The Proof Of Inbred Sin In Human Testimony And Experience
One class of proof of inbred sin is seen in the confession and testimony of Christians. It is to be found in biographies and autobiographies, in letters, and oral acknowledgments. Out of all countries, and from all ages of the world, comes the confession of regenerated people that they recognize in their hearts a dark indwelling something that brings sorrow, humiliation, and often condemnation.
The admission is that it is a rooted something, not a temptation, not a susceptibility to temptation; but a movement, bias, principle, or nature of evil located in the soul; that it is struggled with, wept over, watched against, in vain; that the heart tries to expel it, but, while subdued and kept under, it is still felt to be there, and at the most unexpected occasions asserts itself in thought, desire, word, and action.
Out of a host of witnesses that we could cite, of eminent people, we quote from one well known to many thousands–viz., Bishop McKendree. After writing about his conversion to Bishop Asbury, he adds; “Not long after, I heard Mr. Gibson preach on sanctification. I examined my heart, and found remaining corruption.”
In a holiness convention in one of the Southern States the author had pointed out to him a superannuated Methodist preacher who had greatly hindered the holiness movement in that place. One morning, at the close of the convention, the gentleman arose under evident conviction and said: “You all know me. You know that I am a child of God, and have been serving him for over forty years. Yet I am compelled in truth and honesty to make this confession, that in all these years I have felt something away down in here that I wished was out.” As he stood boring his finger like an auger over his breast, the action was even more impressive than the words he had uttered.
In a certain Western city, during one of the revival services held by the writer, a Congregational preacher swept into the blessing of sanctification. When he first spoke in the testimony meeting he told the audience that he had all that the evangelists preached and possessed, and was a happy man. He looked so; and with his good, shining face he was more likely to prove a stronger adversary to the doctrine that was being preached than violent opposition. But the revelation came to him; and one day while he was singing in the audience he sunk suddenly into his seat, and covered his face with his hands. God had poured in the light at last, and he saw that dark something in his soul that Christ wants to take out of every believer. We copy his own statement, written a few weeks afterwards, for a holiness paper. He said: “I attended the meetings from the outset as much as my pastoral duties would permit, with the intention of getting what benefit I could from them. I did not believe the doctrine preached, but w as hungering and thirsting for righteousness. On the evening of the 26th, when the call was made for those who had been sanctified to rise, I stood up, feeling that I had consecrated myself afresh to God, and was set apart anew by him to his service. This was what I understood by sanctification. While I was standing singing, and feeling quite happy, suddenly like a flash conviction came to me; then followed another and another revelation of things that I must do, idols in my heart that must be destroyed, impurities that must be cleansed. I sank down in my chair, and felt as if I were sinking through the floor into the earth. All this took place in two or three minutes. Then when the self-revelation was completed the strangest sensations followed. It seemed as though something like the fingers of a very soft hand gently separated something from me, and it fell off from me into the earth.”
This remarkable experience from an intellectual and cultivated minister of the gospel speaks for itself. He went on to describe the “filling up” of his soul, but we only have need here for the confession of inbred sin.
Ministers of the gospel, who were true and loyal men, have made the following acknowledgments in the author’s presence: One said that “the praise of men was as sweet as dripping honey” to him. A second said: “I cannot keep from jerking my horse.” A third admitted: “I cannot keep from speaking irritably and roughly to my wife.” A fourth confessed that the great pang of his heart was the memory of having spoken harshly, and habitually also, to his wife, who was now in heaven. A fifth said that he had again and again slapped his little boy because he came around him when he was preparing a sermon. A sixth declared that he would have revenge on a certain bishop for an appointment that he had received. A seventh never opened his Bible at a great camp meeting during the whole ten days that it lasted. An eighth, at the same camp meeting, he retired to rest night after night without kneeling in prayer. These last four are among the strongest opponents to the present holiness movement that we have; and yet no man, either out of or in the Church, questions the fact that they are regenerated men.
These things are not written in a fault-finding spirit, or as a personal attack upon these brethren, but simply to call attention to the fact that there must be something left in the soul to produce such results as have just been mentioned.
A second human proof is found in the experience of Christians.
In the first gladness of the hour of salvation the young convert dreams not that anything of evil is left in him. He may have gone on for days and weeks in his blissful ignorance; but the discovery comes at last, as it comes to all.
Young Christians realize to their amazement this dark indwelling something. It is a mistake to call it temptation. The wonder and grief arise from the consciousness of an inward proneness to do wrong. Older Christians, after years spent in the service of God, find the same thing in their souls, to their profound pain and humiliation. Many are puzzled over it, and all lament the indwelling nature,
A converted Indian described it in the words, “I find two Indians in me: one good Indian and one bad Indian;” while regenerated people everywhere, if perfectly honest, must confess to the existence of a Sunday man and a Monday man; and the Monday man does not appear at times to be at all closely related to the Sunday man.
For the glory of God the author testifies to his own personal discoveries in this line: My conversion was bright and thorough. No one doubted my spirituality in the ministry. For twelve years or more preceding my sanctification I never put my head on my pillow at night without first obtaining a sense of my acceptance with God. My first vivid impression of sin in my heart was through a sudden loss of temper, months after my conversion. At the time it occurred I was never more faithful in my Christian duties, and was praying four and five times a day on my knees. The thing that startled me was that when the temper burst forth it came out full grown. There was no “blade, ear, and full corn in the ear” process. It came out the full ear! I was much shocked, and did not know how to account for it. A year after the same thing occurred. Four years after that it flamed out again in a protracted meeting, where I became vexed with the stubbornness of the unconverted. On a fly leaf in my Bible I wrote down a number of dark things that I found in my heart, and which I felt ought not to be there. One was levity, another uncharitable speech, and still another an unsanctified ambition. I did not regard these to be temptations, but felt that they were rooted in me somehow. This was years before I had thought about or formed an opinion concerning sanctification. My prayer was continually that God would take these things out.
As the years rolled by I added to the dark list on the fly leaf of my Bible until I counted sixteen specifications in the bill of charges, which, under the light of the Spirit, I had made out against myself. On going to New Orleans I was made so to suffer through a wrong done me by an individual that I had to lie for hours on my face in prayer to keep resentment and hate from having a permanent lodgment.
From these and other things I saw, as Mr. Wesley calls it, “the ground of my heart.” The view sickened and humbled me. Some months after this, while preaching at the Seashore Camp Ground on the “Disobedient Young Prophet,” I became convicted under my own preaching of the need of a deeper cleansing than I had ever before received, and an enduement of power along with it. Tired with this feeling, I leaped on the altar, and called for those who felt as I did to meet me there. Some that read these lines will remember the remarkable scene that followed.
Nearly nine months after this, during a meeting held in my own church in New Orleans, I was praying alone in the altar, when my prayer was turned in on myself, and my soul was literally wrenched in an unutterable agony to be rid of a dark indwelling something that made itself felt as I prayed. I shall never forget the twist of soul in this fruitless effort through prayer to expel this something.
Of course I will be accused here of making inbred sin a tangible and material thing–in fact, an entity; but my reply to such objectors is, Only wait until the light comes in upon you, as it did to the prophet Isaiah, and to many others since that day, and there will be at once a most painful but thorough understanding of an experience that seemed before to be without foundation.
This dark something has been taken out of my heart, and has been gone six years, since the morning of my sanctification. Let men speculate and be as skeptical as they will, but the writer knows that for six years he has had perfect inward deliverance and rest. Free moral agency is left; susceptibility to temptation remains; but that dark, sad something that used to burden the heart and destroy the joy and disturb the mind and fret the spirit–that, thank God, is gone.