By Aaron Hills
Doctrinal And Philosophical Hindrances
It is one of the marvels of a thinking mind, and one of the strongest proofs of the divinity of Christianity, that it has escaped annihilation from the falsities of its own friends and defenders, -- false lives or false doctrines or false philosophies. There is not a doctrine of the creed that has not been perverted or travestied or denied by learned theologians. There is not a truth of Scripture that has not been rejected, condemned or controverted. And scarcely an error can be named that some learned doctor has not advocated and supported by his texts. This is in general; the great theme before us for consideration has not escaped the common fate. Great and good men, whom all love to honour, and whose names are spoken with reverence, have so written upon the great themes of sin and holiness or sanctification, that they have obscured the subjects by their philosophies, and "darkened counsel by words."
Here is the theory of Dr. Hodge, to which reference has already been made. Laying upon us the guilt of Adam's sin, and holding us responsible for the entailed corruption in every sense, his picture of sin is painted in too dark colours, and needlessly offends every sentiment of justice and equity, and every conception of divine goodness in the heart of man. His standard of holiness is as much too high. He tells us that no allowances can be made for the natural infirmities, the unavoidable limitations of human faculties consequent upon the fall, the error of judgment, the lapses of memory, the mistaken conceptions of duty and propriety. The law of God requires of us such absolute holiness as might have been required of Adam's posterity if he had not sinned, and was required of Adam. "The thing to be done is to turn from sin to holiness; to love God perfectly and our neighbour as ourselves; to perform every duty without defect or omission, and keep ourselves from all sin of thought, word, or deed, of heart or life. Can any man do this? Does any man need argument to convince him that he can not do it? He knows two things as clearly and surely as he knows his own existence: first, that he is bound to be morally perfect, to keep all God's commands, to have all right feelings in constant exercise, as the occasion calls for them, and to avoid all sin in feeling as well as in act; and, secondly, that he can no more do this than he can raise the dead" (Vol. II., p. 271).
"Man is utterly disabled and enfeebled by moral inability, through inherited corruption; he is still under obligation to be absolutely holy, for obligation is not measured by ability; God requires holiness, and holiness; is impossible." "It may be safely assumed that no man living has ever seen a fellow man whom, even in the imperfect light in which a man reveals himself to his fellows, he deems perfect. And no sound-minded man can regard himself as perfect, unless he lowers the standard of judgment to suit his case" (Vol. III., p. 258).
If all this is true, hard indeed is the lot of mankind. It is the fable of Sisyphus forever rolling the stone up hill that can not reach the top. We are the unfortunate Sisyphius. Our character is the stone; holiness is the goal at the top of the mountain which can never be reached by any possible striving, but which we are commanded to reach; and on our quivering, straining back, paralysed with inability, is laid the lash of moral obligation. We might all cry out with one breath, "God pity us!" But no; God himself is the hard master who drives us to attempt the impossible feat and pitilessly swings the lash! There is nothing for us here but a life of hopeless sinning, and consequent agony of heart, for which all the blood of Christ affords no adequate help, no healing balm. To ask or command men to be holy, or to strive for holiness under such conditions would be as vain as it would be to urge them to pray, while you solemnly assure them that no prayer ever was, or ever can be, answered. Men holding such doctrines may become sanctified, but it is not likely; and if they do, it will be in spite of their philosophy and not on account of it.
Upon this false teaching, bolstered up by a famous catechism which multitudes still reverence as if inspired, President Mahan made these apt observations: "Let us now contemplate the iron bands of theological dogma, bands in which the convert so often finds himself fast bound, bands, which render the normal growth of the new-born soul as impossible as does the iron shoe that binds the foot of the female infant among the Chinese. Take two or three of these dogmas as examples: 'No man is able, either of himself or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but daily doth break them in thought, word, and deed.' Thus the convert is started on his course with a professed revelation from God, that he has no power, either of himself or from any grace vouchsafed in this life, to render the obedience required of him, on the one hand, and that, as a matter of fact, he will, on the other, every day of his life break these requirements 'in thought. word, and deed.' As a matter of course, he must 'make God a liar,' that is, discredit His revealed Word, or utterly dismiss from mind and thought all expectation and rational intention to render obedience. To aim at such obedience, in the case of one who holds such sentiments, is but to attempt and aim at a revealed and acknowledged impossibility. One of the most irrational and absurd purposes conceivable.
"But what, according to these dogmas, is the state of the believer when he does sin? Listen to the answer 'True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance, ... can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace.' ... 'Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein; whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened and their consciences wounded, hurt and scandalize others and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.'
"Thus the young convert is taught that he can not receive grace sufficient to obey God, but must daily sin in thought, word, and deed, yet he has a divine assurance that, however he sins, he will not utterly fall away from God. This I affirm in the fear of God, and as my absolute belief, that if it had been left wholly to the Old Serpent to frame dogmas and mould a religious sentiment for the education of the Lord's sons and daughters, he would not have desired or asked that one ' jot or tittle ' should be taken from or added to those under consideration. What could God do more to insure in every new-born soul a backsliding life, than to require of it all absolute belief that it will sin, sin 'daily in thought, word, and deed,' sin nobody knows in what form and to what extent, but that no form or degree of sin it can by any possibility commit will imperil its immortal interests? If the purpose of the framers of such dogmas was to render the churches, in the language of a distinguished Presbyterian minister in the United States, 'a hospital for invalids and a refuge for scoundrels,' how could they frame a system better adapted to the purpose?" (Mahan's Autobiography, pp. 9093).
The most blighting heresy that the father of lies ever introduced into a Christian creed is the absurd dogma that, in order to induce and perpetuate in God's children humbleness of mind, He must leave in the depths of their hearts an abyss of moral corruption and death, a mass of 'foolish and hurtful lusts' to 'war in their members' " (p. 106). "While believers regard it as a revealed truth of God, that they will in fact, 'sin daily in thought, word, and deed,' the exercise of faith to be 'sanctified wholly,' and 'saved to the uttermost,' becomes an utter impossibility" (p. 319).
Yet this monstrous and irrational heresy has been framed into a creed and defended by learned theologians till a whole denomination has been drugged and wrapped in the slumber of guilty acquiescence in a life of shortcoming, as if it were a divinely revealed necessity. The few Calvinists who have received the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and a marvellous degree of saintliness, like Jonathan Edwards and his wife, and George Whitefield, and William Tennant, and David Brainerd, have done so in spite of this stupefying doctrine of "necessary sinfulness." They practically got away from their creed, and their mind dwelt chiefly upon helpful truths which the Spirit used to their sanctification.
President Finney, than whom no man of the century has been more revered by the writer, and no other has exercised a greater influence upon his life, as we have seen, held a peculiar theory of sin and depravity, denying that man's nature was depraved. All sin was in the wrong use of the will; moral quality could be affirmed of nothing else. He also held a peculiar theory of the will which has been adopted as the Oberlin view, called the "unity or simplicity of moral action." According to this theory, there can be no mixed character. "A man can not be holy and sinful at the same time." A man's obedience is entire, or he does not obey at all. "It is nonsense to speak of a holiness that consists with sin." It would, of course, follow that every moral agent is always "as sinful or holy as with their knowledge they can be." Regeneration is an "instantaneous" change "from entire sinfulness to entire holiness." "The only sense in which obedience can be partial is that obedience may be intermittent." The only thing to be expected of sanctification, then, is a confirmation of the will in its right choice.
"All true saints, while in a state of acceptance with God, do actually render, for the time being, full obedience to all the known requirements of God; that is, they do for the time being their whole duty -- all that God, at this time, requires of them."
President Fairchild, the latest exponent of these views who has published, says: "One of the most obvious consequences of the doctrine is, that conversion is entire consecration (sanctification); that the earliest obedience of the converted sinner is entire obedience, and that his moral state is entirely approved of God."
There is something wrong with this philosophy, for its conclusions are at war with Scripture, consciousness and universal experience.
1. It locates all sin in the attitude of the will, and accepts but one Scriptural definition of it -- "Sin is the transgression of the law" -- of course, a wilful act of disobedience. But the Scripture has two other definitions of sin: "All unrighteousness is sin," and "whatsoever is not of faith is sin." There is a vast realm in the nature of man that lies back of the will in his thoughts, feelings, imaginations, passions, appetites, and desires, of which our own enlightened conscience and the law of holiness take cognisance. In regeneration we receive forgiveness of sin and adoption into the divine household; the power of sin is broken, the tyrant is dethroned and his reign ceases in the soul; yet sin is not so destroyed as not to leave his mark upon the soul, and even yet struggle for the mastery. However clear may be the perception of duty, and however determined the will may be to execute the decisions of the judgment, there will be found an opposing element in the sensibility, which, though it no longer controls the will, often rebels against it, and refuses to obey. The uprisings of anger, the strivings of pride, the evil imaginations, the envies, jealousies, lusts, that find a place in the experience of every regenerated man, is a matter too universal in Christian experience to need proof. Together they form a state of heart that is unrighteousness, and "all unrighteousness is sin."
While, as President Finney says, "it is evident that sanctification is not a mere feeling of any kind," it is no less evident that "it includes all right feelings, and excludes all wrong feelings." While "it is not a desire, an appetite, a passion, a propensity, an emotion, nor indeed any kind or degree of feeling," yet it comprehends and implies a right state of all the desires, appetites, passions, propensities, emotions, and every kind and proper degree of right feeling. While, as he declared, "the states of the sensibility are, like those of the intelligence, purely passive states of mind," still while they rebel and struggle against the dictates of intelligence and the protests of conscience, and the decisions of the will, they mar the perfection of the sacrifice which man is bound to make of his entire self to God, and their rebellion is inconsistent with a Scriptural idea of entire sanctification. While it is, as Finney taught, "a voluntary state of mind," yet it also includes a condition of the w hole being that is far more than volition can effect. (See Lee's Theology, pp. 212, 213.)
2. If, as President Finney contended, man had absolute freedom of will to choose the right and reject the wrong, and that choice, when made, secured his holiness and sanctification, then it follows logically that any man can regenerate and sanctify himself in a moment by a simple act of will. Nothing can be more opposed to the teaching of Scripture upon this subject of sanctification, or to all human experience.
3. To hold that a Christian believer in every moral act is as good or bad as he can he, and that the least sudden sin of a warm-hearted Christian plunges him to the level of the worst sinner, is too great a tax on credulity to be accepted.
Said a graduate of Oberlin Seminary, now a Doctor of Divinity, to the writer: "According to the Oberlin theory of moral action, an average Christian with ordinary industry can be by turns a perfectly holy saint or an absolute sinner a dozen times a day. I confess I can accept no such theory of moral character."
Finney says these sinful or holy states "may succeed each other an indefinite number of times for aught we can see" (p. 114, Sys. Theol.).
This "intermittent," "alternating," vibratory theory of moral character is certainly opposed by the unanimous testimony of multitudes of immature but earnest Christians, who are conscious of lapses that their consciences condemn as sins. To tell them after a moment of repentance and prayer that they are perfectly holy would be to mock them; to tell them after the next outflaming of anger and the hasty word of which they will repent, that they have done their worst and utterly given up their religion and their Saviour and ranged themselves with rebels against God, is again to assent to what their moral consciousness will promptly resent. There is something wrong either in the premises or in the conclusion, for the theory as a whole is at war with the common consciousness of mankind. There are multitudes who love Jesus and would die for him, and have the witness of the Spirit to their sonship; but, like the Galatian Christians, they are conscious that there is a conflict within them, that "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh," that they are not wholly spiritual, but carnal, even babes in Christ. They know that they are living a kind of mixed life of sin and virtue. As Dr. Daniel Steele, of Boston University, writes: "In all ages and in all Christian lands, always and everywhere, resounds the wail of truly regenerate souls over the antagonism, of divine love, discovered in them under the illumination of the Holy Spirit. In passing from death unto life, they have passed into a conflict not only with the world and Satan, but also with the flesh -- the perverse tendencies of their own natures. Now one of three things must be true. Either (1) these have all made a mistake in calling themselves regenerate, or (2) they have backslidden, or (3) they are truly regenerate while struggling with the remains of the carnal mind. To assert that the first is true is to assert the delusion of the whole body of believers in respect to the most vital point -- sonship to God. To assume the second supposition is to declare the apostasy of the Church in each of its members very soon after conversion -- an appalling hypothesis. The third alternative saves the Church from the theories of delusion and of apostasy, and is in perfect harmony with universal testimony. " (Love Enthroned, p. 40).
Beyond question there is something wrong with this philosophy concerning sin and the will. If there is nothing wrong with our nature or constitution, then children dying in early life need no redemption. They will have no part in the "Song of Redeeming Love"; they can only celebrate the grace of an early death. If it is "physical depravity" rather than moral depravity of nature, we say, Very well, then physical depravity must be corrected before there can be a clean life acceptable to a holy God. If there is no mixture of good and evil in the character, no co-existence of virtue and sin in the life as the prevailing consciousness of the good affirms, but it is only, as President Fairchild teaches, the mixture of alternation, too rapid to report itself to consciousness (Moral Philosophy, page 94), we are impelled to ask with Dr. Daniel Steele, ''whether Jesus Christ has any immediate salvation from the mixture of alternation?" It is the mixture that Christian hearts are everywhere longing to be rid of, by whatever name it may be called.
The severest criticism that can be made on this philosophy is that it stands in the way of attaining to, or teaching others, the Scriptural experience of sanctification. Signally useful as that beloved man of God, President Finney, was, I can not but believe that he would have led many more into the experience of sanctification had he held a different philosophy. He himself had experienced marvellous baptisms of the Holy Ghost, which made him an example to the world of "holiness and power," the theme of this book. Under their influence he was made the mightiest preacher of the gospel to sinners that our century has produced in any land. He has well been called the "Prince of Evangelists." But when he attempted to lead others into a spiritual experience similar to his own, something stood in his way. Rev. Asa Mahan, D. D., LL. D., the first President of Oberlin College, in his Autobiography (pp. 245-249), gives an insight into the difficulty: "No individual, I believe, ever disciplined believers so severely and with such intense and tireless patience as my Brother Finney. Appalled at the backsliding which followed those revivals (1831-'32), his most earnest efforts were put forth to induce among believers permanence in the divine life. In accomplishing this he knew of but one method: absolute and fixed renunciation of sin, consecration to God, and purpose of obedience. (All-will work -- mere human doing.) During his pastorate in Chatham Street Chapel, New York, for example, he held for weeks in succession special meetings of his church for perfecting this work, and never were a class of poor creatures carried through a severer process of discipline than were these. Years after, as their pastor informed me, those believers affirmed that they had never recovered from the internal weakness and exhaustion which had resulted from the terrible discipline through which Mr. Finney had carried them, and this was all the good that had resulted from his efforts.
"When he came to Oberlin, and entered upon the duties of his Professorship, he felt that God had given him a blessed opportunity to realize in perfection his ideal of a ministry for the churches. He had before him a mass of talented and promising theological students, who had implicit confidence in the wisdom of their teacher, and with equal sincerity would follow his instructions and admonitions. He accordingly, for months in succession, gathered together those students at stated seasons, instructed them most carefully in regard to the nature of the renunciation of sin, consecration to Christ and purpose of obedience, required of them. Then, under his teachings and admonitions, they would renew their renunciations, consecrations and purposes of obedience, with all the intensity and fixedness of resolve of which their natures were capable. The result, in every case, was one and the same: not the new life, and joy, and peace, and power that was anticipated, but groaning bondage under the law of sin and death. At the commencement, and during the progress of each meeting, their confessions and renunciations, their solemn consecrations and vows of obedience, were renewed, if possible, with fuller determination than ever before. Each meeting, however, was closed with the same dirge song:
And as they went out, not their songs of joy and gladness were heard, but their groans became more and more terribly audible. 'They followed,' and followed hard, 'after the law of righteousness, but did not attain to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law'; that is, by self-originated efforts and determinations...
"Brother Finney and his teachings at that time were right, as far as they went. In the absence of a total renunciation of self and sin, a full and entire consecration of the entire being and possessions to Christ and his kingdom and glory, and a hearty acceptance of the will of God as the absolute law of the present and future activity, the Holy Ghost will never be received. But if the convert or believer stops short with such renunciations, consecrations and purposes he will never advance a step in the direction of his purposes, but will remain, and his broken resolutions, a groaning prisoner under the law of sin and death" (Mahan's Autob., pp. 245-248).
No better illustration of the correctness of my position could be desired.
It is this relatively undue prominence given to the will that was and is the fatal defect of the Oberlin system of thought on these subjects. It showed itself in President Finney's direction to the theological students, -- more renunciations, more solemn consecrations, more vows of obedience, -- poor human willings and doings, to secure "establishment" in right-willing and right-doing, instead of telling the students to take the Holy Ghost and Jesus by faith as their Sanctifier "to will and to do" in them. This is the only keeping power. The apostles and early disciples when "filled with the Holy Ghost" were cleansed and kept -- and then only. But so inveterate and ingrained has become this stress put upon the will in the Oberlin theology, that it gets into their definitions. Four times in the space of two pages in his Systematic Theology (pp. 404, 405), President Finney defines sanctification as "entire consecration." President Fairchild follows the same line of thought, and makes sanctification consist in "establishment" in consecration, so that there shall be no more "alternation of the will." This is a careless confusion of thought in these great men. Consecration is not sanctification, and no establishment in it can be, however permanent. Consecration is only the condition of sanctification, but not the thing itself. Consecration is man's part of the preparatory work -- wholly man's act; sanctification is God's act. Consecration is man's act of self-devotement to the service and glory of God; sanctification is God's act of cleansing the believer. For proof, hear Jesus pray the Father: "Sanctify them through thy truth;" and hear Paul pray: "The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly" (I. Thess. v. 23, R. V.). No dependence here upon renunciations, and vows, and consecrations for sanctification. Such direction to the poor agonizing Christian, longing for holiness, is like telling one who has fallen into a well to lift himself out by his own boot-straps. Even Webster's Dictionary, utterly unbiased in its definitions, bears me out in this distinction between consecration and sanctification. It defines the latter as "the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified, or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God; also, the state of being thus purified or sanctified." "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit" (II. Thess. ii. 13).
This definition of the dictionary reminds me of two other mistakes in the Oberlin teaching, showing the lexicographers to be more accurate than the theologians even in their own chosen field of thought.
1. "Sanctification is the act of God's grace," says the dictionary. But President Fairchild starts his chapter on sanctification thus: "The growth and establishment of the believer, the development in him of the graces of the gospel, is called sanctification." ... "We may use the word in the theological sense, as a convenient term to designate Christian growth and progress and establishment" (p. 280, Elements of Theology). This ''growth" method, by getting more knowledge, and more experience, and better habits, and more stability, even to the "establishment of the believer," is a way by which no man ever reached sanctification. This "growth" method by man's toilings and strivings differs from God's method of sanctifying by one of his own almighty acts "toto coelo." The early Church remained in prayer ten days for God's sanctifying Spirit to come. "Suddenly" he came, and from that moment they were sanctified men. Dr. A. J. Gordon says: "the possession of the Spirit commits us irrevocably to separation from sin. For what is holiness but an emanation of the Spirit of holiness who dwells within us? A sanctified life is therefore the print or impression of his seal. 'He can never own us without his mark, the stamp of holiness. The devil's stamp is none of God's badge.' The great office of the Spirit in the present economy is to communicate Christ to his Church, which is his body. And what is so truly essential of Christ as holiness? 'In him is no sin; whosoever abides in him sins not.' The body can only be sinless by uninterrupted communion with the Head; the Head will not maintain communion with the body except it he holy" (Ministry of the Spirit, pp. 79, 80).
These disciples had received the Spirit of holiness, they were sanctified, "committed irrevocably to separation from sin." Yet President Fairchild writes (p. 285): "There seems to be no ground in Scripture for the idea of a definite experience, like a second new birth, which marks the line between a sanctified and an unsanctified state." A man must read his Bible through the spectacles of a very obscuring philosophy who can not see that there was a very "definite experience" at Pentecost. Whosoever compares the Peter of Pentecost with the Peter of the Judgment Hall must see that something very "definite" had happened to him which with transforming power, went to the very elements of his being. And it came about by one sanctifying "ACT" of the Spirit of God on a Sunday morning.
2. Webster defines sanctification as "the act of God's grace whereby the affections of men are purified." The root meaning of the original word is "cleansed," "purified." But there is no cleansing or purification in either President Fairchild's definition or discussion of sanctification. Indeed, according to this philosophy there is nothing to be cleansed from. However the sensibility may foment its corruption and defile with its reeking impurity the whole life, that is without significance; nothing is needed but to get that will "established" and cured of "alternation"! Somehow it does not have the ring of Scripture language. "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you" (Ezek. xxxvi. 26). The "clean water" was an emblem of the Holy Spirit that should be poured out upon believers with sanctifying power. Its first work was cleansing: and then "I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them" (27). God's method was to first "cleanse" the heart by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, then, the will would be confirmed in its loyalty to God. There is no other way revealed in Scripture or testified to by human experience.
Again, President Fairchild argues against the notion of a "sudden" uplift of soul into a life of holiness:
"As if there were some short cut for Pilgrim to the Delectable Mountains without his passing through the Slough of Despond and the Valley of Humiliation. The gospel opens the only royal road to such attainments, and it leads along the beaten path of faith and patience. It does not provide a spiritual elevator which one may enter, and be lifted at once to the heights of spiritual vision" (p. 283). It would be a sufficient answer to say, "Pentecost," a repetition of which would be a wonderful "spiritual elevator" for the Church of today, and it was "sudden."
We might answer again by pointing to the testimony of John Wesley, who, going about for fifty years, preaching four, five, or six times a day and examining his bands and classes, knew the inner experience of Christian hearts as well as any man since St. Paul. He kept a daily journal and collected his facts with as much enthusiasm as Darwin studied earthworms, and this was the result: "In London alone I found six hundred and fifty-two members who were exceedingly clear in their experience, and of whose testimony I could see no reason to doubt ... And every one of these (after the most careful inquiry, I have not found one exception, either in Great Britain or Ireland) has declared that his deliverance from sin was instantaneous; that the change was wrought in a moment. Had half of these, or one-third, or one in twenty, declared it was gradually wrought in them, I should have believed this in regard to them and thought some were gradually sanctified and some instantaneously. But as I have not found in so long a space of time a single person speaking thus -- as all who believe they are sanctified declare with one voice that the change was wrought in a moment -- I can not but believe that sanctification is commonly, if not always, an instantaneous work" (J. A. Wood's Perfect Love, p. 74).
Again, President Fairchild writes: "The idea has been set forth of receiving Christ as our sanctification in a second experience, as we receive him as our justification in the experience of conversion. There is no proper basis for the idea" (p. 286). What answer does this assertion need but to point to the fact that every person mentioned in the New Testament who received the Holy Ghost had a marvellous second experience, which was deemed of the utmost importance?
We will give the testimony of Dr. Mahan, the first President of Oberlin College. He was converted at seventeen years of age. During the next eighteen years, as college student, preacher and college president, he led a life of rare Christian usefulness, seeing two thousand of his converts join the churches. Then he sought and obtained the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and lived in that blessed experience fifty years. This is what he writes: "The first eighteen years I lived and walked in the dim twilight of that semi-faith which fully knows Christ in the sphere of 'justification by faith' but knows almost nothing of him in the sphere of 'sanctification by faith' and is absolutely ignorant of him in the promise, 'he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.' During the subsequent fifty years I have had grace 'to walk with God' in that sphere of cloudless sunlight in which 'we are complete in Christ,' and know him as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption" (Forty Witnesses, p. 223). "It was an instantaneous passage from the dimmest twilight into cloudless noon." "Sanctification like pardon, I found in experience to be an instantaneous work. Propensities which, from childhood up, and not less during the first years of my Christian life than during my impenitency, had had absolute control when strongly excited, in a moment lost utterly and forever their power, being superseded by a new and right spirit of an opposite character. If I am conscious of anything, I am conscious of being 'by the cross of Christ crucified to the world and the world to me' " (Autobiography, p. 295). "For example, during the first eighteen years of Christian life, I maintained a most determined war upon that evil temper; yet when suddenly provoked I found myself, and that invariably, betrayed into words and acts of which I would have occasion to repent and confess as sins. How often did I exclaim, 'Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Nor did my struggles and most determined resolutions issue in any seeming increase of power over these propensities" (Forty Witnesses, p. 227).
"During these last fifty years I have almost, and I might say quite, ceased to be conscious of the existence of those evil propensities (lusts) which, during the preceding eighteen years, 'warred in my members,' and so often rendered me a groaning captive, 'under the law of sin and death.' In but one single instance, for example, have I, during all these fifty years, been conscious at all of a movement of that evil temper, the strongest of all my propensities, and that was, but for an instant, and occurred some thirty or forty years since, no one suspecting the fact but myself" (Forty Witnesses, pp. 231, 232).
What an infinite blessing it would be to the cause and kingdom of Christ if such a "second experience" should come to the whole body of believers! The saintly Dr. A. J. Gordon wrote: "To say that in receiving Christ we necessarily received in the same act the gift of the Spirit, seems to confound what the Scriptures make distinct. There is the same reason for our accepting the Spirit for his special ministry, as for accepting the Lord Jesus for his special ministry. For it is as sinners that we accept Christ for our justification, but it is as sons that we accept the Spirit for our sanctification" (Ministry of Spirit, pp. 68, 69). Yet President Fairchild declares that "there is no proper basis" for these "second experiences" (that is, in his philosophy). Very well; so much the worse for his philosophy. God grant that multitudes of Christians may obtain this blessed "second experience," with or without a "proper basis" in any man's system of thought.
Again, President Fairchild writes (p. 287): "But this establishment or permanency, when attained, can not reveal itself in consciousness." Here is the false idea of "establishment or permanency" wrapped into the conception of sanctification, and the fact that could not reveal itself to consciousness is used to discredit the whole experience. The very angels in heaven probably had not reached a "consciousness of establishment or permanency," for they fell, and Adam fell, but they were once holy. There are thirty volumes on the desk before me on this blessed subject of "sanctification," and not one of all the authors pretends to teach that there is any state of grace attainable in this life from which a child of God may not fall. But sanctification, as taught in Scripture and by all recognized and accredited authors, is an experience which does report itself to consciousness. Mahan said: "I am as conscious of it as I am of my existence." Bishop Randolph S. Foster is a profound scholar, "an expert in the analysis of mental phenomena, and well skilled in the correct use of psychological terms." A Boston clergyman told me last summer that he was the profoundest theologian of the Methodist Church. This is what this great man writes about his own advanced Christian experience: "Here again the Spirit seemed to lead me into the inmost sanctuary of my soul -- into those chambers where I had before discovered such defilement, and showed me that all was cleansed, that the corruptions which had given me such distress were dead -- taken away -- that not one of them remained. I felt the truth of the witness; it was so; I was conscious of it, as conscious of it as I had ever been of my conversion. A change had been wrought in my heart -- a radical, conscious change. I was not peculiarly exercised, but I was changed. I was a new creature; my heart had entered into a new and higher existence. This was as evident as transition from darkness to light" (Defense of Christian Perfection, p. 63). Notwithstanding the teaching of any opposing school of philosophy, manifestly there is a sanctification, an entering "into a new and higher existence," which reports itself to consciousness.
Another unscriptural notion is found in President Fairchild's definition and fundamental conception of sanctification -- which he calls a "term to designate Christian growth and progress and establishment." The Scriptural idea is, to be sanctified -- cleansed from sin, that you may grow the Christian graces, just as you kill the weeds in the garden that the vegetables may have a chance to grow; but the author under discussion reverses the order and says secure all Christian "growth and progress and establishment," and you will be sanctified. The Scripture commands us "to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." But the same Greek word is used for "grace" that is used in Luke ii. 52 about Jesus. "And Jesus advanced in wisdom and in stature and in favour [grace] with God and men." Jesus could grow this matchless growth because he had no sin in his heart -- nothing within of evil to check the development of the graces of the Spirit. Our churches today are filled with infantile Christians, because as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, they are "carnal, and walk after the manner of men."
The divine order of Christian development is, first purity, then growth to maturity. If our church members would all seek a "second experience" such as will be described in this book -- the sanctifying, cleansing work of the Holy Spirit -- we would hear less about weak and worldly churches; but we would behold multitudes of stalwart Christians, men and women like Barnabas: "He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith; and much people were added unto the Lord."
President Mahan has the following in his Autobiography (p. 391): "How often it is said in opposition to such a doctrine of full salvation, and especially to the idea of its immediate attainment: 'I do not believe in this entire and immediate sanctification; I believe in GROWING IN GRACE.' This was the identical objection urged by a leading minister in a Conference on Scriptural Holiness in Freemasons' Hall, England. 'Will you tell us candidly,' asked the chairman of the objector, 'whether you are conscious of such growth in your own experience?' 'I have grown in knowledge,' was the reply after a moment's reflection. 'But are you really conscious of actual growth in grace during the years that have gone by?' 'I have grown in knowledge,' was the second reply. 'Will you tell us candidly now whether you are conscious of real growth in spirituality during the many years under consideration?' 'I am not conscious of real growth in holiness during these years,' was the final answer. There is not one in a million among all who urge the same objection who could honestly give a different answer in respect to the conscious facts of his own experience. Under the idea of such growth the mass of the ministry and membership of the churches are at a dead standstill, or are sliding backwards, in their religious experience." This statement, we think, is too strong; but there is a sad truth in it.
President Fairchild in his closing paragraph on sanctification observes: "One of the mischievous implications and inferences of the doctrine of instantaneous sanctification, by a special experience, is that there is a form of religious life which is much below holiness, a justified, not a sanctified state ... It does not seem possible to guard the doctrine of special sanctification, whatever its form, from this false impression." Here at last in the final sentences is the real gist of the matter as it lies in his mind, namely: there is no "special sanctification" apart from justification.
This reminds one of the famous History of Ireland, written by a wit. One chapter had for its subject, "On Snakes in Ireland." The entire contents of the chapter were: "There are no snakes in Ireland." President Fairchild's Theology might be abridged as follows: "Chapter 23. On Sanctification. Contents: There is no 'special sanctification' as distinct from justification." The critical reader will see that this is the drift and pith of the whole discussion. What a blundering and benighted theologian the Apostle Paul was! Nine times he prays that the Christians in the various churches may become holy and sanctified. Thirteen times his inspired lips command Christians to go on to sanctification and perfection and holiness. Deluded man! he ought not to have entertained that "false impression" -- "the doctrine of special sanctification" after justification. But then, we must not be too hard on the dear old apostle whom we used to admire as quite a theologian. St. Paul lived a long time ago in a dark age, and though he had been taught by Jesus, he did not have the privilege of reading some modern theology on the doctrine of sanctification.
But if our modern author, now being reviewed, is correct we are shut up to one of two alternatives. Either there are no Christians, or these millions of church members, with their faults and foibles and sins, over which they grieve and pray and repent with endless repetition, are all sanctified. Either supposition borders on absurdity. President Mahan makes the following striking comment: "No doctrine can be less Scriptural or more manifestly unscriptural than is this, that all believers are in this dispensation baptised with the Holy Ghost at the time of their conversion. If we compare the actual state of our converts with the revealed results of the 'baptism of the Holy Ghost' we shall perceive at once that no more absurd notion ever whirled in a human brain than the idea that these converts, or even one in a million of them, have received this baptism" (Autobiography, p. 362).
Dr. Daniel Steele reviewing President Fairchild's teaching, says: "We have dwelt at length on this mischievous identity of entire sanctification with justification: 1. Because it tends to make young Christians abandon their trust in Christ when they discover sin still lurking within. 2. Those who do hold fast to Christ are by this doctrine excluded from seeing the great and glorious privilege of full salvation attainable on earth, and are left to a low and mixed spiritual state. 3. The census of the Christian Church in all the world would be reduced from millions to units. For, if this doctrine be true, we must count as regenerate only such as experience entire sanctification in the new birth" (Love Enthroned, p. 48). John Wesley wrote: "We do not know a single instance in any place of a person's receiving in one and the same moment remission of sin, the abiding witness of the Spirit, and a clean heart " (Plain Account of Christian Perfection, p. 34). William Bramwell once wrote to a friend: "An idea is going forth that when we are justified we are entirely sanctified. You may depend upon it this is the devil's great gun." Who would have supposed that Oberlin theologians would be shooting it.
To my mind, the severest arraignment of this Oberlin philosophy and theology has been made, not by any outside critic, but, unwittingly, by President Fairchild himself. July 29, 1875, he read a paper at Oberlin, before the Theological Institute, on "The Doctrine of Sanctification at Oberlin," afterward published in the Congregational Quarterly, for April, 1876, and then reprinted in pamphlet form. That pamphlet is now before me. In it he gives a clear, succinct history of the development of the doctrine in Oberlin through its various stages till it came to its untimely death. First there was a great revival in 1836 at Oberlin, under the leadership of Mahan and Finney, as a result of which personal holiness became the great theme (pp. 5, 6). The whole faculty were seeking the fullest possible blessing. President Mahan received his great baptism of the Spirit -- "the turning point in his Christian life" (p. 6). He called it after Wesley, "Perfect love" -- "Christian Perfection." Professor Finney called the experience "Sanctification." Professor Morgan called it "The Gift of the Holy Ghost." Professor Cowles called it "The Holiness of Christians in the Present Life." "The idea was much the same under these varying forms of expression, namely, that there is an experience attainable in the Christian life, subsequent, in general, to conversion, in which the believer rises to a higher plane, secures new views of Christ and his salvation, obtains victory over weaknesses which had before marred his character, and attains a stability to which he was before a stranger" (p. 7). "A more distinct and higher apprehension of Christ as a Saviour from the power of sin, as well as from its penalty, was not only theoretically accepted, but to a great extent practically realized." ... "There were remarkable transformations of character in connection with the work, a great enlargement of spiritual power and energy, the effects of which have remained in some cases from that day to this" (p. 9).
Then the new philosophy of Simplicity was sprung on Oberlin in 1841, by William Cochran. "One of the most obvious consequences of the doctrine is that conversion is entire consecration; that the earliest obedience of the converted sinner is entire obedience, and that his moral state is entirely approved of God" (p. 14), that "indeed, there is no justification without sanctification" (p. is). In this view every believer is sanctified" (p. 15). "All Christians, while in the exercise of faith, are sanctified, nor is there any clear line between the simply sanctified and the permanently sanctified" (pp. 16, 17). "The incompatibilities soon appeared" between this new "Oberlin theology" with "the doctrine of special sanctification," previously adopted and experienced (p. 18). Professor Finney, Professor Cowles, and President Mahan could never quite adjust their "sanctification" to the new views (pp. 18-24). "It came to be more and more a matter of doubt whether the seeking of sanctification as a special experience was on the whole to be encouraged, and it was not in general an occasion of satisfaction when a young man gave himself up to seek 'the blessing,' and when he obtained what seemed to him the thing he sought, there came to be less confidence that he had made substantial progress" (pp. 11, 12). "Persons who came to Oberlin were heard to remark that they had waited for months and perhaps years to hear a sermon on the doctrine of sanctification" (p. 12). "Of all the theologies now prevailing, the Oberlin theology is least adapted to yield the doctrine of immediate sanctification; and so far as this doctrine now prevails among us in limited circles, it is sustained, not by the Oberlin theology or the Oberlin teaching or preaching, but by the writings and periodicals and teachings, introduced from abroad. especially of the Wesleyan school" (p. 25).
I read all this, and say with unfeigned sorrow, so much the worse for Oberlin theology!
Says Rev. Sheridan Baker, D. D., who spent years in the study of this great theme and wrote several volumes upon it: "Never since Methodism has had an existence has she shown as many backslidden and worldly-spirited members as she has since this heresy has been proclaimed among her people. If regeneration and sanctification take place at the same time and always co-exist, the apostles were in error when they ordered the churches of their day to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit; and theologians have always misapprehended God's promises of cleansing when they have applied them to believers instead of to unbelievers. To accept this modern heresy is to reject the teachings of all Christendom upon this point for seventeen hundred years, to ignore the experience of God's people in all ages, and arrogantly to assume more knowledge than was ever reached before. That the heart's purification is a work of the Spirit subsequent to regeneration is the teaching of the Scriptures" (Hidden Manna, p. 98).
Thousands now in heaven testified while living, and thousands now living testify, that all their efforts at Christian development did not free them from the carnal mind; but when, in utter abandonment of self-helps, they threw themselves upon the Mighty to Save, they were at once freed from the impurities of the heart, and filled and thrilled with the perfect love of God. Over against all this array of experience there is not a solitary one, among the dead or the living, who has recorded or stated in any way a contradictory experience" (p. 108).
After twenty-three years of absence, the writer moved back to Oberlin, which is to him the dearest spot on the globe: but at once he was painfully impressed with the manifest decline of spiritual life in the town. He has heard it lamented on all sides, and has been often asked the cause. Here it is found at last. Once the whole faculty were bowed before God as one man seeking the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and President Mahan was receiving a marvellous ''second experience" which lifted him from "twilight piety to the effulgence of noonday"; but the faculty are not doing it now, for many have a precious philosophy that rules out such Pentecostal "second experiences"! Once the young men were eagerly seeking clean hearts from a sanctifying Saviour; now "it is not an occasion of satisfaction when a young man gives himself up to seek 'the blessing.' (God pity the young men held back by a hostile philosophy from the great prize!)
No more preaching on the great theme; no more public advocacy of holiness; no longer a banner floating over the college campus with the inscription, "Holiness unto the Lord." And we may further add, there is no longer a perpetual revival spirit in the town and college, with a hundred persons converted in a single term without an extra meeting. A regular Monday evening prayer-meeting has been discontinued; once it would frequently be so large that an overflow meeting was required. The writer has seen seven young men converted in a single evening at a regular prayer-meeting, led by a student not half through college; he has seen a hundred kneel together to seek Christ before the great congregation without an extra sermon or meeting for prayer.
Such things have not been taking place for a score of years. We have a charming philosophy now that makes all Christians sanctified, and rules out all "second experiences," as unsuited to the new order of things. But with their going has gone that abiding power of the Holy Spirit that once made Oberlin the wonder of the Christian world. A more striking comment on this philosophy of universal sanctification could not be made than is afforded by the widespread lamentation over the spiritual decline in its own home. So marked did it become that two years ago the leading pastor said three times publicly from his pulpit: "I have no heart to face the future with our present state of piety." Only yesterday the author heard him pray before the great congregation: "O Lord, save us from living any longer at this poor, dying rate." And the college President, with aching heart, appointed an early morning prayer-meeting for the faculty, which was to be continued till God came in mercy to the institution.
By all this God seems to be saying to this community: "Once you were all seeking 'with one accord' a 'second experience' of holiness and the baptism with the Holy Ghost, and I came in love and rained righteousness upon you, and gave you 'the anointing that abides.' Now you have adopted a philosophy that leads you to frown upon this second blessing: very well, take your idol, and with it will come leanness to your souls."
President Fairchild admits (p. 9) that in those early seekings after holiness, there "was practically realized a more distinct and higher apprehension of Christ as a Saviour from the power of sin. There were remarkable transformations of character, a great enlargement of spiritual power and energy, the effects of which have remained in some cases to this day." Yet he tells us elsewhere repeatedly that the Oberlin theology now affords "no basis" for such a sanctifying experience! Indeed! What would be thought of a philosophy of the heavens that had "no basis" for the movement of the stars? What shall be said of a theology that affords no place for the highest and holiest experiences of human souls? These heavenly uplifts of soul are facts, experienced by thousands; and such facts must be accounted for and provided for. Any system of thought that does not do it will in time be laid on the shelf as a unique specimen of erratic speculation. Plainly, Oberlin should alter some of the premises or the conclusions or the inferences of her philosophy, and get back as speedily as possible to the spiritual condition of other days. She sorely needs a liberal supply of "immediate sanctification"; and it can not be too "immediate." Even President Fairchild is reported to have said to a theological class less than two years ago: "A wave of the world has struck Oberlin. We are not doing the work we did; there is a decline of piety here."
Had this theology now regnant in Oberlin prevailed in the early life of the college, President Mahan and the professors and students would never have been bowing before God, seeking with one accord the baptism with the Holy Ghost. But this is equivalent to saying that this theology could never have produced that wonderful spiritual Oberlin that once was. It requires no man of prophetic vision to declare that it can not permanently better or even maintain the Oberlin that now is. It goes without saying that Oberlin pulpits have been filled by unusually able and devoted men. Probably none would have done better under the circumstances. But for more than a score of years there has been a steady decline in the spiritual life of the churches and the college. The set of the current toward worldliness and away from God, and the consequent loss of spiritual power, are unmistakable, and there is no power in this modern Oberlin theology to lift the ebbing tide of spirituality.
This theology, so erratic on the subject of sanctification, destroys its own fulcrum, and makes it impossible for it to elevate the churches to an exalted type of piety. By telling all Christians -- all regenerated people -- that they are "already sanctified" and "as good as they can be," it flatters the carnal mind and cuts the sinews of its own power to bless and inspire to a higher life. Whoever believes it will lose all hope, if not all desire, of betterment. The ministry that accepts it will be hopelessly crippled. A minister educated in Oberlin Seminary told a friend of mine that it took him sixteen years to get over the deplorable effects of this false theory. What minister has sixteen years to throw away in partial inefficiency? A more favourable field than Oberlin for testing the worth of this theory of sanctification could not have been afforded by the entire continent. Not one community in ten thousand ever had such a spiritual beginning, or had a history so imbued with the loftiest principles of pure religion. No community has been more signally exempted from the vitiating influences of the flagrant evils of the day. Yet in such a vineyard of the Lord, hedged about and guarded by a kindly providence, this theory has been tried, and it has signally failed, as it will always fail whenever and wherever tried, for the simple reason that it is contrary to the perpetually multiplying facts of human experience, to the teaching of Scriptures and to the gracious provisions God has made for the full salvation of men.
I write these things with pain, only in the interest of truth and the kingdom of Christ. I revere the great men who have been my instructors. I love my Alma Mater. But much as she needs additional resources, I would rather see her faculty and her students and these churches bending before God seeking a baptism with the Holy Ghost and personal sanctification than to see the college receive an additional million dollars to its productive endowment. The colleges that have millions of money are numerous; a great college and theological seminary baptised with the Holy Ghost is the need of the hour. This review of the Oberlin theology, as taught by President Fairchild, has been so sharp and full that there may seem to some to be an element of personality in it. There is nothing of the kind. The author has received nothing but kindness from President Fairchild and from Oberlin. It is the place of his residence and the home of his affection. But the thought of the college of Mahan and Finney teaching for a quarter of a century to theological classes such views of the doctrine of sanctification as will keep the young ministers from seeking the baptism with the Holy Ghost with its consequent "holiness and power," is enough to make angels weep and men lament. To correct that awful mistake this review has been sorrowfully written.
Samson broke his covenant with God as a Nazarite and revealed the secret of his strength to the enemy. Soon he became "like any other man." "And he wist not that the Lord had departed from him." God will have a peculiar people in this world, and once he called Oberlin to be that people, and poured his spiritual blessing upon her with a lavish hand. A philosophy has been permitted to change the conditions that brought that abiding presence of the Lord which was once Oberlin's chief glory. A religious decline has followed, which, if it continues a few years more, will leave Oberlin "like any other college," and she will "wist not that the Lord has departed from her." When that day comes, any reason why a young man or woman should cross half the globe to get to Oberlin will no longer exist. God grant that that unhappy day may never come!
I have said enough on this painful subject to show how true it is that the philosophies of great and good men, whom all love and revere, may stand directly in the way of the sanctification of God's people, the very last thing that the authors themselves intended. I will make but one other observation. President Fairchild tells us in his pamphlet (p. 9) that during the great holiness movement in Oberlin "the memoirs of James Brainerd Taylor, of Hester Ann Rogers, of Carvosso, and the Wesleys, and similar works were very generally read, and often referred to in the pulpit," but now any movement for "immediate sanctification" among us is sustained not by Oberlin theology, or teaching, or preaching, but "by the writings and periodicals and teaching introduced from abroad, especially of the Wesleyan school" (p. 25). "A pity 'tis 'tis true!" And the most wholesome thing Oberlin could do just now would be to go back to the old habit of importing other literature of this great subject to correct the evils of her own. Indeed, a dozen or twenty volumes fresh from other presses might easily be named that would be an "eye opener" to Congregationalists in general, and would greatly help to clarify their spiritual vision.
John Wesley says: "In 1729 my brother Charles and I, reading the Bible, saw we could not be saved without holiness. In 1737 we saw that this holiness comes by faith. In 1738 we saw, likewise, that men are justified before they are sanctified; but still holiness was our object -- inward and outward holiness. God then thrust us out to raise up a holy people." After preaching the doctrine of holiness for half a century, and having seen thousands brought into the experience, he wrote two years before his death: "This doctrine is the grand depositum which God has lodged with the people called Methodists: and for the sake of propagating this chiefly he appears to have raised us up" (Double Cure, p. 4, and Christian Perfection as taught by Wesley, p. 93).
This distinctive mission of Methodism was recognized by the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1824, and in the address to the General Conference, they said: "If Methodists give up the doctrine of entire sanctification, or suffer it to become a dead letter, we are a fallen people. Holiness is the main cord that binds us together ... The original design of Methodism was to raise up and preserve a holy people" (Double Cure, p. 4). In 1866, in New York City, Dr. John McClintock, President of Drew Theological Seminary, in the closing words of his centenary sermon, said: "Knowing exactly what I say, and taking the full responsibility of it, I repeat, we are the only church in history, from the apostles' time till now, that has put forth as its very elemental thought the great pervading idea of the whole Book of God, from the beginning to the end -- the holiness of the human soul, heart, mind, and will ... It may be called fanaticism; but, dear friends, this is our mission. If we keep to that, the next century is ours; if we keep to that, the triumphs of the next century shall throw those of the past into the shade. There is our mission; there is our glory; there is our power; and there shall be the ground of our triumph! God keep us true" (Defense of Christian Perfection, p. 14)!
These words seem prophetic, almost to the degree of inspiration. The saddest sign in the religious sky is the fact that so many Methodist ministers and churches are so neglecting this great central idea of Methodism. On the other hand, the brightest sign in the sky is the multiplied holiness camp-meetings, and the increasing holiness literature of Methodism, and the appointment of such men as Keen and Dunham to go from conference to conference to lead the Methodist denomination back to their old-time loyalty to the doctrine of holiness. Their ideas are surely gaining supremacy. The drift of the Presbyterians away from all that is distinctive in Calvinism, and toward the Methodist position, is unmistakable. It was observed of the report of the Congregational Creed Commission, "Whatever else it is, it is not Calvinistic." The Methodists have the theology of the future. And they are as unmistakably getting the numbers. With less than half the age of the Congregationalists, they are more than nine times as numerous. During the last five years their increase was two hundred and sixty-three thousand more than the entire number of Congregationalists, after two hundred and seventy years of American history. That increase was two and one-half times that of the Baptists, five times that of the Presbyterians, and ten times that of the Congregationalists. God hates sin and loves holiness. Evidently his eye is lovingly watching over that people for good who, with all their shortcomings, are still the most friendly in their teachings and administration to the idea of holiness as an attainable experience, of any church in the world. If the Methodists but bold fast to "the doctrine of entire sanctification" and make it a living experience of their people, the race for moral supremacy and religious influence will certainly be theirs in the next century. The Salvation Army teaches the doctrine of holiness with far more constancy and fidelity than the Methodists; and, with all its eccentricities, it is outgrowing them. Beginning with one Methodist family thirty years ago, it now numbers one million and a quarter members in uniform. They demand a higher type of piety than any great denomination, and their growth is unparalleled in all the Christian centuries. God will have a holy people.
More than fifty years ago, President Finney, in Vol. 3., p. 393, of his Theology, paid a beautiful tribute to the Methodists as the only denomination whose ministers treated kindly, and wisely led, those who were seeking holiness; on the other hand, if "the most pious members of the Calvinistic churches" sought or proclaimed sanctification, they were "at once treated as heretics or fanatics by their brethren, until, being overcome of evil, they fall into censoriousness and opposition to the church." It is much the same now. Let an individual or a little company of earnest believers get to hungering after holiness, and perhaps attaining it, and at once they are sneered at and criticised and berated and persecuted; as John Wesley said, "hooted at like mad dogs." It is because the average minister, from sheer ignorance, does not know what to do with them, not discerning that it is the most hopeful indication of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Even President Mahan said that though in his early ministry he could preach the gospel to the impenitent and lead multitudes of inquiring sinners unto Christ, yet he ''was conscious of a lack in himself of essential qualifications for the highest functions of his sacred calling." Not until he received the "baptism with the Holy Ghost," could he "feed the flock of God" and build them up in holiness. When will our seminaries send out a ministry so instructed in divine things and so filled with the Spirit, that they shall be able to feed the hearts hungering for holiness in the flock of God, and point them intelligently to a sanctifying, "uttermost" Saviour?
This want of Holy Spirit power has been the great underlying cause of the spiritual failure of Congregationalism. I do not wish to seem to be a self-appointed censor of our beloved denomination. It has done a truly noble work as the special patron of schools and learning. It has been the champion of civil and religions liberty. It has led all others in the work of foreign missions. I do not forget what I owe it of love and esteem and service. It is because I wish to serve it that I speak the painful truth, -- in reaching the masses it has been a signal failure. Rev. Smith Baker, D. D., of Boston, has brought to our notice the following facts: "So far as New England is concerned, Congregationalism had the historic advantage. It was first upon the ground and for many years was almost the only religious denomination. At the close of the Revolutionary War in Massachusetts, the Roman Catholics had one church, the Universalists had three, the Quakers had six, the Episcopalians had eleven, the Baptists had sixty-eight, and the Congregationalists had three hundred and thirty. This proportion was quite the same in all the New England States. That is, the Congregational churches in New England at the close of the Revolutionary War were nearly four to one of all the other denominations. What is the record today? There are in New England at the present time about thirteen hundred and sixty Congregational churches, four times as many as then. There are now about three thousand churches of other denominations, not including the Catholics, thirty-four times as many as at the close of that war, eight times as great an increase as the Congregationalists have had, on the very soil where the Pilgrim Church had the right of way. One hundred years ago, three out of every four church members were Congregationalists; now only one in eight Protestant Church members is a Congregationalist." (Then the Congregational denomination was the largest and strongest in the United States. Now it has fallen to the tenth place among the denominations.)
Notwithstanding this sorry showing, Congregationalism had some undeniable advantages. Besides being first on the ground, "in education and culture," says Dr. Baker, "it has been the peer of any and the superior of most of the other denominations. It has insisted upon an educated ministry, and has spent more money and time in preparing young men to preach than any other church in New England. In wealth and social position it has had the leadership in New England and been the equal of any other church in the nation.
Again, its polity has been in sympathy with the democratic government of the State and the Nation. Congregationalism has been both conservative and liberal. It has given the greatest liberty to its preachers, so that if any presentation of the truth could reach men it should have done it. But the great and conquering denominations have all been those of conservative and stiff creeds. The Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and the Salvation Army have held to the old and so-called narrow doctrine, and these four are the only Protestant denominations which are to any extent reaching the people. Liberal preaching has never reached the people permanently. The men in all evangelical pulpits who are seeking to cut down the doctrines to a minimum do not gather in the people or have revivals. If anything in the history of the Church has proved a failure, it is the power of liberalism to reach the masses. An easy religion is not a conquering religion.
Wherein, then, has been the weakness of Congregationalism? Why has it failed to reach the masses? While it has been boasting of its Pilgrim blood, and waxing eloquent over Plymouth Rock (and its schools and educated membership), the other churches have been saving the people."
1. The author believes that as a denomination we have been too liberal. We have tolerated too many brilliant but erratic preachers, who have enjoyed an unlimited amount of free newspaper advertising, and have become undeservedly famous. They have advocated a go-as-you-please religion, and preached a believe-what-you-will theology. Their influence has been destructive rather than constructive. They have been the weakness and the shame rather than the strength and the glory of our denomination. But there is a reason back of this; there is a cause for this liberalism.
Dr. Baker, in his article on "The Word and the Work, Bangor, Maine, April, 1896," already quoted above, gives two other reasons for Congregationalism's failure, viz:
2. "While it has been democratic in polity it has been undemocratic in spirit. Its wealth and its culture have a tendency to throw it out of sympathy with the people. The poorer people have not felt at home in its services, and the Pilgrim Church has lost the poor boys and girls who always make the leading men and women in the next generation. This is more noticeable in our cities. There is scarcely a Congregational church in any city in New England which reaches the common people. Our churches drift in to religious clubs, each club divided into cliques. Three-fourths of our Congregational churches are simply religious societies, which are run for religious pleasure and the help of its own members and into which, once a week, a few outsiders come to see what is going on. It is not fine churches nor fine music which keep the people from us, for they enjoy these as truly as the upper classes; it is the cold pews and the cold hearts. Thus we fail, because it always has been the case, and always will be, that the strong church of the future is the democratic church of today. The growth of the church depends upon its reaching the masses." But this, too, is only a symptom of the disease, and not the cause of it.
3. Dr. Baker adds: "The Congregational churches have not reached the masses because the intellectual has been lifted above the spiritual in the presentation of truth. Not that its ministers were too well educated. No church can ever have too much culture or too many educated men in its pulpits. It is not too much culture which has kept the denomination from growing, but the neglect of the spiritual. There have been too many little theological professors in the pulpit, and not enough preachers of the indwelling Christ. The ministry have appealed to the reason more than to the heart and the conscience. Far too many of our preachers have had religious conviction without spiritual experience. We have trusted to the truth rather than to the Holy Spirit. We need to warm up and stir up our orthodox doctrine with a Methodist stick. This is not a growl, but the honest confession of a High Church Congregationalist" (Smith Baker, Boston, Mass.).
To this the author says, "Amen and amen!" Dr. Baker touched at last the seat of our trouble -- a lack of Holy Spirit power. First spirituality declines; then our keen intellectuality is as ready to run after every new fad of unbelief as water is to run down hill. Then, too, we lose our enthusiasm for humanity at our own doors. The caste spirit and social pride supplant all Christlike passion for souls, and we plunge into worldliness instead of following after holiness. Our only remedy is such a baptism with the Holy Spirit as shall slay our worldliness and our proclivity to unbelief, and fill us with the love of truth and the love for souls and the divine power to win them. That ''Methodist stick" with which we need to be stirred is their great doctrine of sanctification by the Holy Spirit, which John Wesley says the Methodists were raised up to teach; it gives them a passion for souls and Holy Spirit power to win them.