It was at the feast of tabernacles that our Lord gave a promise for overflow. That feast commemorated the overflow of God’s goodness to Israel during the wilderness journey. Now the Fulfilment of all type and symbol stood amid the crowd on the last day, the great day of the feast. That Rock which followed them, even the Lord Jesus Christ, now stood and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water.” Our Saviour means overflow through every saved and sanctified channel. It is his promise, which can be relied upon, up to the full one hundred per cent, at any time in any land.
He knew the world’s need was divine overflow. The Nile’s overflow is Egypt’s salvation; Egypt would starve if the Nile kept within its banks. If the church of Jesus fails to overflow, earth’s millions will perish. The Master planned that every believer, through the Holy Spirit, should overflow. No one without eternal loss can shirk this privilege. Have we the proof of overflow? It is said that thirty rivers take their rise in the vicinity of Damascus, and yet not one of them reaches the ocean; they are all lost in the desert sands. How like this are many churches and many Christians! At the start, flowing so full of promise, then swallowed up in the world.
Let no one say, “The time is not yet.” Before Pentecost they could say it, but not since. Since Pentecost the promise is an eternal present. The hindrances are all on man’s side.
If we joyfully accept this promise in all its fulness the following proofs of overflow will follow:
There will be an overflow of prayer. This was the outstanding proof of Spirit-fllled men at Pentecost, and has been ever since.
The most wonderful proof of intercessory prayer I know of is that of the Kuang Chow station in South Honan. Mr. Argento, of the China Inland Mission, began work there about twenty-five years ago. In 1900 the Boxers seized him, poured kerosene over him and set him on fire. He was rescued by the Christians, but not before his eyes were ruined. Since then he has lived in Europe; but it is said he only lives to pray for Kuang Chow.
For years no resident missionary lived there. During the last four or five years Mr. and Mrs. Mason have been in charge. When I visited the place in December, 1915, they were just putting the last tiles on a church, which when completed would hold 1,400. The money was almost all subscribed by the Chinese Christians. There were twenty-one outstations, and about 2,000 believers.
When Mr. Wen, the leading elder, was introduced, I asked him his honorable age. “Just eighteen years of age,” he replied. It was plain he was a man of sixty. With a twinkle in his eyes he said, “Yes, I am only eighteen. Before that I was dead in sin. I was so low down with opium and drink that when a friend met me on the street one day he said, 'If you don’t go over there to that Jesus hall and have that missionary pray for you, you will soon die off.’ I took the hint and went that day; and the missionary prayed for me, and opium and drink dropped out of my life. That was eighteen years ago.”
Next day, Sunday, I commenced meetings in that church. The galleries were not in, but fully a thousand were packed into the body of that church, and hundreds of others were listening outside the doors and windows. Again and again, during the nine days of the meetings, the convicting power of the Holy Spirit broke down hundreds. As many as six or eight hundred would come to a daylight prayer-meeting. During those days 144 persons were baptized, and more than one hundred others whose time was up for baptism were put off, because there was no time to examine them. The chief banker and his head clerk, with some of the chief business men of the city, came and asked for baptism, saying, “We have been baptized by the Holy Spirit these days, and believe we ought to receive water baptism.” Many heathen who attended the meetings said in awe, “The living God is among you.”
Demons, too, were in evidence. When the Holy Spirit was moving the people mightily, two demon-possessed persons would blaspheme and cry in fiendish fashion. Once when one of them, an evangelist’s wife, was acting thus, a Bible woman pulled her down. In a rage she spat all over the Bible woman. When Mrs. Mason wiped the spittle off, the demon-possessed woman wept with her head on Mrs. Mason’s shoulder. On the last day, the demon-possessed man was brought to the guest room to be prayed for. I, being tired out, took no part except to look on.
Mr. Mason prayed first, and then Elder Wen. I noticed when either of them used the name “Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” the man became awfully agitated. The third who prayed was Mr. Changan, evangelist. Putting his hand on the man’s head, he said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, foul fiend, I command you to come out of him.” With that the demon-possessed man, uttering fiendish cries, flung himself on the floor. With the long-skirted Chinese standing close around I could not see, but the sound was as though he wallowed, foaming. Then he vomited. At least it sounded like it; something seemed to have gone out of him. He was raised up on to a chair, limp and pale and trembling. I looked carefully on the ground, but there was no sign of vomit. Later on, the evangelist’s wife was prayed for, and her demon was cast out. Both have since been serving the Lord in their right mind.
I heard a year later that the twenty-one outstations of that mission had increased to thirty-one. The gallery is in now, and at the Christian Endeavor Convention fourteen hundred were packed into the church; and as many as eight hundred were out each morning at the daylight prayer-meeting. The key to such splendid results is just this: one disabled missionary in Europe praying in the Holy Ghost for Kuang Chow. At the judgment seat of Christ many will be startled over the way they have sinned against God, by restraining prayer.
In my own case I got to praying for China, and would have been a hopeless hypocrite if I had not gone to China. It is a dangerous thing to get praying for any heathen land. You will either have to go or send. But it is more dangerous still not to overflow in prayer for lands for which the Saviour died.
Another proof will be our overflow of love. At Pentecost the love of God was so shed abroad in the hearts of believers that they could not but proclaim the matchless graces of their King. The Holy Spirit in them did not glorify himself but so testified to the Lord Jesus Christ that He became all glorious. They did not keep still. They could not.
A Lushai schoolboy became filled with divine love through hearing of the Kassia revival. He went home, and within a week led forty of his family and clan to God. In 1907 a turnkey in one of the great Japanese prisons was converted, and in a month he was the means of turning forty other turnkeys to trust in the Lord Jesus. God has planned that we overflow in love so that the unsaved may know it. Rivers of living water flowing through a sin-cursed earth is what our Saviour means by the promise of the Holy Spirit. It is sin to clog the channel.
The overflow of sacrifice is assured in any Spirit-filled believer. The spirit of Jesus is the spirit of sacrifice. All true sacrifice is the free outflow of his life. If you want to know what sacrifice is read of Paul in 2 Corinthians 11. Whenever inclined to laziness I just read that chapter. It shames me. If any one imagines he has suffered much in the service of his Saviour, let him read that chapter.
We saw this spirit in China. In 1902 we recorded a man named Hu Chwang. We called him Shakespeare, because before conversion he had written over one hundred plays for Chinese theaters. To direct his training I kept him with me for a year. In a few years Hu became mighty in the Word. He became a marvelous preacher, and was called the Spurgeon of China. At his own charges he went around his county preaching Jesus. I asked Mr. Hu to come and help us at Changtefu with the several thousand students who were coming up for examinations. I found that he had pawned his overcoat, though it was bitterly cold, so that he could get the money needed for his traveling expenses. Mr. Hu died with cancer early in 1916, but he left a self-supporting congregation in his district, with its pastor and assistant pastor, and a self- supporting boys’ school and girls’ school.
At the city of Huang Hsien, Shantung province, in December of 1910, some of the Chinese leaders with Dr. Ayers came some distance out of the city to meet me. After greetings had been exchanged, one of the Chinese evangelists asked if I believed the Holy Spirit would visit them in great power as he had done in Manchuria and elsewhere. I replied that that did not depend upon the Holy Spirit, but on themselves. That if they truly valued the gift of the Holy Spirit, and had got rid of every offensive thing, there was no reason why they might not be filled with all the fulness of God. Two days later I heard that evangelist weeping in prayer, saying, “O Lord, the Doctor has turned twenty-seven men and women over to me that I might get them ready for baptism, but you know I am only an empty vessel; unless I am filled with the Spirit of God I can do nothing.” At breakfast on the sixth day Dr. Ayers told me that after midnight the previous night that same evangelist, with one of the medical assistants, had wakened him saying, “Dr. Ayers, we can’t sleep. Mr. Goforth has been here for five days, and we are not revived. Won’t you join us in prayer?”
When the spirit of prayer is upon men so that they can’t sleep, God’s time to favor Zion is at hand.
On that sixth day, after the afternoon address, as usual I left the meeting open for prayer. Sometimes one or two or three were praying. This continued for about fifteen minutes. Then for many minutes there was an absolute hush. To me God seemed to fill the building. I was humbled to the utmost, and ready to fall at his feet. My only thought was, “Of ten million parts of glory I claim none. Pour floods upon the parched ground.” The stillness was broken by the evangelist who was so eager for blessing. His first sentence was a burst of praise, “God is here !” Instantly, others all over the assembly voiced the same thought. Some were praising God in prayer or song, but the majority were confessing to God, and seeking forgiveness. In the seeming disorder there was absolute order, for no one seemed hindered by his neighbor. I allowed it to go on for about an hour, then, fearing they would become exhausted, I closed the service by pronouncing the benediction with a loud voice ; but the people paid no heed to me, and went on for an hour and a half longer.
It was during that time that intercessory prayer rose to such a height of intensity as I have never known before or since. Even little schoolboys of eight and ten with tears streaming, and trembling in every limb, would pray for their unsaved friends at home. It came out that there was an infidel club among the high school boys. The missionaries did not know of it. The boys had got books on Darwinism, etc., and had concluded that there was no God. But now the living God was supreme. Boy after boy would fall down on his knees, with face on the ground, confess his sin and plead for mercy. The ringleader, one of the largest boys, passed through a time of judgment. He was agonized to the utmost, and cried out, “O Lord Jesus! make a whip and put lots of knots in it, and whip this devil of unbelief out of me. I now believe there is one living and true God.” There was not one unsaved one left in that audience, all were saved.
Though it was in December, and no fire in the church, those revived men, women, and children were back in the church at three o’clock the next morning, singing praise unto God and praying until sunrise. Their faces fairly shone. They had seen a vision. This early meeting was their idea, not mine.
I have again and again seen all in an audience convicted and saved; but it was only after the followers of the Lord had got right with one another and with God. The three thousand never would have been saved that day at Pentecost unless the one hundred and twenty had first got right with God and man and had been Spirit-filled. The Lord Jesus Christ is hindered in the house of his friends. Judgment must first commence in the house of God. It is a sin, equivalent to murder, to hinder the salvation of souls by our non-victorious lives. It defrauds the Son of God, for it keeps him from seeing of the travail of his soul, even unto Divine satisfaction.
In the terrible war now being waged the Allied commanders are under the strongest obligation to make use of all the resources of the lands they represent. If any disaster came to the Allied cause as a consequence of their failure to do so, it would be justly blamed on them. In the promise, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his inmost being shall flow rivers of living water,” all the resources of heaven are pledged to us for the war against Satan. Who among us with any spiritual discernment can claim that we have hitherto made use to the utmost of all Divine resources? In consequence great has been the disaster to many souls. Have we no guilt? May the King of kings open our eyes to our need of His promised power!—Taken from The Victorious Life, Messages From the Summer Conference, Victorious Life Conference.