occupied before the fall—something very superior to that. What then? Why, it is the life of God put into the soul—it is Christ in you the hope of glory—it is the Holy Spirit occupying His own temple as a living principle—it is God the Father carrying out His promise, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Now God is not the God of the dead, but of the living ; and if your souls have not life Divine implanted in them you have no Christianity. Christianity can never be imparted by the might or power of the creature—it is “by my Spirit, saith the Lord.”
I beg of you to look a moment longer at this all important point, because it is a transition from the last part of our subject, and I feel unwilling to quit it, I confess. In the modern theology with which I told you I am so disgusted, you hear men talk to a mixed multitude, as if all the power was their own, to turn, to repent, to pray, to believe, and to make God very much their debtor, and to condescend to meet Him half-way in what they are pleased to call the terms of salvation. Now I know of no terms of salvation but “I will,” and “they shall;” and when Jehovah says, “I will take possession of thy heart,” the sinner says, “You shalt not,” “I will not have this man to rule over me,” but forth comes God by His Spirit, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” and says, “ But you shall,” “ I will,” and “they shall”—these are God’s terms of saving sinners; and, my hearer, you will be lost to all eternity if God does not save you in that way, for as long as it is left to the creature’s caprice and the creature’s natural will, I know there is not a single child of Adam upon earth that will bow down to God’s sovereignty or accept of salvation in the way He proclaims it in His word. But here are promises blessedly secure—”Yea and amen in Christ Jesus,” (2 Cor. 1:20) “My people shall be willing in the day of my power,” (Ps. 110:3) says God; so that when the day of Jehovah’s power—the power of His Spirit—comes, the will is created, the raising up to newness of life is accomplished, and Jehovah takes possession of the soul as His own, to dwell in it for ever.
Just follow on to mark, that when Jehovah says, “By my Spirit,” it is by inspiration and instruction from the Spirit of God. Inspiration must come forth. “The breath of the Almighty,” said Job, “has given me life.” (Job 33:4) Moreover, the Holy Spirit’s express province is to find out and take possession of the purchase of Jesus’ blood, and He is at this hour—(oh, may it be so here, as well as elsewhere)—He is at this hour going forth with the proclamations of His truth (oh, that it may be realized among thousands this day), and the gospel is preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Now if the Holy Ghost is sent down from heaven, what can it be for, but to inspire life Divine and love Divine—all His own graces—in the soul, and call them into lively exercise? And then must follow the instruçtion—”All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” (Isa. 54:13) “It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” Now I wish to be very distinctly understood here. The religion of multitudes in the present day appears to me to lie in attainments of a literary character which they have made—that they have deeply read, that they have been made acquainted with different languages, that they have studied what they call theology, that they have received what is generally termed a Christian education, that they have imbibed certain sentiments all of which they have learned from mortals. They may have all these things, and perish with their heads stuffed full of them— they may have them all, and not have a single atom of vital godliness. Now I wish to be distinctly understood here that I am finding no fault with any attainments which men can make, or with any progress that they can make in science or literature, or with any lawful efforts which they may make for the cultivation of the intellect; but let them call it literature, let them call it science, let them call it cultivation let them call it what they please besides, but do not let them call it Christianity, because there are multitudes of these learned carnal men that have no more Christianity than the brute creation; and there are numbers of unlettered men who can scarcely make out a chapter in the New Testament for themselves, and some, I believe, not even that, that are in possession of the life of God, that are really the temples of the Holy Ghost, that are really transformed by the renewing of their minds. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” The distinction that I want impressed on your mind is, that however valuable other attainments may be in their place, they are sadly out of their place when they are put instead of real Christianity. Real Christianity is nothing more nor less than Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, descending to take possession of a poor sinner’s heart, and occupy it for Himself without asking his leave.
Well, now, this will lead me to mark, that the Spirit Jehovah operates upon the poor sinner’s soul as an absolute Sovereign. He waits no preparation, no qualification of the creature, nothing that mortals may profess or attempt to accomplish to render themselves acceptable to God. Nay, indeed, all this is an offence to Him. “Bring no more your vain oblations,” is the prohibition God has written in His precious word. Their new moons, and their Sabbath days, and their set feasts, and the Puseyite relics of Popery, might be added, are an abomination to Him, a stench in His nostrils, which He loathes and abhors. What, then, will He have? “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” A whole burnt offering that cannot be marred, even in the Lamb of God.
One thought more, and I close. “It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord,” that the Church is nourished up into eternal life; and it is by His Spirit that He goes on nourishing His Church in the words of faith and good doctrine. Now you know the Church requires nourishing every day and every hour, because all her members are born infants, desiring sincere milk; and they must have it, too, that they may grow thereby. Well, they will soon be hungry after bread, and then they will want some savory meat, and then they will want some old wine, and then I shall not wonder if they will want some ripe grapes. But they must grow and advance first, for, says the apostle, “Strong meat belongs to those that are of riper age, that have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.” Now for all this we want the Spirit’s power—we want the Spirit’s operation among the people; and I am quite convinced that my preaching is vain, in my study and sermons, however much anxiety and thought they cost me in digging into the mines of eternal truth, will all be utterly useless unless the Holy Ghost condescends to make use of them, unless the Spirit Jehovah applies the word with invincible power to the hearts and consciences of those who listen. And then it is that the gospel being preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, nourishes the Church, edifies the body of Christ, builds them up in their most holy faith, sets before them a feast of fat things, and creates a quick appetite in their souls to receive thereof, and gives them the digestive power of faith, and that which they receive is mixed with, or digested by faith, and produces fruit unto God, and makes healthy Christians in the Church of the living God.
Now, my hearer, I cannot sufficiently thank God for having rallied my strength, and enabled me to deliver this hour’s discourse. I trust it will be fastened on your hearts with invincible power, and bring forth the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. Amen.
“Ho! ye whose anxious seeking minds
To new pursuits new vigour binds,
This question, sure, concerns you most—
“Have ye received the Holy Ghost?”
“He comes, and, with a powerful ray,
He drives the love of sin away;
Those He wounds deepest love Him most—
“Have ye received the Holy Ghost?”
“Where’er He comes, He comes to dwell,
And Christians like His presence well;
He fits them for the heavenly host—
“Have ye received the Holy Ghost?”
“With love of sin, and cursed pride,
The Holy Ghost will not abide;
He scorns the Pharisee’s vain boast—
“Have ye received the Holy Ghost?”
“Dear Lord, before thy throne I bow;
Decide this question for me now;
Let me this heavenly guest receive,
And never more thy Spirit grieve.”