User Tools

Site Tools


Upload failed. Maybe wrong permissions?
deeper_experiences_of_famous_christians

Book: "Deeper experiences of famous Christians" by James Gilchrist Lawson (1911)

Contents of Book:

DEEPER Experiences of FAMOUS CHRISTIANS


JAMES GILCHRIST LAWSON


ANDOVER-HARVARD THEOLOGICAL

LIBRARY

MDCCCCX

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS

GIFT FROM THE

HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL BULLETIN


Deeper Experiences OF FAMOUS CHRISTIANS

Gleaned from Their Biographies, Autobiographies and Writings

BY J. GILCHRIST LAWSON. EVANGELIST


OLD TESTAMENT CHARACTERS NEW TESTAMENT CHARACTERS OTHER EARLY SAINTS AND SAGES

Savonarola Fletcher George MuUer Madam Guyon Christmas Evans A. B. Earle Fenelon Lorenzo Dow Miss Havergal George Fox Cartwright A J. Gordon John Biinyan Finney D. L. Moody John Wesley Billy Bray General Booth Whitefield Jacob Knapp and Others


THE WARNER PRESS Anderson, Indiana


Theou i-AL library

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.

International Copyright^ 1911

BY JAMES GILCHRIST LAWSON


		CONTENTS
			PAGE.  

Introduction………………………..7 Old Testament Characters…………….15 New Testament Gander………………..27 Other Early Saints and Saga………….49 Girolamo Savonarola…………………73 Madam Guyon………………………..87 George Fox………………………..121 John Bunyan……………………….137 John Wesley……………………….155 George Whitefield…………………..173 John Fletcher……………………..187 Christmas Evans……………………203 Lorenzo Dow……………………….215 Peter Cartwright…………………..229 Charles G. Finney………………….243 Billy Bray………………………..259 Elder Jacob Knapp………………….273 George Müller……………………..285 A.B.Earle…………………………301 Frances Ridley Havergal…………….313 A. J. Gordon………………………329 D. L. Moody……………………….339 General Booth……………………..353 Other Famous Christians…………….369


Introduction

The great object of this book is to describe, in their own words so far as possible, the deepest spiritual experiences of the most famous Christians of all ages and climes. The author has spent much of his time for years in the greatest libraries of Europe and America, searching the whole range of Christian literature to glean from it the most spiritual and helpful Christian experiences. He believes that this book contains the very cream of the Christian literature of all ages, and trusts that it will be the means of leading many into “the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:29).

Although these pages contain an account of the most important facts in the lives of the most famous Spirit-filled children of God, it would be impossible, in a book of this kind, to describe the deeper experiences of all the famous Spirit-filled Christians. In the early Christian church, and in almost every denomination of Christians, there have been many whose consecrated lives and spiritual experiences have made them a blessing to multitudes. The deeper experiences of famous living Christians would fill another volume of this kind. Much more might be said concerning the deeper Christian experiences of the saints of the early Christian church than has been said in these pages. Volumes might be written concerning the famous and pious mystics of the middle ages, such as Erigena, Abelard, St. Bernard, Hildegarde, Bonaventura, Tauler, Eckhart, St. Brigitta, Catherine of Siena, Gerson, St. Theresa, Arndt, St. Frances de Sales, Jacob Bohme, Gerhard, Molinos, and hosts of others. The Beghards of the Netherlands, the Alombrados, or Illuminati, of Spain, the Quietists and Pietists of Europe and Russia in Asia, and the persecuted Jansenists and Port Royalists of France, had many members eminent for their piety and spiritual power whose experiences are omitted in this volume. Among the most eminent of the Port Royalists were Arnauld, Pascal, Nicole, Tillemont, and Racine. In modem times, since the Protestant Reformation, there have been hosts of famous Spirit-filled Christians whose experiences could not well be included in this book. Among these may be mentioned Robert Barclay, Susannah Wesley, Charles Wesley, Hester Ann Rogers, Elizabeth Fry, Howell Harris, Upham, Bishop Francis Asbury, James Caughey, Mrs. Catherine Booth, Kimball, Alfred Cookman, Inskip, Major Whittle, and many others, including most of the great evangelists, missionaries, and hymn-writers. But, from the great multitude available, the author has selected and described the experiences of those who were spiritual stars of the first magnitude, and who were pre-eminent for their piety and spiritual power.

Although the deeper spiritual experiences of Christians of many different ages, climes, and denominations are given in this book, it will be found that there is a wonderful harmony in the experiences related. The persons described, whether Bible characters or others, relate their deeper experiences in very different terms; but the deeper Christian experience described is always the same. It is the baptism, or filling, or gift, of the Holy Spirit, and the experience resulting from being “filled with the Spirit.” The Methodist may describe this deeper Christian experience as “entire sanctification,” “holiness,” or “perfect love.” The Baptist may call it the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” or the “filling of the Spirit.” The Presbyterian may call it the “life of faith” or the “rest of faith,” or the “full assurance of faith.” The Congregationalist may call it “entire consecration.” The Quaker may call it “living in the Spirit,” or “walking in the Spirit,” or “over-coming power.” The old Roman Catholic and Greek Church writers may term it “death to the self-life,” or “pure love.” All these are Scriptural terms, or ideas, and all refer to a Spirit-filled Christian experience; just as Hannah Whithall Smith, in her “Christian Secret of a Happy Life,” and William Arthur, in his “Tongue of Fire,” describe one and the same experience, although one views the experience from the human side and the other from the Divine; one showing man’s privilege and the other God’s power. Again, the Calvinist may describe his deeper Christian experience in terms which accord with his theological views, while the Arminian uses terms which accord with his theological views; just as a person looking at the Niagara Falls from the Canadian side would describe them in very different terms from a person looking at them from the American side, although the falls would remain the same. Theories differ according to the different standpoints or ways of looking at things. So long as men have different degrees of light they are bound to differ in theory. “Now we see through a glass, darkly,” says the Apostle, “but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). That all men should agree in theory with regard to the deeper things of God’s Word is hardly to be expected when they differ so much in theory with regard to the “first principles,” and so long as they hold different theories with regard to politics and every other question. But as there is a practical agreement among evangelical Christians with regard to the way of salvation, so there is a practical agreement among those who believe in a deeper Christian experience than conversion. All agree that Christians may be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18); that we may “have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10); that we may be “ rooted and grounded in love “ (Ephesians 3:17); that we can be “more than conquerors, through him that loved us” (Romans 8: 37); that if we bring all the tithes into His storehouse, the Lord will open us the windows of heaven, and pour us out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10); that we may have “peace as a river,” and “righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:18); that we may have “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8); and so on. In a court of law the testimony of witnesses would be rejected if they all gave the same evidence, and gave it in the same words and manner. It would prove that there had been collusion among the witnesses. But if each witness gave his evidence in his own words and manner, and yet the testimony of the witnesses agreed as to the essential facts, the evidence would be regarded as of the most convincing character. So when Christians of so many different centuries and countries relate their deeper Christian experiences in their own manner and language, and yet all agree as to the essential facts, it is overwhelming evidence in favor of the fact that such a deep Christian experience may really be attained.

There are several different theories with regard to the work accomplished by the baptism, or filling, of the Holy Spirit. Many hold the Wesleyan theory that when a person is filled with the Spirit, “inbred,” or “original,” sin is rooted out, or destroyed. Others believe that “inbred,” or “original,” sin remains in the person who is filled with the Spirit; but that it is kept under, or suppressed, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Others believe with Finney, the great Spirit-filled theologian and prince of evangelists, that there is no such thing as “inbred sin,” or “original sin,” but that all temptations come through the natural desires, and that sin consists of following the desires of the flesh instead of following the Spirit. They believe that the Spirit-filled person has greater power than others to crucify, or keep under, the natural desires, so as not to be led astray by them.

There are also differences of theory with regard to whether or not Spirit-filled Christians live in sin, and as to whether or not they are perfect and holy. The difference of opinion as to whether or not a Christian can live without sin is generally caused by the different views men have of what sin is. It is only Christians who regard faults, mistakes, temptations, lack of knowledge, and so on, as sin, who believe that the Christian cannot live without sin. Most people agree that God’s children can and do live without committing presumptuous sins. So there is far more agreement with regard to the question of living without sin than is generally supposed. In like manner, it is the different views that people hold with regard to what perfection is, and what holiness is, which cause them to differ as to whether or not a Christian can be perfect or holy; although the corruption of their own hearts may often lead them to oppose the doctrine of holiness or Christian perfection, and in some cases to be more afraid of holiness than of hell. Those who believe that God does not require or expect divine or angelic perfection in human beings, but that He only requires us to be perfect as human beings, are of the opinion that we can be perfect, or holy, in this life. They believe that all the moral law can or does require is that we should love God with all our heart, mind, strength, and soul, and not with the strength or intelligence of angels; and they believe that if the Christian loves God and his neighbor in that way, he is perfect, or holy, in the sight of God. They think that as the teacher regards the little child in the first grade at school as perfect if it does what is required of pupils in the first standard, so God regards us as perfect if we do what could reasonably be expected of us as human beings. On the other hand, many people regard the moral law as a fixed standard requiring in human beings all that is found in God and in angels. It is no wonder that those who hold that view of the requirements of the moral law are opposed to the doctrine of holiness, or Christian perfection. No one could be holy or perfect if the moral law required divine or angelic perfection in human beings. No reasonable person claims to be without faults and temptations.

Again, there is a difference of opinion as to whether or not the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within people when they are converted, justified, or forgiven. Some believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within every child of God, but that He comes in greater measure to those who are “filled with the Spirit.” Others believe that to talk about getting “more and more of the Spirit” is not only using unscriptural language, but that it is treating the Holy Spirit as an influence instead of as a person. They believe that the Holy Spirit is only with the justified, forgiven, or regenerated person, but that He dwells within those who are “filled with the Spirit.” In proof of this they cite Christ’s promise, “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14: 17), and such passages as Acts 8:16, and 19:2, where believers are described as not having received the Holy Ghost. However theories may differ, it is certain that in the early Christian church it was customary to lay hands on believers, and to pray for them that they might receive “the gift of the Holy Ghost,” although the gift of the Spirit was sometimes given without the laying on of hands. This early Christian custom is mentioned in Hebrews 6:2 as one of the “first principles” of Christianity, and it is frequently referred to by the early Christian writers. A relic of the custom has been handed down from apostolic times in Greek and other Eastern churches, and in the Roman Catholic Church in the West, in the ceremony known as Confirmation, which is also observed in the Church of England, the Lutheran, and some other Protestant churches. Although the rite of Confirmation may now be a mere form in the majority of cases, it is unquestionably a relic of the early Christian custom of imposing hands and praying that converts might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Calvin, Dr. John Owen, and other great commentators acknowledge this fact in their commentaries on Hebrews 6:2. Chrysostom and other early commentators support this fact.

In the preparation of this book the author is greatly indebted for information, and often for the manner of expressing it, to writers too numerous to mention. He is especially indebted to the biographers of the famous Christians whose experiences are described. The condensed nature of the book has made it impossible for him to acknowledge all the sources of his information, and he has not attempted to do so.

That this account of how God has done for others exceeding abundantly above all that they asked or thought (Ephesians 3:20) may be the means of leading others to “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” so that they may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth (human) knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fulness of God (Ephesians 3:18, 19), is the prayer of

The Author.

2016/03/27 22:14 · admin

Old Testament Characters

A careful study of the Old Testament will reveal the feet that in Old Testament times, as in New Testament times, those who accomplished great things for God were first anointed by the Holy Spirit, and endowed with power from on high. No great work has ever been accomplished except through the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the great Executive of God, carrying out the will of God in all things. From the first chapter of Genesis we learn that “the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters,” and that He created all things in obedience to God’s commands. The Holy Spirit is the source of all life, both spiritual and temporal. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth,” or giveth life (John 6:63), so that in God “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Scientists have sought in vain to discover the secret of life, not knowing that the Holy Spirit is the great source of all life. But the patriarch Job knew that it was through the power of the Spirit that God created all things, when he said, “By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens” (Job 26:13). Elihu also understood it when he said, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4).

Not only did the Holy Spirit bring all things into being at God’s command, but He gave the tabernacle builders the wisdom to perform their work (Exodus 28:3; 31:2, 3; and 35:30, 31), and he qualified all the great patriarchs prophets, judges, and kings for the work God had for them to do.

THE PATRIARCHS.

That it was the power of the Holy Spirit which made the Old Testament patriarchs such princes with God and men is very evident. Enoch must have been filled with the Spirit of God, because he “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22, 24), and prophesied (Jude 14), and was translated (Hebrews 11:5); and we know that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to give grace, to reveal things, and to translate people to heaven (see 1 Corinthians 15, and so on). Noah must also have been endued with the Holy Spirit’s power, because he also “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9); he talked with God (Genesis 6:13; Hebrews 11:7); and it seems that the Spirit of God spoke through him to those who lived during the flood, and that they are now imprisoned in hell because they refused to hear him (1 Peter 3:18–20). Abraham also must have been filled with the Holy Spirit, as he had many visions and special revelations from the Lord (Genesis 15:1; Acts 7:2; Hebrews 11:8). Other Old Testament patriarchs were doubtless endued with the Holy Spirit’s power in a similar manner; but the deeper experiences of Jacob and Joseph are more fully described in the Word of God than those of the other patriarchs.

JACOB.

In the Bible account of Jacob’s life, as perhaps in that of no other Old Testament saint, we have revealed the power of God to change and transform character. Before God met Jacob at Bethel there was little to love and admire in his weak, vacillating character. His name, Jacob, means supplanter, or deceiver, and such was his character. By deception be obtained his brother Esau’s birthright, and he then started away to a strange land to escape his brother’s wrath. But God, who foreknows all things, knew that Jacob rather than Esau was prepared to abandon the life of selfishness and sin, and to become a chosen vessel in His service (Romans 9:11). One night as he lay asleep on the lonely mountains north of Jerusalem, then called Jebus, with the stones for his pillow, the Lord began to reveal Himself to him. In a dream the Holy Spirit revealed to him a little of the glories of heaven. He saw a ladder reaching toward heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending on it; and the Lord promised him great blessings (Genesis 28). His experience is described in the well known words,

  “Though like a wanderer, the sun gone down, Darkness be over me, my rest a stone, Yet in my dreams I would be. Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.”

Jacob called the name of the place Bethel, which means house of God, and said, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:17): But it was only the “gate,” or beginning, of Jacob’s spiritual experience. It was not at Bethel, but at Peniel, that his life was completely transformed. After he had served Laban many years, and Laban became envious of him, Jacob started for his old home. Laban pursued him with an army, and he also heard that his brother Esau was coming with another army to meet him. Hemmed in between the two armies, he seemed to be completely at their mercy, and was at the end of his own resources. But “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity,” and the darkest hour is often before day. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Such was the case with Jacob. He knew that God only could deliver him from the extremity in which he had placed himself by his evil deeds. So he spent the night alone with God, crying for deliverance. Doubtless it was a night of bitter repentance and tears. He wrestled with the angel of the Lord until the breaking of the day, and said to him, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Genesis 32:26). Having touched his thigh and made him a cripple, to punish him for his sins and to keep him humble before God, the angel pronounced upon him one of the greatest blessings that man has ever experienced. He said, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince thou hast power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Israel means prince of God, and from that night at Peniel until his dying day, Jacob was truly a spiritual prince, and had power with God and with men. In one night God transformed him from a weak, vacillating deceiver, into a prince with God and men; from Jacob (deceiver) to Israel (prince of God); and from a refugee to a ruler. This wonderful change was wrought in answer to prayer, and because Jacob said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”

JOSEPH.

Another Old Testament saint whose deeper religious experiences have been a help to many was the patriarch Joseph. In his youth God revealed to Joseph, through dreams and visions, that He would greatly bless him (Genesis 37). But the blessings of God did not come to Joseph until he was prepared by suffering to receive them. Human nature is such that we cannot bear great blessings or prosperity without some ‘‘thorn in the flesh,” or humiliating experiences, to keep us from being “exalted above measure” Paul had to be kept humble through some “thorn in the flesh” lest he “should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations “ (2 Corinthians 12:7). “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold” (Proverbs 17:3; and 27:21). Silver can be melted and refined in a pot, but the gold must be put right into the fire before it can be melted and refined. Those who are only to be silver vessels in the house of God may only have to go through the melting pot of affliction to be refined; but those who are to be golden vessels in the house of God often have to go through the furnace fire of affliction, as did Job, Madam Guyon, and many others. Joseph was to be a golden vessel for the Master’s use, and he had to be greatly humbled before he could bear the great honors and blessings that God was about to shower upon him. He was betrayed by his brethren, sold as a bond-slave, carried away into the strange land of Egypt, falsely accused of an horrible crime, and finally thrown into an Egyptian dungeon. Thus he lost friends, and property, and reputation, and liberty, and everything that is held dearest in this life. This did not look like the prosperity and blessing that God had promised him, but his faith in God never wavered. Like the patriarch Job, in the midst of his trials, he could say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). Although Joseph lost everything except his faith in God, he did not doubt God nor forsake him, as most men would have done under similar circumstances. After the Lord had sufficiently humbled him, so that he could bear the honor, blessings and honor began to pour in upon him. He was delivered from prison, placed on the throne of Egypt as the virtual ruler, had his friends and relatives restored to him, and above all this God gave him such wisdom and understanding that even Pharaoh marvelled at it. “And Pharaoh said unto his servants. Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art” (Genesis 41:38, 39).

MOSES, JOSHUA, AND THE ELDERS.

In the life of Moses, the first and greatest of Israel’s judges, the Holy Spirit’s power was manifest in a preeminent degree. Over five hundred times in the Word of God we are told about God speaking to Moses or Moses speaking to God. When the Lord first called Moses to lead the children of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, he went in his own strength to deliver Israel, and killed two Egyptians. Then he got frightened, and fled into the wilderness, and spent forty years feeding sheep for his father-in-law. By that time all his pride and self-reliance had left him. When God again called him to go and deliver Israel from Egypt, he felt his own weakness as he had not when the Lord first called him to that mission. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). He pleaded that he was “slow of speech,” and was not qualified to lead Israel. But God, Who chooses and uses humble instruments, said, “I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Exodus 4:12). Moses still pleaded that the Lord would send some one else, and then the Lord gave him Aaron as his spokesman. After this the Spirit of God worked through Moses and Aaron in a marvellous manner. At the sway of Moses’ rod the plagues of blood, frogs, lice, flies, murrain, boils and blains, locusts, and darkness were sent over the land of Egypt, the Red Sea was divided, water was brought from the smitten rock, and so on. Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, Moses also wrote more of the Bible than any other person, the five books of Moses being larger than the fourteen letters of Paul. When he came down from the mount, after communing with God, his countenance was so resplendent with the glory of God that he had to veil his face while talking with the people (Exodus 34:33).

When Israel increased to a great nation, and the burden of judging the people was too great for Moses, seventy elders were selected to assist him in judging the people. The Spirit of God fell upon these seventy elders, and they began to prophesy. Joshua was afraid that they would take the leadership away from Moses, and asked Moses to rebuke Eldad and Medad, two of the seventy, who were prophesying in the camp. Moses said to him, “Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!” (Numbers 12:29).

When God was about to call away Moses, he prayed that the Lord would raise up some one to take his place. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him” (Numbers 27:18). After Moses had prayed for him, Joshua was given great power and wisdom by the Spirit of God. He conquered seven nations and thirty-one kings in the land of Canaan, and took possession of the land.

OTHER JUDGES OF ISRAEL.

Not only Moses and Joshua, but all the other great judges of Israel, were qualified by the Holy Spirit’s power for the work to which God had called them. They were farmers and others from among the people, and were raised up and anointed by the Holy Spirit to become judges over Israel. Again and again Israel were delivered into the hands of their enemies because of their sins, and when they repented God always raised up a great judge to deliver them from their enemies and to rule over them. We are expressly told concerning many of these judges that the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and prepared them for the work God had for them to do. Thus, in Judges 3:9, 10, we read concerning Othniel, “And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer to the children of Israel, who delivered them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel,” and so on. Likewise we read, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon” (Judges 6:34), after which he had power, with a little band of three hundred men, to put to flight the great army of the Midianites who were “like grasshoppers for multitude.” Again, we read how “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah” (Judges 11:29), a man of humble birth, and of how mightily God used him to deliver Israel from the Ammonites. From the book of Judges we also learn that the strength of Samson was the strength of the Lord, and that when he grieved away the Spirit of God he was weak like other men. “And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol” (Judges 13:25), and he began to perform deeds of valor. One day he met a lion, “And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand” (Judges 14:6). The “Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” and he went to Ashkelon and slew thirty of the wicked Philistines (Judges 14:19). “And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand and took it, and slew a thousand therewith” (Judges 15:14, 15). When the Spirit of the Lord left him his power was gone (Judges 16:20); but when he prayed the power returned to him again (Judges 16:28). The last and one of the greatest of the judges of Israel was Samuel. As a child he grew, “and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men” (1 Samuel 2:26). The Lord spoke to him, and revealed many things to him by the Holy Spirit “And all Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, knew that Samuel was stablished to be a prophet of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:20, 21).

THE KINGS OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH.

As the great patriarchs and judges were filled with the Spirit, so were the greatest and best kings of Israel and Judah. All the good kings of Israel were anointed for their office by the Spirit of God, and were thus qualified to rule over the people. The anointing oil poured upon them at their coronation symbolized the Holy Spirit’s anointing, just as did the anointing oil poured upon the high priest at his consecration. Everywhere in the Scriptures oil is used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit and His anointing. The prophet Samuel told Saul, who was the first king of Israel, that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon him, and that he would be turned into another man (1 Samuel 10:6). When the Spirit of God came upon Saul and he began to prophesy, the people were astonished and said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 10:11). But some one who knew that the same God who had made. the others prophets had also made Saul a prophet, said, “But who is their father?” “The Spirit of God came upon Saul” (1 Samuel 11:6), and he prospered until he sinned by sparing Agag; and then “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” (1 Samuel 16:14).

When the prophet Samuel poured the anointing oil on David, the next great king of Israel, “the Spirit of the Lord came on David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13). Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit David wrote the noblest songs that ever were sung, and he foretold the coming of Christ both in humiliation and glory. The shepherd boy on Judea’s hills was made one of the world’s greatest poets, prophets, and kings. “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2), says David; and the apostle Peter said that the Holy Ghost spake by David (Acts 1:16). After David sinned, he feared that he had sinned against the Holy Ghost, and he prayed, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit: Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Psalm 51:11–13).

When Solomon, the third king over Israel, was a youth, he chose wisdom from God, rather than long life, riches, or honor; and because he made this choice God gave him a wise and understanding heart, so that no one else was so wise as Solomon (1 Kings 3). His fame went out over all the earth; and when the Queen of Sheba came to see him and hear him for herself, “there was no more spirit in her” (1 Kings 10:5). She said, “the half was not told me” (verse 7). The wisdom of this world paled into nothingness before the marvelous wisdom which the Spirit of God imparted to king Solomon. Wisdom and knowledge are still the gifts of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8; James 3:17), and God can give us wise and understanding hearts (James 1:5). The wisdom of Solomon, the wisest man, like the strength of Samson, the strongest man, was a direct gift of the Holy Spirit.

THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS.

As the Holy Spirit anointed and qualified the great judges and kings of Israel, so He anointed and qualified the Old Testament prophets. Without the anointing of the Holy Spirit they would have been only ordinary men. Isaiah was only “a man of unclean lips” unable to speak with divine power, until God touched his lips with the fire of His Holy Spirit (Isaiah 6); and then he became the world’s greatest and most sublime prophet. Jeremiah felt that he was but a child, and could not be a prophet (Jeremiah 1); but God so anointed him with the Holy Spirit’s power that he became “a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls” (verse 18) against sin, “to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down” the evil, and “to build, and to plant” the good (verse 10). He became the greatest prophet of woe and denunciation against sin that the world has ever had. The Lord said to him, “I will make my words in thy mouth fire” (Jeremiah 5:14), and they were like a fire, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces (Jeremiah 23:29). Over and over again we read about the Spirit of the Lord being upon Ezekiel, and inspiring him with heavenly visions and revelations (Ezekiel 1:1, 3; 2:2; 3:12, 14, 22, 24; 8:1, 3; 11:1, 5, 24; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1; 43:5). The great prophet Elijah was so anointed with the Spirit of God that Elisha longed for a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9), and “ the spirit and power of Elijah “became proverbial (Luke 1:17). When the mantle of Elijah fell upon Elisha, the Spirit of God anointed Elisha to become a great prophet (2 Kings 2), and the sons of the prophets said, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha” (verse 15). Daniel was only a Hebrew captive in a heathen land, but the Spirit of God gave him greater wisdom than all the wise men of the great Babylonish empire (Daniel 1:17; 4:8, 9, 18; 5:11–14; 6:3); and like Joseph he was made the real ruler of a world-empire. The Holy Spirit revealed to him the rise and fall of all the empires of the world (Daniel 2 and 7). As the Holy Spirit anointed and qualified the major prophets, so He also anointed the minor prophets. Balaam was enlightened by Him (Numbers 24:2); so also were Saul’s messengers (1 Samuel 19:20–23); and Micaiah (1 Kings 22:24; 2 Chronicles 18:23); and Amasai (1 Chronicles 12:18); and Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:1); and Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20:14); and Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20); and Elihu (Job 32:8, 18, 19); and Micah (Micah 3:8); and all the others. The Spirit of the Lord was in all the true prophets (Nehemiah 9:30; 1 Peter 1:10, 11): “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost “ (2 Peter 1:21).

2016/03/27 23:21 · admin

New Testament Characters

Not only was the Holy Spirit the source of all spiritual power in Old Testament times; but He imparted power to John the Baptist, to the Son of God Himself, to the Galilean fishermen, and to all the great saints of New Testament times. By His death on the cross, Christ opened the way for God to pour His Spirit upon all flesh, which He did on the day of Pentecost, ushering in the more glorious dispensation foretold by Joel and other Old Testament prophets. Since the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit has been convincing the whole world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment in a way that He did not do, except with a few individuals, in Old Testament times; and thus, in this dispensation of the Holy Spirit, the world has become more responsible to God because of its increased light and privileges.

JOHN THE BAPTIST.

John the Baptist, the great forerunner, or herald, of the coming of Jesus, was specially anointed for His mission by the Holy Spirit. The angel, in announcing His birth, said, “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:15–17). When he had grown to manhood, John the Baptist preached in the wilderness, proclaiming the coming of the Christ and commanding the people to repent. The multitudes were strangely affected by the preaching of this great prophet. “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5, 6). Even the proud Pharisees, the materialistic Sadducees, the despised publicans, and the hardened soldiers went to him for counsel and advice. And what was the secret of the wonderful power of this lonely preacher in the wilderness, which enabled him to thus sway the multitudes? Jesus said to the people, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet “ (Matthew 11:7–9). John the Baptist was no “reed shaken with the wind,” swayed by every breeze of public opinion, pandering to the people in order to please them. That was not what drew the multitudes to hear him. He denounced their sins, and rebuked them to their faces (Luke 3). Neither did they flock out into the wilderness to see his fine clothing, for he wore only a garment of camel’s hair girt about him with a leather girdle. Neither did they flock to him to get something good to eat, for he lived on locusts and wild honey. But John the Baptist was the “voice” of God speaking to the people, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and that was the secret of his wonderful power.

John the Baptist summed up the whole gospel in two brief sentences: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Luke 3:16). One is the gospel of pardon for the sinner, and the other is the gospel of power for the believer. The gospel of pardon is also summed up in John 3:16, “God so loved the world,” and so on. Too many lay great stress on the gospel of pardon while neglecting the gospel of power. Let us remember Luke 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 3:16, as well as John 3:16.

JESUS THE CHRIST.

Even the Son of God Himself was anointed for service by the Holy Spirit, who descended upon Him in the form of a dove after His baptism. The name Christ itself is from the Greek word for oil, chrism, and means The Anointed One. All through the Scriptures oil is used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and the Psalmist refers to this fact when he says concerning Christ, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Psalm 45:7, and Hebrews 1:9). The Holy Spirit was the “oil of gladness” with which Jesus was anointed. In the synagogue at Nazareth, Christ applied to Himself the prophecy in Isaiah 61:1, 2, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:17–21). The apostle Peter also referred to this Scripture when he spoke of “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed with the devil: for God was with him” (Acts 10:38), Jesus was doubtless a better medium than any human being for the Holy Spirit to work through, and no doubt that was why the Holy Spirit wrought greater miracles through Him and was more manifest in His life than in the life of any human being. He “spake as never man spake,” all the sick who touched but the hem of His garment were made perfectly whole, with a few loaves and fishes He fed the hungry multitudes, and even the unbelievers of Nazareth “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” Christ Himself said that all these miracles were wrought by the “finger,” “hand,” or “Spirit,” of God (Luke 11:20, Matthew 12:28, and so on). Referring to the marvelous manner in which the Spirit of God wrought through Christ’s ministry. Principal Gore, in Lux Mundi, Section VIII., says, “The Spirit anoints Him; the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness; the Spirit gives Him the law of His mission; in the power of the Spirit He works His miracles; in the Spirit He lifts up the voice of human thankfulness to the Divine Father; in the Spirit He offers Himself without spot to God; in the power of the Spirit He was raised from the dead.”

Christ is our great example and pattern, and His life was truly a Spirit-filled one. If the Son of God Himself was anointed for His ministry by the Holy Spirit, how necessary it is that we should be also!

===== PENTECOSTAL EXPERIENCE OF THE APOSTLES. ===== 

On the day of Pentecost was given the world’s greatest example of God’s power to transform the lives and character of men, so as to make the weak strong and powerful. Pentecost was the pouring out of the “former rain” of God’s Spirit, just as in these last days there will be an outpouring of the “latter rain” (Hosea 6:3; Zechariah 14:7; and James 5:7). By His death on the cross, Jesus made so great an atonement for sin that God could safely pour out His Spirit on all mankind without the universe thinking that He was regarding sin lightly. It was the atonement of Christ therefore that purchased the great Pentecostal gift for the world. “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Psalm 68:18, and Ephesians 4:8). Before the ascension of Christ the Holy Spirit was not yet poured upon all flesh, “because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). Jesus told His disciples that it was expedient, or profitable, that He should go away, because if He did not go away the Comforter would not come (John 16:7). He must complete His great work of atonement for the world before the Comforter could come. And it was better for the followers of Jesus that the Holy Spirit should be poured upon them and upon the world than that Jesus Himself should remain with them. While in the body Jesus could be in only one place at a time, but the Comforter could be everywhere present to convince men of sin and of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8). His three great offices are to convince men of sin, to show them the way of righteousness, and to warn them of coming judgment. He does this by influencing men’s hearts and minds from without, or by coming to dwell within them. Upon those in whom He dwells He bestows one or more of His seven different spiritual gifts. The seven different gifts of the Holy Spirit seem to be spoken of in Revelation as “the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:5 and 5:6). They were probably typified in the golden candlestick with its seven branches and seven lamps in the tabernacle and temples of the Old Testament. The apostle Paul seems to enumerate nine gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, but healing and miracles are probably the same gift, and tongues and the interpretation of tongues probably belong to the one gift, so that there are but seven distinct gifts mentioned.

Before Pentecost, Jesus said to His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12, 13). He knew that His disciples were only weak spiritual babes, even after all he had taught them, and He commanded them to tarry at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49, and Acts 1:4–8). He also said to them, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). If the disciples had not believed that promise there might have been no Pentecost. If they had said that they were already converted and that they were not looking for any deeper experience, the world might be still groping in heathen darkness. But their faith laid hold of the promise, and great were the results.

The disciples seem to have prayed together ten days before the promised Comforter came. One, two, three, four, five, then six days went by, and then a whole week, and still no Comforter came; but their faith did not waver. They tarried on in the upper room until the morning of the tenth day before the Comforter came. We know not why they had to tarry so long for the Holy Spirit, for there is no other Bible example of men praying so long a time before they received the Pentecostal gift. Perhaps they did not fully meet God’s conditions before the tenth day, or He may have designed that they should be fully prepared and humbled by long and lamest prayer so that they would not be puffed up and exalted by the great blessing He was about to pour upon them. It is more probable, however, that the great reason why God did not send the Holy Spirit sooner was because He purposed to send Him on the day of Pentecost, or fiftieth day after the passover (Pentecost means fiftieth), when multitudes of Jews from all over the world were present in Jerusalem. Pentecost was one of the three great annual feasts, or religious gatherings, of the Jews. It was a time of rejoicing over the first-fruits, and it was appropriate that on that day the “first-fruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8:23) should be poured upon the world. It is estimated that in the time of Christ between one and two million Jews were in Jerusalem to attend the feast of Pentecost. The Bible tells us about Jews of every nation being present to hear the disciples witness to the outpouring of the Spirit. The Jews were still God’s “husbandmen,” or chosen people, through whom He was revealing Himself to the world, just as the Gentiles are now His chosen people; and by waiting until Pentecost to pour His Spirit upon them, He secured witnesses from every nation to testify to the outpouring of the Spirit.

Early on the morning of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came with such demonstration and power that no one present could ever doubt the reality of His coming. “They were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4). Rev. William Arthur, in his splendid little book “The Tongue of Fire,” suggests that the cloven tongues typified the new power which the disciples would receive to preach the gospel, and that is the generally accepted opinion. The cloven tongues may have typified the fact that their power of speech would be doubled, and also that they would not speak of themselves but that another would speak through them. When the Holy Ghost fell on them He gave them power to witness for Christ When Jesus called the ignorant fishermen from the sea of Galilee to come and follow Him, He promised to make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). On the day of Pentecost this promise was fulfilled, and they indeed became fishers of men. On that day the Lord enabled them to catch more men than they caught fish in the miraculous draught of fish on the sea of Galilee. Peter and John, two of the Galilean fishermen, afterwards spoke with such boldness that the people, who knew that they were unlearned and ignorant men, “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Before leaving His disciples, Jesus had promised that they should do even greater works than He did (John 14:12), and this promise was also fulfilled at Pentecost. During Christ’s earthly ministry very few people seem to have been converted to God through Him. The greatest number of converts mentioned is “five hundred brethren” (1 Corinthians 15:6). But after He ascended to the Father, and sent the promised Comforter, the disciples led three thousand converts to the foot of the cross in one day, and several days later five thousand more seem to have been converted (Acts 4:4). Surely these were greater works than Jesus accomplished during His earthly ministry! In a moment of time God changed the ignorant fishermen of Galilee into the world’s greatest preachers. In a moment of time they learned more about Christ than they had learned in three years walking and talking with Him before they were filled with the Spirit, although He was the greatest teacher who ever appeared in human form. Although the apostles had been so long a time with the Son of God Himself, and had seen all His miracles and listened to all His teachings, they were only spiritual babes, and did not understand the first principles of the gospel, until the day of Pentecost They quarreled among themselves who should be greatest, they looked for Christ to immediately set up an earthly kingdom and subdue His enemies, some of them resorted to the use of carnal weapons, all deserted Christ in His trial and condemnation, Peter denied Him with swearing and cursing, and in many other ways the apostles showed their lack of spiritual power and understanding. But on the day of Pentecost this was all changed, and they received “power from on high.” Poor, weak, vacillating Peter, who had promised to be true to Christ though all others should forsake Him and soon afterwards denied Him with an oath, was now transformed into another man. In the power of the Spirit he arose and preached such a sermon that three thousand persons were pricked to their heart, and cried out “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” All the apostles suddenly became spiritual grants, faced the enemy with courage, preached the gospel with boldness, and afterwards carried it throughout the world, and all except John seem to have suffered as martyrs for Christ.

The multitudes who gathered together to hear the disciples on the day of Pentecost did not believe that Jesus was Divine. They thought that they had crucified a mere man and not the Son of God. But the Holy Ghost, witnessing through the disciples, convinced them that Jesus was Divine, and that they had crucified the Son of God. Then it was that they were pricked to their heart with the arrow of conviction and cried aloud for mercy. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus, and show men that He is the Divine Son of God. “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3); but when the Holy Spirit lays hold of a man’s heart he is soon convinced of Christ’s Divinity. It is His work to draw all men to Christ. The great Spirit-filled evangelist Charles G. Finney said that wherever He went all forms of unbelief vanished when the Holy Spirit was poured upon the people. The Holy Spirit can teach men more about Christ in one hour than the greatest preacher can teach them in fifty or even in a hundred years without the Spirit enlightening them.

DEEPER EXPERIENCES OF THE APOSTLE PAUL.

As Moses was the greatest leader and writer among Old Testament saints, so Paul was the greatest leader and writer among the New Testament saints. Persecutor, murderer, blasphemer, and “chief of sinners” though he was before his conversion, God completely transformed his life, and made him one of the greatest examples of what Divine grace and power can do in and through a human being. On his way to Damascus to bind the saints and deliver them to death, he was suddenly smitten down in the road by a light from heaven far more powerful than the noonday sun. Some of the destructive critics, or so-called “higher critics,” who know little about the grace and power or God, have suggested that Paul had a sunstroke on his way to Damascus; and someone has rejoined that if a sunstroke can so transform the life and character of a man, it is a pity these so-called “higher critics” “could not all have sunstrokes too. Paul seems to have been blinded by the glory and power of the light which shone from heaven, and after his conversion to Christ he had to be led into Damascus. Then God appeared in a vision to an earnest Christian named Ananias, and sent him to instruct and pray for Paul. Laying his hands on Paul, as was then the usual custom in praying for a person, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:17). Paul’s eyesight was immediately restored, and he was baptized. At this time he was doubtless filled with the Spirit, whether before or after his baptism we cannot say. Soon after this he went down into Arabia, and during the interval between the 9th and 13th chapters of Acts no mention is made concerning him. Conybeare and Howson, in their great work on the life and labors of St. Paul, and other authorities on the subject, believe that during this interval of about three years Paul was in the desert of Arabia, learning of God (see Galatians 1:17, 18). They believe that it was then that he was caught up into the third heaven, and heard things unlawful to be uttered (2 Corinthians 12:4). However that may be, it is certain that he had such an abundance of visions and revelations from God as no human being could have unless they also had something to keep them humble. Mr. Moody, the great evangelist, used to say that if God had revealed anything more concerning heaven we would be so homesick to go there that we could not attend to our everyday duties on earth; and that if He had revealed anything more concerning future punishment in hell men would be so terror-stricken that they would not be able to attend to their ordinary occupations. Perhaps that is what Paul meant when he said that it was not lawful for a man to utter what he had heard in paradise. Paul himself could not have borne the glory of these revelations, but for the fact that a “thorn in the flesh, the messenger of satan” was allowed to buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations given unto him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Three times he besought God to remove this “thorn,” before he realized that the Lord allowed it for the purpose of keeping him humble. When at last he realized how God’s strength was made perfect through his weakness, he said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak then am I strong” (verses 9 and 10). In other words, he could say, “Lord, if I need afflictions and troubles to keep me humble when I have such great revelations of Thy glory, I will be glad to have such afflictions, so that Thy power may rest upon me.” There are many different opinions with regard to the nature of Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Some think that it was a sin of some kind which he could not overcome, and they use this as an excuse for living in sin. But Paul represents himself as “free from sin” (Romans 6: 7, 18, 22, and 8:2), as “dead to sin” (Romans 6:2, 6, 11), and as more than conqueror (Romans 9:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14). Whatever Paul’s thorn was, it certainly was not sin, for the apostle would not glory in sin, as he gloried in his infirmities. He said that charity, or love, “rejoiceth not in iniquity” (1 Corinthians 13:6). Some have thought that Paul’s thorn was epilepsy, others that it was dyspepsia, and so on; but the most reasonable supposition seems to be that it was weak eyes. That would make his bodily presence seem contemptible (2 Corinthians 10:10), and would account for him saying that the Galatian brethren would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him if it had been possible for them to do so (Galatians 4:15). It would also explain the fact that nearly all of his letters were written by secretaries, and that sometimes two or three secretaries were employed in writing one letter (see notes at the close of his epistles, from Romans to Hebrews). One of the longest epistles written by Paul himself was the book of Galatians; and at the close of it he says, “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” (Galatians 6:11); and yet the epistle is not a remarkably long one for so great a scholar to write if he had good eye-sight and nerves, for Paul was one of the greatest scholars of his time. Finally, at his trial before the high-priest, Paul seems not to have recognized him (Acts 23:5), although anyone with good eye-sight ought to have been able to recognize the high priest by his gorgeous robes. All these facts seem to point definitely to the conclusion that Paul had weak eyes; and some think that his eyes never fully recovered from the dazzling effect of the great supernatural light he saw on his way to Damascus. Whatever Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” may have been, it was necessary to keep him humble when God was showing him so great revelations. None of us, perhaps, have had so great revelations as Paul, yet it may be that afflictions have been necessary to keep us humble also.

The power of the Holy Spirit was so manifest in the preaching of Paul that even the great Roman ruler Felix trembled when the little apostle stood before him and reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come; and King Agrippa was almost persuaded to be a Christian. Like a fire-brand he went through Asia Minor and Greece, and finally to Rome also, kindling a mighty conflagration which soon enveloped the whole world. When Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica, all the city was in an uproar, saying, “These that have turned the world upside down have come hither also” (Acts 17:6). Some one has said that they turned the world upside down and right side up for God. Truly the apostle Paul could say, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). He also said, “Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). And in another place he said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

The apostle Paul had drunk so deeply from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3) that he longed for others to enjoy the same experience. We find him exhorting the Roman brethren to be dead indeed unto sin (Romans 6 and 8), to bring forth fruit unto holiness (Romans 6:22), to pray in the Spirit (Romans 8:26), to present their bodies a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1), and to be led by the Spirit in everything (Romans 12:6–8). He wrote to them, “I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:29). Would that every one of God’s children could say the same. He urged the Corinthian brethren not to remain weak and carnal, even as babes in Christ, but to become strong and spiritual (1 Corinthians 3). He wrote to them, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant” (1 Corinthians 12:1), after which he devoted a great part of his letter to explaining spiritual gifts, without which the church would be like a body without eyes, hands, feet, and so on. In his second epistle to them he explained how the Spirit of the Lord changed people into the image of the Lord, from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). In this epistle he urged them to be separate from the world (6:17), to perfect holiness (7:1), and to be perfect (13:11). He tells the Galatian brethren how he travailed in soul for them until Christ should be formed in them (Galatians 4:19). He was so anxious for them to be like Christ that he was in a great agony of prayer for them until this should be accomplished, or until they should be transformed into the Lord’s image. He told them to walk in the Spirit and they would not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 6:17). In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul again and again urges them to “be filled with the Spirit” (5:18) He says, “I . . . cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Ephesians 1:16–19). He also says to them, “I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. That he would grant unto you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14–20). He explained to them that spiritual gifts were for the perfecting of the saints, that they might become mature men, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and in the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). Without these spiritual gifts in the church Christians would never become strong and mature. Paul urged the Ephesian brethren to put on the whole spiritual armor of God, that they might be able to stand against every temptation (Ephesians 6). With this armor they would “be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (verse 16). In like manner Paul prayed for the Colossian brethren to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (Colossians 1:9); and he prayed for the Thessalonian brethren that God would sanctify them wholly, and that their whole spirit, and soul, and body might be preserved blameless until the coming of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He urged both the Thessalonian and Hebrew brethren to follow holiness, without which no man would see the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7 and Hebrews 12:14). These are only a few of the many examples of Paul’s longings and prayers that others might partake of the same deep, rich, full spiritual experience which he enjoyed.  

DEEPER EXPERIENCE OF THE SAMARITAN DISCIPLES.

Among the men “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” selected as deacons of the first Christian church, at Jerusalem, was Philip, the evangelist (Acts 6). In Acts, the eighth chapter, we read the story of how he went to Samaria and preached the gospel. There was a great revival in that city under his preaching. Many believed the things he preached, for Christ had prepared the way when He preached to the woman of that city and then to all the people (John 4). Great miracles were wrought, and there was great joy in the city. The people who were converted under Philip’s preaching were baptized, both men and women. “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14–17).

===== THE EPHESIAN DISCIPLES FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT. ===== 

In the nineteenth chapter of Acts, we read about Paul going to the city of Ephesus. “And finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” If every believer had received the Holy Ghost, then Paul’s question would have been a very foolish one. But these believers had “not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” This surprised Paul, for he thought that they must have heard about the Holy Spirit when they were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. He said, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” They then told him, “Unto John’s baptism.” This explained why they had not heard about the Holy Ghost when they were baptized, for John only baptized unto repentance, and not in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” or with Christ’s baptism, which was in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them ; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (verses 1–6). Paul may have referred to this experience of the Ephesian disciples, and to other similar experiences, when he afterwards said, in his epistle to the Ephesians, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13). The early Christian writers all refer to the filling of the Spirit as the “sealing” of the Spirit.

THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

Most of the great Bible scholars and commentators, and most of the great church historians are agreed upon the fact it was the custom of the early church to pray for all believers to be filled with the Spirit. The usual custom was to baptize the converts, and then the elders would lay hands on them and pray for them to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The laying on of hands (in prayer for the Holy Spirit) is mentioned in Hebrews 6:2 as one of the “first principles,” or foundation principles, of the gospel; and in the case of Paul, the Samaritan disciples, and the Ephesian disciples, we have examples of this early custom. The Holy Spirit came without the laying on of hands on the day of Pentecost, but some think that this was because there were then no Spirit-filled persons to lay hands on the disciples and pray for them to be filled with the Spirit The Holy Spirit also fell upon Cornelius and his household and friends without the laying on of hands in prayer, and while Peter was preaching to them (Acts 10:44); but some suppose that this was because no Jew would lay hands on Gentiles to pray for them to be filled with the Spirit until after God poured His Spirit on Cornelius. The Scriptures say that the Jews were astonished when they saw that God had poured His Spirit upon the Gentiles also (Acts 10:45). The great scholar and Bible commentator, Dr. Lightfoot, tells us, in his Exercitations, on Acts 2:17, that it was a maxim among the Jews “That the Holy Spirit is never imparted to any Gentile.” Cornelius also received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized, but some have thought that this was because no Jew would have baptized Gentiles until after God poured His Spirit upon Cornelius and his friends. Peter would doubtless have refused to preach to Gentiles had not God shown Him three times in a vision to do so (Acts 10). However this may be, it seems certain that the usual order in the early Christian church was first conversion, then baptism, then the laying on of hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit Peter doubtless referred to this order of things on the day of

Pentecost, when the people were pricked to their hearts with conviction of sin and cried aloud, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38, 39). Several of the early Christian writers express the opinion that the Ethiopian eunuch was filled with the Spirit immediately after his baptism, and give this as the reason why he went on his way rejoicing after the Spirit caught away Philip, instead of feeling sad at the separation (Acts 8:39). This explanation seems to be a very reasonable one.

The laying on of hands in prayer was a very ancient custom, and the early Christians probably adopted it from the Jews. Jacob laid his hands upon the sons of Joseph when blessing them (Genesis 48:14). Moses laid hands on Joshua, as the Lord commanded him to do, when praying for Joshua to be filled with the Spirit (Numbers 27:18, 23), the early Christians usually laid hands on the sick when praying for their recovery (Mark 16), Paul speaks of the gift given to Timothy by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, or elders (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6), and so on. The custom of laying hands on ministers when ordaining them is practiced in the churches today; but the ancient custom of laying hands on all believers, and praying for them to be filled with the Spirit, is no longer observed by many of the Protestant churches. While God can, and doubtless often does, give the Holy Spirit without the laying on of hands, it might be well to restore this ancient custom. It probably is a means of strengthening the faith and concentrating the thoughts of the person prayed for. The Greek Church and other Eastern churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Church of England, and a few smaller churches, still retain a relic of the old apostolic custom of laying on hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit in what they call Confirmation Services, although it is to be feared that these services are often little more than a mere form. In the confirmation services of all these churches the bishops, or priests, lay hands on the persons confirmed and pray for them to be filled with the Holy Ghost. The mere form, however, amounts to but little unless the Holy Spirit actually comes to dwell within. If He does this either with or without laying on of hands, there will be new life and power in the experience of the Christian.

The early Christian church believed in and prayed for the filling of the Holy Spirit, and this was the secret of its power. It lived in the Spirit, walked in the Spirit, prayed in the Spirit, and sang in the Spirit. Its meetings were conducted in the Pentecostal order, or manner; everyone praying, singing, or testifying as they were moved by the Spirit The Holy Spirit prayed through them, spoke through them, sang through them, comforted them, anointed them, strengthened them, and enlightened them. Of the first church, at Jerusalem, we read, “And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33). Soon after Pentecost they were gathered together in prayer, and the Holy Ghost again came with such power as to shake the place where they were assembled together, and all who were not previously filled with the Spirit were now filled, so that “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). Concerning other churches in the Holy Land, we read, “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). The Gentiles as well as the Jews had their Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost fell upon Cornelius and his household and friends (Acts 10), and after that Jews and Gentiles were all one in Christ (Romans 3:9; Galatians 3:22–28; Ephesians 2:11–19). Some believe that Cornelius and his friends were justified, or saved, before the Holy Ghost fell upon them, and the words of Peter seem to indicate this (Acts 10:34, 35). But if they were not justified before Peter spoke to them, they were both justified and filled with the Spirit while he was speaking to them (Acts 10:44). The Apostle Paul could say to the church at Corinth, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). And to Christians in general the Apostle John could write, “But ye have an unction, from the Holy One, and ye know all things” (1 John 2:20). These, and many other Scriptures, show that the New Testament church was truly a Spirit-filled one. We read concerning the men chosen as deacons of the first Christian church, that they were “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3, 5). One of these, Stephen, was so filled with the Spirit that his face shone like the countenance of an angel (Acts 6: 15). With such unction and officers, it is little wonder that the early Christian church went forth conquering and to conquer, and soon won the world nominally to Christ; a few Judean peasants overturning the entire fabric of paganism.

“Oh, for the Spirit’s quickening power; Oh, for a soul-refreshing shower; Oh, for the Pentecostal power; Lord, send it now.”

2016/03/27 23:19 · admin

Other Early Saints And Sages

The two preceding chapters describe the deeper spiritual experiences of Bible characters. Doubtless there were many Spirit-filled saints, especially among the Gentiles in Old Testament times, whose names are not so much as mentioned in the Scriptures.

GENTILE SAGES TAUGHT BY THE SPIRIT. 

A careful study of the writings of Socrates, Plato, and other great Greek and Roman philosophers, will reveal the fact that some of these sages had considerable knowledge concerning the true God. They may have received this knowledge through contact with the Jews, or by reason, or by direct revelation, or by all of these means.

Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, seems not only to have had a knowledge of God, but he seems also to have realized something concerning the Holy Spirit’s power. He constantly affirmed that he was guided and taught by a “friendly daemon, or spirit, and to this fact he ascribed whatever wisdom he possessed (See Plato’s Apology for Socrates, Chapter xviii). It may be that the Spirit of God actually taught these great heathen philosophers many things, as He seems to have taught Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar and some other Gentile kings mentioned in the Bible.

The famous Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras, who laid the foundations of the higher mathematics of today, said, “Without light (illumination, or enlightenment) nothing is to be uttered concerning God.” This very much resembles what Paul taught when he said, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The great Roman orator, Cicero, expressed the opinion that no man could attain to moral excellence “without a certain divine inspiration” (See Cicero’s Nature of the Gods, Book II).

The great heathen philosopher Seneca, writing to Lucilius, Epistle 61, says, “God is present with us, He is with thee, He is within thee. This I say, Lucilius: a Holy Spirit dwelleth within us, of our good and evil works the observer and the guardian. As we treat Him, so He treateth us; and no man is good except God be with him. Can any rise above external fortunes, unless by His aid? He it is from whom every good man receiveth both honor and upright purposes.”

TESTIMONY OF THE EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS.

The early Christian writers, both the Greek and Roman Fathers of the Church, testify to the fact that in the second century and later, it was customary to pray for Christians to be filled with the Spirit, just as they were prayed for in Bible times. In the days of Tertullian, who wrote in the second century, it was customary also to anoint the baptized believers with oil before praying for them to be filled with the Spirit. The oil was used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, as it is used all through the Scriptures, although there is no Bible example of anointing before prayer for the Holy Spirit. In Old Testament times oil was used in anointing the priests and kings, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. In New Testament times it was used to anoint the sick before prayer was offered for their recovery (James 5:14), thus symbolizing that the Holy Spirit would do the healing. The custom of anointing persons before praying for them to be filled with the Spirit seems to have become common soon after the time of the apostles, as it was very widespread in the second century. As the water in baptism symbolized the washing or cleansing from sin, so the anointing with oil was used to symbolize the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Tertullian, writing near the close of the second century, in his book on Baptism, Chapter vi., says: “The baptized, when they come up out of the bath, are anointed with the holy oil, and then the hand is laid upon them with the invocation of the Holy Spirit. “This is clear testimony from one of the earliest Christian writers to show that in his day it was customary to pray for the newly baptized converts to be filled with the Spirit. In the same book, Chapter viii., he also says: “After baptism the hand is imposed, by blessing, calling and inviting the Holy Spirit; then that most Holy Spirit willingly descends from the Father upon the bodies that are cleansed and blessed.” Again, in the same chapter, he says: “In baptism we do not receive the Holy Ghost, but being cleansed by baptismal water, we are disposed for the Holy Spirit under the hand of the minister.” A little further on he says: “Is it not lawful for God, by an instrument of His own under holy hands to accord the heights and sublimity of the Spirit?” Still further on in the same chapter, speaking concerning the happy condition of the church at Rome, which had not then become corrupt, he says: “She believes in God, she signs with the water, she clothes with the Spirit, she feeds with the eucharist, she exhorts to martyrdom; and against this order or institution she receives no man.” This means that, near the close of the second century, no one could become a member of the church at Rome (one of the largest and most influential churches) unless he believed in prayer for the newly converted and baptized to be clothed with the Holy Spirit. In his book on The Resurrection of the Body, Chapter viii., Tertullian thus explains the need of being filled with the Spirit: “The flesh is consigned or sealed that the soul may be guarded or defended; and the body is overshadowed by the imposition of hands, that the soul may be enlightened by the Holy Spirit.”

That prayer for the Holy Spirit was no mere form in the second century is evident from the testimony of Irenaeus. Writing about the middle of the second century, or about 150 A. D., he tells us that in his time, “When God saw it necessary, and the church prayed and fasted much, they did miraculous things, even of bringing back the spirit to a dead man.”

Theophilus of Antioch, writing about A. D. 170, or not long after the time of the Apostles, says that the name Christian is derived from the Greek word for oil, chrism, and means “anointed one,” referring to the fact that the followers of Christ were anointed with the Spirit. Living at so early a day, and in the city where they were first called Christians (Acts 11: 26), his explanation seems to be a reasonable one. Perhaps it was because Christ was commonly called “The Anointed” (that is what the word Christ means) which led to Christians being called “Anointed Ones,” or Christians. Theophilus says: “We are called Christians because we are anointed with the unction of God.” With regard to the need of this unction, he says: “For who is there that enters into contention or athletic combats, but is anointed with oil?” This refers to the ancient custom that athletes had of anointing their bodies with oil before entering into contests or combats. The oil was supposed to add to their strength and suppleness. Theophilus suggests that Christians should be anointed with the Divine oil of God’s Holy Spirit before entering into spiritual combat.

Clement of Alexandria, writing about the close of the second century, or soon after apostolic times, tells how the Apostle John delivered a young man to the care of a bishop, who baptized him, and “afterwards he sealed him with the Lord’s signature, as with a safe and perfect guard” (see account in Eusebius, Book III., Chapter 17). The filling of the Spirit is commonly called “The Lord’s seal,” or “The Lord’s signature,” by the early Christian writers. After the church began to anoint persons with oil before praying for them to be filled with the Spirit, the ceremony of anointing with oil was called signaculum, or sealing. The term “sealing” was probably derived from Ephesians 1:13, where Paul speaks about the Ephesians being sealed with the Holy Ghost after they had believed. He probably refers to the time when they were filled with the Spirit in answer to his prayer, as recorded in Acts 19, and to other similar experiences. However this may be, it is certain that the early Christian writers called the filling of the Spirit the “sealing of the Spirit.”

The great writer Origen, about A. D. 210, also refers to the custom of praying for the newly baptized to be filled with the Spirit. In his Seventh Homily on Ezekiel, he says: “The unction of Christ, of holy doctrine, is the oil by which the holy man is anointed, having been instructed in the Scriptures, and taught how to be baptized; then changing a few things he (the minister) says to him. Now you are no longer a catechumen, now you are regenerated in baptism; such a man receives the unction of God.” This quotation shows, as all students of church history know, that in the time of Origen the church was rapidly losing her simplicity and power. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration was very widespread, and the church was beginning to attach more importance to form? and ceremonies than to a living faith in Christ. She had become so wrapped up in the symbols as to forget the things they symbolized. Even prayer for the Holy Spirit was becoming a mere form, which in the following century was named Confirmation. In Bible times any Spirit-filled Christians could pray for others to be filled with the Spirit, as Ananias, who was not an apostle, prayed for Paul. But gradually the Western Church, which afterward became the Roman Catholic, came to believe that only bishops had the power or authority to pray for others to be filled with the Spirit, and bishops no longer held the humble offices that they held in the early church, when there seem to have been several bishops, or elders, in each church (see Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:17, 28; and so on). The Eastern Church, which afterward became the Greek Church, has always held that any ordinary priest has the right to lay on bauds in prayer for the Holy Spirit.

Urban the First, one of the earliest bishops of Rome, writing about A. D. 225, says: “All faithful people ought to receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of the bishop’s hands after baptism” (see Binius’ General Councils, Tome L, page 293).

The great St. Cyprian, writing about A. D. 250, tells how the officials of the church in his day prayed for the newly converted and baptized to be filled with the Spirit. Speaking concerning the Bible account of how Peter and John prayed for the Samaritan disciples to be filled with the Spirit (Acts 8), he says: “The faithful in Samaria had already obtained baptism; only that which was wanting Peter and John supplied, by prayer and imposition of hands, to the end the Holy Ghost might be poured upon them. Which also is done amongst ourselves, when they which be already baptized are brought to the rulers of the church to obtain by our prayer and imposition of hands the Holy Ghost” (see Cyprian’s Epistle 73, To Jubianus). Cyprian, with his colleagues, wrote to Cornelius, Bishop of Rome, saying ‘‘that those whom they would have to be safe against the corruptions of their adversaries, they should arm them with the guards and defenses of the Lord’s fullness” (see Cyprian’s Epistle 74). In Epistle 72, to Stephanus, Cyprian contends that prayer for converts to be filled with the Spirit is necessary “to complete man’s sanctification.”

Eusebius, the historian of the early church, writing about the close of the third century, in his Church History, Book vi., Chapter xliii., tells how Novatius was baptized while sick, but was not prayed for that he might receive the Holy Ghost. On account of this he was censured by Cornelius, Bishop of Rome, “Because,” says Eusebius, “when he recovered he did not receive those other things which by the rule of the church he ought to have received, he was not consigned with the Lord’s signature by the hands of the bishop, which having not obtained, how can he be supposed to have received the Holy Ghost?” These words of Eusebius show that in his day the Western Church, afterwards the Roman Catholic, had already become so formal as to imagine that the Holy Spirit could only be obtained through the prayers and imposition of hands of a bishop. They also show that it was the rule of the church in the third century that all baptized converts should be prayed for that they might receive the Holy Ghost. We have already shown that this was the custom of the church in the first and second century. Eusebius, the early church historian, writes again concerning prayer for the Holy Spirit, in his Church History, Book iii., Chapter 23, where he calls the filling of the Spirit, through laying on of hands in prayer after baptism, “a perfect phylactery or guard, even the Lord’s seal.”

Firmilian, writing also in the third century, quoted by Cyprian in Epistle 75, compares St. Paul’s “confirming” of the disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19) to the confirming of people in his own time. Firmilian and St. Ambrose seem to be among the first to use the word “confirm,” or “confirmation,” to describe the laying on of hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit. The term is doubtless derived from 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22, “Now he which stablisheth (or confirmeth, as it is rendered in the ancient Latin versions) us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” The ancient writers of the church believed that the establishing, anointing, and sealing referred to in these verses meant the filling of the Holy Spirit; and in the time of St. Ambrose the Latin word confirmatio, which means confirmation, or establishing, began to be the common word for describing imposition of hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does confirm, or establish, people; and the word confirmation is a good word to describe the filling of the Holy Spirit; but the word has been used so much to describe what is often a mere form or ceremony administered sometimes by wicked and corrupt popes, cardinals, and bishops, that it has lost much of the simplicity and power of its meaning.

Melchiades, about 320 A. D., in his epistle to the Bishop of Spain, thus describes the need of being filled with the Spirit, which he calls “confirmation.” “What does the mystery of confirmation profit me after the mystery of baptism? Certainly we did not receive all in our baptism, if after the washing we want something of another kind. Let your charity attend. As the military order requires that when the general enters a soldier into the list he does not only mark him but furnishes him with arms for the battle; so in him that is baptized this blessing is his ammunition. You have given a soldier, give him also weapons. And what will it profit him if a father gives a great estate to his son if he does not care to provide a tutor for him? Therefore the Holy Spirit is the guardian of our regeneration in Christy He is Comforter, and He is the defender.” The above comparison of the regenerated person who is not filled with the Spirit to a soldier without armor or weapons is not only a striking one, but it is also Scriptural. Paul exhorts Christians to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6). Melchiades also says: “Although to them that die presently the benefits of regeneration are sufficient, yet to them that live the auxiliaries of confirmation are necessary” (quoted by Gratian, On Consecration, Division 5, on “The Holy Spirit”).

Eusebius Emesenus, about A. D. 350, in his Sermon on Pentecost, says: “That which imposition now gives to every one in confirming neophytes, the same did the Holy Spirit then (on Pentecost) confer on all believers. But because we have said that imposition of hands and confirmation confers something on him that is born again and regenerated in Christ; perhaps someone will be ready to think with himself, and say, ‘What can the ministry of confirmation profit me after the mystery of baptism?’” He then proceeds to show, like Melchiades, that regeneration makes us soldiers, but the filling of the Spirit clothes us with armor and weapons.

Gregory of Nazianzen, about A. D. 370, in Discourse xl. Chapter 4, says, concerning the imposition of hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit: “We therefore call it a seal or signature, as being a guard and custody to us, and a sign of the Lord’s dominion over us.” In his Exhortation to St. Lavacrium, Discourse xl. Chapter 15, he says: “How shall the angel know what sheep belong to his charge, how shall he snatch them from the enemy, if he does not see their mark and signature?” The mark and signature he refers to is the seal of the Holy Spirit. Many of the early Christian writers refer to the filling of the Spirit as the Lord’s seal. They believed that in regeneration they became the Lord’s, but that the filling of the Spirit was the Lord setting His seal or brand on them just as a man might brand the sheep that were already his.

St. Ambrose, another great Christian writer, about A. D. 370, in his book on the Sacraments, Chapter 2, calls the reception of the Holy Spirit through imposition of hands and prayer, “a spiritual seal remaining after baptism that perfection may be had.” In his book Concerning the Mystery, Chapter vii., commenting on the words of Paul, “He that confirmeth us with you in Christ, is God,” he says; “Remember that thou who hast been confirmed, hast received the spiritual signature, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, the spirit of holy fear; keep that thou hast received; the Father hath sealed thee, and Christ thy Lord hath confirmed thee.”

The celebrated St. Chrysostom, writing about A. D. 375, in his Homily xiii., on Acts, says: “For it is not all one to obtain remission of sins and to have received this virtue or power from above.” In Homily xviii., on Acts 8:16–21, he says: “But they, it says, having come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost; for as yet he was fallen upon none of them. Then laid they their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost. Seest thou not that it was not to be done in any ordinary manner, but it needed great power to give the Holy Spirit? For it is not all one, to obtain remission of sins, and to receive such power.” In his Homily xix. 2, on Acts 8:31–40, he takes it for granted that the Ethiopian eunuch was filled with the Spirit after his baptism. “And he went, it says, on his way rejoicing. This hints, that he would have been grieved (at the taking away of Philip), had he known; for the greatness of his joy, haying had the Spirit also vouchsafed to him, he did not even see things present.” In his Commentary, on Hebrews, 6:1, 2, Chrysostom, speaking concerning the six foundation principles of the Gospel mentioned in those verses, says: “All these are fundamental articles; that is, that we ought to repent from dead works, to be baptized into the faith of Christ, and be made worthy of the gift of the Spirit, Who is given by imposition of hands, and we are to be taught the mysteries of the resurrection and eternal judgment.”

The great St. Jerome, writing about A. D. 275, in his Disputation Against the Luciferians, represents a Luciferian asking why he that is baptized in the Church does not receive the Holy Spirit but by imposition of the bishop’s hands. The answer is, “This observation for the honor of the priesthood did descend from the Scriptures.” Later, he says, “If you ask where it is written, it is in the Acts of the Apostles.” He then goes on to show that if there were no Scriptural authority for it, “the consent of the whole Christian world in this article ought to prevail as a commandment.” This would indicate that in the time of Jerome “the whole Christian world” believed in the laying on of the bishops’, or elders’, hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit. It also indicates that this had become so much of a form or ceremony that many imagined that God would not give the Holy Spirit except through the laying on of hands and prayer by the bishops, or elders. The simple New Testament form of church government had already grown into a great ecclesiastical hierarchy seeking to usurp power over both the souls and bodies of men. The Catholic Church was losing sight of the grand simplicity of God’s promises to pour His Spirit upon every hungry, thirsty believer. In New Testament times the elders, or church officers, usually prayed for persons to be filled with the Spirit, because the most spiritual men were selected for church officers. But that God never meant to confine this authority, or privilege, to any individuals or class of individuals is proved by His promise, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an ^g, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (Luke 11:9–13).

The celebrated St. Cyril, writing in the fourth century, in his Catechetical Lectures, iii., Section 21, speaking concerning Jesus, says: “When He truly was baptized in the river of Jordan, He ascended out of the waters, and the Holy Spirit substantially descended upon Him, like resting upon like. And to you also in like manner, after ye have ascended from the waters of baptism, the unction is given, which bears the image or similitude of Him by Whom Christ was anointed; that as Christ after baptism and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Him went forth to battle and overcome the adversary; so ye also, after holy baptism and the mystical unction, being vested with the armor of the Holy Spirit, are enabled to stand against the opposite powers.” In the same lecture, Section ii., Cyril describes how the church of his day anointed the baptized with oil before praying for them to receive the Holy Ghost, and he also explains the meaning of the ceremony. “They were first anointed in the forehead,” says he, “to wipe away that shame which the first man, by his transgression had contracted; and that they might now, with open face behold the glory of the Lord. Then they were anointed on the ears, that they might have ears to hear the divine mysteries. After that, on the nose and heart; that they might be a sweet savor unto the Lord; and being armed with the breastplate of righteousness, might be able to stand all the insults of the devil.” In Bible times the anointing with oil seems usually to have been the pouring or placing of a little oil on the head, or forehead; but in Old Testament times the blood of the consecration offering was applied to the right ear, thumb, and great toe of the high priest to symbolize his entire consecration (Leviticus 8:24). The church of Cyril’s day seems to have had a much more elaborate ceremony with the anointing oil to symbolize what the Holy Spirit would do for those in whom He came to dwell.

St. Hilary, writing in the fourth century, speaking concerning Christ receiving the anointing of the Spirit after His baptism, says: “The Father’s voice was heard, that from those things which were consummated in Christ we might know that after the baptism of water the Holy Spirit from the gates of heaven flies unto us; and that we are to be anointed with the unction of a celestial glory, and be made the sons of God by the adoption of the voice of God, the truth by the very effects of things prefigured unto us the similitude of a sacrament.”

St. Augustine, the most celebrated of all the early Christian writers, writing about A. D. 380, in his work Against the Donatists, Book ii., Chapter 6, says: “At the first times the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers, and they spake with tongues which they had not learned, according as the Spirit gave them utterance. They were signs fitted to the seasons; for so the Holy Spirit ought to have signified in all tongues, because the gospel of God was to run through all the nations and languages of the world; so it was signified, and so it passed through. But is it expected that they upon whom there is imposition of hands that they might receive the Holy Spirit that they should speak with tongues?” In his book on The Trinity, Book XV., Chapter xxvi., Augustine says: “In propriety of speech, neither the apostles or any other man, but Christ alone, as He is God, could give the Holy Ghost; for the apostles only laid hands on men, that the Holy Ghost by their prayers might descend upon them; which custom the church now observed and practiced by her bishops and governors also.” Commenting on John 6, and speaking concerning the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus, Augustine says: “The dove in Christ’s baptism did represent  and prefigure our unction that is the Holy Spirit coming upon us after baptism.” In his work On Baptism, Book iii., Chapter xvi., he says: “For by the Holy Spirit, which is given only in the Catholic Church by imposition of hands, our forefathers would have us to understand that which the apostle says, ‘The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.’” In Sermon XLIX., on Luke 7, Augustine takes it for granted that the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8) received the Holy Spirit after his baptism. After speaking about Peter and John praying for the Samaritan disciples to be filled with the Spirit, he refers to the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, and says: “When the mystery of the sacrament of baptism had been accomplished, that the gift of the Holy Ghost might not be thought to be of men, there was no waiting, as in the other case, for the apostles to come, but the Holy Ghost came forthwith.” In Sermon XXI., on The Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost, Augustine explains Acts 2:37, 38, as follows: “And Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. In the Church truly in which was the Holy Ghost, were both brought to pass, that is, both the remission of sins, and the receiving of the gift.” This is indisputable evidence that the Church of the fourth century believed in both the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit Augustine himself seems to have felt that the Holy Spirit was leading and directing him. In the sermon above referred to, on The Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost, he says: “I did not think I could do justice to that understanding of it (his subject) which was in some degree opened to me, by words suggested at the moment. But as I listened to today’s lesson, upon which it was my duty to discourse to you, as the Gospel was being read, there was such a beating at my heart, that I believed it was God’s will that you should hear something of the subject by my ministry.”

Pacianus, Bishop of Barcelona, who died about A. D. 390, writing on Baptism, says: “In baptism our sins are cleansed, in confirmation the Spirit is poured upon us; and both these are obtained by the hands and mouth of the bishop.”

Asterius, Bishop of Amasea, about A. D. 400, compares the gift of the Holy Ghost, through the laying on of hands after baptism, to the ring which the father put on the finger of the prodigal after his return.

Theodoret, in the fifth century, commenting on Canticles 1:2, says: “Remember that holy mystagogy, in which they who were initiated, after the renouncing that tyrant (the devil) and the confession of the true King, have received the chrism of spiritual unction like a royal signature, by that unction, as in a shadow, perceiving the invisible grace of the most Holy Spirit.”

Pope Leo the Great, about A. D. 460, in Epistle lxxix., Chapter 7, writing to Nicetas, Bishop of Aquileia, commands that heretics returning to the church should have hands laid on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for, says he, “they have only received the form of baptism without the virtue of sanctification.”

Lucherius Lugdenenses, also writing in the fifth century, says: “The same thing that is done now in the imposition of hands on individual persons, is no other than that which was done upon all believers in the descent of the Holy Spirit; it is the same ministry, and all derived from the same authority.”

In the writings usually attributed to Dionyisius the Aeropagite, and probably written about A. D. 600, in The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, Chapter ii., there is a description of how prayer was offered for the baptized, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. “Then (after baptism) they bring them again to the bishop, and he consigns them with the most divinely operating unction.” Further on we read: “But even to him who is consecrated in the most holy mystery of regeneration the perfective unction of chrism gives him the advent of the Holy Spirit.” The learned Church of England bishop, Jeremy Taylor, in his “Discourse on Confirmation,” explains how the imposition of hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit came to be known as “the sacrament of chrism,” which is the term used in the writings just quoted. He says: “It was very early in the church that to represent the grace which was ministered in confirmation, the unction from above, they used oil and balsam, and so constantly used this in their confirmation that from the ceremony it had the appellation: sacramentum chrismatis (the sacrament of anointing).”

Pope Innocent III., in the twelfth century, in Constitutional Decrees, Book i., Chapter 83, thus explains the meaning of the anointing with oil in confirmation: “By anointing the forehead the imposition of hands is designed, because by that the Holy Spirit is given for increase and strength.” Rabanus Maurus, writing about 800 A. D., says: “In baptism the baptized was anointed on the top of the heady in confirmation on the forehead; by that was signified that the Holy Ghost was preparing a habitation for Himself; by this was declared the descent of the Holy Spirit with His seven-fold gifts with all fullness of knowledge and spiritual understanding” (see Maurus’ Clerical Institutes, Book i., Chapter 30). In the time of Maurus, when the Roman Catholic Church had almost reached the summit of its ritualism and ceremonialism, a double anointing with oil was practiced. As Maurus explains, the baptized were anointed with oil on top of the head in baptism, to signify that the Holy Spirit was preparing Himself a dwelling place within them. In confirmation they were anointed on the forehead, to signify that the Holy Spirit was coming in with His gifts and power. At the present time both the Roman Catholic and Greek Churches anoint with oil before confirmation, or prayer for the Holy Spirit. They anoint the person to be prayed for on the forehead, and give them a slight blow on the cheek to signify that henceforth they will be more able to suffer for Christ.

John of Damascus, about A. D. 700, in his work on The Orthodox Faith, Book iv., Chapter 10, mentions the in-coming of the Holy Spirit. He says: “He (the Lord) makes us His anointed ones, and by His Spirit He declares His eternal mercy towards us.”

Amalarius, in the ninth century, in his work on The Offices of the Church, Book i., Chapter 27, affirms that Pope Sylvester, “forseeing how dangerous a journey he takes who abides without confirmation, brought remedy as far as he could and commanded that in the absence of bishops they should be anointed by the priest.” He then goes on to explain how the custom of laying on of hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit was derived from the apostles themselves.

Œcumenius, in the tenth century, commenting on Hebrews 6:2, calls the laying on of hands for the Holy Spirit “perfection” (telioteta). No doubt this was because the Holy Spirit was given “for the perfecting of the saints” (Ephesians 4:12).

We have traced the doctrine of the filling of the Holy Spirit through the first thousand years of the history of the Christian church, by means of the testimony of her great writers. Many volumes might be filled with the testimony of later writers on the same subject, but space will not permit. Accounts might be given of the confirmation of Constantine the Great, of Pepin, of William, Earl of Surrey, and of many other famous persons, who were prayed for that they might receive the Holy Spirit; but we will close this chapter with an account of the decisions of some of the more important church councils concerning prayer for the Holy Spirit.

ANCIENT CHURCH COUNCILS ON THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT.

THE COUNCIL OF ELVIRA, in the fourth century. Canon 38, decreed concerning anyone baptized in time of sickness, if he should recover: “Let him be brought to the bishop that he may be perfected by the imposition of hands.” The 77th Canon of the same Council says: “The bishop must perfect those (who have been baptized) by his benediction.”

THE COUNCIL OF LAODICEA, in the fourth century, in Canon 48, decreed: “All that are baptized must be anointed with the celestial unction, and be partakers of the kingdom of Christ.”

THE FIRST COUNCIL OF ARLES, A. D. 314, decreed concerning the Arians, that they were not to be rebaptized if they had been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; but “Let them be confirmed, let there be imposition of hands that they may receive the Holy Spirit.” The Second Council of Arles, A. D. 353, made a similar decree concerning Bonosiaci.

THE GENERAL COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE, A. D. 381, in Canon vii., explained how the church received heretics, after anointing them with oil “as a seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

THE COUNCIL OF ORLEANS, in the sixth century affirmed that he who was baptized could not be a Christian, doubtless meaning a mature Christian, “unless he have the unction of episcopal confirmation.”

In a late SYNOD OF BOURGES, curates were commanded to threaten all who were not confirmed, that they should not be allowed to partake of the Lord’s supper or to marry.

THE SYNOD OF PARIS declared concerning confirmation, “If there be an opportunity it must not be neglected.”

THE SYNOD OF SENS said concerning the attitude of Christians toward confirmation: “They are bound to receive it, or at least not to despise it.”

The ancient ritual known as THE ORDO ROMANUS, probably belonging to the fifth century, says: “We must by all means take heed that the rite of confirmation be not neglected, because in that every true baptism is ratified and confirmed.”

THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS, probably belonging to a period about the third century, in Book vii., Chapter 22, prescribe concerning the bishop or presbyter, after baptizing the convert, “last of all, thou shalt sign him with the holy chrism;” which means, with the anointing oil, as a symbol of the filling of the Spirit.

THE COUNCIL OF NEOCÆSAREA, about A. D. 314, and the COUNCIL OF ELVIRA, about A. D. 300, both had canons which forbade the offices of a minister to those who had not received the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands.

THE SYNOD OF RHEMES, while admitting that a person might be a Christian without confirmation, said, “Yet he receives more strength and grace for sustaining and overcoming the temptations of the flesh, the world, and the devil, only by the imposition of the bishop’s hands.”

The laws of the Church of England in King Edgar’s time, about 967 A. D., Chapter 15, commanded “that none should too long put off his being confirmed by the bishop.”  

REFORMED CHURCHES AND THE FILLING OF THE SPIRIT.

We have given abundant evidence to convince any reasonable person that both the Eastern and Western Churches, from apostolic times to the present, have prayed for converts to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; although the prayer has often been in a ritualistic, formalistic, and purely ceremonial way. The ceremony of laying on of hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit has been maintained through all the centuries of the Christian era by the Eastern churches and sects, and by the Roman Catholic church and the early sects in the West. It was a quarrel concerning the anointing oil used in this ceremony which led to the division of the Catholic Church into the Eastern Church and Western Church, which are now known as the Greek Church and the Roman Catholic. For a long period the Greeks obtained anointing oil blessed by the bishop of Rome, who on account of Rome being the leading city of the world was rapidly coming to be recognized as the pope, or father, of all the churches. But when the Latins demanded four-score pounds of gold and some other gifts in exchange for the anointing oil, the Greeks rejected the authority of the bishop of Rome, and began to consecrate their own oil, and since that time the two great churches have remained separate.

When infant baptism became common in the church, infant confirmation and infant communion also became common. In the time of St. Augustine infants received both confirmation and communion after baptism. But they often vomited the wine and bread of the communion, which

were forced into their mouths, and this led the Roman Catholic Church to stop the practice of infant communion, although it is still the rule and practice of the Greek Church. Both the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches decided that it would be better not to continue the practice of confirming little infants, and both those great churches now wait until children have reached the age of accountability before confirming them. ,

The Protestant Churches, formed during and since the great Protestant Reformation, are divided with regard to the practice of confirmation. The Lutheran and Church of England retained the practice, while most of the other Protestant churches rejected it as an empty form, or ceremony, and adopted nothing in its place. Calvin, the great reformer, acknowledged that the custom of praying for converts to be filled with the Spirit was derived from the apostles, and that the Protestant churches ought to have something in the place of it, and yet he seems to have made but little effort to impress the need of it upon the churches with which he had a greater influence than had any other man. In his Commentaries, commenting on Hebrews 6:2, he says, with regard to the laying on of hands in prayer for the Holy Spirit: “This one passage abundantly testifies that this rite had its banning from the Apostles, which afterwards, however, was turned into superstition, as the world almost always degenerates into corruptions. . . . Wherefore the pure institution at this day ought to be retained, but the superstition ought to be removed.” The Quietist movement in the Roman Catholic Church, which centered around the great French woman, Madam Guyon, and the Quaker movement among Protestants, were two great and sincere efforts to make the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches feel the need of being filled with the Spirit and led by the Spirit. Both these great spiritual movements have had a tremendous influence for good in deepening the spiritual life of the churches. Although a firm believer in the outward ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper, the writer cannot but believe that the Lord raised up the Quakers to call the churches away from dependence on outward forms and ceremonies, and to emphasize the thought that “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). After the Quaker, or Friends’ movement, came the great Methodist movement. Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, made a great effort to restore the Bible doctrine of prayer for the Holy Spirit under the name of sanctification. At one time during the life of Wesley, or so he states in his Journals, almost as many people were seeking and claiming entire sanctification as were claiming salvation in connection with the meetings of the Methodist societies.

2016/03/27 23:15 · admin

Girolamo Savonarola

Girolamo Savonarola, of Italy, was one of the greatest Reformers, preachers, prophets, politicians, and philosophers the world has ever known. His public career as a preacher began the same year that Luther was born; and if the sail of Italy had been as congenial as that of Germany to a Protestant Reformation, he instead of Luther might have been the instrument in bringing about that reformation. As it was, Savonarola was the precursor of the Protestant Reformation. By his terrific denunciation of the corruptions of the Roman Catholic Church, he prepared all Europe for the Reformation. His life and teachings had a great influence upon Luther, who acknowledged his indebtedness to him, and spoke of him as “a Protestant martyr.” Not only was Savonarola the herald of the coming reformation, but he did more than any other man to rescue mankind from the abyss of skepticism and corruption into which the world had been plunged by the example of the most degraded and dissolute church which ever bore the name of Christian. Great as her sins and crimes have been, never before the days of the Spanish Inquisition was the Roman Catholic Church so utterly vile and corrupt as in the fifteenth century, when those monstrous criminals the Borgias reigned as popes and cardinals. By his powerful preaching, his profound philosophy, and by the Divine unction resting upon him, Savonarola convinced the masses that religion was not all sham and formalism, and a new day dawned for Christianity and for the world.

Born in Ferrara, Italy, September 14, 1452, Savonarola was the third in a family of seven children — five sons and two daughters. His parents were cultured but worldly people, of moderate circumstances but having great influence at the court of the Duke of Ferrara. His paternal grandfather, who had the training of Girolamo during his earlier years, was an eminent physician at the court of the Duke, and Girolamo’s parents intended him to follow the same profession and to become his grandfather’s successor. But God had chosen another calling for the youth. From his infancy Girolamo had been quiet and retiring. As a child he was neither pretty nor playful, but serious and subdued. At an early age he became a very diligent student, and he afterwards attained great proficiency in the liberal arts and in philosophy. He was an earnest student of Aristotle but the writings of the great Greek philosopher left the deepest longings of his soul unsatisfied. The philosophy of Plato gave him a little more satisfaction; but it was not until he began to study the writings of the great Christian philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas that he found real food for his soul. It was doubtless the writings of that celebrated saint which led Savonarola, at a very early age, to yield his whole heart and life to God; and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas probably continued to influence his life more than any other writings except the Scriptures. He says concerning his visions, “They came to me in earliest youth, but it was only at Brescia that I began to proclaim them. Thence was I sent by the Lord to Florence, which is in the heart of Italy, in order that the reform of Italy might begin.” As a boy his devotion and fervor increased as he grew older, and he spent many hours in prayer and fasting. He would kneel in church for hours at a time engaged in prayer. He was very contemplative, and his soul was deeply stirred by the vice and worldliness he saw on every hand. The luxury, splendor, and wealth displayed by the rich and the awful poverty of the poor weighed heavily on his heart. Italy was the prey of petty tyrants and wicked priests, and dukes and popes vied with each other in lewdness, lavishness, and cruelty. These things brought great sorrow to his young soul which was burning for virtue and truth. Some of the rough impassioned verses of his youth show how deeply his soul was stirred by the evils he saw all around him. Thus, in one of his earliest poems, he speaks of,

 

“Seeing the whole world overset;

All virtue and goodness disappeared;

Nowhere a shining light;

No one taking shame for his sins.”

 

This profound appreciation of the evils around him made Savonarola a sad and sorrowful youth. He talked little, and kept himself retired and solitary. He loved to be in lonely places, in the open fields, or along the green banks of the river Po, and there wandering, sometimes singing, sometimes weeping, he gave utterance to the strong emotions which boiled in his breast. His great soulful eyes were resplendent, and the color of the heavens, but they were often filled with tears. Prayer was his one great solace, and his tears would often bedew the altar steps, where stretched prostrate for hours at a time, he besought aid from heaven against the vile, corrupt, and dissolute age. At one time, in the midst of his deep musings, there came a brief period, so the historians say, when he fell in love with a young Florentine maiden, and began to take a more cheerful view of things in general; but the affair ended in the maiden scornfully rejecting him, because she belonged to the proud Strozzi family and considered that Savonarola’s family was not exalted enough to mate with hers. He resented her arrogance and sought her hand no more. After this little episode of happy delusion, when the magical mist and glamour of love almost blinded him for a time to the evils around him, the mists were dispelled and Savonarola again saw clearly the corruption abounding on every hand. Religious desires again took complete possession of his soul, and his prayers were uttered with daily increasing fervor. Disgusted with the world, disappointed in his personal hopes, finding no one to Sympathize with his feelings, and weary with the sight of constant wrongs and evils which he could not remedy, he decided to enter the monastic life.

It was on April 24, 1475, while his relatives were all away celebrating the festival of St George, that Girolamo stole away across the sunny plain to Bolonga, and applied for admittance to the Dominican convent. The fact that his favorite writer, St. Thomas Aquinas, was a Dominican, probably influenced him to enter that order. He did not ask to become a monk, but only to be a drudge and to do the most menial services in the kitchen, garden, and monastery. He was accepted, and. as soon as he reached his cell he wrote an affectionate letter to his home explaining why he entered the monastery, and begging his parents to forgive him and give him their blessing. He had left behind him at home a paper entitled “Contempt of the World,” in which he described the condition of things as similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even at this time he seems to have had a presentiment that some day God would use him mightily in calling men to repentance.

In the monastery of St. Dominic Savonarola fasted and prayed, and led a silent life, and became increasingly absorbed in spiritual contemplation. His modesty, humility, and obedience surpassed that of all the others. Soon after he entered the monastery he was made lecturer on philosophy to the convent, which position he held during the remainder of the years that he spent there. During this time his fury and indignation against the sins of the Church increased so much that he longed to denounce them, and did so in a poem on “The Ruin of the Church.”

In 1481, after spending seven years in the monastery at Bolonga, Fra (Brother) Girolamo went to the convent of St. Mark’s in Florence, the most beautiful and cultured city in Italy, and the city where he was to become famous. The modem world was then just coming into being, and found its best expression in the great Italian Renaissance of which the De Medici, who ruled Florence, were the principal patrons. The Renaissance, or revival of learning, had affected Florence more than any other city. The De Media had done much to make it a learned and cultured city, and most of the people knew Greek and Latin and could read the classics. Savonarola had high ideas concerning the culture and refinement of Florence, and expected to find the Florentines leading purer and nobler lives than those of other cities; but his hopes were doomed to disappointment. He had yet to learn that only faith in God will save people from sin. Florence was indeed beautiful outwardly, situated as it was in the midst of a rich and verdant valley blossoming with flowers. But Savonarola soon found that beneath their veneer of learning the people were utterly corrupt, and that they were given over to shows, festivals, worldly display, and entertainments. They were dissolute, selfish, pleasure-loving, and had but little thought about God or spiritual things.

Next year after entering the convent of St Mark’s, in Florence, Savonarola was made instructor of the novices, and he was finally raised to the rank of preacher in the monastery. Although the monastery had a splendid library, Savonarola came more and more to use the Bible as his text-book. He was filled with a sense of approaching judgment, terror, and the vengeance of God; and when he was sent to preach in the neighboring towns he sometimes gave vent to these feelings. In Brescia, San Geminiano, and Florence he thundered from the pulpit a thousand woes against the wicked, but his sermons made scarcely any impression. The cultured people of Florence took little heed of the Lombard monk, whose accents were harsh and his periods not daintily formed. In the Church of San Lorenzo, where Savonarola first preached in Florence, there were not twenty-five people in the audience. He made a somewhat deeper impression in the remote villages and towns. His preaching had so little effect, however, he decided to give up preaching and to confine himself to teaching the novices; but as God called Moses from the desert where he had retired to feed sheep, so He called Savonarola from the monastery to preach.

In 1482 Savonarola was sent to Reggio d’ Emilia, to represent his convent in a Dominican chapter-general held in that place. During the first day, while the monks were discussing dogma, he remained silent. But on the second day, when a question of discipline was brought up, he arose and in powerful accents inveighed against the sins and corruption of the church and the clergy. His soul was at white heat, and he spoke with an eloquence which made a deep impression. Returning to Florence, he found it impossible to refrain from preaching, and he began to deliver sermons at the little church of the Murate convent. His sermons, however, still made but little impression on the pleasure-loving Florentines. Fra Mariano, an Augustinian monk, was preaching to immense crowds in the Great Church of Santo Spirito, and the people preferred him to Savonarola. He never rebuked them for their sins; but entertained them with classical quotations, philosophy, astronomy, and poetry; and the whole city was flocking to hear him. This only strengthened the resolve of Savonarola to denounce the sins and vices of the age. “These verbal elegancies and ornaments will have to give way to sound doctrine simply preached,” said he. In prayer and meditation he waited upon God, and yearned for a direct revelation from Him, and it was vouchsafed to him. One day, while engaged in conversation with a nun, he suddenly beheld in a vision the heavens opened, and all the future calamities of the Church passed before his eyes; and he seemed to hear a voice charging him to announce them to the people. From that moment he was convinced of his Divine mission, and was filled with a new unction and power. His preaching was now with a voice of thunder, and his denunciation of sin so terrific that the people who listened to him sometimes went about the streets half dazed, bewildered, and speechless. His congregations were often in tears, so that the whole church resounded with their sobs and weeping. Men and women of every age and condition, workmen, poets, philosophers, would burst into passionate tears. Pico della Mirandola tells of a sermon of Savonarola’s which “made a cold shiver run down his back, and made his hair stand on end.” Savonarola’s ardor for prayer, his faith, and his devotion increased day by day. His companion, Fra Sebastiano, of Brescia, says that Savonarola, when engaged in prayer, frequently fell into a trance, and was sometimes so transported by holy fervor that he was obliged to retire to some solitary place. Some of his biographers relate that on Christmas Eve, in the year 1486, Savonarola, while seated in the pulpit, remained immovable for five hours, in an ecstasy, or trance, and that his face seemed illuminated to all in the church, and that this occurred several times afterward. Savonarola told his friend and biographer, the younger Pico delta Mirandola, that on one occasion while meditating on the text, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord; teach me Thy statutes,” he felt his mind illuminated, and all doubts left him, and he felt more certainty of the things that were shown him than a philosopher did of first principles.

In 1484 Savonarola was sent as Lenten preacher to the little republic of San Gimignano. Here he preached with such power that he returned to Florence with greater confidence in his mission. He retained his post of lecturer to the novices of St. Mark’s until Lent of 1486, when he was sent to preach in various cities of Lombardy, especially in Brescia. Everywhere he went his denunciations of sin awakened much alarm, and his fame continued to spread over Italy. He remained in Lombardy until January, 1489. In a letter to his mother, describing his meetings in Lombardy, he says “When I have to depart, men and women shed tears, and hold my words in much esteem.” In 1489 he returned to Florence, the Lord revealing to him that great things awaited him there. He began to explain the book of Revelation to the friars, in the garden of St. Mark’s convent. But his fame had spread through Florence; and laymen begged for admittance to his lectures. His congregations increased daily until he had to preach from the pulpit of the church. The church was thronged for the first service, and many stood or clung to the iron gratings in order to see and hear the preacher. The voice of Savonarola seemed to have an almost superhuman effect, and the audience was raised to a transport of ecstasy. After that service all Florence spoke of Savonarola, and even the most learned flocked to hear him. By Lent of 1491 San Marco Church had become too small to hold the people, and Savonarola removed to the famous Duomo, or cathedral church of Florence, where he remained during the remainder of the eight years which was the limit, as he predicted it would be, of his preaching in Florence. The people were so anxious to hear him that they arose in the middle of the night, and waited for hours for the cathedral doors to open. They came along the streets singing and rejoicing and listened to the sermons with such interest that when they were finished the people thought that they had scarcely begun. Savonarola seemed to be swept onwards by a might not his own, and carried his audiences with him. Soon all Florence was at the feet of the great preacher; and Lorenzo de Medici, the corrupt ruler of the city, was greatly alarmed. He tried by flattery and bribery, by threats and persuasion, to induce Savonarola to cease denouncing the sins of the people, and especially his own sins. But Savonarola continued his fearless preaching. Then Lorenzo hired Fra Mariano, the once popular preacher, to denounce Savonarola; but his eloquence and rhetoric had no effect on the people, and after preaching one sermon against Savonarola he ceased his opposition.

When Lorenzo was opposing Savonarola, the fearless preacher predicted that Lorenzo, the Pope, and the King of Naples would all die within a year, and so it came to pass. As Lorenzo de Medici lay dying, he thought of the wrongs he had done, and he was in an agony to obtain pardon. He did not look to his own priestly parasites or to Fra Mariano for consolation; but sent for Savonarola, the only preacher who had dared to oppose him. Savonarola said to the messenger, “I am not the person he wants; we should not agree; and it is not expedient that I should go to him.” Lorenzo sent the messenger back, promising to do everything that Savonarola required of him. Savonarola then went to the beautiful villa of Carregi, amid the olive gardens, where Lorenzo lay dying. He was led into the side chamber. “Father,” said Lorenzo, “there are three things which drag me back and throw me into despair, and I know not if God will ever pardon me for them.” These were the sack of Volterra, the robbery of the Monte della Fanciulle, and the massacre of the Pazzi. Savonarola replied, “Lorenzo, be not desponding, for God is merciful and will be merciful to you, if you will do three things I will tell you.” “What are these three things?” asked Lorenzo. “The first is that you should have a great and living faith that God can and will pardon you,” replied Savonarola. “This is a great thing, and I do believe it,” said Lorenzo. “It is also necessary that everything wrongfully acquired should be given back by you, in so far as you can do this and still leave to your children as much as will maintain them as private citizens,” continued Savonarola. These words drove Lorenzo nearly beside himself, but he finally said, “This also will I do.” Savonarola then said, “Lastly, it is necessary that freedom, and popular government according to her republican usage, should be restored to Florence.” At this Lorenzo turned his back to the wall and was silent; and Savonarola went away without absolving him.

A year and a half after Lorenzo’s death, Charles VIII, King of France, invaded Italy, sacked Naples, and then advanced on Florence. Savonarola had long predicted that God would send “a new Cyrus from across the Alps” to punish the people for their sins, and in their extremity the people flocked to the Duomo to hear what Savonarola would say. He urged them to repent of their sins, and went himself to meet the French king and to entreat him to spare Florence. This Charles did very reluctantly, after remaining for some time, and after Savonarola warned him to leave Florence if he did not wish to incur the vengeance of God. For some time the people of Florence debated as to what kind of government they should adopt in the place of that of the De Medici, which was overturned during the French invasion. They could come to no agreement, and then Savonarola deemed it necessary to advise them in his sermons. Through his advice they adopted one of the most advanced and enlightened forms of democratic, or republican, government. A just form of taxation, abolition of torture, laws against usury and gambling, a court of appeal, and abundant provision for the poor, were some of the principal features. The laws and government of the Florentine republic have served as a model to all nations, and have had a mighty influence in shaping the modem world.

The influence of Savonarola in Florence and Italy was now greater than ever. The people of Florence abandoned their vile and worldly books, and read Savonarola’s sermons. All prayed, went to church, and the rich gave freely to the poor. Merchants restored ill-gotten gains amounting to many florins. Even the hoodlums, or street gamins, stopped singing ribald songs, and sang hymns instead. All the people forsook the carnivals and vanities in which they had indulged, and made huge bonfires of their masks, wigs, worldly books, obscene pictures, and other things of the kind. The children marched from house to house in procession, singing hymns, and collecting everything they styled vanities. With these a great octangular pyramid was built in the public square, or piazza. It was formed in seven stages, and was 60 feet high and 240 feet in circumference at the base. A bonfire was made of this amidst the singing of hymns and pealing of bells. This was in 1497.

But the triumph of Savonarola was short. During his first sermon in Florence, he predicted that’ he would only preach there eight years. He also foretold his own martyrdom. Although people from all over Italy flocked to Florence to hear him, until the great Duomo itself would not hold the crowds, his fearless sermons aroused the anger of many, and especially of the corrupt pope, cardinals, and priests. He was threatened, excommunicated, and persecuted; and finally, in 1498, by express order of Alexander VI., one of the vilest of popes, he was burned to death in the public square of Florence, the city he loved so well. His last words were, “The Lord hath suffered so much for me.” Thus perished one of the world’s greatest saints and martyrs. His sermons and books on “Humility,” “Prayer,” “Love,” and other devotional subjects have continued to exert a very wide influence in the world. Although he held to many of the superstitions of the Roman Catholic Church, he was far in advance of the people of his day, and he may almost be regarded as the first great Protestant reformer. He taught that all believers were in the true church, and he continually fed upon the Word of God. The margin of his Bible is covered with notes of ideas which occurred to him while poring over its pages. His sermons are often expositions of the Scriptures from beginning to end, and it was claimed that there was not a text to which he could not turn at a moment’s notice. He knew a great portion of the Bible by heart. He spent whole nights in prayer, and while wrapped in a species of ecstasy real visions and revelations seem to have been vouchsafed to him. He foretold many important events, and all his biographers have marveled at the accuracy of his prophecies.

In appearance Savonarola was of medium height, of dark complexion, and had a high forehead, an aquiline nose, thick lips, and a large mouth. When preaching a Divine light seemed to beam from his eyes and to illuminate his face, his words flowed like a torrent, and he had a voice like thunder. He was very fond of children.

2016/03/27 23:10 · admin

Madam Guyon

Madam Guyon (pronounced Gay-yo), the celebrated French Mystic, was one of the greatest Christian leaders of all time. What Savonarola was to Italy, Madam Guyon was to France. And not only was her influence felt throughout her native land of France, but all over Europe, and throughout the world. Fenelon, John Wesley, and other great spiritual leaders have acknowledge that they were greatly indebted to Madam Guyon for the deep spiritual lessons learned from her life and writings. Although a Roman Catholic, Madam Guyon very much resembled the modern Quakers, or Friends, in her teachings. She has been termed “A Quaker born out of due time;” and Dr. J. Rendel Harris, one of the most eminent Friends, says, “No society has been so influenced by Madam Guyon as the Quakers have been.” She was the center of the great spiritual movement known as “Quietism,” which was perhaps the greatest spiritual movement ever originated within the Roman Catholic Church. In its emphasis of the work of the Holy Spirit, the “Quietist” movement very much resembled the Quaker movement, and the original Friends were often classed as “Quietists” on this account. The name “Quietist” refers to their quiet submission to the will of God and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

As a girl Madam Guyon was religiously inclined, but as a young woman she became a vain, proud, society “butterfly,” with few thoughts about God or the world to come. Living in fashionable Paris as she was, in the corrupt and profligate times of Louis XIV., it was very easy for her to be carried away by the worldliness surrounding her. The rule of Louis XIV., was perhaps the most pleasure-loving, corrupt, and dissolute which ever cursed the sunny land of France; and the great talents and beauty of Madam Guyon, or Mademoiselle De La Mothe as her maiden name was, made her peculiarly susceptible to the influences of fashionable society. But her proud heart was gradually subdued by the destruction of her beauty through an attack of small pox and by the loss of everything that was dearest to her in this world. Her vanity and pride were completely crushed out, and then she became “a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use” (2 Timothy 2:21). Perhaps of no other person except Job could it be said as truly that they were made “perfect through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:10), the sufferings of our Divine Saviour not being considered as the sufferings of a human being.

Jeanne Marie Bouvieres de la Mothe was born at Montargis, France, about fifty miles north of Paris, on April 13, 1648, about a century after the beginning of the great Protestant Reformation. Her parents belonged to the aristocracy of France, were highly respected, and were religiously inclined as were their forefathers for many generations. Her father bore the title of Seigneur, or Lord, de la Mothe Vergonville. In infancy Jeanne was afflicted with a complaint which caused her parents to despair of her life. She rallied, however, and at the age of two years and a half was placed in the Ursuline Seminary in her own town to be educated by the nuns. After a short time she was taken home, where she remained for some time, but her mother left her chiefly to the care of the servants. During this period her education was neglected.

In the year 165 1 the Duchess of Montbason came to Montargis to reside with the Benedictine nuns established there, and she asked Jeanne’s father to allow his little daughter, then four years of age, to keep her company. While in the House of the Benedictines, though earlier in life she had some religious impressions, she was brought to realize her need of a Saviour by a dream she had concerning the future misery of impenitent sinners, and she definitely yielded her heart and life to God, and she even vowed her willingness to become a martyr for God. The nuns pretended that they thought God really wanted her to become a martyr, and made her believe that they were going to put her to death. She said her prayers, and then they led her to a room prepared for the purpose, and caused her to kneel on a cloth they had spread. One of the older girls then appeared as executioner and raised a cutlass over her head. But at this critical moment Jeannie cried out that she was not at liberty to die without her father’s permission. The nuns afterwards told her that she was not willing to die for Christ, and that she had made an excuse on that account. They made the little girl believe that she had denied the Lord, and it brought great darkness over her mind. While with the Benedictines she was generally treated kindly, but her health was very poor and she was again taken to her home, and again left most of the time in the care of the servants. Her two half-sisters had entered the Ursuline Convent, and after she was at home for a short period Jeannie returned to the Ursuline Convent in order to be with them. She was then seven years of age. Her fraternal half-sister took her under her special care, and under her instruction Jeanne made rapid progress in learning and piety.

When Jeanne was eight years of age, Henrietta Maria, Queen of England, fled to her native land of France to take refuge from the Civil War in England. She visited the De La Mothe family, and was so diarmed by the learning and beauty of little Jeanne that she entreated Lord De La Mothe to allow her to take the child with her, promising to make her Maid of Honor to the Princess, but the father would not consent.

At ten years of age Jeanne was again taken home, but in a short time she was placed in the Dominican Convent at the request of the prioress, who seemed to have a great affection for her. Here she remained eight months, and made much improvement, though her health was very poor. Here she found a Bible, which in some unknown way had been left in her chamber. Young as she was she became deeply absorbed in reading it. “I spent whole days,” she says, “in reading it, giving no attention to other books or other subjects from morning to night. And having great powers of recollection, I committed to memory the historical parts entirely.” This study of the Scriptures doubtless laid the foundations of her wonderful life of devotion and piety. After eight months in the Dominican Convent she returned to her home. She purposed to take the sacrament at twelve years of age, but for some time previous she had been very remiss in her religious duties. A feeling of melancholy entered her mind, and she gave up what religious profession and practices she had. Later in life she intimated that her religion at that time was chiefly in appearance, and that the love of God was not at the bottom of it. Her father again placed her in the Ursuline Seminary, and through the influence of her pious and prayerful half-sister she was led to think of “giving herself to God in good earnest.” She partook of the sacrament, but still her heart was not reached.

She grew tall, and her features began to develop into that beauty which afterwards distinguished her. Her mother, pleased with her appearance, indulged her in dress. The world gained full sway over her, and Christ was almost forgotten. Such changes frequently occurred in her early experience. Today she had serious thoughts and good resolutions, and next day they were shattered and gaiety and worldliness filled her life.

A devout young man, a cousin of hers, named De Tossi, was going as a missionary to Cochin China, and in passing through Montargis called to see the family. His visit was short, but it made a deep impression on Jeanne, although she was out walking at the time and did not see him. When told of his sanctity and consecration, her heart was so touched that she cried all the rest of the day and all night. She was touched by the thought of the contrast between her own worldly life and the pious life of her cousin. Her whole soul was now aroused to a sense of her true spiritual condition. She tried to give up her worldliness, to bring herself into a religious frame of mind, and to obtain forgiveness of all those whom she had wronged in any way. She visited the poor, gave them food and clothing, and taught them the catechism, and spent much time in private reading and prayer. She read devotional books like the Life of Madam de Chantal, and the works of Thomas á Kempis and Francis de Sales. She even thought of becoming a nun. But she had not yet learned the lesson of finding peace and rest of soul through faith in Christ. Perhaps God allowed her to go through many struggles and trials to find salvation that she might be the better fitted to teach others the way of salvation through faith after she herself discovered it.

After about a year spent in earnest seeking after God, she fell deeply in love with a young man, a near relative of hers, though she was only fourteen years of age. Her mind was so occupied with thoughts of him that she neglected prayer, and began to seek in him the pleasure she had formerly sought in God. She still kept up religious appearances, but in her heart religion became a matter of indifference. She read romances, spent much time before the mirror, and became very vain. The world thought highly of her, but her heart was not right with God.

In the year 1663 the La Mothe family moved to Paris, a step not calculated to benefit them spiritually. Paris was a gay, worldly, pleasure-loving city, especially in the reign of Louis XIV., and Madamoiselle La Mothe’s vanity swelled and increased, and she and her parents were led into worldliness by the society in which they now found themselves. The world now seemed to her the one object worth conquering and possessing. Her beauty, intellect, and brilliant powers of conversation made her a favorite of Paris society. Her future husband, M. Jaques Guyon, a man of great wealth, and numerous others, sought her hand in marriage.

Although she had no great affection for M. Guyon, her father arranged the marriage, and she yielded to his wish. The wedding took place in 1664. Jeanne had nearly completed her sixteenth year, while her husband was thirty-eight. She soon discovered that the home to which he took her would be “a house of mourning” to her. Her mother-in-law, a woman without education or refinement, governed it with a rod of iron. Her husband had good qualities, and had considerable affection for her, but physical infirmities and sufferings to which he was subject, the great difference between his age and that of his young wife, and the temper of her mother-in-law, made life a burden to the young bride. Her great intellect and sensibilities made her sufferings all the more keen. Her earthly hopes were blasted. She did not know that God had permitted her to be placed under such circumstances for a purpose, nor did she realize His power to alter those circumstances whenever it suited His purposes to do so. But she afterwards believed that everything had been ordered in mercy to call her from her life of pride and worldliness. God seems to have allowed her to go through the furnace fire of affliction that the dross might be purged out, and that she might come forth a vessel of pure gold. “Such was the strength of my natural pride,” says she, “that nothing but some dispensation of sorrow would have broken down my spirit, and turned me to God.” Later, she says: “Thou hast ordered these things, O my God, for my salvation! In goodness Thou hast afflicted me. Enlightened by the result, I have since clearly seen, that these dealings of Thy providence were necessary, in order to make me die to my vain and haughty nature.” Although she ate the bread of sorrow, and mingled her drink with her tears, all these things inclined her mind towards God, and she began to look to Him for comfort in her sorrow. About a year after her marriage a little son was born to her, and then she felt the need of looking to God for his sake as well as for her own.

One calamity after another now befell Madam Guyon. Soon after the birth of her son her husband lost a great part of his enormous wealth, and this greatly embittered her avaricious mother-in-law. In the second year of her marriage she fell sick, and it seemed that she would die, but her sickness was a means of causing her to think more of spiritual things. Her beloved half sister died, and then her mother also. Great as these trials were, they worked for her “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians. 4:17). Bitterly had she learned that she could find rest nowhere except in God, and she now sought Him in earnest and found Him, and never again did she forsake Him.

From the works of Á Kempis, De Sales, and the life of Madam Chantal, and from her conversations with a pious English lady. Madam Guyon had learned much about spiritual things. After an absence of four years, her cousin returned from Cochin China, and his visit was a great help to her spiritually. A humble Franciscan monk felt led of God to visit her home, and he also helped her much in spiritual things. It was this Franciscan who first led her to see clearly the need of seeking Christ through faith, and not through outward works alone as she had been doing. Through his instruction she was led to see that true religion was a matter of the heart and soul, rather than a mere routine of ceremonial duties and observances as she had supposed. With regard to certain words spoken by this Franciscan, concerning salvation through faith, she says: “Having said these words, the Franciscan left me. They were to me like the stroke of a dart, which pierced my heart asunder. I felt at this instant deeply wounded with the love of God — a wound so delightful that I desired it never might be healed. These words brought into my heart what I had been seeking so many years; or rather they made me discover what was there, and which I did not enjoy for want of knowing it.” Later, she says: “I told this good man, that I did not know what he had done to me; that my heart was quite changed; that God was there; for from that moment He had given me an experience of His presence in my soul — not merely as an object intellectually perceived by the application of the mind, but as a thing really possessed after the sweetest manner. I experienced those words in the Canticles: ‘Thy name is as a precious ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love Thee.’ For I felt in my soul an unction, which, as a salutary perfume healed in a moment all my wounds. I slept not all that night, because Thy love, O my God! flowed in me like delicious oil, and burned as a fire which was going to destroy all that was left of self in an instant. I was all on a sudden so altered, that I was hardly to be known either to myself or others.”

Madam Guyon was twenty years of age when she received this definite assurance of salvation through faith in Christ. It was on July 22, 1668. After this experience, she says: “Nothing was more easy to me now than to practice prayer. Hours passed away like moments, while I could hardly do anything else but pray. The fervency of my love allowed me no intermission. It was a prayer of rejoicing and of possession, wherein the taste of God was so great, so pure, so unblended and uninterrupted, that it drew and absorbed the powers of the soul into a profound recollection, a state of confiding and affectionate rest in God, existing without intellectual effort.” Some time later she said to the Franciscan, “I love God far more than the most affectionate lover among men loves the object of his earthly attachment”. “This love of God,” says she, “occupied my heart so constantly and strongly, that it was very difficult for me to think of anything else. Nothing else seemed worth attention.” Later she says: “I bade farewell forever to assemblies which I had visited, to plays and diversions, to dancing, to unprofitable walks, and to parties of pleasure. The amusements and pleasures which are so much prized and esteemed by the world now appeared to me dull and insipid — so much so, that I wondered how I ever could have enjoyed them.”

A second son was born to Madam Guyon in 1667, or a year before she was led into the above remarkable experience; and her time was now occupied in caring for her children, and in visiting and ministering to the poor and needy. She caused many beautiful but poor young girls to be taught a trade, so that they would have less temptation to lead a life of sin. She also did much to rescue those who had already fallen into sin. With her means she often assisted poor tradesmen and mechanics to get a start in business. But she did not neglect prayer. She says: “So strong, almost insatiable, was my desire for communion with God that I arose at four o’clock to pray.” Prayer was the greatest pleasure of her life. Worldly people were astonished to see one so young, so beautiful, and so intellectual, wholly given up to God. Pleasure-loving society felt condemned by her life, and sought to persecute and ridicule her. Even her own relatives did not enter fully into her feelings, and her avaricious mother-in-law sought to make her life more miserable than ever and succeeded to some extent in alienating the affections of her husband and of her eldest son. But trials did not trouble her now as they did formerly, as she now regarded them as permitted of the Lord to keep her humble. A third child, a daughter, was born to her in 1669. This little girl was a great comfort to her, but was destined soon to leave her.

For about two years Madam Guyon’s religious experience continued to be a mountain-top one, and then she was drawn away to some extent into worldly conformity. On a visit to Paris she neglected prayer too much, and conformed too much to the worldly society with whom she formerly associated. Realizing this, she hastened away to her home, outside of Paris, and her anguish for her shortcomings “was like a consuming fire.” During a journey through many parts of France with her husband, in 1670, she also felt many temptations to the old life of worldly pleasure. Her sorrow was so great that she even felt that she would be glad if the Lord, by some sudden stroke of His providence, should take her, out of this world of temptation and sin. Her chief temptations were on the line of worldly dress and conversation. But the reproaches of her conscience were like a fire burning within her, and the sense of her short-comings filled her with bitterness and tears. For three months she did not enjoy her former communion with God. As a result her mind was turned to the question of holy living. She yearned for some one to instruct her how to live a more spiritual life, how to have a closer walk with God, and how to be “more than conqueror” over the world, the flesh, and the devil. Although these were the days of Nicole and Arnauld, of Pascal and Racine, Christians of deep spiritual insight were scarce in France. But in Genevieve Grainger, a Benedictine prioress, Madam Guyon found a friend who helped her much in spiritual things. As already mentioned, she also obtained much spiritual help from reading the works of Á Kempis, Francis de Sales, and the life of Madam Chantal. One day as she was walking across one of the bridges of the River Seine, in Paris, accompanied by her footman, on her way to Notre Dame Church, a poor man in religious garb suddenly joined them and entered into religious conversation. “This man,” says she, “spoke to me in a wonderful manner of God and divine things.” He seemed to know all about her history, her virtues, and her faults. “He gave me to understand,” says she, “that God required not merely a heart of which it could only be said it is forgiven, but a heart which could properly, and in some real sense, be designated as holy, that it was not sufficient to escape hell, but that He demanded also the subjection of the evils of our nature, and the utmost purity and height of Christian attainment.” Concerning the effect of this conversation Madam Guyon says: “The Spirit of God bare witness to what he said. The words of this remarkable man, whom I never saw before, and whom I have never seen since, penetrated my very soul. Deeply affected and overcome by what he had said, I had no sooner reached the church than I fainted away.” Having already felt her weakness and her need of a deeper spiritual experience, and having received so direct a message through the providence of God, Madam Guyon resolved that day, before leaving the church, to give herself to the Lord anew. Taught by sad experience the impossibility of serving both God and the world, she resolved: “From this day, this hour, if it be possible, I will be wholly the Lord’s. The world shall have no portion in me.” Two years later she drew up and signed her historic Covenant of Consecration; but the real consecration seems to have been completed that day when she visited Notre Dame Church. She yielded herself without reserve to the will of God, and almost immediately her consecration was tested by a series of overwhelming afflictions which served to purge out the dross that was in her nature. Her idols were destroyed one after the other until all her hopes and joys and ambitions were centered in the Lord, and then He began to use her mightily in the building up of His kingdom. Her beauty had been the greatest cause of her pride and worldly conformity, and that was the first of her idols to be smitten. On October 4, 1670, when she was little more than twenty-two years of age, the blow came upon her like lightning from heaven. She was stricken with the small-pox, in a most virulent form, and to a very great extent her beauty was destroyed. “But the devastation without was counterbalanced by peace within,” says she. “My soul was kept in a state of contentment, greater than can be expressed. Reminded continually of one of the causes of my religious trials and falls, I indulged the hope of regaining my inward liberty by the loss of that outward beauty which had been my grief. This view of my condition rendered my soul so well satisfied and so united to God, that it would not have exchanged its condition for that of the most happy prince in the world.” Everyone thought that she would be inconsolable. But she says: “As I lay in my bed, suffering the total deprivation of that which had been a snare to my pride, I experienced a joy unspeakable. I praised God with profound silence.” She also says: “When I was so far recovered as to be able to sit up in my bed, I ordered a mirror to be brought, and indulged my curiosity so far as to view myself in it. I was no longer what I was once. It was then I saw my heavenly Father had not been unfaithful in His work, but had ordered the sacrifice in all reality.” The next of her most loved idols to be removed was her youngest son, to whom she was most fondly attached. “This blow,” says she, “struck me to the heart. I was overwhelmed; but God gave me strength in my weakness. I loved my young boy tenderly; but though I was greatly afflicted at his death, I saw the hand of the Lord so clearly, that I shed no tears. I offered him up to God; and said in the language of Job, ‘The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be His name.’ In 1672 her beloved father died, and her beautiful little three year old daughter died the same year. The death of her friend and counselor, Genevieve Grainger, followed soon after, so that she no longer had any arm of flesh to lean upon in her spiritual trials and difficulties. In 1676 her husband, who had become reconciled to her, was taken away in death. like Job, she lost everything that was dearest in this world; but she believed that the Lord allowed all these things for the humbling of her proud heart and will. She saw the hand of God so clearly in them that she exclaimed: “Oh, adorable conduct of my God I There must be no guide, no prop for the person whom Thou art leading into the regions of darkness and death. There must be no conductor, no support to the man whom Thou art determined to destroy to the entire destruction of the natural life.” By the “destruction of the natural life” she meant the destruction of carnality and selfishness.

Great as were the trials already mentioned, Madam Guyon had yet to pass through one of her greatest and most prolonged trials. In 1674 she entered upon what she afterwards called her “state of privation, or desolation,” which lasted for seven years. During all that period she was without religious joy, peace, or emotions of any kind, and she had to walk by faith alone. She continued her devotions and her works of charity, but without the pleasure and satisfaction she had previously felt. She seemed to be left without God, and she made the mistake of imagining that God had really forsaken her. She had yet to learn how to walk by faith instead of by feeling. True joy and peace come from living by faith, without regard to feelings. We are filled with all joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13). But when we look at our feelings and take our eyes off the Lord, then all true joy and peace leave us. Madam Guyon seems to have made this great mistake, and for seven years she kept looking for feelings and emotions before she learned to live above feelings and by simple faith in God. Then she found that the life of faith is much higher, holier, and happier than the life governed by feelings and emotions. She had been thinking more about her emotions than about the Lord, more about the gift than the Giver; but at last her faith rose triumphantly above circumstances and feelings.

Almost seven years after she lost her joy and emotion, she began to correspond with Father La Combe, an eminent Superior of the Barnabite order whom she had been the means of leading into the light of salvation through faith some years previously. He was now the instrument of leading her out into the clear light and sunshine of Christian experience. He showed her that God had not forsaken her as she was so often tempted to believe, but that He was crucifying the self life in her. The light began to dawn upon her, and gradually the darkness was driven away. She appointed the 22d of July, 1680, as a day in which Father La Combe should pray especially for her if her letter should reach him in time, Although he was a long way off, her letter providentially reached him in time, and both he and Madam Guyon spent the day in fasting and prayer. It was a day long to be remembered in her history. God heard and answered their prayers. The clouds of darkness lifted from her soul, and floods of glory took their place. The Holy Spirit opened her eyes to see that her afflictions were God’s mercies in disguise. They were like the dark tunnels which are short cuts through mountains of difficulties into the valleys of blessing beyond. They were God’s chariots bearing her upwards toward heaven. The vessel had been purified and fitted for His abode, and the Spirit of God, the heavenly Comforter, now took up His abode in her heart. Her whole soul was now flooded with His glory, and everything seemed full of joy. She describes her experience as follows: “On the 22d of July, 1680, that happy day, my soul was delivered from all its pains. From the time of the first letter from Father La Combe I began to recover a new life. I was then indeed, only like a dead person raised up, who is in the beginning of his restoration, and raised up to a life of hope rather than of actual possession; but on this day I was restored, as it were, to perfect life, and set wholly at liberty. I was no longer depressed, no longer borne down under the burden of sorrow. I had thought God lost, and lost forever; but I found Him again. And He returned to me with unspeakable magnificence and purity.

“In a wonderful manner, difficult to explain, all that which had been taken from me, was not only restored, but restored with increase and new advantages. In Thee, O my God, I found it all, and more than all! The peace I now possessed was all holy, heavenly, inexpressible. What I had possessed some years before, in the period of my spiritual enjoyment, was consolation, peace — the gift of God rather than the Giver; but now, I was brought into such harmony with the will of God, that I might now be said to possess not merely consolation, but the God of consolation; not merely peace, but the God of peace. This true peace of mind was worth all that I had undergone, although it was only in its dawning.”

In Torrents, describing the experience she now enjoyed, she says: “I had a deep peace which seemed to pervade the whole soul, and resulted from the fact that all my desires were fulfilled in God. I feared nothing; that is, considered in its ultimate results and relations, because my strong faith placed God at the head of all perplexities and events. I desired nothing but what I now had, because I had full belief that, in my present state of mind, the results of each moment constituted the fulfillment of the Divine purposes. As a sanctified heart is always in harmony with the Divine providences, I had no will but the Divine will, of which such providences are the true and appropriate expression.”

In another place she says: “One characteristic of this higher degree of experience was a sense of inward purity. My mind had such a oneness with God, such a unity with the Divine nature, that nothing seemed to have power to soil it and to diminish its purity. It experienced the truth of that declaration of Scripture, ‘to the pure all things are pure.’” Again, she says: “From this time, I found myself in the enjoyment of liberty. My mind experienced a remarkable facility in doing and suffering everything which presented itself in the order of God’s providence. God’s order became its law.”

Madam Guyon’s life was now characterized by great simplicity and power. After she had found the way of salvation through faith, she was the means of leading many in France into the experience of conversion, or regeneration. And now, since she had received a deeper, richer, fuller experience herself, she began to lead many others into the experience of sanctification through faith, or into an experience of “victory over the self life,” or “death to the self life, as she was fond of calling it. Her soul was all ablaze with the unction and power of the Holy Spirit, and everywhere she went she was besieged by multitudes of hungry, thirsty, souls, who flocked to her for the spiritual meat that they failed to get from their regular pastors. Revivals of religion began in almost every place visited by her, and all over France earnest Christians began to seek the deeper experience taught by her. Father La Combe began to spread the doctrine with great unction and power. Then the great Archbishop Fenelon was led into a deeper experience through the prayers of Madam Guyon, and he too began to spread the teaching all over France. So many were led to renounce their worldliness and sinfulness, and to consecrate their lives wholly to God, that worldly priests and professors felt condemned. They then began to persecute Madam Guyon, Father La Combe, Fenelon, and all who held the doctrine of “pure love,” or “entire death to the self life.” Father La Combe was thrown into prison, and so cruelly tortured that his reason became affected. Finally the corrupt and dissolute King, Louis XIV., imprisoned Madam Guyon in the Convent of St. Marie. But she had learned how to suffer, and she bore her persecutions patiently, and grew stronger and stronger spiritually. Her time in prison was spent in prayer, praise, and writing, although she was sick part of the time because of the poor air and on account of other inconveniences in her little cell. After eight months in prison her friends secured her release. Her enemies tried to poison her while she was in prison, and she suffered seven years from the effects of the poison. Her writings were now sold and read all over France, and in many other parts of Europe, and in this way multitudes were brought to Christ and into a deeper spiritual experience through her teachings. In 1695 she was again imprisoned by order of the King, and this time was placed in the Castle of Vincennes. The following year she was transferred to a prison at Vaugiard. In 1698 she was placed in a dungeon in the Bastile, the historic and dreaded prison of Paris. For four years she was in this dungeon, but so great was her faith in God, her prison seemed like a palace to her. In 1702 she was banished to Blois, where she spent the remainder of her life in her Master’s service. She died in perfect peace, and without a cloud on the fullness of her hopes and joy, in the year 1717, at 69 years of age.

Madam Guyon left behind her about sixty volumes of her writings. Many of her sweetest poems, and some of her most helpful books, were written during her imprisonment. Some of her poems were translated into English by the poet Cowper. Some of her hymns are very popular, and her writings have been a mighty influence for good in this world of sin and sorrow. Perhaps her own Christian experience is best described in the following words from her own pen:

“To me remains nor place nor time; My country is in every clime; I can be calm and free from care On any shore since God is there.”

2016/03/27 23:07 · admin

Fenelon

For piety, and talent, and real saintliness of character, few names have ranked so high as that of Fenelon, the celebrated Archbishop of Cambray, or Cambrai, in France. Although the Pope, the King of France, and the greatest literary genius of the period combined and conspired to ruin Fenelon, his sweet Christian spirit and commanding genius triumphed over all and made him one of the most loved of men. Not only in France but throughout the world, his name is today a household synonym for piety. Francois de Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon was of noble birth. He was a younger son of Count Pons de Salignac, a Gascon nobleman, and was born in the Castle of Fenelon, in Perigord, France, in 1651. He was carefully trained at home until twelve years of age, when he was sent to the University of Cahors, and afterwards to the College of Plessis at Paris. His mind was very early turned to the subject of religion, and at the age of fifteen he preached his first sermon. His theological studies were continued at the Seminary of Saint Sulpice, the Principal of which was the celebrated and pious Abbe Tronson, a man renowned for his piety, talents, and learning. Francois became a favorite pupil of Tronson’s, who gave him the most careful intellectual and spiritual training. From Tronson, who is often classed among the great Mystics, he doubtless imbibed many of the views concerning inward Christian experience and real consecration to God which afterward made him so eminent a champion and exponent of the higher Christian life. In 1675, at the age of twenty-four, he was ordained a priest, and for three years he ministered in the parish of St. Sulpice. Before his ordination he was strongly inclined to go as a missionary to Canada or to the Levant, but his uncle kept him from doing so, although he seems to have visited Canada for a brief period.

Early in life Fenelon’s remarkable genius and talents began to display themselves in devotional, philosophical, and educational books and writings. Some of his books on educational subjects are greatly prized even at the present time. The King of France, Louis XIV., was so attracted by the qualifications of Fenelon that in 1689 he was intrusted with the education of the young Duke of Burgundy, grandson of the King and heir apparent to the throne of France. The Duke was very headstrong, self-willed and passionate; but through the instruction and influence of Fenelon he gained the mastery of himself, and would doubtless have been a great and good king had he ever mounted the throne. After serving five years as tutor of the Duke, Fenelon was made Archbishop of Cambray, in 1694.

At a time when he was honored by the King of France, and rapidly rising to fame, Fenelon became acquainted with Madam Guyon, and through her prayers and conversation he was led into a deeper, richer, and fuller Christian experience which made him willing to sacrifice anything in the service of Christ. He had often heard of the piety and talents of Madam Guyon, who was suffering great persecution from members of the Roman Catholic Church on account of her teachings concerning a real crucifixion of the self life and absolute acquiesence in the will of God. While passing through the old home of Madam Guyon, on his return from a mission to the Protestants of Poitou, he made many inquiries concerning her, and heard so much about her piety that he determined to visit her, although he knew that it might cost him the King’s favor and also his reputation and position to do so. No doubt the Lord put it into his heart to visit her under such trying circumstances. He met her first at the village of Beine, at the home of the Duchess of Charost. They conversed for some time on the subject of inward experience, the subject which interested them most. The experience of Madam Guyon made a deep impression upon the mind of Fenelon. Next day he visited her again at the home of the Duchess of Bethune, in Paris. They spent some time in prayer together, but Fenelon was not yet filled with the Spirit, although his eyes were opened to see more clearly what the Lord had in store for him.

During the next eight days a great burden of prayer for Fenelon rested upon the heart of Madam Guyon, and then the agony of soul passed away and she found inward rest. Near the end of this period of travail of soul, she wrote Fenelon a letter dated Paris, November, 1688, telling of her burden of prayer for him and urging him to make a complete surrender of his will to God. In this letter she says: “For seven days past I have been in a state of continual prayer for you. I call it prayer, although the state of mind has been somewhat peculiar. I have desired nothing in particular. But my soul presenting continually its object before God, that God’s will might be accomplished and God’s glory might be manifested in it, has been like a lamp that bums without ceasing.” Later, in the same letter, she says: “It seems to me that the designs of mercy, which God has upon you, are not yet accomplished. Your soul is not yet brought into full harmony with God, and therefore I suffer. My suffering is great. My prayer is not yet heard.

 “The prayer which I offer for you is not the work of the creature. It is not a prayer self-made, formal, and outward. It is the voice of the Holy Ghost uttering itself in the soul, an inward voice which man cannot prevent or control. The Holy Ghost prays with effect. When the inward voice ceases, it is a sign that the grace which has been supplicated has been sent down. I have been in this state of mind before for other souls, but never with such struggle of spirit, and never for so long a time. God’s designs will be accomplished upon you. I speak with confidence; but I think it cannot be otherwise.”

The next day she wrote him again. “So deeply absorbing has been the application of my soul to God on your account that I have slept but little during the past night. And at this moment I can give an idea of my state only by saying that my spirit, in the interest which it feels for your entire renovation, burns and consumes itself within me.

“I have an inward conviction that the obstacle, which has hitherto separated you from God, is diminishing and passing away. Certain it is, that my soul begins to feel a spiritual likeness and union with yours, which it has not previously felt.”

Fenelon was humble in spirit, and hungered for a deeper spiritual experience. Although a giant in intellect, he was willing to learn from a little child. His first great struggle was to be absolutely willing to utterly abandon himself to the will of God; for as Madam Guyon says, “A will surrendered is not always a will abandoned.” Many who have surrendered their wills to God are still anxious to carry out their own plans and ambitions, and are greatly vexed when their plans are thwarted. Fenelon seems finally to have abandoned himself completely to the will of God, but he struggled long before realizing the experience for which his soul was hungering and thirsting. He sometimes met Madam Guyon, and frequently corresponded with her concerning the experience which he so much desired. Finally Madam Guyon wrote him a letter concerning the steps necessary for the entire crucifixion of the life of self. Fenelon seems to have grasped them intellectually very clearly, as we learn from his summary of them in a subsequent letter to Madam Guyon. In this letter he says: “I think, Madame, that I understand in general, the statements in the paper which you had the kindness to send me; in which you describe the various experiences which characterize the soul’s return to God by means of simple or pure faith. I will endeavor, however, to recapitulate some of your views, as they present themselves to me, that I may learn whether I correctly understand them.

“I. The first step which is taken by the soul that has formally and permanently given itself to God, would be to bring what may be called its external powers — that is, its natural appetites and propensities, — under subjection. The religious state of the soul at such times is characterized by that simplicity which shows its sincerity, and that is sustained by faith. So that the soul does not act of itself alone, but follows and co-operates, with all its power, with the grace that is given it. It gains the victory through faith.

“II. The second step is to cease to rest on the pleasures of inward sensibility. The struggle here is, in general, more severe and prolonged. It is hard to die to those inward tastes and relishes, which make us feel so happy, and which God usually permits us to enjoy and to rest upon in our first experience. When we lose our inward happiness, we are very apt to think that we lose God; not considering that the moral life of the soul does not consist in pleasure, but in union with God’s will, whatever that may be. The victory here also is by faith; acting, however, in a little different way.

“III. Another step is that of entire crucifixion to any reliance upon our virtues, either outward or inward. The habits of the life of self have become so strong, that there is hardly anything in which we do not take a degree of complacency. Having gained the victory over its senses, and having gained so much strength that it can live by faith, independently of inward pleasurable excitements, the soul begins to take a degree of satisfaction, which is secretly a selfish one, in its virtues, in its truth, temperance, faith, benevolence, and to rest in them as though they were its own, and as if they gave it a claim of acceptance on the ground of its merit. We are to be dead to them, considered as coming from ourselves; and alive to them only as the gifts and the power of God. We are to have no perception or life in them, in the sense of taking secret satisfaction in them; and are to take satisfaction in the Giver of them only.

“IV. A fourth step consists in a cessation or death to that repugnance whidi men naturally feel to those dealings of God which are involved in the process of inward crucifixion. The blows which God sends upon us are received without the opposition which once existed and existed oftentimes with great power. So clear is the soul’s perception of God’s presence in everything; so strong is its faith, that those apparently adverse dealings, which were once so exceedingly trying, are now received, not merely with acquiescence, but with cheerfulness. It kisses the hand that smites it.

“V. When we have proceeded so far, we may say with a good deal of reason, that the natural man is dead. And then comes, as a fifth step in this process, the new LIFE, not merely the beginning of a new life, but a new life in the higher sense of the terms, the resurrection of the life of love. All those gifts which the soul before sought in its own strength, and perverted and rendered poisonous and destructive to itself, by the seeking them out of God, are now richly and fully returned to it, by the great Giver of all things. It is not the design or plan of God to deprive His creatures of happiness, but only to pour the cup of bitterness into all that happiness, and to smite all that joy and prosperity which the creature has in any thing out of Himself. There is a moral law of happiness, which is as unchangeable as the unchangeableness of moral principles. He smites the false happiness, or happiness founded on false principles, which is only the precursor of real permanent misery, in order that He may establish the true and everlasting happiness, by bringing the soul into perfect communion and union with Himself, and by enabling it to drink the living water from the Everlasting Fountain. And the soul has this new life, and all the good and happiness involved in it, by ceasing from its own action (that is to say, from all action except that which is in co-operation with God), and letting God live and act in it

“VI. And this life, in the sixth place, becomes a truly transformed life, a life in union with God, when the will of the soul becomes not only conformed to God practically and in fact, but is conformed to Him in every thing in it, and in the relations it sustains, which may be called a disposition or tendency. It is then, that there is such a harmony between the human and divine will, that they may be properly regarded as having become one. This, I suppose, was the state of St. Paul, when he says, ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. . .’ Of such a soul which is described as the Temple of the Holy Ghost, God Himself is the dweller and the light.

“This transformed soul does not cease to advance in holiness. It is transformed without remaining where it is; new without being stationary. Its life is love, all love; but the capacity of that love continually increases.”

Although Fenelon had so clear an intellectual understanding of the steps necessary to attain to a life of complete consecration and abandonment to the will of God, it was some time before he obtained the experience described by him in the words just quoted. But finally he seems to have laid hold on the truth with his heart as well as with his intellect, and his whole life and character were completely transformed. He became so great an example of Christian love and piety that his name carries with it a sweet savor of Christ wherever he is known; and this notwithstanding the fact that many attempts are made to justify the Pope’s treatment of Fenelon by disparaging the character of the latter.

It was well for Fenelon that he “put on the whole armour of God,” for he had a great battle to fight on behalf of the doctrine of entire death to the self life which he had espoused. He was to become the greatest champion of the doctrine in the annals of the history of his time. Arrayed against him were the dissolute King, Louis XIV., and Bossuet, the greatest literary genius of his day, and many of the most corrupt among the priests and people of the Romish Church. Madam Guyon’s teachings concerning the interior life had already aroused their opposition when Fenelon took up the gauntlet on her behalf. The doctrine of entire death to the self life, or of pure or disinterested love, was spreading over the world so rapidly that worldly and formal professors of religion became alarmed, and resolved to crush it out. Father LaCombe was thrown into prison and so cruelly tortured that his reason became affected. As already mentioned. Madam Guyon was also thrown into prison, by direct order of the King. Fenelon, who was now foremost in teaching the doctrine of pure or disinterested love, was not thrown into prison, because his influence was so great that even the King feared to imprison him.

Bishop Bossuet the greatest literary genius of the day, wrote a book against the teachings of Madam Guyon and sent it to Fenelon for his approval. The influence and standing of Fenelon were so great that Bossuet knew that his approval of the book would mean much to the masses of the people, and he thought that Fenelon would fear to displease him and the King by withholding his approval. But the book was so personal against Madam Guyon that Fenelon felt he could not give it his approval, and he wrote Bossuet to this effect.

Fenelon knew that he would have to defend himself for not endorsing Bossuet’s book against Madam Guyon. He therefore wrote a great work in reply to Bossuet. It was entitled, “Maxims of the Saints Concerning the Interior Life.” In this work he showed that the greatest and most spiritual saints all down through the ages had believed and taught the interior life of self-crucifixion and pure love. Many of the most eminent saints were quoted to this effect, including St. Francis de Sales, St. Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, Father Alvarez, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bernard, St. Theresa, Dionysius the Areopagite, Gregory Lopez, and many others. Many decisions of ancient church councils concerning the subject were also quoted. There was nothing personal in the book, but it stirred the anger and indignation of Bossuet to see how the people received it. He had been accustomed to swaying the multitudes by his writings, and it was a great trial to him to see that Fenelon’s books were becoming more popular than his own. He had not the sweet Christian spirit of Fenelon, and could brook no opposition. He determined to crush Fenelon at any cost, and for this purpose wrote book after book against him. Great and masterly as were the works of Bossuet, the replies of Fenelon seem to have been still more masterly and decisive, and were certainly written in a more Christian spirit, and public opinion was more favorable towards them. Speaking concerning Fenelon’s victory over Bossuet, Charles Butler, one of Fenelon’s biographers, says: “Never did virtue and genius obtain a more complete triumph. Fenelon’s reply, by a kind of enchantment, restored to him every heart.” Bossuet, finding that he was no match for Fenelon in argument, determined to take the more direct method of appealing to the Pope to condemn his writings as heretical. The Pope, Innocent XII., had been a great admirer of the genius and writings of Fenelon, and had expressed himself favorably towards him. It was a matter of great grief to him that the controversy had been brought to Rome. He did not want to condemn the writings of Fenelon, neither did he wish to offend the King of France or Bishop Bossuet He delayed his decision for many months, and it was only after the most urgent appeals and almost commands from the King of France, that he finally pronounced a mild condemnation on some of the expressions used by Fenelon. The commission of cardinals appointed by the Pope to examine the writings of Fenelon were divided in their opinion concerning them. The cardinals Alfaro, Fabroni. Bouillon, and Gabricellio, and some of less note, took the side of Fenelon. They were men of great learning, and they maintained that the doctrines taught by Fenelon were held by the great and pious men of the church in all ages, induding such illustrious saints as Clement, Cassian, Dionysius, Thauler, Gerson, De Sales, John of the Cross, Saint Theresa, the Bishop of Bellay, and many others. They also claimed that these doctrines were supported both by the Scriptures and by reason. For two years the board of cardinals continued to discuss the question without coming to any decision. Louis XIV., King of France, then became so impatient for the condemnation of Fenelon that he decided to take a step that would intimidate the Pope and cardinals and hasten their decision. For this purpose he banished Fenelon to his own diocese of Cambray, and also began a series of persecutions against the frjends of Fenelon. Urged on by Bossuet, he wrote again and again to the Pope, asking him and almost commanding him to condemn the teachings of Fenelon. Finally, in 1699, the Pope issued his mild condemnation of some of the expressions used by Fenelon, because of the wrong construction which might be placed upon them. But he did not condemn them in the sense in which they were intended by Fenelon.

From the time of his banishment to his own diocese until his death, Fenelon confined his work to the diocese of Cambray, where he was greatly beloved by the people, most of whom were Flemish peasants. Many anecdotes are related concerning his love for these simple country folk. One day, during one of his rural excursions, he met a poor peasant grieving over the loss of a cow. He gave the poor man enough money to buy another cow, but noticed that he was still sad. This was because he was so fond of his cow that he thought there was no other cow like her. Fenelon continued his walk, and found the cow the peasant had lost Although the sun had set and it was quite dark, he drove her back to the peasant’s cottage. Although his revenues as Archbishop of Cambray were considerable, Fenelon spent all in making others happy. During his absence one time, before his banishment to his own diocese, word was brought to Fenelon that his archepiscopal palace at Cambray had burned to the ground and that his fine library was destroyed. His friend, the Abbe de Langeron, seeing him conversing with some friends, thought he had not heard the sad news, and started to break it to him gently. Fenelon, noticing the solicitude of the good Abbe and surmising the cause of it, informed him that he was already acquainted with the news of what had happened. His faith in God and resignation to His will and providence were too great for such a thing to deeply affect him.

For six days before his death, Fenelon listened constantly to the reading of the Scriptures, and the greater part of his last two nights on earth were spent in listening to the reading of his favorite texts. He died January 7, 1715, and was buried in the cathedral at Cambray.

In personal appearance Fenelon was very imposing. “He was a tall, thin man, well made, pale, with a large nose, eyes whence life and talent streamed like a torrent,” says St. Simon, his contemporary and biographer. His educational writings rank so high that they are in great demand even at the present day. His political views were far in advance of his times, and doubtless this was one of the main causes of the King’s opposition to him. His devotional writings, especially his “Letters to Men,” and “ Letters to Women,” rank among the world’s best Christian literature. They will doubtless continue to exert a mighty influence in the building up and deepening of Christian character and experience until the end of this dispensation.

2016/03/27 23:06 · admin

George Fox

Perhaps no other small denomination of Christians has so influenced the world for good as have the Quakers, or Friends. When George Fox, the founder of the Friends’ Societies, began his preaching, the churches everywhere were dead and formal, and when the churches drift into formalism the world drifts into infidelity. A formal church has always resulted in an unbelieving world. The Quaker movement seems to have been raised up of God just in the nick of time to save the church from formalism and the world from infidelity. George Fox, like the ancient prophets, was sent of God to call the church from formalism to a real spiritual worship. Like many other great reformers, he was doubtless an extremist on some lines, but it sometimes seems to be necessary for reformers to be extremists in order to thoroughly arouse the people. We cannot agree with the Friends in discarding the outward ordinances, which seem so clearly taught in the Scriptures and which seem to have been practised by the early Christian church and by the churches all down through the centuries of the Christian era. But perhaps the Lord allowed the Friends to thus discard alt outward ordinances in order the more clearly to direct the minds of the people to the fact that He requires spiritual worship, and not mere forms and ceremonies.

On many great questions the Friends were far in advance of the times in which the movement was founded. They raised their voices clearly against slavery nearly two hundred years before others were brought to see the injustice, cruelty and sin of the traffic in human beings. Another matter in which the Friends were far in advance of others was in their opposition to war. They have probably been more instrumental than amy other body of people in bringing about the present apposition to warfare. The peace and arbitration movements of today doubtless owe their origin to the Quakers more than to any other class of persons. The Friends have also been foremost in freeing woman from the bondage and subjection in which she has been kept all down through the ages, especially in Oriental lands. Believing that Paul’s instructions concerning the subordination of women were only a temporary concession to the prejudice of the age in which he lived, the Friends have encouraged the teaching, preaching, and ministry of women as have no other denomination of Christians, with perhaps the exception of the Salvation Army, which is of more recent origin and whidi may have been influenced by the Friends. From the beginning of the movement the Friends have opposed not only war and slavery of every kind, but they have also done much to secure the abolition of capital punishment for minor offences, imprisonment for debt, and religious persecution of every kind.

It may be said that the reason why the Quakers have been leaders in so many great reforms, and the reason why they have been so prosperous in business affairs, is because their form of worship appeals to and attracts only persons of great reflective power and mental ability, and does not appeal to the masses. While there is some truth in this assertion, we believe that it is also true that the great reason why the Friends were leaders in spiritual thought and business enterprises was because God enlightened and blessed them because of their consecration to His service.

The remarkable thing about the Quaker movement, so far in advance of its times on so many great questions, was that it was founded by a poor and uneducated shoemaker. But many of the greatest leaders, like Bunyan, Moody, and Spurgeon, have been raised up from among the common people. :God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27). George Fox began his preaching without a follower, without belonging to anything, without any special training, without a place to preach in, and without social prestige of any kind. He raised his voice uncompromisingly against all the popular evils of the age, against the formalism of both the established and free churches, and against the religious persecutions for which the King and magistrates were responsible. He was persecuted, beaten, stoned, arrested and imprisoned more freluently perhaps than any other person who ever lived, there are few pages in his large journals which do not contain some reference to his being mobbed, stoned, arrested, or haled before the magistrates. In like manner his followers were persecuted and imprisoned because they opposed so many popular evils and refused to conform to ceremonies and practises which they could not conscientiously perform. It is probable that George Fox and the early Quakers suffered more for conscience sake and the cause of religious freedom, and did more to bring about religious liberty, than did any other class of people since the days of the Reformation. Over and over again they were thrown into prison for not doing things they could not conscientiously do, especially for not conforming to the state church, for refusing to enter the army and navy, and because they would not take judicial oaths. It is estimated that at one time, in the year 1662, no less than 4,500 Quakers were in prison in England and Wales for causes of this kind. But notwithstanding all they suffered for the cause of religious freedom, George Fox and the early Quakers increased in favor with God and man. Prejudice against them gradually died away. People found that they could trust them, and Friends in business were better patronized than any other class of people. Nations are coming more and more to recognize the right to religious liberty and freedom of conscience for which the Friends suffered so much. All over the world today there is talk of abolishing war and settling differences in a judicial and reasonable way rather than by murder and brute force. Thus mighty movements for the advancement of “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” were brought about to a great extent by the humble ministry of a poor English cobbler; just as the world’s most helpful book (the Word of God being excepted), “Pilgrim’s Progress,” was written by a poor illiterate English tinker, John Bunyan.

George Fox, the famous founder of the Quaker, or Friends’, societies, was born in 1624, at Drayton-in-the-Qay, Leicestershire, England. His father, he says, “was a weaver, an honest man; and there was a seed of God in him. The neighbors called him Righteous Christer. My mother was an upright woman; her name was Lago, and she was of the stock of the martyrs.”

Like Savonarola, Fox was solemn and grave even as a child, and was unlike other children around him. At eleven years of age he definitely yielded his heart to God, and ever afterward sought to live an honest, upright life. His parents, who were members of the Church of England, desired to train him in their way of worship, but did not urge him to conform to the Established Church. As he grew up, some of his relatives wished him to become a priest, but others persuaded him to the contrary. He apprenticed himself to a shoemaker, who also dealt in wool and had many sheep. In this position much money went through the hands of Fox, but he says that the Lord’s power was with him so that he “never wronged a man or woman in all that time.”

At the age of nineteen Fox was deeply grieved and shocked at the levity of some professing Christians, one of them being his own cousin, who asked him into a booth at a fair and then began to drink healths. He was so deeply grieved over this that he could not sleep all night, but walked up and down his room praying to the Lord. Even as a young man he was very careful of his conduct and conversation. “For the Lord showed me,” says he, “that though the people of the world have mouths full of deceit, and changeable words, yet I was to keep to Yea and Nay in all things; and that my words should be few and savoury, seasoned with grace; and that I might not eat and drink to make myself wanton, but for health,” etc. In 1643 he became so deeply grieved with the lightness and frivolity of the world that he broke off all companionships with both old and young; and traveled to many strange places to be away from all friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and to be alone with God. He avoided conversing even with professing Christians, “for I was sensible,” says he, “that they did not possess what they professed.” He was in great distress, and strong temptation and despair seized upon him. “ I was about twenty years of age when these exercises came upon me,” says he, “and I continued in that condition some years, in great trouble, and fain would have put it from me. I went to many a priest to look for comfort, but found no comfort from them.” The remedies suggested for his state of mind were—that he should marry; that he should enlist in the army; that he should take physic and be bled; and one priest to whom he described his feelings of despair advised him to use tobacco and sing psalms; “but,” says Fox, “tobacco was a thing I did not love, and psalms I was not in a state to sing.” He was grieved that he had opened his mind to a man who would give such advice. He found his advisers all miserable comforters. One who lived at Tamworth was said to be “an experienced man,” but Fox went to see him and found him to be “ like an empty hollow cask.” Dr. Craddock, of Coventry, to whom Fox went for advice, flew into a rage because the despondent youth accidentally stepped on the edge of his flower bed.

Finding that he could get no help from men, Fox began to look to the Lord alone for help, and slowly the light began to dawn upon him. He was led to see “that being bred at Oxford and Cambridge did not qualify or fit a man to be a minister of Christ.” His eyes were also opened to see that “only those were really believers in Christ who had passed from death unto life.” He now left off going to the Established Church with his relatives. Neither did he go to any of the dissenting churches. He now went out into the fields with his Bible to study it for himself. He also spent much time in fasting and prayer. The Lord showed him many “openings,” as he called them. Among other things, says he, “It was opened in me ‘that God, who made the world, did not dwell in temples made by hands.’” This at first seemed a strange word, because both priests and people used to call their temples or churches, dreadful places, holy ground, and the temples of God. But the Lord showed me clearly, that He did not dwell in those temples which men had commanded and set up, but in people’s hearts; for both Stephen and the Apostle Paul bore testimony, that He did not dwell in temples made with hands, not even in that which He had once commanded to be built, since He put an end to it ; but that His people were His temple, and He dwelt in them.” Fox also claims that the Lord gave him many “openings” concerning the meaning of the book of Revelation. After this, when clergymen or others told him that Revelation was “a sealed book,” he would tell them that Christ could open the seals.

The Lord continued to lead him on from step to step in his Christian experience, but his troubles were not completely removed, although he often felt some degree of peace and joy. He hungered and thirsted for a deeper experience, and the Lord showed him that it was possible for him to have complete spiritual victory. He was led to see that there are two laws controlling men, the law of the flesh and the law of the Spirit, and that through the indwelling Spirit of God the Christian should have “liberty and victory over the flesh and its works.” He now began to win many souls for Christ wherever he went; and in 1647 he began to declare to professing Christians the deep truths which God had been revealing to him. “But the professors were in a rage,” says he, “all pleading for sin and imperfection, and could not endure to hear talk of perfection, and of a holy and sinless life.”

Soon after he began to preach. Fox passed through a remarkable spiritual experience which made him a fourteen days’ wonder to many. A certain man named Brown, while on his death-bed, prophesied many great things concerning Fox. “When this man was buried,” says Fox, “a great work of the Lord fell on me, to the admiration of many who thought I had been dead; and many came to see me for about fourteen days. I was very much altered in countenance and person, as if my body had been new molded or changed. While I was in that condition I had a sense and discerning given me by the Lord, through which I saw plainly that when many people talked of God and of Christ, etc., the serpent spoke in them; but this was hard to be borne. Yet the work of the Lord went on in some, and my sorrows and troubled began to wear off, and tears of joy dropped from me, so that I could have wept night and day with tears of joy to the Lord, in humility and brokenness of heart. I saw into that which was without end, and things which cannot be uttered, and of the greatness and infinitude of the love of God, which cannot be expressed by words. . . . And a report went abroad of me, that I was a young man that had a discerning spirit; whereupon many came to me, from far and near, professors, priests, and people; and the Lord’s power brake forth; and I had great openings and prophecies; and spake unto them of the things of God, and they heard with attention and silence, and went away, and spread the fame thereof.”

After passing through the experience described above. Fox was mightly used of God, and great conviction of sin fell upon the people to whom he preadied. “The Lord’s power began to shake them,” says he, “and great meetings we began to have, and a mighty power and work of God there was amongst people, to the astonishment of both people and priests.” Later, he says, “After this I went to Mansfield, where was a great meeting of professors and people; here I was moved to pray; and the Lord’s power was so great, that the house seemed to be shaken.”

Fox now went about the country preaching wherever he could find an opening. He frequently entered the “steeple-houses,” as he called the state churches.. And when the priest finished speaking he would arise and exhort the people. He often pointed out to them that their meeting-houses were not churches, but that the people who truly believed in Christ were the real church of God. The Friends never call their places of worship churches. They call them meeting-houses. Although Fox, or any other person, had a legal right to speak in the state churches when the priest had finished, so long as the rules of decency and order were observed, his speeches often led to controversies with the priests and others, and this often led to his arrest and frequently to his imprisonment. But as soon as he was set at liberty he began again to speak in the state churches or wherever he could find an open door. No amount of persecution or suffering seemed to dampen his zeal or cool his ardor. Many spiritually minded persons who were dissatisfied with the formalism of the times began to rally around him, and soon Societies of Friends were formed all over the country.

Notwithstanding all he suffered, Fox continued to advance in his own Christian experience, although he sometimes met with times of great temptation and trial. He seems to have frequently had real visions and revelations from the Lord, similar to those of Savonarola. While in a sort of trance or ecstacy, he seemed to discern many deep spiritual truths. “Great things did the Lord lead me into,” says he, “and wonderful depths were opened unto me.” Among other things which he claimed the Lord revealed to him were the medical properties of many herbs. That he really understood the medicinal properties of some herbs seems to be borne out by the fact that so many cures were attributed to the Quaker remedies that they soon became famous. Like Savonarola, Fox seems to have had a number of future events revealed to him. Thus, in 1664, he saw in vision the Lord’s power checking the Westward advance of the Turks. On several occasions, while on the tops of mountains or hills, he had a vision of places in the surrounding country where Friends Societies would be raised up, or where “believers would be gathered” to him. He had a presentiment of the death of Oliver Cromwell just before the great commoner was called from this life.

A remarkable power seemed to accompany the preaching of Fox wherever he went, whether in Britain or America, Germany, Holland, or the West Indies. He usually went about the country on foot, dressed in his famous suit of leather clothes, said to have been made by himself, and often sleeping out of doors or in some haystack. He was ridiculed and persecuted, beaten and stoned, arrested and imprisoned, more frequently perhaps than any other man, and yet the Lord seemed to greatly bless and own his labors. Describing his meetings at Ticknell, England, he says: “The priest scoffed at us and called us Quakers. But the Lord’s power was so over them, and the word of life was declared in such authority and dread to them, that the priest began trembling himself ; and one of the people said, ‘Look how the priest trembles and shakes, he is turned Quaker also.’”

In describing his meetings, Fox often uses words similar to the following: “And a precious meeting there was, wherein the Lord’s power was over all; and the people were directed to the Spirit of God, by which they might come to know God and Christ, and understand the Scriptures aright,” and so on. He also frequently uses words similar to the following: “Much work I had in those days, both with priests and people, concerning their old mass-houses, which they called their churches; for the priests had persuaded the people that it was the house of God; whereas the apostle says: ‘Whose house are we,’ etc. (Hebrews 3:8.) So the people are God’s house, in whom He dwells. And the apostle saith, ‘Christ purchased the church with His own blood:’ and Christ calls His church His spouse, His bride, and the Lamb’s wife: so that this title, church and spouse, was not given to an old house, but to His people, the true believers.”

Describing an occasion when he spoke in Carlisle, Fox says: “The power of the Lord was dreadful among them in the steeple-house, so that the people trembled and shook; and some of them feared that it would fall down on their heads.” Later, he says: “Now I went into the country, and had mighty great meetings. The everlasting gospel and word of life flourished, and thousands were turned to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to His teaching.” At Sutton he spoke to a multitude of people. “A great convincement there was,” says he, “and many hundreds were turned from darkness to the light,” etc. Describing one of his meetings in another place, he says : “I stood a while before I began to speak; after some time I felt the power of the Lord go over the whole assembly; and His everlasting truth and life shown over all.” Thus he went from place to place in Britain and other lands preaching the gospel with wonderful unction and power.

In spiritual matters Fox seems to have had a discernment far in advance of any other person of his day. Thus, while others were contending that the “body of sin” was the natural body, or body of flesh. Fox taught that the natural body was not the “body of sin” or we would not have been commanded to “put it off.” While others called the days of the week and the months of the year by the names derived from heathen gods (Sunday, Monday; and January, February, etc.), the Quakers rejected these pagan names and called the days, “First Day, Second Day,” etc., and the months, “First Month, Second Month,” etc. They waited for the Holy Spirit to move them to speak, sing, or pray; and if no one felt led of the Spirit to take part in the meeting, the meetings were spent in silence and prayer, and would break up without a word being spoken. The early Friends did not use the titles Mr. and Mrs., or Miss, but called each other by their given names, as though they were all members of one great family, as God’s children truly are. Neither did they apply the title of Rev. to their ministers, or leaders, for they had no salaried ministers. In their dress, manners, language, and every other way they displayed a commendable simplicity and avoided extravagance. They seem to have had great power in prayer. Fox tells of cases in which sick people were healed and devils cast out in answer to prayer.

The great secret of Fox’s own power was his faith in God. William Penn, the famous Quaker, wrote concerning him: “But above all, he excelled in prayer. The inwardness and weight of his spirit, the reverence and solemnity of his dress and behaviour, and the fewness and fulness of his words, have often struck even strangers, with admiration, and they used to reach others with consolation. The most awful, living, reverent frame I ever felt or beheld, I must say, was his in prayer.”

In his journal. Fox says: “The Lord had said unto me, ‘If but one man or woman were raised up by His power, to stand and live in the same spirit that the apostles and prophets were in, who gave forth the Scriptures, that man or woman should shake all the country in their profession for miles around.’” This proved to be more than true in his case. He started with scarcely any advantages, and soon influenced the whole world for God. Although he began his preaching with a limited education, without any special training and without special advantages of any kind, he soon had England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales ablaze for God and his influence was powerfully exerted in America and other lands, and his followers are now numbered by the hundreds of thousands. Truly, in him we have an example of how God can use the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.

In personal appearance Fox was a large man, with remarkably piercing eyes. His eyes pierced sinners so that they could hardly endure to have him look at them, and his words were “like a flash of lightning.” A remarkable spirit of discernment seems to have been given to him; so that he seemed to be able to read the characters of men by looking at them. The character of one appeared like that of a fox, of another, like that of a wolf, a serpent, a lion, or a wasp; and so on. His judgment was so clear and his logic so convincing that he seems to have always been able to confound the judges and magistrates before whom he was so frequently arraigned, although that fact did not save him from frequently going to prison for conscience sake. Even the Lord Chief Justice of England and the great Protector, Oliver Cromwell, seem to have been impressed by his arguments against the persecution of the Friends; although it was a long time before they secured exemption from the army and from taking judicial oaths.

The one great object of all George Fox’s preaching and ministry was to turn the eyes of the people away from outward forms and ceremonies, and to direct them to the need of real holiness of heart and life. And such was also the real object of the ministry of Jesus. The entire Sermon on the Mount, all the parables of Jesus, and every word uttered by Him, was for the purpose of showing people that mere outward forms and ceremonies, or outward works of any kind, would not save them. He taught them that they must be pure in heart, meek in spirit, that they must love God and their neighbor, or they would not enter the kingdom of heaven. Neither Christ nor the apostles esteemed good works lightly when they taught that the outward deeds of the law would not save; but their object was to show the people the real need of inward holiness. So the great mission of George Fox and the Quakers was not to depreciate outward forms and ceremonies so much as to emphasize the need of inward purity and righteousness. In doing this they may have set too light a value on the outward ordinances prescribed in the Scriptures, but they accomplished their main object so well that the world owes to them a very great debt of gratitude. In the writings of such eminent Friends as George Fox, William Penn, Robert Barclay, and others, may be found some of the most helpful spiritual teachings outside the Word of God.

2016/03/27 23:06 · admin

John Bunyan

It is not to be wondered at that John Bunyan, the author of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” had a very deep inward experience of the grace of God. Without such an experience an illiterate tinker would scarcely have been able to write the book which has had a greater circulation than any other book except the Bible. Next to the Bible, “Pilgrim’s Progress” is the world’s most popular book. It has been translated into almost every important language, and adapted to the use of children as well as adults, and to the use of Roman Catholics as well as Protestants. “Illustrious dreamer” that he was, John Bunyan did not dream all of his immortal allegory. “Pilgrim’s Progress” is almost as much his own experience as is “Grace Abounding.” The struggles and triumphs of Christian in “Pilgrim’s Progress” represent the real spiritual conflicts and conquests of Bunyan himself, on his way to the Celestial City; and we will first trace the history of his spiritual experiences as recorded in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and then as recorded in “Grace Abounding.”

In “Pilgrim’s Progress” Christian is first seized with conviction. He then leaves the City of Destruction, struggles through the Slough of Despond, endeavors to find help at Mr. Legality’s, and then enters the Wicket Gate, after which his burden rolls away at the foot of the Cross. After entering the Wicket Gate he is shown by Interpreter some of the things that he will meet with on his way to the Celestial City. “Then he took him by the hand,” says the narrative, “and led him into a very large parlor that was full of dust, because never swept: the which after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, ‘Bring hither water, and sprinkle the room;’ the which when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

“Then said Christian, ‘What meaneth this?’

“The Interpreter answered, ‘This parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel: the dust is the original sin, and inward corruptions, that have defiled the man. He that began to sweep at first is the Law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas thou sawest, that as soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about, that the room could not by him be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith: this, is to shew thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working; from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it; for it doth not give power to subdue.

“‘Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure, this is to shew thee, that when the Gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust, by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of Glory to inhabit.’”

Again, Christian is shown by Interpreter that the fire of God’s grace will “burn higher and hotter” in the human heart, no matter how much water Satan casts upon it, when the oil of grace (the Holy Spirit) is continually feeding the flame. This is shown by a fire which burns higher and hotter although a man (representing Satan) is constantly throwing water on it. The fire is next to a wall, and hidden by the wall is a man (representing the Holy Spirit) who is constantly feeding the fire with oil.

When Christian leaves the house of Interpreter, the latter says, “The Comforter be always with thee, good Christian, to guide thee in the way that leads to the city!”

During his pilgrimage Christian meets with many enemies and difficulties, and with many friends and blessings. At length he reaches the Palace Beautiful, where he is much instructed in the things of God by Piety, Prudence, and Charity. He sleeps all night in the Chamber of Peace, and next morning gets a glimpse of Immanuel’s Land. “When the morning was up, they had him to the top of the house, and bid him look south: so he did; and behold, at a great distance, he saw a most pleasant mountainous country, beautified with woods, vineyards, fruits of all sorts, flowers also, with springs and fountains, very delectable to behold. Then he asked the name of the country. They said it was Immanuel’s Land. ‘And it is as common,’ said they, ‘as this hill is, to and for all Pilgrims; and when thou comest there, from thence thou mayest see to the gate of the Celestial City, as the shepherds that live there will make appear.’” Christian is very anxious to reach the beautiful land, and after they clothe him with armor he sets out upon his journey.

Until he reaches the Palace Beautiful Christian has no armor or weapons, just as spiritual babes have not “put on the whole armor of God.” But when he has courage enough to pass the great lions and enter the palace. Piety, Prudence, and Charity clothe him with armor from head to feet, just as they will lead other Christians to put on the full armor of God by being “filled with the Spirit.” The narrative says, “The next day they took him, and had him into the Armory, where they showed him all manner of furniture, which the Lord had provided for Pilgrims, as sword, shield, helmet, breast-plate, all-prayer, and shoes that would not rear out. And there was here enough of this to harness as many men for the service of their Lord, as there be stars in heaven for multitude.” Christian’s departure is thus described: “Now he bethought himself of setting forward, and they were willing he should. ‘But first,’ said they, ‘let us go again into the Armory’ so they did, and when he came there, they harnessed him from head to foot, with what was proof, lest perhaps he should meet with assaults in the way.” It was well that they did so, for Christian had many conflicts awaiting him, and he would scarcely have reached the Celestial City had he not been clad in spiritual armor at the Palace Beautiful. As it was, he was almost slain in his great battle with Apollyon.

After many trials and conflicts Christian arrives at Vanity Fair, through which all pilgrims must pass on their way to the Celestial City. Here the worldly people did not understand Christian and his friend Faithful. “And as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said, they naturally spoke the language of Canaan, but they that kept the Fair were men of this world.” The merchants of Vanity Fair are greatly amused as well as displeased because “the Pilgrims set very light by all their wares, they cared not so much as to look upon them.” This causes a mighty uproar among the people of Vanity Fair, and the Great One of the Fair has the pilgrims arrested at their trial Christian and Faithful state that “they were pilgrims and strangers in the world, and that they were going to their own country, which was heavenly Jerusalem.” The men of Vanity Fair conclude that they are insane, and shut them up in an iron cage, but their peaceable and pious behavior wins friends for them even in Vanity Fair. These friends try to stop the baser men from persecuting the pilgrims, and tell them that there are many wicked men who ought to be punished instead of these pilgrims. A quarrel ensues, and the two pilgrims are blamed for the disturbance. A second trial takes place, before Judge Hategood. Envy testifies that Faithful “doth all he can to possess all men with certain of his disloyal notions, which he, in general, calls principles of holiness. And, in particular, I heard him once myself affirm, that Christianity and the customs of our town of Vanity were diametrically opposite, and could not be reconciled.” Superstition also witnesses against him; and finally Pickthank testifies, among other things, that Faithful “hath railed on our noble Prince Beelzebub, and hath spoken contemptibly of his honorable friends, whose names are the Lord Oldman, the Lord Carnal Delight, the Lord Luxurious, the Lord Desire of Vain Glory, my old Lord Letchery, Sir Having Greedy, with all the rest of the nobility.”  Faithful is condemned to death by the jury, whose names are Mr. Blindman, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light, and Mr. Implacable.

Christian escapes, and continuing on his way is joined by Hopeful. They are led aside by Vain-confidence, and leave the King’s highway, or “the Way of Holiness,” as Bunyan calls it in his description of the encounter between Christian and Apollyon. Giant Despair seizes them, and throws them into the dungeon of Doubting Castle, where they almost perish. But Christian finally opens the prison door with the key of Promise, and he and Hopeful find their way back to the King’s highway. They continue their journey and soon reach the Delectable Mountains, where they enjoy the richest blessings of Immanuel’s Land. From these mountains they obtain a glimpse of the Celestial City. They eat and drink freely of the best that “the gardens and orchards, the vineyards and fountains of water” afford. Greatly refreshed, they continue their journey. After traveling for some time in the highway, they are again led aside, and snared in the net of Flatterer. A Shining One delivers them, and leads them back to the narrow way.

Journeying on their way they enter Beulah-land, in which country they continue to the end of their pilgrimage. Bunyan describes the Beulah-land experience in the following words: “Now I saw in my dream, that by this time the Pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Beulah (Isaiah 62:4), whose air was very sweet and pleasant, the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season; yea, here they heard continually the singing of the birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land (Canticles 2:12). In this country the sun shineth night and day; wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting-castle. Here they were within sight of the City they were going to; also here they met some of the inhabitants thereof; for in this land the Shining Ones commonly walked, because it was on the borders of Heaven. In this land also the contract between the bride, and the bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, ‘as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so doth their God rejoice over them’ (Isaiah 62: 5). Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage (Isaiah 62:8, 9). Here they heard voices from out of the city; loud voices, saying, ‘Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh, behold his reward is with him!’ (Isaiah 62:11, 12). Here all the inhabitants of the country called them ‘the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord; sought out,’ etc.

“Now as they walked in this land they had more rejoicing than in parts more remote from the kingdom to which they were bound; and drawing near the City they had yet a more perfect view thereof. It was builded of pearls and precious stones, also the streets thereof were paved with gold; so that, by reason of the natural glory of the city, and the reflection of the sun-beams upon it, Christian with desire fell sick. Hopeful also had a fit or two of the same disease; wherefore here they lay by it a while, crying out, because of their pangs, ‘If you see my beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.’

“But being a little strengthened, and better able to bear their sickness, they walked on their way, and came yet nearer and nearer, where were orchards, vineyards, and gardens, and their gates opened into the highway. Now, as they came up to these places, behold the Gardener stood in the way; to whom the Pilgrims said, ‘Whose goodly vineyards and gardens are these?’ He answered, ‘They are the King’s, and are planted here for His own delight, and also for the solace of Pilgrims.’ So the Gardener had them into the vineyards, and bid them refresh themselves with the dainties (Deuteronomy 23:24), he also showed them there the King’s walks and the arbours where He delighted to be; and there they tarried and slept

“Now I beheld in my dream that they talked more in their sleep at this time, than ever they did in all their journey; and being in a muse thereabout, the Gardener said even to me, ‘Wherefore musest thou at the matter? It is the nature of the fruit of the grapes of these vineyards to go down so sweetly, as to cause the lips of them that are asleep to speak (Canticles 7:9).

“So I saw that, when they awoke, they addressed themselves to go up to the City. But, as I said, the reflection of the sun upon the city (for the City was pure gold, Revelation 21:28) was so extremely glorious, that they could not, as yet, with open face, behold it, but through an instrument made for the purpose (2 Corinthians 3:18). So I saw that, as they went on, there met them two men in raiment that shone like gold, also their faces shone as the light. These angels accompanied the Pilgrims (because of their faith) until they reached the river of Death and crossed it to the Celestial City.”

Having traced the deeper spiritual experiences of Bunyan in allegory, as related in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” we will briefly state in plain words how his burden rolled away at the foot of the cross, and how he reached a Beulah-land experience.

He was born in the village of Elstow, England, in 1628; “of a low inconsiderable generation,” to use his own words. He probably refers to the fact that he was born and bred to the profession of a tinker, or mender of pots and kettles, as was his father before him. This profession, in those days, was carried on principally by Gypsies, and for that reason some have supposed that Bunyan was of Gypsy descent. He received some schooling when a boy, but claims to have forgotten most of it before his conversion. He served his apprenticeship and learned his trade in Bedford. His parents seem to have given him religious counsel and advice, but he was a very wicked boy. He says, “I had but few equals, (especially considering my years, which were tender, being few) both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the name of God.

“Yea, so settled and rooted was I in these things, that they became a second nature to me. The which, as I also have with soberness considered since, did so offend the Lord, that even in my childhood He did scare and affright me with fearful dreams, and did terrify me with dreadful visions. For often after I had spent this and the other day in sin I have in my bed been greatly afflicted while asleep, with the apprehensions of devils and wicked spirits, who still, as I then thought, laboured to draw me away with them; of which I could never be rid.” Thoughts about hell and the judgment day also greatly troubled him. “These things,” he says, “when I was but a child, but nine or ten years old, did so distress my soul, that then in the midst of my many sports and childish vanities, amidst my vain companions, I was often much cast down and afflicted in my mind therewith, yet could I not let go sins.”

Later, he says: “A while after these terrible dreams did leave me, which also I soon forgot; for my pleasures did quickly cut off the remembrance of them, as if they had never been. Wherefore with more greediness, according to the strength of nature, I did set loose the reins to my lust, and delighted in all transgression against the law of God  so that, until I came to the state of marriage, I was the very ringleader of all the youth that kept me company, in all manner of vice and ungodliness.” Describing this period of his life, he also says, “In these days, the thoughts of religion were grievous to me. I could neither endure it myself, nor that any other should.” But he did not like to see professed Christians sin. “ Yet this I well remember,” says he, “ that though I could myself sin with the greatest delight and ease, and also take pleasure in the vileness of my companions; yet, even then, if I have at any time seen wicked things by those who professed godliness, it would make my spirit tremble.”

Twice he barely escaped drowning, once he came very nearly being bit by a poison adder, and a man who took his place in the army was killed while on sentinel duty; but God mercifully preserved Bunyan’s life. “Here,” says he, “were judgments and mercy, but neither of them did awaken my soul to righteousness; wherefore I sinned still, and grew more and more rebellious against God, and careless of mine own salvation.

“Presently after this (when he was about twenty years of age), I changed my condition into a married state; and my mercy was to light upon a wife, whose father was counted godly. This woman and I, though we came together as poor as poor might be (not having so much household stuff as a dish or a spoon betwixt us both), yet this she had for her part. The Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven, and The Practice of Piety, which her father had left her when he died. In these books I should sometimes read with her, wherein I also found some things that were somewhat pleasing to me; (but all this while I met with no conviction). She also would be often telling of me, what a godly man her father was, etc. Wherefore these books with this relation, though they did not reach my heart to awaken it about my soul and sinful state, yet they did beget within me some desires to religion; so that, because I knew no better, I fell in very eagerly with the religion of the times; to wit, to go to church twice a day, and that too with the foremost; and there should very devoutly say and sing as others did, yet retaining my wicked life.” At this time he had great reverence for the clergy, their vestments, the Liturgy, and all that belonged to the worship of the Church of England. “But all this while,” says he, “I was not sensible of the danger and evil of sin. I was kept from considering that sin would damn me, what religion soever I followed, unless I was found in Christ.” Finally, his pastor preached a sermon against the popular sins and vices with their fearful consequences, which awakened Bunyan’s conscience for the first time to the evil nature of sin. But, on returning home, he soon forgot the sermon. “I shook the sermon out of my mind,” says he, “and to my old custom of sports and gaming I returned with great delight.” The same Sunday, however, while he was playing a game of cat, the conviction returned with such power that he stood still for a while before all the players, none of whom knew what was passing in his mind. After a few minutes spent in silent thought, he concluded that he had gone too far in sin to ever find salvation, and he determined to get what comfort he could out of sin. He says, “Now therefore I went on in sin with great greediness of mind, still grudging that I could not be satisfied with it as I would. But one day, as I was standing in a neighbour’s shop-window, and there cursing and swearing, and playing the madman, after my wonted manner, there sat within the woman of the house and heard me; who though she was a very loose and ungodly wretch, yet protested that I swore and cursed at that most fearful rate, that she was made to tremble to hear me; and told me further, That I was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that ever she heard in all her life; and that I, by thus doing, was able to spoil all the youth in a whole town, if they came in my company.” This well-merited rebuke had a sobering influence on Bunyan. He left off swearing, and a friend’s conversation led him to read the Bible. This led to some outward reformation, and then he imagined that he “pleased God as well as any man in England.” Even his dancing was given up, and for about a year he continued to live a better outward life, to the great surprise of his neighbors; but he had not yet found peace and rest and joy through faith in Christ. “But upon a day the good providence of God did cast me to Bedford, to work upon my calling;” says he, “and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God.” These three women are described in “Pilgrim’s Progress” under the allegory of the three princesses at the Palace Beautiful. Bunyan’s conversations with them opened his eyes to see that he had been trusting in his own outward works for salvation instead of in the Lord Jesus Christ. He saw that these poor women were basking in the sun on the mountain top of Christian experience, while he was “shivering and shrinking in the cold, afflicted with frost, snow and dark clouds.” He now tried to look to Christ for salvation, but like Lorenzo Dow and many others was plunged into fearful despondency and despair by the thought that he might not be one of God’s elect. He imagined that God had reprobated him to be lost; and for weeks and months he was in so great agony that he could scarcely endure it. The three Christian women he had met introduced him to Mr. Gifford, the Baptist minister in the place. Mr. Gifford took a great interest in him, but probably never dreamed that Bunyan would be his successor. Mr. Gifford, no doubt, is the Evangelist of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” who points Christian to the wicket gate; but Bunyan was for a whole year in the Slough of Despond before he finally reached the wicket gate, and before his burden rolled away at the foot of the cross. During that time, although he was in awful despair, his conscience was so tender with regard to sin that he “durst not take a pin, or a stick, though but so big as a straw,” or do the least thing that he considered wrong. But the thought that he was reprobated to be lost made him wish that he had never been born.

He found peace and joy in Christ one evening as he sat by the fireside, musing on his miserable condition. The Lord brought Hebrews 2:14, 15 vividly to his mind. “I thought,” says he, “that the glory of these words was then so weighty on me that I was, both once and twice, ready to swoon away; yet not with grief and trouble, but with solid joy and peace.” Later on he says, “But, oh! now, how was my soul led from truth to truth by God! Even from the birth and cradle of the Son of God to His ascension and second coming from heaven to judge the world.” His love for Christ now seemed to burn as “hot as fire.” After continuing for some time to enjoy peace and rest of soul, he had a great conflict, represented by the fight with Apollyon in Pilgrim’s Progress. Temptations to sell Christ for trifles came into his mind, and he imagined that he had actually yielded to them, and that Christ had forsaken him. “Nothing now for two years together would abide with me but damnation and an expectation of damnation,” says he. He felt that he had committed a worse sin than David, or Judas, or Peter, and that he had sinned against the Holy Ghost. So great was his despair, he found it hard to pray. “Then I was struck into a very great trembling,” says he, “insomuch that at sometimes I could, for whole days together, feel my very body, as well as my mind, to shake and totter under the sense of die dreadful judgment of God, that should fall on those who have sinned that most fearful and unpardonable sin. I felt such a clogging and heat at my stomach, by reason of this my terror, that I was especially at some times, as if my breast bone would have split asunder.” But with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” he at last gave Satan such a deadly thrust that he left him. Like Job, Paul, Madam Guyon, and others, Bunyan went through fiery trials; and then the Scriptures, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin,” and “ My grace is sufficient for thee,” brought sweet peace to his soul.

Bunyan’s complete deliverance from his dreadful doubts and despair came one day while he was passing through a field. Suddenly the sentence fell upon his soul, “Thy righteousness is in heaven.” By the eye of faith he seemed to see Jesus, his righteousness, at God’s right hand. He says, “Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed; I was loosed from my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful Scriptures of God left off to trouble me! now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God.” On reaching home he tried to find the text, “Thy righteousness is in heaven,” and was somewhat discouraged to find that it was not in the Scriptures. But his joy was restored and deepened when he found the similar text, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Bunyan still had many conflicts and trials, but after the above experience he seems to have been passing through Beulah Land. Sometimes he was so overwhelmed with the sense of God’s grace and power that he could hardly bear up under it He soon began to preach in little meetings, and people were deeply convicted of sin and wept tears of penitence. The Lord gave him “an awakening word,” and so many were brought to Christ under his preaching that he was astonished that the Lord should thus use him. He became very famous as a preacher, but his plain speaking roused much opposition. The story of his twelve years’ imprisonment for holding meetings separate from the Established Church of England, and of the writing of his famous books while in prison, does not belong to a narrative of this kind. He had only the Bible and Fox’s “Book of Martyrs” with him in prison when he wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress.” He was frequently allowed his liberty, and sometimes used it in preaching the Gospel. After his release he traveled and preached in many places, and was so popular that he was nicknamed “Bishop Bunyan.” King Charles was surprised that the learned Dr. Owen would go to hear “an illiterate tinker” preach. “I would gladly give up all my learning for that tinker’s power of preaching,” said Dr. Owen. Being told one time that he had preached a grand sermon, Bunyan replied, “Aye, you have no need to tell me that; for the devil whispered it to me before I was well out of the pulpit.” He became one of England’s most famous men; but in the midst of his religious activity he was smitten with a fever while on an errand of mercy, and died August 31, 1688. He was buried in Bunhill Fields, London’s famous Non-Conformist cemetery, where tens of thousands of people have visited his grave.

2016/03/27 23:04 · admin

John Wesley

The life and teachings of John Wesley, the famous founder of Methodism, have probably had a greater influence than those of any other man since the days of the apostles in deepening the spiritual life of the present time. The Introduction to the Methodist book of Discipline states that Methodism was raised up under God “for the spread of Scriptural holiness.” Like a mighty conflagration it swept over the world until in less than two centuries it numbered more adherents than almost any other Protestant church. The secret of its success was partly owing to the fact that its theology presented a less fatalistic view of salvation than did that of the Old School Calvinism so common among other Protestant denominations; but it probably owed its success still more to the deep spiritual experiences of the Wesleys and the other early Methodist preachers, many of whom were so anointed with the Holy Spirit’s power that multitudes were brought under conviction of sin while listening to their earnest sermons and exhortations. People often trembled and shook, and many were even stricken down in the meetings, under the overwhelming sense of their sins received under the preaching of these men of God.

Wesley’s great-grandfather his grand-father, and his father were all clergymen in the Church of England, in which church Wesley was himself an ordained minister and remained such until his death, the Methodist Societies in Britain not having become an independent church until 1791, or two years after he died. Susannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, was the daughter of the great Dr. Annesley, the “St. Paul of Non-Conformity.” Her grandfather, as well as her father, were ministers of the gospel, and she was herself famous for her piety and prudence. John Wesley was born at Epworth, in Lincolnshire, England, on June 17, 1703, and was the fifteenth in a family of nineteen children, of whom only ten survived the period of infancy. At the age of six John himself was barely rescued from the flames when his father’s rectory burned down.

Wesley’s mother was very careful in the training of the children, and they were all brought up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” They also received a good secular education. John was educated at the Charter House School, in London, until he was seventeen years of age, at which time he was sent to Christ Church College, Oxford University. He was a diligent student and made great progress in his studies. At the age of twenty-three his accomplishments in the classics were so great that he was elected Fellow of Lincoln College, and was also chosen as moderator of classes, and the following year he was made a Master of Arts. Before leaving Oxford University he seems to have become proficient in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, and logic, and he afterwards obtained a knowledge of German.

Wesley followed the pious advice of his father and mother until after he was ten years of age, without consciously disobeying them in any way. “The next six or seven years were spent at school,” says he, “where, outward restraints being removed, I was much more negligent than before, even to outward duties, and almost continually guilty of outward sins, which I knew to be such, though they were not scandalous in the eyes of the world. However, I still read the Scriptures, and said my prayers, morning and evening.” He relied for salvation on these outward acts, and on church-going, and also on the fact that he was not as bad as others. After going to Oxford, for about five years, he constantly did things that he knew were sinful in the sight of God; but he still continued to pray, read his Bible, and go to church. At about twenty-two years of age his eyes were opened to some extent by reading the works of Thomas à Kempis, and he began to see that true religion had to do with the heart, and not with outward actions only. “I was, however, angry at Kempis for being too strict,” says he. But he also says: “Yet I frequently had much sensible comfort in reading him, such as I was an utter stranger to before; and meeting likewise with a religious friend, which I never had till now, I began to alter the whole form of my conversation, and to set in earnest upon a new life.” Dr. Taylor’s book, “Holy Living and Dying,” made a still deeper impression upon him, and his life became a very sincere one.

Wesley’s friends now urged him to be ordained, and in 1725, in his twenty-second year, after much prayer and consideration, he was ordained by Bishop Potter. In 1727 he read Mr. Law’s “Christian Perfection” and “Serious Call,” and these books made him resolve more than ever to be wholly the Lord’s. The writings of Mr. Law seem to have influenced his life more than any other writings outside the Scriptures, just as the works of Aquinas influenced the life of Savonarola. It was probably Mr. Law’s books, more than any other human cause, which led Wesley to start the Methodist Societies. In a letter to Mr. Morgan, written in later years, he thus describes the founding of the first Methodist Society: “In November, 1729, at which time I came to reside at Oxford, your son, my brother, myself and one more, agreed to spend three or four evenings a week together. Our design was to read over the classics, which we had before read in private on common nights, and on Sunday some book on divinity. In the summer following Mr. M. told me he had called at a gaol, to see a man who was condemned for killing his wife; and that, from a talk he had with one of the debtors, he verily believed it would do much good, if any one would be at the pains of now and then speaking with them. This he so frequently repeated, that on the 24th of August, 1730, my brother and I walked with him to the castle. We were so well satisfied with our conversation there, that we agreed to go thither once or twice a week; which we had not done long, before he desired me to go with him to see a poor woman in the town who was sick. In this employment too, when we came to reflect upon it, we believed it would be worth while to spend an hour or two in a week, provided the minister of the parish, in which such persons were, were not against it.” In this humble manner the first Methodist society was formed, and the great founder of Methodism was thus led to engage in active Christian service. The society thus formed increased in numbers, and when Whitefield joined them there were fifteen members. They soon earned the nickname of the “Holy Club,” and finally of “Methodists.” It is remarkable that God brought together in this little group two of the world’s greatest preachers and one of the greatest hymn-writers — John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Charles Wesley. The society continued its good work until 1735, when Wesley left the University.

In 1735 John and Charles Wesley sailed for America, intending to become missionaries to the American Indians. On the vessel were a number of Moravian missionaries, and their pious conduct so deeply impressed Wesley that he began to study German so that he would be able to converse with them. A great storm arose, and while the English were screaming and in great distress, and Wesley’s heart failed him, the Moravians calmly and joyfully united in prayer and praise. Conversations with these godly people during the voyage, and in Georgia, led the Wesleys to doubt their own conversion to Christ.

The Wesleys seem to have accomplished very little in Georgia. They tried to bring the people to their own high standard of living, and preached against the popular sins with such directness and personality as to provoke much opposition, and they finally deemed it wise to return to England. Charles returned first and John soon followed. He says: “I shook off the dust of my feet, and left Georgia, after having preached the gospel there (not as I ought, but as I was able) one year and nearly nine months.” During the voyage home, he wrote, “I went to America to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me!” He reached England the day after Whitefield sailed for America. He preached in England in many places, but the results, as a rule, were not remarkable or encouraging. Much opposition was provoked and but little blessing seemed to attend his preaching. He conversed much with Peter Bohler and other Moravians, and was surprised when they proved to him that almost all the conversions to Christ mentioned in the Bible were instantaneous. He now began to see that people do not grow into salvation, but that they are justified by faith the moment they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was from the Moravians that the Methodists learned the doctrine of instantaneous conversion, regeneration, or justification by faith. At first Charles Wesley opposed what he called “the new doctrine,” but he was soon convinced of his error, and in May, 1738, through simple faith in Christ, he found a joy he had never known before. The news that Charles bad obtained joy and peace in believing greatly deepened John Wesley’s desire for a real assurance of salvation. After a ten years’ struggle to find peace and rest in Christ, the light began to dawn upon him on May 24, 1738. In the morning of that day his eyes fell upon 2 Peter 1 4, and then on the words, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” During the day he was on the verge of receiving rest and joy through faith in Christ. “In the evening,” says he, “I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

The same year that he obtained this blessing through faith in Christ, he visited the Moravian settlement of Hernhuth, on Count Zinzendorf’s estate, in Germany. This visit greatly strengthened his faith, and he returned to England to preach with a new zeal, the doctrine of instantaneous conversion and justification through faith in Christ. Many were now converted to Christ in his meetings almost everywhere that he went.

We learn from his Journal of October 151 1738, and again from the entry made on October 3 of the same year, that Wesley had a great longing for a still deeper experience. “I was asking,” he says in the latter entry, “that God would fulfil all His promises in my own soul,” etc. His longings seem to have been satisfied, in a measure at least, in a memorable love feast in London, when he and Whitefield and other prominent Methodist ministers were present at a union meeting of the Methodist societies. Describing this meeting in his Journal, Wesley says: “Monday, January 1, 1739. Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles were present at our lovefeast in Fetterslane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we recovered a little from the awe and amazement at the presence of His majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.’”

Wesley must have received a powerful anointing of the Spirit at the time mentioned above, as after the experience described he seems to have preached with greater unction and power. The Methodist societies now began to multiply rapidly, many souls being converted to God. The State Churches were closing rapidly against the Methodists, when Whitefield began to preach to gigantic audiences in the open air at Bristol. He had returned from America in 1739, and was now working in harmony with the Wesleys. After continuing in Bristol for some time, he desired John Wesley to come and take the work there off his hands so that he could go elsewhere. After seeking to know the Lord’s will in the matter, Wesley complied with his request. Staid Churchman that he was, he had many misgivings about the propriety of preaching in the open air; but when he saw Whitfield preaching to the great multitudes in the open air at Bristol, his prejudices gradually melted away. He says, “I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he (Whitefield) set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church.”

It was only after witnessing the marvellous results attending Whitefield’s preaching; in the open air that Wesley began to speak in open-air meetings, but he soon became famous as an open-air preacher. Until the day of his death he exercised the greatest care to have everything “done decently and in order,” and to avoid all fleshly excitements, hallucinations, and delusions; but on the other hand he was careful to encourage every genuine work of the Holy Spirit. “Quench not the Spirit” was to him a solemn warning which he scrupulously and conscientiously tried to follow.

Wesley preached for some time in Bristol, to immense audiences sometimes numbering many thousands of people. His open-air meetings were as large, if not larger, than those of Whitefield. Powerful conviction of sin rested upon the people, and multitudes turned to Christ Three weeks after the remarkable love-feast experience in London, while Wesley was preaching in Bristol, “a well-dressed, middle-aged woman suddenly cried out, as in the agonies of death. She continued to do so for some time,” says Wesley, “with all the signs of the sharpest anguish of spirit.” She was finally able to “rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of her salvation.” On April 17, 1739, there was another remarkable case of conviction of sin, in Bristol. Wesley had just expounded Acts 4, on the power of the Holy Spirit. “We then called upon God to confirm His Word,” says he. “Immediately one that stood by (to our no small surprise) cried out aloud, with the utmost vehemence, even as the agonies of death. But we continued in prayer, till ‘a new song was put in her mouth, a thanksgiving unto our God.’ Soon after, two other persons (well known in this place, as laboring to live in all good conscience towards all men) were seized with strong pain, and constrained to roar for the disquietness of their heart.” These also found peace. Many other wonderful cases of conviction of sin attended Wesley’s preaching. It was a frequent occurrence for people to cry aloud or fall down as if dead in the meetings, so great was their anguish of heart, caused, no doubt, by the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin. It is a well known fact that great and sudden emotion of any kind will often cause people to faint away. This fact doubtless accounts for people dropping down as if dead in revival and other meetings. The sudden realization of the enormity of their sins and of the doom of the impenitent, when the Spirit of God convicts them of sin, is so great that it absorbs all their mental faculties and they lose control of themselves and faint away. Instances of this kind were frequently recorded by Wesley. On April 21, 1739, at Weavers Hall, Bristol, “a young man was suddenly seized with a violent trembling all over, and, in a few minutes, the sorrows of his heart being enlarged, sunk down to the ground.” He also found peace. On the 25th day of the same months while Wesley was preaching, “Immediately one, and another, and another sunk to the earth; they dropped on every side as if thunderstruck.”

Day after day Wesley preached to immense audiences in Bristol and Bath and suburbs of those cities. He then went to other places, preaching with the same unction and power, and many Methodist societies sprang up as a result of his and Whitefield’s preaching. Many found fault with the outcries of those brought under conviction of sin. Describing one meeting, Wesley says: “My voice could scarce be heard amidst the groanings of some, and the cries of others, calling aloud to ‘Him that is mighty to save.’ “He says, “A Quaker who stood by, was not a little displeased at the dissimulation of these creatures, and was biting his lips and knitting his brows, when he dropped down as thunder-struck.” Next day, in a little prayer-meeting, “Just as we rose from giving thanks,” says Wesley, “another person reeled four or five steps, and then dropped down.” A certain J____ H____ , a zealous Episcopalian, opposed the Methodists in every way possible, and went to his acquaintances persuading them that people falling in the meetings and crying out in agony was “a delusion of the Devil.” While sitting at the table one day, “he changed color, fell off his chair, and began screaming terribly, and beating himself against the ground.”

Almost everywhere that Wesley went people were stricken down in his meetings in the manner already described, but these cases were the exception, and they usually found peace in Christ when prayed for. Most of the people had never heard such pointed and powerful preaching as Wesley’s and the suddenness with which they were brought face to face with their sinful and lost condition probably had much to do with the fact that many of them swooned away or cried out in agony. People who had entertained false hopes of salvation had the masks torn away by the plain preaching of Wesley, and were stricken with great agony until they found peace with God. In one place where he was preaching, the Lord began to make bare His arm, and, “One and another, and another was struck to the earth; exceedingly trembling at the presence of His power. Others cried with a loud and bitter cry, ‘What must we do to be saved?’” The same evening, while Wesley was preaching, a man cried out in agony of soul. Soon after, “Another person dropped down close to one who was a strong asserter of the contrary doctrine. While he stood astonished at the sight, a little boy near him was seized in the same manner. A young man, who stood up behind, fixed his eyes on him, and sunk down himself as one dead.”

The plain and fearless preaching of Wesley caused much opposition, and he was often mobbed and came near losing his life. But in the meetings, “The power of God came with His word; so that none scoffed, or interrupted, or opened his mouth.” The scoffing and persecution came from those who had never been in the meetings or heard Wesley preach.

On his return to London, Wesley preached at Wapping, and twenty-six people were stricken down under conviction of sin. “Some sunk down and there remained no strength in them,” says he, “others exceedingly trembled and quaked; some were torn with a kind of convulsive motion in every part of their bodies.” Wesley had seen many hysterical and many epileptic fits, “but none of them were like these in many respects,” says he. “I immediately prayed, ‘That God would not suffer those who were weak to be offended.’ But one woman was offended greatly; being sure, ‘they might help it if they would; no one should persuade her to the contrary;’ and was got three or four yards, when she also dropped down, in as violent an agony as the rest.”

In London Wesley preached in the open air to vast audiences of many thousands of people, as Whitefield and he had done in Bristol; and he afterwards held similar great out-door meetings all over Britain. Even when rain was falling or biting frost was on the ground, he sometimes preached to many thousands in the open air, and sometimes the sermons were two or three hours long. When the doors of his home church at Epworth were closed against him, he preached standing on his father’s tombstone in the church-yard with an immense crowd around him. He often spoke with great liberty and power when preaching in these open-air meetings. On December 23, 1744, while preaching at Snow-Fields, “I found,” says he, “Such light and strength as I never remember to have had before. I had often wondered at myself (and sometimes mentioned it to others), that ten thousand cares of various kinds were no more weight to my mind than ten thousand hairs were to my head.” When worn out with overwork he often found new strength in answer to prayer. Writing concerning one of these occasions he says, “I then thought, ‘Cannot God heal either man or beast by any means, or without any.’ Immediately my weariness and head-ache ceased, and my horses’ lameness in the same instant” (Journal, March 17, 1740).

Wesley was a great organizer and a strict disciplinarian. He expelled from the Methodist Societies everyone who was frivolous or trifling. He expelled them by the scores. He insisted upon modesty in dress, in abstinence from worldly amusements, and on daily holy living. It was his desire to have no one in the Methodist Societies except such as would adorn them by holy and consistent living. Concerning the Society at Epworth he wrote, “The Society here is not large, but God has wrought upon the whole place; sabbath-breaking and drunkenness are no more seen in the streets; cursing and swearing are rarely heard.”

Both John and Charles Wesley, as well as the other early Methodist preachers, were strong advocates of the doctrine of entire and instantaneous sanctification through faith. In his Works, Volume VII., Wesley says; “Many years since, I saw that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. I began by following after it and inciting all with whom I had any intercourse to do the same. Ten years after, God gave me a clearer view than I had before of the way how to attain it, namely, by faith in the Son of God. And immediately I declared to all, ‘We are saved from sin, we are made holy by faith. This I testified in private, in public, in print, and God confirmed it by a thousand witnesses.”

In his Journal, September 28, 1762, Wesley says: “Many years ago my brother frequently said, ‘Your day of Pentecost is not fully come; but I doubt not it will; and you will then hear of persons sanctified, as frequently as you do now of persons justified.’ Any unprejudiced reader may observe, that it was now fully come. And accordingly we did hear of persons sanctified in London, and most other parts of England; and in Dublin, and in many other parts of Ireland as frequently as of persons justified, although instances of the latter were far more frequent than they had been for twenty years before.”

Wesley’s famous sermon on “Christian Perfection” was first published in 1733, and was often reprinted by him, without alteration, in later years. Deeming it complete, he simply reprinted it. Some have thought that he changed his mind with regard to the doctrine of “Christian Perfection,” but in his Journal, in 1778, he wrote, “Forty years ago I knew and preached every Christian doctrine which I preach now.” In his Journal, of June 19 and 26, July 3, and August 4, 1762, and in numerous other places, he tells of persons being sanctified. In his Journal of December 29, 1766, he says: “At five in the morning I again began a course of sermons on ‘Christian Perfection,’ if haply that thirst after it might return, which was so general a few years ago. Since that time how deeply have we grieved the Spirit of God! Yet two or three have lately received His pure love and a few more are brought to the birth.” In his Journal, June 27, 1769, he defines what he means by “ Christian Perfection;” and in his Works, Volume IX., he explains his ideas concerning “Inbred,” or “Original,” Sin, and its eradication. In his Journal, November 1, 1762, he wrote concerning the views of a certain individual, “I like your doctrine of perfection, or pure love; love excluding sin. Your insisting that it is merely by faith; that consequently it is instantaneous, (though preceded and followed by a gradual work), and that it may be now, at this instant.

“But I dislike your supposing man may be as perfect as an angel; that he can be absolutely perfect; that he can be infallible or above being tempted; or, that the moment he is pure in heart he cannot fall from it.

“I dislike the saying, This was not known or taught among us till within two or three years. I grant you did not know it. You have over and over denied instantaneous sanctification to me; but I have known and taught it (and so has my brother, as our writings show) above these twenty years.”

In his Journal, May 14, 1765, Wesley explains how he came to believe in the doctrine of “Christian Perfection,” and what he believed the experience to be. He says: “But how came this opinion into my mind? I will tell you with all simplicity. In 1725 I met with Bishop Taylor’s ‘Rules of Holy Living and Dying.’ I was struck particularly with the chapter on intention, and felt a fixed intention to give myself up to God. In this I was much confirmed soon after by the Christian Pattern, and longed to give God all my heart. This is just what I mean by Perfection now. I sought after it from that hour.

“In 1727 I read Mr. Law’s ‘Christian Perfection’ and ‘Serious Call,’ and more explicitly resolved to be all devoted to God, in body, soul, and spirit. In 1730, I began to be homo unius libri; to study (comparatively) no book but the Bible. I then saw in a stronger light than ever before, that only one thing is needful, even faith that worketh by the love of God and man, all inward and outward holiness, and I groaned to love God with all my heart, and to serve Him with all my strength.

“January 1, 1733, I preached the sermon on the circumcision of the heart; which contains all that I now teach concerning salvation from all sin, and loving God with an undivided heart. In the same year I printed, (the first time I ventured to print anything), for the use of my pupils, ‘A Collection of Forms of Prayer;’ and in this I spoke explicitly of giving ‘the whole heart and the whole life to God.’ This was then as it is now, my idea of Perfection, though I should have started at the word.

“In 1735, I preached my Farewell Sermon, at Epworth, in Lincolnshire. In this likewise I spoke with the utmost clearness of having one design, one desire, one love, and of pursuing the one end of our life in all our words and actions.

“In January, 1738, I expressed my desires in these words:

O grant that nothing in my soul May dwell but Thy pure love alone; O may Thy love possess me whole, My joy, my treasure and my crown Strange flames far from my heart remove; My every act, word, thought be love.

“I am still persuaded that this is what the Lord Jesus hath bought me with His blood.”

Wesley was almost constantly traveling and preaching. “The world is my parish” was his famous motto. In 1774 he wrote that he never travelled less than 4,500 miles a year. For many a year his annual record was 8,000 miles, and during this period he seldom preached less than 5,000 times a year. He traveled as an itinerant preacher, after he was 36 years of age, 225,000 miles, and preached more than 40,000 sermons, some of them to congregations of above 20,000 people. He rose at four o’clock in the morning and preached at five nearly every day.

In 1789 Wesley’s sight and strength were pretty well exhausted and he felt that he was “an old man;” but he continued to preach and write until within a few days of his death. With the power of God manifestly present, he expired triumphantly on March 2, 1791, his dying testimony being: “Best of all, God is with us.”

2016/03/27 23:02 · admin

George Whitefield

The name of George Whitefield, the prince of open-air preachers, will ever rank high among those of great soul-winners. Perhaps no preacher was ever gifted with a more powerful voice for open air work, or ever preached to larger out-door congregations than did Whitefield. It is estimated that he preached to a hundred thousand persons at Cambuslang, in Scotland, and that ten thousand persons professed conversion to Christ as the result of his sermon. Although frail in body and having weak lungs, God seemed to endow him with supernatural strength for open air work at a time when church doors were closed against him. Benjamin Franklin claimed to have tested the voice of Whitefield to find out how far he could hear him distinctly, and he heard him clearly for over a mile.

Whitefield’s grandfather was a clergyman in the Church of England, but his father was a wine merchant and innkeeper. George was born in 1714. He was the youngest of a family of seven — six sons and a daughter. His father died when he was an infant, and his mother — like the mother of Mr. Moody — was left to struggle through poverty with a large family. When four years old George had the measles, which through neglect left one of his lively dark blue eyes with a slight squint. This, however, did not mar the charm of his countenance.

His early life was stained with lying, cheating, evil speaking, small thefts, and other juvenile sins. In this he much resembled the celebrated Saint Augustine. He would sometimes run into the dissenting meeting-house during services and shout the name of the worthy minister — “Old Cole! old Cole! old Cole!” and then he was off in a hurry. A member of the same chapel once asked him what he intended to be. “A minister,” said he, “but I would take care never to tell stories in the pulpit like the old Cole,” he added. The worthy old minister afterwards rejoiced to hear Whitefield relate anecdotes and incidents with a vividness and power far exceeding his own capabilities.

Whitefield was a wild, unrestrained lad. His mother tried to keep him from taking part in the business, but he sometimes sold drinks over the counter and kept the money. “It would be endless,” says he, “to recount the sins and offences of my younger days.” He had many good thoughts and compunctions of conscience. Thus, he did not use all the money he stole from his mother, but gave some of it to the poor. Among the books that he stole from others were devotional books as well as books of romance — he afterwards restored them fourfold. He was very high tempered, and once when some persons, who took pleasure in exasperating him, had greatly provoked him, he went to his room and on his knees, with tears in his eyes, prayed over the 118th Psalm. He was familiar with the Bible, and although he ridiculed sacred things, he was fond of the thought of some day being a clergyman, and he frequently imitated the clergyman’s manner of reading prayers, or intoning them in the manner so common at that time.

In the Church of St. Mary de Crypt, Gloucester, Whitefield was christened as a baby, made fun as a boy of ten, and preached his first sermon as a deacon at the age of twenty-one. When he was ten years of age his mother married again, but this does not seem to have improved their condition, financially at least. At the common school of St. Mary de Crypt, young Whitefield’s memory and elocutionary powers won him great distinction in the amateur theatricals of which he was very fond. At fifteen years of age he gave up the common school and commenced helping his mother in the housework at Bell Inn. In the evenings he often read his Bible and even composed several sermons. Finally his brother took charge of the inn, and George could not agree with the sister-in-law, and so left and went to another brother’s in Bristol. Here he first felt the power of God’s Spirit working upon his heart. He felt a great longing for the things of God. After two months he returned home and these convictions and longings left him. His mother gave him the best she could — a bed on the floor. No business seemed to open up for him, and one day he said to his sister, “Sister, God intends something for me that we know not of.” His mother also seems to have had presentiments of his coming greatness.

After remaining idle for some time he found that there was opportunity for him to work his way, as a servitor, through Oxford University. He went to school again to prepare for Oxford, and was led off into atheism by sinful companions. This did not last long, and he finally made up his mind to prepare to take communion on his seventeenth birthday. A dream about God, and a powerful impression that he was to preach the gospel seem to have greatly sobered him. A brother also gave him a straight talk about his rapid changes from saint to sinner and from sinner to saint

In 1732, when eighteen years of age, he went to Oxford. At Oxford, to his great delight and after long desiring it, he was taken into the band of “Methodists,” which then numbered fifteen. A book entitled “The Life of God in the Soul of Man,” loaned to him by Charles Wesley, opened Whitefield’s eyes to see that outward works and outward forms and ceremonies would not save the soul. When he read that “true religion is an union of the soul with God, or Christ formed within us,” a ray of light instantaneously darted in upon his soul, and from that moment, but not till then, did he know that he must be a new creature. He was “born of God” long before the Wesleys, his devout companions, were brought out into the clear light of the new birth. He wrote his acquaintances concerning his conversion, and they charitably supposed him to be insane. He shared great persecution with others of the “Holy Club,” or “Methodists.” The contempt and shame he suffered at Oxford helped to prepare him for the still greater persecutions of his later life.

Owing to the fact that the Wesleys did not yet understand regeneration, or the new birth, Whitefield got his eyes off Christ, and began once more to look to external works for salvation. He went through many sore trials and temptations, and spent whole days and nights in fasting and prayer for “deliverance” from the proud, hellish thoughts that used to crowd into his soul. He says, “I never ceased wrestling with God till He blessed me with victory over them.” Before obtaining victory through faith, he sought it by means of severe fasting, eating coarse food, dressing poorly, and by practising other severe austerities and penances. He prayed one night out under a tree in the coldest weather, and he lived for some time on sage tea, without sugar, and coarse bread. Finally his austerities so weakened his body that he could scarcely creep upstairs. The Wesleys could help him but little, but after seven weeks of self-centered seeking his eyes were once more directed to Christ as his Saviour, and peace and joy returned to his soul. He says, “But oh! with what joy, joy unspeakable, even joy that was full of, and big with, glory, was my soul filled, when the weight of sin went off; and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God, and a full assurance of faith broke in upon my disconsolate soul! Ever afterwards he seems to have had clearer views concerning salvation through faith, and he was soon the means of leading several of his companions into the experience of the new birth, both at Gloucester and Oxford.

He now began joyfully to read the Word of God, to visit the sick, and to perform other services for the Master. Soon his friends urged him to be ordained. His great humility led him to decline, but being patient and flexible in all matters regarding himself, though firm as a rock in matters of conviction, he was persuaded to go through the ceremony of ordination. As he had previously dreamed, the bishop sent for him and received him kindly, and made him a present of some gold, and informed him that though he had previously made up his mind not to ordain any one under three-and-twenty years, still he was willing to ordain him whenever he desired it.

It was at the moment of his ordination that Whitefield seems to have made a complete consecration of himself to God and to have received the anointing of the Spirit and power which made him so mighty a worker in God’s harvest field. It was on June 20, 1736, at the age of twenty-one, that he was ordained by the good Bishop of Gloucester, Dr. Benson. In “Account of God’s Dealings,” Section IV., Whitefield thus describes what be experienced at that time: “About three days before the time appointed for my ordination the Bishop came to town. The next day I sent his lordship an abstract of my private examination on these two questions, ‘Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office and administration?’ And, ‘Are you called according to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ and the laws of this realm?’ The next morning I waited on the bishop. He received me with much love, telling me, he was glad I was come; that he was satisfied with the preparation I had made, and with the allowance given me by Sir John Phillips. ‘I had myself,’ said he, ‘made provision for you of two little parishes, but since you choose to be at Oxford, I am very well pleased. I doubt not but you will do much good.’

“Upon this I took my leave, abashed with God’s goodness to such a wretch, but withal exceedingly rejoiced, that in every circumstance he made my way into the ministry so very plain before my face!

“This, I think, was on Friday. The day following I continued in abstinence and prayer. In the evening I retired to a hill near the town, and prayed fervently for about two hours, in behalf of myself and those that were to be ordained with me.

“On Sunday morning I rose early, and prayed over St. Paul’s epistle to Timothy, and more particularly over that precept, ‘Let no man despise thy youth.’ When I went up to the altar, I could think of nothing but Samuel’s standing a little child before the Lord with a linen ephod. When the bishop laid his hands upon my head, my heart was melted down, and I offered my whole spirit, soul, and body, to the service of God’s sanctuary! I read the gospel, at the bishop’s command, with power, and afterwards sealed the good confession I had made before many witnesses, by partaking of the holy sacrament of our Lord’s most blessed body and blood . . . . “

That God really touched the lips of Whitefield with the divine fire of His Holy Spirit at the time of his ordination seems proved by die fact that he began to preach with great unction and power on the next Sunday after his ordination. His first sermon was delivered to an immense audience in his old home church at Gloucester. Complaint was afterwards made to the bishop that fifteen people were driven mad by this sermon. The good bishop replied that he hoped that madness would not be forgotten before the next Sunday.

After his ordination Whitefield returned to Oxford, with great joy, to complete his course at the University. While there he was invited to occupy a friend’s pulpit for two months in an obscure part of London. He accepted the invitation, and although his youth provoked sneers at first, great crowds flocked to hear him. At Oxford his rooms were often filled with praying students. He left the university full of fervor, zeal, and the constraining power of the Holy Spirit. After preaching a few sermons in England, with great unction and power, he sailed for the United States. His few sermons in Bristol, just before he left England, stirred the whole city. On his second visit, while waiting for his vessel to sail for America, crowds of people flocked out to meet him on his way to the city. Although he was only twenty-two years of age, Bristol was completely under his spell. Quakers and Nonconformists generally left their chapels to hear him preach. The “new birth” preached with power from on high seemed to attract all conditions of men. Every nook and corner of the church was crowded, and half the people had to be turned away. Many wept bitterly when he left the city, as did the people of Gloucester when he left that city. In London, while waiting for his vessel, he was compelled to preach, and the large churches would not hold his audiences. Thousands went away for want of room. On Sunday the streets were crowded with people going to meeting long before the break of day. The stewards could hardly carry the donations made for the orphanage he hoped to start in America, so heavy and so many were the large English pennies of that day, which formed the bulk of the collections. Soon the clergy became jealous, and bitter opposition set in against Whitefield, and churches were closed against him.

About Christmas, 1737, he set sail for America, as weeping crowds bade him farewell. He left the charity schools of England £1,000 ($5,000) richer for his brief labors there. All on board the vessel were greatly blessed by his ministrations during the voyage.

When Whitefield reached his destination in Georgia he had but little opportunity to preach to large crowds, as two hundred people were a large congregation in the frontier settlements. But he won his way to the hearts of the people and scores were brought to Christ. He returned to England in 1738, and began to work in co-operation with the Wesleys, who had been led out into the light concerning regeneration, or the “new birth,” during his absence in America. God was greatly blessing them, but their preaching was too plain to suit lukewarm, worldly, and fashionable churches, and the doors of these churches were rapidly closing against them. Whitefield preached in one church where a thousand people were unable to get inside, and this suggested to him the idea of outdoor preaching, but even his Methodist brethren at that time regarded this as a “mad idea.” Soon after this the people were so deeply moved by his preaching that they began to say aloud “Amen” to many things that he said. This seems to have been a new thing in those days.

Excluded from many of the state churches, Whitefield began his open-air preaching at Kingswood, Bristol, in 1739. There the rough coal miners gathered to hear him, and his audiences doubled and trebled until he found himself preaching to 20,000 people. Tears streamed down the cheeks of the coal-begrimed men, and hundreds and hundreds were convicted of sin and brought to Christ. Whitefield had now left off using printed prayers and written sermons, and prayed and preached extempore as he felt led by the Spirit of God. Wherever he went, the people flocked to hear him in such great crowds that the churches would no longer have contained them, had they been open to him. When farewelling from Bristol, the crowd was so great at one of the Methodist Societies that he had to leave by mounting a ladder and climbing over the tiling of an adjoining house. Wesley continued the great work begun by Whitefield in Bristol.

When evicted from a Church of England in London, while preaching, Whitefield continued his sermon in the church yard. He then began his open-air meetings at Moorfields, one of the largest, vilest, and most notorious pleasure resorts in London. Great was the astonishment of the London rowdies to see the tall, graceful young clergyman, with mild blue eyes, and clad in gown and cassock, standing on the wall addressing them on the second coming of Christ. The same day he addressed a more refined audience of 20,000 people on Kennington Common. After this he continued to preach to great audiences of from 20,000 to 40,000 in both of these places. It is said that he received more than a thousand written requests for prayer at one of his meetings at Moorfields. The singing of the vast audiences could be heard for a distance of two miles. When the people at Kennington Common heard that he was to leave for America, their weeping was so loud as to almost drown his voice. A similar scene was enacted at Moorfields. At Hackney Marsh he preached at a horse race to about 10,000 people, and the horses got but little attention.

On his second and subsequent trips to America, Whitefield met with very great success. He preached to large audiences, and won many souls to Christ. It was claimed that every student in Harvard University professed conversion to Christ during his meetings there. Benjamin Franklin was deeply impressed with his preaching, and the celebrated Jonathan Edwards wept while listening to his sermons.

On his return to England he preached to great audiences in the tabernacle built for him at Moorfields, and also to vast audiences in many other parts of Britain. Perhaps his greatest meeting was at Cambuslang, near Glasgow, Scotland, where he is said to have preached to an audience variously estimated at from 30,000 to 100,000 people. Many were bathed in tears for an hour and a half while he was preaching, and it is claimed that ten thousand persons professed conversion to Christ under this sermon. All Britain seemed in a holy fervor over his preaching. The Vicar of Bideford warned the people against Whitefield’s preaching one Sunday evening, but next morning he preached to an audience of 10,000. Even the nobility gladly sat at his feet, and thousands of people would often stand in the rain listening to him.

The frailty of Whitefield’s body was so great that the marvelous range of his voice seemed almost supernatural. The clearness and range of his voice has probably never been equaled by that of any other open-air preacher.

The vividness with which Whitefield preached seemed to be almost supernatural. One time he was preaching to sailors, and he described a vessel wrecked in a storm at sea. He portrayed her as on her beam and just ready to sink, and then he cried aloud, “What next?” The picture was so real that the sailors sprang to their feet and cried out, “The long boat! Take the longboat!” At another time he pictured a blind man walking towards the edge of a precipice without knowing where he was going, until finally he was right on the edge of the precipice. The portrayal was so vivid and real that when he reached this point in his sermon, Lord Chesterfield, who was present, sprang to his feet and cried aloud, “My God! he is gone!” Famous actors like Garrick, Foote, and Shuter loved to hear Whitefield preach. Garrick was so deeply impressed with the oratorical powers of Whitefield that he declared he believed Whitefield could make people weep by the mere enunciation of the word Mesopotamia.

Whitefield was not a theologian by nature, and found but little time for reading books. Most of the books he did find time to read were of the old-school Calvinistic type so prevalent at that time, and his mind became confirmed in the Calvinistic views of theology. This led to a controversy between him and the Wesleys, as the latter rejected the fatalistic teachings of old-school Calvinism. Their friendship for each other continued, but Whitefield did not work in such full accord and harmony with the Wesleys as before the controversy. But both the Wesleys and Whitefield were mightily used of God, each preaching the gospel with the degree of light given to him. Whitefield probably did not have so logical a mind as John Wesley. He was sometimes accused of rambling in his sermons, and of not keeping to his subject His reply to this was, “If men will continue to ramble like lost sheep, then I will continue to ramble after them.”

Like Wesley, Whitefield was a strenuous worker. When in his prime he seldom preached less than fifteen times a week. It is estimated that he preached at least eighteen thousand sermons, or an average of ten times a week for thirty-four years. He often preached as many as four or five times in one day.

After intensely longing to be with the Master for over a score of years, he died in 1770, during his seventh visit to America, having preached up to and on the day preceding his death.

2016/03/27 23:00 · admin

John Fletcher

“Fletcher was a saint, as unearthly a being as could tread the earth at all,” says Isaac Taylor, one of his contemporaries. “I conceive Fletcher to be the most holy man who has been upon earth since the apostolic age.” says Dr. Dixon, one of the greatest Methodist preachers of Fletcher’s day. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, pronounced Fletcher the most unblameable man, in every respect, that, within fourscore years, he had found in Europe or America. He chose Fletcher as his successor in directing the Methodist Societies; but Fletcher though younger than Wesley, was called to his eternal reward before Wesley.

Remarkable as it may seem, Fletcher was not a native of the country where he achieved so great fame as a writer and preacher. Jean Guilliaume de la Flechere, for such was his full name in his native tongue, was born in Switzerland, his home being on the shores of Lake Leman in one of the loveliest spots in the world, not far from Geneva, the Jura and Alps Mountains, the famous Castle of Chillon and Lausanne. His parents belonged to the nobility and were highly esteemed. Jean was born in the year 1729.

Wesley states that in his childhood Fletcher had much of the fear of God, and great tenderness of conscience. One day, when he was about seven years of age, he had misbehaved, and his nurse said to him, “You are a naughty boy. Do you know that the devil is to take away all naughty children?” The maid’s remark troubled him. He began to pray and did not cease until he believed that God had forgiven him. His conduct was very exemplary from this on. Like Christmas Evans and many others, he had many narrow escapes from death in his youth. Three times he was almost drowned, and once he fell a long distance, but landed on some soft mortar. God preserves the lives of those whom He has chosen for some great work.

Fletcher received a good education and took the highest honors in the University of Geneva. He then went to Lentzburg to study German, Hebrew, and higher mathematics.

From his earliest youth he felt a call to preach, but afterwards he abandoned all hope of ever entering the ministry. He says: “I think it was when I was seven years of age, that I first began to feel the love of God shed abroad in my heart, and that I resolved to give myself up to Him, and to the service of His Church, if ever I should be fit for it; but the corruption which is in the world, and that which was in my own heart, soon weakened, if not erased, those first characters which grace had written upon it.” Later, he says, “I went through my studies with a design of entering into orders; but, afterwards upon serious reflections, feeling I was unequal to so great a burden, and disgusted with the necessity I should be under to subscribe to the doctrine of predestination, I yielded to the desire of my friends, who would have me go into the army.”

It is remarkable that one born in the stronghold of Calvinism, as was Fletcher, should conceive so great a dislike for the principal doctrine of that system of theology, and should become the greatest writer against the Calvinistic system of belief. Although one of so gentle a nature must have revolted at the thought of bloodshed and battle, he chose to become a soldier rather than to preach the doctrines his heart and mind could not endorse. He accepted a captain’s commission to fight for Portugal against Brazil, but an accident providentially prevented him from engaging in actual warfare. Just before his ship sailed, a serving maid let the tea kettle fall on his leg, and scalded him so badly that he could not go. Thus the Lord defeated his purposes. Soon after this his uncle procured a colonel’s commission for him in the Dutch army. But his uncle died, and peace was concluded, and the Lord again defeated him in his purposes.

In 1752 Fletcher went to England to learn the English language. He became tutor to the two sons of Thomas Hill, Esq., of Shropshire. It was while thus employed that he became soundly converted to God. A vivid dream he had concerning the final judgment aroused him to see the backslidden condition of his heart. “For some days,” says he, “I was so dejected and harassed in mind as to be unable to apply myself to anything. While in this state he heard about the Methodists. He was told that they were a people who did “nothing but pray,” and that they were “praying all day and all night,” and he resolved to find them. After hearing them he became more and more conscious that some inward change was necessary to make him happy.” After hearing a preacher named Green, he was convinced that he did not understand the nature of saving faith, although he had received a premium in the university for his writings on theological and divine subjects.

God opened his eyes more and more to his sinfulness until he wrote in his diary, on January 12, 1755: “All my righteousness is as filthy rags. I am a very devil, though of an inferior sort, and if I am not renewed before I go hence, hell will be my portion to all eternity.” He describes how he went on sinning and repenting, and sinning again; but calling on God’s mercy through Christ.

“On January 21st,” says he, “I began to write a confession of my sins, misery, and helplessness, together with a resolution to seek Christ even unto death; but, my business calling me away I had no heart to go on with it.” On Thursday, January 23, his fast-day, he was sorely tempted, and was so despondent that he almost gave up all hope. “Having continued my supplication till near one in the morning,” he says, “I then opened my Bible, and fell on these words, ‘Cast thy burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. He will not suffer the righteous to be moved.’ Filled with joy, I fell again on my knees to beg of God that I might always cast my burden upon Him. I took my Bible again, and fell on these words, ‘I will be with thee; fear not, neither be dismayed.’ My hope was now greatly increased, and I thought I saw myself conqueror over sin, hell, and all manner of affliction.

“With this beautiful promise I shut my Bible, and as I shut it I cast my eye on the words, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it.’ So having asked perseverance and grace to serve God till death, I went cheerfully to take my rest.”

Such is the account of Fletcher’s conversion to Christ as related in his diary and gleaned from various letters of his. His widow adds the following, written after his death:

“I subjoin what I have heard him speak concerning this time. He still pleaded with the Lord to take a fuller possession of his heart, and to give a fuller manifestation of His love, till one day, when in earnest prayer and lying prostrate on his face, he saw, with the eye of faith, our Saviour on the cross, and at the same time these words were spoken with power to his heart:

 

“‘Seized by the rage of sinful men,

I see Christ bound, and bruis’d, and slain,

‘Tis done, the Martyr dies!

His life to ransom ours is given.

And lo! the fiercest fire of heaven

Consumes the sacrifice.

 

“‘He suffers both from men and God,

He bears the universal load

Of guilt and misery!

He suffers to reverse our doom

And lo! my Lord is here become

The bread of life to me.

 

“Now all his bands were broken. His freed soul began to breathe a purer air. Sin was beneath his feet. He could triumph in the Lord. From this time he walked in the ways of God, and, thinking he had not leisure enough in the day, he made it a constant rule to sit up two whole nights in the week for reading, prayer, and meditation.”

Fletcher was so humble and so unselfish that he said or wrote but little concerning himself, and it is difficult therefore to give any detailed account of his deeper spiritual experiences. His writings, however, like those of Wesley, abound with teaching concerning perfect love and entire sanctification. Like Wesley, he believed that while men are imperfect in knowledge and in many other ways, it is possible for them to be perfect in love, or to love God with all the strength and intelligence they possess. He believed that the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was for believers today as much as at the day of Pentecost.

Although Fletcher wrote but little concerning himself, his widow wrote a brief account of how he was led into a deeper experience than conversion. Referring to his conversion, she says: “Some time after this he was favored with a further manifestation of the love of God, so powerful, that, he said, it appeared to him as if his body and soul would be separated. Now all his desires centered in one, that of devoting himself to the service of his precious Master, which he thought he could best do by entering holy orders.”

The fullest account of how Fletcher obtained this deeper inward experience is given in a letter written by the famous Spirit-filled Hester Ann Rogers. Describing a meeting held in 1781, she says: “When I entered the room, where they were assembled, the heavenly man (Fletcher) was giving out the following verses with such animation as I have seldom witnessed —

 

“‘Near us, assisting Jesus, stand;

Give us the opening heavens to see;

Thee to behold at God’s right hand,

And yield our parting souls to Thee.

 

“‘My Father, O my Father, hear.

And send the fiery chariot down;

Let Israel’s famous steeds appear,

And whirl us to the starry crown.

 

“‘We, we would die for Jesus too;

Through tortures, fires, and seas of blood,

All triumphantly break through,

And plunge into the depths of God.’

 

“After this Mr. Fletcher poured out his full soul in prayer, or praise, or spiritual instruction; and every word that fell from his lips appeared to be accompanied with an unction from above.

“After dinner, I took an opportunity to beg him to explain an expression he had used in a letter to Miss Loxdale; namely, that, on all who are renewed in love, God bestows the gift of prophecy. He called for the Bible; then read and explained Acts II., observing, that, to prophesy in the sense he meant, was, to magnify God with the new heart of love, and the new tongue of praise, as they did, who, on the day of Pentecost, were filled with the Holy Ghost. He insisted now that believers are called upon to prove the same baptismal fire; that the day of Pentecost was the opening of the dispensation of the Spirit — the great promise of the Father; and that the latter day glory, which he believed was near at hand, should far exceed the first effusion of the Spirit. Seeing then that they, on the day of Pentecost, bare witness to the grace of our Lord, so shall we; and, like them, spread the flame of love.

“After singing a hymn, he cried, ‘O to be filled with the Holy Ghost! I want to be filled! O, my friends, let us wrestle for a more abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit!’ To me, he said, ‘Come, my sister, will you covenant with me this day, to pray for the fulness of the Spirit? Will you be a witness for Jesus? I answered with flowing tears, ‘In the strength of Jesus I will.’ He cried, ‘Glory, glory be to God! Lord, strengthen Thine handmaid to keep this covenant, even unto death!’

“He then said, ‘My dear brethren and sisters, God is here! I fed Him in this place; but I would hide my face in the dust, because I have been ashamed to declare what He has done for me. For many years, I have grieved His Spirit; I am deeply humbled; and He has again restored my soul. Last Wednesday evening, He spoke to me by these words, ‘Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ I obeyed the voice of God; I now obey it; and tell you all, to the praise of His love — I am freed from sin. Yes, I rejoice to declare it, and to be a witness to the glory of His grace, that I am dead unto sin, and alive unto God, through Jesus Christ, who is my Lord and King! I received this blessing four or five times before; but I lost it, by not observing the order of God; who has told us, With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. But the enemy offered his bait, under various colors, to keep me from a public declaration of what God had wrought

“When I first received this grace, Satan bid me wait awhile, till I saw more of the fruits; I resolved to do so; but I soon began to doubt of the witness, which, before, I had felt in my heart; and in a little time, I was sensible I had lost both. A second time, after receiving this salvation, I was kept from being a witness for my Lord, by the suggestion, ‘Thou art a public character — the eyes of all are upon thee — and if, as before, by any means thou lose the blessing, it will be a dishonor to the doctrine of heart-holiness.’ I held my peace, and again forfeited the gift of God. At another time, I was prevailed upon to hide it, by reasoning, ‘How few, even of the children of God, will receive this testimony; many of them supposing that every transgression of the Adamic law is sin; and, therefore, if I profess to be free from sin, all these will give my profession the lie; because I am not free in their sense; I am not free from ignorance, mistakes, and various infirmities; I will, therefore, enjoy what God has wrought in me; but I will not say, ‘I am perfect in love.’ Alas! I soon found again. He that hideth his Lord’s talent, and improveth it not, from that unprofitable servant shall be taken away even that he hath.

“Now, my brethren, you see my folly. I have confessed it in your presence; and now I resolve before you all to confess my Master. I will confess Him to all the world. And I declare unto you, in the presence of God, the Holy Trinity, I am now dead indeed unto sin. I do not say, I am crucified with Christ, because some of our well-meaning brethren say, by this can only be meant gradual dying; but I profess unto you, I am dead unto sin, and alive unto God; and, remember, all this is through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is my Prophet, Priest, and King — my indwelling Holiness — my all in all. I wait for the fulfilment of that prayer. That all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us; and that they may be one, even as we are one. O for that pure baptismal flame! O for the fulness of the dispensation of the Holy Ghost! Pray, pray, pray for this! This shall make us all of one heart, and of one soul. Pray for gifts — for the gift of utterance; and confess your royal Master. A man without gifts is like a king in disguise; he appears as a subject only. You are kings and priests unto God! Put on, therefore, your robes, and wear on your garter, holiness to the Lord.’

“A few days after this, I heard Mr. Fletcher preach upon the same subject; inviting all, who felt their need of full redemption, to believe now for this great salvation. He observed, ‘As when you reckon with your creditor, or with your host, and, as when you have paid all, you reckon yourselves free, so now reckon with God. Jesus has paid all; He has paid for thee!—has purchased thy pardon and holiness; therefore, it is now God’s command. Reckon thyself dead indeed unto sin; and thou art alive unto God from this hour! O, begin, begin to reckon now! Fear not; believe, believe, believe! and continue to believe every moment! So shalt thou continue free; for it is retained as it is received, by faith alone. And, whosoever thou art that perseveringly believeth, it will be as fire in thy bosom, and constrain thee to confess with thy mouth thy Lord and thy King, Jesus, and in spreading the sacred flame of Love, thou shalt be saved to the uttermost.’

“He also dwelt largely on these words, ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ He asked, ‘How did sin abound? Had it not overpowered your whole soul? Were not all your passions, tempers, propensities, inordinate and evil? Did not pride, anger, self-will, and unbelief , all reign over you? And, when the Spirit of God strove with you, did you not repel all His convictions, and put Him far from you? Well, my brethren, ye were then the servants of sin, and were free from righteousness; but, now, being made free from sin, ye became servants to God; and holiness shall overspread your whole soul, so that all your tempers and passions shall be henceforth regulated and governed by Him who now sitteth upon the throne of your heart, making all things new. As you once resisted the Holy Spirit, so now ye shall have power to resist all the subtle frauds or fierce attacks of Satan.’

“Mr. Fletcher then, with lifted hands, cried, ‘Who will thus be saved? Who will believe the report? You are only in an improper sense called believers who reject this. Who is a believer? One who believes a few things which God has spoken? Nay, but one who believes all that ever proceeded out of His mouth. Here then is the word of the Lord: As sin abounded, grace shall much more abound! As no good thing was in you by nature, so now no evil thing shall remain. Do you believe this? Or are you a half believer only? Come! Jesus is offered to thee as a perfect Saviour. Take Him, and He will make thee a perfect saint. O ye half believers, will you still plead for the murderers of your Lord? Which of these will you hide as a serpent in your bosom? Shall it be anger, pride, self-will, or accursed unbelief? O be no longer befooled! Bring these enemies to thy Lord, and let Him slay them.’”

The above words of Mrs. Rogers give us a glimpse of the deeper inward experiences of the sainted Fletcher, although his own modesty prevented him from giving any detailed account of the marvelous manifestations of God’s Spirit to him, and through him. He walked and talked and lived in the Spirit as few others have done. He shrank from publicity and controversy, and was one of the most retiring of men.

Fletcher was a great student of prophecy, and a firm believer in the pre-millennial coming of Christ. He was very abstemious in diet, eating very little and only vegetables, butter, and milk. Every moment of his time was employed in some useful manner, and he conversed but little except on Christian subjects.

About the year 1756 Fletcher joined the Methodists, and soon after he began to think seriously of entering the ministry. In 1757 he was ordained as a priest in the Church of England, and from this time forward he became Wesley’s greatest helper and co-laborer. For three years he preached with great unction and power in the Methodist Societies and wherever God opened a door for him. Occasionally he had an opportunity of preaching in a State Church, but his preaching against sin was so bold that the people were aghast and astonished at him; but he was already becoming famous as a preacher, and was a great favorite with the Wesleys, Whitefield, the Countess of Huntington, and the Methodists generally. Finally, in 1760, he became vicar of the Anglican Church at Madeley, which position he held until his death.

The first ten years at Madeley were spent in preaching, visiting among his people, and in a profound study of theology and religious works of all kinds. It was just the preparation Fletcher needed to make him the powerful defender of Methodism which he afterwards became. John Wesley opposed his settling down at Maddey, but later probably saw the wisdom of it After 1765 Methodist Societies were formed in the neighborhood of Madeley, and Fletcher frequently preached for them. Enormous crowds flocked to hear him, and the buildings would seldom contain the people. In 1765 he visited Bath and Bristol, preaching in the large meeting-houses belonging to the Countess of Huntington. She wrote concerning his preaching, “Deep and awful are the impressions made on every hand. Dear Mr. Fletcher’s preaching is truly apostolic.” When about forty years of age he visited his home in Switzerland, and preached with power to the descendants of the Albigenses, and to other congregations. Everywhere he was regarded as almost super-human. An old Swiss wept because Fletcher could not remain longer. “Oh, sir, said he, “how unfortunate for my country! During my lifetime it has produced but one angel of a man, and now it is our lot to lose him!” Fletcher also visited Italy in 1770, and with bared head and almost seraphic countenance he walked along the Appian Way on which Paul trod as a prisoner on his way to Rome. In 1776 Fletcher made an evangelistic tour in Britain with the Wesleys.

For some time Fletcher was president of Trevaca College, the college founded by the Countess of Huntington for training young men for the ministry. There he was regarded as almost an angel. Mr. Benson, the head master says, “He was received as an angel of God. It is impossible for me to describe the veneration in which we all held him.” He also describes how when Fletcher visited the college, the students lost interest in all their studies, and laid aside everything to listen to him as he told them how that being filled with the Spirit was a better qualification for the ministry than classical learning. He then spent hours on his knees praying for the students to be filled with the Holy Ghost On one of these occasions he was so overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit’s power that he cried out, “O my God, withhold Thy hand, or the vessel will burst!” but he afterwards felt that he should have prayed for God to enlarge the vessel.

In 1771 the great controversy arose between those who held the Calvinistic views of theology and those who held the Arminian, and Fletcher became the great defender of the Arminian views held by the Methodists. Wesley was too busy with the care of all the Methodist Societies to devote much time to the controversy, but Fletcher defended the Methodist theology in a way which left little to be desired, and the kindly spirit in which he did it caused a better feeling among all parties concerned. In his great work entitled “Checks to Antinomianism” Fletcher so harmonized the passages of Scripture on predestination, or election, and those on man’s free agency and moral responsibility as to show that they in no way contradict each other. This book still remains one of the greatest bulwarks of Methodist theology ever produced.

The Methodist preachers in the Conference burst into tears, and Wesley was deeply moved when, in 1784, Fletcher requested to be placed on the roll of supernumerary ministers. The year following, he departed this life after resting as in sleep for twenty-four hours.

It must not be supposed that so holy a man as Fletcher had no temptations. He told Wesley how Satan had often tempted him to put an end to his own life. He was so passionate by nature that he often plead and prayed the whole night to get victory over his temper, and sometimes lay prone upon the floor in an agony of grief as he plead with God for the victory; and yet he was famous for his gentleness. In his Life of Fletcher, Wesley says: “For twenty years and upwards before his death, no one ever saw him out of temper, or heard him utter a rash expression, on any provocation whatever.”

2016/03/27 22:59 · admin

Christmas Evans

Wales has had many famous preachers. Among them, Daniel Rowlands, Robert Roberts, John Elias, William Williams, Henry Rees, John Jones, and Davies of Swansea. But Christmas Evans, “the one-eyed preacher of Anglesea,” seems to have exceeded all the others both in fame and spiritual power. He once said to Richard Rowlands: “Brother, the truths, the confidence, and the power I feel, will cause some to dance for joy in parts of Wales.” “They will,” replied Rowlands, with tears in his eyes. And so it was.

Christmas Evans, often called “The John Bunyan of Wales,” was born on Christmas day, 1766, hence his name Christmas. His parents were very poor. His father died when he was nine years of age, and little Christmas did chores for six years for a cruel ungodly uncle. His education was neglected, and at the age of seventeen he could not read a word. Many accidents and misfortunes befell him. Once he was stabbed in a quarrel, once nearly drowned, once he fell from a high tree with an open knife in his hand, and once a horse ran away with him and dashed at full speed through a low and narrow passage. After his conversion to Christ some of his former ungodly companions waylaid him at night and unmercifully beat him so that he lost one eye in consequence. But God mercifully preserved him through all these trials.

He left his cruel uncle at the age of seventeen, and soon afterwards, during a revival, he identified himself with the church. From an early age he had many religious impressions, but he did not decide for Christ until his seventeenth year. New desires then awoke in his soul and he began to study to learn to read, and to improve his mind. He soon felt a call to the ministry, and this feeling was deepened by a remarkable dream he had concerning the second coming of Christ. He felt that he was only a mass of sin and ignorance, and was much discouraged by his early efforts to preach. He memorized the prayers and sermons of others and tried to pray and preach them.

In 1790 he was ordained by the Baptists and commenced work as a missionary among some of the humbler churches. For three years before joining the Baptists he suffered much from doubts regarding his own conversion to Christ; but soon after uniting with them all his burden of doubts rolled away and he received “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” He was surprised at first to see people brought to God through his ministry, but the Lord greatly blessed him and his meetings began to attract widespread attention. He made a tour of South Wales on foot and sometimes preached as many as five times during one Sunday. Although he was shabbily dressed and awkward, large crowds came to hear him preach, and often there were tears, weeping, and uncontrollable excitement. His sermons took great hold upon the people.

At twenty-six years of age Evans began to preach among the churches on the island of Anglesea, on the Welsh coast, and there he. remained for twenty years preaching the gospel with much success. Here many of the churches had been carried away by the Sandemanian teachings, which seem to have been a form of extreme Calvinism, amounting to fatalism, depriving man of moral responsibility. The leader of the sect was a brilliant and cultured orator, and for years Christmas Evans labored and preached to counteract his teachings.

Evans’ controversies with the Sandemanians brought him into a place where he had lost much of the spirit of prayer and sweetness so necessary for the enjoyment of a Christian life. He felt an intense need and longing for a closer fellowship with God. He thus describes the manner in which he sought and obtained the richer and fuller Christian experience which he so much desired, and which set his soul on fire with divine unction and power such as he had never experienced before. “I was weary,” says he, “of a cold heart towards Christ, and His atonement, and the work of His Spirit — of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret prayer and in study; especially when I remembered that for fifteen years before that heart had been burning within me as if I were on the way toward Emmaus with Jesus. A day came at last, a day ever to be remembered by me, when I was on my way from Dolgelly to Machynlleth, and climbing up towards Cadair Idris. I felt it my duty to pray, though my heart was hard enough and my spirit worldly. After I had commenced praying in the name of Jesus, I soon felt as if the shackles were falling off, and as if the mountains of snow and ice were melting within me. This engendered confidence in my mind for the promise of the Holy Ghost. I felt my whole spirit relieved of some great bondage, and as if it were rising up from the grave of a severe winter. My tears flowed copiously, and I was constrained to cry aloud and pray for the gracious visits of God, for the joy of his salvation, and that He would visit again the Churches in Anglesea that were under my care. I embraced in my supplications all of the churches, and prayed by name for most of the preachers of Wales. This struggle lasted for three hours. It would come over me again and again, like one wave after another, like a tide driven by a strong wind, until my physical power was greatly weakened by weeping and crying. Thus I gave myself up wholly to Christ, body and soul, talents and labors — all my life— every day, and every hour that remained to me, and all my cares I entrusted into the hands of Christ. The road was mountainous and lonely, so that I was alone, and suffered no interruption in my wrestlings with God. This event caused me to expect a new revelation of God’s goodness to myself and the churches. Thus the Lord delivered me and the people of Anglesea from being swept away by the evils of Sandemanianism. In the first service I held after this event, I felt as if I had been removed from the cold and sterile region of spiritual ice, into the pleasant lands of the promises of God. The former striving with God in prayer, and the longing anxiety for the conversion of sinners, which I had experienced at Leyn, were now restored. I had a hold of the promise of God. The result was, when I returned home, the first thing that attracted my notice was, that the Spirit was working also in the brethren in Anglesea, inducing in them a spirit of prayer, especially in two of the deacons, who were particularly importunate that God should visit us in mercy, and render the Word of His grace effectual amongst us in the conversion of sinners.”

It was doubtless about the time of this remarkable experience of the anointing of the Holy Spirit that Christmas Evans wrote “a solemn covenant with God,” to every article of which he signed his initials. This covenant of consecration was as follows:

COVENANT WITH GOD. I. I give my soul and body unto Thee, Jesus, the true God, and everlasting life; deliver us from sin, and from eternal death, and bring me into life everlasting. Amen. — C. E.

II. I call the day, the sun, the earth, the trees, the stones, the bed, the table and the books, to witness that I come unto Thee, Redeemer of sinners, that I may obtain rest for my soul from the thunders of guilt and the dread of eternity. Amen. — C. E.

III. I do, through confidence in Thy power, earnestly entreat Thee to take the work into Thine own hand, and give me a circumcised heart, that I may love Thee; and create in me a right spirit, that I may seek Thy glory. Grant me that principle which Thou wilt own in the day of judgment, that I may not then assume pale-facedness, and find myself a hypocrite. Grant me this, for the sake of Thy most precious blood. Amen. — C. E.

IV. I entreat Thee, Jesus, the Son of God, in power, grant me, for the sake of Thy agonizing death, a covenant interest in Thy blood which cleanseth; in Thy righteousness, which justifieth; and in Thy redemption, which delivereth. I entreat an interest in Thy blood, for Thy blood’s sake, and a part in Thee, for Thy name’s sake, which Thou hast given among men. Amen. — C. E.

V. O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, take for the sake of Thy cruel death, my time, and strength, and the gifts and talents I possess; which, with a full purpose of heart, I consecrate to Thy glory in the building up of Thy Church in the world, for Thou art worthy of the hearts and talents of men. Amen. — C. E.

VI. I desire Thee, my great High Priest, to confirm, by Thy power from Thy High Court, my usefulness as a preacher, and my piety as a Christian, as two gardens nigh to each other; that sin may not have place in my heart to becloud my confidence in Thy righteousness, and that I may not be left to any foolish act that may occasion my gifts to wither, and I be rendered useless before my life ends. Keep Thy gracious eye upon me, and watch over me, O my Lord, and my God for ever! Amen. — C. E.

VII. I give myself in a particular manner to Thee, O Jesus Christ the Saviour, to be preserved from the falls into which many stumble, that Thy name (in Thy cause) may not be blasphemed or wounded, that my peace may not be injured, and that Thy people may not be grieved, and that Thine enemies may not be hardened. Amen. — C. E.

VIII. I come entreating Thee to enter into a covenant with me in my ministry. Oh, prosper me as Thou didst prosper Bunyan, Vavasor, Powell, Howell Harris, Rowlands, and Whitefield. The impediments in the way of my prosperity remove. Work in me the things approved of God that I may attain this. Give me a heart “sick of love” to Thee, and to the souls of men. Grant that I may feel the power of Thy Word before preaching it, as Moses felt the power of his rod before he felt the effect of it on the land and waters of Egypt. For the sake of Thy precious blood, Jesus, my all in all, grant me this. Amen. — C. E.

IX. Search me now, and lead me in the paths of judgment. May I see in this world what I really am in Thy sight, that I may not find myself otherwise when the light of eternity shall dawn upon me, and open my eyes in the brightness of immortality. Wash me in Thy redeeming blood. Amen. — C. E.

X. Give me power to trust in Thee for food and raiment, and to make known my requests to Thee. O let Thy care be over me as a covenant privilege betwixt Thee and me, and not simply as a general care which Thou shewest in feeding the ravens that perish and clothing the lily that is cast into the oven, but remember me as one of Thy family, and as one of Thy unworthy brethren. Amen. — C. E.

XI. Take upon Thyself, O Jesus, to prepare me for death, for Thou art God; and Thou needest but to speak the word. If it be possible — but Thy will be done — let me not linger in sickness, nor die a sudden death without bidding adieu to my brethren, but rather let me die with them around me, after a short illness. May everything be put in order ready for that day of passing from one world to another, so that there may be no confusion or disorder, but a passing away in peace. O grant me this for the sake of Thine agony in the garden. Amen. — C. E.

XII. Grant, O blessed Lord, that no sin may be nourished or fostered in me which may cause Thee to cast me off from the work of Thy sanctuary, like the sons of Eli; and, for the sake of Thine infinite merits, let not my days be longer than my usefulness. Let me not become, at the end of my days, like a piece of lumber in the way of the usefulness of others. Amen. — C. E.

XIII. I beseech Thee, my Redeemer, to present these supplications of mine before the Father; and oh, inscribe them in Thy book with Thine own immortal pen, while I am writing them with my mortal hand in my book on earth. According to the depths of Thy merit, and Thy infinite grace, and Thy compassion, and Thy tenderness toward Thy people, O attach Thy name in Thine Upper Court to these humble supplications of mine; and set Thine amen to them, even as I set mine on my side of the covenant Amen.— CHRISTMAS EVANS, Llangevni, Anglesea, April 10, 18— .

After his entire consecration to God, and after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit while he wrestled in prayer on his way from Dolgelly to Machyndleth. Christmas Evans began to preach with a new unction and power. A great revival spread from preacher to people all over the island of Anglesea, and then over the whole of Wales. The people were often so wrought upon by Evan’s sermons that they literally danced for joy, and their actions obtained for them the nick-name of “the Welsh jumpers.” Often the audiences were moved to weeping and tears. Once when Evans preached concerning “The Demoniac of Gadara,” and vividly portrayed the deliverance of the demoniac, the wonder of the people, and especially the joy of the demoniac’s wife and children when he returned home healed and saved, the audience laughed and wept alternately. One biographer says that “the place was a perfect Bochim for weeping.” Shouts of prayer and praise mingled together. One who heard this wonderful sermon says, that, at last, the people seemed like the inhabitants of a city which had been shaken by an earthquake, that in their escape, rushed into the streets, falling upon the earth screaming, and calling upon God!

“The powerful sermons, the breath of heaven, the weeping, the praising, the return of sinners to God,” now characterized Evans’ meetings wherever he went. This was especially true when he preached his famous “Graveyard Sermon,” in which he described the world as dead and buried in the graveyard of Law, with Justice guarding the gates but Mercy coming to unlock them. This sermon has been published almost everywhere. The preaching of it brought conviction of sin like a deluge over the people. The scene resembled the one at Shotts, in Scotland, when five hundred persons professed conversion to Christ under the preaching of a sermon by John Livingston. It was similar to that at Llanidloes, Wales, when a thousand persons decided for Christ under one sermon preached by Michael Roberts. Or it resembled the time when twenty-five hundred persons were added to the churches as the result of one sermon preached by John Elias, the mighty Welsh preacher.

Evans was “a man the spell of whose name, when he came into a neighborhood, could wake up all the sleepy villages, and bid their inhabitants pour along up by the hills, and down by the valleys, expectant crowds watching his appearance with tears, and sometimes hailing him with shouts.” “It must be said, his are very great sermons,” says Rev. Paxton Hood, “the present writer is almost disposed to be bold enough to describe them, as the grandest Gospel sermons of the last hundred years.” One biographer describes his manner while preaching as follows: “Christmas Evans, meantime, is pursuing his way, lost in his theme. Now his eye lights up, says one who knew him, like a brilliantly flashing star, his dear forehead expands, his form dilates in majestic dignity ; and all that has gone before will be lost in the white-heat passion with which he prepares to sing of Paradise lost and Paradise regained.”

The anointing of the Holy Spirit was the great secret of Evans’ power. Writing to a young minister, he says: “You will observe that some heavenly ornaments, and power from on high, are visible in many ministers when under the Divine irradiation, which you cannot approach to by merely imitating their artistic excellence, without resembling them in their spiritual taste, fervency, and zeal which Christ and His Spirit ‘work in them.’ This will cause, not only your being like unto them in gracefulness of action, and propriety of elocution, but will also induce prayer for the anointing of the Holy One, which worketh mightily in the inward man. This is the mystery of effective preaching. We must be endued with power from on high.” Someone said to Evans, “Mr. Evans, you have not studied Dr. Blair’s Rhetoric.” Evans, to whom Dr. Blair with his rules was always as dry as Gilboa, replied: “Why do you say so when you just now saw hundreds weeping under the sermon? That could not be, had I not first of all been influenced myself, which, you know, is the substance, and mystery, of all rules of speaking.”

Evans collected much money for the building of churches, the Baptist churches of Anglesea being more than doubled under his ministry. In one place where he was raising money to build a chapel, the money came very slowly although the audiences were very large. There had been much sheep-stealing in the neighborhood, and Evans decided to use this fact to advantage in collecting money. He told the people that undoubtedly some of the sheep-stealers must be present in the congregation, and he hoped that they would not throw any money into the collection. A big collection was taken. Those who did not have any money to give borrowed from their neighbors to put in the collection.

“Dear old Christmas,” as he was familiarly called in his old age, finished his course with joy, and fell asleep in Christ July 23, 1838, with a song of victory on his lips.

2016/03/27 22:58 · admin

Lorenzo Dow

Some one has said that all Spirit-filled Christians appear peculiar or eccentric to the people of the world, because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). This was especially true of Lorenzo Dow, the quaint but famous pioneer Methodist preacher, who, about the beginning of the nineteenth century, traveled about the world on foot and on horseback, preaching the Gospel to tens of thousands, and winning multitudes to Christ

In his character Lorenzo Dow very much resembled John Bunyan, but he seems to have had a quiet vein of humor which was lacking in the latter. Like Bunyan he went astray with wicked boys in his youth, and learned many of their ways. Like Bunyan he was haunted by terrible dreams and visions. And like Bunyan he was plunged into awful agony and despair by imagining that God had reprobated, or predestined, him to be damned.

Lorenzo Dow was born in Connecticut, October 16, 1777. His parents were born in the same town, but were descended from English ancestors. They had a son and four daughters beside Lorenzo, who was next to the youngest. They tried to educate the children well both in religion and common learning. Lorenzo came near dying when two years of age, and he always suffered from a weak constitution. When he was between three and four years of age, he was one day playing with a companion when he fell into so deep a muse concerning God and heaven that he forgot about his play. He asked his companion if he ever said his prayers, morning or night; and when his friend replied “no,” Lorenzo said, “Then you are wicked and I will not play with you,” and he went into the house. When Lorenzo was eight years of age, his parents removed to another vicinity, the youth of which were very vile, wicked and corrupt. He soon learned their ways, and his serious thoughts and impressions soon left him. But one day he killed a bird, and the sight of it gasping struck horror to his heart, as it made him think of death, and be was afraid to die.

At ten years of age he promised to serve God if He would restore his sick friend to health. “God granted my desire,” says he, “but I soon forgot my promise.” Later he promised to serve God if he should get the prize in a certain draw or lottery. “No sooner had I got the prize, which was a shilling, than I brake my promise,” says he.

When past the age of thirteen, and about the time Wesley died (1791), he had a vision in which Wesley appeared to him three times in succession and warned him that he had better pray. “Keen conviction seized my heart,” says he. “I knew I was unprepared to die. Tears began to run down plentifully, and I again resolved to seek the salvation of my soul.” After this he broke off from his old companions and sought earnestly for salvation; but he had no one to pray for him and show him how to be saved. He was also greatly troubled over the doctrine of unconditional election, or predestination, as taught by many in those days. Referring to his dream about Wesley, he says: “Frequently before and after the above, the enemy of souls harassed me much with the forementioned doctrine of reprobation, etc., my view of which excited such enmity and rage against the Supreme Being, as the author of my most wretched helpless fate, that I cursed and swore, and blasphemed His name, throwing sticks and stones toward heaven, defying Him to come down and destroy me. It seemed as if I were unable to refrain from acting often in this manner.” Through brooding over the matter, he became so fully persuaded that he was predestined to be damned that he decided to take his own life. Loading a gun he went out into the woods for the purpose, but when he was about to pull the trigger he decided to wait a little while longer before taking his life.

About this time the Methodists came to his town. They were everywhere spoken against, but he concluded that if he was one of God’s elect they could do him no harm, and if he was eternally reprobated they could do him no injury, and he went to their meetings. He was somewhat surprised to see that the Methodists looked very much like other people. The preacher, Hope Hull, described his condition so accurately that he had to hold on to his cousin to keep from falling off his seat, so great was his agitation. People were being converted all around him and his conviction became almost unendurable. He went to a prayer meeting, and his conviction of ‘n became so overwhelming that he fell down on the road several times on his way home, and he hardly realized what he was doing. Reaching home he prayed for hours until he fell into a slumber from pure exhaustion. He then had a fearful vision of hell. In his suffering he awoke, “and, oh! how glad I was to find that it was only a dream,” says he. He began to pray earnestly, and finally said, “Lord! I give up; I submit; I yield; I yield; if there be mercy in heaven for me, let me know it; and if not, let me go down to hell and know the worst of my case. As these words flowed from my heart,” says he, “I saw the Mediator step in, as it were, between the Father’s justice and my soul, and these words were applied to my mind with great power: “Son, thy sins which are many are forgiven thee; thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.’

“The burden of sin and guilt and the fear of hell vanished from my mind, as perceptibly as a hundred pounds weight falling from a man’s shoulder; my soul flowed out in love to God, to His ways and to His people; yea, and to all mankind.”

Having found the Saviour, he immediately wanted to tell others. “My soul was so happy,” says he, “that I could scarcely settle to work ; and I spent the greatest part of the day in going from house to house through the neighborhood, to tell the people what God had done for me.”

He soon felt a powerful call to preach the gospel; but felt that he was only an illiterate child, and resisted the call as a temptation from the devil. The more he resisted the call, the greater was his misery. He tried in every way to get rid of the impression that he must preach, but the hand of God was heavy jupon him. Like Jonah, he was afflicted in soul and body until he was literally compelled to preach. After he began to preach, he met with so many discouragements that he tried again and again to stop preaching, but the hand of affliction was so heavy upon him that he was forced to begin again. He said that God showed him plainly that he could not live unless he preached the gospel, and that if he stopped preaching he would die. Like the Apostle Paul, he could say, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (1 Corinthians 9:16, 17). Lorenzo sometimes resolved that saved or damned he would not preachy but intense physical suffering compelled him to change his mind, and then his health would improve. He once had a vision of Justice ready to cut him down if he did not preach the gospel. He seems to have been taught many things in dreams and visions, of which he had more than almost any other person with whose history the writer is acquainted.

He was licensed to preach by the Methodists, and in 1796, at the age of 19, he became an itinerant preacher. His presiding elder and others criticised his ignorance, his behaviour, his conceit, his manner of preaching, and so on, until his heart was almost ready to break with discouragement, and he longed to stop preaching. Sometimes the conference took away his credentials, and he sought to hold this up to God as an excuse for not preaching, but the hand of the Lord was heavy upon him until he resumed his preaching.

Dow’s manner of preaching was bold, full of zeal, and so uncompromising as to arouse the anger of many; but God blessed his labors in many places, though in others he could scarcely obtain a hearing. Often in his early ministry his clothes were worn out, and he had no money to buy new ones, but in some way or other the Lord always supplied his need.

In 1796, while still in his nineteenth year, Dow was deeply convinced of his need of a deeper spiritual experience. During that year he wrote: “I never felt the plague of a hard heart as I do of late, nor so much faith as I now have that inbred corruption will be done away, and I filled with perfect peace, and enabled to rejoice evermore.”

Referring to this period, he also says: “Sometimes I was so happy, and the times so powerful, I would hope ‘the winter was past and gone.’ But soon it would return again.”

From his Journal, of Sunday, May 23, 1802, we copy the following account of how he obtained the deeper spiritual experience for which his soul was craving:

“When I was on the Orange (Connecticut) Circuit,” says he, “I felt something within that needed to be done away. I spake to one and another concerning the pain I felt in my happiest moments, which caused a burden but not guilt; some said one thing and some another; but none spoke to my case, but seemed to be like physicians that did not understand the nature of my disorder; thus the burden continued, and sometimes felt greater than the burden of guilt for justification, until I fell in with T. Dewey, on Cambridge Circuit. He told me about Calvin Wooster, in Upper Canada, that he enjoyed the blessing of sanctification, and had a miracle wrought in his body, in some sense; the course of nature turned in consequence, and he was much owned and blessed of God in his ministerial labors. I felt a great desire arise in my heart to see the man, if it might be consistent with the Divine will; and not long after I heard he was passing through the circuit and going home to die. I immediately rode five miles to the house; but found he was gone another five miles further. I went into the room where he was asleep; he appeared to be more like one from the eternal world, than like one of my fellow mortals. I told him, when he awoke, who I was and what I had come for. Said he: ‘God has convicted you for the blessing of sanctification, and that Blessing is to be obtained by the single act of faith, the same as the blessing of justification. I persuaded him to tarry in the neighborhood a few days; and a couple of evenings after the above, after I had done speaking one evening, he spake, or rather whispered out an exhortation, as his voice was so broken, in consequence of praying, in the stir of the Upper Canada, as from twenty to thirty were frequently blessed at a meeting. He told me that if he could get a sinner under conviction, crying for mercy, they would kneel down a dozen of them, and not rise until he found peace; for, said he, we did believe that God would bless him, and it was according to our faith.

“At this time he was in a consumption, and a few weeks after expired ; and his last words were, as I am informed, ‘Ye must be sanctified or be damned,’ and casting a look upwards, went out like the snuff of a candle, without terror; and while whispering out the above exhortation, the power which attended the same, reached the hearts of the people ; and some who were standing or sitting, fell like men shot in the field of battle; and I felt a tremor to run through my soul and every vein, so that it took away my limb power, so that I fell to the floor, and by faith, saw a greater blessing than I had hitherto experienced, or in other words, felt a Divine conviction of the need of a deeper work of grace in my soul ; feeling some of the remains of the evil nature, the effect of Adam’s fall, still remaining, and it my privilege to have it eradicated or done away; my soul was in an agony — I could but groan out my desire to God — He came to me, and said, believe the blessing is now; no sooner had the words dropped from his lips, than I strove to believe the blessing mine now, with all the powers of my soul, then the burden dropped or fell from my heart, and a solid joy, and a gentle running peace filled my soul.

“From that time to this I have not had the ecstacy of joy or that downcast of spirit as formerly; but more of an inward, simple, sweet running peace from day to day, so that prosperity or adversity doth not produce the ups and downs as formerly; but my soul is more like the ocean, whilst the surface is uneven by reason of the boisterous wind, the bottom is still calm; so that a man may be in the midst of outward difficulties, and yet the center of the soul may be stayed on God; the perfections of angels are such, that they cannot fall away; which some think is attainable by mortals here; but I think we cannot be perfect as God, for absolute perfection belongs to Him alone; neither as perfect as angels, nor even as Adam before he fell, because our bodies are now mortal, and tend to clog the mind, and weigh the spirit down; nevertheless, I do believe, that a man may drink in the Spirit of God, so far as to live without committing wilful, or known, or malicious sins against God, but to have love the ruling principle within, and what we say or do to flow from that Divine principle of love and not from a sense of duty, though subject to trials, temptations, and mistakes at the same time.”

After receiving the experience described above, Lorenzo Dow met with much greater success in his preaching. During the same year, 1796, his meetings kindled a revival flame that spread to a number of places. In 1797 his whole circuit was stirred into a flame of revival and this made his conference regard him more favorably. God greatly blessed his labors. Crowds flocked to hear him, and multitudes were seized with deep conviction of sin and were led to Christ under his preaching. Wherever he went, whether in America, England, or Ireland, similar results followed his labors. Sometimes the people flocked together in thousands to hear him, and they were converted to Christ by the scores. In one place the people were crying for mercy for eleven hours without interruption. Dow’s unique methods of presenting the truth, and the remarkable results attending his labors, made him famous the world over. When he entered a city and began preaching, the effects of his sermons were soon noticeable in the solemn countenances of the people as they walked along the streets. He held many great camp-meetings in which from one to ten thousand people heard his preaching. He was so careful to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit in all that he did that one preacher said concerning him, “He is Quakerized.”

There were some strange manifestations in the meetings held by Dow, as in the meetings held by Peter Cartwright and in the great revivals at the beginning and near the middle of the nineteenth century. The most remarkable of these were the exercises known as “the jerks,” which were so prominent a feature in the great Cumberland Revival. People of all denominations, and many who were not professing Christians, were seized with the jerking exercises. But it was principally the persecutors, scoffers, or half-hearted, among professing Christians who suffered with this strange “visitation from God,” as some have called it “Trembling took hold of the hypocrites,” says Dow. Writing concerning this jerking exercise, he says: “The wicked are more afraid of it than the smallpox or yellow fever; these are subject to it; but the persecutors are more subject to it than any, and they sometimes have cursed, and swore, and damned it whilst jerking. There is no pain attending the jerks, except they resist it, which if they do, it will weary them more in an hour than a day’s labor; which shows that it requires the consent of the will to avoid suffering.”

Describing one of his great meetings, held in 1804, Dow says: “I observed about thirty to have the jerks, though they strove to keep still as they could; these emotions were involuntary and irresistible, as any unprejudiced eye might discern.”

Describing another of his meeting in which there were some remarkable physical manifestations, he says: “Soon nine were sprawling on the ground, and some were apparently lifeless. The doctors supposed they had fainted, and desired water and fans to be used. I replied, ‘Hush!’ Then to show the folly of my ideas, they attempted to determine it with their skill, but to their surprise, their pulse was regular. Some said, ‘It is fictitious, they make it.’ I answered, ‘The weather is warm, and we are in a perspiration, whilst they are as cold as corpses, which cannot be done by human art.’

“Here some supposing they were dying, whilst others suggested, ‘It is the work of the devil,’ I observed, ‘If it be the devil’s work, they will use the dialect of hell when they come to.’ Some watched my words, in great solemnity, and the first and the second were soon brought through, happy, and all in the course of the night.”

So remarkable was the power manifested in Dow’s meetings, and so numerous were his dreams and visions which came true, many looked upon him as having supernatural powers. They thought he could detect criminals, cure the sick, and so on. Several amusing incidents are related concerning the manner in which he detected thieves when people insisted that he should do so. While traveling one Sunday to a place where he had an appointment to preach, Dow overheard a man swearing bitterly. He went up to him and asked him the cause. The man answered that he had an axe stolen the night before. “Come along with me to the meeting,” said Dow, “and I will find your axe.” The man consented, and when they arrived near the church, Dow stopped and picked up a large stone, which he carried with him into the church, and laid upon the front of the pulpit. The subject of his sermon was very well fitted to this particular object, and when in the midst of it, he stopped short, took the stone in his hand, and, raising it, with a threatening attitude, said: “A man in this neighborhood had an axe stolen last night, and if the person who stole it does not dodge, I will hit him on the forehead with this stone,” at the same time making a violent gesture as if he were about to throw the stone, as he swung round in the pulpit. A person present was observed to dodge his head violently, and he proved to be the guilty person.

In another place a person who had been robbed entreated Dow to discover the thief. Dow told him to gather all the suspected persons into a certain room, and to get a black pot and a rooster. He did so, and Dow put the rooster under the pot, and then had the room darkened. He then explained that he wanted every one present to go up to the pot in the dark, and to touch it with his fingers, and assured them that when the guilty person touched the pot the rooster would crow. After all had gone up to the pot the room was lighted, and it was discovered that one person present had no soot on his fingers. He had been afraid to touch the pot, and afterwards proved to be the guilty person.

The above incidents are fair samples of the many novel and eccentric doings of Lorenzo Dow. In 1799 he went to Ireland, and while riding on a canal boat there he observed that there was much gambling on the boat. He tried to purchase the cards from the captain, but he refused to sell them. He finally gave the deck of cards to Dow, who surprised him by throwing them overboard. The gamblers were afterward convicted of sin. At Hacklestown, Ireland, two young ladies in a home where Dow remained over night were deeply absorbed in fixing some fashionable superfluities on their clothes. Dow said to them: “Every time you wear them, remember another suit you’ll have, the muffler and winding sheet.” This made such an impression upon their minds that they were both brought to Christ as a result.

Unique as Dow’s methods were, they were often owned of God. Sometimes he told the people that he would ask God to send some sickness on them if they did not repent One time he hired a servant to pray for a whole day. She said that she did not have time to pray, and he gave her a dollar for her day’s time, with the understanding that she was to spend the time in prayer. At another place Dow urged a young lady to decide whom she would serve, God or the Devil. She chose the latter, but was converted to Christ soon afterward. At one place where Dow was preaching, the young men would leave the meeting when the preaching became too powerful for them. Here Dow preached with his back against the door to keep them from going out, and about two-thirds of them were brought under deep conviction of sin.

In 1834, at the age of 57, Lorenzo Dow laid down his cross and took up his crown. He endured much suffering for the sake of his Master, but he won many souls to Christ, and will shine as the stars for ever and ever.

In personal appearance Dow was about 5 feet, 10 inches in height, was rather light complexioned, and much marked with the small-pox. He had small, light eyes, dark-brown hair and eye-brows, small features and short visage. The originality of his methods is shown even in the title of his diary, or journal, which is, “The Dealings of God, Man, and the Devil; as Exemplified in the Life, Experience, and Travels of Lorenzo Dow.’’

2016/03/27 22:56 · admin

Peter Cartwright

In the front rank of the pioneer Methodist preachers of America was Peter Cartwright. He was famous not because of his education or learning, for he had but little of these. But his great spiritual power and native common sense and shrewdness made him known all over America and in many other lands as well. “It must be remembered,” says he, “that many of us early traveling preachers, who entered the vast wilderness of the West at an early day, had little or no education, no books, and no time to read or study them if we could have had them.”

Peter Cartwright was one of the principal agents used of God in the great revival near the beginning of the nineteenth century. Few, if any, other preachers ever conducted so many camp-meetings or conducted them with so great success. We might almost say that Cartwright was without a peer as a camp-meeting preacher. In his “Autobiography” he has related many thrilling incidents, humorous or otherwise, concerning his experiences in camp-meetings and elsewhere.

Cartwright was born in Virginia in 1785. His parents were poor. They soon moved to the backwoods of Kentucky, where Cartwright grew up without an education. His mother was a Methodist, but his father was an unbeliever. Occasionally a Methodist itinerant preacher would visit their cabin. Finally a little church was organized near them. Many criminals and desperate characters had fled to this frontier settlement, and it was called “Rogues’ Harbor.” There was no newspaper or regular school within forty miles of the place. Almost everything eaten by the people was grown by them, and the clothes they wore were home-spun from cotton raised by themselves. They had but little communication with the outside world.

Cartwright says: “I was naturally a wild, wicked boy, and delighted in horse-racing, card-playing and dancing. My father restrained me but little, though my mother often talked to me, wept over me, and prayed for me, often drew tears from my eyes ; and though I often wept under preaching and resolved to do better and seek religion, yet I broke my vows, went into young company, rode races, played cards and danced.”

After a school was started in his neighborhood. Cartwright attended it for a short time, but the teacher was a poor one and Cartwright made but little progress in his studies. He says: “I, however, learned to read, write, and cipher a little, but very imperfectly.” As time rolled on the population increased, civilization advanced, and a number of churches sprang up in the community. About this time the great Cumberland Revival began.

Describing the beginning of the famous Cumberland Revival, Cartwright says: “Somewhere between 1800 and 1801, in the upper part of Kentucky, at a memorable place called ‘Cane Ridge,’ there was appointed a sacramental meeting by some of the Presbyterian ministers; at which meeting, seemingly unexpected by ministers or people, the mighty power of God was displayed in a very extraordinary manner; many were moved to tears and cried aloud for mercy.” This was the beginning of one of the greatest revivals of religion known to history. “The meeting was protracted for weeks,” continues Cartwright. Ministers of almost all denominations flocked in from far and near. The meeting was kept up by night and day. Thousands heard of the mighty work, and came on foot, on horseback, in carriages and wagons. It is supposed that there were in attendance at times during the meeting from twelve to twenty-five thousand people. Hundreds fell prostrate under the mighty power of God, as men slain in battle.”

“From this camp-meeting,” he adds later, “for so it ought to be called, the news spread through all the churches, and through all the land, and it excited great wonder and surprise; but it kindled a religious flame that spread all over Kentucky, and through many other States. And I may here be permitted to say, that this was the first camp-meeting ever held in the United States, and here our camp-meetings took their rise.”

The revival spread to Cartwright’s neighborhood, and a great camp-meeting was held there. The people crowded to this camp-meeting from far and near. “The power of God was wonderfully displayed;” says he, “scores of sinners fell under the preaching, like men slain in a mighty battle; Christians shouted aloud for joy.”

Cartwright had previously been convicted of sin, and he went to this camp-meeting feeling that he was a lost, undone sinner, and he was even tempted to believe that he was forever reprobate, although he did not endorse the doctrines of unconditional election and reprobation. He says: “In 1801, when I was in my sixteenth year, my father, my eldest half-brother, and myself, attended a wedding about five miles from home, where there was a great deal of drinking and dancing, which was very common in marriages in those days. I drank little or nothing; my delight was in dancing. After a late hour in the night we mounted our horses and started for home. I was riding my race-horse.

“A few minutes after we had put up the horses, and were sitting by the fire, I began to reflect on the manner in which I had spent the day and evening. I felt guilty and condemned. I rose and walked the floor. My mother was in bed. It seemed to me, all of a sudden, my blood rushed to my head, my heart palpitated, in a few minutes I turned blind; an awful impression rested on my mind that death had come, and I was unprepared to die. I fell on my knees, and began to ask God to have mercy on me.”

His mother, hearing him praying, was soon at his side. They prayed long and earnestly. Finally he went to bed, after promising the Lord that he would seek until he found salvation. Next morning he rose “feeling wretched beyond expression.” He sold his race-horse, burned his pack of cards, and tried to read the Bible and pray. “I was so distressed and miserable,” says he, “that I was incapable of any regular business.” He agonized and prayed for days in this wretched, miserable condition. Three months passed by and still he did not find the pardon of his sins. It was at this time that the great camp-meeting already described began in his neighborhood. “To this meeting I repaired,” says he, “a guilty miserable sinner. On the Saturday evening of said meeting, I went with weeping multitudes, and bowed before the stand, and earnestly prayed for mercy. In the midst of a solemn struggle of soul, an impression was made on my mind, as though a voice said to me, “Thy sins are all forgiven thee.’ Divine light flashed all around me, unspeakable joy sprung up in my soul. I rose to my feet, opened my eyes, and it really seemed as if I was in heaven; the trees, the leaves on them, and everything seemed, and I really thought were, praising God. My mother raised the shout, my Christian friends crowded around me, and joined me in praising God; and though I have been since then, in many instances, unfaithful, yet I have never, for one moment, doubted that the Lord did, then and there, forgive my sins, and give me religion.”

Cartwright joined the Methodist Church the same year that he was converted to Christ. He went to several camp-meetings among the Methodists and Presbyterians, and took quite an active part in the meetings. “I was enjoying great comfort and peace,” says he.

Next year after his conversion, to Christ, Cartwright was given an exhorter’s license. He had already exhorted some when he felt led of the Spirit to do so, but he was not expecting any license from the Church. In the fall of the same year his presiding elder gave him permission to form a circuit, in the new region of Kentucky to which he was then moving. “I told him,” says Cartwright, “ just to give me a simple letter of membership; that, although I did feel at times that it was my duty to preach, I had little education, and it was my intention to go to school next year.” After moving to the new region of Kentucky, Cartwright attended school, but was so persecuted on account of his religion that he soon gave up school and began to organize a circuit and engage in the work of the ministry. He had good success, organized a number of class-meetings, and had many conversions.

Cartwright describes his call to the ministry and his entire consecration and enduement with power from on high as follows :

“Brother Garret, the new elder, called on me at my father’s and urged me to go on this Circuit with Brother Lotspeich. My father was unwilling, but my mother urged me to go, and finally prevailed This was in October, 1803, when I was a little over eighteen years of age. I had a hard struggle to give my consent, and although I thought it my duty to preach, yet I thought I could do this, and not throw myself into the ranks as a circuit preacher, when I was liable to be sent from Greenbrier to Natchez ; no members hardly to support a preacher, the Discipline only allowing a single man eighty dollars, and in nine cases out of ten he could not get half that amount. These were times that tried men’s souls and bodies too.

“At last I literally gave up the world, and started, bidding farewell to father and mother, brothers and sisters, and met brother Lotspeich at an appointment in Logan County. He told me I must preach that night. This I had never done; mine was an exhorter’s dispensation. I tried to beg off, but he urged me to make the effort. I went out and prayed fervently for aid from heaven. All at once it seemed to me as if I could never preach at all, but I struggled in prayer. At length I asked God, if He had called me to preach, to give me aid that night, and give me one soul, that is, convert one soul under my preaching, as evidence that I was called to this work.

“I went into the house, took my stand, gave out a hymn, sang, and prayed. I then rose, gave them for a text Isaiah 26:4: ‘Trust ye in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength.’ The Lord gave light, liberty, and power; the congregation was melted into tears. There was present a professed infidel. The word reached his heart by the eternal Spirit. He was powerfully convicted, and, as I believe, soundly converted to God that night, and joined the Church, and afterward became a useful member of the same.”

Cartwright must have received the baptism of the Spirit in power while preaching that night. He felt his utter inability to preach without power from God, and wrestled in prayer, like Jacob of old, until he obtained the blessing. He was then nineteen years of age. He continued to preach with great unction and power. His meetings were attended by marvellous manifestations of spiritual power, and multitudes of souls were won to Christ in them. Often people were stricken down in his meetings under an overwhelming conviction of sin. He had no sympathy with fleshly excitements in his meetings, and always checked them with an iron hand; and yet on the other hand he was careful not to grieve the Spirit of God by checking or quenching any genuine work or manifestation of the Holy Spirit. He frequently describes his meetings in words such as these: “Suddenly an awful power fell on the congregation, and they instantly fell right and left, and cried aloud for mercy.”

He describes one camp-meeting thus: “The encampment was lighted up, the trumpet blown, I rose in the stand, and required every soul to leave the tents and come into the congregation. There was a general rush to the stand. I requested the brethren, if ever they prayed in all their lives, to pray now. My voice was strong and clear, and my preaching was more of an exhortation and encouragement than anything else. My text was, ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail.’ In about thirty minutes the power of God fell on the congregation in such a manner as is seldom seen; the people fell in every direction, right and left, front and rear. It was supposed that not less than three hundred fell like dead men in mighty battle; and there was no need of calling mourners, for they were strewed all over the camp-ground; loud wailings went up to heaven from sinners for mercy, and a general shout from Christians, so that the noise was heard afar off.”

In another place Cartwright says: “At our Breckenridge Circuit camp-meeting the following incident occurred. There were a brother S. and family, who were the owners of a good many slaves. It was a fine family, and sister S. was a very intelligent lady, and an exemplary Christian. She had long sought the blessing of perfect love, but she said the idea of holding her fellow-beings in bondage stood out in her way. Many in this meeting sought and obtained the blessing of sanctification; Sister S. said her whole soul was in an agony for that blessing, and it seemed to her at times that she could almost lay hold, and claim the promise, but she said her slaves would seem to step right in between her and her Saviour, and prevent its reception; but while on her knees, and struggling as in an agony for a clean heart, she then and there covenanted with the Lord, if He would give her the blessing, she would give up her slaves and set them free. She said this covenant had hardly been made one moment when God filled her soul with such an overwhelming sense of Divine love, that she did not really know whether she was in or out of the body. She rose from her knees, and proclaimed to listening hundreds that she had obtained the blessing, and also the terms on which she obtained it. She went through the vast crowd with holy shouts of joy, and exhorting all to taste and see that the Lord was gracious; and such a power attended her words that hundreds fell to the ground, and scores of souls were happily born into the kingdom of God that afternoon and during the night. Shortly after this they set their slaves free, and the end of that family was peace.”

While passing over the Cumberland Mountains one time, Cartwright was compelled to stop over night at a house where there was to be a dance. Many of the people had never heard a sermon. Cartwright sat in one corner of the room watching the dance. He made up his mind to stay over next day (Sunday) and preach to the people. I had hardly settled this point in my mind,” says he, when a beautiful ruddy young lady walked very gracefully up to me, dropped a handsome courtesy, and pleasantly, with winning smiles, invited me out to take a dance with her. I can hardly describe my thoughts or feeling on that occasion. However, in a moment I resolved on a desperate experiment. I rose as gracefully as I could; I will not say with some emotion, but with many emotions. The young lady moved to my right side; I grasped her right hand with my right hand, while she leaned her left arm on mine. In this position we walked on the floor. The whole company seemed pleased at this act of politeness in the young lady, shown to a stranger. The colored man, who was the fiddler, began to put his fiddle in the best order. I then spoke to the fiddler to hold a moment, and added that for several years I had not undertaken any matter of importance without first asking the blessing of God upon it, and I desired now to ask the blessing of God upon this beautiful young lady and the whole company, that had shown such an act of politeness to a total stranger.

“Here I grasped the young lady’s hand tightly, and said, ‘Let us all kneel down and pray,’ and then instantly dropped on my knees, and commenced praying with all the power of soul and body that I could command. The young lady tried to get loose from me, but I held her tight. Presently she fell on her knees. Some of the company kneeled, some stood, some fled, some sat still, all looked curious. The fiddler ran off into the kitchen, saying, ‘Lord a marcy, what de matter? what is dat mean?’

“While I prayed, some wept, and wept out aloud, and some cried for mercy. I rose from my knees and commenced an exhortation, after which I sang a hymn. The young lady who invited me on the floor lay prostrate, crying for mercy. I exhorted again, I sang and prayed nearly all night. About fifteen of that company professed religion, and our meeting lasted next day and next night, and as many more were powerfully converted. I organized a society, took thirty-two into the church, and sent them a preacher. My landlord was appointed leader, which post he held for many years. This was the commencement of a great and glorious revival of religion in that region of the country, and several of the young men converted at the Methodist preacher’s dance became useful ministers of Jesus Christ.

In one of Cartwright’s camp-meetings a little preacher, fresh from the theological seminary, began to teach the inquirers at the altar, just to resolve to be a Christian and that would make them Christians. Cartwright objected to this, and sent him out into the audience to exhort. The power of God fell on a big man, weighing about 230 pounds, and he began to cry for mercy. The little preacher exhorted him to “be composed,” but he prayed on until his soul was filled with joy. Then, in his ecstasy, he picked up the little preacher, and ran about with him in his arms, dancing for joy. The little preacher was pale with fright, and was never seen again on the camp-ground.

At one appointment where the people had never heard Cartwright preach, the weather was so bad that on the first day only one person, a one-eyed man who was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, came to hear him. He preached his best for forty-five minutes. The elder spread the news that it was the greatest sermon he ever heard. Next time Cartwright found the house crowded to overflowing and the whole hillside covered with horses and vehicles.

Many persons in Cartwright’s meetings were seized with the strange exercise known as the “jerks.” All over the country this phenomenon accompanied the great Cumberland Revival. Some regarded it as a purely nervous affection caused by suggestion, while others regarded it as a peculiar manifestation or operation of the Holy Spirit. Individuals seemed seized by a strange power which caused them to jerk in a most mysterious manner, and the more they resisted the more they jerked. Cartwright says: “To see those proud young gentlemen and ladies, dressed in their silks, jewelry and prunella, from top to toe, take the jerks, would often excite my sensibilities. The first jerk or so, you would see their fine bonnets, caps, and combs fly; and so sudden would be the jerking of the head, that their long loose hair would crack almost as loud as a waggoner’s whip.”

Cartwright regarded the “jerks” as a genuine manifestation of God’s Spirit, although he believed that excitement often led people to counterfeit them. He says: “I always looked upon the jerks as a judgment sent from God, first, to bring sinners to repentance; and, secondly, to show professors that God could work with or without means.” He tells of a drinking man who resisted the “jerks” until they came to him so severely that when he swore he would drink them off, and tried to raise a bottle of whiskey to his lips, a jerk more severe than before broke his neck. This happened at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, and brought great conviction of sin on the people.

Cartwright was a large, square-shouldered man, with some native ruggedness mingled with considerable humor. His strength was sometimes used to quiet the rowdies who tried to disturb his meetings. His creed was “to love everybody and fear nobody,” and he sometimes thrashed the worst rowdies and then proceeded with the meeting. He saw nothing inconsistent in a Christian thrashing disturbers of religious services, so long as it was done in a spirit of love and not in a spirit of revenge.

Cartwright’s sense of humor is shown in the following amusing incident. Like many other pioneer Methodist preachers, he had but little education. A learned minister of another denomination once addressed him publicly in Greek, in order to bring him into contempt for his ignorance. Cartwright listened as though he understood it all, and then replied in German, of which language he had learned considerable from a neighbor’s children while he was a boy. The minister, not understanding Hebrew and supposing that Cartwright had answered him in Hebrew, said that Cartwright was the first educated Methodist preacher he had seen. It was not so much worldly learning as wisdom from above which enabled Cartwright to win so many souls for Christ.

The grand old veteran, after enduring many hardships and winning multitudes to the Saviour, fell asleep in Christ at a good old age.

2016/03/27 22:53 · admin

Charles G. Finney

The writer is inclined to regard Charles G. Finney as the greatest evangelist and theologian since the days of the apostles. It is estimated that during the year 1857–58 over a hundred thousand persons were led to Christ as the direct or indirect result of Finney’s labours, while five hundred thousand persons professed conversion to Christ in the great revival which began in his meetings. Another remarkable fact is that it was found by actual research that over eighty-five in every hundred persons professing conversion to Christ in Finney’s meetings remained true to God, whereas seventy per cent of those professing conversion in the meetings of even so great an evangelist as Moody afterwards became backsliders. Finney seems to have had the power of impressing the consciences of men with the necessity of holy living in such a manner as to procure the most lasting results. It is said that at Governeur. New York, not a dance or theatrical play could be held in the place for six years after Finney held meetings there.

The “Autobiography of Charles G. Finney” is perhaps the most remarkable account of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power since apostolic days. It is crowded with accounts of spiritual outpourings which remind one of the day of Pentecost. Finney’s “Systematic Theology” is probably the greatest work on theology outside the Scriptures. The wonderful anointing of God’s Spirit, combined with Finney’s remarkable reasoning powers and his legal training, enabled him to present clearer views of Christian doctrine than has any other theologian since the days of early Christianity. His views with regard to the difference between physical and moral law and physical and moral depravity, on the reasonableness of the moral law and the atonement, and on the nature of regeneration and sanctification are the clearest of any the writer has had the privilege of reading or hearing. Finney’s teachings probably did more than all other causes combined to bring the Old School Calvinists over to a belief in man’s free agency and moral responsibility, or the views commonly known as New School Calvinism.

Charles Grandison Finney was a descendant of the New England Puritans, and was born in Connecticut in 1792. He removed with his parents to Western New York when two years of age. This part of New York was then a frontier wilderness, with few educational or religious privileges. Finney had a good common school education, however, and at twenty years of age he went to New England to attend high school, but soon afterward went to New Jersey to teach school and to continue his studies. He became quite proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and in other college studies. In 1818 he commenced the study of law in the office of Squire Wright, of Adams, near his old home in Western New York.

At Adams Finney had the first religious privileges worthy of the name. During the three years he taught school in New Jersey, about the only preaching in his neighborhood was in German, and the preaching he heard while at high school in New England was not of a kind calculated to arrest his attention. The aged preacher he heard there read old manuscript sermons in a monotonous, humdrum way that made no serious impression on the mind of Finney. Finney’s parents were not professing Christians, and in his childhood days in Western New York the only preaching lie heard was during an occasional visit from some itinerant preacher. At Adams, while studying law, he attended the Presbyterian Church. The pastor, George W. Gale, was an able and highly educated man. His preaching, though of the Old School Calvinistic type, arrested the attention of Finney, although to his keen and logical mind it seemed like a mass of absurdities and contradictions.

It was while studying law and attending church at Adams that Finney became interested in Bible study. He found so many references to the Scriptures in his law books, he decided to buy himself a Bible, and he soon became deeply absorbed in studying it. He had many conversations with Mr. Gale, who frequently dropped into the office to talk with him, but they could scarcely agree on any point of doctrine. This fact probably led Finney to study the Scriptures much more diligently than though he had agreed with Mr. Gale in everything. The fact that the church members were constantly praying prayers which did not seem to be answered, and to which they hardly seemed to expect an answer, was a great drawback to Finney. But he became more and more concerned about his own soul. He felt that if there was a life beyond he was not prepared for it. Some of the church members wanted to pray for him, but he told them that he did not see that it would do any good because they were continually asking without receiving.

Finney remained in a skeptical yet troubled frame of mind for two or three years. At last he came to a decision that the Bible was the true Word of God, and that it was the fault of the people if their prayers were not answered He was then brought face to face with the question as to whether or not he would accept Christ. “On a Sabbath evening, in the autumn of 1821,” says he, “I made up my mind that I would settle the question of my soul’s salvation at once, that if it were possible I would make my peace with God.” He was obliged to be in the office, however, and could not devote the entire time to seeking his soul’s salvation, although on the following Monday and Tuesday he spent most of his time in prayer and reading the Scriptures. Pride was the great obstacle which hindered him from accepting Christ as his Saviour. He found that he was unwilling that anyone should know that he was seeking salvation. Before praying he stopped the keyhole of the door, and then only prayed in a whisper for fear that someone should hear him. If he was reading the Bible when anyone came in, he would throw his law books on top of it to create the impression that he had been reading them instead of the Bible.

During Monday and Tuesday his conviction of sin increased, but his heart seemed to grow harder. Tuesday night he had become very nervous, and imagined that he was about to die, and sink into hell, but he quieted himself as best he could until morning. Next morning, on the way to the office, he had as dear a view of the atonement of Christ as he ever had afterwards. The Holy Spirit seemed to present Christ hanging on the cross for him. The vision was so clear that almost unconciously he stopped in the middle of the street for several minutes when it came to him. North of the village and over a hill lay a piece of woods, or forest, and he decided to go there and pour out his heart in prayer. So great was his pride, he kept out of sight so far as possible for fear that some one should see him on the way to the woods and should think that he was going there to pray. He penetrated far into the woods where some large trees had fallen across each other leaving an open space between. Into this space he crept to pray. “But when I attempted to pray,” says he, “I found that my heart would not pray.” He was in great fear lest someone should come and find him praying. He was on the verge of despair, having promised God not to leave the spot until he settled the question of his soul’s salvation, and yet it seemed impossible to him to settle the question. “Just at this moment,” says he, “I again thought I heard some one approach me, and I opened my eyes to see whether it were so. But right there the revelation of my pride of heart, as the great difficulty that stood in the way, was distinctly shown me. An overwhelming sense of my wickedness in being ashamed to have a human being see me on my knees before God, took such powerful possession of me, that I cried at the top of my voice, and exclaimed that I would not leave that place if all the men on earth and all the devils in hell surrounded me.” He was completely humbled in soul by the thought of his pride. Then the most comforting verses of Scripture seemed to pour into his soul. He saw clearly that faith was not an intellectual state but a voluntary act, and he accepted the promise of God.

Promises of salvation, from both Old and New Testaments, continued to pour into his soul, and he continued to pray. “I prayed,” says he, “until my mind became so full that, before I was aware of it, I was on my feet and tripping up the ascent toward the road.” On reaching the village he found that it was noon, although he had gone into the woods immediately after an early breakfast. He had been so absorbed in prayer that he had no idea of the time. There was now a great calm in his soul, and the burden of sin had completely rolled away, yet he was tempted to believe that he was not yet born of God. He went to his dinner, but found that he had no appetite. He then went to the office and took down his bass viol, and began to play some hymns, but his soul was so overflowing that he could not sing without weeping.

On the evening of the same day in which Finney received the pardon of his sins, in the manner already described, he received a mighty overwhelming baptism of the Holy Spirit which started him immediately to preaching the gospel. We will allow him to describe this filling of the Spirit in his own words. Continuing the narrative of his conversion, he says:

“After dinner we (Squire Wright and himself) were engaged in removing the books and furniture to another office. We were very busy in this, and had but little conversation all the afternoon. My mind, however, remained in that profoundly tranquil state. There was a great sweetness and tenderness in my thoughts and feelings. Everything appeared to be going right, and nothing seemed to disturb me or ruffle me in the least.

“Just before evening the thought took possession of my mind, that as soon as I was left alone in the new office, I would try to pray again — that I was not going to abandon the subject of religion and give it up, at any rate; and therefore, although I no longer had any concern about my soul, still, I would continue to pray.

“By evening we got the books and furniture adjusted; and I made up, in an open fire-place, a good fire, hoping to spend the evening alone. Just at dark Squire W____ , seeing that everything was adjusted, bade me good-night and went to his home. I had accompanied him to the door; and as I closed the door and turned around, my heart seemed to be liquid within me. All my feelings seemed to rise and flow out; and the utterance of my heart was, ‘I want to pour my whole soul out to God.’ The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room back of the front office, to pray.

“There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for some time afterward, that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary it seemed to me that I saw Him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at His feet. I have always since regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed to me a reality, that He stood before me, and I fell down at His feet and poured out my soul to Him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confession as I could with my choked utterance. It seemed to me that I bathed His feet with my tears; and yet I had no distinct impression that I touched Him, that I recollect.

“I must have continued in this state for a good while; but my mind was too much absorbed with the interview to recollect anything that I said. But I know, as soon as my mind became calm enough to break off from the interview, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had made of large wood was nearly burned out. But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Ghost descended on me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings.

“No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. The waves came over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, ‘I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.’ I said, ‘Lord, I cannot bear any more;’ yet I had no fear of death.”

Finney continued for some time under this remarkable manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power. Wave after wave of spiritual power rolled over him, and through him, thrilling every fibre of his being. Late in the evening a member of his choir — for he was the leader of the choir — came into the office. He was a member of the church, but was astonished to see Finney weeping under the power of the Spirit. After asking a few questions, he went after an elder of the church who was a very serious man, but who laughed with joy when he saw Finney weeping under the Spirit’s power. A young man who had associated much with Finney came into the office while Finney was trying to relate his experience to the elder and the member of the choir. He listened with astonishment to what Finney was saying, and suddenly fell upon the floor, crying out in the greatest agony of mind and saying, “Do pray for me!”

Although he had experienced so remarkable a baptism of the Holy Spirit, Finney was tempted the same night, when retiring to bed, to believe that he had been deluded in some way or other, and that he had not received the real baptism of the Spirit. “I soon fell asleep,” says he, “but almost as soon woke again on account of the great flow of the love of God that was in my heart. I was so filled with love that I could not sleep. Soon I fell asleep again and awoke in the same manner. When I awoke this temptation would return upon me, and the love that seemed to be in my heart would abate ; but as soon as I was asleep it was so warm within me that I would immediately awake. Thus I continued till, late at night, I obtained some sound repose.

“When I awoke in the morning the sun had risen, and was pouring a clear light into my room. Words cannot express the impression that the sunlight made upon me. Instantly the baptism that I had received the night before, returned upon me in the same manner. I arose upon my knees in the bed and wept aloud with joy, and remained for some time too much overwhelmed with the baptism of the Spirit to do anything but pour out my soul to God. It seemed as if this morning’s baptism was accompanied with a gentle reproof, and the Spirit seemed to say to me, ‘Will you doubt?’ ‘Will you doubt?’ I cried, ‘No! I will not doubt; I cannot doubt.’ He then cleared the subject up so much to my mind that it was in fact impossible for me to doubt that the Spirit of God had taken possession of my soul.”

On the morning just described Finney went to his office, and the waves of power continued to flood his soul. When Squire Wright came into the office, Finney said a few words to him about the salvation of his soul. He made no reply, but dropped his head and went away. Finney says, “I thought no more of it then, but afterward found that the remark I made pierced him like a sword; and he did not recover from it till he was converted.”

Almost every person Finney spoke to during the day was stricken with conviction of sin and afterwards found peace with God. His words seemed to pierce their hearts like arrows. Although he had been fond of law, Finney now lost all taste for it and for every other secular business. His whole desire now was to preach the gospel and to win men to Christ. Nothing else seemed of any consequence. He left the office and went out to talk to individuals concerning the salvation of their souls. Among those brought to Christ through his efforts that day were a Universalist and a distiller. During the day there had been much conversation and excitement concerning Finney’s conversion, and in the evening most of the people in the village gathered at the church, although no meeting had been appointed so far as Finney could learn. All the people seemed to be waiting for him to speak, and he arose and related what the Lord had done for his soul. A certain Mr. C____ , who was present, was so convicted of sin that he arose and rushed out and went home without his hat. Many others were also deeply convicted of sin. Finney spoke and prayed with liberty, although he had never prayed in public before. The meeting was a wonderful one, and from that day meetings were held every night for some time. The revival spread among all classes in the village and to many surrounding places. All of Finney’s former companions, with one exception, were brought to Christ.

Finney soon visited his home at Henderson, New York, and his parents were brought to Christ. On his return to Adams, he continued his meetings, and spent much time in fasting and prayer. One time as he approached the meeting-house “a light perfectly ineffable” shone in his soul, and almost prostrated him to the ground. It seemed greater than the light of the noon-day sun, as did the light which prostrated Saul on the way to Damascus. Many were brought to Christ, and some were healed in body, in answer to Finney’s prayers. He now learned what it was to have real travail of soul for the unsaved. “When Zion travails she shall bring forth” became a precious promise to him.

Soon after receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Finney had a lengthy conversation with his pastor, Mr. Gale, concerning the advisability of preparing for the ministry. Mr. Gale was a graduate of Princeton University, but was a firm believer in the Old School Calvinistic doctrines, which to Finney’s mind seemed very absurd and contradictory. Mr. Gale and he could scarcely agree on any point of doctrine. Mr. Gale believed in the doctrine of a limited atonement, or that Christ died only for the elect, while Finney believed that He died for all. Mr. Gale held that men were so depraved by nature that they had no free agency, while Finney believed that all men had the power to accept or reject salvation. Mr. Gale believed that Christ paid the exact penalty of the sinner, while Finney believed that He did not bear the exact penalty but that He bore sufficient penalty to enable God to forgive sin without mankind thinking that He was allowing sin to go unpunished. Notwithstanding their differences Finney, in 1822, placed himself under the care of the Presbytery as a candidate for the ministry. Some of the ministers urged him to go to Princeton, but he declined. They then appointed Mr. Gale to superintend his studies. His studies, so far as Mr. Gale was concerned, were only a series of controversies, but be made good use of Mr. Gale’s library. He felt that he would rather not preach than teach the doctrines held by Mr. Gale, but a good elder in the church who held similar views to Finney gave him much encouragement, and prayed with him frequently. During the few months that Finney studied under Mr. Gale a Universalist minister came to Adams and greatly disturbed the faith of many. Finney replied to his arguments and completely overthrew them.

The Presbytery was finally called together at Adams, in 1824, and licensed Finney to preach. The two written sermons he prepared for them were, with two exceptions, the only written sermons he ever prepared. He tried one other time to preach from a written sermon, but believed that it hindered the Spirit of God from speaking through him.

Finney’s first regular meetings were held at Evans Mills, Oneida County, New York. The people praised his sermons, but for two or three weeks no one decided for Christ Then Finney urged all who were willing to accept Christ to rise to their feet and all who were willing to reject him to remain on their seats. This was very unusual in those days, and made the people so angry that they were almost ready to mob Finney. Next day he spent the day in fasting and prayer, and in the evening preached with such unction and power that a great conviction of sin swept over the people. All night long they were sending for him to come and pray with them. Even hardened atheists were brought to Christ.

He continued to preach the gospel, with increasing power and results, visiting many of the leading cities of America and Great Britain. Sometimes the power of God was so manifest in his meetings that almost the entire audience fell on their knees in prayer or were prostrated on the floor. When in the pulpit he sometimes felt almost lifted off his feet by the power of the Spirit of God. Some persons believe that the moral work of the Holy Spirit is not accompanied by any physical manifestations; but both in Bible times and in Finney’s meetings remarkable physical manifestations seemed to accompany the moral work of the Holy Spirit when the moral work was deep and powerful. At times, when Finney was speaking, the power of the Spirit seemed to descend like a cloud of glory upon him. Often a hallowed calm, noticeable even to the unsaved, seemed to settle down upon cities where he was holding meetings. Sinners were often brought under conviction of sin almost as soon as they entered these cities.

Finney seemed so anointed with the Holy Spirit that people were often brought under conviction of sin just by looking at him. When holding meetings at Utica, New York, he visited a large factory there and was looking at the machinery. At the sight of him one of the operatives, and then another, and then another broke down and wept under a sense of their sins, and finally so many were sobbing and weeping that the machinery had to be stopped while Finney pointed them to Christ.

At a country place named Sodom, in the state of New York, Finney gave one address in which he described the condition of Sodom before God destroyed it. “I had not spoken in this strain more than a quarter of an hour,” says he, “when an awful solemnity seemed to settle upon them ; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them down as fast as they fell. Nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from the first shock that fell upon them. Every one prayed who was able to speak at all.” Similar scenes were witnessed in many other places.

In London, England, between 1,500 and 2,000 persons were seeking salvation in one day in Finney’s meetings. Enormous numbers inquired the way of salvation in his meetings in New York, Boston, Rochester, and many other important cities of America. The great revival of 1858–1859, one of the greatest revivals in the world’s history, was the direct result of his meetings. “That was the greatest work of God, and the greatest revival of religion the world has ever seen,” says Dr. Lyman Beecher. It is estimated that six hundred thousand persons were brought to Christ in this revival.

In 1833 Finney became a Congregationalist, and later a founder and first President of Oberlin College, Ohio. The great object in founding this college was to train students for the ministry. The remainder of Finney’s time was divided between his work at Oberlin and holding meetings in different parts of the country.

Finney’s writings have had an enormous circulation and have greatly influenced the religious life of the world. This is especially true of his “Autobiography,” his “Lectures on Revivals,” “Lectures to Professing Christians,” and his “Systematic Theology.” These books have all had a world-wide circulation.

Finney continued to preach and to lecture to the students at Oberlin until two weeks before he was eighty-three years of age, when he was called up higher to enjoy the reward of those who have “turned many to righteousness.”

2016/03/27 22:51 · admin

Billy Bray

God sometimes uses weak vessels in a most marvellous way. “Billy” Bray, the famous Cornish miner, was perhaps one of the quaintest vessels ever used of God to accomplish a great work of any kind. Before his conversion to Christ he was a drunken profligate miner, but after the Spirit of the Lord took possession of him he became such a burning shining light for Christ that his name is now known all over the world. From one end of Cornwall, England, to the other scarcely any name is better known than that of Billy Bray.

Billy Bray was born in 1794, at Twelveheads, a village near Truro, in Cornwall, England. His grandfather had joined the Methodists under the preaching of John Wesley. Billy’s father was also a Christian, but died when his children were all quite young. Billy lived with his grandfather until he was seventeen years of age, and then went to Devonshire, where he lived a very wicked and sinful life. He was both drunken and lascivious. One night he and a companion were going home drunk from Tavistock when they met a big horse and climbed on his back. He threw them and nearly killed them. He had many other narrow escapes from death. After his conversion to Christ he often said, “The Lord was good to me when I was the servant of the Devil or I should have been down in hell now.” Once he was nearly killed in a mine. He ran out just about a minute before the mine caved in. He became so great a drunkard that his wife had to bring him away from the beer shop night after night. “I never got drunk without feeling condemned for it,” he afterwards said.

Billy was led to Christ, or rather, was convicted of sin, through reading Bunyan’s “Visions of Heaven and Hell.” When he was seeking the Lord he went a mile one Sunday morning to attend a class-meeting of the Bible Christians. It was a wet day, and no one came. This had a discouraging effect on him. After he had been seeking salvation for a long time, the Devil strongly tempted him to believe that he never would find mercy. “But,” says he, “I said to him ‘Thou art a liar, Devil,’ and as soon as I said so, I felt the weight gone from my mind, and I could praise the Lord, but not with that liberty that I could afterwards.” The same day, in the evening after he had gone home from work, he went into his room alone and said, “Lord, Thou hast said, ‘They that ask shall receive, and they that seek shall find, and to them that knock the door shall be opened,’ and I have faith enough to believe it.” This brought joy to his soul. “In an instant,” says he, “the Lord made me so happy that I cannot express what I felt. I shouted for joy.” This was in 1823.

After his conversion Billy became a very happy Christian, and also a very earnest worker for the salvation of others. This was especially true after he was led into a deeper richer, and fuller Christian experience than he had received when converted to Christ The following account of how he was led into this deeper experience is from “The King’s Son, A Memoir of Billy Bray,” by F. W. Bourne: “It is more important to speak of his deep piety, his abiding sense of the Divine favour, the secret of his great usefulness, the source of his constant and perpetual joy. The ‘much fruit,’ which is so pleasing to God, cannot come except the roots have struck deep into the soil. Religion is not shallow in its nature. ‘The water that I shall give you,’ said the Saviour, ‘shall be in you a well of water springing up into everlasting life.’ To be ‘sanctified wholly,’ to use an apostolic phrase, Billy very early in his religious history felt to be both his duty and privilege. ‘I remember being,’ he says, ‘at Hick’s Mill Chapel one Sunday morning at class-meeting when a stranger led the class. The leader asked one of our members whether he could say that the Lord had cleansed him from all sin, and he could not. “That,” I said in my mind, “is sanctification; I will have that blessing by the help of the Lord,” and I went on my knees at once, and cried to the Lord to sanctify me wholly, body, spirit, soul. And. the Lord said to me, “Thou art clean through the word I have spoken unto thee.” And I said, “Lord, I believe it. When the leader came to me I told him, “Four months ago I was a great sinner against God. Since that time I have been justified freely by His grace, and while I have been here this morning, the Lord has sanctified me wholly.” When I had done telling what the Lord had done for me, the leader said, “If you can believe it, it is so.” Then I said, “I can believe it.” When I had told him so, what joy filled my heart I cannot find words to tell. After meeting was over, I had to go over a railroad, and all around me seemed so full of glory that it dazzled my sight. I had a “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”’ From one expression in this narrative some may dissent. It seems injudicious, to say the least, to tell a believer that he is sanctified if he believes he is, or tell a penitent that he is saved if he only believes he is. There is a more excellent way. But henceforth Billy lived not to himself, but to Him who died for him and rose again. He set the Lord always before him. His path was like the shining light, his own favorite figure, that shineth more and more to the perfect day. Justified, sanctified, sealed, were successive steps in Christian experience; more clear to him perhaps than to others. His faith did not become feeble, but waxed stronger and stronger; his love to the Saviour grew in intensity till it became the absorbing passion of his soul; and his hope brightened into heavenly radiance and splendor. The freshness, the delicacy and fragrance of richest Christian experience seemed always to be his.”

After the experience related above Billy often felt the love of God overflowing his soul, so much so that he frequently shouted aloud or danced for very joy. His Christian experience was so happy, so bright, so trustful, and so sunshiny that many of the great persons of the earth have been greatly interested in the story of his life. Among these were Queen Victoria, Spurgeon, and many leading ministers of Britain and America. His name is a household word throughout Cornwall where he labored so earnestly for the salvation of others.

Billy did not have the gloomy, dismal, sorrowful religion which so many professing Christians seem to have. His was the joyous, victorious Christian experience which attracts sinners to Christ as honey attracts the bees. Sinners want a religion which will give them victory over sin, and wherever this kind of religion is preached souls are won to Christ But the gloomy dismal testimony does not attract souls to Christ. In the Methodist Church at St. Blazey Billy heard the people telling about their many trials and difficulties. He arose smiling, and clapping his hands said: “Well, friends I have been taking vinegar and honey, but, praise the Lord, I’ve had the vinegar with a spoon and the honey with a ladle.” His testimony was always one of joy and victory. Speaking concerning the Lord, he says: “He has made me glad and no one can make me sad; He makes me shout and no one can make me doubt; He it is that makes me dance and leap, and there is no one that can keep down my feet. I sometimes feel so much of the power of God that, I believe, if they were to cut off my feet I should heave up the stumps.”

Billy often literally danced for very joy. One time he got so happy on his way home from market that he danced a new frock for his little girl out of the basket in which he was carrying it. It was found later and was returned to him. Some objected to his dancing and shouting, but Billy justified himself by referring to how Miriam and David danced before the Lord, and to the example of the cripple at Lystra who, after he was healed, leaped and walked and praised God. Billy also said that it was prophesied that ‘the lame man shall leap as an hart.’ “I can’t help praising God,” he once said. “As I go along the street I lift up one foot, and it seems to say ‘Glory!’ and I lift up the other, and it seems to say, ‘Amen;’ and so they keep on like that all the time I am walking.” Even when his wife died, Billy jumped about the room with joy, exclaiming: “Bless the Lord! My dear Joey is gone up with the bright ones! My dear Joey is gone up with the shining angels! Glory! Glory! Glory!” He believed that afflictions were a special mark of God’s favor, and that Christians ought to rejoice in them.

To those who objected to his shouting so much, Billy once said: “If they were to put me in a barrel, I would shout glory out through the bung-hole! Praise the Lord!” Some one asked him one time, when he was praising the Lord, if he did not think that people sometimes got in such a habit of praising the Lord that they did not know what they were saying. He very coolly replied that he did not think that the Lord was much troubled with that class of persons. At a meeting at Hick’s Mill, in 1866, a Mr. Oliver told how triumphantly a dying woman expired shouting victory. “Glory!” shouted Billy. “If a dying woman praised the Lord, I should think a living man might.” When Billy heard the news of a certain preacher’s death, he said, “So he has done with the doubters and has got up with the shouters.”

“Some can only eat out of the silent dish,” says Billy, “But I can not only eat out of that, but out of the shouting dish, and jumping dish and every other.” He often spoke of his determination to enjoy the abundance of his Father’s house. “My comrades used to tell me,” said he, “that was no religion, dancing, shouting, and making so much ‘to-do.’ But I was born in the fire and could not live in the smoke.”

When Billy met people he often urged them to say “Amen,” and if they did not do so he was not satisfied with their Christian experience. The first thing he inquired on meeting any one was about their soul, and if he got an assuring answer he would shout for joy. He would shout for joy when he heard of souls being saved anywhere. He would sometimes pick people up and carry them around for very joy. He picked up several ministers and carried them about in this way, when he became very happy in the meetings. Such actions caused some people to criticise him. “They said I was a mad-man, but they meant I was a glad-man,” says he.

Like all great soul winners, Billy spent much time in prayer. Before going anywhere he would ask the Lord to keep the Devil from scratching him while away. He feared the Devil, and so “cut his ould claws” in this way. The devil was very real to him.

When tempted by Satan at one time, Billy said: “What an old fool thee art now; I have been battling with thee for twenty-eight years, and I have always beat thee, and I always shall.” One time, when his potato crop was very poor, Satan tempted him to believe that God did not love him, or He would have given him a better potato crop. Billy recognized this as a temptation from the Devil, and he said: “Why, I’ve got your written character home to my house; and it do say, sir, that you be ‘a liar from the beginning.’” He told the Devil that when he served him he “had only rags and no ‘taturs.’” He then recounted God’s blessings until the Devil “went off like as if he’d been shot.”

Some of the rowdies, knowing that Billy had a very strong belief in Satan, and a very wholesome fear of him, thought they would frighten him by hiding near the road at night, and making unearthly noises. Billy paid no attention to their noises but went on his way singing. At last one of them near the road said, “But I’m the Devil up here in the hedge, Billy Bray.” “Bless the Lord! bless the Lord!” exclaimed Billy, “I did not know thee wast so far away as that.”

Not only did Billy pray much, but like all others who pray much he had great faith in the Lord, and his prayers were often answered in a most remarkable manner. One time his child was very sick, and his wife feared it would die and urged him to go for a doctor. Billy took all the money he had, which was eighteen pence (about 36 cents), and started after a doctor. On the way he met a poor man who had lost a cow, and who was trying to get enough money to purchase another. His story touched Billy’s heart so much that he gave him the eighteen pence. Not having any money left he could not go for a doctor. He then went behind a hedge and told his heavenly Father all about it and asked for the child’s healing. It soon got well.

One day when Billy had no money, not having received his wages for some time, he took the matter to the Lord in prayer. He had bacon and potatoes but no bread in the house. He went to the captain of the mine and borrowed ten shillings ($2.50). On the way home he found two families more destitute than himself. He gave them each five shillings and went home without any money. His wife felt blue, but Billy affirmed that the Lord would not remain in their debt very long. Soon a sovereign ($5) was given to them by a lady.

Billy said that he was working for a big firm, — the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and he had great confidence in them. Once he said: “If Billy gets work, he praises the Lord; when he gets none, he sings all the same. Do’e think that he’ll starve Billy? No, no, ther’s sure to be a bit of flour in the bottom of the barrel for Billy. I can trust in Jesus, and while I trust ‘im, He’d as soon starve Michael the Archangel as He’d starve Billy.”

Billy was a hard worker. He often worked twenty hours out of the twenty-four, building meeting houses with his own hands after working his regular shift in the mines. One time he went to the town of St. Ives to get money for one of his chapels. But the run of fish had been so poor that the fishermen did not have any money to give him. Billy and others prayed earnestly for fish and the fishermen caught thousands upon thousands.

Billy worked and prayed earnestly for the salvation of souls, and won many to Christ. About a year after his conversion his name was placed on the Local Preachers’ roll of the Bible Christian Church, a branch of the Methodists. But he was more of an exhorter than a preacher, although he often conducted and spoke in meetings. His principal work in soul winning was probably done outside the pulpit, for he was always busy trying to win souls for Christ. He would pray for his fellow miners before they went to work in the mornings. “Lord,” he would say, “if any of us must be killed, or die to-day, let it be me; let not one of these men die, for they are not happy and I am, and if I die to-day I shall go to heaven.” He often visited the sick and dying. When ministering to the dying he often expressed a wish that he might “see them in heaven, dressed in robes of glorious brightness; “for,” he would add in his quietest vein of humor, “if I saw them there, I must be there myself too. They say that every man has got a little of self, and so have I too.”

One time when Billy was walking over a certain hill the Lord seemed to say to him: “I will give thee all that dwell on this mountain.” He prayed for and visited the people in the three houses on the hill until they were all brought to the Lord. Then he complained to the Lord that there were only three houses on the hill, and the Lord showed him there would be more. Long after this an Episcopal Church and parsonage were built on the hill. Billy heard of it and visited the church. He was disgusted to find the preacher a “Puseyite,” or extreme High Churchman. This made him unhappy until he reflected that he had visited the place before the Lord told him to do so. After some time the clergyman’s gardener, who was also a ritualist, was converted to Christ. His pastor was displeased, but was afterwards deeply convicted of sin and was himself converted to Christ. One night, about 11:30 o’clock, as Billy was going to bed, the Lord showed him that he could now visit the hill. He hitched up the donkey-cart and started, reaching the hill the next morning. The pastor heard someone coming through the hallway praising the Lord, and guessed that it was Billy Bray. He and his wife and servants and Billy Bray had a great time of rejoicing together. Billy even visited the other houses on the hill and found the people all converted, and he was almost beside himself with joy.

Billy used some very original illustrations in his sermons. Before his conversion he was an inveterate smoker. He would sooner have gone into the mine without his dinner than without his pipe. But the Lord so thoroughly saved him from this filthy habit that he threw away his pipe and became an opponent of the use of tobacco in every form. He frequently said that if the Lord had intended people to snuff he would have turned their noses upside down, and that if he had intended them to smoke He would have put a chimney in the back of their heads. He said that an architect who would build a house so that all the smoke had to come out at the front door was in his opinion a very poor architect, and surely the Lord could not be a worse architect than man. There is much truth in this. If meat placed in a smoke-house will smoke to the bone in a very short time, it is little wonder if, as an able physician informed the writer, the inside of the skull of an inveterate smoker is often darkened by tobacco smoke. Not only did Billy oppose the use of tobacco, but he was also a strong advocate of temperance. “Men set lime-sticks to catch birds,” says he, “and Satan sets wine-bottles and ale-pots to catch fools.”

Worldly dress and extravagance were also things of which Billy did not approve. “I would rather walk to heaven than ride to hell in a fine carriage,” says he. Sometimes he would say to women, concerning the use of artificial flowers: “I wouldn’t mind your having a wagonload of them on your heads, if that would do you any good; but you know it wouldn’t, and all persons know that flowers only grow in soft places.” To men who wore long beards to be in fashion, and argued that it was natural to do so, Billy pointed out the fact that it would be folly to let fruit trees grow in their natural state without pruning. Speaking concerning fasting, Billy says: “If the members of the churches would mortify the flesh more, and not gratify it, they would be much happier than they are.” When some one asked Billy how the world was getting on now, he said: “I don’t know, for I haven’t been there for twelve years.”

Billy was a poor singer, but was often singing. He affirmed that the Lord liked to hear him sing. “Oh, yes, bless the Lord! I can sing,” he would say. “My heavenly Father likes to hear me sing as well as those who can sing better than I can. My Father likes to hear the crow as well as the nightingale.”

After a nice meeting-house was built in one place, Billy was called on with others to speak at the dedication. “I told the people,” says he, “that the dear Lord had given them a pretty chapel to worship in; and now he wanted good furniture, for bad furniture looks disgraceful in a good house. I told them that the good furniture for the house of the Lord was sanctified souls. We must be pardoned, sanctified, and sealed, and then we shall not only be fit for the Lord’s house on earth, but we shall be good furniture in heaven.”

Billy had one illustration which always appealed very forcibly to the miners. He represented himself as working all week at a poor mine, where the pay was very poor, and then on pay-day going to a good mine, where the wages were good, to get his pay. He asked if that would not be a very foolish thing to do, and then pointed out how that many people are working for Satan and expecting God to save them at last.

When Billy lay dying, and the doctor told him that he was going to die, he said: “Glory! glory be to God! I shall soon be in heaven.” He then added, in his own peculiar way, “When I get up there, shall I give them your compliments, doctor, and tell them you will be coming too?” This made a deep impression on the doctor. Billy’s dying word was “Glory!” Some little time before dying, he said: “What! me fear death! me lost! Why, my Saviour conquered death. If I was to go down to hell I would shout glory! glory! to my blessed Jesus until I made the bottomless pit ring again, and the miserable old Satan would say, ‘Billy, Billy, this is no place for thee: get thee back!’ Then up to heaven I should go, shouting glory! glory! praise the Lord!” Billy fell asleep in Christ in 1868. The following verse is from Mr. John’s poetical tribute to Billy:

His fare was sometimes scanty, And earnest was the fight; But his dear Lord provided, And with him all was right. His dress was always homely — His dwelling somewhat poor. But the presence of his Saviour Made up for that and more.

2016/03/27 22:49 · admin

Elder Jacob Knapp

Elder Jacob Knapp, the famous evangelist, was so endued with power from on high that his name at one time was almost a synonym for spiritual power. So many people professed conversion in his meetings that he finally lost count of them, and he gave up the effort after he passed the hundred thousand mark.

Elder Knapp was a pioneer in evangelistic work. He was probably the first man, at least in the Northern part of the United States, to devote his entire time to evangelistic work. There were few evangelists in those days. This important New Testament office was well nigh neglected. This was no doubt partly owing to the prevalence of Old School Calvinism. Calvinists of the Old School believed that God would save His own elect in His own way and in His own time, without the urgent appeals of evangelists. They were afraid that evangelists would persuade those who were not God’s elect to make a profession of religion. Many would not even pray for the salvation of their own children for fear that they might not be among God’s elect. This belief has been one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all hindrances to evangelistic work. The labors of Wesley, and of the great evangelists, Finney and Moody, did much to overthrow this fatalistic belief. But Elder Knapp met with much opposition from his well-meaning but deluded hyper-Calvinistic brethren, and yet his labors were so richly blessed of God that great multitudes were converted to Christ under his ministry.

Jacob Knapp was born in the State of New York, December 7, 1779. His parents were in moderate circumstances. They were Episcopalians, and Knapp was brought up to attend church and was taught the Creed and Catechism from his infancy. “My mind,” says he, “was early, and at times, deeply impressed with divine truth. From the first of my remembrance I had seasons of secret prayer, and of deep anxiety about the future welfare of my soul; but I was not led to hope in Christ until the summer of my seventeenth year, when it pleased God to take from me my dear mother.”

The death of his mother made a deep impression upon him and drove him to prayer, studying his Bible, and to the house of God, with more earnestness than he had ever felt before. He was under so deep conviction of sin that he could find no rest of soul. “I often repaired to the barn or grove in the silent hours of the night, and poured out my soul in prayer to God,” says he. He was so distressed about his soul that his health began to decline. “At length,” says he, “one Lord’s day morning, I took my Bible and hymn-book, and repaired to the woods, with a determination never to return without relief to my soul. I went some distance from human sight or hearing, laid myself down on a grassy knoll, and prayed and read, and read and prayed.” He prayed earnestly and suffered much agony of soul. “But,” says he, “to the joy and rapture of my soul, after a short space of time passed in this condition, my load of guilt was gone. I rose up quickly, turned my eyes toward heaven, and thought I saw Jesus descending with His arms extended for my reception. My soul leaped within me, and I broke forth into singing praises to the blessed Saviour. The sweet melodies of the birds seemed to make harmony with the songs, and, as I looked around, the sun shone with a lustre not its own, the majestic trees, swaying to the gentle breeze, appeared to bow in sweet submission to the will of heaven. All nature smiled, and everything, animate and inanimate, praised God with a voice (though unheard before) too loud and too plain to be misunderstood.”

Even after so bright a conversion, Knapp relapsed into a back-slidden state, after ten months or a year, and became so wicked as to make sport of religion. But conviction of sin often pierced his heart like a dagger and he often had great compunctions of conscience. Finally he promised to attend a dance. There was a prayer-meeting in the Baptist Church on the same night. He became so overwhelmed with the thought of his sinfulness that he went to the prayer-meeting instead of to the dance, and there, within hearing of the dancing music, he and several companions wept and prayed their way back to God. This was the means of bringing about a revival in the place, and sixty of the young people were led to Christ. Knapp was then baptized and united with the Baptist Church, and soon became an earnest worker for the salvation of souls. He organized prayer-meetings in the neighborhood of his home, and a number of souls were won to Christ.

When he was about twenty years of age, his father wanted to give him a farm and means to start life for himself, but Jacob had great desires and ambitions for an education. He felt that God was calling him to the work of the ministry. By doing chores and working hard during vacation, and after many severe trials from poverty and ignorance he at last managed to obtain a fair education. He had prayed much in secret that God would discipline his mind and provide for his daily needs. During this time he had led the meetings in a Baptist Church which had no pastor. In about two months nearly all the young people were led to God.

For some time Knapp taught school, and held many meetings in school-houses and other places. Although he did not pretend to preach regular sermons, many souls were won to Christ through his labors. Yet he felt so keenly his inability to preach that he decided to abandon the idea. But “trouble rolled in like a flood” until he felt driven to request his church to give him a license to preach. He preached his trial sermon and was licensed to preach in 1822, when twenty-three years of age. He then spent some time in theological training at Hamilton University, which had just been founded. While there he preached in a number of places, but through trying to preach in a manner to please men and not to give offence, he lost much of his joy and power.

In 1825 he received his diploma and became pastor of a church at Springfield, New York, where he remained as pastor for five years. About sixty persons professed conversion to Christ in his church during this time. He then became pastor of a church at Watertown, New York. Here he remained for about three years, and although the church was small and poor, he baptized about two hundred converts during that time.

In 1833 Knapp felt a definite call to the evangelistic work. Many of his Calvinistic brethren were bitterly opposed to his engaging in work of this kind, as they did not believe in revival meetings. He began to hold protracted meetings, however, and many souls were brought to a decision for Christ in these meetings.

“At length I was advised by Dr. Nathaniel Kendricky,” says he, “to take an appointment from the Board of the Baptist Convention of the State of New York, as an evangelist in Jefferson and Oswego Counties. I thought favorably of this suggestion, imagining that such an appointment would increase my influence and tend to silence my opposers. I therefore went to the meeting of the Convention, about a hundred and forty miles distant. I had not mingled with the brethren long before I found that some, whom I had counted as friends, were disposed to treat me with coolness. Though endorsed by such a man as Dr. Kendricky whose weight of personal influence was everywhere recognized, yet my application was instantly met by a decided opposition. One must tell what he had heard, another explain his views of the gospel method, until, after a lengthy debate, in which some cried one thing and some another, it was resolved to refer the question of my appointment to a committee. This committee made an adverse report, and my application was rejected. Overwhelmed with grief and mortification, I started to fill an engagement to preach in Loraine, a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles. The Lord brought me safely on my way some fifty miles, when my horse sickened and died. I got a brother to take me to Oswego, and then I went on board a boat for Sackett’s Harbor. Shortly after we had started, ‘there arose a mighty tempest, and, for a while there appeared but little chance for any of our lives. But my own spirits were so depressed that I seemed to have but little choice between life and death. I thought myself in perils by sea, in perils by land, and in perils by false brethren.’ But God preserved me for greater joys and greater sorrows than any I had hitherto experienced.

“For a short time the effect of my rejection by the Board of the Convention was very disheartening. I had hoped to secure, by an appointment, a greater influence among the churches, the more positive countenance of some of the ministers who had hitherto been sitting on the fence, hesitating as to which side to get down on, and also to silence the active opposition of those who had avowed their hostility to my course; but it was not long before I found that my difficulties in these directions were on the increase. The non-committal became outspoken against me, and those heretofore opposed became violent and abusive. My soul was in deep trouble and I knew not which way to turn.

“But in my distress I cast my burdens on the Lord. I sought to know the will of God. I cried unto the Lord; and, blessed he His name, very soon He made known His ways, and lifted upon me the light of His countenance. After spending one whole day in fasting and prayer, and continuing my fast until midnight, the place where I was staying was filled with the manifested glory of God. His presence appeared to me, not exactly in visible form, but as really to my recognition as though He had come in person, and a voice seemed to say to me, ‘Hast thou ever lacked a field in which to labor?’ I answered, ‘Not a day.’ ‘Have I not sustained thee, and blessed thy labors?’ I answered, ‘Yea, Lord.’ ‘Then learn that henceforth thou art not dependent on thy brethren, but on me. Have no concern but to go on in thy work. My grace shall be sufficient for thee.’

“From that night I felt willing to sacrifice the good opinion of my brethren, as I had previously sacrificed the favor of the world, and swing off from all dependencies but God. Up to this time I had concerned myself too much about the opinions of other and older brethren, distrusting my youth and inexperience. But the Lord taught me that He was my only and infallible guide. I joyously acquiesced in His will, and from that day to this have rested in His divine manifestation. Ah! how reluctant we are to cleave to the Lord! How prone to cling to creature dependencies. Since I have endeavored to seek divine direction as to all my fields of labor, I have learned that it is possible for me, generally, to gain as dear impressions of the will of God concerning my duty as though it was announced in audible tones.

“In the manifestation of God’s presence to me, He cast no reflections on those of my ministerial brethren who differed from me, but, in the most tender manner, bade me to leave them to pursue their own way, and cleave only to Him. Thus was I cured of all yearning for denominational promotion, led to make an unreserved consecration of all my powers to one end, — the conversion of men to Christ; and made willing to labor on, through evil and good report, leaving my vindication until the day of judgment.

“A year did not elapse before I saw plainly that God’s plan was much better than mine. I found it far more delightful and profitable to my soul to be directed by God’s providence, where, and by His Spirit, how to labor, than to be prescribed in my field, and dictated to as to how to conduct my ministry, by others. The Lord carried me from place to place, even where I had the least expectation of going. In my perplexities, I was driven to God in prayer for Him to direct my steps, and mark out every inch of my path. And I have been led to understand since, that had not the furnace been heated seven times hotter than it was wont to be, the dross would never have been separated from the gold. My kind and heavenly Father did not give me one blow that was not needful, nor one thorn that was not required to keep me from being exalted above measure, through the abundance of my success in winning souls, and the many flattering expressions of those who sympathized with my work.”

After making the full consecration and obtaining the deeper experience described above, Knapp began to win multitudes to Christ. Thousands upon thousands professed conversion in his meetings, and many sought and obtained the filling of the Holy Spirit So great was his power in preaching the gospel, it has been said that wherever he went “infidelity turned pale, and Universalism gave up the ghost.” “These were golden days, sunny spots, heavenly seasons. The memory of them is precious,” says Knapp.

So exhaustive were his labors, many wondered how he could perform them. But after his hard day’s labor in meetings he often felt as nimble as a deer. “It is really surprising,” says he, “what a small amount of sleep and food we can get along with, and how much we can endure, when we are filled with the Spirit. Machinery well oiled can be run day and night for years together with but little friction.”

In many places where Knapp labored, business was suspended and meetings were held three times a day and frequently all night. Farmers took their wagons through their neighborhoods and brought the people to the meetings. The crowds were often so great that Christians stayed away from the meetings to make room for the unsaved, and spent the time of service in prayer at their homes.

At one place where Knapp held meetings, there was so much praying that a skeptical physician in the place became so uneasy that he sold his property at a great sacrifice and went to Canada. He said that “he could not go to his bam, but some one was praying in the hay-mow; he could not go to the woods, but some one was praying behind every bush-heap; that the women pestered the life out of him, tormenting him with their religion, so that he would rather live in purgatory.”

At Hannibal Center, New York, the church where Knapp held meetings was very dead, the weather dismal, and everything seemed unfavorable. But the power of God finally fell and scores were converted. At Auburn, New York, when Knapp was holding meetings there, some of the rowdies tried to create a disturbance one day. “On the same night some of them came into the meeting, were smitten down by the power of God’s truth, and had to be carried to their homes.” At Utica, New York, more than eight hundred persons professed conversion during the revival. About ten thousand professed conversion to Christ as a result of Knapp’s first series of meetings in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1841, when Knapp held revival services in Boston, “the Spirit of God,” says he, “was poured out on the whole city, and all the people seemed to be affected by His presence.” Rev. J. D. Fulton says: “The attendance upon theatres waned, that upon churches increased.” At Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1841, “The Lord came down in power, and the work rolled on mightily.” One of the large cotton mills had to be stopped on account of the operatives being under too great conviction of sin to continue their work. About fifteen hundred persons professed conversion to Christ as a result of Knapp’s labors in that place. When he left, “the air resounded with the songs of the rejoicing and weeping multitudes.”

The whole city of Salem, Massachusetts, was shaken by the power of God in 1843, when Knapp held revival services there. His friends chartered a train of cars and accompanied him to Boston.

In 1860, Knapp again held meetings in Boston, and much prayer was made for an outpouring of the Spirit, and “the very atmosphere seemed impregnated with the divine influence. No one could come into the room where we were without recognizing the presence of God,” says Knapp. “At times it seemed as if I was overwhelmed with the gracious fulness of God, and that my poor and limited faculties could bear no more.”

We have given only a few of the most striking incidents connected with the meetings of Elder Knapp. Almost everywhere he went the people were so aroused and concerned about the salvation of their souls that some complained of the excitement in the meetings. But Knapp did not see why they should not become excited about religious matters as about matters of far less importance, such as business, games, politics, and so on. “For my own part,” says he, “I never could see why men might properly become excited on other subjects, but must invariably approach the momentous subject of salvation with all the proprieties of an imperturbable deliberation. It seemed to me that the record of the Acts of the Apostles was a history of excitements, under which the world was verily turned upside down.”

2016/03/27 22:53 · admin

George Muller

Among the greatest monuments of what can be accomplished through simple faith in God are the great orphanages covering thirteen acres of ground on Ashley Downs, Bristol, England. When God put it into the heart of George Muller to build these orphanages, he had only two shillings (50 cents) in his pocket. Without making his wants known to any man, but to God alone, over a million, four hundred thousand pounds ($7,000,000) were sent to him for the building and maintaining of these orphan homes. When the writer first visited them, near the time of Mr. Muller’s death, there were five immense buildings of solid granite, capable of accommodating two thousand orphans. In all the years since the first orphans arrived the Lord had sent food in due time, so that they had never missed a meal for want of food.

Although George Muller became famous as one of the greatest men of prayer known to history, he was not always a saint. He wandered very deep into sin before he was brought to Christ. He was born in the kingdom of Prussia, in 1805. His father was a revenue collector for the government, and was a worldly-minded man. He supplied George and his brother with plenty of money when they were boys, and they spent it very foolishly. George deceived his father about how much money he spent, and also as to how he spent it. He also stole the government money during his father’s absence.

At ten years of age, George was sent to the cathedral classical school at Halberstadt. His father wanted to make a Lutheran clergyman of him, not that he might serve God, but that he might have an easy and comfortable living from the State Church. “My time,” says he, “was now spent in studying, reading novels, and indulging, though so young, in sinful practises. Thus it continued until I was fourteen years old, when my mother was suddenly removed. The night she was dying, I, not knowing of her illness, was playing cards until two in the morning, and on the next day, being the Lord’s day, I went with some of my companions in sin to a tavern, and then, being filled with strong beer, we went about the streets half intoxicated.

“I grew worse and worse,” says he. “Three or four days before I was confirmed (and thus admitted to partake of the Lord’s supper), I was guilty of gross immorality; and the very day before my confirmation, when I was in the vestry with the clergyman to confess my sins (according to the usual practice), after a formal manner, I defrauded him; for I handed over to him only a twelfth part of the fee which my father had given me for him.”

A few solemn thoughts and desires to lead a better life came to him, but he continued to plunge deeper and deeper into sin. Lying, stealing, gambling, novel-reading, licentiousness, extravagance, and almost every form of sin was indulged in by him. No one would have imagined that the sinful youth would ever become eminent for his faith in God and for his power in prayer. He robbed his father of certain rents which his father had entrusted him to collect, falsifying the accounts of what he had received and pocketing the balance. His money was spent on sinful pleasures, and once he was reduced to such poverty that, in order to satisfy his hunger, he stole a piece of coarse bread, the allowance of a soldier who was quartered in the house where he was. In 1821 he set off on an excursion to Magdeburg, where he spent six days in “much sin.” He then went to Brunswick, and put up at an expensive hotel until his money was exhausted. He then put up at a fine hotel in a neighboring village, intending to defraud the hotel-keeper. But his best clothes were taken in lieu of what he owed. He then walked six miles to another inn, where he was arrested for trying to defraud the landlord. He was imprisoned for this crime when sixteen years of age.

After his imprisonment young Muller returned to his home and received a severe thrashing from his angry father. He remained as sinful in heart as ever, but in order to regain his father’s confidence he began to lead a very exemplary life outwardly, until he had the confidence of all around him. His father decided to send him to the classical school at Halle, where the discipline was very strict, but George had no intention of going there. He went to Nordhausen instead, and by using many lies and entreaties persuaded his father to allow him to remain there for two years and six months, till Easter, 1825. Here he studied diligently, was held up as an example to the other students, and became proficient in Latin, French, History, and his own language (German). “But whilst I was outwardly gaining the esteem of my fellow-creatures,” says he, “I did not care in the least about God, but lived secretly in much sin, in consequence of which I was taken ill, and for thirteen weeks confined to my room. All this time I had no real sorrow of heart, yet being under certain natural impressions of religion, I read through Klopstock’s works, without weariness. I cared nothing about the Word of God.”

“Now and then I felt I ought to become a different person,” says he, “and I tried to amend my conduct, particularly when I went to the Lord’s supper, as I used to do twice every year, with the other young men. The day previous to attending that ordinance I used to refrain from certain things, and on the day itself I was serious, and also swore once or twice to God with the emblem of the broken body in my mouth, to become better, thinking that for die oath’s sake I should be induced to reform. But after one or two days were over, all was forgotten, and I was as bad as before.

He entered the University of Halle as a divinity student, with good testimonials. This qualified him to preach in the Lutheran state church. While at the university he spent all his money in profligate living. “When my money was spent,” says he, “I pawned my watch and part of my linen and clothes, or borrowed in other ways. Yet in the midst of all this I had a desire to renounce this wretched life, for I had no enjoyment in it, and had sense enough left to see, that the end one day or other would be miserable; for I should never get a living. But I had no sorrow of heart on account of offending God.”

At the university he formed the acquaintance of a miserable backslider, named Beta, who was trying by means of worldly pleasures to drown out his conviction of sin. They plunged into sin together, and in June, 1825, George was again taken sick. After his recovery they forged letters purporting to be from his parents. With these they obtained passports and set out to see Switzerland. Muller stole from the friends who accompanied him and the journey did not cost him so much as it did them. They returned home to finish up the vacation and then went back to the University, Muller having lied to his father about the trip to Switzerland.

At the University of Halle there were about nine hundred divinity students. All of these were allowed to preach, but Muller estimates that not nine of them feared the Lord. “One Saturday afternoon, about the middle of November, 1825,” says he, “I had taken a walk with my friend Beta. On our return he said to me, that he was in the habit of going on Saturday evenings to the house of a Christian, where there was a meeting. On further inquiry he told me that they read the Bible, sang, prayed, and read a printed sermon. No sooner had I heard this, but it was to me as if I had found something after which I had been seeking all my life long. I immediately wished to go with my friend, who was not at once willing to take me; for knowing me as a gay young man, he thought I should not like this meeting. At last, however, he said he would call for me.”

Describing the meeting, Muller said: “We went together in the evening. As I did not know the manners of the brethren, and the joy they have in seeing poor sinners, even in any measure caring about the things of God, I made an apology for coming. The kind answer of this dear brother I shall never forget. He said: ‘Come as often as you please; house and heart are open to you.’” After a hymn was sung they fell upon their knees, and a brother, named Kayser, who afterwards became a missionary to Africa, asked God’s blessing on the meeting. “This kneeling down made a deep impression upon me,” says Muller, “for I had never either seen any one on his knees, nor had I ever myself prayed on my knees. He then read a chapter and a printed sermon; for no regular meetings for expounding the Scriptures were allowed in Prussia, except an ordained clergyman was present. At the close we sang another hymn, and then the master of the house prayed.” The meeting made a deep impression upon Muller. “I was happy,” says he, “though if I had been asked why I was happy, I could not clearly have explained it.

“When we walked home, I said to Beta, all we have seen on our journey to Switzerland, and all our former pleasures, are as nothing in comparison with this evening. Whether I fell on my knees when I returned home I do not remember; but this I know, that I lay peaceful and happy in my bed. This shows that the Lord may begin his work in different ways. For I have not the least doubt that on that evening He began a work of grace in me, though I obtained joy without any deep sorrow of heart, and with scarcely any knowledge. But that evening was the turning point in my life. The next day, and Monday, and once or twice besides, I went again to the house of this brother, where I read the Scriptures with him and another brother; for it was too long for me to wait until Saturday came again.

“Now my life became very different, though not so, that my sins were all given up at once. My wicked companions were given up; the going to taverns was discontinued; the habitual practice of telling falsehoods was no longer indulged in, but still a few times more I spoke an untruth. . . . I now no longer lived habitually in sin, though I was still often overcome and sometimes even by open sins, though far less frequently than before, and not without sorrow of heart. I read the Scriptures, prayed often, loved the brethren, went to church from right motives, and stood on the side of Christ, though laughed at by my fellow students.”

For a few weeks after his conversion Muller made rapid advancement in the Christian life, and he was greatly desirous of becoming a missionary. But he fell in love with a Roman Catholic girl, and for some time the Lord was well-nigh forgotten. Then Muller saw a young missionary giving up all the luxuries of a beautiful home for Christ. This opened his eyes to his own selfishness and enabled him to give up the girl who had taken the place of Christ in his heart. “It was at this time,” says he, “that I began to enjoy the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. In this my joy I wrote to my father and brother, entreating them to seek the Lord, and telling them how happy I was; thinking, that if the way to happiness were set before them, they would gladly embrace it. To my great surprise an angry answer was returned.”

George could not enter any German missionary training institution without the consent of his father, and this he could not obtain. His father was deeply grieved that after educating him so that he could obtain a comfortable living as a clergyman he should turn missionary. George felt that he could no longer accept any money from him. The Lord graciously sent him means with which to complete his education. He taught German to some American college professors at the University, and they handsomely remunerated him for his services. He was now the means of winning a number of souls to Christ He gave away thousands of religious tracts and papers, and spoke to many persons concerning the salvation of their souls.

Although, before his conversion, Muller had written to his father and told him about sermons he had preached, he never really preached a sermon until some time after his conversion. He thought to please his father by making him believe that he was preaching. His first sermon was a printed one which he had memorized for the occasion. He had but little liberty in preaching it. The second time he preached extemporaneously and had some degree of liberty. “I now preached frequently,” says he, “both in the churches of the villages and towns, but never had any enjoyment in doing so, except when speaking in a simple way; though the repetition of sermons which had been committed to memory brought more praise from my fellow creatures. But from neither way of preaching did I see any fruit. It may be that the last day will show the benefit even of those feeble endeavors. One reason why the Lord did not permit me to see fruit, seems to me, that I should have been most probably lifted up by success. It may be also because I prayed exceedingly little respecting the ministry of the Word, and because I walked so little with God, and was so rarely a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use.”

The true believers at the University increased from six to about twenty in number before Muller left. They often met in Muller’s room to pray, sing and read the Bible. He sometimes walked ten or fifteen miles to hear a really pious minister preach.

In 1827 Muller volunteered to go as a missionary pastor to the Germans at Bucharest, but the war between the Turks and Russians prevented this. In 1828, at the Suggestion of their agent, he offered himself to the London Missionary Society as a missionary to the Jews. He was well versed in the Hebrew language and had a great love for it. The Society desired him to come to London that they might see him personally. Through the providence of God he finally secured exemption for life from serving in the Prussian army, and he went to England in 1829, at twenty-four years of age. He was not able to speak the English language for some time after he landed in England and then only in a very broken manner at first.

Soon after coming to England Muller received a deeper Christian experience which entirely revolutionized his life. “I came weak in body to England.” says he, “and in consequence of much study, as I suppose, I was taken ill on May 15, and was soon, at least in my own estimation, apparently beyond recovery. The weaker I got in body, the happier I was in spirit. Never in my whole life had I seen myself so vile, so guilty, so altogether what I ought not to have been, as at that time. It was as if every sin of which I had been guilty was brought to my remembrance; but at the same time I could realize that all my sins were completely forgiven — that I was washed and made clean, completely clean, in the blood of Jesus. The result of this was great peace. I longed exceedingly to depart and to be with Christ . . . .

“After I had been ill about a fortnight my medical attendant unexpectedly pronounced me better. This, instead of giving me joy, bowed me down, so great was my desire to be with the Lord; though almost immediately afterwards grace was given me to submit myself to the will of God.”

That Muller always regarded the above experience as one which deepened his whole spiritual life is clearly shown by a letter of his which appeared in the British Christian, of August 14, 1902. In this letter Muller says: “I became a believer in the Lord Jesus in the beginning of November, 1825, now sixty-nine years and eight months. For the first four years afterwards, it was for a good part in great weakness; but in July, 1829, now sixty-six years since, it came with me to an entire and full surrender of heart. I gave myself fully to the Lord. Honors, pleasures, money, my physical powers, my mental powers, all were laid down at the feet of Jesus, and I became a great lover of the Word of God. I found my all in God, and thus in all my trials of a temporal and spiritual character, it has remained for sixty-six years. My faith is not merely exercised regarding temporal things, but regarding everything, because I cleave to the Word. My knowledge of God and His Word is that which helps me.”

Being advised to go into the country for his health, he prayed about it and finally decided to go. He went to Devonshire, where the great blessing he had already received was greatly augmented by his conversations and prayers with a Spirit-filled minister whom he first heard preach at Teignmouth. Through the conversations and sermons of this minister he was led to see as never before “that the Word of God alone is our standard of judgment in spiritual things; that it can be explained only by His Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, He is the teacher of His people. The office of the Holy Spirit I had not experimentally understood before that time,” says he. “The result of this was, that the first evening that I shut myself into my room to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously.” Again, he says: “In addition to these truths, it pleased the Lord to lead me to see a higher standard of devotedness than I had seen before.”

On his return to London, Muller sought to lead his brethren in the training seminary into the deeper truths he had been brought to realize. “One brother in particular,” says he, “was brought into the same state in which I was; and others, I trust, were more or less benefited. Several times, when I went to my room after family prayer, I found communion with God so sweet that I continued in prayer until after twelve, and then being full of joy, went into the room of the brother just referred to, and finding him also in a similar frame of heart, we continued praying until one or two, and even then I was a few times so full of joy that I could scarcely sleep, and at six in the morning again called the brethren together for prayer,”

Muller’s health declined in London and his soul was also now on fire for God in such a way that he could not settle down to the routine of daily studies. His newly acquired belief in the near coming of Christ also urged him forward to work for the salvation of souls. He felt that the Lord was leading him to begin at once the Christian work he was longing to do, and as the London Missionary Society did not see proper to send him out without the prescribed course of training, he decided to go at once and trust the Lord for the means of support. Soon after this he became pastor of Ebenezer Chapel, Teignmouth, Devonshire. His marriage to Miss Mary Groves, a Devonshire lady, followed. She was always of the same mind as her husband and their married life was a very happy one. Not long after his marriage he began to have conscientious scruples about receiving a regular salary, and also about the renting of pews in his church. He felt that the latter was giving the “man with the ring on his finger” the best seat, and the poorer brother the foot-stool, and the former was taking money from those who did not give “cheerfully” or “as the Lord had prospered them.” These two customs were discontinued by him. He and his wife told their needs to no one but the Lord. Occasionally reports were spread that they were starving; but though at times their faith was tried, their income was greater than before. He and his wife gave away freely all that they had above their present needs, and trusted the Lord for their “daily bread.”

Muller preached in many surrounding towns, and many souls were brought to Christ in his meetings. In 1832 he felt profoundly impressed that his work was ended in Teignmouth, and when he went to Bristol the same year he was as profoundly impressed that the Lord would have him work there. When the Spirit, the Word, and the providence of God agree, we may be quite certain that the Lord is leading us, for these three are always in harmony and cannot disagree. Not only did Muller feel led of the Lord to work in Bristol, but the providence of God opened the way, and it seemed in harmony with the Word of God. Muller began his labors in Bristol in 1832, as co-pastor with his friend Mr. Craik, who had been called to that city. Without salaries or rented pews their labors were greatly blessed at Gideon and Bethesda Chapels. The membership more than quadrupled in numbers in a short time. Ten days after the opening of Bethesda there was such a crowd of persons inquiring the way of salvation that it took four hours to minister to them. Subsequently Gideon Chapel was relinquished, and in the course of time two neighboring chapels were secured. These churches, though calling themselves non-sectarian, were usually classed with the people commonly known as “Plymouth Brethren.” Muller continued to preach to them as long as he lived, even after he began his great work for the orphans. At the time of his death he had a congregation of about two thousand persons at Bethesda Chapel.

In 1834 Mr. Muller started the Scripture Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad. Its object was to aid Christian day-schools, to assist missionaries, and to circulate the Scriptures. This institution, without worldly patronage, without asking anyone for help, without contracting debts; without committees, subscribers, or memberships; but through faith in the Lord alone, had obtained and disbursed no less a sum than £1,500,000 ($7,500,000) at the time of Mr. Muller’s death. The bulk of this was expended for the orphanage. At the time of Mr. Muller’s death 122,000 persons had been taught in the schools supported by these funds; and about 282,000 Bibles and 1,500,000 Testaments had been distributed by means of the same fund. Also 112,000,000 religious books, pamphlets and tracts had been circulated; missionaries had been aided in all parts of the world: and no less than ten thousand orphans had been cared for by means of this same fund.

At the age of seventy, Mr. Muller began to make great evangelistic tours. He traveled 200,000 miles, going around the world and preaching in many lands and in several different languages. He frequently spoke to as many as 4,500 or 5,000 persons. Three times he preached throughout the length and breadth of the United States. He continued his missionary or evangelistic tours until he was ninety years of age. He estimated that during these seventeen years of evangelistic work he addressed three million people. All his expenses were sent in answer to the prayer of faith.

Greatest of all Muller’s undertakings was the erection and maintenance of the great orphanages at Bristol. He began the undertaking with only two shillings (50 cents) in his pocket; but in answer to prayer and without making his needs known to human beings, he received the means necessary to erect the great buildings and to feed the orphans day by day for sixty years. In all that time the children did not have to go without a meal, and Mr. Muller said that if they ever had to go without a meal he would take it as evidence that the Lord did not will the work to continue. Sometimes the meal time was almost at hand and they did not know where the food would come from, but the Lord always sent it in due time, during the twenty thousand or more days that Mr. Muller had charge of the homes.

When Muller began to trust the Lord for money he found it as difficult to trust the Lord for a shilling (25 cents) as it was afterwards to trust Him for a thousand pounds ($5,000). The more his faith was exercised, the stronger it became. Funds for one immense building after another were sent in answer to prayer, until Muller had received more than a hundred thousand pounds ($500,000) for this purpose alone. Six hundred pounds ($3,000) a week was required for the support of the orphans at the time of Mr. Muller’s death, and yet the Lord sent them day by day their daily bread.

When a youth, Muller had seen the great orphanage at Halle, in Prussia, supported by Professor Francke in answer to the simple prayer of faith, and after going to Bristol he felt that the Lord was laying it upon his heart to begin a similar work in that city, as a monument and testimony to the world to show that the Lord still hears and answers prayer. When he had accomplished this great work, the Lord gently removed him. He dropped dead in his room on the night of March 10, 1898. One of his leading helpers informed the writer that every feature of his countenance showed that he had died in peace.

2016/03/27 22:44 · admin

A. B. Earle

It was claimed that the famous Spirit-filled evangelist, A.. B. Earle, author of “Bringing in the Sheaves,” and “The Rest of Faith,” preached more frequently than any other man living at the same time. In fifty years he traveled 325,000 miles in the United States and Canada, preached 19,780 times, and 150,000 persons professed conversion in his meetings. He often preached three or four times in one day. He usually held union meetings, and frequently ten, twenty, or even thirty churches united in his protracted meetings. In one city fifteen hundred persons professed conversion to Christ as a result of his labors, and during an evangelistic tour of nine months’ duration over five thousand people were gathered into the churches where he held meetings. He deserves to be ranked with the greatest evangelists and soul winners of all time.

A writer in a leading British religious paper said concerning Mr. Earle: “His preaching was not eloquent. His delivery was not beyond the average. His voice had no special power. His large angular frame and passionless mouth were decidedly against him. His sermons seemed sometimes as though composed thirty years ago, before we so often heard, as now, the more clear and ringing utterances of free grace, and the name of Jesus in almost every sentence. He expressed his own emotions very simply, and did not often refer to them. His rhetoric was often at fault, and sometimes even his grammar. Truly the enticing words of man’s wisdom were wanting in his case.

“The first time I heard him I came away in wonder as to wherein his unusual gospel power lay; but as I listened to him again and again, I could not help realizing how the congregation, and my own soul with them, were held by the power of God. When he preached on the value of a human soul, I do not remember a single thought or illustration that was new to me; and yet I came away overwhelmed in this realization of the infinite preciousness of each child of Adam, and found myself as I awake the next morning, weeping in sorrow and anxiety for lost sinners. That day there were, I trust, two souls given me in private conversations.

“Yet there was nothing like the electric power which enabled Massillion, in the last century, to cause a multitude to start at once from their seats, in an agony of mortal terror, nor even the sobbing and outcry, as under Jonathan Edward’s celebrated sermon on ‘Eternity.’ All was still. But about forty souls were baptized two or three days afterward.

“Coming to the meeting perfectly free to follow the guidance of the Spirit, the preacher seemed as simple and as easily guided in any direction as the smallest child in the house. The congregation, which seemed to be so wonderfully swayed by him, were really controlled by the same Holy Spirit which controlled him. He simply watched for and recognized the guidance of God, and walked in it. . . .

“There was no rule in his movements. He sometimes asked the awakened to come forward, sometimes to rise in their seats; sometimes no expression was called for. All was simple and natural; and the very simplicity itself, and the unexpectedness of the direction of the meetings, surprised the unconverted out of their defences.”

Earle was a Baptist, but he was strongly in favor of union meetings in evangelistic work. He believed that one of the most potent factors in bringing souls to Christ was the sight of Christians of different denominations working together in perfect harmony. His union meetings were so many and so large that he had the privilege of laboring with no less than eight thousand ministers, in almost every state in the United States, in three of the provinces of Canada, and in the British Isles. “I have never charged any special sum for my services as an evangelist,” says he, “preferring to leave it to the people to give me, as a freewill offering, just what they chose at the close of each series of meetings.” His famous book, “Bringing in the Sheaves,” has had an immense sale, and the proceeds were considerable.

Earle was a strong believer in the preaching of future punishment. “I have found by long experience,” says he, “that the severest threatenings of the law of God have a prominent place in leading men to Christ. They must see themselves LOST before they will cry for mercy. They will not escape from danger until they see it. I have reason to believe that a single sermon I have often preached on ‘The Sin that Hath Never Forgiveness’ (Mark 3:29), has been the means of more than twenty thousand conversions.” He also says, concerning this sermon: “I have known scores to give themselves to Christ under a single sermon on this subject, again and again.” “The wicked never flee from ‘the wrath to come’ until they are fully satisfied there is wrath,” says he.

Earle began preaching in 1830, when eighteen years of age, but his greatest success was after his own Christian experience was deepened, about the year 1860. In his little book entitled “The Rest of Faith,” written in 1871, he tells us how his own soul was led into the “rest of faith” and enjoyment of the deeper things of God. “About ten years ago,” says he, “I began to feel an inexpressible hungering and longing for the fulness of Christ’s love. I had often had seasons of great joy and peace in Christ, and in His service. I had seen many precious souls brought into the fold of Christ. I fully believe I then belonged to Christ, that my name was in His family record.

“I loved the work of the ministry, but had long felt an inward unrest, a void in my soul that was not filled. Seasons of great joy would be followed by seasons of darkness and doubt. If I had peace, I feared it would not continue; and it did not.

“Many anxious Christians came to me, complaining of the same thing. How could I help them on that point, when I did not know how to get right myself? I took them to the seventh chapter of Romans, and there left them, saying, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ I was there myself, and supposed I must live and die there.

“In this state I was exposed to severe temptations and attacks of the enemy. I made strong and repeated resolutions that I would be faithful, but could not keep them. Then I sought and found forgiveness again, and was happy, and said, ‘Oh, that I could always enjoy such peace!’ But it was soon disturbed by some word, or act, or heart-wandering.

“Thus I lived on for many years: now happy in my Christian experience, and now unhappy; sometimes doubting and fearing, and sometimes resting. God gave me success in winning souls, and granted me many hours of sweet with my Saviour, for which I am truly grateful; still I was unsatisfied — I wanted an uninterrupted rest and peace.

“I often read those precious words uttered by our Saviour, ‘If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’ I longed and prayed to be there, but knew not the way. Oh that some one had then taught me the way of rest in Jesus!

“I frequently met Christians who claimed sinless perfection: many of them were, indeed, a better type of Christians than ordinary professors; but they did not seem perfect to me. The rest in Jesus, for which I longed, was still unfound.

“At last I felt that the question for me to settle was this, — Can an imperfect Christian sweetly and constantly rest in a perfect Saviour, without condemnation?

“This I revolved in my mind for a long time. I read, as far as I could, the experiences of those who seemed to live nearest to Christ. I searched the Scriptures for light, and asked such as I believed had power with God to pray with and for me, that I might be led aright on this great question. At length I became satisfied that Christ had made provision for me and all His children to abide in the fulness of His love without one moment’s interruption.

“Having settled this, I said: ‘I need this; I long for it; I cannot truly represent religion without it, and Christ is dishonored by me every day I live without it.

“I therefore deliberately resolved, by the help of my Redeemer, to obtain it at any sacrifice; little realizing how unlike Christ I then was, or how much would be needed, to bring me there.

“I first procured a blank book, which I called my ‘Consecration Book,’ and slowly and solemnly, on my knees, wrote in it the following dedication:

“‘Andover, February 10, 1859.

“‘This day I make a new consecration of my all to Christ.

“‘Jesus, I now forever give myself to Thee; my soul to be washed in Thy blood and saved in heaven at last; my whole body to be used for Thy glory; my mouth to speak for Thee at all times; my eyes to weep over lost sinners, or to be used for any purpose to Thy glory; my feet to carry me where Thou shalt wish me to go; my heart to be burdened for souls, or used for Thee anywhere; my intellect to be employed at all times for Thy cause and glory. I give to Thee my wife, my children, my property, all I have, and all that ever shall be mine. I will obey Thee in every known duty. A. B. E.’

“I then asked for grace to enable me to carry out that vow, and that I might take nothing from the altar. I supposed, with this consecration, entire as far as knowledge went, I should soon receive all that my longing heart could contain; but in this I was sadly mistaken.

“I then came nearer to Christ. But as clearer light began to shine into my heart, I saw more of its vileness.

“I find in my journal the following:

“‘Boston, December 22, 1859.

“‘The last three weeks have been weeks of great searching of heart. I never had my heart so searched before. I detect pride, envy, self-will, a great deal of unbelief, my love to the Saviour to be very weak. Yet I have consecrated all to Christ, and cannot withdraw it from the altar. Oh, can a worm so vile be like Christ? I know it is possible; and if I am ever to be like Him, why not now, while I am where I can do good in leading others to Him.

“‘I felt like a patient who, though in the hands of a skilful physician, groans and writhes under the severe treatment which has been found necessary in order to save his life. But my constant prayer was, “Be thorough with me, Jesus, — be thorough.” Many a discouraging day followed this consecration and these heart-searchings. I grew weak and small and unworthy in my own estimation.

“‘At times my joy and peace were almost unbounded. Sometimes I felt that I grasped the prize so earnestly sought, but was shown hidden sin in my heart which greatly humbled and distressed me. How fully I realized the words of J. B. Taylor, who said, while seeking this blessing, “Notwithstanding my profession that I had crucified the world, the flesh, and the devil, I have had keener sorrows for indwelling sin than I even experienced before conversion.

“‘“Oh, the distress which I have felt on account of pride, envy, love of the world, and other evil passions which have risen up and disturbed my peace, and separated between God and my soul!” How many have realized all this, and even more, in their struggles after abiding rest in Jesus!

“One sin that troubled me most, and was the hardest to overcome, was a strong will, — a desire, and almost a determination to have my own way; — and thus— even in regard to little things, or any little injury or supposed wrong — to speak without reflection, and sometimes severely, even to those I knew were my friends; to say, “I will do this,” and “I will do that.”

“‘This I clearly saw must be overcome, if I would become a consistent and useful Christian. As I could not do it myself, I gave it over to Jesus: He could give me grace to overcome even this But I found I gave nothing into the hands of Jesus, except by a sinful faith. My faith was very deficient and weak: to believe the promises fully was not easy. I believed the theory of religion; but to have my heart grasp the reality, without wavering, was more difficult. Yet I found my faith growing stronger, until at last I came to believe just what God had said in His Word. I found first the blade of faith, then the ear, and then the full com in the ear. No rest could be obtained until I could believe just what God had said, and trust Him fully.

“‘I felt that I must have in my heart something that I did not then possess. Before I could be filled with the fulness of Christ’s love I must be emptied of self. Oh, the longing of my heart for what I then believed, and now believe, to be sweet and constant rest in Jesus! I believed I should receive, and thought it was near.

“‘I soon found it easier to resist temptation. I began to trust Christ and His promise more fully.

“‘With this mingling of faith, desire, and expectation, I commenced a meeting on Cape Cod. After re-dedicating myself, in company with others, anew to God, I was in my room alone, pleading for the fulness of Christ’s love, when all at once a sweet, heavenly peace filled all the vacuum in my soul, leaving no longing, no unrest, no dissatisfied feeling in my bosom. I felt, I knew, that I was accepted fully in Jesus. A calm, simple, childlike trust took possession of my whole being. . . .

“‘Then, for the first time in my life, I had the rest which is more than peace. I had felt peace before, but feared I should not retain it; now I had peace without fear, which really became rest. . . .

“‘This change occurred about five o’clock, on the evening of the second day of November, 1863; and although I never felt so weak and small, yet Jesus has been my all since then. There has not been one hour of conscious doubt or darkness since that time. A heaven of peace and rest fills my soul. Day and night the Saviour seems by me.

“‘My success in leading souls to Jesus has been much greater than before. . . .

“‘Temptation is presented, but the power of it is broken. I seem to have a present Saviour in every time of need; so that for several years I have done the trusting and Jesus the keeping. . . .’”

As we learn from his most famous book, “Bringing in the Sheaves,” Earle experienced wonderful spiritual power in his meetings after receiving the above experience. The sensible presence of the Spirit was sometimes so strong that the whole audience would be melted to tears, or feelings found vent in sobs or audible expressions of praise. The impenitent were awed and subdued by the presence and power of God, and they often flocked to God in multitudes. At one time Earle was so worn out and weary from praying with so many seekers, he had to leave them to pray their own way to Christ. People could often be heard praying at midnight in streets and houses and fields and barns as a result of his meetings.

Earle depended entirely on the Holy Spirit’s power to win souls to Christ. He says: “I have observed for nearly forty years past, that the secret of success in promoting revivals of religion is in having our own hearts filled with the Holy Spirit.” Again, he says: “Nothing can be a substitute for real power from on high. No amount of study, or talent, or effort, however untiring, can take the place of the fulness of Christ’s love; ‘Not by might, nor by (human) power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’”

When Earle preached on “The Unpardonable Sin,” in San Francisco, the power of God was so manifest that about five hundred persons rose for prayer. At a meeting in Burlington, Vermont, when he preached on “The Joy of Salvation,” about fifty ministers knelt at the altar to make an unconditional surrender of their all to God.

In his great sermon on “Joy,” Earle shows the power of the life which is “filled with joy and the Holy Ghost.” He tells of one woman who had been a Christian for years, and her husband had grown more skeptical all the time. But a few days after she was filled with joy and the Holy Ghost, he came to the meetings all broken up under a sense of his sins. He said that his wife had been a professing Christian for many years, but he had no desire for her kind of religion. But during the last few days she had been such an angel in the home that he could hold out no longer.

Earle believed that the “joy of the Lord” is the great secret in soul-winning. He believed that nothing would draw sinners to Christ so quickly as to see the joy of salvation in believers. This is the great point brought out in his book “Bringing in the Sheaves.” With the Psalmist he prayed, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit; Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Psalm 51:13)

2016/03/27 22:41 · admin

Frances Ridley Havergal

Few lives have left behind them a sweeter fragrance or holier influence than that of beautiful, talented, consecrated, Frances Ridley Havergal, who wrote “Take my life and let it be,” and others of our most popular hymns. In tens of thousands of homes all over the world Miss Havergal’s name is a household word. Countless multitudes have received blessing through her hymns and devotional works. Her little booklets, “My King,” “Royal Commandments and Royal Bounty,” “Daily Thoughts on Coming to Christ,” “Kept for the Master’s Use,” and so on, have been the means of deepening the spiritual life of many of God’s children. To Miss Havergal Christ was indeed “a living bright Reality;” “more dear, more intimately nigh, than e’en the sweetest earthly tie.” One of her latest whispers was, “I did so want to glorify Him in every step of my way.” Many Christians sincerely desire to know the secret of such a life as hers, and to attain its lofty heights of joy and peace.

Frances Ridley Havergal was the youngest child of Christian parents. She was born in 1836, at Astley, in Worcestershire, England, where her father was rector at the time. She was a very beautiful child, fond of romping and climbing trees. She was so full of life and vivacity that her father called her his “Little Quicksilver.” She was very precocious, and could read simple books easily at three years of age. At four years of age she could write well, and could read the Bible correctly. Her father was a composer and musician of no little merit, and at nine years of age Frances wrote long letters to her friends in perfect rhyme.

As a little girl Frances sang hymns sweetly, and she often sat upon her father’s knee while he read the Scriptures; but she did not remember having any serious impressions about religion until she was six years old. At that age she was deeply convicted of sin by hearing a sermon which dwelt much on the terrors of hell and of the judgment day. She told no one, but the sermon was on her mind day and night, and she sought relief in prayer. She remained in great distress about her soul for two years without telling anyone about it. She then ventured to tell a certain curate of the Church of England, in which church she was raised and of which she continued a member; but he attributed her feelings to a recent change of residence that her parents had made in moving from one rectory to another. He thought that she was simply homesick for the old home and friends, and advised her to be a good child and to pray. After this she did not open her heart to anyone for about five years, although she was under deep concern about her soul most of the time. Her mother died when she was twelve years of age, and this was a great blow to her. When between thirteen and fourteen years of age she went to the school of a Mrs. Teed, who was a godly woman, so filled with the Spirit that a great revival broke out in her school in which most of her pupils were converted to Christ. Many of the girls were so happy that “their countenances shone with a heavenly radiance.” This deepened Frances’ conviction of sin, and she prayed more earnestly than ever for pardon. After much anxious seeking, she ventured to tell a Miss Cooke — who afterwards became her step-mother — how willing she was to give up everything if she could only find Christ as her Saviour. Miss Cooke said, “Why cannot you trust yourself to your Saviour at once?” Miss Havergal says, “Then came a flash of hope across me, which made me feel literally breathless. I remember how my heart beat. ‘I could surely,’ was my response; and I left her suddenly and ran away upstairs to think it out. I flung myself on my knees in my room, and strove to realize the sudden hope. I was very happy at last I could commit my soul to Jesus. I could trust Him with my all for eternity.” She then received a definite assurance of salvation. “Then and there,” says she, “I committed my soul to my Saviour, I do not mean to say without any trembling or fear, but I did — and earth and heaven seemed bright from that moment — I did trust the Lord Jesus.”

From the time of her conversion Frances lived a very earnest Christian life. She was in schools and colleges in England and Germany, and afterwards visited different parts of England, Switzerland, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, but everywhere she went she took a bold stand for Christ. She received a splendid education both in England and in Germany, and grew into a very beautiful and accomplished young lady. She won many of the highest honors, and became proficient in several languages, including Latin, Greek, French, German, and Hebrew. She was a talented musician, a gifted singer, and wrote many poems of considerable merit. She was the only truly converted person among the hundred and ten young ladies in her school in Germany, but she took a firm stand for Christ, and suffered much persecution on that account but won the hearts of some of her schoolmates. Returning to England in 1854, she was confirmed in Worcester Cathedral. When the bishop laid hands on her and prayed, “Defend, O Lord, this Thy child with Thy heavenly grace, that she may continue Thine forever, and daily increase in Thy Holy Spirit more and more, until she come into Thy everlasting kingdom,” her heart entered into the prayer. “If ever my heart followed a prayer it did then,” says she, “if ever it thrilled with earnest longing not unmixed with joy, it did at the words ‘Thine for ever.’” She always observed the anniversary of her confirmation by spending the day in prayer and holy retirement.

Although Miss Havergal lived a very earnest Christian life, and sought to glorify God and serve Him by teaching in Sunday School, singing in churches and elsewhere, visiting the needy, and so on, she felt that she was only a little child in the spiritual life, and she longed for a deeper Christian experience. Her writings began to attract much attention, and her sweet Christian spirit was noticed on every hand. She was a great student of the Word of God, and at the age of twenty-two knew the whole of the Gospels, Epistles, Revelation, Psalms, and Isaiah by heart, and the Minor Prophets she learned in later years. She asked the Lord to direct her writing, and to give her every word, and even the rhymes of her poetry. Still she longed for a deeper, richer, fuller Christian experience. Many were her longings to be filled with the Spirit, and to have a closer walk with God. In “Gleams and Glimpses,” written in 1858, she says, “ — gleams and glimpses, but oh to be filled with joy and the Holy Ghost! Oh, why cannot I trust Him fully.” Later she wrote, “I still wait for the hour when I believe He will reveal Himself to me more directly; but it is the quiet waiting of present trust, not the restless waiting of anxiety and danger.” It was in 1852, at the age of 22, that she wrote the well known hymn “I gave My life for thee,” which reveals the deep longings of her heart to be more fully consecrated to Christ.

Miss Havergal often met with dark places in seeking for a deeper experience. In 1865, she wrote, “I had hoped that a kind of table-land had been reached in my journey, where I might walk a while in the light, without the weary succession of rock and hollow, crag and morass, stumbling and striving; but I seem borne back into all the old difficulties of the way, with many sin-made aggravations. I think that the great root of all my trouble and alienation is that I do not now make an unconditional surrender of myself to God; and until this is done I shall know no peace, I am sure of it.” Later she says, “Oh, that He would indeed purify me and make me white at any cost.” She prayed regularly three times a day, and every morning she prayed especially for the Holy Spirit. After a season of sickness, she wrote, “Oh, that He may make me a vessel sanctified and meet for the Master’s use! I look at trial and training of every kind in this light, not its effect upon oneself for oneself, but in its gradual fitting of me to do the Master’s work. So, in every painful spiritual darkness or conflict, it has already comforted me to think that God might be leading me through strange dark ways, so that I might afterward be His messenger to some of His children in distress.” She often wondered why others obtained so easily the blessing she had agonized and prayed for so long. Perhaps the Lord was letting her learn what trial was, so that her sweet songs might better comfort others in distress. She says, “I suppose that God’s crosses are often made of most unexpected and strange material. Perhaps trial must be felt keenly, or it would not be powerful enough as a medicine in the hands of our beloved Healer; and I think it has been a medicine to me latterly.” Again, she says, “I have learned a real sympathy with others walking in darkness, and sometimes it has seemed to help me to help them.” Concerning her trials she also wrote, “Did you ever hear of anyone being very much used for Christ who did not have some special waiting time, some complete upset of all his or her plans first; from St. Paul being sent off into the desert of Arabia for three years, when he must have been boiling over with the glad tidings, down to the present day?”

Miss Havergal traveled much throughout the British Isles, and made numerous trips to Switzerland; but wherever she was her soul still longed for a deeper experience. She spent much time in studying and marking her Bible, by the “rail-roading “ method, and this increased her longings to lay hold of the “exceeding great and precious promises” by which we are made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). At this time she wrote, “I have been appropriating all of the promises with a calm sort of twilight happiness, waiting for a clearer light to show me their full beauty and value.”

At last the long looked for experience came, and it lifted her whole life into sunshine and gladness. The following account of how she was brought into a Beulah Land experience is from the pen of her sister Maria, who also enjoyed the same experience.

“We now reach a period in the life of dear Frances that was characterized by surpassing blessing to her soul. The year 1873 was drawing to a close, and she was again visiting Winterdyne.

“One day she received in a letter from N____ a tiny book with the title ‘All for Jesus.’ She read it carefully. Its contents arrested her attention. It set forth a fulness of Christian experience and blessing exceeding that to which she had as yet attained. She was gratefully conscious of having for many years loved the Lord and delighted in His service; but there was in her experience a falling short of the standard, not so much of a holy walk and conversation, as of uniform brightness and continuous enjoyment in the Divine life. ‘All for Jesus’ she found went straight to this point of the need and longing of her soul. Writing in reply to the author of the little book, she said, ‘I do so long for deeper and fuller teaching in my own heart,’ ‘“All for Jesus” has touched me very much. . . . I know I love Jesus, and there are times when I feel such intensity of love for Him that I have not words to describe it. I rejoice too in Him as my “ Master” and “Sovereign,” but I want to come nearer still, to have the full realization of John 14:21, and to know “the power of his resurrection,” even if it be with the fellowship of His sufferings. And all this, not exactly for my own joy alone, but for others. . . . So I want Jesus to speak to me, to say “many things” to me, that I may speak for Him to others with real power. It is not knowing doctrine, but being with Him, which will give this.”

“God did not leave her long in this state of mind. He Himself had shown her that there were ‘regions beyond’ of blessed experience and service; had kindled in her soul the intense desire to go forward and possess them; and now, in His own grace and love, He took her by the hand, and led her into the goodly land. A few words from her correspondent on the power of Jesus to keep those who abide in Him from falling, and on the continually present power of His blood (‘the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin’) were used by the Master in effecting this. Very joyously she replied: ‘I see it all, and I have the blessing.’

“The ‘sunless ravines’ were now forever passed, and henceforth her peace and joy flowed onward, deepening and widening under the teaching of God and the Holy Ghost. The blessing she had received had (to use her own words) ‘lifted her whole life into sunshine, of which all she had previously experienced was but as pale and passing April gleams compared with the fulness of summer glory.’

“The practical effect of this was most evident in her daily true-hearted, whole-hearted, service for her King, and also in the increased joyousness of the unswerving obedience of her home life, the surest test of all.

“To the reality of this I do most willingly and fully testify. Some time afterwards, in answer to my question, when we were talking quietly together, Frances said, ‘Yes, it was on Advent Sunday, December 2, 1873, I first saw clearly the blessedness of true consecration. I saw it as a flash of electric light, and what you see, you can never unsee. There must be full surrender before there can be full blessedness. God admits you by the one into the ether. He Himself showed me all this most clearly. You know how singularly I have been withheld from attending all conventions and conferences; man’s teachings has, consequently, had but little to do with it. First, I was shown that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin,” and then it was made plain to me that He Who had thus cleansed me had power to keep me clean; so I just utterly yielded myself to Him, and utterly trusted Him to keep me.’”

In a letter to her sister Maria, written some months after the experience just described, Frances says with regard to it: “First, however, I would distinctly state, that it is only as and while a soul is under the full power of the blood of Christ that it can be cleansed from all sin; that one moment’s withdrawal from that power, and it is again actively because really sinning; and that it is only as, and while, kept by the power of God Himself that we are not sinning against Him; one instant of standing alone is certain fall! But, (premising that,) have we not been limiting the cleansing power of the precious blood when applied by the Holy Spirit, and also the keeping power of God? Have we not been limiting 1 John 1:7, by practically making it refer only to ‘remission of sins that are past,’ instead of taking the grand simplicity of ‘cleanseth us from all sin?’ ‘All’ is all; and as we may trust Him to cleanse us from the stain of past sins, so we may trust Him to cleanse us from all present defilement; yes, all! If not, we take away from this most precious promise, and, by refusing to take it in its fulness lose the fulness of its application and power. Then we limit God’s power to keep;’ we look at our frailty more than His omnipotence. Where is the line to be drawn, beyond which He is not ‘able?’ The very keeping implies total helplessness without it, and the very cleansing most distinctly defilement without it. It was that one word ‘cleanseth’ which opened the door of a very glory of hope and joy to me. I had never seen the force of the tense before, a continual present, always a present tense, not a present which the next moment becomes a past. It goes on cleansing, and I have no words to tell how my heart rejoices in it. Not a coming to be cleansed in the fountain only, but a remaining in the fountain, so that it may and can go on cleansing.

“Why should we pare down the promises of God to the level of what we have hitherto experienced of what God is ‘able to do,’ or even of what we have thought He might be able to do for us? Why not receive God’s promises, nothing doubting, just as they stand? ‘Take the shield of faith, whereby ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;’ ‘He is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things;’ and so on, through whole constellations of promises, which surely mean really and fully what they say.

“One arrives at the same thing starting almost from anywhere. Take Philippians 4:19, ‘your need;’ well, what is my great need and craving of soul? Surely it is now, (having been justified by faith, and having assurance of salvation,) to be made holy by the continual sanctifying power of God’s Spirit; to be kept from grieving the Lord Jesus; to be kept from thinking or doing whatever is not accordant with His holy will. Oh what a need is this! And it is said ‘He shall supply all your need;’ now, shall we turn round and say ‘all’ does not mean quite all? Both as to the commands and promises, it seems to me that everything short of believing them as they stand is but another form of ‘yea, hath God said?’

“Thus accepting, in simple and unquestioning faith, God’s commands and promises, one seems to be at once brought into intensified views of everything. Never, oh never before, did sin seem so hateful, so really ‘intolerable,’ nor watchfulness so necessary, and a keenness and untinterruptedness of watchfulness too, beyond what one ever thought of, only somehow different, not a distressed sort but a happy sort. It is the watchfulness of a sentinel when his captain is standing by him on the ramparts, when his eye is more than ever on the alert for any sign of the approaching enemy, because he knows they can only approach to be defeated. Then, too, the ‘all for Jesus’ comes in; one sees there is no half way, it must be absolutely all yielded up, because the least unyielded or doubtful point is sin, let alone the great fact of owing all to Him. And one cannot, dare not, temporize with sin. I know, and have found, that even a momentary hesitation about yielding, or obeying, or trusting and believing, vitiates all, the communion is broken, the joy is vanished; only, thank God, this need never continue even five minutes, faith may plunge instantly into ‘the fountain, open for sin and uncleanness,’ and again find its power to cleanse and restore. Then one wants to have more and more light; one does not shrink from painful discoveries of evil, because one so wants to have the unknown depths of it cleansed as well as what comes to the surface. ‘Cleanse me throughly from my sin;’ and one prays to be shown this. But so far as one does see, one must ‘put away sin’ and obey entirely; and here again His power is our resource, enabling us to do what without it we could not do.

“One of the intensest moments of my life was when I saw the force of that word ‘cleanseth.’ The utterly unexpected and altogether unimagined sense of its fulfillment to me, on simply believing it in its fulness, was just indescribable. I expected nothing like it short of heaven.” Referring to the same experience, in a letter to a friend, she said, “The year 1873 has been a time of unprecedented blessing to me.”

Miss Havergal’s whole life was now lifted to a higher plane, and the few remaining years were the richest of her life, richest in Christian experience and richest in service for her King. Wherever she went her life was full of service, and her words were winged with a new spiritual power. It was at this time too that she wrote her great consecration hymn, “Take my life and let it be,” She says, “Perhaps you will be interested to know the origin of the consecration hymn, ‘Take my life.’ I went for a little visit of five days. There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer, ‘Lord, give me all in this house!’ And He just did! Before I left the house everyone had got a blessing. The last night of my visit I was too happy to sleep, and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my consecration, and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another, till they finished with, ‘Ever, Only, ALL for Thee!’” She now refused to sing anything except sacred songs and hymns. Her voice, like her pen, was “always, only, for her King;” and many hearts were touched by her consecrated singing and writing. She considered every moment of her time as belonging to the Lord, and sought to use it to His glory. She was very fond of romping over the mountains in Switzerland, and her Alpine guide said that in climbing them she “went up like a chamois,” but these rambles were for the benefit of her health, and she embodied in her writings the thoughts concerning God suggested to her by His handiwork in nature. She also sought to win souls for Christ during her numerous visits to Switzerland. Not only did she consider every moment of her time as wholly the Lord’s, but she regarded every penny of her money as belonging to Him. “I forget sometimes,” says she, “but as a rule I never spend a sixpence without the distinct feeling that it is His, and must be spent for Him only, even if indirectly.” She did not feel free to spend her money for “costly array.” She gave her jewelry for the missionary cause, and dressed plainly but neatly. Her idea of the proper way for a Christian to dress was so as not to attract attention either by slovenliness or extravagance. “The question of cost I see very strongly,” says she, “and do not consider myself at liberty to spend on dress that which might be spared for God’s work; but it costs no more to have a thing well and prettily made, and I should only feel justified in getting a costly dress if it would last proportionately longer.”

Miss Havergal’s time was now occupied with her writing, in giving Bible readings and addresses, in visiting the poor, and in doing needlework for the Zenana missions and for the poor. In 1877 she took up temperance work as well. She spent much time in visiting from house to house, to read the Bible and point souls to Christ. She often gave Bible readings or addressed meetings in drawing rooms and other places, and frequently led consecration meetings. The first consecration meeting she was ever in was conducted by herself, and it was a time of rich blessing. Deeply spiritual and full of trust were her Bible readings and addresses. She often sang in churches, hospitals, and other places. Every morning she spent much time in studying and marking her Bible, sitting at her table to do so. Sometimes, on bitterly cold mornings, her sister would beg her to study with her feet to the fire. “But then,” Frances would reply, “I can’t rule my lines neatly; just see what a find I’ve got! If one only searches there are such extraordinary things in the Bible! “Many were the letters of comfort and consolation that she sent to all parts of the earth. Her books also carried a blessing with them wherever they went. Children flocked to her in crowds, and grown people corresponded with her from all quarters. From morning to night she was occupied in the Master’s service.

Miss Havergal often referred to the experience of 1873, which made the closing years of her life such a blessing to others. In 1875 she said to her sister, “It’s no mistake, Marie, about the blessing God sent me December 2, 1873; it is far more distinct than my conversion, I can’t date that. I am always happy, and it is such peace,” The same year she wrote, “He has granted me to rejoice fully in His will, I am not conscious of even a wish crossing it; I do really and altogether desire that His will may be done, whatever it is.” Even when suffering from poor health, or after some great temporal loss, she could still “rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of her salvation” (Habakkuk  3:18). When her American publishers failed, and she did not receive the money due for her books, she wrote, “I have not a fear, or a doubt, or a care, or a shadow upon the sunshine of my heart.” Later, when many valuable stereotype plates of her music and songs were destroyed by fire, she was still happy, believing that God had a purpose in allowing adversities. She was a daily illustration of “Without Carefulness.”

She suffered much from poor health; and as the years went on her health was more and more broken. She literally wore herself out ministering to others. When her friends sympathized with her sufferings in her last illness, she whispered, “Never mind! It’s home the faster! God’s will is delicious; He makes no mistakes.” Shortly before she expired she requested that her favorite text, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin,” should be placed on her tomb. On her dying bed she frequently exclaimed, “So beautiful to go!” Near the end she said, “Oh, I want you all to speak bright, Bright words for Jesus! Oh, do, do! It is all perfect peace, I am only waiting for Jesus to take me in.”

Perhaps Miss Havergal’s experience is best described in her own words, quoted by her sister:

“There were strange soul depths, restless, vast, and broad, Unfathomed as the sea; An infinite craving for some infinite stilling; But now Thy perfect love is perfect filling. Lord Jesus Christ, my Lord, my God, Thou, Thou art enough for me.”

2016/03/27 22:36 · admin

A. J. Gordon

One of the most famous Spirit-filled ministers of modern times was Dr. Adoniram Judson Gordon. His deeply spiritual books, especially “The Ministry of the Spirit,” have been a means of deepening the faith and experience of many of the Lord’s children.

Gordon was born in New Hampshire, April 13, 1836 His parents were devout Christians of the Old School Baptist type. Adoniram was a “thoughtless, somewhat indifferent, unresponsive lad” until about fifteen years of age. There were twelve children in the family, and his life, like that of the others, was little out of the ordinary. He helped his father in the little wooden mill owned by him, and worked on the farm.

At about fifteen years of age Adoniram became interested in the salvation of his soul. His conviction of sin became very deep until finally it was almost unendurable. He spent a whole night in such anguish of soul that his father was obliged to sit up with him until daybreak. “Calm as the sunshine which flooded the hills the next day was the boy spirit which had found peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” says his son, in the biography of his father.

Soon after his conversion to Christ he was baptized and received into the church. Before his conversion he cared but little for books. Study was a very unpleasant task to him. But after his conversion new desires and ambitions took possession of him, and he applied himself diligently to his studies. Soon after his sixteenth year he openly confessed to the church his desire and determination to prepare for the ministry. An old deacon remarked to someone, “Judson is a good boy, and would make a good minister if he only had energy.” Little did he foresee the life of incessant toil and consecrated energy awaiting the seemingly sluggish lad.

Young Gordon was sent to a preparatory school, and worked during all his spare hours to help pay his tuition and other expenses. He was very anxious to master the Greek language, so that he would better understand the New Testament. In 1856 he went to Brown University. He took but medium rank as a scholar, but his reading was extensive. In 1860 he entered the Newton Theological Seminary. The Civil War then broke out, and he was fired with a desire to go to the front with many of his comrades. But, strong abolitionists as they were, his parents were so thoroughly opposed to his going that he finally gave up the purpose.

Before leaving the seminary he preached a number of times in surrounding villages. In 1863 he graduated, and accepted a call to become pastor of the little church at Jamaica Plain, near Boston. He was six years at this little church on the suburbs of Boston. The church prospered and increased in numbers under his ministry, and the people were loathe to part with him when he received a call from an important church in Boston, in 1867. He declined the new call over and over again, but the Boston church would take no denial. He wrote out a letter of acceptance, but tore it up again. At last the pressure became so great that, in 1869, he accepted the pastorate of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church, in Boston, the church where he was destined to become famous.

Boston was full of skepticism and unbelief, and Clarendon Street Church was in a very sluggish spiritual condition when Gordon became the pastor. It was a very wealthy and exclusive church, and there was but little room for the poor in it. “A line of substantial merchants and bankers ran up and down the ends of the most desirable pews.”

Dr. Gordon remained pastor of Clarendon Street Church for more than a quarter of a century. By persevering in preaching the plain unvarnished truths of the gospel he at last saw the church completely transformed. It became one of the most spiritual and aggressive churches.

The great secret of Dr. Gordon’s wonderful success in the ministry was doubtless in his own personal experience of the baptism and anointing of the Holy Spirit, which he seems to have received at one of Mr. Moody’s conferences at Northfield, some time after he began his ministry at the Clarendon Street Church. The deepening of his spiritual experience seems to have been brought about through two great agencies — the prayers and labors of the famous Uncle John Vassar, and the great meetings which Mr. Moody held in Boston close to Dr. Gordon’s church, in 1877. Of Uncle John Vassar, Gordon wrote: “Far beyond any man whom I ever knew, was it true of him that his citizenship was in heaven, and so filled was he with the glory and power of the heavenly life that to many he seemed like a foreigner speaking an unknown tongue. I have never been so humbled and quickened by contact with any living man as with him. Hundreds of Christians, while sorrowing that they shall see his face no more for the present, will bless God as long as they live for the inspiration which they received from his devoted life.” Ernest B. Gordon, son of Dr. Gordon, says, concerning Uncle John Vassar: “For five successive years, off and on, ‘Uncle John’ labored with the Clarendon Street Church in his peculiar work of ‘spiritual census-taking,’ going through the streets of proud, cultivated, self-righteous Boston, ringing every door-bell, and confronting every household with the great question of the new birth. He was wont to describe himself as ‘only a shepherd dog, ready to run after the lost sheep and bring them back to the Shepherd,’ and ever refused the honors and emoluments of the ministry. He would literally travail in prayer for the unconverted. ‘The nights which he spent at my home,’ writes Gordon, ‘were nights of prayer and pleading for my congregation and my ministry. Again and again would I hear him rising in the midnight hours to plead with God for the unsaved, till I had frequently ‘to admonish him that he must not lose his sleep.’ And so he wrought and prayed and instructed the young minister, meekly teachable before such a master of spiritual things, in those hard-learned and rarely acquired secrets which open the way to the heart of sinful humanity.

“The inspiration this faithful man brought with him accrued principally to the pastor of Clarendon Street. The influence of Mr. Moody’s meetings in 1877 affected both pastor and people. Indeed, this year was the turning-point, the climacteric which, after seven years of lethargic religious life, opened a new period of spiritual health. When the revival meetings were finished, Gordon realized that the crest of the hill had been passed, and that the crisis in the struggle for a spiritual church was over.

“These meetings which were organized and carried on by Mr. Moody with all the executive ability and religious fervor for which he is distinguished, were held in a large tabernacle — a great ‘tent,’ indeed, of brick and spruce timber, with nothing about it to attract but the gospel of Christ preached therein. This building stood within three hundred feet of the Clarendon Street Church, which was used from the banning for overflow and ‘inquiry’ meetings. The tabernacle was thronged night after night by audiences of from five to seven thousand. People of all ranks and conditions attended. Excursion trains brought in thousands from all parts of New England. Seventy thousand families in Boston were personally visited. Great noon prayer-meetings were held daily in Tremont Temple by business men. Meetings were organized for young men, for boys, for women, for the intemperate — in short, for all classes in the community that were ready to help or be helped.

“And at the center of all these operations stood the Clarendon Street Church, like a cemetery temporarily occupied by troops in battle. What a shattering and over-whelming of weather-stained moss-grown traditions followed! What experiences of grace, what widening vistas of God’s power, what instruction in personal religion, resulted from these six months of revival! A window was built into the religious life of the church, letting in floods of light. The true purpose of a church’s existence began to be emphasized. Drunkards and outcasts were daily reclaimed, and brought into fellowship. Christian evidences of the best sort, evidences which had to do with the potency of a saving Christ, were multiplied to affluence, strengthening the faith of believers. The duty and opportunity of all in the work of the inquiry room were asserted. A great education in methods of practical religious work resulted.”

It seems to have been in 1882, during the first of Mr. Moody’s Northfield conventions, that Gordon received the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We quote the following account from the biography written by his son.

“The letters which follow touch closely upon Northfield, and illustrate from Dr. Gordon’s personal experience the doctrine of ‘enduement for service,’ which he preached with so much power at the conferences.

“‘Dr. Gordon,’ writes Mr. George C. Needham, ‘unlike some Christians, believed there was something always beyond. This he ever sought to attain. Fifteen years ago, during the first Northfield convention, he was desirous to secure what he yet needed as a saint and servant of Christ. Toward the close of those memorable ten days, spent more in prayer than in preaching, my beloved friend joined me in a midnight hour of great heart-searching and infilling of the Spirit. He read with peculiar tenderness our Lord’s intercessory prayer of John 17. The union of the believer with Christ and the Father, as taught by our Lord in that chapter, called out fervent exclamations, while with deep pathos he continued reading. During united prayer which followed the holy man poured out his soul with a freedom and unction indescribable. I never heard him boast of any spiritual attainment reached during the midnight hour. Soul experiences were to him very sacred, and not to be rehearsed on every ordinary occasion. But I have no doubt he received then a divine touch which further ennobled his personal life and made his ministry of ever-increasing spirituality and of ever-widening breadth of sympathy.”

Immediately after the conference referred to above, Dr. Gordon went to Seabright, New Jersey, to preach one Sunday. The following is from a letter of one who heard him preach at this seaside resort: “I remember his once coming from Northfield after the August Conference. He seemed filled with the Spirit; he could not talk commonplaces. He said he had had a great blessing. He went to his room, and came out shortly after and said he was going down to the fisher village, and asked the way. He did not come back until we were at dinner that hot afternoon. He had visited the beer and liquor saloons and prayed with the men there and had been among the shanties. I know more than one family saved that day.”

Dr. Gordon’s Spirit-filled life and deeply spiritual books have had a powerful influence for good throughout the world, and his memory has the sweet savor of a saintly life. He was one of the most prominent leaders and speakers in Mr. Moody’s great Northfield Conventions, and one year Mr. Moody left the Convention entirely in his charge. Dr. Arthur T. Pierson, speaking concerning Gordon’s addresses at these conventions, says: “He taught with authority, but it was with a derived and deputed authority. Among all the renowned speakers at the Northfield Conference, he was facile princeps; and the address he gave there last summer on the Holy Spirit has been pronounced by competent judges the most complete ever given, even from that platform of great teachers.”

In his “Ministry of the Spirit,” which is perhaps his greatest work. Dr. Gordon presents the work of the Holy Spirit in a three-fold aspect, — sealing, filling, and anointing. The sealing is accompanied with assurance, the filling with power, and the anointing with knowledge. In his well known book on “The Ministry of Healing,” Dr. Gordon opposes the so-called “Christian Science,” which had its headquarters in Boston, the city where his church was located; but he advocated the power of the Lord to heal disease or to keep His children well without the use of medicines. Dr. Gordon was also a firm believer in the pre-millennial coming of Christ. He preached much on these deeper spiritual themes in the many conventions visited by him. His services were in great demand in religious gatherings throughout the country, and great multitudes eagerly listened to his sermons. His missionary training school in Boston also became a great factor for the spread of the gospel. His church became so spiritual and energetic that it undertook many diflferent forms of Christian work, including the missionary training institute, a mission to the Jews, a mission to the Chinese, a mission to the colored people, an industrial home, rescue work for fallen women, and evangelistic work on the wharves, in hospitals, in street car stables, and in weak churches. From ten to twenty missionaries and evangelists were also working in connection with Clarendon Street Church. Often the church was crowded to the doors with eager listeners. Even Jews and Chinamen were often brought to Christ in the meetings.

Dr. Gordon felt that he could not consistently denounce theatre going if he allowed the house of prayer to be turned into a play-house. He sometimes quoted a returned missionary as saying: “For the honor of Christ I pray that the heathen may never learn how the American Christians raise money for missions.” No questionable forms of raising money were ever resorted to in his church. He sought to follow the Scriptures implicitly and would not allow the use of leavened, or fermented, wine or bread in the communion.

The “Life of David Brainerd,” the consecrated missionary, had a wonderful influence in deepening the spiritual life of Gordon. He declared that he had never received such spiritual help from any other book of human origin. He used to visit the graves of Eliot, Brainerd, and Edwards, and there received fresh inspiration to devote his life fully to the service of God.

On the morning of Februaary 2, 1895, Dr. Gordon, with “Victory” as the last clearly audible word on his lips, fell asleep in Jesus, so far as the mortal body was concerned; but his spirit is doubtless with the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews. His life will continue to exert a hallowed influence in this world.

2016/03/27 22:34 · admin

D. L. Moody

D. L. Moody was undoubtedly one of the greatest evangelists of all time. The meetings held by Moody and Sankey were among the greatest the world has ever known. They were the means under God of arousing the church to new life and activity, and were the means of sweeping tens of thousands of persons into the kingdom of God.

Mr. Moody was one of the weak instruments which God has chosen to confound the mighty. Like Christmas Evans, he had very little education before his conversion to Christ. At seventeen years of age he could scarcely read or write, and in a Bible class he could not turn to the book of John but searched for it in the Old Testament. After his conversion he became a proficient scholar. Few men have learned so much in the school of observation.

Dwight Lyman Moody was of old New England Puritan stock. For seven generations, or two hundred years, his ancestors lived the quiet lives of farmers in the Connecticut Valley. Moody inherited the vigorous constitution and hardy common sense of the typical New Englander. He was the sixth child in a family of nine children, and was born February 5, 1837, in the town of Northfield, Massachusetts, where he afterwards founded his famous Bible schools. His home town was always very dear to him, and it was one of the greatest pleasures of his life to return to it after a long and arduous evangelistic campaign.

Moody’s father died at the early age of forty-one, and left his widow in poverty with a mortgage on the home and seven children to support. The creditors seized everything they could, even to the firewood, and the children had to stay in bed until school time to keep warm. A brother of the widowed mother then came to their rescue and helped to relieve their immediate needs. In their extremity Rev. Mr. Everett, the Unitarian minister, was very kind to them, and all the Moody children became members of his Sunday School, and were enlisted as workers to bring in other children. It was here, therefore, that young Moody began his successful career as a Sunday School worker. Moody’s mother had sought to bring up her children as a Christian mother should and Dwight never wandered into gross sins as so many young men have done. Lying, complaining, breaking of promises, or talking evil about others, was never allowed in the home. One evening when the children had but little to eat, they divided their scant supply with a beggar. When Dwight was eight years of age, he and an elder brother were crossing the river in a skiff with a boatman who was too drunk to row the boat, and who would not let them touch the oars. They were drifting with the current, but Dwight urged his brother to trust in the Lord, and they came safely to land. Dwight was mischievous but not wicked as a boy.

The Moody family were so poor that the boys would carry their shoes and stockings in their hands on their way to church, to save them from wear, and when in sight of the church would put them on. Dwight thought it hard, after working all week, to have to go to church and listen to a sermon he did not understand. Once the preacher had to send someone to the gallery to awaken him. But he got in such a habit of going that he could not stay away, and he afterwards said that he thanked his mother for making him go when he did not feel like going.

At ten years of age Dwight left home in company with another brother to work at a place about thirteen miles away. This nearly broke his mother’s heart, as she had striven so hard to keep the family together. He was fondly attached to his mother and sorrowed over leaving her. When he arrived at the new place an aged man gave him a penny and bade him trust the Lord. “That old man’s blessing has followed me for fifty years,” said Mr. Moody.

At seventeen years of age, Moody, tired of farm life and ambitious to work his way upward in the world, decided to go to Boston. He arrived there without any money, and tried in vain to find work until he was almost in despair. He then found employment with an uncle who was in the shoe business. He succeeded well as a salesman, and became a regular attendant at the Mount Vernon Congregational Sunday School. Having but little schooling, he took but little part in the discussions in the class in Sunday School, but gradually became deeply interested in the study of the Bible, and finally took part in the discussions in the class. His teacher, Mr. Kimball, took great interest in him, and gradually led him to see the plan of salvation until all that was necessary was a personal interview to lead him to Christ. Mr. Kimball prayerfully sought for a proper time for this interview.

“I determined to speak to him about Christ and about his soul,” says Mr. Kimball, “and started down to Holton’s shoe store. When I was nearly there I began to wonder whether I ought to go in just then during business hours. I thought that possibly my call might embarrass the boy, and that when I went away the other clerks would ask who I was, and taunt him with my efforts in trying to make him a good boy. In the meantime I had passed the store, and, discovering this, I determined to make a dash for it and have it over at once. I found Moody in the back part of the building wrapping up shoes. I went up to him at once, and putting my hand on his shoulder, I made what I afterward thought was a very weak plea for Christ. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was. It seemed the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, and there, in the back of the store in Boston, he gave himself and his life to Christ.”

Moody’s whole life was now changed, and became one of joyful Christian service. “Before my conversion,” says he, “I worked towards the Cross, but since then I have worked from the Cross; then I worked to be saved, now I work because I am saved.” Again, he says: “I remember the morning on which I came out of my room after I first trusted Christ. I think the sun shone a good deal brighter than it ever had before — I thought that it was just smiling upon me; and as I walked out on Boston Common and heard the birds singing in the trees, I thought they were all singing a song to me.”

Moody was now running over with zeal and love for the Master, but he does not seem to have received much help and encouragement from the conservative deacons and church members in the church which he was attending. Next year after his conversion he was denied church membership, because he was “not sufficiently instructed in Christian doctrine.” Three of the committee who examined him were appointed to instruct him in the way of God more perfectly.

In 1856, the second year after his conversion, Moody went to Chicago, where he united with the Plymouth Congregational Church and became a very active Christian worker, putting his soul and energy into the work of winning men to Christ. He rented a pew in the church, and filled it with young men every Sunday. Then he rented another and another until he had rented and filled four pews. The great revival awakened by Finney spread to Chicago, and Moody was in his element. Meanwhile he was prospering in his business, and was so good a salesman of shoes that his employer sent him out as a commercial traveler.

He found a little mission Sunday School in Chicago where they had sixteen teachers and only twelve scholars. Here he applied to become a teacher. They consented on condition that he would find his own scholars. This just suited his taste and next Sunday he arrived with eighteen little hoodlums which he had gathered from the streets. He soon had the building crowded. In the fall of 1858 he began another mission school on a larger scale in another part of the city. The large hall was soon overcrowded. He then procured a larger hall, which afterward developed into one of the leading churches of Chicago. This big hall he soon had filled with street “gamins.” The children loved him and crowded in by the hundreds and sung the hymns with great enjoyment. Moody also enticed them in with prizes, free pony rides, picnics, candies, and other things dear to the hearts of children. Scholars were allowed to transfer to any class they desired by simply notifying the superintendent ; and this plan resulted in the survival of the fittest teachers. The school soon numbered 1,500. Moody decided to build a church and issued certificates on the “North Market Sabbath School Association; capital $10,000; 40,000 shares at 25 cents each.” The Sunday School grew to such proportions that parents were drawn in, and then meetings were held almost every night in the week. Many prominent men assisted Moody in the Sunday School and in the meetings, but so much devolved on him that he had sometimes to be both janitor and superintendent. This practical training contributed much to his success as a preacher. Doubtless he needed such training, as at first he seems to have spoken very awkwardly in public. When he first arose to speak in a prayer-meeting one of the deacons assured him that, in his opinion, he would serve God best by keeping still. Another critic, who praised Moody for his zeal in filling the pews at Plymouth Church, said that he should realize his limitations and not attempt to speak in public. “You make too many mistakes in grammar,” said he “I know I make mistakes,” was the reply, “and I lack many things, but I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.” He then paused, and looking at the man searchingly, inquired, in his own inimitable way, “Look, here, friend, you’ve got grammar enough — what are you doing with it for the Master?”

Mr. Moody’s great Sunday School work was accomplished before he was more than twenty-three years of age. With all his work for Christ he had no thought of entering the ministry until he found that souls were being led to Christ through his efforts. He then decided to give up the business in which he had been engaged, and in which he had already made over $7,000, and to devote all his time to Christian work.

During the Civil War Moody became a prominent member of the Christian Commission, and did a great work holding meetings and distributing gospels and tracts among the soldiers and prisoners of war quartered in Chicago and on many leading battle-fields of the Southern States. After the war he returned to Chicago and again devoted himself to Sunday School and Young Men’s Christian Association work. His Sunday School was so great a success that it made him famous all over the country. Inquiries concerning his methods of work came from all directions, and people traveled thousands of miles to learn them. He was called to many places to address Sunday School conventions and to help organize Sunday School work. Through his efforts many Sunday Schools were led to agree to use the same lessons each Sunday, and thus the International Sunday School lessons were started.

Moody became one of the most prominent Young Men’s Christian Association workers in America, and it was at a Y. M. C. A. convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1870, that he first met Ira David Sankey, who was destined to become his great singing partner. Moody was so impressed with his singing that he asked him to come with him and sing for him, and in Indianapolis they held their first meeting together, in the open air. Some months afterward Sankey gave up his business and joined Mr. Moody in his work.

In 1867 Mr. Moody made up his mind to go to Great Britain and study the methods of Christian work employed in that country. He did so, accompanied by Mrs. Moody, who was suffering from asthma. He was particularly anxious to hear Spurgeon, the great English preacher, and George Muller, who had the large orphanages at Bristol. Moody was then unknown in England except to a few prominent Sunday School leaders, but he spoke a number of times in London and Bristol with good results.

It was during this first visit to Britain that Moody heard the words which set him hungering and thirsting after a deeper Christian experience and which marked a new era in his life. The words were spoken to him by Mr. Henry Varley, the well known evangelist, as they sat together on a seat in a public park in Dublin. The words were these: “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully consecrated to Him,” “He said ‘a man’” thought Moody, “he did not say, a great man, nor a learned man, nor a ‘smart’ man, but simply ‘a man.’ I am a man, and it lies with the man himself whether he will or will not make that entire and full consecration. I will try my utmost to be that man.” The words kept ringing in his mind, and burning their way into his soul until finally he was led into the deeper, richer, fuller experience for which his soul yearned. The impression the words made was deepened soon afterward by words spoken by Mr. Bewley, of Dublin, Ireland, to whom he was introduced by a friend. “Is this young man all O and O?” asked Mr. Bewley. “What do you mean by ‘O and O’?” said the friend. “Is he out and out for Christ?” was the reply. From that time forward Moody’s desire to be “O and O” for Christ was supreme.

Moody’s hunger for a deeper spiritual experience was deepened by the preaching of Henry Moorehouse, the famous English boy preacher, who visited Moody’s church in Chicago soon after Mr. Moody returned to America. For seven nights Moorehouse preached from the text, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Every night he rose to a higher and higher plain of thought, beginning at Genesis and going through the Bible to Revelation, showing how much God loved the world. He pointed out how God loved the world so much that He sent patriarchs and prophets, and other holy men to plead with the people, and then He sent His only Son, and when they had killed Him, He sent the Holy Ghost. In closing the seventh sermon from the text, he said: “My friends, for a whole week I have been trying to tell you how much God loves you, but I cannot do it with this poor stammering tongue. If I could borrow Jacob’s ladder and climb up into heaven and ask Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, to tell me how much love the Father has for the world, all he could say would be, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’” Moody’s heart was melted within him as he listened to the young preacher describing the love of God for lost mankind. It gave him such a vision of the love of God as he had never seen before, and from that time forward Moody’s preaching was of a more deeply spiritual character.

Moody continued to hunger for a deepening of his own spiritual life and experience. He had been greatly used of God, but felt that there were much greater things in store for him. The year 1871 was a critical one with him. He realized more and more how little he was fitted by personal acquirements for his work, and how much he needed to be qualified for service by the Holy Spirit’s power. This realization was deepened by conversations he had with two ladies who sat on the front pew in his church. He could see by the expression of their faces that they were praying. At the close of the service they would say to him, “We have been praying for you.” “Why don’t you pray for the people?” Mr. Moody would ask. “Because you need the power of the Spirit,” was the reply. “I need the power! Why,” said he, in relating the incident afterwards, “I thought I had power. I had the largest congregation in Chicago, and there were many conversions. I was in a sense satisfied. But right along those two godly women kept praying for me, and their earnest talk about anointing for special service set me thinking. I asked them to come and talk with me, and they poured out their hearts in prayer that I might receive the filling of the Holy Spirit. There came a great hunger into my soul. I did not know what it was. I began to cry out as I never did before. I really felt that I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service.”

“While Mr. Moody was in this mental and spiritual condition,” says his son, “Chicago was laid in ashes. The great fire swept out of existence both Farwell Hall and Illinois Street Church. On Sunday night after the meeting, as Mr. Moody went homeward, he saw the glare of flames, and knew it meant ruin to Chicago. About one o’clock Farwell Hall was burned; and soon his church went down. Everything was scattered.”

Mr. Moody went East to New York City to collect funds for the sufferers from the Chicago fire, but his heart and soul were crying out for the power from on high. “My heart was not in the work of begging,” says he. “I could not appeal. I was crying all the time that God would fill me with His Spirit. Well, one day, in the city of New York — oh, what a day! — I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world — it would be as the small dust of the balance.”

Moody’s church was soon rebuilt in Chicago, thousands of Sunday School scholars contributing five cents each to place a brick in the new edifice. But the anointing of the Spirit which he received while walking along the streets of New York set his soul on fire in such a way that his work soon became a world-wide one. Desiring to learn more of the Scriptures from English Bible students, he visited England again in 1872. He did not expect to hold any meetings during this visit, but he accepted an invitation to preach at the Sunday morning and evening service at Arundel Square Congregational Church in the North part of London. In the evening the power of the Spirit seemed to fall upon the congregation, and the inquiry room was crowded with persons seeking salvation. Next day he went to Dublin, Ireland, but an urgent telegram called him back to continue his meetings at the North London Church. He continued there for ten days and four hundred persons were added to the church. He was invited to Dublin and Newcastle but decided not to go at that time, and he returned to America.

Next year, at the invitation of two English friends, he started for England, accompanied by Mr. Sankey. His English friends had promised funds for the visit, but the money did not come and Mr. Moody borrowed enough to enable him to go to England. On arriving there he learned that both of his friends had died. No door seemed open for him. But before leaving America he had received a letter from the Secretary of the Y. M. C. A. at York, England, inviting him to address the young men there if he ever came to England. He and Mr. Sankey went to York, and began a series of meetings there which lasted for five weeks. Interest gradually increased until the meeting places were crowded half an hour before the time of service, and many souls decided for Christ.

The evangelists went from York to Sunderland, where they had still greater meetings than in York. The largest halls in the city had to be secured for the services. Their next series of meetings was in Newcastle. Here the meetings were gigantic, special trains bringing people from surrounding cities and towns. Here the evangelists published their first hymn-book, which soon became popular all over Britain. On their return to America, in 1875, they published a similar hymn-book entitled “Gospel Hynms, No. 1,” which was followed by Numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. These books have been a means of blessing to multitudes throughout the world. They marked a new era in the history of the Christian church. The royalties on them were at first devoted to a number of benevolent purposes, but afterwards to the founding and carrying on of Mr. Moody’s great Bible schools at Northfield.

From the North of England the evangelists went to Scotland, and began a series of meetings in Edinburgh. Here they had one of the greatest series of meetings ever known in the world’s history. No building was large enough to accommodate the immense throngs which flocked to their meetings. “Never, probably,” says Professor Blaikie, “was Scotland so stirred; never was there so much expectation.”

In Glasgow, Scotland, the evangelists had similar meetings to those at Edinburgh. At the closing service at the Crystal Palace, in the Botanic Gardens, the building was packed so tightly with people Moody could not enter, and there were still twenty or thirty thousand persons on the outside. Moody spoke to the great throng from the seat of a cab, and the choir led the singing from the roof of a nearby shed. When the Crystal Palace was filled with inquirers seeking salvation, there were still about 2,000 inquirers on the outside of the building. Moody probably addressed as many as thirty thousand persons at one time in Edinburgh and as many as forty thousand in Glasgow.

Other great meetings were held in Liverpool and many other British cities, and finally in London. When the evangelists left Britain, in 1875, after a campaign of two years and one week, the whole country had been stirred religiously as it had not been stirred since the days of Wesley and Whitefield. About 14,000 children attended the children’s meeting in Liverpool. Over 600 ministers attended the closing services in London. Moody said that he had such a consciousness of the presence of God in the London meetings that “the people seemed as grasshoppers.” Professor Henry Drummond said that Moody spoke to exactly “an acre of people” every meeting during his campaign in the East End of London.

On their return to America, Moody and Sankey held great meetings in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, and in many other cities of the United States. In 1881 they again visited Great Britain, and conducted another gigantic evangelistic campaign. After this Moody made repeated trips to Britain, and once he visited the Holy Land. He devoted much time to building up his great Bible schools at Northfield and in Chicago. During the World’s Fair in Chicago, in 1893, he conducted great meetings in the largest halls in the city and in Forepaugh’s Circus tent, with the assistance of famous preachers from all over the world. Millions heard the gospel preached during this campaign.

Moody continued his evangelistic campaigns until his death in 1899. His last great series of meetings was in a gigantic hall in Kansas City. While there he was seized with heart trouble and hastened home to die. Among his last words were, “This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! I have been looking forward to it for years.” This old world had lost its charms for him and for a long time he had been “home-sick for heaven.” His earthly remains were laid to rest on “Round Top,” at his beloved Northfield. By his special request there were no emblems of mourning at his funeral services. It is estimated that no less than a hundred million people heard the gospel from his lips, and his schools are training many others to carry the Glad Tidings throughout the world.

2016/03/27 22:33 · admin

General Booth

One of the greatest religious leaders and reformers of all time was General William Booth, founder and head of the Salvation Army. The discipline of the Salvation Army is so rigorous, its standards so high, and its methods so strenuous, it probably never will attract the great mass of professing Christians. But, like the Friends Church, the Salvation Army has had a tremendous influence in the deepening of spiritual life, and in opening up new channels of Christian service and blessing. Israel was a small nation, but to that people God gave the adoption, the covenants, the oracles, and the law. He made Israel the “husbandmen,” or teachers of the world. In like manner He has taught the world many great lessons through the Salvation Army.

Perhaps all other denominations of Christians have been more one-sided than has the Salvation Army. The Roman Catholic Church placed too much stress on outward works, forms and ceremonies. The Protestant Churches probably went to the other extreme, and emphasized the act of faith to the neglect of insisting on good works and holy living. But the Salvation Army has given the world a new and greater vision of how saving faith should lead to a life of consecration and service. No other denomination of Christians seems to have realized so fully the duty of going out into the highways and byways to minister to the lost and suffering. The Army is ‘The church of the ‘black sheep.’

The Salvation Army has given the world a new conception of Christianity, and has won the confidence of the masses. They have not spent their time in discussing creeds and theories, but have clothed the naked, fed the hungry, and visited the sick and in prison, and have thus won the people for Christ. On the great day of judgment the sheep are separated from the goats not by an examination of their theories, but by an examination as to whether or not they have really loved their neighbors and ministered to the sick, suffering, and needy as did the divine Master when here on earth. The Salvation Army will probably measure up to this real test of love better than others who bear the name of Christ. Their creed is a brief one. It has been summed up in three words — Soap, Soup, and Salvation. They believe in soap to clean men outwardly and better their physical condition ; in soup to satisfy their hunger and prepare them to receive the message of Salvation; and in a full and free salvation for all mankind who meet the conditions.

While “less creed and more deed” is the fundamental basis of the Salvation Army, they do not neglect the great essential doctrines of repentance, faith, and the necessity of holy living. To them repentance is not mere sorrow for sin, but a real turning away from sin. Faith is not a mere intellectual act completed in a few seconds; but is a real reliance of the soul upon Christ, beginning instantly but continuing through time and eternity. In every Salvation Army corps throughout the world a Holiness Meeting is held every week to lead Christians into an experience of holiness, sanctification, or the filling of the Spirit. With them holiness is not “imputed” only, but is really imparted by the indwelling Spirit Without the real power of the Holy Spirit it would be difficult for them to hold open air meetings every night and two or three times on Sundays, summer and winter, rain or shine. Without the Spirit’s power it would be difficult for every soldier to take part in both the outdoor and indoor meetings every day in the year, and yet every Salvation Army soldier is expected to be at his post and to take part in every meeting if possible. This is a strenuous life and requires spiritual strength. General Booth realized this fact, and made sanctification, or the filling of the Spirit, a fundamental doctrine of the Salvation Army. Not only the Salvation Army, but most of the workers in mission halls and open-air meetings have learned the necessity of being filled with the Spirit in order to carry on an effectual work for Christ.

Few persons have so emphasized and experienced the Holy Spirit’s power as did General Booth and Mrs. Catherine Booth, the “Father” and “Mother” of the Salvation Army. Before her death Mrs. Booth was universally regarded as one of the saintliest and most spiritual of women. Her influence both within and without the Salvation Army was tremendous. Thousands and tens of thousands have been won for Christ or led into a deeper spiritual experience through the influence of her life. It was no unusual sight to see scores and scores, and sometimes hundreds of persons seeking salvation or sanctification at the close of one of General Booth’s addresses, so manifest was the power of the Spirit in his meetings. He probably visited more countries and spoke more frequently, and won more souls for Christ, and rescued more fallen men and women than did any other person. Already the Salvation Army is at work in fifty-five different countries, and their shelters, rescue homes, farm colonies, and emigration bureaus, are doing more to reclaim the fallen than is any other agency, and we might perhaps truthfully say, that they are doing more to rescue the fallen than are all other agencies combined.

William Booth, destined to become the founder of the Salvation Army and one of the greatest of social reformers, was born at Sneinton, a suburb of Nottingham, England, April 10, 1829. His parents were members of the Established Church, and his mother was a very devout Christian. His father made considerable money, but had the misfortune to lose it. William was brought up in poverty and realized much of the sorrow and suffering which afterwards made his heart bleed for the poor. At an early age his father died, and William was left to struggle on in poverty with his widowed mother. He was thus deprived of the advantages of a good common school education.

As a boy of thirteen William was a social reformer, and longed to do something to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. At an early age he deserted the Church of England and became a regular attendant at the Wesleyan Chapel. At the age of thirteen he yielded his heart and life to God. Describing this event, he says: “The Holy Spirit had continually shown me that my real welfare for time and eternity depended upon the surrender of myself to the services of God. After a long controversy I made this submission, cast myself on His mercy, received the assurance of His pardon, and gave myself up to His service with all my heart. The hour, the place, and many other particulars of this glorious transaction are recorded indelibly on my memory.

Soon after young Booth’s conversion, James Caughey, the famous Spirit-filled American evangelist, visited Nottingham. Caughey was a Methodist and preached the Wesleyan theory of sanctification with great unction and power. His preaching made a deep impression on William Booth and kindled in his heart a great desire to win souls for Christ. But for a long time he was too timid to venture to hold religious meetings. Finally, after much time spent in prayer and the study of the Scriptures, he ventured to read the Bible and deliver some comments on the street corners of Nottingham. He was jeered at, ridiculed, and even bricks were thrown at him ; but this did not discourage him. Later he joined some Christian companions in holding meetings in cottages and in the open air. William’s early efforts to speak in public were often very discouraging, but they laid the foundation of his future usefulness. He was apprenticed to a firm where he had to work hard until 8 o’clock in the evening, and then he hurried to the cottage meetings which lasted until lo o’clock, after which he was sometimes called to visit the sick or dying.

Young Booth soon became the leader of his companions in these religious services, and then he began to conduct meetings in country places, stumbling home in the dark, late at night, after holding the meetings. At seventeen years of age he was made a local preacher. Two years later his Superintendent wanted him to become a regular minister, but the doctor advised him that his health was so poor that he was totally unfit for the strain of the life of a Methodist minister.

In 1849, when twenty years of age, Mr. Booth removed to London. Here he was without a friend and almost without money. He found work as a clerk, and spent most of his leisure time working among the poor. Finally, he devoted all his time to preaching, and preached in many parts of London with varying success. Sometimes he was severely criticised for his style of preaching, but frequently souls were brought to Christ in his meetings. He thought of offering himself for the regular ministry, but his Superintendent discouraged him. In 1851 a controversy arose in the Wesleyan Church over the question of lay representation, and a large number of ministers who favored lay representation and other reform movements either seceded or were expelled from the conference, and formed a new movement and became known as Reformers. Because of his supposed sympathy with the Reformers — although he took no part in the controversy — Booth’s name was dropped by the minister in charge of his circuit. The Reformers then offered him a position as pastor of one of their chapels in London. This he accepted, and here he met Catherine Mumford, the talented and consecrated young woman who several years afterward became his wife.

For two or three years Booth preached in London and various other cities of England, and in many places met with great success. Many souls were won for Christ in his meetings. But his life was unsettled. The Reformers had no settled policy or organization, and they had many differences of opinion among themselves. Booth tried to induce them to unite with the Methodist New Connexion, which believed in lay representation and most of the reforms they advocated. Finally he and a number of other Reformers joined the New Connexion. He now met with great success in many cities, and his fame as a revivalist began to spread all over England. Hundreds of persons now professed conversion to Christ in almost every series of meetings held by him. At last his financial prospects were such as to enable him to marry Catherine Mumford, who had advised and helped him in so many ways. Their courtship and marriage was an ideal one, and few persons have been so fully joined in heart and life.

For four years, or until he was thirty-two years of age. Booth preached for the Methodist New Connexion in a number of leading cities, and many thousands of persons professed conversion to Christ. Nearly two thousand persons claimed conversion in his meetings in less than four months’ time, and so they continued to flock to the altar for prayer everywhere he went. He repeatedly urged the Conference to allow him to leave the regular circuit work and devote all his time to evangelistic work, but this they refused to do.

In 1861 he and Mrs. Booth decided to launch out into evangelistic work and trust the Lord for their support. Mr. Booth therefore sent in his resignation.

It was shortly before launching out on an independent course that Mr. Booth was led into a deeper Christian experience. Both he and Mrs. Booth were diligent students of the writings of John Wesley, and they accepted his views on sanctification, or holiness, as well as on other theological questions. General Booth has written much on the question of sanctification, heart purity, and so on, but has written little concerning his own experience of sanctification. In a letter written by Mrs. Catherine Booth, she briefly describes how Mr. Booth and herself were led into the experience of holiness. Writing to her parents, she says: “My soul has been much called out of late on the doctrine of holiness. I feel that hitherto we have not put it in a sufficiently definite and tangible manner before the people — I mean as a specific and attainable experience. Oh, that I had entered into the fulness of the enjoyment of it myself. I intend to struggle after it. In the mean time we have commenced already to bring it specifically before our dear people.” In another letter, speaking concerning the doctrine of sanctification, she says: “William has preached on it twice, and there is a glorious quickening amongst the people. I am to speak again next Friday night and on Sunday afternoon. Pray for me. I only want perfect consecration and Christ as my all, and then I might be very useful, to the glory, not of myself, the most unworthy of all who e’er His grace received, but of His great and boundless love. May the Lord enable me to give my wanderings o’er and to find in Christ perfect peace and full salvation!

“I have much to be thankful for in my dearest husband. The Lord has been dealing very graciously with him for some time past. His soul has been growing in grace, and its outward developments have been proportionate. He is now on full stretch for holiness. You would be amazed at the change in him. It would take me all night to detail all the circumstances and convergings of Providence and Grace which have led up to this experience, but I assure you it is a glorious reality, and I know you will rejoice in it.”

Describing how she herself earnestly sought for and obtained the experience of holiness, she says: “I struggled through the day until a little after six in the evening, when William joined me in prayer. We had a blessed season. While he was saying, ‘Lord, we open our hearts to receive Thee,’ that word was spoken to my soul: ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open unto me, I will come in and sup with him.’ I felt sure He had long been knocking, and oh, how I yearned to receive Him as a perfect Saviour! But oh, the inveterate habit of unbelief! How wonderful that God should have borne so long with me.

“When we got up from our knees I lay on the sofa, exhausted with the effort and excitement of the day. William said, ‘Don’t you lay all on the altar?’ I replied, ‘I am sure I do!’ Then he said, ‘And isn’t the altar holy?’ I replied in the language of the Holy Ghost, ‘The altar is most holy, and whatsoever toucheth it is holy.’ Then said he, ‘Are you not holy?’ I replied with my heart full of emotion and with some faith, ‘Oh, I think I am.’ Immediately the word was given me to confirm my faith, ‘Now are ye clean through the word I have spoken unto you.’ And I took hold — true, with a trembling hand, and not unmolested by the tempter, but I held fast the beginning of my confidence, and it grew stronger, and from that moment I have dared to reckon myself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ, my Lord.”

It is evident from the above account of their deeper Christian experience that both Mr. and Mrs. Booth were led into this experience by means of the teaching that when our all is placed on the altar of consecration, the altar sanctifies the gift. They now became burning, shining lights for the Master.

After their decision to engage in evangelistic work they waited for some time before receiving a call, and their faith was sorely tried. They then received a call to Cornwall, where a great revival broke out under their labors. Here Mr. Booth introduced the “penitent form,” or altar, in his meetings, which has always been a regular feature of Salvation Army warfare. Perhaps no Salvation Army meeting is held in which there is not a chancel-rail, bench, chair, drum-head, or some kind of “penitent form” where inquirers can kneel for prayer. In the Cornish meetings the people were so wrought upon that they exclaimed, “Glory !” “Hallelujah!” and so on, and such ejaculations have always been common in Salvation Army meetings. The crowds in Cornwall were too great to be accommodated in any building, and great open-air meetings were held. Open air work has always been a leading feature of Salvation Army warfare.

After their Cornish campaign Mr. and Mrs. Booth held many other great evangelistic campaigns in which multitudes were won for Christ. In 1865 they began their work in East London which developed into the Salvation Army. A large tent was erected in a disused burying-ground belonging to the Friends, and meetings were held in it every night for two weeks. Open-air meetings were held on Mile End Waste, and the workers marched in procession from the open-air meetings to the tent where another service was held. The tent blew down and an old dancing hall was engaged for the meetings. From this small beginning a regular chain of missions was gradually formed, and this work was known as “The Christian Mission.” In 1877 Mr. Booth changed the name to “The Salvation Army,” and the work was gradually organized on the plan of a well-disciplined army, with uniform, officers, and regulations resembling those of a regular army. Mrs. Booth designed the “hallelujah bonnet “ so well known today.

In the early days of the Salvation Army, when it was known as “The Christian Mission,” the power of God was wonderfully manifest in the meetings. According to Commissioner Booth-Tucker, one of the ablest officers of the Salvation Army, persons were frequently stricken down in the meetings, overwhelmed with a sense of the presence and power of God. After the Salvation Army name, uniform, and discipline was adopted the work grew by leaps and bounds, and in little more than a quarter of a century its flag was unfurled in no less than fifty-five different countries, embracing almost every comer of the earth, and hundreds of thousands of souls had professed conversion to Christ in the meetings.

In 1890 General Booth published his great book, “In darkest England,” which produced a sensation throughout the world. It was the most far-reaching and practical scheme ever proposed for the uplift of fallen humanity, or the “down and-out” portion of mankind, or “the submerged tenth” as General Booth calls them. He proposed three things — the erection of shelters and industrial homes in the cities, the establishing of farm colonies in the country, and the emigration of the poor to more promising parts of the world. The industrial homes and shelters would give immediate relief to the destitute, the farm colonies would provide temporary employment, and emigration would provide a permanent home. In this way the people would be sent “back to the land” and the congestion in the cities would be relieved. Already these schemes have been carried out on a gigantic scale. Salvation Army shelters are found in most great cities of the world and have saved multitudes from despair. Successful farm colonies have been established in several different countries, and tens of thousands of persons have been assisted to emigrate to Canada, Australia, and South Africa.

General Booth believed in, “Going to the people with the message of salvation;” and this led to the many forms of open-air, factory, slum, and other work of the Salvation Army. He believed in, “Attracting the people,” and this has led to the use of the many musical instruments, lively tunes, and striking notices employed by the Army. He believed in, “Saving the people,” and this has led to the teaching of a victorious, conquering, sanctifying, cleansing religion that will really save the people from their sins. He also believes in, “Employing the people,” and this has led to the many meetings, the testifying, singing, and praying on the part of every soldier; and it has led to the different officers and also to all the varied social work of the Salvation Army.

2016/03/27 22:32 · admin

Other Famous Christians

THOMAS À KEMPIS.

Those who are acquainted with the well known booklet “The Imitation of Christ” have doubtless been impressed with the thought that the author of so deeply spiritual a book must have had such trials of faith, such self-crucifixion, and such fellowship with God as is only known to those who “dwell in the secret place of the Most High.” Such was true of Thomas à Kempis, whose little book has been published in every civilized tongue, and has been a means of blessing for centuries.

À Kempis was born at Cologne, in 1380, and was very pious from his early youth. He was brought up in a religious school and at nineteen years of age became a monk of the Augustinian order. He filled many of the highest offices in this order before his death, which occurred when he was ninety-two years of age. His conversion to Christ took place during his novitiate, after he was deeply convicted of sin and after he had suffered many inward struggles. After this he had many fierce conflicts of soul as is very apparent from his writings. “O, how great,” he exclaims, “has been the mercy of God towards me! How often, when I was almost overcome, has He been my deliverer! Sometimes my passions assailed me as a whirlwind; but God sent forth His arrows and dissipated them. The attack was often renewed, but God was still my support By degrees I was weaned from everything earthly, and adhered to God alone. Then, I experienced how sweet, how full of mercy God is to those who truly love Him. O my God! how merciful hast Thou been to me I Many have been forsaken by Thee, and are lost, who were less guilty than I am. But Thy mercies are unspeakable. ‘Let the worthless one (sayest Thou) draw near to Me, that he may be made worthy; the wicked one, that he may be converted ; the imperfect one, that he may be made perfect; let all draw near to Me, and taste the living waters of salvation. It is my delight to be with the children of men.’”

WILLIAM PENN.

William Penn, the famous Quaker who founded Pennsylvania, who wrote “No Cross, No Crown,” and who won many souls for Christ, was qualified by birth, talents, and education to be one of the leading noblemen of Great Britain. Like Moses, he renounced all worldly honors to suffer bitter persecution with the children of God. He even suffered imprisonment with the then despised Quakers.

William Penn was under deep religious impressions as a child, and was converted to Christ at twelve years of age. He made a full consecration of everything to God in 1666, when twenty-two years of age, after hearing the Quaker preacher Thomas Lee preach about “The Faith that Overcomes the World.” In his book “The Guide Mistaken,” written in defence of the Quakers, or Friends, he thus describes the teaching of the Friends regarding the doctrine of Christian Perfection :

“Perfection from sin they hold to be attainable, because he that is born of God sins not, and that nothing which is unclean can enter the kingdom of God; no crown without victory; the little leaven leavens the whole lump; the strong man must be cast out. Paul prays they might be sanctified wholly; be ye perfect as God is perfect; be perfect, be of good comfort; unto a perfect man; as many as be perfect; that the man of God may be perfect; the God of peace make you perfect in every good work; the God of all grace make you perfect; let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God; etc.

“And as my faithful testimony both to their life and doctrine, I declare, and be it known to all that ever knew me, that when the unspeakable riches of God’s love visited me, by the call of His glorious light, from the dark practices, wandering notions, and vain conversation of this polluted world, and that my heart was influenced thereby, and consequently disposed for the more intimate and sincere reception of it; those very habits which I once judged impossible, whilst here, to have relinquished, and did allow myself a liberty therein, because not openly gross or scandalous, became not only burdensome, and by that light were manifested to be of another nature than that which I was called to the participation of; but in my faithful adherence to its holy counsel and instructions, I was immediately endued with a power that gave dominion over them.”

DR. ADAM CLARKE.

Dr. Adam Clarke, the great commentator and preacher, was one of the most famous of the early Methodist ministers, and he is ranked as one of the greatest of Bible scholars. He insisted on preachers urging people to seek an experience of entire sanctification, and he preached frequently on the same theme with great unction and power. His powerful treatise on “Purity of Heart” was written to show Christians their privilege of being “filled with all the fulness of God.”

Dr. Clarke is known everywhere as a writer of great learning, but it is not so generally known that he preached to immense audiences and was one of the most successful preachers in the itinerancy of the early Methodist Church. That he enjoyed a very deep Christian experience himself is very evident from all his writings. In “ Purity of Heart” he says: “As there is no end to the merits of Christ incarnated and crucified; no bounds to the mercy and love of God; no let or hindrance to the almighty energy and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit; no limits to the improvability of the human soul; so, there can be no bounds to the saving influence which God will dispense to the heart of every genuine believer. We may ask and receive, and our joy shall be full! Well may we bless and praise God, ‘who has called us into such a state of salvation;’ a state in which we may be thus saved; and, by the grace of that state, continue in the same to the end of our lives.

“As sin is the cause of the ruin of mankind, the Gospel-system which exhibits its cure is fitly called ‘good news,’ or ‘glad tidings;’ and it is good news, because it proclaims Him who saves His people from their sins; and it would indeed be dishonorable to that grace, and the infinite merit of Him who procured it, to suppose, much more to assert, that sin had made wounds which grace would not heal. Of such a triumph Satan shall ever be deprived.”

WILLIAM BRAMWELL.

Inseparably connected with the greatest names of early Methodism are the names of Bramwell and Carvosso.

Rev. William Bramwell, who lived at the same time as Wesley, sang as a choir-boy in the Church of England during his earlier years. After suffering under conviction of sin for many months, he was brightly converted to Christ and became an earnest worker for the salvation of souls. Later he became a class-leader, and finally a minister in the Methodist Church. He was full of zeal, and many souls were led to Christ. Yet he yearned for a still deeper Christian experience.

“I was for some time deeply convinced of my need of purity,” says he, “and sought carefully with tears, entreaties, and sacrifice; thinking nothing too much to give up nothing too much to do or suffer, if I might but attain this pearl of great price. Yet I found it not; nor knew the reason why till the Lord showed me I had erred in the way of seeking it. I did not seek it by faith alone, but as it were, by the works of the law. Being now convinced of my error, I sought the blessing by faith only. Still it tarried a little, but I waited for it in the way of faith. When in the house of a friend at Liverpool, whither I had gone to settle some temporal affairs, previously to my going out to travel, while I was sitting, as it might be, on this chair (pointing to his chair), with my mind engaged in various meditations concerning my present affairs and future prospects, my heart now and then lifted up to God, but not particularly about this blessing, heaven came down to earth; it came to my soul. The Lord, for whom I had waited, came suddenly to the temple of my heart; and I had an immediate evidence that this was the blessing I had for some time been seeking. My soul was then all wonder, love and praise.”

After receiving the above experience, great power was given him. Thousands were converted to Christ in his meetings. Many sick were healed in answer to his prayers, and remarkable discernment was given him to see and know the spiritual condition of others.

WILLIAM CARVOSSO.

One of the most striking examples of what God can do for a man without natural talents, without education, and without worldly advantages of any kind, is found in the “Memoirs of William Carvosso.”

Truly converted from a life of sin at twenty-one years of age, Carvosso soon afterward sought for and obtained a still deeper Christian experience, after which he became a great means of blessing to thousands of persons with whom he prayed and conversed personally. He was one of the greatest soul-winners of the early Methodist Church. He served as class-leader in the Methodist Church in England for over sixty years. He learned to write after he was sixty-five years of age.

Of his deeper experience, Carvosso says: “What I now wanted was ‘inward holiness’; and for this I prayed and searched the Scriptures. Among the number of promises, which I found in the Bible, that gave me to see it was my privilege to be saved from all sin, my mind was particularly directed to Ezekiel 36:25–27 . . . This is the great and precious promise of the eternal Jehovah, and I laid hold of it, determined not to stop short of my privilege; for I saw clearly the will of God was my sanctification. . . . At length, one evening, while engaged in prayer-meeting, the great deliverance came. I began to exercise faith, by believing, ‘I shall have the blessing now.’ Just at that moment a heavenly influence filled the room; and no sooner had I uttered or spoken the words from my heart, ‘I shall have the blessing now,’ than refining fire went ‘through my heart, — illuminated my soul, — scattered its life through every part, and sanctified the whole.’ I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed me from all sin. I cried out  ‘This is what I wanted! I have now got a new heart.’ . . . O what boundless, boundless happiness there is in Christ, and all for such a poor sinner as I am! This happy change took place in my soul March 13, 1772.”

BRAINERD.

David Brainerd, the consecrated missionary, endured almost incredible hardships while laboring among the American Indians; but he lived so dose to God that his life has been an inspiration to many. His biography was written by Jonathan Edwards, was revised by John Wesley, and influenced the life of Dr. A. J. Gordon more than any other book outside the Bible.

Such intense longings and prayers after holiness as we read of in the journals of Brainerd are scarcely recorded anywhere else. “I long for God, and a conformity to His will, in inward holiness, ten thousand times more than for anything here below,” says he. On October 19, 1740, he wrote: “In the morning, I felt my soul hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In the forenoon, while I was looking on the sacramental elements, and thinking that Jesus Christ would soon be ‘Set forth crucified before me,’ my soul was filled with light and love, so that I was almost in an ecstacy; my body was so weak I could hardly stand. I felt at the same time an exceeding tenderness, and most fervent love towards all mankind ; so that my soul, and all the powers of it seemed, as it were, to melt into softness and sweetness. This love and joy cast out fear, and my soul longed for perfect grace and glory.”

Many were the manifestations of the Spirit in his meetings and during his numerous seasons of fasting and prayer and longings for holiness of life. He seems to have risen above the things of this world to a remarkable degree. In his journal of March 10, 1743, he says: “I felt exceeding dead to the world and all its enjoyments: I was ready to give up life, and all its comforts, as soon as called to it; and yet then had as much comfort of life as almost ever I had. Life itself appeared but an empty bubble  the riches, honors, and enjoyments of it extremely tasteless. I longed to be entirely crucified to all things here below. My soul was sweetly resigned to God’s disposal of me; and I saw there had nothing happened to me but what was best for me. . . . It was my meat and drink to be holy, to live to the Lord, and die to the Lord. And I then enjoyed such a heaven, as far exceeded the most sublime conceptions of an unregenerate soul; and even unspeakably beyond what I myself could conceive at another time.”

PAYSON.

Edward Payson was the most illustrious of the great Congregational preachers of New England. “His pulpit utterances,” say McClintock and Strong, “were of the most startling and uncompromising character. It may be truly said of Edward Payson that he labored not to please men, but God; and his pulpit thundered and lightened like another Sinai against every form of ungodliness and iniquity.” Over seven hundred persons were received into the church at Portland, Maine, under the pastorship of Payson.

Payson was born in 1783, was precocious as a child, and at three years of age he wept under the preaching of a sermon. He was a good reader when four years old. In 1803 he graduated from Harvard College. He was definitely converted to Christ in 1804. After completing a theological course, he was ordained in 1807.

On September 19, 1827, Payson wrote from his sickbed, in a letter to his sister:

“Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan, I might date this letter from the land of Beulah, of which I have been for some weeks the happy inhabitant. The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its odors are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ears, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears as but an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has gradually been drawing nearer, appearing larger and brighter as He approached, and now He fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun; exulting, yet almost trembling, while I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering, with unutterable wonder, why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm. A single heart and a single tongue seem altogether inadequate to my wants. I want a whole heart for every separate emotion, and a whole tongue to express that emotion.”

Not long before he expired, he said: “My soul is filled with joy unspeakable. I seem to swim in a flood of glory, which God pours down upon me.”

DOROTHEA TRUDEL.

Marvelous are the answers to prayer recorded in the book entitled, “Dorothea Trudel, or The Prayer of Faith.” Dorothea’s mother was a woman of great faith, and believed that God provided for her large family and kept them in good health in answer to the prayer of faith. Dorothea had such faith that hundreds were healed in answer to her prayers, and her name became known all over the world. Travelers in Switzerland often heard about the marvelous cures wrought in the remote village of Mamiendorf in answer to Dorothea Trudel’s prayers.

Dorothea Trudel was born in 1813 and died in 1862. She was converted to Christ at twenty-two years of age, after being so deeply convicted of sin that many thought she was dying. Some years after this she was led into a still deeper Christian experience, which she describes as follows:

“I persevered in working at my trade for a year, during which time the Lord continued to show me much that tended to my self-abasement. I learned that bodily suffering cannot produce conformity to God, even when it is borne with patience; that the only way in which that grace can be attained is by the outpouring of the love of God in the heart. I did not know before what was meant by being ‘nothing,’ and yet I had considered myself converted. But now the Lord opened my eyes, and showed me that the annoyance I felt to this hour, when tried by any difficulty, arose from the presence of ‘the old man,’ and that if I possessed the love described in 1 Corinthians 13, which ‘is not easily provoked,’ and ‘seeketh not her own,’ I should no longer be provoked to such irritation: from that time the Lord has so strengthened me night and day that the wonders which have taken place in accordance with God’s Word will be less marveled at than that I am still spared and strengthened to labor.”

PASTOR BLUMHARDT.

Almost identical with the great miracles of healing wrought through the prayers and faith of Dorothea Trudel in Switzerland, were those wrought in answer to the prayers of the German pastor John Christolph Blumhardt, who was born in 1805 and died in 1880. Hundreds of invalids flocked to him at Mottlingen, and then at Bad Boll, and after being prayed for they left with complete healing.

Pastor Blumhardt commenced preaching at Mottlingen in 1828, soon after graduating from the great University of Tubingen. A remarkable case of deliverance of a woman, who seemed to be possessed with demons, took place in answer to his prayers. The whole village was stirred and a great revival followed, and his home was besieged all day by inquirers after the way of salvation. “Notwithstanding all this,” says he, “the feeling that this work of God would according to the usual course of things, in the long run, lose its vigor and freshness, made me more and more familiar with the thought that the church of Christ at large wants a new outpouring of the spirit of Pentecost, and that without this, nothing would be durable. This led me to pray for a new outpouring of the Spirit, and that without ceasing, the more so as the signs seemed to indicate that we are not far from the last times. The clearer I begin to see the corruption and manifold defects of present Christendom, the more unavoidable is to me supplication for its renewal, which can only be accomplished through a special movement of the Spirit of God from above.”

His special pleading for the Holy Spirit was answered with an enduement with power from on high. After this he had so much power in preaching the gospel and in praying for the sick that his work grew to such an extent that he was compelled to procure the large government building at Boll, so that he could accommodate the sick who flocked from all over Europe, and even from America, that he might pray for their healing. The government sold the building to him at less than cost, and the King made a special donation to help him start his work at Boll.

PHOEBE PALMER.

Inseparably connected with the doctrine of entire consecration and sanctification are the names of Dr. and Mrs. Phoebe Palmer. After obtaining a deeper Christian experience themselves, the lives of these two consecrated evangelists were devoted to leading others into the same experience. The influence of their teachings can be traced in the lives of many noted Christians of both America and Britain. Mrs. Palmer is well known for her teaching of “Put all upon the altar, and the altar sanctifies the gift.” This figure was drawn from the fact that in Old Testament times the fire was always burning on the altar, and the sacrifice was consumed as soon as placed on the altar. So, Mrs. Palmer taught, the fire of the Holy Spirit is always burning on the altar of true consecration, ready to consume every one who truly offers himself a living sacrifice to God.

For a long time after her conversion, Mrs. Palmer had a great desire to be sanctified, but she felt as though the blessing was too great for her to ever think of attaining to it. A close study of God’s Word convinced her that He had commanded and expected all Christians to be holy, sanctified, “vessels unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use.” “This is the will of God, even your sanctification,” “For God hath not called you unto uncleanness, but unto holiness,” “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord,” and many similar passages of Scripture convinced her of her need of holiness. Then she began to expect God to convict her deeply for the experience. At last her eyes were opened to see that “knowledge is conviction,” and that the only conviction necessary was to be convinced of her need. She then began to seek earnestly for the experience. At first she felt that great agony and struggle of soul must be necessary to obtain the experience. But finally she was convinced that it was to be obtained by faith, as it was not necessary to struggle and agonize to obtain an experience which God commands and expects all Christians to have. She then trusted God for the experience, and could say with the writer of the hymn,

“When I gave all trying over.

Simply trusting, I was blessed.”

In her widely circulated book, “The Way of Holiness,” she relates her own experience, speaking in the third person, as follows:

“Over and over again, previous to the time mentioned, had she endeavored to give herself away in covenant to God. But she had never, till this hour, deliberately resolved on counting the cost, with the solemn intention to “reckon herself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11); to account herself permanently the Lord’s, and in truth no more at her own disposal; but irrevocably the Lord’s property, for time and eternity. Now, in the name of the Lord Jehovah, after having deliberately ‘counted the cost,’ she resolved to enter into the bonds of an everlasting covenant, with the fixed purpose to count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus, that she might know Him and the power of His resurrection, by being made conformable to His death, and raised to an entire newness of life. . . On doing this, a hallowed sense of consecration took possession of her soul,” etc.

P. P. BLISS.

One of the most consecrated Christians as well as one of the greatest of gospel singers and hymn-writers was Philip Paul Bliss. He was taken away early in life, but before his departure wrote some of our best hymns, among them being, “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning,” “Hold the Fort,” “Windows Open Toward Jerusalem,” “Free from the Law,” “Only an Armour-Bearer,” “Pull for the Shore, Sailors,” “The Light of the World is Jesus,” “Whosoever Will,” “Almost Persuaded,” “I Am So Glad that Jesus Loves Me,” “Hallelujah, ‘Tis Done,” “The Half Was Never Told,” and many others.

P. P. Bliss was born in Pennsylvania in 1838, and was a poor country boy, but very fond of music. He was religiously inclined from his earliest youth, and made a public confession of Christ at a Baptist revival in 1850. After his marriage, and a short service in the Civil War, and a number of years spent in holding secular concerts, he became acquainted with Mr. Moody. Several years after this he was led to consecrate his entire life and services to God for the purpose of spreading the gospel in song.

In the memoirs of Bliss, by Major D. W. Whittle, we learn the story of how he was led to make the full consecration of his services. During the winters of 1873–4 Mr. Bliss received many letters from Mr. Moody, who was then in Scotland, urging him to give up his business, drop everything, and sing the gospel. Similar letters came to Major Whittle, urging him to go out with Bliss and hold meetings. Mr. and Mrs. Bliss were ready for this if they could see it as the Lord’s will. But there was much prayer and hesitation on the part of Mr. Bliss before he reached a decision in the matter. He doubted his ability, and doubted whether the inclination he fell to go was from the Lord. But Mr. Moody continued to write, and Mr. H. G. Spafford, a mutual friend, also joined in urging Major Whittle and Mr. Bliss to go into the evangelistic work. Finally a door opened for them. Rev. C. M. Saunders, of Waukegan, Illinois, invited them to his church for three or four evenings as an experiment. Major Cole accompanied them on this trip. The first meeting was not an encouraging one in point of attendance, and there were no marked results except a powerful impression on the minds of the evangelists that the Lord was with them. The next day it rained and they looked for a small attendance, but the congregation was twice as large as the first, and a number of souls were led to Christ.

“Our hearts were very full,” says Major Whittle, “and a great responsibility was upon us. The next afternoon we all three met in the study of the Congregational Church, where our meetings were held, and spent some hours in prayer. Bliss made a formal surrender of everything to the Lord; gave up his musical conventions; gave up his writing of secular music; gave up everything, and in a simple, childlike, trusting prayer, placed himself, with any talent, any power God had given him, at the disposal of the Lord, for any use He could make of him in the spreading of His gospel. Dear Cole united with us in this consecration. It was a wonderful afternoon. As I think back upon the scene in that little study, and recall Bliss’ prayer, and the emotions that filled us all in the sense of God’s presence, the room seems lit up in my memory with a halo of glory.”

2016/03/27 22:26 · admin
deeper_experiences_of_famous_christians.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/11 19:47 by admin