"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:8-11).
These words of Jesus were spoken just before He ascended to heaven. Immediately after His ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, and with a few others had a most wonderful meeting, as recorded in the verses following. A cloud of holy angels had escorted Jesus into the heavens, and the disciples returned with joy. Why were they so joyful? Not because Jesus had left them, but because of the promise to come again. Just a short time before He had told them that in His Father's house were many mansions, and that He would go to prepare a place for them, and if He went, He would come again and receive them unto Himself, that where He was, there they might be also. This promise, renewed by the angels, gave great joy to the disciples.
We expect the same. Does it fill our hearts with hope and joy? If our friends go on a long journey, their promise of return gives us great joy. But here the Friend of all friends promises to come again. Are we pleased at His coming? We are to do just as the disciples did, meet together and be of one mind.
He said if He went away He would send the Comforter, and this Comforter "shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). And when the Holy Spirit should come upon them they would testify of Him. Human beings were to become partakers of the divine nature. But it is impossible to connect with heaven and communicate light to others while you are careless in words and actions. Truth has its work to do upon the heart and life. It sanctifies the receiver.
We hear much talk about faith. We want faith that amounts to something. What we need is faith that works. And how does it work? By love. And what does it do? It purifies, sanctifies, the soul. As we look to the cross erected on Calvary, love takes possession of the soul. It brings the will of man into subjection to God. "If ye love Me, keep My commandments." These words are from the lips of the divine Teacher, and He further promises, "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless" (John 14:15-18).
Do you believe it? I do, and I believe it because I have the evidence in me, the sure promise of One who is Truth. I have no right to be comfortless in this world, for it needs light. Neither have you. All should be where they can lay hold of Him by living faith. When Christ was upon earth, the people flocked to Him and were comforted in His presence. After He ascended, He fulfilled His promise. He sends the Comforter to be with every believing, obedient child, wherever he may be.
We ought to be the most happy people in the world, because He is all in all to us. He has told us He would be a counsellor, guide, strength, support, and a tender, sympathizing friend. He is everything we need, the first, last, and best in everything. We want to praise Him in the morning, at noon, and at night; ever having the door of our hearts open and inviting Jesus to come and there abide. "If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23).
We are glad to see so many here today. But how many present have brought the Comforter with them? Is Jesus shining forth in their life and character, and are their hearts filled with praise and thanksgiving? There is work for everyone to do for Jesus. How many take into account the record of our works kept in the books in heaven? How many feel the responsibility of perishing souls? How many come into close connection with Jesus and sense the need of forming a perfect character after the likeness of Christ? This character is not to be dropped upon you by and by from heaven, but it is to be developed here.
Here we see ministers in the congregation, but how few [there are] compared with the many who are without God and without hope in the world. The vast field takes in the whole world. When the Master went away He gave to every man his work. Not a soul of you present, who believes in Jesus Christ, has done his duty unless he labours most interestedly for the salvation of others, realizing the price paid for their souls.
The present time is our day, our opportunity to work. We are not to live for self. It is of the highest consequence to us that we improve our opportunities and privileges to be honoured as labourers together with God. Time is precious, and should be filled with earnest work, the worker constantly improving.
Jesus knew our danger. He tells us in John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you." He ordains that you individually shall bear fruit.
Some are satisfied to spend their whole time in laying upon the foundation hay, wood, and stubble, and what does it amount to? Nothing; their lifework is lost for time and lost to God for all eternity. If lost, our portion will be with unbelievers and hypocrites. There will be no reward for a mere profession of faith. (1 Cor. 3:9-14.) The fruit which remains will be as gold and silver. Fires cannot consume these. This is what our work must be.
What kind of work is to be of value and abide? The same work is to be manifest to the world that Christ did, when He was in the world. Our minds must be drawn away from self and centred upon Jesus. There should be organized effort in every church in the land; yes, it is greatly needed in every church in Michigan (John 4:35, 36). There is work for every soul of you. You don't need to wait to be forced into the work.
We need an experience similar to that which Isaiah had when he saw the cherubim calling "Holy, holy, holy." "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.
"And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
"Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me" (Isa. 6:1-8). When he caught sight of the throne of God he said, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips." Every worker chosen of God will feel thus. But the seraphim touched his lips with the live coal from off the altar and told him that his iniquity was taken away and his sin purged. And then as Isaiah heard the call, Whom shall I send? and who will go for us? he answers, Here am I; send me. He did not feel fit to be sent till the refining Spirit came upon him.
We want that the hearts of all in this congregation shall be stirred. Is it not time we should awake out of sleep? How long before you will realize your great need of divine power? Not the ministers only; there is work for every soul.
Lift up Jesus, the Man of Calvary. Lift Him up in prayer, lift Him up in song. We have something to do to let the light flash into our own minds and hearts, and then to let it shine forth to others. In the judgment, when brought face to face with souls with whom you have come in contact, what can be your feelings when you realize that you have not warned those who were perishing in their sins? How will it appear to you in that great day--the little effort you have made in self-denial, in self-sacrifice, for the salvation of others? What is the matter? Haven't we reason given us of God? Have we not hearts to feel, minds to consider and to use to His glory?
Who enters through the gates into the city of God? Those who keep His commandments. "Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Rev. 22:14). What constitutes the commandments of God? The first four are to love God supremely, the last six, to love our neighbour as ourselves. And can you do this and not show them the way of salvation in and through Christ Jesus?
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:15). The value of life is illustrated by the efforts made by man to save and retain this, the present, physical life. But this life in Christ Jesus, for which we are striving, is eternal. We hear a great deal about faith. We want to be sure that we have a genuine faith, the faith that works, that beholds the uplifted Saviour. That faith lays hold upon infinite power and labours to bind souls to the great heart of Jesus. With Jesus in the heart you cannot repress words of love.
If Jesus abides in you, it is to some purpose. You cannot then enjoy light and trifling conversation. Said Isaiah, I am a man of unclean lips. And how true this is of many who profess to be Christians. If you talk as any worldling talks and act as any worldling acts, you dishonour the Christ you profess to love. You need to be converted daily, to honour Christ by every word. Be ye holy in all manner of conversation. When you sit at the table, you are to eat, giving thanks to God, of the very best foods for making the best blood and the clearest intellect. We want sharp-thinking men and women.
It is not right for us to devote time, brain, bone, and muscle to gathering in the things of earth and drop eternity out of our reckoning. We should gather sheaves for the Master's garner. The Lord may say, Whom shall I send? But your earthly ears do not hear. The Lord wants us to expand, to grow like the seed introduced into the soil--first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Progress is wanted.
Some have asked, What shall I do to receive the Holy Ghost? Ask God to search your hearts as with a lighted candle. Do nothing for selfish gratification. Suppose that Christ's professed followers were representatives of Christ in our earth, would not worldlings see this and take knowledge of such that they had learned of Jesus? Will not such be a power? We want the religion of Christ. This will bring forth the fruits of love, joy, and peace. The desire of the Master is not for a scanty supply, but to bear it in abundance.
John 15:17-21 points to the opposition between Christ and the world, and to the persecution inflicted upon Christ and His followers. The world does this because they know not the Father who sent Jesus into the world. We do not want to be so ignorant. We want to know Christ, whom to know aright is life eternal.
In John 15, He points you to trials, to conflicts. He asks if you can endure the conflict; then He points to eternal realities and shows you the thousands of angels sent to be ministers to those who are heirs of salvation. Though He shows the armies arrayed against you, yet He tells you that you need not be discouraged, for the Captain of the Lord's host is with you as with the Lord's people in Joshua's time. There is the Captain of our salvation who is at work for everyone. What we want is to know how to fight the battle. The victory is not in the minister or the layman, but in the Captain of the Lord's host who fights the battle for us. He dwells with him who is of a contrite spirit. We are to humble our hearts.
We fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places, and God is with us. We are not to consider that the smartness of men will bring success. One may have all the learning possible for a human being to comprehend, and yet he may be alone, and without Christ he can do nothing. Do you walk humbly before Him? Have you a cherishing of inward sins, heartburnings against any? Are you seeking God with all your heart? Now, we can bear to be separated from everything else but the Spirit of God. We want the inspiration of the cross, making us to fall helpless, and the Lord will lift us up. Christ prayed not that His followers should be taken out of the world, but that they might be kept from the evil that is in the world. We can go through the world as did Enoch. The world was then no more favourable for the formation of Christian character than it is in our time.
Because iniquity abounds, the love of many is growing cold; but shall we cover our light on account of this? The prevalence of greatest iniquity should be the time of the greatest earnestness of the people of God. As you see the love of many waxing cold, you should work to show Christ to the world.
The law and the gospel are interwoven as warp and woof. Here mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and peace have kissed each other. We want to come to God's standard. He has a law governing human intelligences and it is for our happiness to observe it. We are to love God. Love leading to disobedience is the inspiration of the devil; love leading to obedience is the inspiration of Heaven.
Come out from among them and be ye separate, says the Lord; and again, Cleanse yourselves. But how are we to know that we have impurity? The law of God shows this. The first four commandments point out duty to God, and the last six allow no selfishness toward our fellow men. When I see that I fail, I flee to the Stronghold. I know that He pardons sins of ignorance. Jesus is a sin-pardoning Saviour. Jesus kept His Father's commandments, and He says, Blessed are they that do; they shall enter in.
When we obey we shall have happy families. Teach the children the commandments of God forever. This was important in Israel's time and it is none the less so now. All your profession of keeping the commandments will not give you an entrance to the city. Bind them on your heart and carry them out in every act. There is One who sees it all, and He says, I have set before thee an open door. Through this was shown the throne of God, overshadowed by the rainbow of promise, the token of the everlasting covenant, showing that mercy and truth are met together, and drawing from the beholder praise to the Lord.
Will you not from this very day try to represent Christ to the world? You will have a refuge. You will be sunny Christians. We have been gloomy long enough. Had we not better come out of the cave, stand with God, and we will have Christ with us so that we can talk of redemption as did the disciples when they had been with Jesus and learned of Him.
Carry the light of Jesus. Carry it to your neighbours. When we bring Christ into our experience, there will be a loving of one another, there will be an unlocking of the hardest hearts. God can take a worm and thrash a mountain. If we humble ourselves and have His converting power every moment, His righteousness will be our covering. "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; and the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward" (Isa. 58:8).
Printed in Sermons and Talks, volume two, pp. 92-98.