Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Not by might, but by my Spirit

The following paragraphs are found at the end of Jonathan Goforth’s book By My Spirit, first published in 1929.  Jonathan Goforth was a Canadian missionary to China from 1888 to 1935.

During the late Manchu dynasty, scholars were expected to know the classics of their sages off by heart. How do the scholars of so-called Christian lands measure up to that standard as regards the “World’s Great Classic”? It is nothing short of pathetic how so many, who come professedly to represent the Lord Jesus Christ in China, know so little of His Word. Thirty years ago the missionary ideal was to know the Bible so well that one would not have to carry around a concordance. Is the indifference to the Bible today on the part of so many missionaries due to the fact, perhaps, that they have discovered some better means with which to meet the needs of a sin sick world?

Finally, the call to revival must be a call to exalt Jesus Christ in our hearts as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is like an Everest peak, rising from the level plain. There must be room only for Him, if we would have Him dwell with us at all. Every idol must be smashed; every darling Isaac laid on the altar; every urge of self denied. Then, and then only, can we expect the larger fields to open before us. It is said of Mahmoud, the great Moslem warrior that, in his trail of conquest through Northern India, it was his practice to destroy all idols which fell into his hands. He came at last to the city of Guggeratt, where there was an idol which was held in unusually high esteem by the people. The chief notables of the city came to the general and pleaded with him that he would spare to them this one idol. He might do as he wished with the others, they said, but if he took this god from them, too, they might just as well die. They pleaded with such intensity that, for a moment, the heart of the conqueror was touched. It seemed more than heartless to bereave these poor people of what was apparently life and death to them. Then he remembered his vow to spare not one idol. The will of Allah was plain. He had a sledge hammer brought to him, and with it he dealt the idol one terrific blow. To his amazement there poured from the rent in the image a stream of jewels and precious stones. The people had hidden their treasures in the image, hoping to move the conqueror to spare it. Consider what his loss would have been if he had stayed his hand at the sacrifice of that one last idol.

Was there ever such an incomparable opportunity for Christian leaders to get rid of their ecclesiastical idols and bring themselves into heart contact with the unsearchable riches of Christ as at the Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910? There has been no Church gathering in modern times around which such expectations have centred. Missionary leaders had come from all parts of the world. It was the confident hope of many that a new era in missions had dawned. The subject for the last day was — “The Home Base.” It provoked visions of endless possibilities. The home churches, empowered by a mighty Holy Ghost Revival, would send out men fitted as were Paul and Barnabas. With their enormous resources in men and means the world would be evangelized in a generation.

Alas! it was only a dream. Never have I experienced such keen pain and disappointment as I did that day. Of the many who addressed that great missionary gathering, not more than three emphasized God the Holy Spirit as the one essential factor in world evangelization. Listening to the addresses that day, one could not but conclude that the giving of the Gospel to lost mankind was largely a matter of better organization, better equipment, more men and women. Symptoms, indeed, were not lacking that a few more sparks might have precipitated an explosion. But no, the dethronement of the idol of ecclesiastical self-sufficiency was apparently too great a price to pay.
But, brethren, the Spirit of God is with us still. Pentecost is yet within our grasp. If revival is being withheld from us it is because some idol remains still enthroned; because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes; because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that “it is not by might, but BY MY SPIRIT.”

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