The Outpouring of the Spirit

James Smith, 1864

(N.B. The first two pages are missing from the original)

"Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven. Then the wilderness will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will yield bountiful crops!" Isaiah 32:15

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, there will not be much Christian love. One of the great wants of the Church is this love. This would affect all around her, attract many to her, and bring down a powerful blessing upon her. This tender love will not be much realized "until the Spirit is poured upon us from Heaven."

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, there will not be much burning zeal. Zeal, enlightened by truth. Zeal, consecrated to God. Zeal, to spread God's word, to silence God's foes, to extend God's cause, and to bring great glory to God's name. Zeal, which sympathizes with human woe, aims at the soul's welfare, and endeavors to bring great honor to the Savior's work. Zeal, which not only prays, but gives; not only gives, but works; not only works, but suffers for God's cause. Zeal which considers nothing too arduous to undertake, nothing too costly to sacrifice, nothing too low to stoop to — if souls may but be saved, the Church benefitted, and the Savior honored. Zeal, which is the visible life of the Church, and proves that she is like Christ, who said, "The zeal of your house has consumed me;" that she is one with Christ, who "put on zeal as a cloak."

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, there will not be much prevailing prayer. Prayer that comes up from the bottom of men's hearts — and sinks into God's heart. Prayer that is nerved by faith, fired with love, and will take no denial. Prayer, that seeks to bring down the power and presence of God into the Church, that it may appear to be his living temple, his home and dwelling place. Prayer . . .
that rests on the finished work of Christ,
that pleads his precious name,
that asks for all God has promised,
that asks, seeks, knocks — until the full answer comes down.

Prayer, that engages the whole soul, rouses all who hear it, and will give the Lord no rest until he makes his Church a blessing. Prayer, that has power with God, and, gives the person praying, power with man. This is the prayer the Church needs. This is the prayer to which promises are made. This is the prayer that precedes a powerful revival of religion. O that the Lord would pour out this spirit of prayer upon every one of us immediately!

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, there will be no mighty effort. Occasional, feeble, or spasmodic efforts — there may be. But united, energetic, well-directed, well-sustained, persevering, and successful efforts — there will not be. Human power is not enough, we need divine power! The agency of man is not sufficient — we need the putting forth of the energy of God in man, and through man. If the Holy Spirit were but poured out upon us from Heaven, we would soon excite attention, admiration, and surprise; we would soon hear the wondering exclamation, "Who is this, that looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, majestic as an army with banners!" Amalek would soon be routed, and the inhabitants of Canaan would melt away; and the Church would come up from "the wilderness like pillars of smoke, fragrant with myrrh and frankincense and every kind of spice."

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, there will be no great success. Conversions now and then will take place. Saints will occasionally rejoice. But there will be no great work. There can be no Pentecostal blessing without the down coming of the Holy Spirit. The whole of the twelve apostles may be present, with Mary and the other women — but unless their prayers bring down the Spirit of God, little or nothing will be done. So, no matter what means, what agents, what resources we may have — all will be inefficient, and there will be no great success — unless "the Spirit is poured upon us from Heaven."

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, we shall not have faith to ask great things of God. The promises will be too ponderous for our grasp. We shall not give hearty credit to the willingness of God to bestow, we shall not have confidence in his word that he will bestow, we shall not rely on his faithfulness feeling sure that he will bestow. We ask now — but we do not ask in faith. We ask now — but we do not open our mouths wide that he may fill them. We ask now — but we do not ask with fervor, zeal and importunity.

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, we shall not have hope to expect great things from God. Our hope is as our faith is, for hope is the daughter of faith. Alas! how little we expect from God now. If he was to give us what we sometimes ask of him in our prayers — we would be filled with wonder and surprise. We would feel that we were not prepared to receive it. It would encumber and bewilder us!

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, we shall not have courage to attempt great things. How much thought, calculation, and deliberation, is now generally considered necessary — before anything of consequence is attempted for God. Men can speculate, venture, and risk their property on worldly schemes — and professors of religion too; but ask them to join you in any noble enterprise, in any grand scheme to advance God's cause and kingdom — and where is their courage? Where? We do not attempt much — because we do not expect much; and we do not expect much — because we do not believe much.

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, we shall not have confidence to persevere in any great undertaking — unless we are animated by present success. Strong faith will give God long credit — but feeble faith needs present pay. Confident perseverance in a path believed to be right — honors God, honors the gospel, and is an honor to ourselves too. But such confident perseverance there will not be, "until the Spirit is poured upon us from Heaven." Until then fields may appear white unto the harvest — but they will not be reaped. Until then, the valley may be full of dry bones, or the plain be covered with the slain — but there will be no glorious resurrection.

Until the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven, the wilderness will be barren and gloomy — but it will not be recovered and restored by cultivation. Until then, the garden of the Lord will be overrun with weeds and wild plants, instead of being planted with choice flowers and fruitful trees. But if once the Spirit is poured upon us from en high, then, "Where once there were thorns — cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew — myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the Lord's name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love!" "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!"

But the passage suggests
the course we should adopt. Let us realize our need. Let us deeply realize it. Let us dwell upon the subject until our hearts are affected by it, until we feel that something ought, that something must be done, in order to obtain this blessing. It may be had — for God has promised it. He has said, "I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams!"

And the Lord Jesus, to encourage us to seek for this very blessing, delivered the parable of the friend and the three loaves, which he applies thus, "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:9-13

Can anything be more plain? Can anything be more positive? Can anything be more encouraging? Do you wonder when you hear Paul say, "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit!" Are you surprised to find James saying, "You have not because you ask not, or because you ask amiss to consume it on your lusts!"

Let us then unite to seek this blessing. We read that in the days of old, Israel was gathered together "to ask help of the Lord." This is just what we should do. We should seriously think over the subject in private, until our hearts were suitably affected with it; then we should come together and unitedly join to seek this blessing at our heavenly Father's hand. How encouraging are the words of Jesus here, "I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in Heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them!" Let us urge the promise at our Father's throne, making that our warrant to expect, and our plea that we may receive.

The Spirit is "the promise of the Father" — and should be sought from the Father. It should be expected to the honor of the Son, and as a proof of the divine faithfulness. Let us then expect to obtain, and continue seeking under the influence of this expectation:
Not listening to Satan.
Not yielding to unbelief.
Not giving way to fears.
Not harboring any doubts.
But taking God's own word, in its plain, simple, and obvious meaning — and expect him to make it good. He cannot deny himself. He cannot falsify his word. He has no wish to rescind his promises. But he desires to see us hearty, earnest, and importunate at his throne of grace.

Let us also feel our responsibility. For if things are as we have stated them, or rather as God has stated them in his own word — then there must be a degree of responsibility resting upon us. If the great need of the world, if the great need of the Church, if the great need of individual believers — is the Holy Spirit; and if that Spirit is promised to the hearty, humble, united, and persevering prayers of God's people; and if we do not thus pray for it — are we clear of all responsibility? Are we faultless upon this subject? Are we at liberty to choose our own course, and to walk according to our own wills? Are we not rather under solemn obligation to seek the blessing, and if we do not — either from worldliness, carelessness, forgetfulness, or selfishness — are we guiltless? Is there no blame to be attached to us? Can we boldly lift up our head as those who have nothing to lay to their charge — or who are not at all accountable for the state of things in the world or the Church?

Have we done what we can — all that we can? If we have not, are we not faulty? If we are faulty, should we not be sorry? If we are sorry, ought we not to confess it, and humble ourselves before God? If we thus confess our sins, and humble ourselves before God — shall we not forsake them? And if we forsake them, shall we not adopt a new, a different, a Scriptural course, and unite with all who will unite with us, in pleading with God "until the Spirit is poured upon us from Heaven?"

But the passage itself holds out encouragement to seek the blessing. The wilderness would become a fruitful field. The soil would become good. Cultivation would go on. The land would be reclaimed. The entire aspect of the desert would be changed. It would be fruitful, bringing "forth herbs fit for him by whom it is dressed, receiving blessing from God." It would become like a well-watered garden — all beautiful, all valuable, all productive, all lovely! Then would be fulfilled that beautiful promise, "The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing!" The fruitful field would be reckoned for a forest. The plants so numerous, each plant so strong, all together so steadfast — that the Church would look like some extensive, wide-spread, majestic forest.

And then would be brought to pass the prediction of the Prophet, "The glory of Lebanon will be yours—the forests of cypress, fir, and pine— to beautify my sanctuary. My Temple will be glorious!" Also, "I will plant trees in the barren desert—cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine. I am doing this so all who see this miracle will understand what it means—that it is the Lord who has done this, the Holy One of Israel who created it!" Thus Zion would be glorious, and Jerusalem a praise in the whole earth.

Then we should see what we ardently desire, and enjoy what we so much long for; there would be a great shaking among the dry bones! Our dead men would live — by the mighty power of the Spirit they would arise, stand up, and proclaim the wonders of sovereign grace. There would be a mighty work, such a work as would constrain onlookers to exclaim, "The hand of the Lord has done this!" "This is the finger of God!" There would be a glorious harvest, and those who now go forth weeping bearing precious seed, would doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them. Then the glory of the Lord would be revealed. The beauty of the Lord our God would be upon us, and he would establish the work of our hands. Then many would run to and fro, and knowledge would be increased.

But "until the Spirit is poured upon us from Heaven," there may be a few sickly plants introduced into the garden of the Lord; there may be a feeble and inefficient church — but there will be little more. True, we may increase in wealth, our church buildings may be more numerous and magnificent, professors may multiply, and crowds may surround our gates; but there will be few conversions to God, there will be little deep spirituality, there will not be a return to apostolic purity, simplicity, and power!

The very life of the Church consists in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit — which appears now to be very much withheld from her! And therefore she is feeble, her ministry is comparatively powerless, and her success is small. Every member of the Church ought to realize this and to mourn over it, and the whole should arise as one man, to plead with God until he pours us down this blessing.

If all were honest to their profession, true to their engagements, right-hearted in the cause, or were willing to become so — we would soon experience a change — a mighty, a glorious, an astounding change — as it is written, "Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of Heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!"

How shall it be? Shall we be content to live at this poor dying rate? Shall we be satisfied to go on as we have been of late? Or, shall we awake from our slumbers, shake ourselves from our lethargy, congregate together to seek help of the Lord, and let our earnestness, assiduity, and importunity — prove that we are grieved for the afflictions of the church, and desire most heartily that "the Spirit is poured out on us from Heaven. Then the wilderness will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will yield bountiful crops!" Isaiah 32:15