The Power Of A Good Life
Much is being said and written these days in regard to spiritual power. The popular conception is that it is a distinct gift in itself to be sought after and received separately. As thus presented there is no trouble in filling the altar at a conference, fashionable church, union meeting or convention.
The argument in defence of this conception is based on Christ’s words, “Tarry in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power,” and “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you.” Their inquiry is, if this is not a separate grace why is it that nothing else is referred to in the passages quoted?
The reply to this argument is that the “power” Christ is speaking of is not a simple anointing for a special occasion or service, but a lifelong blessing, and connected invariably with the purification of the soul. In the seventeenth chapter of John, the Saviour in praying that His disciples might have this blessing, speaks mainly of “purity” as seen in the words, “sanctify them.” This time He dwells upon the second feature, “power.”
It seems to have escaped many that the Baptism with the Holy Ghost, which naturally, properly, logically and morally follows the birth of the Spirit, is in itself a double work of grace. It purifies and it empowers. So that Peter speaking of it afterwards said, when the Baptism came upon them which Christ told them to tarry for that they might receive power, that then their “hearts were purified.”
As an additional proof that the words of Christ cannot be construed to restrict the disciples to simply one thing, it is well for the reader to look at the marginal translation of the words and find it thus expressed: “Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you.” Whoever receives the Baptism with the Holy Ghost which purifies the heart will have power. The two go together. When the soul is purged from inbred sin, Christ enters the man, and the Holy Ghost comes in to abide forever. In the cleansed, surrendered, given up and obedient life, God dwells, and flows forth with an influence more or less powerful according to the measure of the man’s devotion, prayerfulness and obedience.
There is no question but that increased and prolonged prayer coupled with life faithfulness will increase the inward sensation or consciousness of the blessing itself, and add to the volume and force of its movement on the outside world. It is for each Spirit-baptized Christian to say how much power he shall have.
Concerning the reality of this power, whether in pulpit or pew, whether turned upon the world or exercised at home, there can be no question. In the pulpit the blessing is, so to speak, focalized for an hour with favoring adjuncts and therefore readily recognized. In the home circle with the influence distributed over a greater radius, the effect is gentler, but still the power is there.
As taught in the Bible and seen in life, God dwelling in the soul of a man or woman cannot be hid. He is felt in the man. Something in the individual’s voice, eye, manner and life shows an unusual spiritual state. His presence impresses, his words are remembered, and he becomes, consciously or unconsciously, a blessing. An actual influence of a spiritual character as certainly proceeds from him as a vapor comes from the sea, or light and warmth stream from the sun. In a word, he has power.
For a number of years we have seen demonstrated in churches, camp grounds and conventions the fact we have been stating We have listened to great intellectual discourses that had none of the power we speak of in them. We have heard other sermons that were great and overwhelming, because God was in them; the preacher filled with the Holy Ghost stood transfigured before us, and the audience hung upon his words spellbound or rather Spirit-bound. It was a storm-like rush of power that all could recognize.
Again we have heard still other Spirit-baptized sermons of gentler manifestation, but not the less effective. The preacher began with simple speech and quiet manner, but in a few minutes he had secured the profound attention of the crowd, and a tender, holy influence came down upon all, which we knew to be of heaven.
One occasion we recall. The man was evidently humble, and filled with the spirit of prayer. He made no attempt at oratory, but talked on until he had the attention of every one. He was saying something, and the Holy Ghost was brooding on what he said. As we looked at the man we could all but see the rays of the Spirit streaming out of his face; a steadily increasing force went forth from his voice, and all became conscious of a rising tide of heavenly sweetness in the tabernacle. The explanation was simply God shining forth from and through a man given up to Him. It was the power of a good life.
Of course this applies as well to the social and home circle. If Christ is allowed to dwell in us, He cannot be hid, and spiritual influence is the inevitable result.
Such home power has not the help of hymns, prayers, the presence of congenial worshippers, and the inspiration of the special occasion. So it has peculiar difficulties to meet and contend with. Still if God abides in the soul, a holy influence, in spite of every kind of hindrance, will come forth and be recognized, felt and accomplish its work.
Once while in Europe I was standing in a large cathedral on the Rhine, listening to the Vesper Service. The day was far spent, and the immense building was but dimly lighted. Over a hundred feet from me stood a priest waving a censer. I noticed for several minutes the little puffs of smoke from the oscillating vessel, and realized nothing else; but at last a delicate and pleasing odor reached me. The frankincense and myrrh had been slowly but surely making its gentle, sweet way to me, and finally did so. In a little while it had permeated the entire atmosphere. The perfume had conquered.
This is the way that Christ-filled men and women make themselves felt. This is the power of a good life. By gentle movements of the redeemed character, by quiet oscillations of the life, the Holy Spirit wafts forth from the human censer the fragrance of that which has been placed within, and in time the divine deposit is bound to be recognized by all in the boundary lines of that particular life, as swung by a heavenly hand. Such a life tells on the home.
A very charming writer speaks of her mother’s influence in a way to confirm the thought we have been advancing. She said that their household at times was stormy; that in the midst of one of these disagreeable scenes she has seen her mother descending the stairs with a holy restful look upon her face, and in five minutes everything would be quiet, and yet her mother had scarcely opened her lips. She said that her presence was so serene, eyes so kindly, voice so gentle that something actually seemed to proceed from her, stilling the turbulent family, like oil poured upon the waves. It was the power of a good life, a God-filled soul.
Such a life is felt in the home of death. Such persons may talk less than others, but what they do say seems to be weighted with blessed meaning, and an unction is in the voice, and a quieting influence in the presence, so that the dying themselves feel it and look to them, and the living bereaved ones realize it and cling to them.
Such a life is recognized at the altar where numbers are struggling for pardon or purity. They are not noisy, they do not lecture, scold or confuse with cross-questionings; but in a quiet loving way which invites confidence, lead the trembling soul step by step to the place where Christ alone must deal with the spirit, and there leave it full of prayer and expectancy for the coming Saviour. God seems to give such people souls at every altar service.
Such a life can flourish in the room of an invalid. We knew a Spirit-filled woman whose health was so feeble that she scarcely ever left her house, and yet her spiritual power pervaded the entire neighborhood. If people got into trouble they went to her. If they fell into sin, they told her about it. If they were confused in regard to duty, they sat at her feet, and she with a face shining with holiness, and directed by God’s wisdom untied the knots, solved the problems and showed the proper course to pursue to the bewildered and heartsick one. Truly the Lord swung that frail censer in the sickroom and as surely the fragrance of the life stole forth, refreshing and gladdening many souls who will rise up and call her blessed at the last day.
Such a life steals upward from the grave. The tomb cannot confine in its portals the influence of such a man or woman. He being dead yet speaketh. The very mention of the name recalls the life with its blessed deeds, and is like opening a vase of precious ointment.
We once stood at the foot of the grave of a preacher whom we had known when a boy. He was a very saintly man. His face impressed the writer as a child with its halo-like appearance. He had been dead twenty years, and yet no flower bruised by the foot sent up more certainly a perfume than did the fragrance of this man’s life, by the faculty of memory, steal upward through the sod and affected the mind and heart even more tenderly and powerfully than he had in life.
Over fifty years ago, a young preacher died of yellow fever. He was quite young, and had only preached three years when death came. But he was exceedingly devout in that brief life, and was unquestionably a God-filled man. A few years since an entire annual conference adjourned one of their services and went out three miles to the cemetery and stood silently, thoughtfully and deeply affected around the mouldering tomb of a man long ago turned to dust and ashes. But something had not died. The presence of one hundred preachers around the sepulchre proved that. His influence still survived. It had drawn scores of men from a business session, to a cemetery, and filled them with a spirit of prayer and consecration. It was the power of a good life.
Just a couple of reflections in conclusion by way of application.
The highest and strongest wall that parents can build between their children and hell is just such a life as has been described. They may die without seeing their salvation, but from the battlements of heaven they will yet behold the son and daughter going down at last under the argument of that faithful Christian life, lived so long before them. Such a life is a wall too high to climb over. May every parent build one.
Again, if we want the millennium to come, this is the way to bring it about. If God in a single surrendered life has such force, then God in other lives will have a wider sweep of power; and as the numbers increase, the divine influence should increase, until the glory of the Lord will at last fill every home, bless and fire every church and uplift and save every kindred tribe, tongue, people and nation of the whole earth.