Objections To Seeking Perfect Love
173. What course do many professors of religion pursue in regard to Christian holiness?
They pursue much the same course in respect to it, that sinners do in respect to justification; they neglect it, and endeavor to justify themselves in so doing by various excuses. There is a striking similarity in the excuses presented by the impenitent for not seeking religion, and those made by professors for not seeking holiness.
174. What are they, and what is your reply to them?
1. “I am not clear in my views of Christian holiness.”
You are clear that God requires it; that he has made provision for it; that he promises it; that you need it, and that the Church needs it. The sinner presents the same excuse, “I am not clear in my views of religion,” as a reason for his neglect of seeking regeneration. You say to the sinner, what we say to you, — he has sufficient light in regard to religion to see that it is both a duty and a privilege to seek it. The Christian with the light of justifying grace, can see that he ought to be cleansed from all sin, so as to love God with all his heart. “If any man will do his will,” says Christ, “he shall know of the doctrine.”
2. “I regard entire sanctification a great blessing, too great for me to obtain.”
If it is too great for you to obtain, it is too great for God to require of you. That it is a great thing we gladly admit. You have a great Saviour. He died to secure great results, and can “save to the uttermost.” He says, All things are possible to him that believeth.” Will you believe the Lord Jesus Christ? Can he lie, or did he ever deceive anybody? Unbelievers present this excuse for not seeking religion — “It is a great thing to be a Christian.” You tell them the provisions of’ the gospel are ample, mighty, divine. Are they?
3. “If I attempt to seek holiness, I am fearful I shall fail.”
You need not fail. If you do, it will be your own fault. The Bible encourages no such idea; and that should be the rule of our faith and practice, and not our imagination. Holiness is sought by consecration, prayer, and faith. Will not such efforts to secure a pure heart be attended with happy results upon Christian life and character, even though there be a failure to obtain the clear witness of entire sanctification? The impenitent make the same excuse about seeking religion. The reply made to them will answer this objection.
4. “I have known persons who professed holiness to do things which are wrong, and thereby gave no evidence of holiness.”
This we do not deny; though you may misjudge or lack charity. Admitting it to be true, is it not a reason why you should be entirely sanctified, and so “let your light shine ” as to disabuse the minds of men regarding this precious doctrine? This is the standing objection of wicked men against seeking salvation. Do you justify sinners in neglecting Christ, because so many professors give no evidence of being saved? St. Paul says, “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.”
5. “Some have obtained it and lost it, and I fear I should lose it.”
Is the fact that good men have lost grace and become vicious, a reason why bad men should not seek grace and become good? The excuse, “I should not be able to live religion if I had it,” is common among sinners. It takes no more grace to keep men saved than it does to save them; and St. Paul asserts, “My grace is sufficient,” and God “is able to make all grace abound toward you.”
6. “If I seek holiness I shall have to change some items of my business, and give up some of my habits.”
If your business or your habits are wrong, you will have to give them up or lose your soul. If honest in this objection, you are not in a justified state, and consequently have no religion at all. You cannot frequent the theater, circus, horse-race, and parlor-dance, and retain any religion at all. Those paths are the broad way to destruction. A justified state cannot be retained an hour while things are done known to be wrong. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin;” “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” The sinner makes the same excuse; would you tell him he could obtain religion and not give up all? There is a wile of Satan in this objection which is alarming.
7. “If I were entirely sanctified, I should be obliged to do many duties from which I now excuse myself”
If honest in this excuse, you have no reason to regard yourself a Christian. A Christian is a man who loves and obeys God. What right have you to choose to do a part of God’s will, and refuse to do a part? “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord! Lord! shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (See question 4. ) No man could obtain pardon with this excuse in his heart, nor justification be retained with such a state of mind.
8. “If I obtain holiness, and live a holy life, I shalt have enemies.”
Well, suppose you do. The man who has no enemies as very little character; as he who has not sufficient pluck and virtue to make some enemies in this world, is about next to nobody. Our ideal of virtue and manliness, is one who has decision and a fearless love for what is right, regardless of any opposition he may encounter. The man who loves virtue, and has the will and principle to vindicate it, must expect enemies; but this will be good for him. The strong tree that defies the wind, is more deeply rooted and fastened in the soil by every blast it encounters. A good man never knows how much there is of him, or how much Christ has done for him, until he has confronted and braved enemies. All the enemies that a holy life provokes, will serve a good purpose in the wisdom and power of God, though no thanks to the devil who brings it about.
9. “If I were entirely sanctified, lived in that state and confessed it, I would be singular, and be subject to observation and talk.”
People talk about you now. Your coldness, indifference, dwarfishness, and unhappy representation of Christianity is seen and talked about. If one must be observed and talked about, would you not rather people would talk about your devotion to God, holy singularity and religious enthusiasm, than to talk as they now do? Christians are a “peculiar people;” they are to be “separate from the world,” and are to let their light shine, like a city on a hill which cannot be hid. Men cannot be public sinners, and then become private saints. This is what sinners would like, but God has no private saints.
10. “The inconsistencies of some who have professed holiness. have prejudiced my mind against it.”
What! have you let the folly of mortals prejudice your mind against HOLINESS? — against that which is godlike, and the most lovely and excellent of all the moral elements in the universe — against that which cost the blood of God’s only Son — against that which constitutes the only preparation for the society of angels and of God? Is this not evidence of depravity that needs the cleansing blood of Christ? Unbelievers who meet with one hypocrite in the church, often come to think that most professors are hypocrites. This objection indicates a similar regard for those who profess perfect love. What have the faults or sins of men to do with your obligations to yourself, to the world, to the church, and to God?
175. Is it harmful to wear needless adornment, such as jewelry and costly array?
It is; and for the following reasons:–
1. It is forbidden in the Scriptures.
“In like manner, also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety, not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” “Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or putting on of apparel.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world.” “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (1 Peter iii. 3; 1 Tim. ii. 9; 1 John ii. 16; Rom. xii. 2.)
2. Such things cannot be put on “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” nor worn for “the glory of God.”
The command of God is, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by him.” Can any one put on needless jewelry in the name of the Lord Jesus, and give thanks to God for it? “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
3. It is a violation of the Discipline of the church.
We should by all means insist on the rules concerning dress. This is no time to encourage superfluity in dress. Therefore let all our people be exhorted to conform to the spirit of the apostolic precept, not to adorn themselves ‘with gold, or pearls, or costly array.’ ” (1 Tim. ii. 9.) — Discipline, sec. 8.
4. It conflicts with the solemn vows made at conversion, baptism, and around the table of the Lord.
“Question. Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, so that thou wilt not follow or be led by them? Answer. “I renounce them all.” Discipline, p. 247.
5. It contradicts the Christian profession.
Christians profess that they are “not of the world;” that they are “pilgrims and strangers;” that they are “crucified unto the world, and the world unto them,” that they are “dead, indeed, unto sin, but alive unto God; ” that they have no fellowship with the “unfruitful works of darkness;” and that they are not “conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of” the mind. The wearing of needless adornments, and “costly array,” in effect, contradicts all this.
6. These adornments are both a sign, and a fruit of pride.
A lady once asked a clergyman “whether he considered such a practice as an evidence of pride.” He replied with as much philosophy as point, ” Sheep never appear in wolves’ clothing, and he that wears the wolf’s skin is a wolf” Neither beauty, modesty, usefulness, nor happiness demand them. They chill the sympathies, degrade the mind, and indicate either a vitiated taste, a shallow mind, or a vain and corrupt heart.
7. Needless adornments squander means which God has given for better purposes, and for which he will hold every one to a strict accountability. Christians are stewards, and have nothing, absolutely nothing, in their own right.
8. Adornments serve to engender pride, excite unhallowed passions, and love for the gilded trifles of a depraved world. They not only cultivate and develop the passion for display, but excite envy, jealousy, evil speaking, covetousness, hypocrisy, hatred, and discontent.
9. Christians should be models of neatness, economy, and plainness, and not conform to the irrational and sinful customs of corrupt humanity. “Thou shalt not follow the multitude to do evil.” This evil is a distinguishing mark of the multitudes who throng the broad way to destruction.
10. They lead to extravagance, dishonesty, and dissipation, and consume a vast amount of precious time. They pervert the judgment, and foster habits of self-indulgence, which eat out all spiritual vitality in thousands of professing Christians. Tertullian said: “Clothe yourselves with the silk of piety, with the satin of sanctity, with the purple of modesty, so shall you have God himself to be your suitor.”
11. It furnishes the world with an argument against Christianity.
The world know how Christians ought to live. They can see a sad inconsistency in Christians decorating themselves with the extravagant trappings of modern fashion. They know the exterior of many professing Christians brands their profession with hypocrisy.
Christians should so dress as to show that their minds are occupied with nobler objects. Their external appearance should evince gravity, simplicity, decency, and modesty. They should dress neatly, plainly, and suitably to persons professing godliness. Dr. Adam Clarke says: “Were religion out of the question, common sense would say, Be decent, be moderate and modest.” We by no means claim that plainness in dress and freedom from needless adornment constitute a Christian, but the Methodist Church is in great danger of drifting away from her primitive simplicity, spirituality, and power, and of becoming conformed to the world.
12. We give the following from Mr. Wesley’s sermon on dress, in conclusion:–
“I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that it is not my fault. The trumpet has not ‘given an uncertain sound’ for nearly fifty years last past. O God, thou knowest I have borne a clear and a faithful testimony. In print, in preaching, in meeting the societies, I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God. I am therefore clear of the blood of those who will not hear; it lies upon their own heads.
“I conjure you all who have any regard for me, show me before I go hence, that I have not labored, even in this respect, in vain for near HALF A CENTURY.”
176. Is the use of tobacco to be condemned?
It is; and for the following reasons:–
1. We are divinely commanded to “deny ourselves,” to ” keep the body under,” to “abstain from all appearance of evil,” and to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” The Christian’s body is a “temple of the Holy Ghost,” and he has no right to pollute it with any thing filthy or poisonous.
2. It is an unseemly, uncleanly, unnatural, unnecessary; unhealthy, and unpleasant habit.
It pollutes the very earth and atmosphere of America, habituating our young men early and effectually to bow down their necks to the grievous yoke of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
3. Its general accompaniments are anything but good. It is usually associated with whiskey, low groggeries, profanity, and all manner of rowdyism. Virtue and cleanliness are natural associates; so also are vice and filth. Take as an illustration a car filled with smoke and pools of saliva, rushing through space at the rate of forty miles an hour. Some author says, “A smoking-car is a hell upon wheels.” What a scene! A sty, a car for “animals that chew the cud,” where they may smoke, chew, and spit, and have none to molest or make them afraid!
Rev. Daniel Wise, in alluding to the slipshod piety of the day, says: “The road to heaven is to be traveled in railway cars, with ample accommodations for the world, the flesh, and the devil, in suitable portions of the train.” — “Easy-chair Piety,” in the Guide.
How would St. Paul, or St. John, or the devout Wesley, or the saintly Fletcher, have appeared in a smoking-car with a tobacco-box in his pocket, and a pipe or cigar in his mouth?
4. The general voice of the deeply pious has ever been against it as a filthy, degrading, wicked practice. Resolutions condemning it as a filthy and pernicious degrading and poisonous narcotic, have been passed by nearly all our Annual Conferences, and by most of the religious bodies of Christendom. The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at its last session in 1876, passed the following resolutions
“Resolved, 1st, That we advise all our ministers and members to abstain from the use of tobacco as injurious to both body and soul.
“Resolved, 2d, That we recommend to the Annual Conferences to require candidates for admission to be free from the habit, as hurtful to their acceptability and usefulness among our people.”Journal, 1876.
5. It is attended with an enormous, needless expense. The annual production of this filthy and contemptible weed is estimated by an English writer at over 4,000,000,000 pounds. This is nearly all smoked, chewed, or snuffed. The tobacco bill of Europe and America would feed their entire population. Hundreds of thousands are paying four or five times as much as they give for all benevolent purposes, for this miserable weed which is said to be eaten by only three beings in existence — the tobacco worm, the most filthy of all insects; the rock-goat of Africa, the most fetid of all the animal creation; and by man, made in the image of his Creator. What a manifestation of the dignity of human nature! Five hundred millions of the race bow to this filthy tyrant. We shall have to wait patiently for the millennium some time yet.
6. It cannot be used to the glory of God. There can be no utility nor virtue in using this nauseating and disgusting weed, for which no man has a natural taste till he creates an artificial one, and then becomes enslaved to it for life. How can any person call into existence an appetite for a filthy, poisonous, disgusting weed, when he knows that the appetite once formed will have greater power over him than any other? No Christian, having formed the appetite, can gratify it to the glory of God. “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” How can a Christian, by practice and example, lure others on into this filthy, expensive, unhealthy appetite with impunity? “Ye are the light of the world.” He is a carnal man who does it, even though he claim to be a minister of Jesus Christ. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
Does it glorify God for a man to make his breath and his person nauseating and disgusting to all who meet him, and to fill the air with tobacco-smoke for others to breathe, or to spit tobacco juice about for decent people to look at and walk in? Or do such people belong to that class “whose god is their belly, whose glory is their shame, and whose end is destruction”?
We heard a sweet little boy, standing among some larger boys, who were spitting their tobacco juice on the sidewalk, say, “My father is a Methodist minster, BUT HE CHAWS TOBACCO.” What an example! The Lord save that dear little boy from his father’s curse — the grievous yoke of the flesh and the devil. Just before Bishop Ames died, we heard him advise the colored preachers of the Washington Conference not to use tobacco. He said “it is wicked to do so.” We wondered if it were more wicked for colored preachers to use tobacco, than white ones.
A Methodist exhorter and class-leader came up to the writer one day, with the tobacco spittle running down each corner of his mouth, and said, “Brother, I am going in for sanctification.” Of course we said, “Brother, begin right in your mouth.”
We recently heard a venerable doctor of divinity say, in the presence of thirty or more ministers, “Brethren, it is a mean, contemptible, filthy habit,” and yet the dear brother is a most inveterate tobacco eater, smoker, and spitter. How he could indulge in such a “mean, contemptible, and filthy habit,” and keep a good conscience, he may know, — we do not.
How sensible men can feel comfortable while seeing those conversing with them, turn their faces to avoid their disgusting breath, is inexplicable. Can it be that they think making themselves a nuisance is for the glory of God? We write plainly; this is a serious subject. Thousands of little boys — puny, sickly, nervous little boys — in all our cities and towns, are chewing, spitting, and are smoking every old stub they can pick up or get hold of. When their parents, or their ministers, chew or smoke, it helps them amazingly. Reader, if you can pursue this course to the glory of God, pursue it; but if not, at the peril of your soul, let not this unnatural appetite and lust be paramount to the authority of God.
7. We conclude this unpleasant subject with the following from Dr. Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A.:–
(b “Every medical man knows well that the saliva which is so copiously drained off by the infamous quid and the scandalous pipe is the first and greatest agent which nature employs in digesting the food
(2) “A single drop of the chemical oil of tobacco, being put on the tongue of a cat, produced violent convulsions, and killed her in the space of one minute. A thread dipped in the same oil, and drawn through a wound made by a needle in an animal, killed it in the space of seven minutes.
(3) “That it is sinful to use it as most do I have no doubt, if destroying the constitution, and vilely squandering away the time and money which God has given for other purposes, may be termed ‘sinful.’ Can any who call themselves Christians vindicate their conduct in this respect?
(4) “The impiety manifested by several in the use of this herb, merits the most cutting reproof. When many of the tobacco consumers get into trouble, or under any cross or affliction, instead of looking to God for support, the pipe, the snuff-box, or the twist is applied to with quadruple earnestness; so that four times (I might say, in some cases, ten times) the usual quantity is consumed on such occasions. What a comfort is this weed in time of sorrow! What a support in time of trouble! In a word, what a god!
(5) “I am sorry to have it to say that this idle, disgraceful custom prevails much at present among ministers of most denominations. Can such persons preach against needless self-indulgence, destruction of time, or waste of money?
(6) The loss of time in this shameful work is a serious evil. I have known some who, strange to tell, have smoked three or four hours in the day, by their own confession; and others who have spent six hours in the same employment. How can such persons answer for this at the bar of God?
(7) Consider how disagreeable your custom is to those who do not follow it. An atmosphere of tobacco effluvium surrounds you whithersoever you go. Every article about you smells of it — your apartments, your clothes, and even your very breath.
(8) “To those who are not yet incorporated with the fashionable company of tobacco consumers I would say, Never enter. To those who are entered, I would say, ‘Desist, first, for the sake of your health, which must be materially injured, if not destroyed, by it; secondly, for the sake of your property, which, if you are a poor man, must be considerably impaired by it: thirdly. for the sake of your time, a large portion of which is irreparably lost, particularly in smoking; fourthly, for the sake of your friends, who can not fail to be pained in your company, for the reasons before assigned; lastly, for the sake of your soul. Do you not think that God will visit you for your loss of time, waste of money, and needless self-indulgence? ” — Theology, p. 405.
177. Has the world ever regarded the Bible standard of religion as otherwise than fanatical?
It has not; this blind and wicked world has always accounted religion as madness and frenzy. The apostles were called “babblers ” and “fools.” and said to be “mad,” “drunk,” and “beside themselves.” Christ was accused of being possessed of devils. Luther was styled a heretic. Wesley, Whitefield, and their coadjutors, were called fools, fanatics, and enthusiasts.
The verdict of an English jury was: “We find and present Charles Wesley to be a person of ill fame, a vagabond, and a common disturber of his Majesty’s peace, and we pray he may be transported.”
Rev. William Burkitt says: “Wicked and carnal men account and represent the holy servants of God as a sort of madmen. Workings of grace are sometimes so far above reason that they seem to be without reason. There are several acts of holiness which the profane world esteem as madness; as eminent self-denial, great seriousness in religion, their burning zeal, their holy singularity, their fervor of devotion, their patience and meekness under sufferings and reproaches. All these acts of holiness represent the saints as madmen to a carnal man.”
178. What was the fate of those who presented Christianity in its primitive, unsullied purity?
To pave the way for a work of blood, this ungodly world cruelly murdered God’s innocent and lovely Son — drove him out of the world.
1. Matthew is supposed to have suffered martyrdom by the sword at a city in Ethiopia.
2. Mark was dragged through the streets of Alexandria, in Egypt, until he expired.
3. Luke was hanged upon an olive-tree in Greece.
4. John was put into a caldron of boiling oil, at Rome, and escaped death. He afterward died a natural death at Ephesus in Asia.
5. James the Great, after suffering great persecution, was beheaded at Jerusalem.
6. James the Less was thrown from a pinnacle, or wing of the temple, and then beaten to death with a fuller’s club.
7. Philip was hanged up against a pillar at Hierapolis, a city of Phrygia.
8. Bartholomew was flayed alive by the command of a barbarous king.
9. Andrew was bound to a cross, where he preached to the people till he expired.
10. Thomas was run through the body by a lance near Malipar, in the East Indies.
11. Jude was shot to death with arrows.
12. Simon Zelotes was crucified in Persia.
13. Matthias was first stoned, and afterward beheaded.
14. Peter was crucified with his head downward.
15. Paul, the last and chief of the apostles, also died by violence. He was beheaded at Rome.
179. What is real Fanaticism?
It is expecting results without the use of proper means. God has joined the end and the means together, and it is fatally fanatical to expect pardon, holiness, and heaven, without prayer, repentance, faith, and obedience.
Fanaticism is being governed by imagination, rather than by judgment. It proceeds from a satanical or deceived heart, and is often accompanied with a blind, extravagant zeal. It is usually impregnated with error, bigotry, and party rage. This is fanaticism; the devil is its progenitor; and those who imagine they are Christians when they are not, are its worst subjects.
180. Does the Bible countenance shouting and praising the Lord with a loud voice?
The Bible says: “Let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them SHOUT from the top of the mountains.” ” And all the people SHOUTED with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. … When the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, many wept with a loud voice, and many shouted aloud for joy; so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people; for the people shouted with a LOUD SHOUT, and the noise was heard afar off.”
“For the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God with a loud voice.” “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” “Oh, clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”
Some of our modern lovers of good order may not like this, but it is authority from headquarters. God says: “Let the villages that Kedar doth inhabit lift up their voices.” And, “Let them shout from the top of the mountains.” He does not say when these poor sons of the desert shall hear the joyful news of the Saviour’s life, death, and resurrection, and get their wandering feet on the Rock of Ages but he gives permission when it does take place, and their hearts begin to dilate with love to the Lord Jesus, to shout. We do not advocate the idea that all Christians must shout, or be demonstrative. We only say what God says: “Let the inhabitants of the rock shout.” Why not? Soldiers, sailors, and politicians shout, and the angels shout, and why may not the joyous Christian praise God aloud? Has he no occasion for personal demonstration?
There is a beautiful variety in the natural world, mountains and valleys, the gentle breeze and the sweeping tornado, sunbeams and the flashes of lightning, the singing of birds and the rolling of thunder.
There is just as great a variety in the spiritual world. When the grace of God fills some hearts, it will show its power by shouts of victory. Some weep with gladness, some laugh with delight, and some feel so quiet they hardly want to breathe. There is a great variety of operations by the same Spirit, and all our conventionalities must give way to the will and order of God.
A striking and beautiful variety is seen in the effects of the miracles of Christ and of the apostles. Blind Bartimeus, after he was healed, followed Jesus giving glory to God. Simon Peter’s wife’s mother, after she was healed, went about her domestic duties. The man who lived in the tombs, possessed of the devil, after he was healed, sat down at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind. At the transfiguration of Christ, Peter and John fell on their faces, and declared it was good for them to be there. After the poor cripple, lying at the gate called Beautiful, was healed, he leaped and praised God. Peter did not reprove him nor stop him, but he let him try his new strength; he had been a poor cripple all his life.
181. Does the Bible countenance responses in religious worship?
It does. “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And ALL the PEOPLE answered, Amen, AMEN.” “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say AMEN.” “How shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say, Amen, at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?”
St. John declares he heard them shouting and responding in heaven, “saying, Amen; blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.” Whatever is done in heaven must be in good taste and in proper order.
182. Does the Bible countenance physical prostration, and what may appear to carnal men as confusion?
Paul and Silas were charged with turning the world upside down, and we presume they did not deny the charge. When God met Abraham, and made the great promise to him, “Abraham fell on his face and laughed.” Although he “fell on his face and laughed,” yet the apostle says, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.”
The Psalmist says: “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.”
When Moses and Aaron drew near and stood before the Lord, and the glory of the Lord appeared unto all the people, “all the people shouted and fell upon their faces.”
Job “rent his mantle, and shaved his head and fell down upon the ground and worshiped.” This was doubtless regarded as wild worship; yet there was none like him in all the earth “a perfect and an upright man.”
Peter fell down at Jesus’ feet (Luke v. 8); the Grecian women did the same; Mary, also, the sister of Lazarus, fell down at the feet of the blessed Jesus. When the Lord met Paul on his way to Damascus, he lost his strength, and lay prostrate on the earth, crying, trembling, and astonished, saying,”Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
The redeemed fall prostrate before the throne in heaven, and worship God with loud voices, like the sound of many waters and of mighty thunderings.
183. Are bodily prostrations and physical exercises any part of religion?
They are not; but they often accompany the mighty outpouring of the Spirit and work of God.
President Charles G. Finney says: “It is very plain that bodily prostrations and agitations are no part of religion. But it is just as plain that these may be the natural effect of discoveries of religious truth. Several instances of bodily prostration and agitations are recorded in the Bible as the result of such discoveries.
As I have said they are no part of religion, but they are very natural effects of a very high degree of religious affections and emotions. Nor is it true, as some seem to suppose, that none but what are called nervous people are affected in this way. But it is also true that there is enough in religious truth, if clearly discovered to the mind by the Holy Ghost, to wilt down the bodily frame of the strongest man on earth. That is it at all wonderful that the infinitely solemn, important, and awful things of eternity, when clearly brought home to the minds of men, should produce great tremblings, and quakings, and agitations and prostrations of body, with groanings that can not be uttered’? Nay, verily, it is not at all strange. But the only wonder is, that mankind are not a hundred or a thousand times more affected in this way than they really are.”
President Jonathan Edwards, for learning, and piety, and philosophical acumen, has had few superiors in this country. His ministry was blessed with one of the mightiest outpourings of the Holy Spirit that has ever taken place on this continent.
In speaking of it, he says: “It was a very frequent thing to see a house full of outcries, faintings, convulsions, and such like, both with distress and with admiration and joy. There were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance [what the old Methodists called having the power], remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up, but in the mean time under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.
“It is remarkable, considering in what a multitude of instances, and to how great a degree, the frame of the body has been overpowered of late, that persons’ lives have, notwithstanding, been preserved. These things did not begin,” he says, in his day. “They are not new in their kind, but the things of the same nature as have been found and well approved of in the church of God before, from time to time.”
He says, in speaking of a revival in Scotland in 1625, that it was then a frequent thing for many to be so extraordinarily seized with terror in the hearing of the word, by the Spirit of God convincing them of sin, that they fell down, and were carried out of the church, who afterward proved most solid and lively Christians. Many in Ireland, in time of a great outpouring of the Spirit there in 1628, were so filled with divine comforts, and a sense of God, that they had but little use of either meat, drink, or sleep, and professed that they did not feel the need thereof.”
President Edwards states, “that wherever these most appear, there is always the greatest and deepest work.”
Like John Wesley, President Edwards, President Finney, Christmas Evans, J. B. Finley, and George Whitefield, we should countenance all genuine spiritual demonstrations, however extraordinary, such as prostrations, cries of terror, and shouts of praise. We refer the reader to Bangs’ and Stevens’ “Histories of the Methodist Episcopal Church,” to the preaching of Wesley, Fletcher, Whitefield, Bramwell, Abbott, Asbury, and Lee, and to almost all our books of biography. 184. Is it right to pray for bodily exercises?
We think it dangerous to either desire, expect, or pray for any physical demonstrations. It is our duty to pray for the mighty cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, and let God work in his own way. If physical exercises accompany the baptism of the Spirit, well; if not, they should not be sought..
185. What is our safeguard against delusions and imaginations?
The Bible. This is our only standard of doctrine and experience. We are to be Bible Christians. We should keep close to the word of God, and never suppose that any measure of the Holy Spirit obtainable in this world will supersede the teachings of the blessed Bible. God’s revealed word is the voice of the Spirit and the more completely our hearts are filled, subdued, and kept in the Spirit, the more perfectly we shall understand the Bible, and be able to live according to its letter and spirit.
186. Should the sanctified soul seek, expect, or desire anything beyond more holiness — as gifts, new revelations, &c.?
By no means. The heart full of love has already found “a more excellent way” than these.
Mr. Wesley says: “The very desire of ‘growing in grace’ may sometimes be an inlet of enthusiasm. As it continually leads us to seek new grace, it may lead us unawares to seek something else new, besides new degrees of love to God and man. So it has led some to seek and fancy they had received gifts of a new kind, after a new heart.
“Another ground of these and a thousand mistakes is, the not considering deeply that love is the highest gift of God — humble, gentle, patient love; that all visions, revelations, manifestations whatever, are little things compared to love; and that all the gifts above mentioned are either the same with, or infinitely inferior to it.
“It is well you should be thoroughly sensible of this — the heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion there is, in effect, nothing else. If you look for any thing but more love, you are looking wide of the mark — you are getting out of the royal way.
“And when you are asking others, ‘Have you received this or that blessing?’ if you mean any thing but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them upon a false scent. Settle it, then, in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, you are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the thirteenth of the Corinthians. You can go no higher than this, till you are carried into Abraham’s bosom.
“I say again, Beware of enthusiasm; such as the imagining you have the gift of prophesying, or of discerning of spirits, which I do not believe one of you has; no, nor ever had yet.” — Plain Account, pp. 140, 141