This book is a welcome successor to the writer's former volume on the same subject, which was entitled Helps To Holiness. The aim of both is intensely practical. The former has won for itself a permanent place in the literature of this great subject, and I have little doubt but that the present work will prove equally useful to the plain people for whom it is written -- pilgrims, soldiers of Christ, who are seeking how they may order their lives and train their hearts in holiness and righteousness before Him.
I have said that the aim of these papers is a practical one. Nothing would, I am convinced, be more unsatisfactory to the author, a gifted officer of The Salvation Army, than that the perusal of what he has written here should result merely in a better understanding of the theory of salvation, or even in increased knowledge of the will of God. He has aimed at something more than this -- to help men and women to enjoy that salvation, and to enjoy it now, and to lead every reader to do that will, and to do it all the time.
The glorious experience here described and enforced is the true secret of a life of happiness and usefulness on earth as it is the highest preparation for the life and service of Heaven. That experience is for you.
The Son of God came into this world, and lived, and toiled, and taught, and suffered, and died and rose again in order to accomplish a twofold purpose. The Apostle John explains this twofold work. In I John iii. 5, speaking of Jesus, he says, 'Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins. This is His justification, and regeneration, which are done for us and in us. In verse 8 he adds, 'For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.' That is entire sanctification, which is a work done in us. Now upon an examination of experience and scripture, we find this is exactly what man needs to have done for him.
First, he needs to get rid of his own sins, and have a new principle of life planted in him. 'For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God' (Rom. iii. 23), and when any man comes to God, he comes burdened with a sense of his own wrongdoings and tempers. His sins condemn him; but, thank God, Jesus came to take away our sins. When a man comes with a penitent heart, acknowledging himself a sinner, and puts his trust in Jesus, he will find himself suddenly freed from his sins. The sense of guilt will vanish. The power of evil will be broken. The burden will roll away. Peace will fill his heart. He will see that his sins were laid on another, even on Jesus, and he will realize that 'with His stripes we are healed ' (Isa. liii. 5).
This is a result of that free pardon, that free justification for all past offenses, that God gives to every one who surrenders himself heartily to, and trusts in, Jesus. At the same time God plants in the man's heart a new life. The man is born of God, and receives what Paul calls the washing of regeneration, which washes away all the man's guilt, and all the sin for which he is responsible.
At this time, too, there will be planted in the man's heart love, joy, peace and the various fruits of the Spirit, and if his experience is very marked, as such experiences frequently are, he will probably think there is nothing more to be done. But, if he walks in 'humbleness of mind' (which, by the way, is a much-neglected fruit of the Spirit), if he speaks often and freely with those who love the Lord, and if he carefully searches the word of God and meditates therein day and night, he will soon find that sin's disease is deeper and more deadly than he thought, and that behind and below his own sins are the 'works of the devil,' that must also be destroyed before the work of grace in his soul can be complete.
He will find a big, dark something in him that wants to get mad when things are against him; something which will not be patient; something that is touchy and sensitive; something that wants to grumble and find fault; something that is proud and shuns the shame of the Cross; something that sometimes suggests hard thoughts against God; something that is self-willed and ugly and sinful. He hates this 'something' in him and wants to get rid of it, and probably condemns himself for it and maybe will feel that he is a greater sinner now than he ever was before he was converted. But he is not. In fact, he is not a sinner at all so long as he resists this something in himself.
Now, what is the trouble with the man? What is the name of this troublesome 'something'? Paul calls it by several names. In Rom. viii. 7 he calls it ' the carnal mind,' and he says it is 'enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' You cannot fix it up. You cannot whitewash it over. You cannot make it better by culture or growth, or by any effort whatever. It is an enemy of God, and cannot be anything else.
In the seventh chapter (verse 24) he calls it 'the body of this death' and wonders how he can get deliverance from it. In Eph. iv. 22, and in Col. iii. 9, he calls it 'the old man.' In Gal. v.17, he calls it 'the flesh.' James calls it 'superfluity of naughtiness,' which is also well rendered, 'the remainder of iniquity' (Jas. i. 21).
John calls it 'sin,' as distinct from 'sins,' and the 'works of the devil.' In Ezek. xxxvi. 26 it is called a 'stony heart.' The theologians call it 'inbred sin,' 'original sin' and 'depravity.' Whatever you wish to call it, it is something evil and awful, that remains in the heart after a man has been converted.
Some say that it is dealt with at conversion, but I never saw any people who found it so, and John Wesley, who was a much wiser man than I am, and who had a far wider range of observation, examined thousands of people on this very point, and he said he never knew of one who got rid of this troublesome thing at conversion.
Some people say that growing in grace is the remedy. Others say you never get rid of it while you live. It will remain in you and war against you till you die. They are not altogether prophets of despair, for they say the new life in you will overcome it and keep it down, but that you will have to stand on guard and watch it, club and repress it, as you would a maniac, till death relieves you.
Personally, this subject once gave me great concern. These warring opinions perplexed me, while the 'old man ' made increasing war against all my holy desires and purposes. But while I found man's teachings and theories were perplexing, God's teachings were plain and light as day.
I. God does not admit that we get rid of this at conversion, for all His teachings and exhortations concerning it are addressed to Christians. And those who hold this doctrine will have to admit one of two things either that it is not removed at conversion, or that a great number of earnest professors who claim to be converted have never been converted at all. Personally, I cannot admit the latter for an instant.
2. God does, by the mouth of Peter, exhort us to grow in grace, but that simply means to grow in favor with God, by obedience and faith, and does not touch the subject in hand. Corn may grow beautifully and delight the farmer, but all its growth will not rid the field of weeds, and the farmer will have to look to some other method to get rid of those troublesome things.
3. Neither does God anywhere teach that this thing need be bothering us till death, or that death will destroy it.
4. Nor do I find any warrant in the whole Bible for purgatorial fires being the deliverer from this evil.
5. But I do find that God teaches very plainly how we are to get rid of it. Paul says, 'Put off . . . the old man" (Eph. iv. 22). James says, ' . . . lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness' (Jas. i. 21). John says, '. . . the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin' (I John i. 7), not part or some, sin, but 'all sin.'
And again, John says, Jesus 'was manifested' to 'destroy the works of the devil'; (I John iii. 8), and God says through Ezekiel, 'I will take away the stony heart' (Ezek. xxxvi. 26).
All these passages teach that we are to get rid of something that bothers us and hinders our spiritual life and show plainly that this work is not to be a slow, evolutionary process, but an instantaneous work, wrought in the heart of the humble believer by the Holy Ghost. Blessed be God! And the Bible further teaches that the one thing needful on our part to secure this operation of the Holy Spirit is an obedient faith that laughs at impossibilities, and cries "It shall be done."'
If this Bible teaching is true, then it is a matter that can be proved by experience. If one man proves it to be so, that establishes the Bible testimony against all the doubters in the world. All men used to believe the world was flat. Columbus rose up and said it was round, and he proved it against them all. There may be some ignorant old fogies yet who believe the world is flat, but they can prove it to be round, if they will take the trouble, and whether they prove it or not, their purblind unbelief does not change the fact.
Just so, the greater part of mankind believe that 'the old man' is destined to live to the end. But as Paul asks, ' . . . shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? '(Rom. iii. 3) and humble men and women are rising up every day to declare it is possible, and that all men can prove that he can be destroyed, if they will meet the conditions.
Oh, that we could get men to understand this! Oh, that we could get them to take counsel with faith and not with unbelief! Oh, that we could get them to see what Jesus really came to do!
I proved this fifteen years ago, and ever since I have been walking in a day that has no setting sun, and everlasting joy and gladness have been on my head and in my heart. Glory be to God!
It is no little salvation that Jesus Christ came to work out for us. It is a 'great salvation,' and it saves. Hallelujah! It is not a pretense. It is not a 'make believe.' It is a real salvation from all sin and uncleanness; from all doubt and fear; from all guile and hypocrisy; from all malice and wrath. Bless God!
When I begin to consider it and to write about it, I want to fill the page with praises to God. The hallelujahs of heaven begin to ring all through my soul, and my heart cries out with those four mystical beasts before the throne, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,' (Rev. iv. 8) and in spirit I fall down with 'the four and twenty elders,' and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, who has taken away my sins and destroyed the works of the devil out of my heart, and come to dwell in me.
Finally, 'Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief ' 'And to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.' 'For we which have believed do enter into rest' (Heb. iii. 12, 18, 19, and iv. 3).
First of all. Holiness is not necessarily a state in which there is perpetual rapturous joy. Isaiah liii. 3 tells us that Jesus was 'a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,' and Paul tells us of himself that he had continual sorrow and great heaviness because of the rejection of Jesus by his kinsmen after the flesh. Joy is the normal state of a holy man, but it may be mingled with sorrow and grief and perplexities and heaviness on account of manifold temptations. The low water mark, however, in the experience of a holy person is one of perfect peace -- the high water mark is up in the third heaven somewhere; however, this third heaven experience is not likely to be constantly maintained. Jesus and the disciples had to come down off the Mount of Transfiguration and go to casting out devils, and Paul returned from the third heaven to be buffeted of Satan, and stoned and whipped, and imprisoned of men.
a world of trial, and conflict with principalities and powers, darknesses and terrible evils, and the holy soul who is in the forefront of the conflict may expect the fiercest assaults of the devil, and the heaviest and most perplexing and prolonged temptations. Our Blessed Lord was tried and tempted for forty days and forty nights of the devil, and the servant must not be surprised if he is as his Master.
Paul tells us that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, and that He is able to succor us when we are tempted. It is no sin to be tempted; in fact, the Apostle James tells us to rejoice when we are subjected to all manner of temptations for the resulting trial of our faith will produce in us strength and force of holy character, so that we shall be lacking in nothing (Jas. i. 2-4).
III. Holiness is not a state of freedom from infirmities. It does not produce a perfect head, but rather a perfect heart! The saints have always been compassed about with infirmities that have proved a source of great trial, but when patiently endured for His dear sake have also proved a source of great blessing. Paul had a thorn in the flesh, an infirmity, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. Possibly it was weak eyes, for he was once stoned and dragged out of the city and left for dead, and in writing to the Galatians, he tells them they would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him had it been possible. Or it may have been a stammering tongue, for he tells us he was accounted rude of speech. Anyway, it was an infirmity which he longed to be rid of; doubtless feeling that it interfered with his usefulness, and three times he prayed to the Lord for deliverance, but instead of getting the prayed-for deliverance, the Lord said to him, 'My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness' (2 Cor. xii. 9).
Then Paul cried out, '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 distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong' (2 Cor. xii. 9-10)
In the Epistle to the Hebrew iv, 15 we are told that Jesus was 'touched of our infirmities.' We may be faulty in memory, in judgment, in understanding; we may have manifold infirmities of body and mind; but God looks upon the purity of the heart, the singleness of the eye, and the loyalty of our affection, and if He does not find us faulty there, He counts us perfect men. It is not in the mere natural perfection that the power and glory of God are manifested, but rather in goodness and purity and patience and love and meekness and long-suffering shining forth through infirmities of flesh and imperfections of mind.
IV. Holiness is not a state of freedom from affliction. The saints of all ages have been chosen 'in the furnace of affliction' (Isa. xlviii. 10). Job and Jeremiah and Daniel and Paul and the mighty army of martyrs have, and shall always, come up through great tribulations. It is not God's purpose to take us to heaven on flowery beds of ease, clothe us in purple and fine linen, and keep a sugar plum in our mouths all the time. That would not develop strength of character, nor cultivate simplicity and purity of heart: nor in that case could we really know Jesus, and the fellowship of His sufferings. It is in the furnace of fire, the lion's den, and the dungeon cell that He most freely reveals Himself to His people.
Other things being equal, the holy man is less liable to afflictions than the sinner. He does not run into the same excesses that the sinner does; he is free from the pride, the temper, the jealousies, the vaulting ambitions, and selfishness, that plunge so many sinners into terrible affliction and ruin; and yet he must not presume that he will get through the world without heavy trials, sore temptations and afflictions. Job was a perfect man, but he lost all his property and his children, and, in a day was made a childless pauper; but he proved his perfection by giving God glory. Then when his wife bade him curse God and die, he said unto her, 'Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?' (Job ii. 10). And when his three friends were undermining his faith, he looked up from off his ash heap, and out of his awful sorrow and desolation, and fierce pain, and cried out, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him ' (Job x iii. 15).
Joseph is one of the few men in the Bible against whom nothing is recorded, but like Daniel his very holiness and righteousness led to the terrible trials he endured in Egypt. And so it may be, and is, with the saints to-day. But while we may be afflicted, yet we can comfort ourselves with David's assurance, 'Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all' (Ps. xxxiv. 19). A friend of mine said he would rather have a thousand afflictions and be delivered out of them all, than to have half a dozen and get stuck in the midst of them.
V. Holiness is not a state in which there is no further development. When the heart is purified it develops more rapidly than ever before. Spiritual development comes through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the heart, and the holy soul is in a condition to receive such revelations constantly, and since the finite can never exhaust the infinite, these revelations will continue for ever and prove an increasing and never-ending source of development. It would be as wise to say that a child afflicted with rickets would grow no more when its blood was purified; or that corn would grow no more when the weeds were destroyed, as to say that a soul will cease to grow in grace when it is made holy.
VI. Holiness is not a state from which we cannot fall. Paul tells us that we stand by faith (Rom. xi. 16-22), and he says, 'Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall' (I Cor. x. 12). It is an unscriptural and dangerous doctrine that there is any state of grace in this world from which we cannot fall. Probation does not end the moment we believe on Jesus, but rather the moment we quit the body. It is only those who endure to the end who shall be saved. While here, we are in the enemy's country, and must watch and pray and daily examine ourselves, and keep ourselves in the love of God, lest we fall from His grace and make shipwreck of our faith. But while we may fall, thank God holiness is a state from which we need not fall, in fact it is a state which Paul calls, 'this grace wherein we stand' (Rom. V.2).
Some have asked the question, 'How can a holy soul be tempted or how can it fall?' I will ask the question, how could the angels fall? And how could Adam, just fresh from the hands of his Maker in whose image he was made, fall? And I will ask the more startling question still, how could Jesus, the blessed incarnate himself be tempted? We have our five senses and various bodily appetites, none of which are in themselves sinful, but each of which may become an avenue by which the holy soul may be solicited to evil. Each must be regulated by the word of God and dominated by the love of Jesus, if we wish to keep a holy heart, and 'stand perfect and complete in all the will of God' (Col. iv. 12).
Finally holiness is a state of conformity to the divine nature. God is love and there is a sense in which a holy man can be said to be love. He is like God, not in God's natural perfection of power and wisdom and knowledge and omnipresence, but in patience, humility, self-control, purity of heart and love. As the drop out of the ocean is like the ocean not in its bigness but in it's essence so is the holy soul like God. As the branch is like the vine, not in its self-sufficiency, but in its nature its sap, it's fruitfulness, its beauty, so is he that is holy like God.
This is unspeakable blessing is provided for us by our compassionate Heavenly Father through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is received through a complete renunciation of all sin, an uttermost consecration to all the known will of God, importunate prayer, and child-like faith. Fifteen years ago I obtained this crowning blessing of the gospel through the conscious incoming of the Holy Spirit when I believed, after weeks of earnest seeking. Bless God! He still abides with me and my peace and joy increase and abound. Many have been my afflictions, and fierce and perplexing and prolonged have been my temptations, but with a daredevil faith I have pressed on, claiming victory through the Blood, testifying to what I claimed by faith, and proving day by day this grace to be sufficient while the path shines more and more unto the perfect day. Glory be to God for ever!
Holiness is that state of our moral and spiritual nature, which makes us like Jesus in His moral and spiritual nature. It does not consist in perfection of intellect, though the experience will give much greater clearness to a man's intellect and simplify and energize his mental operations. Nor does it necessarily consist in perfection of conduct, though a holy man seeks with all his heart to make his outward conduct correspond to his inward light and love. But holiness does consist in complete deliverance from the sinful nature, and in the perfection of the spiritual graces of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness truth, meekness and self-control or temperance.
Righteousness is conformity to the divine law, but holiness is conformity to the divine nature. That there is such an experience is revealed to us in three ways:
1. By the Scriptures. The Bible tells us that God chastens us 'for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness' (Heb. xii.10) And He has 'given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust' (2 Pet. i. 4) in the Bible God makes us very precious promises of holiness. He gives us very solemn and imperative commands to be holy. He earnestly exhorts us and graciously encourages us to be holy, and teaches us to pray for holiness.
2. That there is such an experience is revealed to us by the testimony of holy men and women, who declare that God has brought them into this glorious experience.
3. It is revealed by the hunger and thirst of our own regenerate hearts: for if these desires to be like God, and to have His love and holiness so fill our hearts as to cast out every sinful thought and desire are begotten in us by the Spirit of God, then may they well be consider as proof that holiness is possible. For the Spirit of God will not beget desires in the hearts of His trusting children only to mock them.
Nearly all Christians expect to be made holy either before they die, or at the moment of death. And everybody agrees that we must be holy before we can enter Heaven.
Some other Christians maintain that we are sanctified at the moment of death by some mysterious operation of the Spirit of God; while others again insist that we grow into the experience. But we of The Salvation Army believe that it is the gift of God, and is the heritage of every soul that is born again, an inheritance into which we can enter at once by hearty consecration and childlike faith.
How then shall this holiness be obtained? Not by purgatorial fires, but by Holy Ghost fire. Not by works; that would make man his own savior and sanctifier. A great trick of the devil is to lead people to think they will get it by doing something, but a man might as well try to lift himself over the fence by his own bootstraps as to transform himself into the divine nature by works. He can get it no more by works than he can change the color of his eyes by works. He can no more rid himself of an inherited temper, or get lust out of his heart, or hatred, or pride, by getting baptized, by going to church, by joining the Army, by putting on the uniform, by reading the Bible, by doing any or every religious work, than he can get scrofula out of his blood by doing these things or add one cubit to his stature. 'Not of works, lest any man should boast' (Eph. ii. 9). However, a holy man is abundant in good works, and so is one who is truly seeking the blessing. But more of this further on.
Not by growth. Growth adds to us, but takes nothing from us, neither does it change the nature and disposition. Holiness consists in having something taken from us and in having our spiritual nature made over into the image of Jesus. In order to be holy we must have every unclean desire and temper and passion of the soul removed. We must 'put off . . . the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,' (Eph. iv. 22), as really as a man puts off his old coat, 'and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness' (Eph. iv. 24), as really as a man puts on his new coat. This is the way God told Paul to tell us to do it. It would be nonsense to talk of growing out of an old coat into a new one. Put off the old coat, put on a new one! Put off the old Adam, put on the new Adam!
It is not by death. I used to think it was, because I was taught so. But I dreaded the thought of being killed by lightning, or shot by a stray bullet. I did not want to die suddenly; I wanted time to get ready. But, glory to God, I learned that it is not by death, and now I am ready to meet that old enemy. Hallelujah for ever!
Well, how can you get it? From Jesus, the very same Jesus that saved you and spoke peace to your troubled conscience, when you feared you were going to sink into hell. The very same Jesus that died for you. But how? By asking. By giving yourself freely and for ever to Him, to be not only your Savior, but also your Lord and Master; to do and suffer all His blessed, wise, tender will. By believing and receiving.
If you knew you had to die at sunset to-night, what would you do? You would give yourself to God. If you had any grudges against any of your neighbors, you would give them up, and if you had the opportunity you would ask them to forgive you for hating them, even though they had wronged you or some of your friends. You would not stop to think how they would treat you. You would not care. You would feel it your business to get right, and you would leave them with God. If you had robbed any man, you would try to restore to him what was his. If you had any selfish plans, or ambitions, they would sink into mole hills before the mighty mountains of eternity, and you would give them up quickly. If you had been unfaithful in the discharge of any duty, you would confess it, mourn over it, and do all in the limited time left you to make the matter right. You would prepare the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight. Then, you would throw up your hands in helplessness, and ask God to forgive you for Jesus' sake, and not because there was any merit in yourself. And if you really trusted, you would receive forgiveness, and be at peace. You would feel Jesus to be your Savior, and you would rejoice in Him.
Now you would be a candidate for holiness. If the Holy Spirit should now reveal to you the hidden corruption of the human heart, and show you that it was out of this bad soil that grew the bad weeds of hatred and pride, selfish ambitions and envy, lies, adulteries, murders, drunkenness, thefts, and such like, you would cry to God to rid you not only of the weeds, but to entirely change the condition of your heart out of which such unholy things grew. And there would be only one way to get this done, and that would be to ask God to do it for Jesus' sake; trust Him to do it, and wait with full expectation till He did do it.
And He would do it. He would purge your heart of all unholy conditions by the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, as surely as fire purges gold of dross. Glory to God! This is just what He wants to do. He wants all His children to be like His well-beloved Son, Jesus. It was for this that He sent Jesus into the world, and it is for this that He baptizes with the Holy Ghost and fire.
Some time ago a lady came to the Penitent-form for sanctification in one of my meetings. After I had questioned her and explained the subject as fully as I could to her and we had prayed, she claimed the blessing though she did not get any special witness that the work was done. But soon she came again to one of my meetings and testified, and her testimony threw light on the difficulty with many people.
She said that for several days after she left that first meeting she did not feel any different, but while about her housework a thought came to her mind. No doubt the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier Himself; suggested it to her, that her sanctification was a part of her Father's will for her and that He offered it to her on the simple conditions of full consecration and Childlike faith in Him. Then it dawned upon her that she had met these conditions and that now instead of waiting for any unusual feelings she must just act as though it were done.
She then added that when she began to count it done and to act as though it were done, then she began to realize that God was doing His part. She began to feel the mighty workings of the Spirit in her heart.
Now it is just at this point that many people fail. They wait for feeling, and hesitate and doubt and wonder and go with their heads down and repine, and maybe throw away their confidence. Instead they should recklessly but intelligently give themselves over to Jesus to be His for ever, to do His will unto death; they should step out on the promise with humility and adoring faith toward God, and with a shout of defiance to the devil and all their fears, count the work done.
One day ten lepers, poor, miserable men with the flesh rotting off their bones, met Jesus, 'And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them' (Luke xvii. 13-14) -- (bless Him!) -- how He loved them and yearned over them in their misery! But His yearnings over their sick bodies were feeble compared to His mighty yearnings over your diseased soul, my brother, my sister. 'And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go, shew yourselves unto the priests.' It was a law among the Jews that when a leper was healed, he must go to the priest and get a certificate that he was a safe person to be at large among the people, much as a smallpox patient might have to do among us. But these poor fellows might have objected and said to Jesus: 'But look at us! We are not healed. Our leprosy is just the same. We are not different since you spoke to us. We shall be fools to go in this plight, and we shall not be received if we do go. Do not mock us. Heal us, make us feel different that we may know we are healed, then we will go.'
No, no, no, these poor wretches did not talk so; they did not stop to reason with their doubts and fears; they did not stop to examine their feelings, or to compare themselves with the healthy folks about them. Jesus had spoken the word and it was theirs to trust and obey; and so they hobbled off, I imagine, as fast as they could go, 'And it came to pass ' -- (something always comes to pass when people trust and obey) -- 'And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.' Bless God! That was cleansing through 'the obedience of faith,' and it is written for our encouragement and instruction.
Reader, do you want this experience? If you have it, rejoice and praise God for it. Don't merely keep on seeking it, else you will get into darkness, but go to thanking God for it and testifying of it to others. But if you have it not, give yourself up fully to God just now, ask for it, believe for it, and if it does not come at once, patiently and expectantly wait for it. Expect it, expect it, expect it! He gives His people 'an expected end.' Remind God of His promises. Don't give Him any rest till He comes and sanctifies you. Tell Him you have come to stay, and that you will not let Him go till He blesses you. Nestle down on His promises close to the loving heart of Jesus and stay there expecting till you know the work is done.
If the devil and an evil heart of unbelief say: 'It is for others, but not for you' -- you say: 'I am all the Lord's; get behind me, Satan,' and tell Jesus about it.
If the devil says: 'You don't feel any different,' -- you say: 'I am all the Lord's; get behind me, Satan,' and tell Jesus about this also. If the devil says: You can't keep it if you do get it,' -- you say: 'I am all the Lord's; get behind me, Satan,' and don't forget to tell this to Jesus.
Act out your faith, regardless of your feelings, and a heaven of love and joy and peace and patience will soon fill your poor heart, and you will get 'lost in wonder, love and praise' ; only don't bother yourself about your feelings. Your business is to wait on God for orders and inspiration, and then to trust and obey. It is His part of the business to shine upon you and cleanse you, and fill you with the Holy Ghost, and make your heart bubble over with joy.
Claim the promise; feed on the word of God; feast yourself on His love and faithfulness in Jesus; wait on Him in believing, expectant prayer and you will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and you will become strong to do a man's work for God and souls. You will rise above discouragements and difficulties, and you will chase a thousand of your enemies, and if you can find a fellow with a kindred spirit the two of you will put ten thousand to flight. Glory to God!
Go to believing just now and you will have peace. Continue to believe and your peace will flow like a river.
Hold on this way, resisting the devil steadfast in the faith, reminding Jesus of His promises and encouraging your own heart with them, and I declare it will not be long before your patient, expectant faith receives a great reward. God will say: 'It is enough; he has come to stay; We will bless him,' and, calling to mind His ancient promise, He will open the windows of Heaven and pour him out ' a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it' (Mal. iii. 10). Then down into your waiting, trusting, expecting heart will come the Comforter, the blessed Holy Ghost, and up from the deepest center of your soul will spring the artesian well of living waters of holy love and praise. Then the meek and lowly Jesus will come and dwell in your clean heart, and you will love Him more than a mother loves her first-born babe, or than the bridegroom loves his bride. You will adore Him and worship Him and pour out your heart's treasures upon Him, and loathe yourself for all your sins that crowned Him with thorns and nailed Him to the Cross, and your unbelief and hardness of heart that kept Him from you so long.
Have the blessing now. Let God search you and show you all your heart. Don't be afraid. Heartily give yourself to Him and trust, expect, ask, wait, receive.
God has provided a salvation for us that is perfect in every particular, and that satisfies both the heart and the mind. It makes its possessor 'more than conqueror' over the world, the flesh and the devil, and enables him to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. It is altogether worthy of its Author. It is a 'great salvation.' It is not a mere set of beliefs, nor a poor pitiful little profession, but a full, joyous, super-abounding, all-conquering life. Glory to God! This is the more abundant life. Jesus said: 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly' (John x. 10). Praise the Lord, this life is mine, and has been for fifteen years.
And now, for the sake of those who have not obtained this crowning blessing, I wish to point out some of the hindrances to its reception and the reason why so few comparatively, have it.
1. Many are ignorant of it. Vast multitudes of professing Christians have never heard of a second work of the Holy Spirit that purifies the heart and perfects it in live. It is strange to say, an unpopular theme and is not much spoken of outside Salvation Army Holiness Meetings, and so God could say today, as He did of old, 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge' (Hos. iv. 6). But this ignorance is due, not altogether to the fact that it is a subject little spoken about, but also because so few people go to God's Word for their standard of life and experience. It is all written out there so plain that a fool need not err; but most professors of religion prefer to take their standard from the people round about them rather than from God's Book. Paul says of such folks; 'But they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise' (2 Cor. x. 12). And they never will be wise, unless they cease looking at poor, perishing men and look to Jesus only. Wisdom is from above, and must be sought from God Himself and from the study of His word, and not from the conduct of the people about us.
II. Unbelief. Many are familiar with the Word of God, but they have not an appropriating faith. They read the exceeding great and precious promises, but it never occurs to them that on the fulfillment of the conditions they can have and will have the things promised. It is said of these people: 'But the word preached did not profit them. not being mixed with faith in them that heard it' (Heb. iv. 2). Instead of crying to God to bring their experience up to the standard of the Bible, they explain the Bible down to the level of their experience, and so never receive the glorious revelation of Jesus to their hearts and the fullness of grace therein promised.
III. Some, seek the wrong thing. They expect the blessing of full salvation to bring deliverance from temptations, infirmities, natural consequences of broken laws and the like. I once heard an educated minister pray, 'Lord save us from our impurities and infirmities.' My heart said 'Amen' to the first part, but not to the latter. Full salvation delivers always from impurity, but not always from infirmities in this world. God uses our infirmities to bless us. Paul gloried in his infirmities because, through them, the power of Christ rested upon him (2 Cor. xii. 9-10). We read also that Jesus was 'touched with the feeling of our infirmities' (Heb. iv. 15).
Infirmities and temptations are incorporated by our Heavenly Father into His educational and disciplinary for us, and are for our highest good and we need not expect to be entirely free from them while we are in the body If we were free from them we could not enter into the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus, nor sympathize with our brethren, and that would be an immeasurable loss to us. It is because Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, and was touched with the feeling of our infirmities, that He is able to sympathize with and succor us when we are tempted (Heb. ii. 18). And it is only as we enter into the common temptations and trials and are afflicted with the common infirmities of humanity, that we can be touched with tender sympathy for, and be largely used in blessing, humanity. Thus, we should not seek for an experience that will save us from these things, but rather should do as we are told, and 'count it all joy' when we 'fall into divers temptations' (Jas. i. 2).
Nor does this experience of full salvation save us from the natural consequences of broken laws. A man may be enjoying the fullness of God's salvation but if he ignorantly break the laws of finance or health he may expect to go into bankruptcy or lose his health as surely as the vilest sinner. And this does not argue at all at his Heavenly Father is displeased with him morally, or that he has lost any measure of his salvation.
Nor does this experience enable us to please everybody and appear perfect to all men. Our hearts may be as pure as the heart of an archangel, and we may love with a perfect love, and yet our conduct may be misjudged and we be accounted by others as being anything but fully saved. The brethren of Jesus did not believe on Him (John vii. 5) and His critics called Him a glutton and a wine-bibber. His servants will hardly be above their Master, but should rejoice to be as their Master.
There are two reasons for this. One is that we 'have this treasure in earthen vessels' (2 Cor. iv. 7) -- that is, the love of God in our hearts may be perfect and His salvation complete, but because of our natural infirmities we may not be able to fully express in our conduct the holy affections and tender sympathies of our hearts. Just as clear water in a blue bottle will look blue, or in a yellow bottle will look yellow, so the pure, crystal-like salvation of God in our hearts takes on the color of our earthen vessel.
The other reason is that, just as when you look at a landscape through smoked glasses everything looks smoky, so the eyesight of many people is so distorted and blurred by sin, by prejudice, by unbelief, that even if our conduct be perfect, they, looking at us through the medium of their own sinfulness. will criticize us as they criticized our Lord before us. This being so, we need not expect the experience of full salvation to make us appear perfect in the eyes of men, but must content ourselves with having a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man, and in having His assurance that our ways please Him.
Others are seeking a sort of 'third heaven' experience, similar to what Paul had, in which they will see visions, hear voices, be visited by angels and constantly have tumultuous and rapturous joy. Like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, they say, 'Master, it is good for us to be here,' (Luke ix. 33), not knowing that Jesus wants to lead them down into the valley to cast out devils. Far be it from me to discourage any soul from seeking any experience mentioned in the Bible! Has not my own heart almost burst with fullness of joy and love? and cannot I, in the Spirit, say with Paul, 'Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?' (I Cor. ix. 1). Truly, the revelation Jesus gave me of Himself is unutterable, but I got this revelation not by seeking some marvelous experience, but by humbling myself to walk with Him, to wait for His counsel, to do His will and to believe what He said. Then He came to me and took up His abode in my heart. He has shown me, however, that although I am to have His joy, holiness does not consist so much in rapturous, sublimated experiences, as in lowly, humble, patient, trustful love.
But while some people put the experience up among the clouds, others leave it down among the fogs, and so fail to get it. They think that it consists in simply being free from condemnation, forgetting that a justified man is not condemned. For instance, a man has been condemned about the use of tobacco, or a woman about the feathers in her hat. Each feels that such things are not consistent with a Christian life, and, after a struggle with pride and habit, yields and casts away the offending thing. Of course there is now no longer any condemnation, and that soul feels justified; but it may not yet be sanctified, and it is not, unless, when the tobacco and feathers went out and off, the Holy Ghost came in, destroying every root of bitterness and sin out of the heart. Holiness is a thing of the heart; it is the purging away of the dross of the soul; it is the renewing of our whole nature so that we are made 'partakers of the Divine nature' (2 Pet. i. 4). It makes 'the tree good.'
My little eight-year-old boy had the nature of holiness revealed to him by the Holy Ghost. Some time ago he professed to get saved, and I think he did get saved, though he is not so saintly as I feel confident he yet will be. One evening, not long since, however, he said to his mother: 'Mamma, I'm tired of living this way.' His mamma, of course, queried, 'Why, darling, what's the matter now?' 'I want to be good all the time,' said George. 'You tell me to go and do things, and I go and do them, but I feel angry inside. I want to be good all the time.' The next morning, as soon as he woke up, he said, 'Mamma, I want you to put that text, "Create in me a clean heart, O God," in my text book.' And then when he prayed he pleaded the prayer of the royal Psalmist,' Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me' (Ps. cxxxix. 23-24).
Now, holiness makes one good all the time; not only in conduct, but also in character; not only in outward act, but also in inward thought and wish and feeling, and those who are content with anything below this, will miss the blessing.
IV. Another hindrance is the failure to rightly 'consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus who was faithful . . .' (Heb. iii. 1-2), and to appropriate the grace He offers us.
The other day an earnest Christian woman was complaining to me at her breakfast table about her pride and her temper, which she had found unconquerable. I suggested that she should consider Jesus, and asked her how she could be proud in the presence of His deep humility. I requested her to imagine Him, the King of kings, the Lord of life and glory, humbling Himself and meekly carrying His Cross up Calvary, amid the mocking crowd, while she walked by His side or followed His train in pride, with high and haughty head. She saw the point, and while we were at family prayers, she said she could never forget that lesson in humility. If people would but study the life and spirit of Jesus, and gladly let His mind be in them, the subject of holiness would be greatly simplified. Paul said: 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus' (Phil. ii. 5), and then he goes on to show us that this mind is one of deepest humility, which led Jesus to empty Himself of His glory and humble Himself to die on the Cross as the vilest of men, and it is this humble, self-forgetful, loving mind Paul pleads with us to have.
Holiness is not some lofty experience, unattainable except to those who can leap to the stars, but it is rather a lowly experience, which lowly men in the lowly walks of life can share with Jesus, by letting His mind be in them. Bless God for ever!
David prayed, 'Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within 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' (Ps. li. 10, 12, 13). He recognized that the blessing of a clean heart would give him wisdom and power and the spirit to teach sinners, and to so teach them that they would be converted. It is the same truth that Jesus expressed when He said, 'First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye' (Matt. vii. 5). The beam is inbred sin; the mote is the transgressions that result from inbred sin. The following are some of the results of a clean heart:
I. A clean heart filled with the Spirit makes a soul-winner out of the man who receives the blessing. It was so on the day of Pentecost, when the disciples, having their hearts purified by fire and filled with the Holy Spirit, won three thousand souls to the Lord in one meeting. With the blessing of a clean heart comes a passion of love for Jesus, and with it a passionate desire for the salvation and sanctification of men. It makes apostles, prophets, martyrs, missionaries, and fiery-hearted soul-winners. It opens wide and clear the channel of communion between God and the soul, so that His power, the power of the Holy Ghost, works through him who has a clean heart, surely convicting and graciously converting and sanctifying souls.
II. The blessing results in a constancy of spirit. The soul finds its perfect balance in God. Fickleness of feeling, uncertainty of temper, and waywardness of desire are gone, and the soul is buoyed up by steadiness and certainty. It no longer has to be braced up by vows and pledges and resolutions, but moves forward naturally, with quietness and assurance.
III. There is perfect peace. The warring element within is cast out, the fear of backsliding is gone, self no longer struggles for supremacy, for Jesus has become all and in all, and that word in Isaiah is fulfilled, 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee' (Isa. xxvi. 3), and the soul is made possessor of 'the peace of God, which passeth all understanding' (Phil. iv. 7)
The soul had 'peace with God' -- that is, a cessation of rebellion and strife -- when converted, but now it has the 'peace of God,' as the bay has the fullness of the sea. Anxiety about the future, and worry about the present and past go. It took perfect faith to get a clean heart, and perfect faith destroys fret and worry. They cannot abide in the same heart. Said a saint, 'I cannot trust and worry at the same time.' John Wesley said, 'I would as soon swear as fret.'
IV. Joy is perfected. There may be sorrow and heaviness on account of manifold temptations, there may be great trials and perplexities, but the joy of the Lord, which is his strength, flows and throbs through the heart of him who is sanctified like a great Gulf Stream in an unbroken current. God becomes his joy. David knew this when he said, 'Then will I go . . . unto God my exceeding joy' (Ps. xliii. 4).
Probably not all who have the blessing of a clean heart realize this full joy, but they may, if they will take time to commune with God and appropriate the promises to themselves. Jesus said, 'Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full' (John xvi. 24.) And John said, 'These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full' (I John i. 4). And again Jesus said, 'I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you' (John xvi. 22).
This joy could not be beaten out of Paul and Silas with many stripes, but bubbled up and overflowed at the midnight hour in the dark dungeon, when their feet were in the stocks and their backs were bruised and torn. It turned Madame Guyon's cell into a palace, and Bedford Jail into an ante-room of Beulah Land and Heaven, from which the saintly tinker saw the Delectable Mountains and the Citizens of the Celestial City. Glory to God! It makes a death-bed 'soft as downy pillows are.'
V. Love is made perfect. To be born of God is to have Divine love planted in the heart. 'Like begets like,' and when we are born of God we are made partakers of His nature. And 'God is love.' But this love is comparatively feeble in the new convert, and there is much remaining corruption in the heart to check and hinder, if not to destroy it; but when the heart is cleansed, all conflicting elements are destroyed and cast out, and the heart is filled with patient, humble, holy, flaming love. Love is made perfect. It flames upwards towards God, and spreads abroad toward all men. It abides in the heart, not necessarily as a constantly overflowing emotion, but always as an unfailing principle of action, which may burst into emotion at any time. It may suffer, being abused and ill-treated, but it 'is kind.' Others may be promoted and advanced beyond it, but it 'envieth not.' It may be subjected to pressure of all kinds, but it vaunteth not itself.' It is not rash. It may prosper, but it 'is not puffed up.' Love 'doth not behave itself unseemly,' or, as John Wesley said, 'is not ill-bred.'
Love 'seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil,' is not suspicious. Love 'rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.' An evangelist was abused: his enemies were professing Christians, but 'they backslid. His friends rejoiced, but he grieved. His heart was full of love, and he could not rejoice in the triumph of iniquity even over his enemies. Love 'beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.' Love 'never faileth' (I Cor. xiii. 4-8).
VI. The Bible becomes a new book. It becomes self-interpreting. God is in it speaking to the soul. I do not mean by this that all the types and prophecies are made plain to the unlearned man, but all that is necessary to salvation he finds and feeds upon in the Bible. He now understands the word of Jesus, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God' (Matt. iv. 4). Like Job he can say: 'I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food ' (Job xxiii. 12) and like David, rejoices in it 'as one that findeth great spoil' (Ps. cxix. 162). Like the blessed man, he meditates therein day and night, that he may observe to do according to all that is written therein, that his profiting may appear to all.
VII. It begets the shepherd spirit, and destroys the spirit of lordship over God's heritage. Peter was not like many that have followed him, for instead of lording it over the flock, he wrote, 'The elders which are among you I exhort, who am . . . a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock' (i Pet. v.1-3). If the cleansed man is a superior, it makes him patient and considerate; if a subordinate, willing and obedient. It is the fruitful root of courtesy, of pity, of compassion and of utterly unselfish devotion. 'The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep ' (John x. II).
VIII. Temptation is quickly recognized as such, and is easily overcome through steadfast faith in Jesus. The holy man takes the shield of faith, and with it quenches all the fiery darts of the enemy.
IX. Divine courage possesses the heart. The sanctified man sings with David, 'I will not fear: what can man do unto me?', (Ps. cxviii. 6). 'Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear' (Ps. xxvii. 3). And with Paul, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me' (Phil. iv. '3)' for 'we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us' (Rom. viii. 37).
X. There is a keener sense than ever before of the weakness of the flesh, the absolute inability of man to help us, and of our own utter dependence on God for all things. The pure heart sings evermore, 'The Blood, the Blood -- is all my plea.'
XI. The cleansed man makes a covenant with his eyes, and is careful which way and how he looks. He also remembers the words of Jesus, 'Take heed therefore how ye hear' (Luke viii. i8), and again, 'Take heed what ye hear' (Mark iv. 24). Likewise he bridles his tongue and seasons his words with salt, not with sugar; salt is better than sugar for seasoning, but it is only for seasoning. He remembers: 'That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment' (Matt. xii. 36). He does not despise the day of small things, and he can content himself with mean things. Finally, he realizes
and he lives as seeing Him who is invisible,' and with glad humility and whole-hearted fidelity discharges his duty with an eye single to the glory of God, without any itching desire for the honor that man can give, or other reward than the ' well done' of the Lord.
It is possible to lose the blessing of a clean heart, but, thank God, it is also gloriously possible to keep it. How to do this is a vital question. Two or three years ago, a brother, going to the foreign field, arose in one of my meetings and said, 'I got the blessing three times but lost it twice. The third time I got it the Lord taught me how to keep it through this text "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk ye in Him"' (Col. ii. 6).
That is one of the simplest and completest statements of how to keep the blessing that can be given. The conditions of getting it are the conditions of keeping it.
I. To keep it, there must be continued joyful and perfect consecration. We have put all on the altar to get it. We must leave all on the altar to keep it. 'All the tithes' must be brought into God's house. We must present our bodies to Him as 'a living sacrifice,' recognizing ourselves as no longer our own, but His, by the purchase of His Blood, and ourselves as stewards only of all that is ours. Our health and strength, our time and talent, our money and influence, our body, mind, and spirit, all, all are His, to be used for His glory as fully as the fondest bride would use her all in the interest of her husband. And this consecration must keep pace with increasing light. The journey of life is not always through grassy lawns and flowery gardens, but often over burning, shifting, sandy deserts, rocky steeps, fetid swamps, and dark and tangled jungles, as the Lord leads the soul in ways it has not known. And at such times self-interest may cry out against the sacrifice. But if the consecration be perfect, and grounded in love, there will be no turning back, no plunging into seductive and easy by-paths, but a steady marching forward, if needs be to Gethsemane's lonely agony, Pilate's judgment hall of shame, and Golgotha's dark and awful hour. But. thank God, it will not be alone for He says, 'My presence shall go with thee.' (Exod. xxxiii. 14). Hallelujah!
II. To keep the blessing, there must be steadfast, childlike faith. It took faith unmixed with doubt to grasp the blessing. Unbelief was banished. Doubts were put away. The assurance of God's love in Jesus was heartily believed. His ability and willingness to save to the uttermost was fully accepted, and His word simply trusted when the blessing was received; and, of course, this same faith must be maintained in order to keep it. God cannot require less of the sanctified man to keep the blessing than He did of the unsanctified man to get it. Peter said, 'Who are kept by the power of God through faith' (I Pet. i. 5). Notice it is 'the power of God that keeps us, but it is faith that links us on to the power as the coupling links the railway carriage to the locomotive. Faith is the coupling. Paul said of himself, 'the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God' (Gal. ii. 20). And again he tells us that the Jews were cut off through unbelief, and that we stand by faith.
We may suffer prolonged trials, great perplexities, and fierce temptations -- they are a part of the discipline of life-but we must
III. To keep the blessing, we must pray to and commune much with the Lord. We pray when we talk to God and ask Him for things. We commune, with Him when we, are still and listen and let God talk to us, and mold us, and show us His love and His will, and teach us in the way He would have us go. We should pray often and not be in too great a hurry, but 'take time to be holy' take time to 'taste and see that the Lord is good,' and to hear what He will say. And this we should do, if possible, in the morning, that we may be strengthened and nourished and gladdened for the day. Backsliding usually begins through neglected, or hurried, secret prayer.
Someone has said, 'Stay with God in prayer, stay till He melts you, and then stay when you are melted and plead with God, and He will answer, and you will get changed and transformed and renewed, and you will do execution.'
IV. To keep the blessing, we must give diligent attention to the Bible. The soul needs the food of truth, and Jesus said, 'Man shall not live, by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' (Matt. iv. 4) God commanded Joshua saying, 'This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night.' What for? 'That thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.' And what shall follow? 'For then thou shalt make thy way prosperous and then thou shalt have good success.' (Josh. i. 8). Then thou shalt keep the blessing.
David said of his blessed man, 'His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.' (Ps. i. 2). And Paul tells us that the Scriptures are 'profitable for doctrine, for reproof for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished to all good works' (2 Tim. iii. 16-17). And Peter says, 'as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby' (I Pet. ii. 2). Some professors are smaller ten years after birth than when they were born, because they have not fed on God's word. Catherine Booth read the Bible through several times before she was twelve years old, and grew thereby, until it is not to be wondered at that she became a 'mother of nations.' I once gave a talk on the use of the Bible to my Soldiers, and some of them caught the inspiration, and carried their Bibles in their pockets after that and spent all the spare time they had in reading and praying, and we could fairly see them grow, until they became powers for God, and some of them are spiritual giants to this day.
V. To keep the blessing, we must confess it be aggressive, and seek to get others into it. 'For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation' (Rom. x. 10). The man who withholds his testimony to this grace will lose it. This light, hid under a bushel, will go out. God gives it to us that we may put it on a candle-stick and give light to all that are in the house, in the corps, in the community, in the nation. Don't limit the power of testimony by unbelief. A torch loses no light and heat by lighting a thousand other torches.
Touch a piece of steel with a magnet, and it in turn becomes a magnet. It can then be used to turn ten thousand other pieces into magnets with no loss, but rather with increase of power to itself. But hang it up in idleness, and it gradually loses its power. So with us, my comrades. Let the Holy Ghost touch us with cleansing power, and we become divine magnets, and in touching other souls we will quicken them and get added power and clearness of experience to ourselves. But let us withhold our testimony, and we lose our power and, like Samson, soon find ourselves 'as other men.'
Testify, testify, testify -- clearly, definitely, constantly, courageously, humbly -- if you would keep the blessing. When faith is weak and devils all around, definite testimony scatters the devils, strengthens faith and stirs up and brightens the inward witness. Testify to the Lord, tell Him you have the blessing and thank Him for it. Testify to your comrades. Testify to your own heart and to the devil. John tells us that the white-robed multitude in Heaven overcame by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. So testify, if you would overcome and keep the blessing.
VI. To keep the blessing, we must constantly live in the spirit of self-denial. By yielding to fleshly desires, to selfish ambitions, to the spirit of the world, we may lose the labor of years in an instant. The hard hand of the old enemy is ever stretched forth to snatch from us our treasure. We must watch and pray, and keep low at Jesus' feet in profoundest humility, if we would keep it. It is all summed up in one word, 'walk in the spirit,' 'walk in love.'
Finally, there, must be no resting in present attainments. The Lord has clearer revelations of Himself for us. We may be filled to the limit of our capacity to-day, but we should ever pray, 'Oh, Lord, enlarge the vessel,' and this we should expect. Like Paul, 'forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,' we should 'press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,' (Phil. iii. 13-14), ever remembering that He 'is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think' (Eph. iii. 20). Not according to some mysterious power to which we are strangers, but 'according to the power that worketh in us,' the power of the Holy Ghost that converted us and made us His 'dear children.' Hallelujah!
'And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him (Gen. 23, 24).
A remarkable biography! Nowadays men write hundreds of pages about their heroes, and do not say as much as that. But there is a good reason. There is not so much as that to say.
Enoch was a mighty man, with a wonderful life, lived under very unfavorable circumstances, and I have profited much by meditating upon his life, and what I think must have been his secret.
We are prone to look upon past ages and distant places as peculiarly favorable to godliness. I remember that years ago I thought if I could go to London and listen to Chas. Spurgeon each week, I could be a Christian. In my boyhood I wished that I had lived in the days of Jesus, and heard His wondrous words, and questioned Him about the mysteries of godliness, for then I could certainly have been His true follower. Usually the further back we go, the more godly seems the age, and the more blessed seem the men.
But really this is not so, and especially is it not so of Enoch's age and place. The age was most ungodly, and men had very little religious light. The world was fast hastening to that dreadfulness of sin and unbelief which would cause God to sweep away its people by the deluge and leave but eight persons in it. They had no Bible. They had no law. Men had not yet had a Divine revelation from Heaven, telling them they must worship God, must keep the Sabbath day, must honor their parents, must not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet. Try to imagine an age and place with no such teaching as that! Every man a law unto himself, his evil passions and lusts and tempers having no restraint put upon them, and he plunging continually deeper and deeper into sin and corruption.
Then they had no Gospel, with Jesus revealed as a loving Savior; they had only one promise of hope and mercy, and that rather vague -- the one given to the woman after that awful fall in Eden, the promise of the Seed that sometime would come to bruise the Serpent's head. It was a black night, with only one lone dim star shining in the darkness. But Enoch held on to that promise, and in its light and hope he walked with God for three hundred years.
We have a whole Bible, a finished revelation. We have the holy, just, good law of God, showing us what we ought to do and what we ought not to do. We have the Gospel, with its full noonday light, showing us how to keep the law, how to get life and power to fulfill the will of God on earth as the angels do it in Heaven. We have Jesus, crucified before our eyes for our sins, dead, buried and raised to glorious life again for our justification, and ascended on high to the right hand of God, far above all created things and all opposing powers of evil, to intercede for us, to pour out the Holy Ghost upon us in rich measure, to live in us through the Spirit. We have commandments, precepts and thousands of promises. Instead of a midnight, with one lone, dim star shining fitfully in the darkness, we have a midday, with all the splendor of the sun in his strength, together with ten thousand reflected lights, shining upon us; and yet we, in our trembling, pitiful, shameful unbelief, wonder however Enoch could walk with God!
I. I imagine that Enoch made up his mind that it was possible to walk with God; that is, to be agreed with God, to be of the same mind and heart and purpose as God. Of course, there were stupendous difficulties in the way. There were no churches or Salvation Army or Sunday-schools; there were no holiness conventions; no days with God and nights of prayer; no Bible, no War Cry, no religious papers and libraries. In fact, instead of these helps to walk with God, he found the whole community against him -- yea, the whole world, for in Jude we read that Enoch had to prophesy against the ungodliness he found around him.
Then, not only did Enoch have these extraordinary difficulties to face, but he had all the ordinary difficulties as well. He got married and had a large family of boys and girls to care for; he had all the anxiety of a father to provide for his family and to protect them from the influences all about them. Then, I cannot imagine that he did not have the ordinary infirmities and the sinful nature of other men. No doubt he might have said, as you and I have said, that his temperament was peculiar, and that while others with a happier temperament might be able to walk with God, yet, with his peculiarly crooked and difficult make-up, it was quite out of the question for him to hope to be holy and walk with God. Then, of course, he had the devil to fight.
II. I think that Enoch not only believed in the possibility of walking with God, but he made up his mind that he would walk with God. He put his will into this matter.
III. Not only did Enoch believe in the possibility of walking with God, and determine that as for him he would walk with God, but he took such steps as were necessary to do so. He separated himself in spirit from the ungodly people about him, and he raised his voice against their evil ways, and became not only a negatively righteous man, but a positively holy man.
Enoch had his reward. It paid him to walk with God. He loved God and God loved him, and their affection became so intense that one day God's love overcame the power of death, and drew Enoch from earth to Heaven.
Now, I suppose that most people, in reading the story, think that Enoch's reward consisted in getting to Heaven without dying. Well, this was certainly a most unusual and blessed experience, and one I suppose that men have wished for all through the ages. There is something about death that is awful, and from which men shrink, and yet, since Jesus has died and gone down into the grave and risen again, the terror is lost, to the Christian. Still, it is probable that if allowed to choose, most Christians and all sinners would say, 'Let us go to Heaven like Enoch did.' But I cannot consider this Enoch's chief reward.
For three hundred years God was his Friend, his Counselor, his Comforter, his Constant Companion. Oh, what fellowship was that! What an opportunity to gain wisdom, to build up and round out and ennoble a man's Character! How easy to be good and do good! How life must have almost burst with fullness of gladness! Walking with God! Talking with God! Communing with God! Having mutual sympathy with God entering into a union with God as intimate as the union of the bay with the sea; and all this by faith, by simple trust, by childlike confidence. This was Enoch's reward and it may be yours, my brother, my sister, if you will meet the conditions as Enoch did.
Paul tells us that the Lord Jesus made him 'a pattern to them which should hereafter believe' (I Tim. i. 16). This fact makes his life and experience exceptionally interesting and valuable to us. And it is an especial mark of our Heavenly Father's wisdom and love that He has given us in Paul such a striking example in every particular of the saving power of Jesus. People say Jesus was Divine, and so excuse themselves for their unlikeness to Him, but Paul was human, and if he was like Jesus, so may we be.
Let us study his experience.
I. His sufferings. It is difficult to conceive any form of suffering to which Paul was not subjected; in every instance the grace of Christ was all-sufficient. Here is a catalogue of his sufferings recorded by himself: 'In labors more abundant.' If anyone exceeds him in their labors, it is only because of the improved facilities of later ages for doing more in the same space of time. 'In stripes above measure' -- so many and so often inflicted as to be beyond his computation. 'In prisons more frequent, in deaths oft . . . once was I stoned.' I was stoned once with one brick, and nearly killed, but Paul received many stones, and was dragged out of the city like a beast, and left for dead.
'Thrice I suffered shipwreck.' There have been Salvationist leaders who have suffered shipwreck once, and escaped immediately; but, 'a night and a day I have been in the deep,' says Paul. 'In journeyings often,' under such disagreeable circumstances as we who live in the days of Pullman cars and ocean steamers can scarcely imagine. 'In perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen' -- the Jews, who hated him bitterly, and sought his life in every city. 'In perils by the heathen' -- whom he sought to save through the knowledge of Jesus, but who clung to their idols. 'In perils in the City' -- by wild, mad mobs. In perils in the wilderness' -- from ferocious beasts and yet more ferocious men. 'In perils in the sea' -- from drowning and from monsters of the deep.
'In perils among false brethren' -- to whom he would naturally look for help and sympathy. 'In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches' (2 Cor. xi. 23-28) which were organized from Jewish and heathen converts, and were bitterly opposed by the idolatrous heathen on the one side, and the bigoted Jews on the other, and which must have been far more difficult to properly organize, train and manage, than any Salvation Army corps. Nor could he look forward to brighter days, when circumstances would be more favorable, and life more free from pain and care, for he says, 'the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me' (Acts. xx. 23).
II. His faith in God and love for man. And yet, in spite of all these afflictions and physical sufferings and bitter persecutions, he maintained a joyful faith in God and a tender, self-sacrificing love for all men. And when God the Holy Ghost testifies there will be no 'let up' to his stupendous trials, he cries out, 'But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself (Acts xx. 24). 'I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake' (2 Cor. xii. 10). And in face of all these things he asks, 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?' And though he adds, 'we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter,' yet, 'in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rom. viii. 35-39). And at the last, almost in sight of the block and axe, where his multitudinous sufferings were to be crowned by a martyr's death, he exclaimed, 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith' (2 Tim. iv. 7).
Just as his faith in his Lord was not in the least hindered or destroyed by his sufferings, so also was his love for his fellow men untouched by them. He says of the Jews, who were his perpetual and bitter enemies, I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites' (Rom. ix. I -4). This is perfect love. It is love that 'suffereth long, and is kind.' It is love like that of the Lord Jesus Himself.
Then again, in writing to his corps in Corinth, many of whom seemed to have gone wrong, and to have made many unjust and contemptuous criticisms of Paul himself he says, 'I seek not yours but you: . . . and I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved' (2 Cor. xii. 14-15). Many floods could not quench his love nor drown his faith.
III. The secret. The secret of Paul's marvelous endurance, his quenchless faith and burning love is found in his testimony, 'I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision' (Acts xxvi. 19).
Away back in the days when he was a persecutor and was scattering the little flock of Christ, and driving them to death, Jesus met him -- met him just as He meets men to-day, showed him a 'strait gate' and a 'narrow way,' and Paul was 'not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.' Obedience meant social ostracism, banishment from home and friends, the overturning of all his plans and ambitions, a life of toil and shame and suffering, the loss of all things and the sacrifice of his life; yet he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. And, maintaining this obedient spirit to the end, everything else followed. The reason why so few have an experience like Paul's is because so few count the cost as he did, and obey the heavenly vision Jesus gives them.
Several years ago a bright young girl of eighteen, full of fun and love of society, was induced by a friend to enter an Army meeting for the first time. No sooner had she entered than the faces of the soldiers enchained her eyes, and their testimonies went to her heart. She sat for a while, and Jesus came to her, not in visible presence, or with audible voice, but in a spiritual vision. She left the meeting convicted of sin. On her way home the vision spoke with her, 'You ought to have got saved to-night,' But I am engaged for that dance next Wednesday night.' 'You should give up the dance.' 'But there are my lovely white dress and slippers. I will get saved after the dance.' 'But you may die before Wednesday night, and lose your lovely dress and the dance and your soul.' That was sufficient for this young girl. She tore the feathers from her hat, and threw them into the fire. She rushed upstairs, got her lovely white dress, cut it up and cast it into the fire.
The next evening she went to the meeting. At last a sister, probably discerning in her face the hunger of her heart, went to her and asked, 'Don't you want to get saved to-night?' 'Of course I do,' replied the girl; 'why did you not come to me before?' and immediately she rushed to the Penitent-form, where, in obedience to the heavenly vision, she found Jesus almighty to save. And after four years her face shines with the glory of her Lord, and her voice rings with triumph as she testifies to the cleansing power of His Blood and the sanctifying power and presence of His Spirit. She was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.
A man, a millionaire, came into a meeting and listened to an Army Captain, and the heavenly vision came to him, and he saw the Cross, and the 'strait gate,' and the 'narrow way,' and like the rich young man who came to Jesus, he went away, saying, 'If it were not for the red stripes round that fellow's collar I would have gone forward,' He was disobedient to the heavenly vision.
Sooner or later the heavenly vision comes to all men. It comes in the whisperings of conscience, in the strivings of the Spirit, in the calls of duty, in the moments of regret for an evil past, in moments of tenderness and sorrow, in the crises of life, in the entreaties of God's people. It comes in afflictions and losses, in the thunders of the law, in fearful, ominous threatenings of eternal judgment, in the death of loved ones, in crushed hopes, disappointed plans and thwarted ambitions. In all these things Jesus hides Himself as He hid Himself in the burning bush, which Moses saw on Horeb. If men would but turn aside and heed the vision as Moses did, a voice would speak and cause them to know the Lord, and if they would not be disobedient to the heavenly vision, Jesus would turn them back from the pit, and satisfy every questioning of their minds and every longing of their hearts. God so satisfied the heart and mind of Paul.
Some people imagine that Paul tells his best religious experience in Romans vii. 24, when he cries out, 'O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' But the fact is, he is here describing his condition under the law, when, as a convicted sinner, the law showed him what he ought to do, but brought no power to deliver him from his guilty past and the corruptions of his own heart. However, in the eighth chapter he finds the secret of deliverance from the condemnation of the past and the Carnal mind, which prevent his doing the will of God on earth as the angels do it in heaven.
From that point he rises to such marvelous testimonies as, 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live -- I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me' (Gal. ii. 20). And through a consecration in which he counted all things loss for Christ and a faith by which he reckoned himself 'dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord' (Rom. vi. I t), he entered into an experience in which, as one has well said, he was 'free from a repining temper, for he had learned in every state therewith to be content. He was free from vanity, pride, and unsanctified ambitions, for he gloried only in the Cross of Christ. He was free from every feeling of resentment, for he was ready to die accursed by his enemies. He was free from selfishness, for he was ready to spend and be spent for those whose love diminished for him in proportion as his love abounded for them. He was free from covetousness, for he counted all things but dung and dross for Christ. He was free from unbelief, for he knew in Whom he had trusted, and was persuaded that nothing could separate him from the love of Christ. He was free from the fear of man, for stripes, imprisonment and martyrdom had no terrors -- being ready to be offered up. He was free from the love of the world having a desire to depart and to be with Christ. The absence of these corruptions implied the maturity of the graces of the Holy Spirit -- the fulness of love. Indeed, it was that love which constrained him, which cast out fear, and counteracted every tendency opposed to its hallowing influence.'
What a great salvation was this that Paul found through obeying the heavenly vision! It is ten million leagues beyond the poor little salvation from wrongdoing which most people seek in order to escape hell. It is a salvation not only from sin, but from self; a divine union with God in Christ, so intimate and so sacred that father and mother and wife and brother and sister and child, yea, and his own life, are all shut outside. And yet it does not make him nerveless, and lead him to 'sing himself away to everlasting bliss,' but rather to lavish his love upon all men regardless of their hatred or affection, and to pour his life out, a sacrifice for the world. Well might he say, 'Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ' (I Cor. xi. 1).
And by the grace of God I will follow.
'And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony ' (Rev. xii. 11).
A lieutenant got the blessing of a clean heart in one of my meetings the other day, and then told us that he had had the blessing once before but had lost it because he failed to testify to it. The devil suggested that it was a great thing to testify to cleansing from all sin; that people would not understand it; that they would criticize him; that he would do better to live it and say nothing about it; and so on. He heeded these suggestions, kept quiet, and so lost the blessing.
That is an old trick of the devil's, by which he has cheated many a soul out of this pearl of greatest price.
Paul says: 'For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation' (Rom. x. 10). The confession is as necessary as the believing. We insist upon this in the matter of justification and it is equally important in the matter of sanctification. If we do not testify definitely, humbly and constantly to the blessed experience, we put our light under a bushel and it goes out.
The late Miss Frances E. Willard received the blessing definitely, was filled with joy and the sweet peace of Heaven and gave a burning testimony of the fulness of the Spirit. Soon afterwards she became a teacher in a ladies' school in a section of the country where there was much controversy over the doctrine of holiness. She was advised by her mistaken friends to keep still about sanctification, which she did. Years afterwards she sorrowfully wrote: 'I kept still until I soon found I had nothing in particular to keep still about. The experience left me. That sweet persuasiveness, that heaven in the soul of which I came to know in Mrs. Palmer's meeting, I do not now feel.'
Fletcher of Madeley, whom John Wesley believed to be the holiest man that had lived since the days of the Apostle John, made this confession to his people: 'My dear brethren and sisters, God is here, I feel 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, but I am deeply humbled and He has again restored my soul. Last Wednesday evening He spoke to me by these words: "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. vi. 11). 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, dead unto sin and alive unto God. I received this blessing four or five times before, but I lost it by not obeying 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 the grace, Satan made me wait awhile till I saw more of the fruits. I resolved to do so, but I soon began to doubt the witness which before I had felt in my heart, and I was in a little while sensible that I had lost both.
'A second time after receiving this salvation (with shame I confess it) 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 thus: "How few even of the children of God will receive this testimony! Many of them suppose that every transgression of the Adamic law is sin, and therefore, if I profess myself 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 infirmities. I will therefore enjoy what God hath 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 which he seemeth to have."
'Now, my brethren, you see my folly. I have confessed it in your presence, and now I am resolved 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 and alive unto God, through Jesus Christ, who is my indwelling holiness.'
This confession put Mr. Fletcher on record, and was the beginning of a life of holiness that has but few parallels for beauty and power. It is only at this point of glad, definite testimony that Christian life and experience become irresistibly catching, like fire when it bursts into flame.
Those who profess this blessing are often accused of boasting. But this is not true. They are simply declaring that Jesus has done for them what He died to do -- that is, to save them from sin, and they do it in the spirit of a man who, healed of a deadly disease, declares what the doctor has done for him. It is done to bring honour to the doctor, and to encourage other poor sufferers to apply to him; and to withhold such testimony in the presence of multitudes of needy ones would be a crime.
David said: 'My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof; and be glad' (Ps. xxxiv. 2). Hallelujah!
As for me, I feel I am under a solemn obligation to let everybody know that Jesus is alive and that He can save to the uttermost.
What an astonishing thing that we can know Jesus! And yet nothing is more clearly taught in Scripture or more joyously testified to in experience by godly people than this fact.
This is an age of specialists, when men devote their lives to the pursuit of special departments of knowledge. One learned professor will give fourteen hours a day for forty years to the study of fishes, another to the study of birds, another to that of bugs, and yet another to that of old bones. Another, more ambitious, devotes his life to the study of history, the rise and fall of nations, and yet another to astronomy, the origin and history of worlds. But to know Jesus Christ is infinitely better than to know all that has been learned or dreamed of by these professors, for He it was that 'made the worlds,' and 'without Him was not any thing made that was made' (John i. 3).
Personally, I am inclined to think that to know Edison would be worth more than knowing one or all of his works, and so to know Jesus Christ is the first and best of all knowledge. Amen!
The knowledge of the naturalist, the astronomer, the historian, may be of passing value, but in due time it will be antedated and fail. But the knowledge of Jesus Christ is of infinite value, and will never pass away. It is profitable for this world, and for that which is to come, and only by it does a man come to the knowledge of himself; without which it would be better never to have been born.
I. In this knowledge of Jesus is hidden the germ of all knowledge, for Paul tells us that in Him 'are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge' (Col. ii. 3). Am I eager for learning and knowledge? Let me then constantly seek to know Him, and in due time, in this world or in the next, I shall know all that is of value for me to know.
II. In this knowledge lies true culture of both head and heart; especially of the heart. In the words of one of the greatest living Christian philosophers, 'it enlarges the individual life with universal ideas, lifts time into the stream of an eternal purpose, and fills it with eternal issues; and makes the simplest moral act great as a real factor in the evolution of a higher order and an immortal character.' It makes a man patient with the ignorant and erring and wayward, courteous to his equals and superiors, kindly and generous to his inferiors, gentle and considerate in his own home, and to the woman who is now his wife -- as he was to her when she was his sweetheart. It makes him loving and forbearing with children, thoughtful and tender with the aged -- in fact, the knowledge of Jesus (not simply scraps of knowledge about Jesus) makes the possessor in his measure like Jesus. Glory to God!
The essence of this knowledge is love. John says, 'Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love' (I John iv. 7-8). This love is a heavenly thing. The sinner, farthest away -- from God -- loves his own, loves those who love him and do him good. But this love is that which pours itself out upon strangers, upon enemies, and upon those that despitefully use us and say all manner of evil against us. Thus we come to see that to know Jesus, we must be like Jesus, must have an affinity with Him, must be transformed into His image. In other words, we must be born again and sanctified by His indwelling Spirit.
Judas lived with Jesus in the intimacy of a disciple for three years, but if he ever knew Jesus he must have lost that knowledge before he could have gone out to betray Him with a kiss. So we may profess the knowledge of Jesus, but when by wicked tempers and unholy conduct, and deceitful and sinful character, we manifest a spirit contrary to His, we give the lie to our profession. In so far as we are unlike Him, to that extent we are ignorant of Him.
How then shall we come to the knowledge of Jesus?
I. We must utterly and for ever renounce sin, and seek forgiveness for past bad conduct trusting in the merits of His atonement for acceptance with God, singing from our hearts, 'Oh, the Blood, the Blood, is all my plea.' When we do this, we shall come into an initial knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. But we must not only renounce our sins; we must also renounce self. In an all-night of prayer, several years ago, I looked at the great audience and queried of the Lord in my heart, 'How can all these people get to Heaven?' and in the depths of my soul sounded back the words, 'He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.'
And I saw how men get to Heaven, and how they gain the knowledge of Jesus. He gave Himself for us, and we must give ourselves for Him, and trust and obey, and wait expectantly until He comes to our hearts and reveals Himself to our wondering souls; for we only know Him as He reveals Himself to us, and this will He do when we seek Him with all the heart. He surely will.
Paul said, 'But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ' (Phil. iii. 7), by which he referred to his lineage from Abraham, his exact fulfillment of the law, and his zeal for his church and adds, 'Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him . . that I may know Him . . ' (Phil. iii. 8-10).
People who seek this knowledge without this sacrifice of self may flatter themselves that they know Him, but when the testing time comes, the hours of loneliness and loss, and sickness and pain, and disappointment and perplexity, and thwarted hopes and desolation, they will find their sad mistake. The fire will reveal their dross and sin. But to those who make and abide in this sacrifice, and, fighting the good fight of faith, steadfastly and joyously believe, furnace fires and lions' dens and dungeon cells but disclose more fully the loveliness of His face, the certainty of His presence, the unfailing strength and comforts of His love.
III. This knowledge, to be maintained, must be cultivated, which is done by communion with Him. It is possible for a husband and wife to live together for many years, and instead of increasing, except in the most superficial way, in the knowledge of each other, to grow apart, until after many years they are heart strangers to each other, with separate interests, conflicting desires and tempers and alien affinities. To really know each other they must be bound together by stronger ties than mere legal forms; they must commune with each other, live in each other's hearts, enter into each other's joys, and share each other's sorrows, counsel each other in perplexity, seek the same ends and cultivate the same spirit.
And so to know Jesus, there must be sympathy, fellowship, friendship, constantly cultivated. The heart must turn to Him, pour itself out before Him, share its hopes, its joys, its fears with Him, draw its consolations, its strength, its courage, its sufficiency, its life from Him, trust and obey Him and delight itself in Him as its everlasting portion.
Secret prayer must often bring the soul face to face with Him, and the Bible, God's record of Him, must be daily, diligently and lovingly searched, and faithfully applied to the daily life. Thus shall we know Him, and be 'changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord' (2 Cor. iii. 18), and people shall see and feel Christ in us, 'the hope of glory.'
O Jesus, Saviour, how I bless Thee that Thou didst seek me when lost and far from Thee and altogether unlike Thee, and didst woo me, and win me, and lead me to Thyself; and reveal Thyself to me, and make me to know Thee, and ravish my heart, and humble my pride with the joy and love and glory that that best of all knowledge brings! Still reveal Thyself; O Lord, to Thy people, that they may know Thee, and glorify Thee and be satisfied with Thy loving-kindness, and fill the earth with Thy fame!
The most startling thing about sin is its power to enslave. Jesus said, 'Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin' (John viii. 34), and everyday life and experience prove the saying to be true. Let a boy or a man tell a lie and he is henceforth the servant of falsehood unless freed by a higher power. Let the bank clerk misappropriate funds, let the business man yield to a trick in trade, let the young man surrender to the clamor of lust, let the youth take an intoxicating glass, and henceforth he is a slave. The cord that holds him may be light and silken, and he may boast himself free, but he deceives himself; he is no longer free, he is a bondman.
We may choose the path in life we will take; the course of conduct; the friends with whom we will associate; the habits we will form, whether good or bad. But, having chosen the ways of sin, we are then swept on without further choice with a swiftness and certainty down to hell, just as a man who chooses to go on board a ship is surely taken to the destined harbor, however much he may wish to go elsewhere. We choose and then we are chosen. We grasp and then we are grasped by a power stronger than ourselves -- like the man who takes hold of the poles of an electric battery; he grasps, but he cannot let go at his will; like the man who took the baby boa-constrictor and trained it to coil about him, but when grown it crushed him; like the lion trainer, who put his head in the lion's mouth, but one day the lion closed its mouth and crushed his head as he might an egg-shell.
Just so the sinner is in the grasp of a higher power than his own. He chooses drink, dancing, gambling, worldly pleasure, or human wisdom and fame and power, but soon finds himself captive, only to be surely crushed and ruined for ever, unless delivered by some power outside himself. What shall he do? Is there hope? Is there a deliverer? Yes, thank God, there is. Jesus said : 'If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed' (John viii. 36).
Some years ago, as I was passing out of a church near Boston, one Sunday night, a young man, an artist, stopped me and said, 'Brother Brengle, do you mean to say that Jesus can save a man from all sin?'
'Yes, sir,' I replied, ' that is exactly what I mean to say.'
Well, if He can,' said he, 'I want Him to save me, for I am the victim of a habit that masters me. I struggle and vow and make good resolutions, but fall again, and I want deliverance.'
I pointed him to Jesus. We prayed, and the work was done. Glory to God! He remained in and around Boston for six months, shining and shouting for Jesus, and then went to California. Eleven years later I went to San Francisco. One day, I heard a knock on my door. A young man entered, looked at me and inquired, 'Do you know me?'
I replied, ' Yes, sir; you are the young man that Jesus saved from a bad habit about twelve years ago, near Boston.'
'Yes,' said he, 'and He saves me still.'
Whom the Son maketh free is free indeed.
This freedom is altogether complete. Jesus told the disciples to loose a colt that was tied and bring it to Him. Mark tells us that He loosed the tongue of a dumb man and he spake plain. John tells us that when Lazarus came forth from the grave he was 'bound hand and foot with grave-clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go' (John xi. 44).
Now John uses exactly the same Greek word when he says of Jesus, 'For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy (loose) the works of the devil' (I John iii. 8).
In other words, he whom Jesus makes free is loosed from the works of the devil -- unhitched from them -- as fully as was the colt from the post to which it was tied, or as was Lazarus from his grave clothes. Hallelujah! The sinner is bound to his guilty past, but Jesus forgives and forgets it, and he is no longer subject to the penalty of the broken law.
The converted man is bound to his inbred sin, Jesus looses him and he is free indeed. It is a complete deliverance, a perfect liberty, a Heavenly freedom that Jesus gives, by bringing the soul under the law of liberty, which is the law of love.
William Bramwell writes in one of his letters, 'Almost every night there has been a shaking among the people, and I have seen nearly twenty set at liberty.' Then he adds these heart-searching words: 'I believe I should have seen many more, but I cannot yet find one pleading man. There are many good people, but I have found no wrestlers with God.'
O my Lord, that is what we want! In these days of organization, of societies, leagues, committees, multiplied and diversified, soul-saving and ecclesiastical machinery, together with world-wide opportunity, above all things else we want 'wrestlers with God ' -- men and women who know how to pray and who do pray. Not men and women who say prayers, but who pour out their hearts to Him, who call Him to remembrance and keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth' (Isa. lxii. 6, 7).
Some weeks ago I went to a corps for the Sunday morning meeting, just the one meeting. Not many people knew I was coming. No special preparation was made; snow was on the ground, and less than one hundred people were present. But a wrestler with God was there, and oh, how he prayed! My heart melts within me yet as I think of it. He pleaded with God, he poured out his heart before Him. In his manner and words he was wondrously familiar with God, but it was that sweet familiarity that comes from utter self-abasement and deepest humility, and which enables its possessor to come with unabashed faith right face to face with God and ask great things of Him, because asking only for His honour and the glory of His Son. That morning twenty-four people were at the Penitent-form seeking the Lord!
Several years ago I wrote an article on the prayers of soul-winners. It fell into the hands of two young officers, one of whom is now in India, and they began to pray, and one of them it was reported, prayed all Saturday night. The next day they went to a hard corps, where it had almost been impossible to get anyone to make a start for Heaven, and that day they saw sixty-two people seeking God.
The same article was read by a Captain in a certain corps. She became interested and read it to her soldiers, urging them to greater diligence in prayer. The spirit of prayer fell on the soldiers, and some of them used to ask the Captain for the key and spend half the night in the hall wrestling with God until His power fell on the people, and scores of sinners were converted, and the largest corps in that State was built up, and the whole city was stirred.
The other day, a staff officer in charge of a band of boys told me that a short time before, he went with his boys into a town, and after two hours' wrestling with God, he got the assurance of a revival. In eighteen days they saw one hundred and fifty people seeking salvation, and fifty more seeking the blessing of a clean heart.
More than all else the Lord wants these wrestling, pleading men.
Indeed, there are many good men, but few wrestlers with God. There are many who are interested in the cause of Christ, and who are pleased to see it prosper in their corps, their church, their city, their country. But there are but few who bear the burden of the world upon their souls day and night, who make His cause in every clime their very own, and who, like Eli, would die if the ark of God were taken; who feel it an awful shame and a consuming sorrow, if victory is not continually won in His name.
This spirit of prayer is fed on the Word of God. He who neglects diligent, daily study of and meditation in the Word of God will soon neglect secret prayer, while he who feeds upon it will be constantly pouring out his heart in prayer and praise, and in this as in all things, regular practice will cultivate, increase and perfect the spirit of prayer.
Again, this spirit of prayer will only thrive where faith is active. Lazy, slow faith, quenches prayer.
Prayer must be followed by watchfulness and dead-in-earnest, patient work, else it will soon grow sickly and die.
Light and foolish talking and jesting, pride, over-sensitiveness that leads to suspicion, jealousy, envy, selfish ambition even in Christian work, indulgence of appetite, love of the applause of men and desire for the honour that man can give, an uncharitable spirit, criticism and the like, will surely quench the spirit of prayer.
Jesus says, 'Men ought always to pray, and not to faint' (Luke xviii. 1), while Paul says, 'Pray without ceasing' (i Thess. v.17).
Jesus said, 'I and My Father are one' (John x. 30), and it is His loving purpose that you and I shall be able to say that too, and say it now in this present time, in the face of the devil and in holy, triumphant defiance of a frowning world and of shrinking, trembling flesh.
There is a union with Jesus as intimate as that of the branch and the vine, or as that of the various members of the body with the head, or as that between Jesus and the Father. This is shown by such Scriptures as that in which Jesus said, 'I am the Vine, ye are the branches' (John xv. 5), and in His great intercessory prayer, where He prays, 'that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us' (John xvii. 21).
It is also shown in such passages as that in which Paul, speaking of Jesus, says that God 'hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body' (Eph. i. 22, 23), and again that we 'may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ' (Eph. iv. 15), and again, 'For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one' (Heb. ii. 11). It is also shown clearly in Paul's testimony, 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me' (Gal. ii. 20).
This union is, of course, not physical, but spiritual, and can be known to the one who has entered into it by the direct witness of the Spirit; but it can be known to others only by its effects and fruits in the life.
This spiritual union is mysterious and yet simple, and many of our everyday relationships partially illustrate it. Where two people have interests or purposes the same, they are to that extent one. A Republican or Democrat is one with every other man of his party throughout the whole country in so far as they hold similar principles. This is an imperfect sort of union. And yet it is union. Our General may be in any part of the world, pushing forward his mighty schemes of conquest for Jesus, and every other Salvationist, however humble he may be, just in so far as he has the same spirit and ideals as the General, is one with him. A husband and wife, or a boy and his mother, may be separated by continents and seas, and yet be one. For six months three thousand miles of wild waves rolled between me and a little woman I rejoiced to call 'wife,' but my heart was as absolutely true to her and my confidence in her fidelity was as supreme as now when we sit side by side -- and we were one.
But more perfect, more tender, more holy and infinitely more self-consuming and ennobling and enduring is the union of the soul with Jesus than is any other possible relationship. It is like the union of the bay with the sea. It is a union of nature, a commingling of spirit, an eternal marriage of heart, and soul, and mind.
I. It is a union of will. Jesus said, 'I came down from Heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me' (John vi. 38), and again,' My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me' (John iv. 34). And so it is with those who are one with Jesus. The Psalmist said, 'I delight to do Thy will, O my God' (Ps. xl. 8), and that is the testimony of every one who has entered into this divine union. There may, and doubtless will, be times when this will is hard for flesh and blood, but even then the soul says with its Lord, 'Not my will, but Thine, be done' (Luke xxii. 42), and prays always, 'Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven' (Matt. vi. 10).
In the very nature of things there can be no union with Jesus without this union of will, for there is really very little of a man but his will. That is really all he can call his own. His mind, with all its splendid powers and possibilities, may be reduced to idiocy; he may be robbed of his property. His health, and even his life may be taken away from him, but who can enter into the domain of his will and rob him of that?
I say it reverently, so far as we know, not even God Himself can compel a man's will. God wants to enter into a partnership, an infinitely tender and exalting fellowship, a spiritual marriage with the will of man. He approaches man with tremendous inducements and motives of infinite profit and loss, and yet the man may resist and utterly thwart the loving thought and purpose of God. He can refuse to surrender his will. But surrender he must, if there is to be a union between him and God, for God's will, based as it is on eternal righteousness, founded in infinite knowledge and wisdom and love, is unchangeable, and man's highest good is in a hearty and affectionate surrender to it and a union with it.
II. It is a union of faith -- of mutual confidence and esteem. God trusts him, and he trust God. God can entrust him with the honour of His name and His holy character in the midst of a world of rebels. God can empower him and beautify him with His Spirit and adorn him with all heavenly graces, without any fear that the man will take the glory of these things to himself. God can heap upon him riches and treasures and honors without any fear that the man will use them for selfish ends or prostitute them to unholy purposes.
Again, the man trusts God. He trusts God when he cannot trace Him. He has confidence in the faithfulness and love of God in adversity as well as in prosperity. He does not have to be fed on sweetmeats and live in sunshine and sleep on roses in order to believe that God is for him. God can mingle bitter with all His sweets, and allow the thorns to prick him, and the storm-clouds to roll all about him, and yet he will stubbornly trust on. Like Job, his property may be swept away in a day, and his children die about him, and yet with Job he will say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord' (Job. i. 21), and still trust on.
His own life may be menaced and be filled with weariness and pain, and his faithless wife bid him curse God and die, and yet he will say, 'What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?' (Job. ii. 10), and still trust on.
His friends may gather about him and attack his Christian integrity and character, and foolishly assault the foundations of his faith by assuring him that if he were right with God these calamities could never befall him. Yet he will look up from his ash-heap and out of his utter wreck and ruin and desolation, cry, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' (Job. xiii. 15). And though communities or nations conspire against him, he will say with David, 'The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? . . Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident' (Ps. xxvii. 1, 3).
A woman said to me the other day, 'I dread to think of the end of the world. It makes me afraid.' But though worlds, like drunken men, tumble from their orbits, and though the universe crash into ruin, the child-like confidence of the man who trusts God will enable him to sing with the Psalmist, 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof ' (Ps. xlvi. 1-3).
God can be familiar with such a man. He can take all sorts of liberties with his property, his reputation, his position, his friends, his health, his life, and allow devils and men to taunt him; but the man unchangeably fixed in his estimate of God's holy character and everlasting love, will still triumphantly trust on.
III. It is a union of suffering, of sympathy. Once when I was passing through what seemed to me a perfect hell of spiritual temptation and sufferings, the Lord supported me with this text, 'In all their affliction He was afflicted' (Isa. lxiii. 9). The prophet refers in these words to the afflictions of the children of Israel in Egypt and in the wilderness after their escape from the hard bondage of Pharaoh, and he says in all their sufferings Jesus suffered with them.
Let her child be racked with pain and scorched with fever and choked with croup, but the mother suffers more than the child; and so let the people of God be sore tempted and tried, and Jesus agonizes with them. He is the world's great Sufferer. His passion is for ever. He once tasted death for every man. He suffers still with every man. There is not a cry of anguish, nor a heartache, nor a pang of spiritual pain in all the world that does not reach His ear and touch His heart, and stir all His mighty sympathies. But especially does He suffer and sympathize with His own believing children. And in turn the man who is one with Jesus suffers and sympathizes with Jesus.
Any injury to the cause of Christ causes him more pain than any personal loss. He mourns over the desolations of Zion more than over the loss of his property. The lukewarmness of Christians cuts him to the heart. The cry of the heathen for the gospel of salvation is to him the cry of the travail, the agony of Jesus Himself. He gladly says, with David, 'The reproaches of them that reproached Thee have fallen upon me' (Ps. lxix. 9). He esteems the reproach of Christ greater treasure than all the pleasure and power and profits of this world combined. As the true wife gladly suffers privation and shame and reproach with her husband whom she knows to be righteous and honorable, so he who is one with Jesus rejoices that he is 'counted worthy to suffer shame for His name' (Acts v.41). He suffers and sympathizes with Jesus.
IV. It is a union of purpose. The great mass of men serve God for reward; they do not want to go to Hell; they want to go to Heaven. And that is right. But it is not the highest motive. There is a union with Jesus in which the soul is not so anxious to escape Hell as it is to be free from sin, and in which Heaven is not so desirable as holiness. The soul in this state thinks very little about its reward. His smile of approval is its Heaven. The housekeeper wants wages, but the wife never thinks of such a thing. She serves for very love. She is one in purpose with her husband. His triumphs are hers. His losses are hers. All he has is hers and she is his. And, as the Apostle says, 'For all things are yours, . . . and ye are Christ's' (I Cor. iii. 21, 23). The will of God is the supreme good of this man. Some one has said that if two angels were sent into this world, one of whom was to rule it and the other was to sweep street crossings, that the sweeper would be so satisfied with his Heavenly Father's will that he would not exchange places with the ruler.
The purpose of Jesus is to save the world and uphold the honor of God, and establish truth in the lives, the hearts, the laws, the customs of men, and this is the purpose of this man.
In order to do this, Jesus sacrificed every earthly prospect, and laid down His life, and this man does the same. He does not stand in the presence of the world's great crying need and hesitate and wonder if the Lord really wants him to give a few cents or dollars for the salvation of the heathen. He does not quibble as to whether God really requires him to make the sacrifice and leave his dog-kennel and chicken coop and barn and house furnished a little below the standard of beauty and luxury set by his ungodly neighbors. He does not struggle and kick against the pricks when he feels God would have him forsake business and preach the gospel. He would loathe himself to have such mean thoughts.
He does not say, 'If I were rich,' but out of the abundance of his poverty he pours into the lap of the world's need, and like the widow he gladly gives all his living to save the world. When God looks about for a man to stand up for His honour and warn a wicked world and offers terms of peace to sinners, this man does not say, 'If I were only educated or gifted I would go,' but with a heart flaming with love for Jesus and the world He has bought with His Blood, cries out, 'Here am I, send me.' It can be said of him as it was of his Lord 'The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up' (John ii. 17).
A young carpenter in New England, whose name was unknown, came every few months to the Divisional Headquarters, and gave a hundred or more dollars for the work of God in India, or some other portion of the world. He was one with Jesus in His purpose to save the world.
On a bitter wintry day a poor woman came to John Wesley's apartment in Oxford University. She was shivering with cold. Wesley asked her why she did not dress more warmly She replied that she had no warmer garments. When she was gone, Wesley looked at the pictures on his walls, and said to himself in substance, 'If my Lord should come, would He be pleased to see these on my walls when His poor are suffering with cold?' Then he sold the pictures and gave to the poor. And in this way began that mighty and life-long beneficence and almost matchless self-sacrifice that has led to the blessing of millions upon millions of men.
O my God, that Thy people might see what union with Thee really means.
Do you ask, 'How can I enter into this union?'
1. Read God's promises until you see that it is possible. Especially read and ponder over the fifteenth and seventeenth chapters of the Gospel according to John.
2. Read and ponder over the commandments until you see that it is necessary. Without this union here there will be no union in eternity.
3. Make the sacrifice that is necessary in order to become one with Jesus.
The woman who will be the true wife of a man must be prepared to give up all other lovers, leave her home, and forsake father, mother, brothers and sisters, change her name, and utterly identify herself her prospects for life, her all, with the man she loves. And so must you be prepared to identify yourself utterly with Christ, to be hated, despised, rejected, crucified of men; but armed, baptized with the Holy Ghost, and crowned of God.
Does your heart consent to this, my brother? If so, make a perpetual covenant with your Lord just now. Do it intelligently. Do it with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, and God will seal you for His own. Do not waver. Do not doubt. Do not cast away your confidence because of your feelings or lack of feelings, but stand by your facts. Walk by faith, and God will soon prove His ownership in you in a way that will be altogether satisfactory to both your head and your heart, and convincing to men and devils.
Man is the supreme product in this world, and the struggle with adversity and evil forces is a part of God's plan of developing him for mansions and thrones and crowns and kingdoms in the world to come. Therefore we must believe and hope and love and struggle on. 'For in due season we shall reap, if we faint not' (Gal. vi. 9). We must beware of discouragement and from running away from the conflict. If we flee we shall perish for ever. If we fight to the finish, we shall conquer though we die.
Nothing can come to us that God does not permit, and which by His grace cannot be made to work out our higher good. God wants to build us up in holy character, but holy character is for eternity and is many sided, and therefore must be subjected to manifold testings. We must be taught by both pain and pleasure, we must learn how to abound and to suffer need. And in this we shall often be plunged from the heights to the depths, and hurled from the depths to the heights again.
Today the sun shines and the world is full of beauty, and life seems a holiday, but tomorrow the storm-clouds lower and the beauty is hid, and we are prone to fear that the sun will shine no more. Today men look upon us and smile and shout 'Hosanna! but tomorrow they frown and gnash their teeth and cry out, 'Crucify Him.' Today we have plenty and can feed the multitudes of the hungry with what we have to spare; tomorrow we ourselves are hungry and know not where to turn for bread. Today our pulse is full and we feel strong to chase a thousand; tomorrow we are feeble and broken and life is a burden. Today we pray and God hears us before we call and answers while we are yet speaking; tomorrow we plead and weep and moan and the heavens seem shut, and the mocking tempter whispers, 'Where is thy God now?'
Today Job is the richest man in all the East, and his sons are the strongest and his daughters are the fairest in the land; tomorrow he is a pauper and childless. Today Joseph is the pet of his father's heart and home; tomorrow he is under the lash and is toiling and galled with the slave gang's chain. Today David weds the king's daughter; tomorrow the king, with murderous hate, hurls his javelin at him and chases him over and around the mountains as he would a partridge or a wolf. Today Daniel sits next to the king in the midst of the hundred and twenty princes and counselors; tonight he is in the lions' den.
What means all this uncertainty and mystery of pleasure and pain, of hope and despair, of favor and disfavor? Ah, Hallelujah! it means that God wants us for Himself. Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth (disciplineth)' (Heb. xii. 6). It means that He sees there is something in us worth His while to educate, and He is educating us.
A friend of mine owned a gold mine. He promised the Lord every penny of profit from it. He made nothing, but lost twenty thousand pounds in that mine. He went to the Lord about it. The Lord said, 'I am educating you, and I can afford to spend millions to do so.' My friend cried out, 'O Lord, if Thou canst afford it, I can, for Thou knowest I want to be educated in Thy school!'
God would make us strong in faith, mighty in prayer, unfailing in hope, content whatever our lot, perfect in love, fearless in our devotion to truth, lovers of men and more than conquerors.
He would wean us from man, in whom there is no help, to Himself; He would detach us from the world and fasten us by every tie to Heaven. When Job shall have learned his lesson, which is not for himself alone, but for ten thousand times ten thousand other perplexed sufferers as well, he shall have his riches doubled and restored to him again with stronger sons and fairer daughters.
Joseph shall leave the prison cell and slave gang's chain and sit as favorite in Pharaoh's palace and rule his empire. The king shall die by his own hand, and David shall sit upon his throne. Daniel shall escape from the lions' den and rise to higher honour and esteem than he knew before. Thus shall it be with the man who does not kick against the pricks, but nestles low under God's hand and rejoices and obeys and trusts and doubts not while God educates.
The secret of peace and victory under all these circumstances is 'a little more faith in Jesus.'
In God's school we learn through the heart rather than through the head, and by faith rather than logic. 'Lord, I believe! ' Amen!
One day John Wesley was to dine with a rich man. One of his preachers, who was present, said, 'Oh, sir, what a sumptuous dinner! Things are very different to what they were formerly. There is but little self-denial now among the Methodists.' Wesley pointed to the table and quietly remarked, 'My brother, there is a fine opportunity for self-denial.'
Denial that is not self-imposed is not self-denial. It might have been self-denial on the part of the host to present a less sumptuous table, but there would then have been no self-denial on the part of the guest. Adverse circumstances or selfish people may deprive us of the luxuries and even of the necessities of life. But our deprivation would not be self-denial. We deny ourselves only when we voluntarily give up that which we like, and which we might lawfully keep. And I have no doubt that God often allows us luxuries and abundance, not that we may consume them upon ourselves, but rather that we may deny ourselves joyfully for His dear sake, and the sake of the needy ones about us.
Often when urging upon well-to-do people the importance of denying themselves in dress and furniture and equipage and the luxuries of life, I have had them turn to me and say, 'If God did not mean me to have these things and enjoy them, why did He give me the means to get them?' And, poor things! they thought they had crushed me with their logic.
But the answer is simple. God meant them to be stewards, but they considered themselves owners. God meant them to have the greater blessedness of giving, for 'it is more blessed to give than to receive' (Acts xx. 35), but they contented themselves with what they considered the blessedness of receiving. God meant them to pass on His bounty to the multitudes of needy ones about them, but they dammed up and diverted the streams of God's mercy and reveled in what they considered God's special favor and license to unlimited self-indulgence, while the multitudes for whom God really intended these blessings perished of want. They show unmistakably by their conduct that they have not the Spirit of Jesus, Who, 'though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich' (2 Cor. viii. 9), and on the Judgment Day they will surely be found wanting, and woeful will be their condemnation.
Why does God give a woman wealth? That she may spend it on feathers and flowers, and silks and satins, and luxurious apartments? Nay, but that she may spend it upon those who are hungry and cold and dying of bitter want.
Why does God give a mother brilliant, manly sons and lovely daughters? That she may enjoy their presence and train them for society and a career before the world? Nay, but that she may train them to be martyrs, slum angels, missionaries to the heathen and to the barefooted, debauched, neglected, devil-ridden children of the saloons and brothels. Oh, as I have looked at my sweet baby boy and girl and realized the almost infinite difference between their training and that of millions of little ones who have the same rights in Jesus Christ that my children have; as I have realized the tender care with which they are unceasingly watched and sheltered and trained for God and righteousness, my heart has poured itself out to God in unutterable longings. Not that they might be great, but that they might be good; not that they might fill the earth with their fame, but that they might utterly sacrifice themselves for those who have never known the love and instruction of a sainted mother and a Christian home.
Why does God give a man power and influence and fame? That he may be great in the eyes of men and lord it over his fellows and clothe himself in purple and fine linen and live luxuriously? Nay; but that he may throw every jot and tittle of his power and influence into the scale for righteousness of conduct and holiness of character and hasten the utter establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth.
Self-denial almost ceases to be self-denial when practiced from such a high and holy motive. It is the denial of the lower, base, earthly self; and the gratification of the higher and Heavenly self. It is a turning from earth to Heaven; from that which is fleeting and temporal to that which is eternal. It enlightens the mind, ennobles the character, perfects the heart and brings us into fellowship with Jesus. Bless God! Hallelujah!
'If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself; and take up his cross daily, and follow Me' (Luke ix. 23).
I once read an illustration of Chas. Finney's that has had a marked influence on my life. In substance, it was this: 'Suppose a man were traveling in a foreign land, and, being waylaid and captured by brigands, he were sold into slavery, and a great ransom demanded for his release. At last, word reaches his anxious wife, informing her of his sad state, and the only condition upon which he could possibly be restored to her. His bondage is cruel, and is fast wearing his life away, but there is no way of escape except the ransom be paid.
'All the love and affection and pity and sympathy of the wife's heart are aroused to the uttermost. She fears for her loved one's life, she can feel the galling chain, she can see the cruel lash of the slave-driver, she can realize the heart-loneliness and bitter bondage of her darling, and she wishes she could fly to his side and share his burden and his sorrow, and no sacrifice seems too great to gain his liberty. She sells all her property, she lays her case before her friends and neighbors and they assist her, and yet she falls far below the amount of the ransom demanded. She labors and toils early and late, and hastens to earn what money she can to add to what she already has; she denies herself every luxury, and almost begrudges every necessity of life. She thinks of the hard fare of her husband, the coarse, scanty food, the miserable hovel, the hard, filthy bed, the heavy, unremitting labour; and the thought of selfish gratification is painful to her.
At last, a stranger hears her sad story, visits her, and gives her twenty pounds. She does not for an instant think: "Now I shall be able to get me a new dress and bonnet in the latest fashion, or get a nice piece of furniture for my rooms, or furnish my table better than in the past." No, no. She burst into tears. She thanks the giver, and she cries: "Now I shall be able to ransom my love, and soon I shall have him in my arms again."'
Now, when the Christian whose heart throbs with love for the Saviour, realizes that Jesus puts Himself in the place of the prisoner in his lonely, dark cell; the slave toiling without recompense under the lash, with the galling, clanking chain; the sick one on the bed of sleeplessness and pain; the heathen, in his blindness and ignorance and superstition and fear; the helpless orphan and the poor widow, and the outcast sinner, and says, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me' (Matt. xxv. 40), he must deny himself.
When he sees Jesus, lonely and full of toil and sorrow, again, in the person of these suffering ones, he finds it easier to deny himself than to indulge himself; and self-sacrifice becomes a joy, while self-indulgence becomes a grief and a moral impossibility.
It is for this reason that I deny myself. It is for Jesus, and the souls for whom He died. For years I lived for myself. All my hopes and ambitions centered in myself; even my desire to go to Heaven was more a desire to escape from the pains of Hell than to enjoy the society of Jesus and redeemed souls, and to do good and be holy. But at last all this was changed! My sins became a burden. I loathed myself. The righteous indignation and wrath of God against evil-doers took hold upon me, and I feared I should be lost for ever. But I found deliverance through Jesus; through Him I found forgiveness of sins and freedom from the bondage of selfishness. He did not upbraid me, but loved me freely, and won my heart, and filled me with a confidence and love toward Him that were unutterable.
With that love to Him came a love for the whole world of saints and sinners. At first I groped about somewhat blindly to know how to express that love, but true love will always finally express itself in uttermost self-sacrifice for its object, and in so doing adds fuel to its flame. Since then, I have found it easier to give than to withhold. I began by giving one-tenth of my income, but I could not stop there. Any case of need, any appeal for help, wrung my heart with an anguish of desire to give, until if it were not for the foresight of a prudent wife, who gets me to lay up money with her for a needed suit, I should frequently be without suitable clothes to wear.
This is not natural. It is spiritual-supernatural. In the old days when I had plenty of money, I can remember that it was rather grudgingly that I subscribed two dollars a year to the support of the Gospel! I should be decidedly ashamed to tell this, but for the fact that I am now 'a new creature,' and an honest confession is good for the soul.
How can I indulge myself while others suffer? How can I hoard up wealth and this world's goods while others perish of want? Why can I not trust Him to supply my wants, who feeds the sparrows with unfailing supply? Why did He speak so, if it was not to encourage one to cast abroad with an open, liberal hand and trust Him for daily bread?
I want the 'full strength of trust to prove,' and how can I have such trust if I never once in my life give away all I have, and boldly trust Him to supply my need and confound a taunting devil? I have done it; glory to God! and He has not failed me. Instead of finding my feet on quicksands, I found them on granite, and instead of starvation, I found plenty. Bless God for ever! Oh, there is a divine philosophy in self-denial that the wise folks of this world never dream of!
God is the source of all spiritual power, and should be sought for constantly in two ways -- by meditation in His word, and by secret prayer -- if we would have and retain power.
Several years ago I was 'specialing' at a New England corps, commanded by a rather gifted Ensign. He appeared to be much impressed by my familiarity with and use of the Bible, and one day remarked that he would be willing to give a fortune, if he had it, for an equal knowledge of the Scriptures. He was much taken back when I assured him that he was quite mistaken as to the strength of his desire, for if he really wanted to get acquainted with his Bible, he could easily do so by spending the hour and more that he gave to the newspapers each day, in prayerful study of God's word.
Men are everywhere crying and sighing for power and the fullness of the Spirit, but neglecting the means by which this power and fullness are secured.
The saintly Fletcher said, 'An eager attention to the doctrines of the Holy Spirit made me in some degree overlook the medium by which that Spirit works; I mean the word of truth, by which that heavenly fire warms us. I rather expected lightning than a steady fire by means of fuel.'
Glad, believing, secret prayer, and patient, constant meditation in the word of God will keep the sanctified man full of power, full of love and faith, full of God.
But neglect of these results in spiritual weakness and dryness, joyless labour and fruitless toil, and, unless a remedy is found, spiritual death will surely, if not swiftly, follow. If any reader of this has lost the power and sweetness of his experience through neglect of these simple means, he will not receive the blessing back again by working himself up into a frenzy of agony in prayer, but rather by quieting himself and talking plainly to God about it, and then hearkening diligently to what God says in His word and by His Spirit. Then peace and power will soon return, and need never be lost any more. Hallelujah!
Most people give about ten hours a day to their bodies for eating, and drinking, and dressing, and sleeping, and maybe a few minutes to their souls. We ought to give at least one solid hour every day to restful, loving devotion with Jesus over our open Bible, for the refreshing, developing and strengthening of our spiritual life. If we would do this, God would have an opportunity to teach, correct, inspire and comfort us, reveal His secrets to us, and make spiritual giants of us. If we will not do this, we shall surely be spiritual weaklings all our days, however we may wish to be strong.
The devil will rob us of this hour if we do not steadfastly fight for it. He will say, 'Go and work,' before we have gained the spiritual food that strengthens us for work. The devil's piety and eager interest in God's work is amazing when he sees a man upon his knees! It is then that he transforms himself into an angel of light, and woe be to the soul that is deceived by him at this point!
I do thank God that, for many years, as a Field Officer, a Divisional Officer, and a Spiritual Special, He has helped me to resist the devil at this point, and to take time with Him until my soul has been filled with His glory and strength, and made triumphant over all the power of the enemy. Glory to God!
'And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified '(Acts xx. 32).
Peter the Great, Czar of all Russia, and in some respects the mightiest monarch of his day, used to make shoes like a common cobbler, that he might enter into sympathy with his people and help them to realize that labour is not menial, but honorable and full of dignity. It was a great stoop from the throne of Russia to a cobbler's bench, but I will tell you of a greater.
We are told that God made the worlds by His Son, and that the Son upholds 'all things by the word of His power' (Heb. i. 2-3).
John tells us that 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made' (John i. 1, 3). He is the Master Workman whom the Heaven of heavens cannot contain, inhabiting eternity (Isa. lvii. 15), stretching forth the heavens as a curtain, making mighty systems of sun, moon and stars, creating worlds and hurling them into the awful abysses of space and causing them to move, not in chaotic confusion, but in more than clock-like harmony, by the silent, resistless energy of all-embracing laws.
He scoops out the bed of mighty oceans, He tosses aloft hoary mountains and stretches forth vast prairies and sandy deserts. He peoples the worlds with living creatures, until the imagination is almost paralyzed by the contemplation of the wonders of His handiwork. He is Maker of the infinitely great and the infinitely small. He made the fixed star billions of miles away and millions of times bigger than the earth on which we live, and He made the tiny insect so small that it can be seen only by the aid of the microscope, and He fitted that little mite with its perfect organs of digestion, respiration and reproduction.
He garnished the heavens and stretches forth the rainbow, and He painted the insect's wings and polished the lens of its little eye. Oh, He is a wondrous Workman!
But John tells us 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth' (John i. 14). And another writer: 'Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; . . . For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren . . . ' (Heb. ii. 14, 16, 17).
And when He clothed Himself with our flesh, when He hid His dignity under the humble garb of our humanity, He did not come as an aristocrat, but He took a lowly place in a peasant's home.
He alone of all the children of men chose His mother, and He chose one who was poor and humble and unknown amongst men. In His mighty descent from the bosom of the Father to the womb of the Virgin, He might have stopped at the throne of some mighty earthly empire, or among the rich and lordly; but instead of that He went down past thrones and palaces, and was born in a stable in a manger among the cattle, that He might not be other than the lowliest of His brethren. He came to a life of obscurity, of poverty and of toil, and He who made the worlds and upheld them by the word of His power, learned to be a carpenter.
The artists, when they paint a picture of Jesus, paint a face of almost womanly softness, and would picture Him to us as a delicate man, with hair parted in the middle and with patrician hands and tapering fingers; but the Bible rather pictures Him to us a horny-handed man of toil, whose back was bent to labour, and who earned His bread by the sweat of his brow. Bless Him! Indeed, 'He was made like unto His brethren.' He became brother to the humblest son of toil, and since He has been a working man, He has put a dignity on labour that exceeds the dignity of kings and queens.
Jesus was a working man, and as such understands working men. He knows their weakness, He has been pinched with their poverty, He can sympathize with them in their long hours of toil that bars them from that culture of mind which, no doubt, many crave. He understands. But while He suffered and toiled and was tempted and tried as His brethren, and was debarred from the luxuries of wealth and the culture of schools, yet He was not debarred from culture of the heart and fellowship with His Father. He could be pure, He could be holy, He could be loving and patient and kind and true, and He did this, dying for us to escape from our sins and become men after the pattern of Himself
We may not be great, but we may be good. We may not be able to erect a Brooklyn bridge or build a St. Peter's, at Rome, but we can do our little task well and in the spirit of Jesus. We can be kind and patient, and faithful and true. We can become partakers of His Spirit, and do our work as unto Him, and by-and-by we shall enter into His glory, and we shall not be rewarded for the greatness of the work we have done, but rather for the faithfulness with which we have done it. The carpenter who has built houses; the blacksmith who has shod horses; the man who has carried a hod; the boy who has blacked boots; the clerk who has toiled over the ledger; the farmer who has plowed the fields and fed cattle: if he has done it faithfully, with his heart washed in the Blood and full of love for the Master and his fellow men, in the spirit of prayer and thanksgiving, will have as abundant an entrance into the everlasting Kingdom of Jesus the Carpenter, and will have a place as near the Throne as the man who preached the Gospel to thousands of governed states and ruled kingdoms.
'after the death of Abraham, . . . God blessed his son Isaac' (Gen. xxv. 11).
We must die! We feel that we must live, must live for the sake of our sons, for the people of God whom we love as our own souls, and for the perishing sinners about us. We are prone to magnify our own importance, to think no one's faith is so mighty, no one's industry is quite so fruitful, no one's love quite so unfailing, no one's presence quite so necessary as ours. But after we die the blessed God will still live, His years fail not, and He will bless our sons and carry on His Work. Glory to God!
Have faith in God, brother! Trust the Lord, sister! He will bless your children after you are dead.
Be sure you have given your children to God -- given them not in order that they may be saved from hell, but that they may be saved from sin, from enmity to God, from pride and worldliness and selfishness and unbelief; saved that they may be saviors of others, and God will bless them when you are dead.
Do not choose ease and wealth and worldly power and fame for your children, but rather choose the lowly way of the Cross. Jesus was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. He was despised and rejected of men. Ask the Lord with all your heart to make your children like their Master, and to lead them in the paths He trod, and when you are dead God will remember your prayers and bless them.
Some years ago I was talking with a young lady whom God marvelously blessed and used in His work. Each of us had lost both of our parents when we were quite young. They were godly parents, who had given us to the Lord, and then, when it seemed we most needed their counsel and discipline, they died. But God took us up and blessed us. As we talked about the past we could see the hand of God, through corrections and faithful Fatherly chastenings, shaping our whole lives, and bringing blessings out of what seemed the greatest calamities, until we were lost in wonder at His wisdom and goodness, and our mouths were filled with praise.
If our parents could have foreseen how God would tenderly care for us and bless us, how it would have softened their dying pillows!
Ah! there is the secret cause of our trouble that we cannot foresee! The more reason then why we should trust. 'We walk by faith, not by sight,' therefore we should trust. 'God is love,' therefore we should trust. 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength' (Isa. xxvi. 3-4).
God may have blessed Isaac before the death of Abraham, but I am glad we are told that He blessed him after the death of Abraham. God has a memory; He does not forget. God is faithful; He breaks no promises. God is good; He delights to show mercy and bestow blessings.
Be faithful yourself. God said of Abraham, 'For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him' (Gen. xviii. 1 9).
Do your part well as you know how. Search the Bible to know what God will have you do, and do it.
Pray for wisdom. 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, . . . and it shall be given him.' (Jas. i. 5). God will not upbraid you for your ignorance, if you want to be wise; therefore pray for wisdom.
Pray for patience. If you plant corn, it does not spring up the next morning. It lies in the ground for many days, and dies; but God's eye is upon it, and He will bless it, and cause it to bring forth fruit. And so will it be with your seed-sowing in the hearts of your children; but you must have patience. Pray for patience. If you are patient and have faith in God, and are not walking by sight, you will continue to pray in hope, and to sow 'the seed which is the word of God,' though it seems to be utterly useless. It is not useless. Glory to God! Though you may die, yet after you are dead, God will bless your Isaacs. He surely will!
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise be thankful unto Him, and bless His name' (Ps. C. 4).
In every thing give thanks' (i Thess. v. 18).
As lilies of the valley pour forth perfume, so good hearts pour forth thanksgiving. No mercy is too small to provoke it, no trial too severe to restrain it. As Samson got honey from the carcass of the lion he slew, and as Moses got water from the flinty rock, so the pure in heart are possessed of a sort of heavenly alchemy, a divine secret by which they get blessings out of all things, and for which there is giving of thanks.
A jubilant old saint in Boston came down to hoary hairs in deepest poverty and had to live on the charity of such friends as God raised up, and He raised them up. Bless His name! He who fed Elijah in the wilderness by the brook and in the poverty-stricken home of the desolate widow, found a way to feed His child in Boston. God is not blind, nor deaf; nor indifferent, nor indigent. He is not 'the silent God' that some people in their self-conceit and wayward unbelief suppose. He knows how to be silent, and how to hide Himself from the proud in heart. But He cannot hide Himself anywhere in His big universe from childlike faith and pure, obedient, longsuffering, patient love. Hallelujah!
This old saint believed, obeyed and rejoiced in God, and He raised up friends to supply her needs. Now, one day one of them went upstairs with a dinner for the old lady, and as she came to the door, she heard a voice within, and thinking there was a visitor present, and delicately wishing that her charity should not be a cause of embarrassment, she stopped and listened. It was the voice of the old Christian at her table, and she was saying, 'O Father, I do thank Thee with all my heart for Jesus and this crust.'
To her thankful heart that crust was more than a feast and a well-filled cupboard and a fat bank account to him who has not a trustful, thankful spirit.
I heard of a rich man the other day who killed himself because he feared he might become poor. He was poor. Jesus said, 'A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth' (Luke xii. 15), and no more does a man's real riches; but rather in the spirit with which he possesses them.
Heaven is not parceled off into lots and estates. The angels own nothing and yet they possess all things and are eternally rich. And so with the true saint that trusts God and loves and obeys and is thankful.
The stars in their courses fight for him. He is now in harmony with the elemental and heavenly forces and eternal laws of the universe of God, and all things work together for his good. Not a hair of his head falls without God's notice. Not a desire rises in his heart but God's great heart throbs responsive to fulfill it, for does not the Psalmist say, 'He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him'? (Ps. cxlv. 19). Not simply the fervent prayer, but the timid, secret desire that has not been voiced in prayer, shall be fulfilled. And how dare God do that? Because holy fear will not allow a desire that is not in harmony with God's character and the interests of His Kingdom.
Napoleon gave blank checks on his bank to one of his marshals. One complained to the Emperor that the drafts made were enormous and should not be allowed. 'Let him alone; he trusts and honors me, and I will trust him,' said Napoleon. God puts all things at the command of His saints, and trusts them while He asks them to trust Him. Why, then, should we not be thankful?
Nothing will keep the heart so young and banish carking care so quickly and smooth the wrinkles from the brow so certainly, and fill the life with such beauty, and make one's influence so fragrant and gracious and shed abroad such peace and gladness as this sweet spirit of thankfulness.
This spirit can and should be cultivated. There is much in the lot of each of us to be thankful for. We should thank Him for personal liberty, and for the measure of health we have. There is a good old soul up the Hudson who for thirty years or thereabouts has been lying in bed, while her bones have softened, and she is utterly helpless and always in pain, but she praises and praises and praises God.
We should thank Him that we are not insane, that our poor minds are not unbalanced and rent and torn by horrid nightmares and dread and nameless terrors and deep despair and wild and restless ravings. We should thank Him for the light and blessings of civilization, past mercies, present comforts and future prospects; for food, with the appetite to eat it, and the power to digest it, raiment to wear, books to read; for the Church, The Salvation Army, the open Bible, the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Fountain opened for sin and uncleanness, the glorious possibility of escape from the penalty and the power, the consequences and the character of sin; for home and friends, and Heaven bending over all, with God's sweet invitation, 'Come!' Truly, we have much to thank God for, but if we would be thankful, we must set our hearts to do it with a will. We grumble and complain without thought, but we must think to give thanks. To murmur and repine is natural, to give thanks -- to really give thanks -- is supernatural, is gracious, is a spirit not earth-born, but comes down from God out of Heaven, and yet, like all things from God, it can be cultivated.
David said, 'I will praise Thee' (Ps. ix. 1). He put his will into it. Daniel 'prayed, and gave thanks' (Dan. vi. 10) three times a day. David outdid Daniel, for he says, 'Seven times a day do I praise Thee' (Ps. cxix. 164).
Know this, that if you are not thankful your heart is yet bad, your soul unclean, for good hearts and pure souls are thankful. So go to the root of the matter and get rid of sin and get filled with the Holy Spirit. Flee to Jesus for riddance from the unholy spirit, and the subtle selfishness that possesses you.
People who live in the midst of foul odors and harsh sounds cease to smell and hear them, but if for a while they could slip away to the sweet air and holy quiet of the woods and fields, and then return to their noxious and noisy homes, their quickened senses would be shocked by their noisome surroundings. And so selfish people often live in themselves so long that they do not realize their selfishness and sin, except as light from Heaven falls upon them. But when God's sweet breath blows over them and His light shines into them, then they are amazed at themselves. When some humble saint, full of faith and joy and the Holy Ghost, crosses their path, if they will but look, they may see themselves as in a glass.
But especially is this so when we look at Jesus; and if we continue, the look will transform us. It is of this that the Apostle speaks when he says, 'But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord' (2 Cor. iii. 18). And when this change has taken place, the joy of Jesus will be poured into the heart and praise will well up and bubble forth in thanksgiving as an unfailing fountain of sweet waters, filling it with joy, and earth, your little corner of earth, with peace, and gladdening all who see and hear. But if that change has not fully taken place in you, do not withhold the praise that is God's due, but think of His loving-kindness and tender and multiplied mercies, and begin to thank Him now, and your very giving of thanks will help to hasten the change. Begin now! Praise the Lord!
The other evening I asked a Captain for the story of her conversion. She told me that a few lines in a little book showed her the way to Jesus. She saw through these lines that if she would ask God to save her and would 'not flinch' in her faith, He would do it. So she prayed, and then waited for Jesus to come. She was very dark. She lived in a country that was full of spiritual darkness, and there was no one to teach her, and in her ignorance she thought Jesus would come in bodily presence, so she put her room in order and earnestly waited and watched for Him to open the door and come in. But He did not come.
Then she remembered that God had promised to answer the prayers of two or three; so she wrote a note to a minister to come and pray with her. But something seemed to whisper to her that this was doubting God, that she was trusting the minister's prayer and not the Lord, and this was doubt. So she tore the note up, and, looking to God, without flinching, she trusted, when suddenly Jesus came, not in bodily presence, but in Spirit, and her whole soul was flooded with light and love and the glory of God. Bless the Lord for ever!
Now I fully believe that it is just at this point that many souls draw back and fail. They flinch at the final test of faith. Just when all is on the altar and there is not one thing more to do but to stand still and see God come, 'an evil heart of unbelief' draws back, or Satan comes suggesting something more to do. And the soul, dropping its eyes from the bending heavens, gets into the endless treadmill of endeavor to either help itself or to get somebody to help it, and so misses the prize and never finds God, or rather never gives God a chance to show forth His saving power, and make His presence known.
While Faith stands waiting and trembling, taunted by mocking devils and all manner of suggestions to doubt, it is hard not to flinch; but flinching will prove as fatal to the revelation of Jesus to your souls as a movement will prove to your picture when before the photographer's camera. Be still in your heart and trust, look and wait, and Jesus will surely come. There may be ceaseless outward activity; but this inward soul-quiet and watchfulness and faith are absolutely necessary to the revelation of the Lord.
Abraham slew his birds and beasts and laid them on the altar and waited expectantly for God to come, and God came.
Solomon built his temple, placed everything in order, then prayed and waited, when lo! the glory of God filled the temple till the priests could not stand in His presence.
Elijah slew his bullock, placed it on the altar, poured water over it as a final work of faith, then prayed and waited till the heavens opened and fire fell and consumed his sacrifice.
The disciples prayed and waited on God for ten days; then suddenly the Holy Ghost fell on them in tongues of fire that filled the world with light.
If these men had flinched when the time came to steadfastly look to God and believe, the world would never have heard of them.
A ministerial friend of mine lost the blessing of full salvation. I found him in this state and dealt faithfully with him. He went to his church that night, and told his people his condition, and called them around the altar with him; but he failed to get the blessing. A wise friend of mine, who happened to be present, explained his failure by saying: 'He didn't stay on his knees long enough. He was in too big a hurry. He didn't give God time to deal with him.' The fact was, he flinched when the time to steadily watch and wait and trust came.
The Lord God declared by the mouth of Isaiah, 'He that believeth shall not make haste' (Isa. xxviii. 16). It is in this attitude of unflinching watching and waiting that faith and patience are made perfect; and when this perfection is attained the Lord will come suddenly to His temple, even to the heart that has waited for Him.
Myriads are the souls that can say with the royal Psalmist: 'I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God' (Ps. xi. 1-3)
Once in one of our holiness meetings I met a sister who was evidently in great spiritual distress, with intense hunger for full salvation. After a few moments' conversation, I felt assured that she was ready to accept the blessing, and so we knelt in prayer; but for some reason our prayers did not prevail. I then asked her if she was sure her consecration was complete. She at once declared it was; she was willing to die for it.
'Then,' said I, 'sister, there are three things you must believe. First, do you believe God is able to sanctify you wholly?'
'Second. Do you believe He is willing?'
'Then, with your perfect consecration, there is but one other step to take, and the wonder work of grace will be done. Will you believe that He doeth it? For the promise is: "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive (are receiving) them, and ye shall have them' (Mark xi. 24). Will you believe this?'
'But I don't feel that He does.'
'That makes no difference, sister; your faith must precede all feeling.'
'But I can't believe that He has done it.'
'I don't ask you to believe that He has done it, but that He is doing it, in answer to your present faith. You must believe that He doeth it, if ever you are to get the witness of the Spirit. Say, "I will believe God."
'Well, I will try.'
'No, that won't do; you must believe, not try to believe.'
'Well, I am determined to struggle on till the blessing comes.'
'No, sister, your struggles will do no good unless you believe; and, until you do this, you are making God a liar.'
'But won't I be lying to say I will believe, when I don't feel like it?'
'No, for "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. x. 17), and the word of God to you is, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John xv. 3). "Ask, and ye shall receive" ' (John xvi. 24).
That evening I saw the sister again. She said, 'I have committed myself to God, and shall trust Him, till the witness of my acceptance comes.'
The next day she was in the meeting, and related her experience, telling us that in the night God awoke her with an assurance of His love, and gave her the clear witness of the Spirit that she was entirely sanctified, putting glory in her heart, and hallelujahs on her tongue.
Entire consecration is not entire sanctification. You are commanded to 'present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God' (Rom. xii. 1). This is entire consecration; but it is also said, 'For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation' (Rom. x. 10). So then, there must be entire consecration, unwavering faith, and a frank, artless confession of both to Jesus. This is man's part, and, when these simple conditions are met and steadfastly maintained, against all contrary feelings, God will suddenly come into His Holy temple, filling the soul with His presence, purity, and power. This twofold work by man and God constitutes the one experience of entire sanctification. When this experience is yours, at your very earliest opportunity confess it before men.
Paul tells us that the same power which raised Christ from the dead is in us who believe (Eph. i.17-20). He says of Jesus: 'When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men' (Eph. iv. 8). He says of himself, 'But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. . . . That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection' (Phil. iii. 7, 8, 10). The practical, everyday teaching of these Scriptures to me is this: that since Jesus rose from the dead and ascended on high, He puts at my disposal the same power to do and suffer His will that His Heavenly Father gave to Him. Jesus 'was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God' (2 Cor. xiii. 4), and when He rose from the dead He broke every fetter forged by Satan, sin and Hell, and carried them captive, and opened a way by which every child of man may go free and enter into union with God through the indwelling Holy Ghost, and have the power of God working mightily and triumphantly in him. Bless God for ever! In ancient times victorious generals carried captive the captains and kings whom they conquered, with all the wealth they could lay their hands upon, and when they returned to their own people, they distributed gifts from the spoils of the enemy. So Jesus, having triumphed over all the power of the enemy, distributes gifts of love and joy and faith and patience and spiritual insight and wisdom to His people, that shall enable them also to have power over all the power of the enemy.
He came as a lowly stranger into the iron furnace of this sin-cursed, devil-enslaved world. He toiled with its toiling millions, He suffered their sorrows and their sicknesses, their poverty and their temptations, and when He had impressed upon a few of them a faint sense of His divinity, hid under the humble garb of His humanity, He suffered their death and dashed their hopes, as they supposed, for ever. But He rose again and ascended 'far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion' (Eph. i. 21), and is set down at the right hand of the Father as our Intercessor, and our Advocate. From that place of power He pleads our cause, watches our interests, guides our steps, strengthens our hearts, illuminates our minds, secures for us boundless gifts and graces and immunities, which we are at liberty to take by faith and use for the advancement of His kingdom of holiness and humility, of righteousness and joy in our hearts and the hearts of others.
It is His purpose that we should, in a most important sense, sustain the same relation to Him now that He sustained to His Heavenly Father in the days of His humanity; that we should be baptized with the same Spirit, and preach with the same authority, and secure the same results, and gain the same final and eternal victory, and at last sit down with Him on His Throne for evermore.
This being so, I am under as much obligation now to be holy, to be empowered by the Spirit, and to be about my Lord's business, as I shall be in Heaven. And, bless God, this is not only an obligation, but an inspiration!
Who, having caught a glimpse of this high and holy purpose of His resurrected Lord, can ever be content again to grope in the malarial fogs of unbelief, and grovel on the dung-hill of this world's poor little pleasures and riches and honors? Who would not forsake father and mother, and wife and children, and houses and lands, pluck out a right eye, cut off a right hand or foot, cast off every weight and easily-besetting sin, deny himself, take up his cross, esteem all this world's gain as loss, and if needs be sacrifice his life in order to 'know the power of His resurrection,' enter into this 'life hid with Christ in God' and not disappoint his Lord? It was for this we were born, and to fall short of this will be infinite, eternal loss, and doom us to an everlasting night of shame and contempt.
'Speak evil of no man' (Titus iii. 2)
This is a command of God, and should be meditated upon and obeyed. A failure to do this leads to innumerable evils. Myriads of souls have backslidden; multitudes, almost persuaded, have turned back into darkness; many revivals have been quenched; and many houses of God have become spiritual sepulchers, all because of evil-speaking.
I. What is evil-speaking?
It is evil to tell lies about any man, or slander him in any way. 'Thou shalt not bear false witness' (Exod. xx. 16), God says. A man's reputation and character are sacred in the sight of God, and just as He forbids one man to rob another of his property, or take his life, so He forbids him to lie about another, or rob him of his good name. This is a holy commandment, and commends itself to every man's conscience.
It is evil to retail the faults and infirmities of others. This is a very common form of evil-speaking, but love will cover up such faults and infirmities. Just as it is beautiful in children to never speak about or appear to notice the club-feet or hunch-back or cross-eyes of a little playmate, so it is lovely and Christ-like in us to pass by faults and infirmities, and is evil not to do so.
It is evil to tell of any man's sins and actual wrongdoing where and when it will do no good.
II. Why should we speak evil of no man?
Because in speaking evil we wrong the man. It is a grievous wrong to speak evil of any man. You do not like any one to speak evil of you, and you consider it wrong for anyone to do so. But why? When you have answered you have given yourself a reason why you should not speak evil of any man.
Because in speaking evil of any man we wrong those to whom we thus speak. It fills their minds with unholy, unjust prejudice. It excludes good thoughts, and it tempts them to think and speak evil.
Because we wrong our own souls by evil-speaking. It destroys all generous and kindly thoughts in us, and quenches love. It opens our hearts for the devil to enter, and he will make haste to come in. It prevents us from praying in faith and love for the person, which would be infinitely better than speaking evil of him, and which he especially needs, if he is in any way wrong.
Because in speaking evil of any man we grieve the Holy Spirit and break the commandment of God. The Holy Spirit leads us to love all men -- even our enemies; leads us to love them -- even as Jesus loved them, but evil-speaking destroys love. The Holy Spirit leads us to pray for all men, especially for those who are faulty and sinful, but evil-speaking quenches the spirit of prayer as water quenches fire.
Because in speaking evil of any man we wrong Jesus. He died for that man. He bought him with His Blood, and even though the man may be a sinner, a backslider, a hypocrite, and refuses to obey God and love and trust Jesus, yet Jesus loves him and spares him, and is wronged when he is evil spoken of. Jesus identifies Himself with the sinner to whom we give a cup of cold water in His name, and says the good we do is done unto Him, and so He will identify Himself with the sinner whom we wrong by evil-speaking, and in the Judgment will face us with the wrong as done to Himself unless we hastily and heartily repent.
III. What is the remedy?
If he is bad or faulty in any way, consider the fact that he may have secret trials and temptations that you know nothing about. He may have business troubles and cares that lead him to wrong, or he may have family trials to which you are a stranger, or he may have had very faulty early training which has marred him for life. Not that these things will excuse him in the Day of Judgment, but they should lead you and me to pity rather than to abuse him by speaking evil of him.
Think about your own evils. This will be far more profitable to you than to think about his, and will be infinitely more likely to make a better man or woman of you.
One of the chief dangers to ourselves in evil-speaking is that we come to under-estimate everybody else, and to esteem ourselves more highly than we ought. We come to look at our own virtues and other people's faults, when we ought to look long at their virtues and at our own faults.
If we want to be like Jesus, we must obey the command, 'In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves' (Phil. ii. 3), but this will be impossible where evil-speaking is indulged in.
Consider how Jesus loves him. If Jesus loved him enough to die for him; if He still loves him enough to spare him, in spite of all his faults and sins, and to save him the moment he repents, trusts and obeys, how dare we speak evil of him! And if he is a follower of Jesus and a child of God, even though he may be very imperfect, how dare we speak evil of him! Would we dare speak evil of an angel by the Throne of God and expect God to be deaf and allow our sin to go unpunished? Would we not rather expect His holiness to flame out in terrible wrath and consume us? And is any poor sinful soul that has looked to Jesus for salvation, any less dear to the heart of God than the shining angels around His Throne?
'Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye' (Matt. vii. 5). Get a clean heart, full of the Holy Ghost, full of love, and you cannot speak evil of any man. With a heart flaming with love, you will pray for the wrong-doer, and if you see evil in him, you will go to him in love and try to correct him, just as you would go to a blind man walking toward a precipice, and try to turn him from certain death.
The other day I received a letter from a young Officer asking for a few suggestions as to how to read and study the Bible. Here they are:
I. Read and study it as two young lovers read and study each other's letters. As soon as the mail brings a letter from his sweetheart, the young man grabs it and without waiting to see if there is not another letter for him, runs off to a corner and reads and laughs and rejoices over it and almost devours it. If he is a particularly desperate and demonstrative lover -- (the Lord make us desperate and demonstrative lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ!) -- he will probably kiss it and carry it next to his heart till the next one comes.
He meditates on it day and night, and reads it over again and then again. He carries it down town with him, and on the street car appears very quiet and thoughtful, till all at once a twinkle comes into his eye, out comes the letter and choice portions are read over again. He delights in that letter. If any part is hard to understand, a letter is sent off post haste for explanations, and the explanation and letter will be most carefully compared, and possibly also previous letters will be studiously compared with this one. I knew a young man whose fate was hanging in the balance. He wanted assurance, but the young woman was coy, and she veiled her true feelings and left him in uncertainty, and he studied her letters and weighed every word and phrase and brought them to me, and had me compare letter with letter, as we should compare Scripture with Scripture, in order, if possible, to discover the state of her mind and heart and his prospects. In due time he was abundantly rewarded.
Now, that is the way to read the Bible. It is God's will and testament. It is His own carefully written instructions as to what manner of people He would have us be; as to how we shall behave ourselves; what we shall do and not do; what our rights and privileges in Jesus are; what are our peculiar dangers; how we shall know our enemies and conquer them; how we shall enter into and constantly enjoy his favor and escape Hell and get safely home to Heaven.
II. Read in Acts xvii. 11, what the disciples in Berea did.
'They received the word with all readiness of mind.' A frank and noble mind is open to the truth, and wants it more than gold or pleasure or fame or power.
'They searched the Scriptures.' They wanted to know for themselves, and not by mere hearsay. They searched. Precious things are deeply hidden. Pebbles and stones and autumn leaves abound everywhere, but gold and silver and precious stones are hidden deep in the bowels and rocky ribs of the earth; shells cover the sea-shore, but pearls are hidden in its depths. And so with truth. Some truth may lie on the surface of the Bible, but those that will altogether satisfy and distinguish us and make us wise unto salvation are found only after diligent search, even as for hid treasure. 'Search the Scriptures;' said Jesus, 'for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me' (John v. 39). If you would know Jesus, search the Scriptures, and you will come to know Him and see His face, and be like Him.
'They searched daily.' Daily, not spasmodically, by fits and starts, but daily, habitually, they dug into the word of God, to find out if the things Paul preached were so. And just so must you do. 'Thou shalt meditate therein day and night' (Joshua ii. 8), was God's instruction to Joshua. And once this habit is formed the delight in God's word will become unspeakable.
'Thy words were found, and I did eat them;' said Jeremiah, 'and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart' (Jer. xiii. 16). 'O how love I Thy law!' cried the Psalmist. 'It is my meditation all the day' (Ps. cxix. 97).
In forming the habit of Bible study we may have to begin and follow it up for a time from a sense of duty, but once the habit is formed, if we are not only hearers but doers of the word, we shall follow it up for very joy, until we can say with Job, 'I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food' (Job xxiii. 12).
III. Read and study the word not to get a mass of knowledge in the head, but a flame of love in the heart. 'Knowledge puffeth up' (I Cor. viii. I), but love buildeth up. Read it to find fuel for affection, food for reflection, direction for judgment, guidance for conscience.
Read it not that you may know, but that you may do.
IV. Follow carefully the line of thought from verse to verse and chapter to chapter. Often the first part of one chapter belongs to the last part of the preceding chapter. For instance, in the last verse of the fourth chapter of Ephesians, we read, 'And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you,' and in the first verse of the fifth chapter we read, 'Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.'
Those two verses belong together. We are to follow God in what? Why, in the spirit of kindness and tender-heartedness and forgiveness.
Again, in John vii. 53, we read, 'And every man went unto his own house,' and in viii. 1, 'Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.'
These two verses belong together. Jesus had no house. Bless Him! So when they went each to his own house for the night, Jesus went to the cold, dark mount!
Finally, do not be discouraged if progress in the knowledge of the word seems slow as first. It is like learning to play an instrument or master a trade; for the first few days or weeks it appears impossible, but it is not so. Some glad day a brain-cell will expand or a veil drop from your face and scales from your eyes and you will find yourself doing the impossible with ease.
So it will be in acquainting yourself with the word of God. Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it! Cry to God with David, 'Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law' (Ps. cxix. 18).
Pray for an understanding heart. You will only love and understand the word as Jesus reveals it to you. So walk with Him, take up your cross and follow Him through evil as well as good report.
After His resurrection, He came to His trembling, heart-broken, disappointed disciples, and Luke tells us that 'beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself' (Luke xxiv. 27), and later Luke says, 'Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures' (Luke xxiv. 45).
There are things in the Bible hard to be understood, and we may not know them till we stand by the crystal sea, but we can learn those things that will make us meek and lowly in heart as was Jesus, watchful, patient, loving, kind, forgiving, and utterly zealous and self-sacrificing for the salvation of men. Hallelujah!
Happy shall we be, if; like David, we can say, 'Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee' (Ps. cxix. 11).
A long time ago, St. Luke tells us when Jesus was a boy of twelve, He went with His parents and neighbors up to Jerusalem to the Feast of the Passover. On the return of the company, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem. 'And Joseph and His mother knew not of it. But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance and found Him not' (Luke ii. 43-45).
Their mistake was in taking it for granted that Jesus was in the company. Joseph knew He was not with him, and Mary knew He was not with her, and the kinsfolks and acquaintances knew He was not with them, and yet each took it for granted that He was in the company with someone else. But lo! when they sought Him, they found Him not; He was not there.
Just so, frequently in meetings and conventions the people all suppose Jesus is in the company, and yet there may not be one that is personally conscious of His presence. They take it for granted that He is with someone else, and lo! He may not be in their midst at all. He has not been preseveringly, importunately, humbly and believingly sought for and invited to come, and so He has stayed behind.
I remember a number of years ago going to a camp meeting hoping to find Jesus there in power. I got there two or three days after the opening, and I found, if I now remember rightly, that no one had been saved. There was no grip and power in the meetings. At the appointed hour for the meeting, the bell would ring and the officers and soldiers who had been laughing and joking and singing songs, and visiting with each other and making merry generally, would come strolling into the meetings with smiles on their faces and 'God bless you' on their tongues, but with apparently no solemn consciousness of the holy presence of the Crucified One in their midst. Then the meeting would begin with a rush and a bang, and songs and prayers and jokes and laughter and collection and smart testimonies, and a Bible reading would follow, and the meeting would end again without souls. Everybody would go out good-naturedly, make a rush for the best seats at the dinner-table, and enjoy themselves beautifully until the next meeting.
Everyone seemed to take it for granted that Jesus was in the company, yet no one seemed to be specially conscious of His Presence.
At last it was pointed out that the meetings were galloped through but no souls were saved, and it was suggested that perhaps Jesus was missing. A prayer meeting was called to look for Jesus, and some of the people present had to allow that Jesus was not with them. Then some of them went to their tents to look for Jesus, and some went to the woods and got down on their knees to look for Him, and would not give up the search until at last, bless Him, He was found. And when He was told that He was expected and that He must come, and that we would not let Him go except He blessed us, then He came. Then there was a shout of a King in the camp, and He gave us a touch of His baptism, which is with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
The officers, soldiers and saints got awfully in earnest, and the poor sinner got awfully alarmed and convicted so that they were no longer anxious about what they should have for dinner. And some seemed so anxious to talk with Jesus and get filled with His Spirit, and His great thoughts, and to get Him to put the dynamite of the Holy Ghost into their testimonies and songs and prayers, that they lost their appetites, and did not care whether they had any dinner at all, if only they could be fed with bread from Heaven.
Oh, I tell you, it was wonderful the transformation that came over that camp ground when Jesus got there! The shallow joy that caused men to smile and make an empty racket, gave way before that deep joy of the Lord which makes men weep and be serious and fills their faces with the solar light of Heaven, and makes their shout almost as terrible to the wicked as will be the trumpet peals and awful thunders of the Judgment Day.
I tell you the presence of Jesus in the power of the Holy Ghost on that camp ground did make the remaining days of the camp meeting into veritable Judgment Days for some folks. Then the news went abroad that Jesus was in the camp, and the people poured in from all the country round about, and mighty things were done in His name. Weak folks were made strong. Timid folks became bold as lions. Broken hearts were healed. Sad folks were made into glad folks. The lame man leaped as a hart. The blind saw. The deaf heard. The dumb spake. The hungry multitudes were fed. Spirits that were full of passion and like a storm-tossed sea, became peaceful and calm. And dead souls were raised to life! Glory to God!
I tell you it was the presence of Jesus that saved that camp meeting from being recorded as a dismal failure, and instead caused it to be remembered as a time of wondrous refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
Now Jesus is ready and willing to go up to every camp meeting and convention and council and indoor and outdoor meeting all over the world, and to make His personal presence felt by every saint and soldier, but each one must seek Him as Moses did. God had set Moses to the tremendous task of ruling a mob of ignorant Israelites just rescued from centuries of hard bondage, and leading them through a barren, mountainous wilderness, to the promised land, where they would meet armed hosts, strongly entrenched in fortified cities. The burden was too heavy for Moses, and he cried out to God: 'If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight? Is it not in that Thou goest with us? . . . And the Lord said unto Moses: I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in My sight, and I know thee by name. My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest ' (Exod. xxxlii. 15, 16, 17, 14).
I do not wonder any longer at the mighty things Moses did. If God goes with a man and tells him what to do and how to do it, and gives him the wisdom and strength with which to do it, then there is nothing too hard for that man. God becomes a servant of that man as much as that man is the servant of God. They are co-workers. One man like that can chase a thousand, and if he find a fellow, the two shall put ten thousand to flight. Bless God!
But Jesus is holy and humble and He cannot walk with any but humble holy men, so, my brother, if you want Him to go with you, you must humble yourself and be holy. Moses was the meekest of men, we read.
Then, too, if we want Jesus to go with us to the meeting, we must invite Him home with us after the meeting. He will not come to the meeting and walk back with us to our door, if when we get there we find it in our hearts to bid Him good-night and close the door in His face, and go in and scold the wife and children and talk about our neighbors and forget what manner of spirit we are of. Our walk with Him must be constant, not fitful, else we will seek for Him some day an not find Him.
Oh, that we may always make sure that He is with us, and not take it for granted, else we find we have been going on a fool's errand without Him! Poor Joseph and Mary lost five days and had no one knows how much anxiety and heartache, all because they supposed Jesus was in the company, but did not make sure. But, bless God, after diligent search they found Him! Is He with you now, my brother? If He is not, then get your Bible and go off alone and seek Him, and if you wake up and seek Him with all your heart, He will be found of you.
Does the devil ever tempt you to feel that you are of no use and can do nothing? Every genuine Christian wants to be useful, fruit-bearing, and a soul-winner. This desire is characteristic of the new nature, received at conversion. When Paul was converted, he wanted to go back to Jerusalem and tell all his old friends about it, that they, too, might be saved. When you were converted your heart went out to God for the salvation of your friends, and you tried to so live your life before them that they would be brought to Jesus, and it is largely this desire for usefulness and the salvation of others that has led you to become a soldier or an officer. But now that you are fairly in the Army and in its work, do you ever feel that you are useless; that you can do nothing; that your words are powerless to lead people to Jesus?
I find a great many such people, and maybe you are such an one, and if so, it is for you I write. I have often felt as you do myself; and therefore can sympathize with you, and maybe can write something to encourage you. And first I would say, do what you can. 'Angels can do no more.' Your talents may not be great, but use what talents you have and God will surely increase them. It is a law of God, that what is used shall be increased. Everything that has life begins small. The largest oak was once enfolded in an acorn. The most skillful musician in the world at one time did not know one note from another. The most learned man now living once did not know A from Z. Moses was once a helpless babe in a floating ark of bulrushes. The General was once a young convert. But they grew and increased. If there is spiritual life in you, you will grow, if you will do with your might what your hands find to do.
Cultivate your talents. There are many thousands of bandsmen in the Army today who at one time could not play an instrument, and who did not know a cornet from a concertina. But they began to practice. It was slow work at first. But they kept at it. Probably, the first day they could not see that they had made any progress at all, nor the second day; but in a week or a month they could see. They began, kept patiently at it, and at last succeeded. That is the way to cultivate any talent we have. That is the way to become mighty in prayer, to become acquainted with the Bible, to learn to speak or sing or fish for souls. Begin and keep at it.
Do not get discouraged because you cannot do as well as someone else. God has a work for you to do, and no one else can do it; not even the General can do it. God meant that work for you and you for that work, and if you do not do it, it will never be done. The thing then for you to do is to go to God and thank Him for what gifts you have and for giving you some work to do, and then ask Him for wisdom to do it bravely, faithfully and wisely, and He will surely be with you.
Do not sit down in the discouragement of unbelief and think because you have not the talents of some gifted person you know that therefore you can do nothing. That is wicked. It is dishonoring to God, pleasing to the devil, and will surely result in a great loss to your soul, if not in the final loss of your soul. Jesus tells us that the man with five talents put his money out at use and gained five talents more, and likewise the man with two talents. But He says the man with one talent went and wrapped it in a napkin and hid it, and so lost it, and was himself cast out as a slothful and wicked servant into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Secondly, encourage your poor, trembling heart with the promises and examples, in the Bible. Here is a promise for you, 'Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord' (1 Cor. xv. 58). The devil tells you that your labour is vain, but God says it is not. Believe God, my brother, and go on with your work. Again the Lord says, 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap' (Gal. vi. 7). David tried on Saul's armor, but he could not fight in that, so he laid it aside and went out against the giant in the name of the Lord, with his sling and a smooth stone out of the brook and slew him.
Saul's armor, wrought at the forge, may be like the education and culture gained in the theological schools and universities, while the sling and the stone are like the wisdom given by the Holy Ghost to simple, humble, faithful hearts in mills and shops and kitchens, and the lowly places of secret prayer and daily toil. Go, my brother, my sister, in the name of the Lord, with the wisdom He gives you, and you shall slay giants.
Paul tells us 'that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence' (1 Cor. ii 26-29).
If you were learned and wise and mighty, and did great things, people would give all the glory to your learning and wisdom; but if you are little and foolish, then they have to give the glory to God. Go on, my brother, and do what you can.
When the Spirit of God came on Shamgar he slew six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad, and Samson slew one thousand with the jaw-bone of an ass, and Gideon, with three hundred men armed only with earthen pitchers and torches routed the hosts of Midian. Hallelujah!
When Jesus blessed the five little loaves and the two small fishes of the lad, they fed about five thousand men. And so if you will pray and believe, He will bless your words and works to multitudes. Remember, it is not what you say or do alone, but it is His blessing added to what you say and do that accomplishes the work, and He will surely add His blessing if you will trust and obey.
I read of an educated minister who had a skeptical lawyer in his congregation, whom he wanted very much to see converted and united with the church, and for whose benefit he prepared some very learned and labored sermons. One day, to the minister's delight, the lawyer came to his study with the glad news that he was converted, and wished to join the church. After some conversation, the pastor rather blushingly inquired, 'May I ask you which one of my sermons it was led you to Christ?
Then the lawyer, with some little confusion, replied, 'Well, to tell you the truth, pastor, it was not one of your sermons that led me to Christ at all. It was this way. A few Sundays ago, as we were leaving the church, the steps were very slippery, and old colored Auntie Blank was trying to descend them. She was crippled and feeble and in danger of falling, when I took hold of her arm and assisted her to the sidewalk. She looked up into my eyes and thanked me, and, with a bright smile on her old black face, asked, "Do you love my Jesus?" and that led me to Christ.' Ah, that was the smooth stone, that killed the giant when Saul's armor and sword had failed!
Be a man of much secret prayer, my brother. Acquaint yourself with God; take time to listen to His voice; read your Bible; love it, pray over it; read good books; familiarize yourself with the 'Orders and Regulations for Soldiers,' by the General, and you will get your mind stored with truths that will be to you as David's smooth stones, and God will surely use you and make you a blessing.
I remember well the first time I attempted to speak from a text. I utterly failed, and was filled with confusion. But by seeking His face the Lord has long since given me victory, and I rejoice unutterably at the privilege of speaking for Him, and by living a life of constant prayer down at Jesus' feet, and by a determined exercise of faith, I seldom open my mouth to speak for Him without feeling a deep conviction in my soul that my words are accompanied by the Holy Ghost and are hitting the mark and reaching hearts. And this may be your experience, my brother, my sister, if you utterly forsake sin, consecrate yourself fully to the interests of Jesus, steadfastly believe and continue in prayer. God said to Moses, 'I will be with thy mouth' (Exod. iv. 12), and He will say the same to you if you wait on Him. He is no respecter of persons.
To the natural heart and the unsanctified mind the commands of God are foolishness. 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee' (Gen. xii. 1), said God to Abraham. How foolish to leave home and wealth and greatness to go to a land that he knew not! But Abraham believed and obeyed and became heir of the world.
'I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth My people the children of Israel out of Egypt' (Exod. iii. 10), was God's word to Moses. What folly for this poor shepherd, who forty years before had fled from the face of Pharaoh a hunted murderer and vagabond, to seek to deliver a nation of slaves from the iron hand of the haughtiest, mightiest monarch of earth! But he believed and obeyed and the proud king was humbled to the dust and the nation of slaves was freed.
'I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me' (Acts xxvi. 16-18), said the Lord to Paul. Think of it! One lone man belonging to a conquered, despised, hated people, sent to the proud, idolatrous utterly godless nations with the message that a crucified Jew was the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, and that there was no salvation except in His name.
What foolhardiness for this man without wealth, national prestige, political power or social favor to start out in the face of bitter religious hatred and contempt, and national and political antagonism, to convert a lost world to this new faith of a day! But he was 'not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.' He went and the Holy Ghost went with him. He went to unparalleled toils and sufferings, but he won unparalleled victories and heavenly joys and consolations.
They whipped him time and again; they stoned him; they thrust him into dark, loathsome dungeons, reeking with slime and filth; three times he suffered shipwreck, he made many long and tedious journeys when there were no ocean greyhounds and no lightning express trains with Pullman coaches and dining-cars. He was in perils from the water, from robbers, from his own countrymen, from the heathen, in the city, in the wilderness, in the sea, and, worst of all, among false brethren. He suffered from weariness and painfulness; from watchings often when it would have been death to him to go to sleep; from hunger and thirst, from fastings often when his spirit was so engaged with his tremendous labors and difficulties that his body refused food; from cold and nakedness, besides the care of all the churches with their young converts just saved from heathenism and continually beset by false teachers within, as well as suffering the most dreadful persecutions from without.
But none of these things moved him, and God helped him to do more to bring the world to God than any other man who ever lived.
Does your call to work for God seem foolish, unreasonable, impossible? 'Have faith in God' (Mark xi. 22). Obey like Abraham and Moses and Paul, and you will yet praise Him for all the way He led you and for the part He gave you to do in winning the world from Satan back to God.
An officer now by my side had been a soldier for some years; at last he felt he would some time have to go into the work. The call came while his hammer was lifted to strike a blow. He was not disobedient to the call of God. The blow was not struck, and before noon he had sold his kit of tools and for years he has been a successful officer and is daily increasing in the gifts and graces of those God calls to be leaders.
Does God call you? Be not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Stay not in the order of your going. Let nothing hinder you. Go and God will be with you as He was with Moses and Paul, and as the years speed by you will increasingly thank God that no business prospects, no fond friendships, no lust of power or love of secluded ease kept you from the battle's front with its burdens and bitter conflicts and fierce sorrows and soul-satisfying triumphs. One soul joining in the anthem of the redeemed ones around the Throne, saved from Hell through your labors, will pay you for all your toils; one look at the face of Jesus will reward you for all your privations. What care Peter and John and Paul now, if they did lose all to follow Jesus, and did suffer and die for the men they sought to save? And what will you care?