POWER belongs, and rightly belongs, to the church of Jesus Christ.
But it is not the power of this world nor of anything that is connected with this world.
Before the Lord Jesus left his church to ascend to heaven, he said to them, “Tarry ye in Jerusalem till ye be endued with power from on high.”
It is power from on high, and only from on high, that belongs to the church of Christ. If she has not this power, whatever else she may have, she is only weakness itself for any good in the world.
This power from on high is given directly from heaven to the church. It does not come through the number, wealth, nor influence of its adherents; it does not come by means of society, the State, nor any other mediumship whatever.
Before he went away from the earth Christ, the Head of the Church, said to his disciples, “Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” This is the only power, and the only means of power, that belongs to the church of Christ.
And this power is open full and free to believers and the church to-day, as it was on the day of Pentecost so long ago. God poured out his Spirit then to believers and his church, without measure, and he has never taken it back. There is just as much of the Spirit of God in the world to-day as there was on the evening of the day of that wonderful Pentecost.
Why then does not the church have this power as abundantly as she did on that Pentecost?—The answer is easy: The world cannot receive the Spirit of God. He is not the spirit of the world, he is the Spirit of God. The God whose the Holy Spirit is, and who gives the Holy Spirit, is not “the god of this world.” The Spirit of God cannot be received while retaining the spirit of the world. The church has too much of the spirit of the world to have the fullness of the Spirit of God.
The Lord started his church in the world with the full endowment of his Holy Spirit. His church was at that time entirely separated from the world: for Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Complete separation from the world was an essential condition—precedent to receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit: and complete separation from the world was essential to retain that precious gift.
But there came “a falling away.” The influence, the numbers, and the power of the world were sought after. Men arose from among the believers who desired to multiply disciples for worldly honor. They perverted the right way, they spoke perverse things to draw away disciples after them. They succeeded in this bad ambition: disciples were drawn after themselves in such numbers that the leaders found it impossible to maintain discipline among them.
If the Holy Spirit had been retained and courted and honored, the genuine discipline of the Lord would have been maintained through the prevailing love of God, the unity of the Spirit, and the bond of peace. In order that this might be so, it was necessary to separate completely from the world. But the professed church of Christ had gone after the world, she had courted the world, and had won the world. And now she found herself unable to control the world which she had won.
To hold her own with the world which she had won, she must have power. She had separated from “the power from on high” when she went after the world and courted the world. If she would have this power again, she must separate from the very world which she had won, but which she found herself powerless to control.
Here was a dilemma. What should she do? Power she must have. The “power from on high” was as fully and freely open to her as it was at Pentecost and onward. This she could have in all its fullness as at the first. But alas! she could not have this and the world too. The world cannot receive the Spirit of God. Would she not separate from this world, even from the world which she had won, that she might drink to everlasting fullness of “the powers of the world to come”?
No, she would not. She would go still farther from the power from on high. She would go still farther toward the world. She had courted and won the world, she would not court and win the power of this world, that she might control the world which she had already won. She would go as far as it was possible to go from the power from on high: she herself would become a world power.
All this she did. She secured an illicit union with the State. She committed fornication with the kings of the earth. She ruled the world with the world’s power in its fullness, unrestrained. And she ruled the world with the world’s power, as this world’s power, unrestrained, rules  —wickedly, despotically, abominably. She herself became the very “mistress of witchcraft and the mother of abominations.”
The professed church of Christ is again, to-day, sorely in need of power. She knows it. Again she has so far won the world that she finds herself in need of power to control the world which she has won. What now will she do? Already, on every hand, there are too many tokens of the disposition to go the full length of the first apostasy—she is grasping for the power of the world, she is seeking illicit connection with the State, she desires to rule the world with the world’s power, she is giving evidence that she herself desires to be a world power.
But the power from on high still, even to-day, awaits her demand and reception. There is as much of the Holy Spirit, as much of the power of the Holy Ghost, in the world to-day as there was at the close of the day of Pentecost long ago. And still the world cannot receive Him. Let the church to-day separate from the world and from all worldliness, and she can be endued with power from on high, she can be filled with the Holy Ghost.
He that believeth on me, saith the Lord, from his body “shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive.” Do you believe on Him? Then, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” “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.”
“Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I have chosen you out of the world.” “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God.” It is simply a choice that all people are free to make, whether they will have the spirit of the world or the Spirit of God. And all people are always making the choice.
But Christians, by that very name, profess to have made the choice of the Spirit of God and not of the spirit of the world. And yet so many of them incline to the spirit of the world, defer to the world, and desire the favor and approval of the world, that it is impossible for the Spirit to witness with their spirit that they are the children of God.
If the churches and religious organizations and combinations in the United States would seek for the power from on high as earnestly as they seek the power of the police, of the courts, and of the world generally; if they would petition God for the Holy Spirit as diligently as they petition Congress and the State legislatures for Sunday laws, there would be such a reformation in religion as the world has never seen since the days of the first apostles, and the world would know of a surety that God sent Christ to be the Saviour of the world. Why will they not do it?