Even when I was very young I was rather well informed as to the differences between Baptists and others. When a "second blessing" preacher hit the border of the community he was looked upon as being dangerous to our doctrinal set-up. He never had much consideration among us and usually did not tarry long.
Following these "second blessing" messengers came the "holy rollers" with a much more emotional experience, giving demonstrations so extreme as to appear ridiculous to well-trained Baptists. Out of curiosity I sometimes attended meetings, and my curiosity often received quite a stimulus in their automatic demonstrations of fainting, falling, shouting in a daze, or speaking in tongues. I saw men who were known to be wholly without any emotional expression, and adverse to religion in general, taken in by "the power" and made to do (for them at least) miraculous things. This they called the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
I have my own private opinions as to what "the power" was and is (for these demonstrations continue), and have never considered this a very holy type of religion.
I HAVE thus indicated the type of religious manifestation which has caused many Baptists to handle the terms "holiness" as little as possible. And because our Methodist brethren called their experience the "second blessing" and averred in many cases, that it brought them to sinless perfection the "accredited" Baptist fashion has been to avoid association with the experience now commonly known as "the deeper life." Yet in practice the worst mistake Methodists sanctificationists made was in stopping with the "second" blessing.
Because the Bible teaches Baptists that it is impossible for us to come to a state of sinless perfection, and honestly seeking to combat the unwarranted extremes to which this doctrine led many of its adherents, not a few Baptists have, to prove their point, almost advised sinning.
We have so emphasized the fact that believers cannot be sinless that we have had some embarrassment in trying to justify much of our sin, and to give some scriptural excuse for those of us who have been satisfied to remain in the see-saw of "wilderness wanderings" rather than proceed to the victory of the Promised Land.
The large majority of our people in effect have been taught to think of salvation as an ark to ride in rather than a battlefield on which to gain victories.
There is no more effective illustration of the progressive growth of God's children than is afforded in the journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan. Egypt is the bondage of sin; Salvation is in the blood of the lamb; the Red Sea is the picture of baptism and confession of deliverance (separation from bondage); the journey to Kadesh-Barnea is educational experience for us; and the crossing of Jordan is the entrance in to the Promised Land of victorious living.
BUT what of the "wilderness wanderings?" That was not God's idea; it was the only alternate for those who did not have faith to enter into this life of victory. They died in the wilderness.
Our Baptist people are solid on the doctrine of sin and bondage; of the Blood as the means of salvation; of baptism and its inherent meaning; of the educational experiences on the way up to Kadesh-Barnea. But the large majority of them stop there, and, for lack of faith, turn back into the wilderness to wander in an unsatisfied existence which is a blessing neither to God nor man. They die in unfruitfulness like the unfruitful tree.
Many who sing, "I Am Bound for the Promised Land” have thought of that place as Heaven. It was preached that way to me, a type of Heaven. Any solemn utterance on its typical meaning was calculated to bring forth tears, with visions of meeting loved ones who had gone on before, and of settling down from a hapless and weary existence here in this vale of tears to a blessed rest there forevermore.
Rest from what? Most of these "wilderness wanderers" have not done anything to make them tired except to wander. Yes, they are saved, but they are the pitiful spectacle of a life without victory. They are see-sawing, between God and the devil, blown about by worldly fads and persuasions, "sometimes up and sometimes down," riding in the ark of God's goodness and mercy, but never knowing the thrill of standing girded in the armour of God and facing the enemy.
The Promised Land is a type of the victorious life. It is a battlefield where we as soldiers of the Cross meet the enemy in the stronghold of a Kingdom (our lives) which he has stolen from God. It is entered by crossing the Jordan. Just as the Red Sea delivers us to the blessings of our faith in Christ the Saviour, so does Jordan deliver us to the blessings of our faith in Christ the Captain of the Lord's host. There Joshua found Him standing by Jericho. What for? To help Israel? NO, TO COMMAND ISRAEL!
When we enter the Promised Land of this spiritual life we hand over the commanding position to Christ It is absolute surrender. Like Joshua, we will fall on our faces in worship and, instead of telling Him what we have planned and asking Him in a hurry to get in and help us "put it over," we will humbly say: "WHAT SAITH MY LORD UNTO HIS SERVANT?"
This Captain today is the Holy Ghost. And we would do better, brethren, if, instead of letting Him have a share in our plans — letting Him be king, IF He will back up our "prime minister" decisions — we would humbly ask Him what is HIS plan. Instead of asking Him to help as, we would ask Him to COMMAND US. Those who enter this surrendered life find that secret. In the light of this fact, is it not pertinent that we ask, "Have not many of our leaders failed to bow down to the Captain?" The "prime-minister complex" has kept many a preacher and private believer permanently in the wilderness.
We preachers have a responsibility which drives us to deeper sources. Yet as it is, most of us are powerless. The average pastor is running a nursery. He is too busy making sugar sticks and running ball-bearing baby carriages to lead men of war into battle. And I cannot blame our church members entirely. If we ourselves know of it we have not told them of a deeper life; of victory over sin; of the battle ground where we can win victory by following our Captain in absolute surrender to His wishes. We may not know about it ourselves. But if we do, we have made meager reports of the land we have spied out. There must be greater emphasis here, both in the experience of the preacher and in his preaching.
God wants to give both the pastor and his people an experience of this victorious life. The Captain of the Lord's hosts did not take the matter out of Joshua's hands and make victory automatic. He involved Joshua and his people in the conflict in order that they might have a sense of victory within themselves.
BUT THIS SENSE OF VICTORY IN THEMSELVES CAME AFTER ABSOLUTE SURRENDER TO GOD'S WAY. THEY FOUND VICTORY IN FOLLOWING RATHER THAN LEADING. GOD WORKS IN HIS OWN POWER BUT HE WORKS HIS POWER THROUGH MEN WHO ARE RESPECTIVE TO IT. THIS POWER MAKES THEM VICTORS OVER GOD'S ENEMIES. IT IS ALL BY FAITH AND SURRENDER.
WE MUST come to this emphasis in our living and preaching. Some already have, but not by any means the majority of preachers or people. It is apparent in our lives and our works. Quoting a statement which was popular a few years ago, "We must go deeper if we would go farther."
HOW CAN WE LEAD OUR CHURCHES TO VICTORY IF WE DO NOT KNOW VICTORY OURSELVES?
This experience (for it is that) must be the result of confession of, yea, of repentance from, sin on the part of preachers as well as people. We have not told God all. The conceit of learning, the thirst for power, for bigger pulpits, for notoriety; the lack of time in prayer and devotion; the shallow and spiritually anaemic books we read; the willingness to get down on the firing line where the Lord and the lost are; our failure to bow before the Captain and seek His way — these and the like of these have robbed us of the thrill of victory.
We are not inspired; we are not fired with personal holiness. We are whipped out by the multiplied engagement of a ministry conditioned on the whims of worldly churches and we are afraid to say them nay. We seek sermons in books while God longs to fire them up in our hearts. We know the Word by letter, but that Word is not warmed in the fire of a deeper experience with God. That Word must be hot when it comes forth from us or it will not burn its way into the hearts of our people any more than any other word.
The preacher must not be afraid to let God burn out the dross of his life and fill him with the Spirit. We must cross the Jordan and lead our people with us.
[From Western Recorder, March 28, 1940, p. 1-2. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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