"...All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."—Matthew 28:18-20.
BEFORE our SAVIOUR's death He seems to have been almost always with His disciples; but after He was risen from the dead He was not always with them. He came and He went in a very mysterious manner. The disciples are assembled at evening, on the first day of the week, with shut doors; but Jesus comes and stands in their midst; and "after eight days again, the doors being shut," there He was. When they were on the sea, too, in some similar manner, He stood upon the shore and spake to them. He came and went, manifesting Himself to them, as He did not unto the world. There seemed a speciality in His communion with them then; but in the case before us, whatever speciality there was, there was much of familiarity, too. "Jesus came and spake to them"; perhaps a more correct translation would be ''talked with them." It was no speech from a distance; but He came, bringing Himself into close proximity to them; and He talked with them, as He had been wont to do aforetime, holding sweet intercourse with them. There may have been only the Eleven present; the connection would make us think so; and yet when we read, "They saw Him, and worshipped Him, but some doubted, one would think there must have been others with them; for surely the Eleven had got over their doubts by this time. Many of the most learned expositors think that this was the occasion on which our LORD appeared to about five hundred brethren at once. It does not much matter whether it were so or not. If He spake to the Eleven, they represented the whole; and if He spake to the five hundred, they were nearly the whole of His followers here below. Anyhow, He must have spoken, not only to those who were actually present, but to His whole Church; because in no other sense can it be true—"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world"; for they have gone, they have not remained unto the end of the dispensation. We do remain, and we take it that the Master's words were spoken to us all. CHRIST looked over the heads of the centuries, and He saw us, and He said to us who work for Him and serve Him in the preaching of the Gospel, yea, to all His people (for they all do this) —"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
My subject really lies in these words, "JESUS came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth"; but we shall need all the rest of the passage I read as my text. The point, then, to which I would ask your attention is this: What the SAVIOUR said to these disciples was spoken to them in familiar intercourse ; and it is all about Himself. He begins by saying, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." The work to which He is about to send them is one which is very dear to His own heart. He comes Himself to tell them about it, and He puts Himself in the forefront as the leader of it, and as the great source of supply in it
Brethren, we shall never do this work aright, except as we get very near to our Master. We cannot teach what we have not learned, and we cannot learn it so as to teach it well unless we learn it of Him. The first thing the Apostles must be made to know is who He is that sends them. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" is the very first lesson for a missionary. If he does not know his Master and know his Master's power, if he does not believe in this up to the very hilt, he is not qualified for the work at all. It must be from his Master that he gets his commission, and he must know enough of his Master to know that all strength for the work committed to him comes from Him. The whole thing, indeed, is in connection with the Master. He says: "Because all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth, Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations." The teaching is to be done for Him; the teaching is about Him. They are to disciple; they are not to make disciples to themselves, nor to a party, but disciples to Him. He sends them that they may bring disciples to His feet, that He may be the Master of those who are thus discipled. And when they are baptised, it is to be in His name, in association with the reverend name of the FATHER and of the HOLY GHOST. We are not baptised into this or that Church, nor even into this or that form or creed; but we are baptised into the name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST—always, you see, for the setting forth of JESUS CHRIST, always for the making known of the savour of His name. Whether it be an outward ordinance or the ministration of the word vocally, it is still all for JESUS; everything comes from Him and goes back to Him. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you"; the Master still to the front! The pastoring of those whom we have ingathered by our evangelistic services is all to be beneath the care of the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
The only statute-book of the Church is the command of CHRIST. The only legitimate authority within the Church of GOD is the authority of JESUS. We teach men not to observe what is commanded by a Synod or a Conference, or by some great prophet in our Israel; but still teach them "all things whatsoever I have commanded you." CHRIST to the front still! "a leader and commander to the people," the true and only Rabbi of the people of GOD. And all this, beloved, is to be done, as you see, in constant fellowship with CHRIST: "Lo, I am with you alway." We do not go unless He sends us, and we go not except upon His errand. We go not to do our own bidding, but His bidding in all things. And then He must go with us. "If Thy presence go not with me, carry me not up hence," every servant of CHRIST may truly say every day. If thou speakest because CHRIST speaketh in thee, thou speakest with power. If thou goest out to the ungodly and CHRIST goeth with thee, it is a divine visitation. If thou dost preach, baptise, or pastorise—whatever it is—if thou doest it, thy Master Himself being at thy back, then doest thou something that will stand that testing fire which shall try every man's work, of whatever sort it is. "Without Me," saith He, "ye can do nothing"; and our answer is, "It is true, great Master, we can do nothing, neither will we attempt to do anything; but we will ever fall back upon Thy generous and compassionate word—'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end.'"
Then, to close this preface, we have to do all this in joyful expectation—that expectancy all being concerning Him unto the end of the era, or dispensation; for I take it, brethren, that the great hope of the Church is the Second Advent of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. There may be differences of form as to our expectation, but the whole Church of GOD longs for the appearing and the manifestation of the SON of GOD. "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." We sigh from our very soul, "Come, LORD JESUS," and yet again, "Even so, come, LORD JESUS!" "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!"
Now, if I have been able to utter the thought that is in my soul, it is this:—JESUS CHRIST familiarly gathers us around Him now, and talks to us about that which is nearest to His heart. We are to go and teach the ignorant, convert the unconverted, and build up those who are converted. We are to do this as part of our loyalty to Him who is the King. We are to do it for Him and with Him. We are to expect Him to come; not saying, "My LORD delayeth His coming," but expecting Him soon to appear. We are to do this as servants that look to their master for their reward; we are to do it as friends whose great delight it is to do this act of friendship—yea, of grateful love—towards Him who poured out His soul unto death for them. "JESUS came and spake to them, and said, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth."
We must get to JESUS, brethren and sisters. We must keep with JESUS. We must live with JESUS. We cannot serve Him else. The fellowship of CHRIST lies at the bottom of all true usefulness. If thou beginnest to serve GOD, and thou art not enjoying the light of His countenance, leave thy gift at the altar, and go first and be reconciled to thy GOD. If there be any cloud between thee and thy LORD, attempt not to act as GOD's servant until that is put away. If ye walk in the light as GOD is in the light, then shall ye have fellowship with Him; then in that fellowship shall ye work for Him, with Divine unction and power, without which ye shall labour in vain. Let this stand as the introduction to the text.
Now I ask you to consider the important statement that lies before us. Our LORD said, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." "All power; that is not quite the word; all authority would be nearer, and yet I do not think authority would be an exhaustive translation. You know [dunamis] is power. Our LORD does not care about dynamite power, in which kings and princes take so much delight. Cannons are the last arguments of kings, but CHRIST has a more forcible argument than these. You remember the passage: "To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of GOD." The word "power" in that passage we take to mean a privilege, right, liberty, to become the sons of God, and it does mean all that. That is what it means in this particular place—all authority, all right; but not that exclusively, for some are kings de jure who are not kings de facto, They have the right to a kingdom, but they have not possession of that kingdom. But in the LORD's case these two go together—might and right. He is the authorised Sovereign in heaven and in earth. All power, dominion, rule, majesty, might, are given to Him in heaven and in earth.
"All power is given." Do not let us read this text as if we were to go into the world and get power for CHRIST. Oh, no; all power is given. He has it already. The King of all the world is CHRIST, after all. It is not only what He shall be, but what He is. This very day His drum sounds round the universe. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. Hallelujah! The rightful sovereign of this world is King JESUS. It is not only true that He shall reign, but He does reign. Yes, and He must reign until all enemies are made His footstooL Catch the word: "All power is given to Me." CHRIST has it now; as the gift of the FATHER, it is even now with Him. As GOD, of course He is omnipotent; as man, He could not contain all power; for the vessel of a creature could not hold an infinity. But the text reflects CHRIST in His united person, in His complex nature, as "God-man, Mediator." That power He, in a measure, laid aside when He was here below; though even then He was the rightful King of kings: that power He has reassumed since His resurrection from the dead. The FATHER has bestowed upon Him, as the reward of His travail, all right and all might, all authority and all power in heaven and in earth. He has it now; His it is this very day.
We may sing by poetic license—
"Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him LORD of all";
but, as a matter of fact, He was crowned long ago; and GOD hath declared the decree, "I have set My King upon My holy hill of Zion." The LORD reigneth; let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad!
"All power is given unto Me in heaven." In heaven! what a place in which to have power! In heaven? Oh, brothers, if we had our choice of where we would have power, we would not deliberate long; but we would say, "Give me power in heaven." What a power was that of Elias when he went to the top of Carmel! He had turned the key and shut up heaven for the space of three years, so that there was neither dew nor rain; but on the top of Carmel he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, and cried, until he heard the sound of an abundance of rain, for he had power in heaven.
As of old, so now, there are men and women of GOD who have power in heaven. "There," said they of Luther, "there goes a man who can have anything of GOD he likes." There are such among us still; but all the power of all the Elijahs, and all the intercessors, will never come to as much as this. It is vested in the great interceding High Priest now before the throne, even in our LORD JESUS CHRIST. All power is given unto Him in heaven—in fact, all the power of all the interceders who prevail with GOD, cometh from Him. He puts power into our pleadings and prayers. A fulness in that respect dwells in Him. He hath power with GOD, and if with GOD, then I need scarcely say that He hath all power in heaven among the angels. Legions of angels fly at His bidding; and all intelligences, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, are all submissive to this great Firstborn, this LORD of all. He and He alone hath "all power in heaven."
But the text further saith, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." In earth, too, CHRIST has power; never let us doubt it. Our troubles come from our doubting about this. The world is in a dreadful hurly-burly. Everything is out of order. The storm-winds are out, and everything is in a rage. Think not so! He seeth order where we see confusion. Where everything shakes, I hear Him amid the earthquake. The pillars of the earth are removed, and He saith, "I bear them up." The foundation of GOD standeth sure in the person of the unchanging CHRIST, "the same yesterday, today, and for ever.''
I bless GOD that the power, after all, does not lie with the kings, nor, for the matter of that, with the mob. I rejoice that the power does not lie with the Premier, nor with the Cabinet, nor with the multitude. "All power is given unto Me," saith CHRIST. "Britannia rules the waves!" Does she? Put Britannia on the waves, and see. He that rules the waves—the waves of human thought as well as the waves of the sea, is everywhere Master and LORD, in the little and in the great, in the present and in the future. "The LORD sitteth on the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King for ever," Hallelujah! "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth."
That is my brief exposition of the text. I may not keep you longer, though it would need much more time to enlarge upon it, because I want now to use it; and oh! may the Spirit of GOD take this glorious truth, which the LORD communicated to His disciples, and bless it to us now. There it lies in the Bible like a dead text. If the LORD will set it on fire so that we shall look at it until it burns into our very eyeballs, so that we may see all things through it, this will be a good morning for many of us!
I.—"All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth," said our Divine LORD. Then, dear brethren, I think I can speak for you all when I say WE REJOICE TO HAVE IT SO. It thrills my soul with rapture to think that He whom we love has all power. The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now. Let it be so! No more doth He endure infirmity and weakness. He has left His weakness on the cross, and all power is given unto Him—unto Him whom we love with all our hearts. No sorrow ever tears my heart like the thought that He is dishonoured. If His truth is denied, if doubts are cast upon His sacrifice, I see Him, as it were, torn upon the rack; but if He is glorified, if He saves men, and His name is great to the ends of the earth, then my spirit doth rejoice, then am I rich and abound; I am lifted high if He be lifted high. There is no honour and no praise that is equal to His honour and His praise.
Many years ago, when but a youth, I was the subject of a great calamity, and it so depressed me and weighed upon my mind that it made my reason reel. I remember how, for some time, I could not open the Word of GOD to read it: for even its precious pages seemed to trouble my poor weary brain; until one day there came into my mind this thought,—"Him hath GOD highly exalted, and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of JESUS every knee should bow." That thought calmed me. I knelt down and praised and blessed His holy name that if I, a common soldier, should die in a ditch, it did not matter if I could see the Emperor ride by in all His glory. The King had won the victory, and what mattered it what became of me? I am sure that kind of feeling must often have passed through your minds, brothers and sisters. If He is exalted, Hallelujah! We would lift Him higher and higher still, though it should be at the cost of our sinking. Let all power be in Him. We do not want any power ourselves.
We are sure that the power is so much better in Him, for we know He will use it well. If we had the same power we might begin to filch a little of it for our own selfish ends. No, we are not fit to be trusted with power. The best men that ever lived are not fit to be trusted with unrestrained power, but as for Him, oh I let Him do as He wills. We want no limited monarchy with CHRIST. Let Him have His way, and His will, to the full; for He never willeth anything but what is right, and true, and good, and holy, and kind. Let Him, therefore, have all power in heaven and in earth. We are glad it should be so.
I, for one, feel glad that He should have all power, because I have now such a good excuse for often going to Him. If I had a little power of my own, I might depend upon it and live apart from my LORD as long as I had an independent fortune. But if all power is in Him, what have we to do, when we rise in the morning to get through the day, but to wait upon Him for power for the day? If all power be with Him, He cannot blame us if we cry unto Him before we preach. He cannot blame us if we, having no power of our own, go to Him. We must go to Him. If anything is to be done or suffered He will not blame us for being often at His door. If He has stopped up all the wells—all but one, and He is that well, He must intend us to come and draw from Himself. "All my springs are in Thee." If He says, Why comest thou to Me so often? we say, To whom should we go? Thou hast all the springs in Thyself. We must come unto Him. Is it not so? Are you not glad to feel that you have such excellent reason to come to Him, and one that you can plead without any fear that your LORD and MASTER will gainsay the plea?
Then it is so blessed that all power should be in Him, because He is so easy of access. We can come so readily to Him to get that power. You would find it hard to speak with a king, or with a prince; but you can speak with the King of kings in the dead of night; you can lodge your petition with the Prince by the highway, or wherever you may be; for all power is in Him. That is where you can get at it. There it is, that the poorest sinner may touch the hem of His garment and be made whole. It is there, that the most tried saint, the most busy man, the man most deeply immersed in business may just step aside for a moment and get power from Him in whom power is lodged. We are all agreed about this, and we are happy in our souls to think that all power is in CHRIST. We do rejoice in this. The FATHER has exalted Him. Oh! how the FATHER loves Him! I bless the FATHER for His infinite love to His SON. We seem drawn into unity with the FATHER in knowing this common centre of our affections. GOD the FATHER loves Him, GOD the HOLY GHOST loves Him, and we love Him; and so we are in one fellowship. Truly, our fellowship is with the FATHER, and with His SON JESUS CHRIST. We rejoice in Him, then, because He hath all power in heaven and in earth, and that we may come with boldness to Him, that we may be "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power."
II.—Now, in the second place, beloved friends, let us consider THE PRACTICAL OUTCOME OF THE TRUTH which our LORD declared—"All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth; go ye, therefore "—that seems very strange, does it not?—" I have all the power,'' says CHRIST : "therefore, go ye!" But, LORD, we are so insignificant, we are so unworthy; we have no power, according to what Thou hast already said.'' And yet He says, "Go ye!" What does He want with us? He does not want us at all. There is no want with Him who saith, "The cattle on a thousand hills are Mine; if I were hungry I would not tell thee." Yet in another place He says, "Thou hast bought Me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled Me with the fat of thy sacrifices." He does not want us; but oh, how He loves to honour us by using us! I have all power, saith He; I am not asking power of you; but, having that, I am able to turn to you and say, "Go ye, therefore"! I will tell you, brethren, how some have turned a text like this. They have said, "All power is given unto CHRIST in heaven and in earth. Well then, it is all right; GOD will fulfil His own purposes. What a mercy! Let us button up our pockets; let us go to bed; it is all right! You would not have us do GOD's work, would you? Surely, He can do His own work if all power is in Him! What can we do? Therefore, we are exonerated from all need to do anything." There are none of that kind of people here, I suppose; you are all of a more rational sort, and I hope of a more spiritual sort. No: the fact that there is power in CHRIST is the incentive to action; it is not the cause of inaction. "All power is given unto Me; therefore, go ye!" Don't sit down and worry. Oh, what long sighs some people fetch! "The world is in a dreadful state, the Church of GOD is all going wrong." Now, I believe there is much truth in all this; at the same time I do not see the use of worrying. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" is the Master's word to you: do not sit down and worry, but go. "But, LORD, here are some of our brethren going wrong; they think in such crooked ways, and we cannot set them right, for their consciences seem such complicated pieces of machinery." "Nevertheless," says CHRIST, "leave them alone, and go! "All power is given unto Me; go!" "But, LORD, we have not in our days the great men we used to have. We do not seem to have the old Methodist fire we used to have." "No," saith CHRIST; "but all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth; whatever changes may have taken place, I have not changed. The same power is in Me as ever. Therefore, go!"
The text, you see, puts us all on the "go!" If we are in the right state of mind, it says to us: "Come away from your dunghills, shake off your dust, roll up your sackcloth, lay it on one side, and go about your Master's business. 'Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,' because of this unchanging argument, that all power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.''
Laying the stress upon the next word, "Go ye!" it does seem to me as if the Master looked round on those gathered about Him and said: "Go ye—you, Peter, the headstrong, impetuous, that is your weakness; but, then, I have all power to control you, to guide you. Go, Peter. And you, John, who would have called fire from heaven in your loving but unwise zeal, go, go; I have all power, I can help you. And you that have been so long time with Me, and yet hast not known Me, Philip; and thou, Thomas, that must put thy finger into the print of the nails, ere thou wouldst believe. I have all power, and therefore I send such as you; go! And, go ye, ye men and women, the whole company of you; go forth and tell abroad the Gospel of My love, because I have all power, and therefore I have chosen you."
You and I, if we look out for people to accomplish our purpose, have to look out for those with certain powers and abilities; but supposing we had all the abilities and power within ourselves, we could then take the weakest and feeblest, and say, "I have all power; therefore, go ye and teach all nations, and baptise them in my name!" So, I see a reason why there should always be a practical outcome of this blessed statement. The disciples might have said, "But gracious Master, we dare not go into some parts of the world, because we are aliens; we are Jews, we may not go." "I will make out your passport," says CHRIST; "I have all authority in heaven and in earth; there is nobody can stop you; My warrant runs in every kingdom—north, south, east, and west \; all authority is given to Me; go ye, therefore." "But, LORD," they might have said, "we want our commissions. We must not go without credentials." Brothers, you must always mind that, you Wesleyan ministers! you are going where you may often be asked where your credentials are; and you and I are not so wicked as to do anything without having our authority at the back of us. "There are your commissions," says your Master; "go ye therefore, and teach all nations: because I have all authority, I authorise you." The next time anybody asks me for my authority to preach, I shall go on preaching; and do you the same; because, as long as CHRIST has authority in heaven and in earth, all those who are in Him have authority to go and spread, according to their ability, the knowledge of His truth, the savour of His name. All power is given to Him, and now He gives it back to each of us who know and love Him, and says, "Go ye and teach all nations, baptising them in My name." He gives them their passports, He gives them their credentials, and then He tells them, what they must often have remembered with great comfort: "I do not promise that I will send My power after you to follow up what you do; but I give you this, as something better—My power has gone before you. All power is Mine—is Mine in earth as well as in heaven. Therefore, go ye where My power already is.'' It is as when Israel went into Canaan, and the LORD sent the hornet before them that the inhabitants might be driven out, that His people might take possession.
Often when missionaries land in new countries, they are surprised to find that there have been singular changes—political, social, and the like—preparing men's minds for the Word. The great steam-plough of Providence is turning up the wastes, to make everything ready for the scattering of the seed. CHRIST has already conquered; He is already Master; He is already LORD. Therefore, go ye and take possession of what He has bought with His blood, what He claims as the reward of the travail of His soul. It is not for you and me to speak with bated breath, and ask for courteous permission to live and preach. We are the representatives of a great King. We have a right to go anywhere. We have a right to be everywhere. "All the world is my parish;" a blessed word was that! And so it is true of the Church of GOD. All the world belongs to our CHRIST. The earth is the LORD'S and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let us go and take possession. It belongs to us already, it belongs to our Master, and we who are sent of Him to preach His Gospel have but to claim what is His by right, even at this moment. This ought to put the missionary enterprise upon a very cheering footing; and I pray we may feel it to be so.
III.—But now, thirdly, concerning this statement, of which we have seen the practical drift, let me add, WE FEEL THE NEED OF IT. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." What power have we? Unless our Master has power, alas! what can we do? We cannot convert a single soul. If any man thinks he can, I should like him to try any one whom he chooses to select. If any Sunday-school teacher thinks she can save a soul of herself, let her try one girl. Oh! you might as well try to create a world as try to change a heart unrenewed, a dead heart, into the life and love of GOD. No, we must have power, we must have the power of CHRIST resting upon us. I hope we are not accustomed to say this as a sort of compliment to the HOLY GHOST. I hope we mean it. Brethren, it is easy to go into the pulpit and feel that we can slay the Philistines; but we may find, when we shake ourselves as aforetime, that the Spirit of GOD has departed from us. There is a real power and energy coming from CHRIST into the hearts of His believing people; and if the power and energy be gone from us, what can we do? We are utterly incompetent for this great service. We must have our Master's power; and when I think of the conversion of the world—for that is what we seek after—what opposition there is, how can we look at the battle and hope to succeed in it apart from Divine power? The history of Christianity is a story of the supernatural. It is supernatural all through. It is a series of miracles. Christianity is never truly spread except by Divine power. The power of moral suasion and education we do employ, and rightly; but the basis, the real power, lies in the outgoing of the Godhead, in the majesty of the eternal might, upon the hearts and consciences of men. Hoary systems of idolatry will not crumble before eloquence; long established systems of sin will not disappear before reasoning. It is the HOLY GHOST, and the power from JESUS Himself, that must accomplish this deed; and we feel it to be so. The whole work is supernatural.
This being so, brethren, I believe that between now and the coming of our LORD we shall want every kind of power to be employed for the overcoming of the foe. All power in heaven and in earth will have to be brought to bear upon this great warfare, and the mercy is that it is all ready. In GOD's great armoury are the shields, and the battle-axes, and the swords and the arrows—"all power," all under the custody of CHRIST. Whatever is wanted to bombard the gates of hell, and carry the castles of iniquity by storm, is already laid up in CHRIST for the sure and certain result. "All power! " Oh, how we want all power now! We all have our theories of the condition of the Church just now. I do not know what yours may be: mine is not very bright. But I have this one belief in my soul, that what is wanted most of all is one great revival of spiritual life—one wonderful downpour of the grace of GOD from heaven to flood all the churches. It seems to me that we get very much like the barges and the vessels down yonder at London Bridge when the tide is out. There they lie on the mud. You cannot move them; all the king's horses and all the king's men cannot move them. What is to be done? Now, will you great engineers tell me how much horsepower, how much steam-power you want? There is nothing wanted but the tide. When the tide rises, every old barge begins to walk the water like a thing of life, and every vessel moves right readily, and they can all go out to sea in due time. When the heavenly tides of spiritual blessing begin to come up nothing can withstand them. Come up, O heavenly tide! come up, we beseech thee, nothing can stand against thee! O SAVIOUR, we seem to see Thee standing at Thy palace door this morning, and the horses and the chariots of salvation wait for Thee. Oh! take Thy place and ride forth conquering and to conquer. We all cry to Thee: "Arise, O King! O CHRIST, arise and come to the battle to the help of Thy people!"
What a glorious time it was when Mr. Whitefield and Mr. Wesley were going up and down this land like twin seraphim, burning everywhere with the Divine flame, and carrying everywhere the Divine light. Can this be done again? Can the masses of the people be raised? Can we raise those that are sunk in ignorance and degradation? Do you think it cannot be done? We think it can be done. It must be done. It shall be done. And this is the reason why we expect it: all power is given unto CHRIST in heaven and in earth. He can find another student in Oxford; He can find another potboy in Gloucester; He can find some one somewhere upon whom He can pour out His Holy Spirit, and send him forth to preach with a tongue of fire that shall wake up the churches and startle the world. Let us cry to GOD that it may be so. But we must first deeply feel the necessity of it, and rejoice that this necessity is met by the text: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth."
IV.—Once more, you will bear with me when I say, concerning the statement of the text, WE BELIEVE IN IT, AND WE REST IN IT. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." I said, we believe in it. But I must pause, and say: "Do we believe in it?" There is such a thing as a sneering belief. At school, in our early days, we had bread and butter. We could not in honesty say there was no butter; so now-a-days we have friends who have doubts and faith. We cannot in all candour say that they are without faith, but it is only just a suspicion of it. They have just a touch, a drop of faith, on the end of a sword. Oh, that they would plunge it up to the hilt! They say sometimes, "Why, that man speaks as if he believes it"—it has got to be rather an unusual thing. I have heard say that some speak as if they were taught it, and some speak as if it was the proper thing to say, and some speak as if they believe it in the pulpit. Ah me! we shall never do anything at this rate. We must believe, with the old sort of believing, meaning that it is true, that we are sure it is true, and that we are going to act upon it. Is it so? Is all power given unto CHRIST in heaven and in earth? "Well, but, you see, in entering upon an enterprise, it is well for us to be prudent, and to calculate the forces upon which we can depend." And that is believing that all power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth, is it? "But, still, there is the adaptation of means to an end, which, I think, every person should take into view, and oftentimes we are kept from acts of fanaticism when we properly consider the balance of forces." Oh yes, I know all that. I have heard all that sort of stuff again and again, and of course I believe it; only it seems to me that the moment I get hold of a truth like this—that there is all power in CHRIST—all calculation is done with. You have a factor here that is absolutely infinite, and what does it matter as to what the other factors may be? This Aaron's rod has swallowed up all other rods. "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore.'' "I will do as much as I can," says one. Any fool can do that. He that believes in CHRIST does what he cannot do, attempts the impossible, and performs it.
Until we get back this old heroic spirit which believes in the Godhead of CHRIST, and in the infinite power of CHRIST, what shall we do? Why, we shall stick in the mud, where we are now, keep in the old ruts, and do nothing. How ever are we to win the world, if we simply keep in our chapels and keep in our classes? Let us, in the name of GOD, break loose; it is time we did. May GOD help us so to do! We cannot let the world die for fear we should violate the proprieties. Let us believe in CHRIST. Let us believe up to the hilt in Him, and go ahead. Oh! but learned men have "discovered," and there are "grave doubts," and "the current of modern thought," and "the tendency of the times."—Dear sir, were you born yesterday, that the shell is not taken off your head? All this kind of thing always was from the beginning—from the days of St. Paul until now. GOD hath chosen the foolish things of this world still to confound the wise, and the things that are weak to confound the mighty; and you had better make up your mind which side you are going to be on—on the side of the foolishness of GOD, or on the side of the wisdom of men. If you are on the side of the wisdom of men, you will be shifting, of course, continually; for that which is the wisdom of men to-day is folly to-morrow; and you will be defeated in the long run; for there is no more stark naked folly in the world than the wisdom of men. If, however, you are content to be on the side of the foolishness of GOD, lift your banners high. "We preach CHRIST crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." You will know where you are walking, when you always keep to that which is always the same, and you shall find yourself one day among the victors who shall cast their crowns at His dear feet, in whose name they overcame.
I may assume, then, that we do believe in this power. Then let us not seek any other kind of power. Let us not go bowing and cringing to get power from the world. Do not let us seek worldly amusements and worldly patronage. Do not say, "CHRIST is not enough, you know; we must have just a little bit of the theatre." Some say, "Let us go to the State; Caesar, cannot you help us?" The hand of the king in the old time was thought to cure the evil, and they brought the people up, in order that wherever the royal hand went it might cure the evil. My impression is that there never was a church that was touched by that hand but got the evil, and that it is a source of boundless weakness to all who depend upon it. Our principle should be to see that we have no king but CHRIST. We do not care for Caesar's power and help in this matter of religion. All power is given unto our Divine LORD; and we mean to fight the battle out in His power, with no help of any other kind. Instead of seeking any other power, we feel that we are of another mind—namely, to defy all other powers. Let learning rise to her full height; let culture reach her climax; let all be done that can be done, and when all is done we will invoke the eternal might of CHRIST, and go forward still to the victory. "All power is given unto Me," saith CHRIST. Let us lay all the power that we have at His dear feet; let us claim all other power as rightly subject to His sway; but let us depend wholly, and alone, on Him who is able to achieve His own purposes, let men oppose Him as they may.
V.—Last of all; if it be so, that CHRIST saith, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth," LET US OBEY THIS COMMAND. If He has all authority, let us yield to it. Let us go forth as He tells us: "Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations." Have you all tried to disciple people? Might I put a question to my congregation? Are there not some of you who never tried to bring one soul to CHRIST? Yet all power is in CHRIST, and He bids you, as His child, whoever you may be, "Go and make disciples." But have you sought this? We who are ministers of CHRIST—and I am glad there are so many here—are we always trying to make disciples for CHRIST? It seems to me that it is our one business. I am sure that the less we have to do with any other kind of work the better. We have, of course, to pastorise; but our first work is always to be trying to make disciples for CHRIST. You say, We can preach fine sermons. Perhaps we can; perhaps we cannot. But that is no business of ours. Our business is to make disciples; and I confess that I would sooner speak in the most vulgar language of Billingsgate and win souls, than I would speak in the most polished tones of the classics and be simply myself admired. Oh, sirs, it is the result at the last that the Master would care for, that we should really have discipled men for CHRIST.
Has our teaching been all for CHRIST? Has He been the beginning and the end? I do not blame you for making Wesleyans of those you disciple; but still that is not your business. Your business is to make Christians of them. If I speak rather as a Baptist than of CHRIST, I should be ashamed, and should have need to be so; for our first business is to make disciples unto CHRIST. If we do this, we have kept the faith and served Him well. Then He tells us that we are to teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST. It seems to me that we are always to do what He tells us, and we are to do it just as He tells us. If all authority is given to Him in heaven and in earth, we do it simply because we have His bidding to back us. We will neither believe nor do anything which is not taught nor commanded by Him; but be it once taught—be it once commanded to us—we go to do all things, even as the Master laid it down, because all power is given to Him. And as we thus teach and baptise, we then go on further to instruct. We tell men that they are to observe all things whatsoever CHRIST has commanded them. Let us take care that we do this.
You know that the Christian Church is divided now into various sections, and we shall always be so divided until we all agree that we will follow CHRIST more closely than ever. Every now and then it is good for a brother to make a revision of what he believes and does not believe. We may be wrong, and wherein we are wrong we would not persist. We may be right, and wherein we are right we should know the reason of that right, that we may be strong in it. But the great business of the Church at the present day seems to me this, that after we have brought men to CHRIST, and they have been received into the Church, we should go on teaching and instructing them in all things which CHRIST has taught us. We want an instructed membership more and more. People are getting to be wise in the things of this world. We must be more and more diligent in training them in the things of the world to come.
Beloved, we want in this age, above all things, saints—more saints. That Church which produces most saints has really the most power; and if in our ministry we can, by GOD'S grace, feel that there is power in CHRIST for the production of saints, a power for the production of holiness—I mean holiness of life and character; a power for the production of consecration of the most intense and vigorous kind; if we can believe that in CHRIST there is all power in heaven and in earth, to make us live here a heavenly life, living among men as those who are inspired by GOD and filled with the Divine presence, we shall do for our age something that is well worth doing. Oh, Church of GOD, obey this teaching, as well as rejoice in it. Obey this, that inasmuch as CHRIST has all authority in heaven and in earth, you and I resolve from this day, by His help, that we will yield to that authority, that we will do what He bids, do it promptly, heartily, joyfully, and thoroughly. Oh, Christian men and women, if we were half what we professed to be, we should be infinitely better than we are. If we really believed that He had the whole supremacy over us, and therefore gave ourselves wholly up to Him, there is in this Great Queen Street Chapel—supposing we were all the Christians in the world—enough seed-corn to sow the nations. If we were all alive and endued with the Spirit of GOD, and germinating mightily with the inner life, there is enough here to shake London from end to end, and make these British Isles to burn and glow in the light and glory of the Spirit of GOD. May He help us so to do! I am conscious of having spoken to you in great feebleness, but I am conscious that the truth I have spoken has power in it. GOD bless you, beloved brethren, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake.
A sermon delivered on Friday morning, April 30th, 1886, at Great Queen Street Chapel, London. Copied from The Evangelisation of the World: A Missionary Band... 2nd ed. London: Morgan & Scott, [1885?].
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