Charles G Finney » Power from God » Saving impressions
(From the book ‘Power from God‘, Whitaker House, Page 17)
The apostles and believers received it on the Day of Pentecost. What did they receive? What power did they exercise after that event? They received a powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit, a vast increase of divine illumination.
This baptism imparted a great diversity of gifts that were used for the accomplishment of their work. It clearly included outward things. The power of a Holy life. The power of a self-sacrificing life. (The manifestation of these must have greatly influenced those to whom they proclaimed the Gospel.) The power of a cross-bearing life. The power of great meekness, which this baptism enabled them everywhere to exhibit. The power of a loving enthusiasm in proclaiming the Gospel. The power of teaching. The power of a loving and living faith. The gift of tongues. An increase of power to work miracles. The gift of inspiration, or the revelation of many truths before unrecognized by them. The power of moral courage to proclaim the Gospel and do the bidding of Christ, whatever it cost them.
In their circumstances, all these gifts were essential to their success, but neither separately nor all together did they constitute the power from on high that they manifestly received. What they manifestly received as the supreme, crowning, and all-important means of success was the power to prevail with both God and man, the power to fasten saving impressions on the minds of men. This was doubtless the thing that they understood Christ to promise. He had commissioned the church to convert the world to Himself. Everything that I named before were only means, which could never secure the end unless they were vitalized and made effective by the power of God. The apostles, no doubt, understood this, and laying themselves and their all upon the altar, they entreated the throne of grace in the Spirit of entire consecration to their work.
They did, in fact, receive the gifts before mentioned; but supremely and principally, they received the power to make saving impressions on men. It was manifested right on the spot. They began to address the multitude, and wonderful to tell, three thousand were converted the same hour. However, observe, no new power was manifested by them upon this occasion, except the gift of tongues. They worked no miracle at that time, and they used these tongues simply as the means of making themselves understood.
Please note that they had not had time to exhibit any other gifts of the Spirit that I have named above. They did not at that time have the advantage of exhibiting a Holy life or any of the powerful graces and gifts of the Spirit. What was said on the occasion, as recorded in the book of Acts, was said with a new power; otherwise, it could not have made a saving impression on the people.
This power was not the power of inspiration, for they only declared certain facts of their own knowledge. It was not the power of human learning or culture, for they had but little. It was not the power of human eloquence, for there appears to have been but little of it. It was a power from on high – God in them making a saving impression on those to whom they spoke.
Power That Cuts to the Heart
This power to make a saving impression stayed with and upon them. It was no doubt, the great and main thing promised by Christ and was received by the apostles and early Christians. It has existed, to a greater or lesser extent, in the church ever since. It is a mysterious fact often manifested in a most surprising manner. Sometimes a single sentence, a Word, a gesture, or even a look will convey this power in an overcoming manner.
To the honor of God alone, I will say a little about my own experience in this matter. I was powerfully converted on the morning of the tenth of October. In the evening of the same day and on the morning of the following day, I received overwhelming baptisms of the Holy Spirit, which went through me, as it seemed to me, body and soul. I immediately found myself clothed with such power from on high that a few words dropped here and there to individuals were the means of their immediate conversion. My words seemed to fasten like barbed arrows in the souls of men. They cut like a sword. They broke the heart like a hammer. Multitudes can attest to this. Oftentimes, a Word dropped, without my remembering it, would fasten conviction, and often result in almost immediate conversion.
Sometimes, I would find myself, in a great measure, empty of this power. I would go out, visit, and find that I made no saving impression. I would exhort and pray with the same result. I would then set apart a day for private fasting and prayer, fearing that this power had departed from me, and would inquire anxiously after the reason of this apparent emptiness. After humbling myself and crying out for help, the power would return upon me with all its freshness. This has been my experience throughout my life.
I could fill a volume with the history of my own experience and observation with respect to this power from on high. It is a fact of consciousness and of observation, but it is a great mystery.
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