By Rev. Richard Watson
By Rev. Richard Watson (1781-1833).
ONE METHODIST VOL. 4 NO. 4 December 2001

"But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high," Luke 24:49.

These words were addressed by our Lord to the eleven apostles, and those that were with them, when he was about to leave them; but as he had always promised the Spirit, that is, in a richer effusion than had marked any former dispensation, so now he renews the promise, and bids them wait at Jerusalem "for the promise of the Father;" a phrase which explains the text, "power from on high." They did wait as all must wait, for this heavenly gift; they "continued in prayer;" they were in the temple "praising and blessing God;" and "when the day of pentecost was fully come," the gift, the great and illustrious gift, was bestowed. As then, at this season, between the resurrection and ascension, the disciples were revolving this promise in their minds, and waiting for its accomplishment, we may probably direct our attention to its import; that, entering into its nature, we may be influenced to seek the same gift which, in his ordinary operations, is promised to us. To the expressive language of the text, I then call your attention. The Holy Spirit is the "power from on high," bestowed by God on man.

I propose to illustrate this description of the blessed Spirit,

I. By the extraordinary effects produced upon the apostles.
II. By the ordinary influence exerted on them, and on all true Christians.

I. I call your attention to the extraordinary operations of the Spirit, not only because of their use in exhibiting the evidence on which Christianity rests; but also because I think it very probable that the work of the Spirit was made so strikingly visible, that we might be more impressed with a sense of his mighty efficacy upon the heart, in his more secret workings, and expect the more in our ordinary experience from his gracious influence. Consider, then, in these extraordinary gifts which were only intended for the time, how mightily God wrought in man.

1. Take the gift of tongues.
He who knows the difficulty of acquiring a foreign language will perceive how unequivocal a miracle was an infusion of words into the memory, with their meanings and relations, and with that facility of applying them, which instant and rapid speech required. This gift the Spirit imparted to the apostles.

2. Mark the illumination of the mind with the full truth.
The apostles had heard Christ. They had reasoned among themselves. The sun had flamed upon the mists of their prejudices; there had sometimes been a flash of light; and then obscurity had followed. Now all was explained. The harmony of the law and the Gospel, the mystery of faith, were opened to themselves, and to all by them. Here was another miracle.

3. Mark the power with which they spake.
All was light, all feeling. Yes, there was a rush of accompanying energy, the "demonstration of the Spirit," such as accompanied not even the words of Christ. As to those who were not obstinately blind, "they were pricked in their heart." As to others, they could not resist; but when Stephen spoke, the very gnashing of their teeth showed that the unwelcome light had penetrated their dark spirits, and that they hated the light, and hated the man. But they would have hated neither, had they not felt that the light was light from heaven, and the man a man of God.

4. Mark their miracles of healing.
"All the works of Christ" they did, "and greater," that is, more in number; for greater in kind they could not be: "Because," said he, "I go unto my Father," and send the Spirit. They were men, inferior to Christ, who was God-man; yet they performed the very works of Divinity, because they were "endued with power from on high." The sick were healed. Virtue issued from Peter, as from his Master's garments. The dead were raised. Demons were ejected.

5. Not their discernment of spirits, as in the cases of Ananias and Simon Magus.
The heart was opened to their eyes, not always, perhaps, but on fit occasions; and man, by the "power from on high," was endued with an attribute of God, to search the heart.

6. Finally, take their courage.
There was courage in all; some of whom were naturally timid; the courage, not of excitement merely, but of a calm, deliberate surrender of themselves to shame, suffering, death: not under the eye of an applauding nation, but often alone, unbefriended. "At my first answer," says St. Paul, "no man stood with me, but all men forsook me." Theirs was a courage which shrunk not in the hour of trial. There was not one apostate among them after the "power from on high" descended.

While we see in all these circumstances a demonstration of the truth of the apostles' mission, we see also what God can make man, when he vouchsafes to him the gift of his Spirit. But we are to illustrate the phrase in the text,

II. By the ordinary influences exerted on the apostles, and on all true Christians.
The gift of the Spirit is still "power from on high." True it is that the gifts just mentioned were extraordinary. They answered their end; they made the glory of God visible to all. When they had done this, -when attention was roused, and Christianity could appeal to these demonstrations as matters of historical fact,-the work was left to be carried on by more secret and invisible influences. So when the cloud of glory descended on the temple, "the priests could not stand to minister, because of te cloud." Yet God was no less the mighty God of Israel, when invisible. The Spirit is now in the Church, working all in all. We have, indeed, been told that, the extraordinary gifts being no longer dispensed, the direct influence of the Holy Spirit was resumed. Let me refute this. It confounds two things, extraordinary and ordinary gifts. One did not necessarily imply the other. All who received the Holy Ghost, as a Teacher and Comforter, did not work miracles; and some who had gifts, had not renewing grace. Again: If the apostles needed the direct influence of the Holy Spirit to make them Christians, so do we. We are called to imitate them; but how can we do it, if we have not the same help? Again: We are called to be all that the Gospel requires. Now, either we can attain this without the Spirit, or we cannot. If we can, man can be saved without God: if we cannot, the Gospel is no longer "the power of God unto salvation;" "the glory is departed." But all this objection is dispersed by the words of Christ: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." "And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Thank God, if we wait, we too shall be "endued with power from on high." Let us, then, consider how this power manifests itself. And here, too, we shall se a mighty working of God in man, not inferior in real glory, and superior in grace, to those extraordinary illapses. This is displayed,

1. In the awakening of the soul of man from its deep and deadly sleep of sin.
Who knows not that there are two states of mind, with reference to eternal things? The one is marked by unconcern and neglect. The sinner had no sense of danger, though on its very brink; no abhorrence of sin, though leprous with it; no sense of slavery, thought actually bound; no shame and humiliation before God, though an ungrateful forgetfulness and rebellion mark his life. What, then, if this sleep is broken? if the ear listens at last to the reproving, alarming voice? if the danger becomes visible? if fears are fully roused? if the heart breaks under a sense of its ingratitude?   (continued in next column)

if a deep and habitual regard to the soul's interest, and to eternal things, takes full possession of the feelings? What change at the pentecost was greater than this? What is its source? Does man awaken himself? Does he pierce his own conscience? Does he render himself miserable and wretched? The thing is impossible an contradictory. It is the "power from on high" that produces this. And, O! If by this I can obtain a soft and tender heart; if I can be kept in humiliation before God, always awake to spiritual dangers, that I may be impelled to the refuge of the atonement, always living for eternity; then let me bless God, who gives this power to man; and let me wait, in all the earnestness of prayer, until I am endued with it.

2. Our subject is illustrated by the office of the Spirit as the Comforter.
Here, also, are two states of mind; one of fear and alarm; the other of faith, and a joyful sense of reconciliation with God. Here is a change as marked, as miraculous, as the other. Here, too, is the "power from on high." And if this be the result; if for these doubts, I may receive assurance; if for this dread of God, I may receive the Spirit of adoption; then let me wait till I am endowed with this heavenly gift, the Spirit who cries in every believing heart, "Abba Father."

3. We have another instance in the office of the Sprit as the Holy Ghost the Sanctifier.
There is not a sin from which we may not cease. But this power is not of man; it is the "power from on high," destroying the love of sin, breaking its power, and so filling the soul with the fear and love of God, that the dart of temptation falls blunted and broken, and the ennobled and freed spirit cries, "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

4. Take a final instance from the fruits of the Spirit.
Mark the enumeration of them: "love , joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Now, when these are called the fruits of the Spirit, the expression intimates that they are not of man. Of these fruits the human heart is naturally as barren as the waste is of "corn, and wine, and oil." Even what approaches nearest to them is utterly different. Natural good temper is not "love" to God; cheerfulness of spirit is not "joy" in the Lord; But let the contrast be as complete as possible: let the heart be hating and malignant; here "love" shall grow: let it be gloomy and dark; here "joy" shall spring up: let it be turbulent and restless, here "peace" shall establish here dominion. All this is miracle, too: it is "power from on high."

I apply this subject to your edification, by observing,

1. That there is a power promised to you more glorious than all the endowments of apostolic gifts. "Thought I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."

2. Fix the greatness of the blessing before you. The baptism of secret fire is invisible to the eye; but it works powerfully and constantly, softening the heart, kindling joy, diffusing purity, giving energy in duty, carrying you up in devout thoughts to heaven. If you seek it, all this is yours.

3. Do you ask how you are to attain it? See your example in the apostles. Believe your Lord: "I send the promise of my Father upon you." Wait for this, not idly, but in prayer, in the public means; for they "were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God."


4. Know, that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Aspire, then, to this.

5. Ask the effusion of the Spirit upon your friends, the whole Church, and the world. Even that shall come.

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-- Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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