Its Relation to the Unconverted World
It is often objected that when people get interested in the question of heart purity, they neglect the unsaved. It is said to be selfish to spend time and efforts on ourselves, when there are others who need salvation. To this we reply that if we do not attend to our own salvation no one will do it for us. God has given us grace and bids us work out our own salvation. If we do not work it out nobody else will or can do it for us. But often the best thing we can possibly do for the salvation of others is to keep well saved ourselves and let the Lord work and shine through us. The greatest hindrance to the salvation of sinners is in the low type of Christianity that prevails generally. There are some people so busy in what they call religious work that they take no time to feed on the bread of life and are starving to death spiritually while attempting to carry food to others. There are people that are too much in a hurry.
Suppose when Jesus told the disciples to tarry in the upper room until the Comforter came, impetuous Peter had said, “Lord, there is so much to do that we can not afford the time. Here is a great world to carry the gospel to and to disciple, and life is short at the longest, we need to be in a hurry.” What a mistake Peter would have made to have started out without being prepared.
This is exactly what those people suggest who call time wasted that is spent seeking a clean heart. This is often the best way to reach sinners. So David thought in seeking for a clean heart, for he adds right after his prayer, “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” There is no better way of getting sinners converted than for the church to get where the hindrances are all out of their own hearts. God saves men through his people. They are his instruments and he can work better with good instruments than with poor ones.
On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit purified the hearts of the Apostles, three thousand people went forward for prayers without any urging. The church became as empty channels, out of which all the obstructions had been removed, and then the waters of salvation flowed to a thirsty world.
When Isaiah had that wonderful vision in the temple and the live coal touched his lips, and the sin was all purged away, then the voice came, saying, “Who shall I send and who will go for us?” He immediately responded, “Here am I; send me.” He was all ready then. The great reason that there are not more of the people of God in active evangelistic work is that the state of their heart renders them neither fit nor willing to engage in the work.
Hitherto we have been treating of the negative side of entire sanctification for the purpose of making the subject as simple as possible. There is another, the positive side. It is by the incoming and filling of the soul with the Holy Spirit. He came into the hearts of the disciples on the day of Pentecost to abide, cleansing the temple as He came in. The cleansing is the negative and the filling is the positive side of entire sanctification. Peter declared on the day of Pentecost, as he preached and explained what had just taken place, that it was the fulfillment of the promise made by God through the prophet, Joel. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out, in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2: 17-18). This is the New Testament gift of prophecy, which all have who have received the Holy Ghost. The term prophecy is usually used in a narrow sense, and is usually understood to mean the prediction of future events. This is not its real meaning. It means the declaration of the message that God has given the speaker, whether it refers to future events or those of the present.
The old-time prophets usually were called upon to declare God’s will as regards future events. The New Testament prophets are usually authorized to deliver the message that God desires men to have, concerning the present. As some one says New Testament prophecy “is not so much foretelling as forth telling,” or telling forth what God has done for the soul.
Testimony inspired by the Holy Ghost is the greatest agency in the world for spreading the truth of the Gospel. Paul says it is superior to all the other gifts. In I. Cor. 14:24, he says, “But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all; and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is among you of a truth.” This was the New Testament method of getting men under conviction. The church received the baptism with the Holy Ghost, which purified the heart and filled them with the Spirit, and then, under the fiery utterance of their glowing hearts God smote the unconverted with conviction.
This is still the divine method of reaching the unsaved through a Spirit-baptized church.
Jesus prophesied of this method before he left the world. He said to his disciples (John 16:7) “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you. In the next verse he declares the result of the Comforter thus coming to them — a result that is just as true today as then. Hear it! ye who think too much is said about the cleansing and filling of the hearts of believers.
“AND WHEN HE IS COME, HE WILL REPROVE THE WORLD OF SIN, OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND OF JUDGMENT.”
The very best way to reach the unsaved is to get the church to the place in their experience where the Holy Ghost will be able consistently to convict the unsaved. So according to the word of God, instead of its being a waste of time and effort, it is the very best way to reach the unsaved world. And how can we be guiltless with this light if we refuse to let the Holy Ghost come and cleanse and fill our hearts? We stand in the way of the unsaved if we do not come up to our privileges.
The New Testament way of reaching men was not to leave it all to the preacher, hired out for so much a year to do the soul-saving. It was to get the church so filled that they would also be soul-savers as truly as the preacher. The great excuse the unconverted have today, when the preacher says anything to them on the subject of religion, is, that it is his business and he is paid for it. But it is not so easy to gainsay a Spirit-filled man who mingles with them every day and shines and testifies for God.
When Lyman Beecher was asked the reason of his great revivals, he replied, “I preach to my church on Sunday, and they go out to preach during the week. So that there are 688 sermons preached through the week.” When the church shall come up to its privilege as God intended it should, the most of the preaching from the pulpit will be to the church — to keep them strong and fired up, and they will go out to preach and win souls. The most of the Bible is written to the church and the most of the preaching ought to be to the church, and they, like the disciples, ought to take the bread that has been broken to them and carry it out to the world. It is the business of the pulpit to feed the flock and let them carry the food to the starving outside world.
In confirmation of what we say, we have known of hundreds of instances where the church baptized with the Spirit had the unconverted thronging its altars.
Many a Christian, who desires to help the work of God by seeking to get sinners to flee from the wrath to come, lacks the courage to approach them; others lack the zeal and still others are so troubled with doubts that they seem paralyzed in all Christian work.
The experience of a clean heart is a wonderful tonic, saving from doubt, inflaming with zeal, and giving boldness to speak the word of invitation. It was this experience that transformed Mrs. Catherine Booth, the most timid of women, into the great preacher and power of the Salvation Army.
John Wesley testifies again and again in his journal that when the church has this experience its work prospers in all departments.
This is the true power for service — a heart cleansed and filled. Jesus told his Apostles to tarry at Jerusalem, where they should “receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon them.” He added that having this power they should “be witnesses” unto him both in “Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”
The real power of Pentecost was witnessing power — the great and effective weapon of the church in subduing the hearts of sinners, and in spreading the truth. A clean heart is the basis of this power, the only power that will ever take this world.