In the north, in extreme cold weather, I have often heard an engineer on a railway, when given an order to proceed, reply, "My engine is dead." It meant he had no steam, no motive power—his engine was lifeless. It may have been the most beautiful engine on the road, with a highly polished exterior, but it was dead.
When we heard that reply there could be no controversy, it settled the question. The engine, with perhaps a long passenger train behind it, could not proceed, and not only that, but it was in the road of all live engines—and a dead train is more in the way than half a dozen live ones.
This "dead engine" may be likened unto a Christian organization without life.
A church without the presence and power of the Holy…[Spirit] is dead.
We think no Christian of the present day will dispute this statement, although he may object to have it said of the church to which he belongs. The organization, like the engine, is without the motive power to carry forward the passengers to destination.
I have seen many trains in that position. At first the passengers were fretful and complaining, and I have noticed how kind trainmen were to make them comfortable, and how soon they settled down and went to sleep. Sleeping passengers don't complain.
And I have noticed how a few anxious passengers would watch and catch some passing train, with a living engine, and hurry forward to destination while the majority would sleep away their time, all unmindful of the opportunities they were losing.
One cannot judge of the power of an engine by the amount of polished brass it carries outside. It may have that and no power to move trains. This fact illustrates a truth in Christian associations—there may be "wheels within wheels," and be organized almost to the point of suffocation, but these are not power. The Holy Spirit must fill the inner temple with life, a Christ-life, that will move the masses toward God. "For as the body without the Spirit is dead" (James 2:26, KJV), so all church organizations without the manifestations of the power of God to convert sinners and sanctify believers, are of little or no service in God's work.
In railway life, with its crowd and hurry, dead engines, with their trains are moved speedily as possible, and in the near future we may hear the voice of God crying to His own people, "Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumblingblock out of the way of My people” (Isaiah 57:14, KJV).
W. A. Powers, The Nazarene Messenger, November 14, 1901
Used with permission for Nazarene Archives for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.