The Power of The Spirit
by William Law
The Power of the Spirit is the best book I have read on the controversial subject of the Holy Spirit. There is no need to detail the unhealthy extremes on both sides of this issue, since we are all too familiar with them and the powerless lives they both produce. Instead, I encourage you to consider the biblical, balanced view set forth in this volume. Genuine truth is timeless, and you will find this eighteenth century book clearly addressing twenty-first century issues in the following collection of excerpts.
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True Christianity is nothing but the continual dependence upon God through Christ for all life, light, and virtue; and the false religion of Satan is to seek that goodness from any other source. No man can remain in the goodness of his redeemed state but by continuing in that vital relationship to God that begins at his conversion; which is the same as saying that the continual inspiration and empowering of the Holy Spirit within the redeemed heart is vital and necessary to the salvation given us in Christ. Nothing but God in man can live a godly life in man.
Is it not the utmost in self-seeking folly to look upon God’s plan of salvation as having our rescue from judgment as its ultimate goal? Rather, it is to rescue us from rebellion against the will of God and to bring us into conformity with His eternal purposes in Christ Jesus. Because God is infinite in wisdom and love, this conformity to His will is our highest good, blessing, and joy. Thus one who rejects Christ’s salvation willfully consigns himself to empty despair and eternal separation from God’s wise and loving purposes.
The New Testament without the coming of the Holy Spirit in power over self, sin, and the devil is no better a help to heaven than the Old Testament without the coming of the Messiah. And just as the Pharisees’ rejection of Christ was under a profession of faith in the Messianic Scriptures, so church leaders today reject the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit in the name of sound doctrine.
Many Christians are careful to observe certain times, places, and rituals of worship; but when the service of the church is over, they are but like those that profess no regard for religion. In their manner of life, in the way they spend their time and money, in their cares and worries, fears and pleasures, indulgences and diversions, it is often impossible to distinguish professing Christians from the rankest unbelievers, until they once again unite to sing of their love and devotion to Jesus.
What a paradox to see the professed Church of the Lamb filled with great numbers of champion disputants, who from age to age have been up in arms to support and defend a set of opinions, doctrines, and practices, all of which may be embraced without demanding the least degree of self-denial, and most firmly held fast without bestowing the least degree of humility! Why is it that we see Bible scholars equally pleased with and contending for the errors and absurdities of every system of theology under which they happen to have taken their education? Because natural genius and human wisdom can feed no other food than the deceptive fruit of that ancient tree of knowledge. How absurd to seek to be wise in scholarship concerning the letter of Scripture in order to obey Christ’s command that we must become like a little child to enter into His kingdom!
The one true proof of our being living members of Christ’s Church on earth is our being inwardly of the Spirit and outwardly of the behavior which Christ manifested while in the world.
Take away everything from Christ which evangelical orthodoxy calls emotionalism and fanaticism; suppose Him not to be the baptizer with the Spirit and fire; suppose Him not to be the very life of our life, manifesting Himself in and through us by His very works and words, and you have as sure a rejection of Christ and His redemption as ever Jewish rabbi made.
The church is filled with professing Christians whose faith has never gone beyond a conviction that the words of Scripture are true. They believe in the Christ of the Bible, but do not know Him personally. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is sound doctrine to their minds, but their lives are empty of His manifest power either to overcome sin or to convert others to Christ. Though many are zealous to preach the gospel, yet instead of bringing men to Christ, they seek to reason them into a trust in their own learned opinions about Scripture doctrines. Some men preach as though Christ had said, "By their doctrine ye shall know them"; others write as though He said, "By their gifts ye shall know them."
What a betrayal of faith and contradiction of reason, to preach the necessity of being living members of the body of Christ, and yet to deny in the name of sound doctrine a real and living manifestation of the power of that life in us.
Since it was the sins of the world that made the Son of God become a compassionate, suffering Advocate for all mankind, there is no greater sign of your own baptism in the Spirit than when you find yourself all love and compassion towards them that are very weak and sinful, and especially towards those that oppose and misuse you…. The baptism in the Spirit is no longer sought or believed in, and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are feared and preached against, lest in desiring them we should give entrance to the manifestations of seducing spirits. And therefore the best sons of the church must find doctrines that excuse them for that lack of loving others as themselves, that lack of surrender to the lordship of Christ in everything, and that lack of blessing and power—in short, the lack of all the virtues that once marked the true Church. [None] will tolerate the scriptural teaching of victory over sin, since to do so would condemn themselves; but at all costs the life of the old man must be defended, and exhortations to a life filled and constantly inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit are dismissed as tending to extremism.
So great is the blindness which pride brings to the soul, that helpless creatures feel exalted because of natural abilities that are given them by God, and boast of such things as though they were their own. If man will boast of anything as his own, he must boast of his misery and sin, for there is nothing else but this that is his own property or his own doing.
To suppose a man to be born again from above who is yet under a necessity of continuing to sin, is as absurd as to suppose that the true Christian is only to have so much of the nature of Christ alive in him as is consistent with that much power of Satan still controlling him. All this blasphemous absurdity denies or debases Christ’s victory over sin and death; yet in the name of sound doctrine from books and pulpits, issues forth the teaching that the Christian can never stop sinning as long as he lives. Can this destructive teaching bring any hope or desire of doing God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven? Surely he that is left under a necessity of sinning as long as he lives can no more be said to be cleansed from all unrighteousness than a man who must be a leper to his dying day can be described as cured from all his leprosy. Could Satan himself have devised a more clever lie to keep those enslaved who could have triumph and freedom in Christ than this doctrine that is everywhere preached, that the Christian is not really dead to sin nor free from sin, but must serve sin as long as he lives? Faith must grasp a better promise than this for victory, or it will never overcome the world!
How trifling is that learning which sets up imagined differences between faith and its works. Is there any meaningful distinction between Christ as a Redeemer and His redeeming works? Can we have one without the other? And how else can Christ be known to be in you than by His works being manifest through you? If there are no works, then Christ must be absent, and without Christ, there can be no works. Therefore all the learned volumes written about the fine distinction between faith and its works are as absurd as though they had been written about the difference between a thing and itself….
The question is not whether gospel perfection can be fully attained, but whether you come as near it as a sincere intention and careful diligence can carry you through faith in Christ. Can you really call yourself a follower of Christ without at least intending to follow Him all the way?
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I hope this small selection from this book’s riches has been enough to inspire you to read it for yourself. You will find yourself humbled as you gain a new appreciation for all that God offers by The Power of the Spirit.
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