1876: Work and Power



Brethren Of The Graduating Class :— With much struggle you have by God's favor pushed your way to your present stage of preparation for the gospel ministry. Yon have all of you in various ways commended yourselves to your instructors in this Institution, and we send you forth with the confidence that your training here will prove not to have been in vain. It tempers the sadness of our parting with you to think that you constitute our annual quota ef reinforcement to the leaders of Christ's militant church.

You can well understand how hope for your future should mingle with anxiety. Life is so short, eternity is so long, that which is now has in it so much of that which is to come, that I cannot let you go without reminding you again, and with the solemnity of a last appeal, of a relation most needful to be considered in these our times,— I mean the relation between work and power. You have sharpened your tools; your work is before you; have you the power that will enable you to do it for God?

Of the two, power is the primary and more important. In a great machineshop a hundred men may stand at their lathes, ready with their tools for work, but a slight neglect or mistake in the engine-room may cut off the steam and render their skill of no avail. He would be a sorry miller who should devote his whole attention to setting the burr-stones and buying the wheat, while he gave no care to provide a water-supply to run his wheel. The wise manufacturer will have his reserves of power for exigencies, and will make sure of the connections between that power and the looms it is to move. Nature makes no mistakes here. She stores up nervous force in the brain like electricity in a Leyden jar,— when the critical moment comes, there is hardness to the muscle and strength to the blow. The power that moves our modern world, so far as its material progress is concerned, is derived from the coal-measures which nature made ready ages ago. And now if God and man make so much of power, shall the Christian minister forget it, when he has a work to do compared with which the mighty achievements of secular industry and the greatest movements of the natural world are but child's play?

For all power we are dependent. We are not self-moving machines. The body must be fed,— the mind must be disciplined and furnished. No man is self-made,— no man is self-sustained. Whatever of power he uses or has, he gets from outside himself. He draws upon and employs God's power. Dependence is the condition of finite being. But what is true even in the natural realm is far more profoundly, intensely true in the realm of spirit. For all spiritual life and energy we are absolutely dependent upon God. No spiritual work done without him can prosper; but that is not the whole of it — severed from Him we can accomplish nothing. Shut the sluice-gate through which God's power flows into you,— the mill-race runs dry, the sound of the grinding is low, soon it ceases altogether. Cut off your base of supplies in God and the provision of his Spirit,— you are in the enemy's hands; you are captured or you starve. To learn this lesson that we have no strength of ourselves — this is the end of precept and warning, of chastisement and humiliation. We cannot keep our own souls alive,—much less can we bring out from their graves the spiritually dead. But all is changed when God's power is given to us. Then wonders are wrought in the renewing of human hearts, fit to be compared with that marvel of the ages when the soul of God was put into the body of the dead Christ and he was raised from the tomb in life and glory.

The power exists — as real, as mighty, as accessible as the forces of nature which man bends to his purposes of art and industry. How are we to obtain and use it? Just as we obtain and use any other power—by acting according to its laws. No man really compels nature to serve him, except by obeying her. We discover her methods and apply them, and then we say that we control her. So this Niagara-power of spiritual influence in God we bind to our work, only as we discover its laws and submit ourselves to them. For here is more than nature — more than blind force, such as men conceive to move the spheres. Here is a living will, a personal and present God. We use his power only as we are used by Him. We secure his help and inspiration only as we recognize him as Supreme and Sovereign, blowing where he listeth, dividing to every man severally as he will, and in that conviction turn ourselves from agents into instruments, and deem it our highest honor to be arrows in the hand of the Almighty.

That was excellent theological instruction that Christ gave for three years to his apostles, but he did not deem them fitted for their work till they had received another and a higher gift — the gift of the Spirit. They had done work for him before, but it was like work done on a hand machine, where the energy was mostly spent in turning the crank. After Pentecost, they were power-machines,— no effort now — they could not but speak the things they had seen and heard. Enthusiasm — ev #ty — they had this, now that they were possessed by the Spirit of God. Their faces had a strange light, their voices a strange tenderness, their very gestures a strange power, to impress and move and win men to the service of their Lord. Their faith became contagious. Doubt vanished, as it heard the story of Christ. Through the work of tho Spirit, the cross of shame became the power of God.

We have no right idea of the Christian ministry, unless we conceive of it as a prophetic office. No miracle-working, no revelation of new truth, but special direction and power of the Holy Spirit in the unfolding and application of the old truth of the Bible to men's present circumstances and needs — this is the New Testament prophesying to which you are called. And what shall a prophet be without the Spirit? And how shall the Spirit be obtained or retained without prayer? The apostles "gave themselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." Let the ministry of to-day in like manner make prayer and preaching coordinate in rank and importance; let them give to supplication for the gifts of the Spirit the first place and the best place in their time and regard,—instead of making a be-all and end-all of direct efforts to impress strong hearts with truth which the preacher cannot feel himself; in short, let the work of the ministry be only a supplement to the continuous seeking of power from on high; and Pentecost will come again, never more to cease from the earth, until every heart of man has felt Christ's power to save.

May God put it into your hearts, my brethren, to be examples of a new

ministry of the Spirit to the century of history upon which the land is just about to enter. If the close of the two decades and a half in the life of this Seminary which is marked by this Anniversary could be signalized by the sending forth of thirteen men who believed in "the power of the Spirit only" as the means by which Christ's truth is to trinmph—believed it so that they gave their lives to the practical proving and illustrating of it,— it would be worthy fruit of all this quarter-century of theological education. Not less of knowledge or training or labor — but more of the Spirit of God to interfuse this knowledge and training and labor with an energy foreign to mere human nature — springing from the boundless depths of the divine heart and manifesting the resistless movement of the divine will! If he who was with us when the year began — your teacher in the word of God which he so humbly and implicitly believed and which he so vividly and thoroughly expounded — but who to-night in a nobler assembly celebrates a nobler festival than ours,— if he could speak to you from the midst of that uncreated light where there is no seeming, but only endless and perfect vision of the truth, would it not be to say some words like these: "Be first true men of God, possessed by God, subject to God. Seek first God's power, through prayer and obedience. Receive, through faith, the Holy Ghost, the promise of the Father. Then ponder and preach his truth, with the Spirit sent down from heaven, so that your faith and the faith of men may stand, not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."

My brethren, there is a voice that speaks to you,— but it is a better voice thau that of any sainted one. It is the voice of him whom Dr. Hackett served on earth, and whom he serves in heaven. The words come echoing down to us from the time when they were first spoken in the upper chamber from which the twelve apostles were to go forth to preach the gospel of the kingdom. They are Christ's words to you also, as you go out to do his work in the world. Listen and you shall hear him saying :—"Peace be unto you! As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost."