By Daniel Steele
THE HOLY SPIRIT THE CONSERVATOR OF ORTHODOXY.
THE term "orthodoxy" signifies right beliefs in respect to fundamental Christian doctrines. These are, the supreme divinity of Jesus Christ, the divine personality and the work of the Holy Spirit, the threefold personality of the one divine substance, the substitutional atonement, justification by faith, regeneration and sanctification by the Holy Spirit,— both rendered necessary by original sin (a tendency toward sin born in fallen man),— the future general judgment of the race, assigning some to eternal rewards and others to endless punishments, according to the permanent character voluntarily chosen in this life, the only probation. This, as I understand it, is the substance of orthodoxy.
In all ages of the Church it has been an important question how to preserve evangelical truth in the belief of those who profess faith in Christ. Recent events in the history of theological seminaries have intensified the interest in this question. A favorite method is to require the theological teachers to subscribe at stated intervals to a well-defined formulary of doctrines. But the Holy Spirit has not emphasized any portion of the Bible as a shorter catechism embodying the substance of revealed truth. If men draw up these creed statemerits in the heat of theological controversy, we are not sure that they have excluded all error and included all saving truth. Church history shows that men who have totally fallen away from a prescribed standard of doctrine may, under a temptation to retain their place, continue to reaffirm their adherence thereto by putting their own definitions into the terms. As the forms of liberty survive the spirit, so the orthodox creed may long outlive the spirit of orthodoxy. Required subscription to minute, ironclad statements of doctrine has been the cause of much contention, and a wedge for dividing the body of Christ. Language may be so twisted and words so defined that uniformity of belief cannot always be insured in this way. Hence the most poisonous liberalism may be taught under the forms of evangelical truth. It is my purpose in this chapter to show a better way, the New Testament way, of conserving orthodoxy; a way that always succeeds whereever it is faithfully followed.
The fulness of the Holy Spirit in pastor and people will always insure a correct theology. St. John in his First Epistle, ii. 20-27, regards the anointing or full baptism of the Spirit as the great safeguard against being drawn away by the falsity of antichrist. Says Dr. Whedon: "The word ' Christ' signified anointed, as chrism signifies oil, or the anointment. Here the unction or chrism is used in contrast to the antichrists, who became such because they had no such sanctifying chrism. As long as we possess the holy chrism, we will adhere to the holy Christ." St. Paul also implies the same truth when he positively asserts (I Cor. xii.3) that " no man speaking in the Spirit of God saith Jesus is anathema; and no man can say Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit." We are to understand that in translating the Old Testament into Greek, Latin and English, the word "Jehovah" was very unfortunately rendered " Lord." This was because the Hebrews had for more than a thousand years ceased to pronounce the word, and had substituted " Lord" for it in all their public reading of the Scriptures. Hence the title "Lord," in Jewish conception, meant " Jehovah." Thus the angels (Luke ii. 11) announce to the shepherds, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Messiah, Jehovah." This is the real import of the celestial message when fully expressed in the Hebrew form of thought. "No man is able to say that Jesus is Jehovah, but in the Holy Spirit." This means that no man, however highly cultured, can have an inward realization of the supreme Godhead of Jesus, but through the illumination of the Holy Spirit giving an experimental realization of that truth. Thus it pleased God to reveal His Son in Paul. Unregenerate men may be trained from infancy in the catechism to assert with the lips the supreme deity of Jesus, but it is like the talk of the educated parrot till the Spirit of truth, or the Spirit of reality, makes the dogma which has been drilled into the intellect real to the heart. This truth, though not conflicting with reason, is so far above reason that no person on the plane of nature, unaided by the Paraclete, can ever have a satisfactory realization of it. The natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit, and he discredits Jesus when He says, "I and my Father are one." Therefore this doctrine of the Godhead of Christ, which is fundamental to the evangelical system, is preserved and rendered vital in the Christian consciousness only by the Holy Spirit. This basal element of Christianity may well stand for the sum total of evangelical truth.
This brings us to our theme — the Holy Spirit in the believer preserves, vitalizes and makes real to the consciousness all the essential truths of the gospel. The spirit of inspiration has recorded these truths in the Bible; but if He had not made them real and living in the Christian experience, they, and the Bible too, would have perished long ago. History is full of instances of essential truth dropping first out of experience, then out of the creed. Thus justification by faith in Jesus Christ disappeared from the Roman Catholic Church and left the world in darkness for a thousand years. Fewer and fewer experienced the conscious pardon of sin as witnessed by the Holy Spirit, till finally there were not witnesses enough left to keep the precious truth from going into oblivion. Luther first experienced and then boldly restored the lost doctrine. Thus the doctrine of entire sanctification was lost during many Christian ages, and was restored to the modern Church by the great spiritual awakening called Methodism, the largest effects of which are not found in the census tables of the various Methodisms, but in the spiritual impulse given to our entire Protestant Christianity.
Church history demonstrates that so long as the Church is filled with the Holy Spirit her grasp of all cardinal Christian truth is firm and unwavering. Mr. Spurgeon once made this remark: "Doubts about the fundamentals of the gospel exist in certain churches, I am told, to a large extent. My dear friends, where there is a warm-hearted church you do not hear of them. They do not come near, it is too warm. I never saw a fly alight on a red-hot plate." A heresy in respect to saving truth never yet lighted on a redhot body of believers. But again and again it has alighted on denominations which have cooled off in zeal and have fallen into spiritual decay.
The Holy Spirit not only put on record the facts of Christ's life, but He conserves all the facts in Christ's history, since His death. Rationalism admits His death, but denies His resurrection. A risen Jesus is scoffed at on the platform of every convention of freethinkers. To them He is as dead as Julius Caesar, and rules the world only from His tomb. The historic proofs all go for nothing so long as they, by their unbelief, exclude from their hearts the Spirit, whose office it is to make real to the heart what is shadowy and visionary to the intellect. Dwelling as they do on the low plane of naturalism, with its uniform laws, they are incapable of receiving the truth that the crucified Jesus is alive. Pentecost proves that Jesus has ascended and mounted the Father's throne, a glorified man. All modern believers who have had a personal Pentecost are convinced by this overwhelming proof. The Spirit takes the living and glorified Jesus, and shows Him unto them. This proof has all the cogency of an intuition. To those destitute of the Spirit it is all moonshine — the vaporings of a distempered imagination. Let the sceptic candidly weigh the historical proofs of the resurrection of Jesus, and he will be astonished to 'and them a Jacob's ladder with which to climb up to a spiritual experience in which it will be impossible to believe that Jesus is still in the tomb. The resurrection of the dead soul to newness of life by the Holy Spirit is a mighty confirmation of Jesus' resurrection from the tomb. Ask any young convert living with the Spirit's testimony in his heart, whether Jesus is dead or alive, and he will joyfully answer: "I know that He is alive, for He saves my soul." The ascension of Jesus through the heavens to the highest place the universe affords is a fact not of reason, but of the gospel record made real to believers by the Holy Spirit. The apostles who saw Him ascend may have had perplexities and intellectual difficulties about what had become of their Master above the clouds, whether His body had been etherealized and dissipated through space, or whether the whole scene was an optical illusion, or as the Germans say, a kind of scenic withdrawal into invisibility. Such sceptical suggestions may have haunted their minds during that ten-days' prayer meeting after the ascension, severely testing their faith. But when the Spirit came down with His gift of fiery tongues and of inward purification, purging the disciples' eyes from every film, and filling their hearts with joy, the lost Jesus was suddenly found. He did not stand forth in bodily form in their company, saying "Peace," but stood forth a glorious, undoubted and bright reality. He had promised that when He had reached the throne He would send the Comforter, and now the downcoming of the Paraclete demonstrates that Jesus is glorified. Who would be knowing anything about Jesus Christ to-day, after eighteen hundred years of absence from the earth, if it had not been for the Holy Spirit, His successor on earth? His very name would have been forgotten by mankind. The absent and the dead soon pass out of mind. There was a time when Alexander the Great was on the world's tongue. He died, and men ceased to speak of him. So it was with Julius and Augustus Caesar, Napoleon in Europe, and with Washington, Lincoln and Garfield. Why are men talking of Bismarck and Gladstone, of President McKinley and Queen Victoria? Because they are alive and conspicuous figures in modern politics. Why do men and women, friend and foe, keep talking, writing and printing the name of Jesus Christ? Why does every infidel convention, every assembly of liberals, discuss Jesus of Nazareth with so intense interest? Why not let Him sleep undisturbed in His tomb in Jerusalem? Why is His religion a live question in circles of highest intellectual culture in the nineteenth century? Because Jesus Himself is alive in the nineteenth century, and reports Himself to the world's consciousness, to the sinner's fears and to the believer's hopes, through the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Just in proportion as the world has listened to the voice of this heavenly messenger has the world received her Saviour and Lord, and just in proportion as the Church has been filled with the Holy Spirit has she firmly held the truths of orthodoxy. But whenever the Spirit has ceased to sway her, and she has fallen into a decay of her spiritual life, she has relaxed her grasp upon the fundamentals of the gospel. Study the history of Romanism, and see if her departure from the saving truths of Christianity to the doctrines of men was not through a long period of spiritual decline and worldliness. As the fourth centennial of Luther's birth has just passed and our minds are specially turned toward Germany, we trace with sadness the blighting rationalism in that land of the Reformation to its source, and we find it to be a church spiritually dead; a Lutheranism losing the spirit of Luther, which was the Spirit of his Master, and trusting in the sacraments for salvation. The Anglican Church has travelled the same road from spirituality through formalism to ritualism on the one hand, and to liberalism on the other. But we need not cross the Atlantic to find exemplifications of the truth of our theme. Study the history of theological thought in New England since the landing of the Pilgrims. They were brimful of the Holy Ghost, holding evangelical truth so firmly that exile in a savage wilderness was cheerfully chosen in preference to a surrender of one saving truth of the New Testament. But unwisely limiting the right to vote in town-meeting to church members, for political power unconverted men crowded into the church. These soon got into the pulpits, for the pulpit was in high honor and afforded a good salary for life, levied by a lawful tax upon the property of the town. Preachers generally preach what the people delight to hear. A church declining from a high spirituality did not like to hear of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and its dreadful punishment in hell fire, the necessity of repentance, the new birth, and sanctification of the Spirit. So the pulpit furnished the pews with good moral essays on the beauty of virtue, and as a result every distinctive truth of the gospel was neglected for a generation in many pulpits. To be silent on any doctrine for a generation is to root it out of the faith of the Church. Then came Whitefield sounding the trump of a spiritual resurrection, shouting to preachers and people on Boston Common words which seemed then most radical and revolutionary, "Ye must be born again." Forty thousand in New England believed and were born of the Holy Spirit. But many churches shut their doors against this God-sent apostle of a spiritual Christianity, and the preachers went on reading their moral essays. There was no difference in the printed creeds of the spiritual and unspiritual churches. They were all alike Congregational. But the spiritual preachers preached the creed, while the mere moralists ignored it for another generation. At last the day came for drawing the line between spiritual death and spiritual life, when, lo, it was found that that line was the exact demarcation between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, between the Evangelicals and the Unitarians. Then the fact was made public that a majority of the old Puritan churches in eastern Massachusetts had been so long without the Holy Ghost that they could not say that Jesus is Lord: they repudiated the corner-stone of orthodoxy, the supreme Godhead of Jesus Christ. Still they taught that He was in a degree divine, the most exalted creature in the universe, far above archangels, cherubim and seraphim, and next to the throne of God. They held to the miraculous basis of Christianity, the supernatural birth of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the resurrection of the dead, the general judgment and eternal punishment. William Ellery Channing, when teaching school in Richmond, Va., came to the conclusion, and records it in his journal, that he could no longer worship Jesus Christ. What follows this denial of supreme worship to the Son equally with the Father? The very moment he and his adherents stepped off from the Rock of Ages, the Godhead of Christ, they found their feet on an inclined plane of ice, sliding, sliding, sliding, down, down, down, finding no logical stopping place till they have reached bald and bare deism, a cold and misty pantheism merging into blank atheism disguised with the euphonious name of "agnosticism." Let us show you the logical steps down this stairway from Puritan orthodoxy to atheism. First, a spiritual, decay in the churches till the Holy Spirit no longer reveals Christ in the heart, and His supreme divinity is repudiated. Second, if Christ is a creature He cannot make a substitutional expiation for sin, so the atonement drops away; for a creature, whether man or archangel, can do no more than his duty; no merit of his can be the sinner's plea. Hence, in the third place, there is no justification by faith, for this rests on the atonement. If there is no pardon of sin through faith in the only Saviour, then follows, as a fourth step, salvation by works, every man his own saviour. Next, sin is viewed as a mere incident in the natural unfoldings of a finite being, the tumbling down of an infant taking its first toddling steps in probation, a childish disease like the chicken-pox, to be outgrown by intellectual and moral development. Hence there is no need of regeneration. All men are born pure as Adam in Eden. Original or birth sin is a blot on the character of a good God; all men are born with a germ of goodness in them, which only needs culture to develop into Christianity. As there is no need of regeneration and sanctification, the Holy Ghost, as the personal Regenerator and Sanctifier, is a superfluity. He is degraded from a person to an influence or an attribute. Thus far the inspiration of the Bible has stood unquestioned. But now this is sifted to the bottom and reported to be a mass of chaff. Theodore Parker, the advance destroyer of orthodoxy, made the brilliant discovery that the Bible is a superfluity, man being by nature furnished with a set of moral judgments and religious intuitions, a great deal better than God's Word in the form of a book, and that the volume which is the ultimate authority with the Christian is no more inspired than "his grandfather's old musket" which did good service at Lexington. The next doctrine to be thrown overboard was eternal punishment. There are two ways of disposing of this exceedingly disagreeable item of orthodoxy. The Universalist thinks that God is too good to damn him, and the Unitarian thinks that he is too good to be damned, so that both rid themselves of this unpleasant doctrine, the one en the ground of God's benevolence, and the other on that of man's goodness. Thus we see that in the space of about seventy years Puritan churches which began by neglecting to seek the work of the Holy Ghost in personal experience, have slidden rapidly down to atheism, till at last professed Christian ministers, without any shock to their own consciences or the moral sense of their churches, step out of their pulpits into Thomas Paine Memorial Hall, to give countenance to the infidels in heaping abuse upon Jesus Christ and His Church.
The Godhead of Jesus Christ protects all other vital doctrines, the personality of God and the dignity and the worth of man and the true estimate of sin. Admit that the supreme God stooped to the amazing condescension of taking man's nature and dying in our behalf, and you give to man a value, and to sin a significance, utterly beyond all computation.
Deny the incarnation of God in man, and you tear away from him his patent of nobility issued by heaven itself, and you leave him a highly developed tadpole, an educated and trained monkey evolved into a man void of immortality. In the same way the cross of Christ is the only correct measure of sin. If Jesus is God in human form, His death as the sin-bearer gives sin a tremendous significance. Otherwise it is a mere trifle, and its eternal punishment is offensive to reason and disgusting to the delicate moral sensibilities of our refined civilization. But what was the first step which led down from Puritanism to atheism? It was the attempt to build up a Church without the Holy Spirit in conviction for sin, in regeneration and sanctification. I have now shown by historical examples in both Europe and America that an orthodox creed must perish when the spiritual life dies out of a denomination. I might show that the Unitarian or "Hicksite " Friends originated in exactly the same way. History is philosophy teaching by examples. Like causes will continue to produce like effects. It will be true of the existent evangelical churches that the speculative age will succeed the spiritual if we suffer the spiritual era to depart. Then heresies will swarm into the vacuum left by the Holy Ghost. I fear that other denominations by their neglect of the Holy Spirit are stepping out upon the inclined plane of ice. The liberalistic drift of Andover is no surprise to me. Years ago I announced to the public that the Holy Ghost was not receiving His due honor in the preaching and theological thinking of New England scholars. As a proof I cited the "Bibliotheca Sacra and Theological Review," published at Andover, thirty-six volumes, 1844-1879, containing one thousand two hundred and fifty articles by three hundred contributors, as not containing one article on the personality and offices of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of men. This indicates a corresponding silence in the pulpit during the same period. As a result of this long neglect of the Spirit, a plentiful crop of speculative errors in respect to fundamental truth will soon spring up. The same causes are at work in other evangelical denominations. The theological thought of Methodism (M. E.) as reflected in her Quarterly for the last fifty years, has not one article on the Holy Spirit, save one on the sin against the Holy Ghost and one on "The Holy Spirit as a Factor in our Intellectual Life." It has been the boast of Methodism that she has conserved her orthodoxy by her spirituality and intense evangelistic zeal. Happy would it be for herself and for Protestantism, of which she is becoming the leader, if this boast of no doctrinal schism could continue another one hundred and forty years in the twenty-seven Methodisms represented in the London Ecumenical Conference. We quote from the address of the bishops of the M. E. Church in 1880: "It has been the honor of Methodism to have maintained from the commencement of its history the doctrines of the Church in their purity and efficiency. The controversies which have arisen have had reference to questions of church policy, but not to questions of doctrine. Its ministers fully accepted the teachings, and were almost universally faithful to their vows. We regret to say that in some quarters a spirit of latitudinarian speculation has been introduced into the Church, and occasionally ministers have claimed the right to preach doctrines which are not in harmony with our articles and standards." What is the cure? Not new articles added to her creed, not ironclad tests of orthodoxy to be subscribed by her theological professors, but the universal baptism of the Spirit.
Twenty-seven years ago I was closeted alone with a distinguished judge in Syracuse to draft the charter of a Christian university. The first draft would have suited a Mohammedan or a Buddhist institution, for there was no allusion to Christ. At my suggestion the adjective " Christian" was inserted before "learning." The jurist was then asked whether an evangelical interpretation to " Christian " could not be incorporated into this charter of the university, so that it could be forever held for orthodoxy as found in Methodistic standards. The case of Harvard College was cited as having been wrested from the Evangelicals, by whom it was founded, and turned into a propagandist of liberalism. Never will the reply of the judge be forgotten: "There is no safeguard possible. Harvard went over to Unitarianism because the Church herself apostatized from the faith. You cannot, by legal documents, prevent a denomination from drifting away from its creed. If Methodism backslides from orthodoxy, she will carry her universities with her." The lawyer taught the preacher an important lesson, which he has exerted himself to teach to others ever since. Orthodoxy can be conserved only by the Holy Spirit abiding in the consciousness of the individual members of the Church. Then, and then only, are we safe. But if our piety declines with our growth and popularity; if we begin to glory in our millions of members and twice ten thousand churches and hundreds of academies and scores of colleges; if we admit to our communion our wellbehaved children without a radical, spiritual change of heart, and are satisfied with a decent morality only and a reverential attendance upon Sunday worship and the sacraments, and do not insist on the new birth, the witness of the Spirit and the fruits in a holy life, Methodism will inevitably lose her hold on the most vital Christian doctrines, and will tumble at length into the slough, of liberalism. Toward this calamitous end, look at the decline of the class-meeting and the attempt to abolish probationary membership, which is fostered and tested by this peculiar means of grace; also the wholesale reception into full membership in some parts of our country of seekers who have not yet found satisfactory assurance of a change of heart. We should remember that the Methodist Episcopal Church South has already gone this length, and the signs of the times indicate that the mother of Episcopal Methodism is fast following in the footsteps of her retrograde daughter. How are we to interpret the widespread resort of our churches to worldly devices for raising money, devices which appeal to love of self instead of love to Christ who bought us with His blood? Do not the least objectionable of these commercial expedients, those which avoid the statutes against gambling, indicate a drying up of the streams of Christian beneficence consequent upon the decline of a spiritual life? So it seems to the author. Was there not a time when Methodism loved God so ardently that she gladly poured out her money for His cause without the premium of an oyster supper or pincushion? Many of my readers can remember the time when church fairs and festivals for ecclesiastical revenues were monopolized entirely by denominations which slightly emphasize heart religion. From her lofty spiritual height Methodism once looked down upon these things with abhorrence.
Do not stigmatize the writer as an alarmist if he points out to you manifest symptoms of doctrinal decline following upon the heels of confessed spiritual decay. The pulpit is the best place to feel the pulse of a denomination. Preachers are human and are inclined to abandon preaching truths distasteful to their audiences. What are the truths which once rang out in every Methodist pulpit, but have now fallen into neglect and are not preached at all, or are passed over' like a slurred note in music? The helpless depravity of the natural man and his need of the new birth in order to be saved; the witness of the Spirit of adoption directly to the believer. In every church under my care I find many who confess ignorance of the meaning of the phrase "the direct witness of the Spirit." They say that they are resting on an inference drawn from the marks of regeneration recorded in the Bible and observed in their own hearts. They are strangers to the direct contact of God with the soul, upon which Wesley insisted so fully, frequently and emphatically, and which was the distinguishing feature of early Methodism and her secret of power. They say that the modern pulpit does not insist on this experience as the privilege of every believer. Thus many are left at ease without that heart knowledge of God which is eternal life. Hence the rarity of the radical Wesleyan type of conversion at our altars, so generally witnessed fifty years ago.
Wesley records the fact that ninety-nine per cent of those converted at his altars received the direct witness of the Spirit to their adoption into the family of God. In fact, there seems to be much less prominence given in our pulpits to the personality and distinctive offices of the Third Person of the Trinity in the plan of salvation than formerly. This is both a cause and an effect of the spiritual decline of the Church. If the Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual life, the more clearly He is presented to the faith of believers the more firmly will He be grasped, the more transforming will be His influence and the more abundant His fruit. Where do we look for the least zeal for Christ, the least ardor of Christian love, the least self-sacrifice for the promotion of the gospel, the least travail of soul for the conversion of sinners, the fewest conversions to Christ, the least interest in missions, the least joy in Christ, the least deadness to the world, and the least spirituality? It is where the least is said about the Paraclete, the peculiar and distinctive work of the Comforter. The unity of the Godhead without any such distinctive presentation is preached in the Mohammedan mosque, in the Jewish synagogue and the Unitarian and Universalist churches, with no spiritual fruit. The results are nearly as meagre in those Methodist churches where the Holy Spirit has been largely eliminated from the preaching. The same effects follow the same causes under whatever denominational name. Those denominations which emphasize the work of the Spirit are more spiritual and aggressive, while those which slight the Spirit are in turn slighted by Him, and become dead, worldly and stationary, or rather declining and on their way to the graveyard. It is vain to say that there is in the neglect of the Holy Spirit a compensation, inasmuch as the love of God is the more highly exalted and the Father more perfectly honored when preachers, neglecting the Third Person of the Trinity, give prominence to the First and Second. This is a very great fallacy. It is the office of the Spirit to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, to testify of Christ. "He shall glorify me." He is the looking-glass which reflects the image of the invisible Jesus. Remove or veil the mirror, and there is no vision of the Son of God; and where the Son is dimly seen, the Father is vaguely apprehended. Where the Holy Spirit is not exalted,-Christ is not magnified. This lessening emphasis of the Spirit's work is leading our people into several grave misapprehensions respecting the spiritual life. One of these is that the office of the Spirit is limited to the beginning of the life of God in the soul; that He is needed only to convict sinners and convert penitents, and then may be dispensed with. The process by which this error is inculcated is this: A revival is desired. An evangelist is sent for. His preliminary work is to prepare the members of the church to be channels of the Holy Spirit. They are all set to praying for His outpouring. Prominence is given to Him chiefly as the agent in conversion. The evangelist is dismissed after his work is done, and the Holy Spirit is dismissed also, as being no more needed till the time comes round for another revival. This sad mistake arises from the fact that the Spirit is made prominent onlyin the initiation of the spiritual life. In the advancement and sanctification of the believer He is not necessary. The young convert either hears nothing said about entire sanctification as the distinctive work of the Spirit, or he hears it vaguely preached as the result of growth. So growth takes the place of the Sanctifier, and He is left with nothing to do. So with all the fruits of the Spirit. The convert is told that if he would have joy he must seek it in doing every duty. Thus duty, a term used only twice in the New Testament, and then having no reference to the Christian life, usurps the place of the Paraclete, the wellspring of perennial joy. If the convert is troubled with doubts, instead of being pointed to the fulness of the Spirit as the source of assurance, excluding all doubt, he is told that doubts trouble everybody, and that there is no effectual remedy; but that which comes the nearest to the perfect cure is to plunge into Christian work so earnestly as to forget your doubts. Thus the Holy Spirit is insensibly supplanted. What will be the outcome of all this? The fervent and highly spiritual era of Methodism will pass away; then look out for the speculative era to come; the era of doctrinal disintegration, theological confusion and schism on dogmatic grounds.
Again, the law of God and His wrath against sin, the sanctions of the law, the eternal punishment of the finally impenitent, are not so plainly, boldly and earnestly preached as formerly. The law is still the schoolmaster, or child-leader, to bring men to Christ. Where the law is not preached through deference to long-pursed impenitent pew-owners, there are no conversions, and the preacher has to send for some evangelist to come and preach the same unpalatable truths the pastor has kept back; and sinners hear and are pricked in their hearts, and cry for pardoning mercy till they find salvation. There was no place for evangelists in Methodism fifty years ago, because every preacher preached the whole gospel, thundering the terrors of the Lord into the cars of slumbering sinners. How rarely do we now hear a sermon on the second coming of Christ and the day of judgment!
"Day of judgment, day of wonders;
Hark! the trumpet's awful sound,
Louder than ten thousand thunders,
Shakes the vast creations round;
How the summons
Will the sinner's heart confound!"
This style of preaching is out of fashion in our pulpits, just as though the everlasting gospel of the changeless Christ were subject to the caprices of fashion, fickle as the winds. Jesus addressed sinners' fears, uncapping the pit of woe, bidding them gaze upon the undying worm, the unquenchable fire, and the smoke of the torment ascending up for ever and ever. Sin and the, penalty have not changed. Human nature and the motives which influence it are the same in all ages. Who then has changed? Modern Christians are not, through the fulness of the Holy Spirit abiding in them, brought into such sympathy with Jesus that we realize these great truths as He did when He warned men to flee from the wrath to come. The penalty of the broken law is not preached in liberalistic pulpits, and, as a natural consequence, there being no schoolmaster to lead Christward, nobody is converted. Ought we not to expect the same barrenness to attend similar soft, sentimental and velvety preaching in so-called evangelical pulpits? The modern treatment of sin is alarmingly superficial. It is treated as if consisting wholly in the act; the state of heart behind the act is ignored. The doctrine of original sin, a poison stung into humanity by the sin of Adam and curable only by the radical purgation of the believer's soul, body and spirit, through the Holy Ghost in entire sanctification, after the new birth, has quite generally dropped out of our pulpits. How few preach about sin in believers, repentance in believers, and bring our church members under conviction for clean hearts, attainable now by faith and faith only in the blood of sprinkling which sanctifieth the unclean! In how few pulpits do famished Christians hear of the great salvation, Christian perfection, or the perfect holiness of believers, insisted on "clearly, emphatically and explicitly," a work described by Richard Watson as distinctly marked, and "as graciously promised in the Holy Scriptures as justification, adoption, regeneration and the witness of the Spirit." Why has the doctrine styled by John Wesley "the grand depositum committed to the people called Methodists," ceased to be heard in a majority of our churches, clearly unfolded, bravely defended, and faithfully urged upon all believers with its unanswerable array of scriptural proof? Is it not because the general tone of spirituality has sunk to so low a point that few believers in the pulpits and in the pews are thirsting after full salvation? This silence on a vital doctrine has almost wrested it from the Church providentially raised up for its promulgation. And this silence in turn is the result of the lack of the general diffusion of the Holy Spirit through our ministry and membership. Doctrinal errors must follow. The advance guard of the coming host of heresies is already visible—the denial of the resurrection of the body, of original sin, of the personality of Satan, of entire sanctification after justification, and of this life as the whole of probation. What the main army will be we know not, except that it will be marshalled by antichrist. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. If I have any special mission in the afternoon of my life between this and sunset, it is to show to the Church the grave perils which will inevitably follow the abandonment of an intense spirituality and the neglect of the doctrinal truths which inspire this vigorous spiritual life. If the warning is heeded, doctrinal defections will be checked, and all our members will have an experimental realization that Jesus is Jehovah. Then will the weak ones become as David, and David as the angel of Jehovah in valor and strength. Then there will be at least one denomination that the devil will not laugh at and the world spit upon. It was Whitefield who wisely said that he "had rather have ten members wholly consecrated to God and filled with the Spirit, than five hundred that the devil laughs at in his sleeve." The world has an instinctive fear of the man who intensely believes the whole Bible from cover to cover, who is dead to the world and alive to God in every fibre and atom of his being, with every capacity filled and every power energized by the Holy Ghost. "Give me a hundred men," says Wesley, "who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world; and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; and such alone will overthrow the kingdom of Satan and build up the kingdom of God on earth." He got his hundred men and he shook the world with an earthquake mightier than can be produced by a million of easy-going nominal Christians afraid of the Holy Ghost and apologizing for their own distinctive doctrines.
I wish I had power to reach every Methodist on the round earth. I would say, cease living on the heroism of your fathers, quit glorying in numbers, sacrificing to statistics and burning incense to the general minutes; down upon your knees and seek and find for yourself the secret of the power of the fathers, a clean heart and the endowment of power from on high, then arise and unfurl the banner of salvation free and full and a common-sense theology, the beauty of which, as Joseph Cook says, is "that it can be preached." Then, in double-quick time, charge upon the hosts of sin and conquer the world for Christ. A Brahmin recently said to a Christian, " I have found you out. You are not as good as your book. If you Christians were as good as your book, you would in five years conquer India for Christ." Come, Holy Spirit, and so cleanse and fill us that we may be as good as our book!
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.