The Pleiads and Orion
“Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?” — Job 38:31.
MOST of you know that singularly beautiful cluster of stars called the Pleiades — very small, but intensely bright. These are most conspicuous about the time of spring, and hence, in poetry, the vernal influences which quicken the earth and clothe it with the green grass and the many-coloured flowers, are connected with the Pleiades. By the sweet influences of the Pleiades we understand, then, in plain language, those benign influences which produce the spring and the summer; these, it is said, no man can restrain. Orion, a very conspicuous constellation, with its glittering belt, is best seen towards the close of autumn, just before the coming in of the winter; it is a southern and wintry sign, and hence, poetically, the winter is traced to the bands of Orion, and we are told in the text, literally, that no man is able to loosen the bonds of frost, or check the incoming of the cold. In other words, the whole verse asserts that none can stay the revolutions of the seasons: when God ordains the spring, the shining months come laughing on; and when again he calls for winter, snow and ice must rule the dreary hour. The husbandman is entirely dependent upon the God of heaven; he may plough with industry, and cast in the good seed with hope, but unless the sweet influences of heaven shall be given, he can reap no harvest. If the drought be long and severe, he cannot cause the clouds to drench the thirsty furrows; or, if the rain descends in torrents, drowning the pastures, he cannot seal up the bottles of heaven. He is absolutely dependent upon God, who governeth all things according to his will; and we, who know so little of agricultural operations, being so far removed from the country which God has made, living in the town which man has made, we also are as much dependent as any, for even the king is nourished by the fruit of the field; and follow what merchandise we will, yet still ultimately it is from the field that our nourishment must come. All of us, then, and not us alone, but all the beasts and birds, and all the creatures, are entirely and absolutely dependent upon God, and unless he help them, they can not help themselves. This is the simple teaching of the verse, but it was doubtless used to teach Job that as he could not alter the ordinances of heaven, so neither could he change the purposes of God in the events of providence. You cannot hasten the spring nor postpone the winter, neither can you prevent those calamities which plunge nations in distress, nor prohibit those mercies which lift up tribes into prosperity. Evil comes to the sons of men by God’s purpose, and good cometh also. Neither is it in thy power, O son of man, with all thy discretion and skill, with all thine economy and industry, to avert the evil which God appoints. The scythe of the dread mower cannot be arrested by wisdom: the inevitable hour comes to all. Want, and sickness, and bereavement, invade us at the Lord’s bidding, and although we may greatly mitigate their rigour, yet we cannot avert them, for the ordinance of God must surely come to pass, and whatsoever is written in the folded book of the divine decree, must in due season be fulfilled in the history of man. If thou canst not alter, then bow thyself and submit; if thou canst not change the purpose, then yield to it and ask to have it sanctified to thee. O Job, if thy cattle must be taken away, if thy children must die, if sore boils must break out upon thy body, if thou must sit upon the dunghill, if thou hast no power to alter a single circumstance, then accept the affliction at the hand of the infinite One, humbly kiss the hand that smiteth, and say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.” The doctrine of a divine providence is calculated to create in the minds of the thoughtful and believing the spirit of resignation. They might perhaps rebel and struggle, if this were of some avail, but since it would be utterly useless, since the great wheels of providence proceed in their perpetual revolutions, not pausing for our tears nor hastening for our groans, then it is best for us to admire it as it revolves, to believe that it is producing good, and to submit ourselves to whatsoever the Lord appoints.
However, I do not intend using the text in that sense, this morning, but as we are told that no man can restrain the benign influences of the Pleiades, so, in the first place, men cannot utterly prevent the working of the gracious Spirit; and as men, in the second place, cannot loose the bands of Orion, so men, of themselves, are not able to overcome those wintry powers which sometimes seize upon the human heart. These two things, and then, in the third place, the lessons from them.
I. WHO SHALL BIND THE SWEET INFLUENCES OF THE HOLY GHOST?
The Holy Spirit does not always operate in the same degree of power, but when his time, his set time, to favour Zion is come, then, blessed be God, he is like the dew upon the grass, that waiteth not for man, neither tarrieth for the sons of men. It is not in human or in diabolical power to restrain the influences of the holy One of Israel when he deigns to visit his church. Many attempts have been made against the church of God, but they have all proved failures, because the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit has frustrated all the purposes of the Lord’s enemies. The church of God, especially in her early days, has been assailed by the envenomed tongue of slander. All over the Roman empire it was reported that Christians were men of the most brutalised habits. I dare net mention, for the cheek of modesty would be crimsoned, what were the charges brought against Christians, of crimes perpetrated in their assemblies; suffice it to say, that amongst the rest, as they met together to break bread and drink wine in memory of their Lord, it was said they were accustomed to eat the flesh of a man, and that they passed round from hand to hand and drank together out of a cup of warm human blood. Of course, the populace believing these horrible stories, were violently opposed to the Christian faith. And how did the Christian faith overcome the popular opposition stimulated by such calumny as this? Simply by the power of the Holy Spirit. The sweet influences of the Holy Ghost which descended upon the disciples at Pentecost remained with them, so that when they preached, they preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; when in their private assemblies they spoke of Jesus, they spoke in the power with which they had been endowed at Jerusalem, and calumny was of no more avail than chaff contending with the whirlwind, or stubble warring against the fire. In fact, these very calumnies brought men out of curiosity to behold these atrocious sinners in their orgies of vice, and coming, they listened to the gracious words which proceeded out of their mouths, and, in the power of the Holy Ghost, they believed and became Christians too. Beloved, this stands good to-day. Many a Christian has to endure slander, and of the most cruel kind too. To a sensitive heart, perhaps, slander is a more severe trial than even the whip or the rack. And yet, glory be to God, if our names be cast out as evil, they cannot deprive us of the comfort of the holy One of Israel. Often, when we are worst spoken of by the world, we are best beloved of our God. The Lord hath a way Gf taking up his people when they are despised and rejected of men, and manifesting his love to them after an unusual sort, so that if the cup might have been dashed with bitters, God poureth in so much of the honey of his own precious love, that the bitter is forgotten, and the calumny is swallowed up in the communion. Happy are ye, beloved, when they say all manner of evil against you for Christ’s name’s sake, for you can reply to your accusers, “Can you bind up the sweet influence of the Holy Ghost? Can you stay from my soul the divine and overflowing consolations which proceed from the Pleiades of promise when they shine full upon my soul?”
If calumny doth not avail, the world has always been ready with coarser weapons — she resorts to open persecution. But, beloved, all the persecutions which have ever assaulted the church, have never been able to stay the sweet influence of the Pleiades, I mean to quench the work of the Spirit, and deprive the church of God of her true comfort. When it has been her spring-time, all the blood which could be shed could not thrust her back again into her dreary winter. Her flowers bloomed, her buds began to shoot forth, and her fruits adorned her branches, to the glory of our God. Behold Paul and Silas in the dungeon of Philippi! Their persecutors have scourged them; they have laid them in the stocks; they have thrust them into the noisome filth of the innermost prison, but the sweet influence of the Pleiades are felt, and they begin to sing in the dead of night, until the prisoners hear them. Behold the influence of these same Pleiades in every place where the apostles went! They were followed by their Jewish persecutors, and they were molested by the Gentile mobs; but their preaching drew to the cross of Christ a company whose hearts the Lord had touched, and he added unto the church daily of such as should be saved. In the after-apostolic days, how often in the midst of the amphitheatre, when the nobles and the matrons of Rome, and the Plebs, in all their ranks were gathered together, and a few defenceless men and women were given up to bears and wolves and lions in the midst of the arena, how the sweet influence of the Pleiades fell on them! How they sung their psalms as the lions rushed from their dens, or folded their arms in peace, praising the Lord that he thought them worthy to be partakers of his sufferings! So was it on the snowy Alps, so was it in the valleys of Piedmont, so was it amongst the suffering Huguenots of France, so was it amongst our martyred fathers. Smithfield felt the influence of the Pleiades full often when her flames became as chariots in which the saints mounted to their thrones. In the glens of Scotland, among her lone hills and shaggy woods, when such men as Cargill and Cameron opened the Bible and read the text by a flash of lightning, and then preached of the royalties of King Jesus — in those covenanting days, the sweet influence of the Pleiades were perhaps more felt than in these softer hours, when men learn to sleep under the ministry of the truth, and too many of them are ready to cancel their principles and give up their hopes, if but a little gain should cross their path. Persecution, what hast thou done? March before us, ye cruel ranks of persecutors, each with the hell-brand on your brow; ye sons of Cain, ye brethren of Korah, ye disciples of Balaam, ye have never been able to impede the onward march of the church of God — no, not so much as for a single hour. Vain were your arts and villanies, for God from heaven fought against you.
Nor, dear brethren, have even the crafty heresies which at different times have crept into the church of God been able to bind the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes, the very spring-time of the church has come, when to all outward appearance it appeared that evil had altogether triumphed. When Popery’s power had become consolidated and universal, it was then that Savonarola, Jerome of Prague, and John Huss, were raised up together with our own John Wickliffe, to shake the foundations of the throne of Antichrist: at the darkest hour of the world’s history the light began to shine. These men, when they had either burnt them alive, or consumed their corpses, these men it was supposed, would be forgotten, and their influence would perish from off the face of the earth; for, were not all the doctors on the side of Rome, were not all the schoolmen zealous to maintain her dogmas? What were these few men that they should be able to stand against the old, the venerable, the wealthy? But, brethren, the old error had to give way, and the light of the gospel shone forth, and a new spring life came to the world, and the time of the singing of birds, and the blooming of the flowers was come, and men called it the Reformation. Rest assured it will be so to-day. The craft of Satan, and the wickedness of man have invented forms of mischief so insinuating, that they threaten speedily to enthral our land; we have among us a form of Popery in which Romanism is divested of its grosser idolatries, clothed with the gorgeous vestments, garnished with attractive pomp, and upheld by the most earnest, and to all appearance, the most pious of men. Will this prevail? Will this destroy the gospel by whose dew the nation has so long been watered? We have among us at the same hour a rationalism, sufficiently cautious not to deny too much, stealthily advancing to its ultimate results, but lingering wisely by the way to talk of liberality and breadth of thought. This is fascinating to the last degree to many minds, and is subduing to itself hundreds of the more thoughtful youths of this country. Between these two millstones will not Christ’s kingdom be crushed? May we not fear that rationalism and ceremonialism will be like the two hands of Samson, to remove the pillars whereon our house doth lean? Ah! not so. If the Holy Spirit do but descend upon the living churches of God, and put power into the preaching of the truth, we may safely laugh all these to scorn, and say to the greatest of them, Canst thou stand for a single second against the benign power of the adorable Spirit who is the guardian of the truth, the life of the church, the defender of the faith, the vanquisher of errors, the defier of hell, the establisher of truth’s empire, and the destroyer of the throne of falsehood?”
Advancing step by step, I would remind you that there is a great opposition in man himself to the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit. When the time comes for any one man to be saved, his natural enmity is sure to be on the alert against the divine power, and Satan is certain also to strengthen him lest he should lose his victim. Now, I glorify God in this that thou, sinner, though thou mayst resist and grieve the Spirit for awhile, yet if he comes to thee with omnipotent power effectually to save, thou must yield, for thou, even thou, with all thine enmity, canst not bind the sweet influences of the Spirit of eternal life. It is with many men as I have sometimes seen with a village brook; it has been dammed up for some reason, and the water has become a pool. A heavy shower has by-and-by fallen upon the hills, and the full stream has leaped downward. There stands the dam for a little while, but it trembles as the stream swells. Perhaps the villagers strengthen it, but if the rain continues to fall, the stream increases in volume, and at last, with one noble outburst, down leaps the torrent, and the dam is swept away like a bowing wall. So with our evil nature, when the Holy Ghost comes, with greater and greater power, descending from the hills of God’s eternal purposes, at last sweeps away every remnant of opposition, and on he sweeps in the greatness of his strength. “You deny, then,” says one, “the free-will of man?” Who says that? I never denied it; on the contrary, I insist upon it more than most men. There is no opposition between the doctrine of irresistible grace and the fact of the free agency of man. “How,” say you, “if man be thus irresistibly carried as by storm, how can he be free?” Bethink thyself, man, and answer for thyself. Wert thou never overcome in argument? Didst thou never resist an argument for a time, till at last another reason was given, and then another, and thou couldst not but yield to the overwhelming arguments? Didst thou then prove that thou hadst no reason of thine own? Nay, it proved thou hadst a reason, and therefore could be mastered by arguments fitted to thy reason. If thou hadst been bereft of reason — an idiot — nobody could have spoken of an irresistible argument so far as thou wert concerned, but thy powers of understanding enabled thee to be overcome by legitimate force. So with the will — we do not dream, as some falsely imagine, that physical force is used by the Lord with men’s moral natures, but we teach that there are appeals and persuasions, arguments and forces, which are applicable to the will which, without violating its freedom even in the smallest degree, yet overwhelm it and subdue it to the right and the true, so that the man with full consent yields up himself to the full power of divine love. Do not the hymns of Mr. Wesley often express our meaning when he uses such words as overcoming and forcing? as in the verse —
“Save the vilest of the race,
Force me to be saved by grace.”
Such expressions mean just what we mean, and no more. We do not mean the violation of the will, but we do mean this, that where the Holy Spirit comes, though the man’s will may have been obstinate enough before, when he exerts his wondrous influences, he makes the will to yield itself at once; the man is made willing in the day of God’s power — the sweet influences of the Pleiades are not bound even by human rebellion.
It is cause for thankfulness also that no man can bind the sweet influence completely after he has been saved. If your experience be at all like mine, you sometimes get into a very horrible state of mind; feel as if you had no spiritual life at all; cannot pray — or, if you pray, do not enjoy it; go up to the house of God, and get no comfort; turn to the Bible, and behold no gleams of light. You get wretched, and you sing with Dr. Watts —
“Dear Lord, and shall we always live
At this poor dying rate?”
Well, on a sudden, you have such a visitation; you have not had such a time for months. It may be under a sermon, or, perhaps, at the Lord’s table, or even in the midst of your business, before you are aware, your soul is made like the chariots of Ammi-nadib; you feel so rejoicing — it is not bodily excitement, it is spiritual life, filled with vigour. Now you can pray; now you can pour out your soul in tears; now you feel most happy and blessed: you wonder how you could have been like a desert before, for you blossom so much like a garden now. Ah! it is this, that the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit could not be bound even by your darkness and your death. God determined to visit you, and coming to you, he overcame every obstacle, and made your soul to rejoice with joy unspeakable.
Beloved, it is just so with a church. I am sure this church was in about as bad a plight as we could well suppose, for the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit to work in it; it was a scattered flock, and divided and brought low; yet, though there were a thousand discouragements, no sooner did the Holy Spirit visit this church, than see how it began to multiply and rejoice! During these years the same influences have blessed us, obstacles have been overcome, difficulties have been swept away, and none have been able to keep from us the reviving influences of the Holy Ghost.
You have now before you the thought of the freeness of the Spirit of God, who, like wind, bloweth as he listeth, and is not bound by human might. Let me only add, that although no man can by his own power bind or restrain effectually and finally the power of the Spirit of God, yet the Lord may withdraw his Spirit either from a church or from an individual for a season, and so cause sore distress, and prove that nothing is good or strong without him. Be tender, therefore, of the Holy Spirit. O you who know his power, trifle not with any of his divine warnings! be jealous lest you grieve him; follow his faintest monitions, and in all things do him honour as your friend and guide. He may remove from the sinner who is not obedient to him; he may remove altogether, and then such a soul is given up. From the saint also he may for a time be gone, till the good man repents and humbles himself, and then he will return, like a dove, with all his peaceful powers, to abide with him evermore.
II. Now we shall turn to the second half of the text. There is a winter time both with churches and with individuals when Orion is in the ascendant, and then, though we could well wish to do so, WE ARE NOT ABLE TO LOOSE THE BONDS OF THE FROST.
This is sadly true in individual cases. My dear brethren and sisters, I suppose in your endeavours to do good you have met with persons in despair. There are none who more thoroughly baffle all the arts of the human comforter than these. You bring them the gospel, and they see it, but refuse it; if they cannot help it, they will sometimes get a little light, but only let them have time enough, and they will shut their eyes and get into the dark again. They bring objections, and you answer them so conclusively that you could almost laugh at them, but they only renounce one set of fears to raise another. You hunt them out of one hole, and you close it so that they never can get into it again: alas! they make another; you drive them forth again, they find another retreat. They are most ingenious in inventing reasons for misery. They are diligent in the business of tormenting themselves. They are good people — really have the fear of God — are desirous of eternal life — have it even, and, yet for all this, are involved in a net in which the more they struggle the more they are entangled; like men in the mud of the river Nile, who, sinking in it, splash and plunge only to sink deeper every time. Have you not felt altogether confounded in dealing with them? Have you not come out of the house and said, “I did think I could comfort people: I had some sort of conceit that I could have brought forward precious promises which might have cheered the hopeless, but I am altogether beaten. I can do nothing.” Now, you may quote the language of the psalm, we sang this morning —
“When he shuts up in long despair,
Who can remove the heavy bar?”
Such cases are not at all uncommon. What a happy day it is when God, having proved to us that we cannot loose the bands of Orion, looses them himself, and says to the captives, “Go free!” These make the best of Christians, when they obtain liberty; they become amongst the fairest of the divine family, when they anoint their faces with the oil of joy. The terrible experience they have had helps them to sympathise with others, and instructs them in the devices of Satan, so that they can console others.
If it sometimes becomes a puzzle how to cheer others, I am sure it is so with yourself. Whenever I get under the bands of Orion, I find I cannot loose them from my own hands. There are some very happy, cheerful spirits, who appear to have no winter, but the most of us occasionally fall into doubts and fears, and spiritual decays, when our liveliness and joy are at a low ebb.
“If aught is felt, ’tis only pain
To find I cannot feel.”
We are, in the words of the text, bound with the bands of Orion, frostbound, ice-bound. The soul, which once ran warbling on like a clear stream, is cold and hard as a stone; its prayers are like icicles, its emotions like blocks of ice. Then, brethren, you may try and make the effort, as you ought to do, to loosen yourself from these bands, but you are powerless. Then is that text learned experimentally, “Without me ye can do nothing.” Oh, then we feel that we are less than nothing and vanity, while merciless Orion hangs fetters on our soul, and hunts our joys to death. Blessed be God, the warmth of love ere long returns, and the Pleiades shine again, and then we “Rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.”
Now, brethren, this same truth is carried out in our works of faith in connection with each soul. You are going into your classes this afternoon, and I would be far from dispiriting you, but I would have you remember that if you attempt to convert a soul yourself, you had better first answer the question of our text, “Canst thou loose the bands of Orion?” It were easier for you to turn winter into summer than to turn a child of wrath into an heir of grace. You have a task before you which is utterly impossible to human strength. Conversion is no more in your power than creation. Regeneration lies not with you, but men are begotten again by the great Father of Spirits unto a lively hope. Bow before the power of God, but feel at this moment your own utter powerlessness in the work to which he has called you. To turn an understanding from darkness to light, to make the stubborn will supple, to break the iron sinew of pride, and make the neck to bow with cheerful obedience — this belongs not unto you, but unto the eternal Spirit who is omnipotent in the world of mind. Think of this, and go in his strength, and not in your own.
Brethren, if it be so with individuals, it is, in proportion, equally so with entire congregations. We have, under God, as his servants, to save a perishing world; we are sent out as labourers in Christ’s vineyard to be the means of reclaiming the wild wastes to the husbandry of Christ; but what a task is ours! How impossible! We had better first attempt to loose the bands of Orion before we shall be able, unaided of God, to loose the bands of wickedness, and say to the oppressed, “Go free!” The missionary enterprise, apart from supernatural influences, is the most insane that ever crossed the mind of man. Yea, I will venture to say, that the work of preaching the gospel, even in Christian England, is of all attempts the most foolish, unless we believe in the celestial power, which alone can make preaching to be of any avail. Withdraw the Spirit; withdraw our belief in his power, and our teachings become the subjects of deserved ridicule. It is even so in our attempts to revive a slumbering church. I discern a sleeping church pretty readily. When I am preaching in any place, I can soon tell what kind of people I am preaching to by their looks. There is a fire that flashes where there is life. Truth draws forth a responsive glance; good men’s bosoms heave while Christ is preached; but in some places hearers are stolid, cold, dead; you might almost as well preach to the green hillocks that surround the church as preach to them; they stir not, they move not, neither can they be moved. Now, at such times it is very dispiriting unless one can fall back upon the belief that the Holy Ghost can, if he wills, on a sudden, quicken the most dead of all professing churches, and make his people again to live, so that like the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision, they shall stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army, ready to fight the battle of their Master. Canst thou loose the bands of Orion? Christian, feel thy powerlessness. Behold, what must be done, and yet how thou canst do less than nothing in it! Stand here, and hear the voice of God which now speaks to thee; that voice I will try to expound in the third part of the subject, which consists of THE LESSONS DRAWN FROM THIS GREAT TRUTH, that We can neither restrain nor yet command the influences of the Holy Ghost.
On the very surface lies the lesson of humility. I trust, brethren, I have no need to say this, for the doctrine before us must have already had an effect upon your minds: while you have been thinking of the power of God, and of your own insignificance, you must have felt bowed down and humbled. It is always dangerous to be useful. It is to be desired above silver, and coveted above fine gold, and yet, when obtained, it has its measure of dangers, for Satan will whisper even if natural pride do not, “What an excellent man thou must be! What qualifications there must be in thee! What glory God gets out of thee!” “See,” says the devil, “hundreds saved under you! Believers comforted under you!” and then the foul thought, the wicked thought seeks to build its nest right under the eaves of God’s own temple in the heart, “Thou art something after all.” But, brethren, we need to be brought back to this, “Thou canst do nothing out of Christ; thou art, apart from him, a withered bough, to be gathered and cast into the fire.” Yes, thou preacher, powerful, useful, honoured of God, nothing but a withered bough, apart from Christ! Yes, thou goodly woman, thou godly, earnest man, engaged in the Sabbath-school or in the Bible-class, all speak well of thee, and yet thou art a cloud without rain, and a well without water, unless thou hast a vital union with Christ! As well might a child uproot an Alp, as thou attempt to win a soul apart from Christ! As well an infant creep from the cradle, and pluck the sun from its place, and hurl the moon into the deep, as thou be able to deliver a soul from going down into the pit. Oh, this thought, brethren! I feel as if I could not speak of it, for it prostrates me before God, and makes me ask him never to leave me to myself to think myself something, lest he be angry with me, and use me no more.
Should not the next thought which comes into the mind be that of gratitude and adoration to God? If we cannot command the Holy Spirit’s power, yet he can. What if Orion’s bands cannot be loosed by us, they can be loosed by him! There is no despairing soul that cannot find comfort when he visits it. “Yea, he maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children;” “he raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill; that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.” “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” He openeth the blind eyes, and bringeth “out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.” Glory be to his name! Where the human arm fails to work results, the divine arm with ease achieves its purpose. And with us here, within our hearts, these gardens so frost-bitten, can be visited by him; and if the Wellbeloved comes, the summer comes with all its pleasant fruits. If Jesus will but walk into this garden, and open the doors of our hearts and enter in, then there will be a paradise where there was aforetime a wilderness. Blessed be the Lord, we cannot have sunk so low but he can lift us up; we cannot be so barren and so comfortless but what he can make us fruitful and give us joy and peace again. There is no church which he cannot revive. Are you members of congregations which are slumbering? Do not despair. You will go home after the day’s service, and say, “I wish I could do some good here, but I am only one.” No, dear brother, you cannot loose the bands of Orion, but God can. The great Head of his church can suddenly come into his temple, and fill it with his glory. He can rake together the almost expiring ashes, and kindle the fire anew, and bring the sacrifice, and make your church yet to be a temple to his praise. Glorify the name of God, the all-powerful One: never let despair cross your soul. While he lives who made heaven and earth; while he works who bears up the pillars of the universe; while he loves who once gave up his Son to redeem us, there can be no cause for trembling. Zion shall be comforted; her days of gladness shall dawn; her winter of sorrow shall flee away: God is on her side, and Orion relaxes his bonds.
There is another lesson, however, which I must not fail to bring before you in a word or two, namely, this: behold the path and walk offaith! She cannot walk in human power. She hath quick eyes, and she perceives mortal might to be a mere pretence, but she walketh in the power of the unseen One. “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades?” Faith answers, “I can.” If Joshua bound the sun, put chains upon the horns of the moon, faith feels that she can do the same. Canst thou loose the bands of Orion? “Ay,” says faith, “that I can;” for if Elias, for three years of drought, prayed, and the heavens were covered with clouds, and there was a sound of abundance of rain, and he did this by the prayer of faith, even so can we do by the power of him that liveth and ruleth in the highest heavens. Faith hath the art of getting hold upon the arm of God, and then, though she cannot stir or move in her own strength, yet she moveth the arm of God that moves everything; she touches the motor nerve of omnipotence, and he acts whose action is conquest, whose work never fails. O brethren and sisters, if we can believe and pray, all things will be possible to us, and we shall hold the Holy Spirit bound in this church, to remain with ns for many and many a year, for he never will depart while his people’s cries, and tears, and joyful thanksgivings are like a golden chain to stay his blessed feet; he will be bound and held by us. We may do with him as the spouse did with her beloved. “I found him,” says she, “and I would not let him go.” O beloved members of this church, make it a resolution that the Holy Spirit shall not go from us, that we will, with diligent service, and unceasing prayer, and constant gratitude, stay him and compel him, seeing the day is far spent, to abide with us. One of the best ways to retain the Holy Spirit is to use what powers we have. Look at our husbandmen, how busy they have been during the last two or three weeks, while the sun was shining, to gather in their hay! We must use every gleam of heavenly sunshine, for Jesus’ sake. It does not always come, but when a church is favoured with it, let it use it to the utmost of its power, for God will not continue to give while we do not appreciate, and prove our appreciation by making the full use of it. Yes, prayer and faith can hold the Spirit.
Prayer and faith can also loose the bonds of Orion. We will have sinners saved, we will have churches revived, we will have London yet warmed with the life of God. Not because we can do it, but because we will give him no rest until he comes forth from his secret dwelling place, and make the power and life of his truth to be known from the ends of the earth.
The drift of the sermon is to cut you off from yourselves, and throw you flat on your faces before God. Sinner, you cannot save yourself, you cannot bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, you cannot take away from yourself those bands of Orion, but Jehovah can, and in simple faith in him who offers his blood before the throne, come to your Father, and ask him to do these things for you, and they shall be done, and you shall glorify his name. May the blessing of God descend upon these words, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.