The Progressive Life – By Elmer Shelhamer

Chapter 2

The Babyhood State

There are certain key words characteristic of certain writers in the Bible; e. g., the key word to Hebrews is “better things”; the key word to James is “works”; Paul uses the terms “death” and “crucifixion” more than all the other writers put together; while John has two significant words “love” and “overcometh”. The word “overcome” is used seven times in his Gospel and First Epistle, and sixteen times in the Book of Revelation.

And now we come directly to the study of these seven churches in Asia. No doubt there were others, yea, many other churches, but these seven were perhaps more directly related to the Apostle; or they may have been representative churches typical of the entire church upon earth. They may also represent seven periods in church and world history. But, in this study, we are confining ourselves to the practical development of personal, Christian experience. After all, this is the most profitable study.

Many great minds have written and preached about the mysteries in the Book of Revelation; we have heard many capable ministers discourse on the same, and scarcely two of them agree. And it may be that with this humble treatise some may take issue. Hence, we beg your forbearance and trust that before the reader finishes, he may be greatly profited, enriched and enlarged.

You will observe by a close study of these seven churches that only two are exempt from reproof. And, where a reproof is given, you will find that the Holy Spirit first commends all He possibly can before giving the needed rebuke. Oh, that we might take a lesson here as parents, teachers and preachers.


In chapter two and verse seven we have the first and lowest degree in the overcoming life — “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith onto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to cot of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Here the key word is “EAT.” Mark! “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.” Millions of people have ears who do not listen to the voice of the Spirit. The soul could be said to have five senses the same as the body; e. g., we read, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.” Here we have soul taste and soul sight. Again, “Delight thyself also in the Lord.” Here we have soul feeling. Again, “Incline your ear … hear, and your soul shall live.” Here we have soul hearing. The new-born soul that is quickened by the Spirit will hear wonderful things when there is no audible sound.

A babe lives in the realm of “eating”. See him lying there in his little crib? His mentality is very limited. He is innocent, but not spiritual, for no one is spiritual until quickened by the Holy Spirit. But look at that baby! Two-thirds or more of his time is spent in eating and sleeping; it must be so. And, long before he can recognize his own father or mother — yea, long before he can measure the distance from one side of his crib to the other, nature teaches him a wonderful secret; namely, the right angle of his arm. Put something into his little hand; it may be coal, carpet tacks or carbolic acid, and the dear little ignorant thing does not bring that tiny hand to his eye or ear or chin, but directly to the little mouth.

And this is a characteristic of a young convert. He lives in the realm of his emotions. He looks forward to the prayer meeting and revival services with the chief thought, “I am going to feel good and enjoy myself.” He may be twenty or forty years of age, but nevertheless, this is his chief thought, how he may be happy here and hereafter Mr. Finney declared that we are so supremely selfish that God is compelled to appeal to our selfishness in order to get us to take the first step toward Heaven. We do not seek God because He is worthy but to escape hell and gain Heaven. However, before we become mature saints we must outgrow this and love God, not for His gifts or a future reward, but because He merits our adoration.

Madame Guyon said she could bear with the infirmities and vacillation of young converts just as she could with a child, but she said that it was hard to do so with old heads that ought to know better.

O friend, are you still in your baby clothes? If so, it is perfectly consistent that you should enjoy eating, drinking and being dandled and petted for the mere pleasure you get out of it; but sooner or later you are expected. to outgrow this.

Just think a moment how much of your precious time is spent in praying for and taking care of self. With a baby this may be necessary, but surely it in not God’s first plan that you should spend about two-thirds of your time thus. Oh, that this might be reversed, that you might outgrow your infant ways and begin to live the outpoured life.

One old writer said, “When the struggle for existence begins, the opportunity for usefulness ends.” How true! Yes, as long as you are struggling just to keep afloat, you cannot help others very much. You should, through grace, so master every difficulty and overcome every temptation that you will have something left to impart to others. Yea, blessed be God, you can be such an overcomer that you are more than a match for anything than men or devils can trot out.

We read of an experience in grace where one will not everlastingly be calling for something to eat. Listen: “If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul: then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and. thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” Say, friend, why not get beyond the babyhood state where you are so well fed and filled that you have more than you need for yourself and can draw out your soul to the hungry?

Is it not wonderful that now through the Atonement or “At-one-ment”, we are invited back into the garden to partake of the “tree of life” which is in the midst of the Paradise of God, from which Adam and Eve were driven because of their disobedience? Yes, our wonderful Redeemer has made a blessed success of everything He undertook. And what did He undertake? He undertook to make null and void the work of the devil, and now through His wondrous grace we are permitted to pass under that flaming sword and partake of the tree, from which our impatient fore-parents were driven.