Port Elizabeth Convention
Port Elizabeth is a nice summer resort (in winter) for teachers, preachers, and missionaries from the Transvaal and up-country. We were with them two weeks, having services three and four times daily. I do not recall a similar convention for the past thirty years, where so many Christian workers went down before God for the clear witness to heart cleansing. One bright, young preacher sought and fasted (more or less) for two weeks. Some of the others became uneasy about him and urged him to take the blessing by “naked faith” and “reckon” himself to be dead to all sin. But he replied that he had done this several times before and it did not stand the test. This time he must have the definite assurance within that the carnal nature was destroyed. He wrote me afterwards that it had paid him to dig deep and die out to carnality. “Now the witness abides.”
Brethren, let me speak plainly. I am satisfied that there are few leaders who know how to keep out of the way of the Holy Ghost and do deep, thorough work. I have been grieved more than once as I beheld workers rush seekers through to a temporary blessing; “crying, Peace, peace, when there was no (lasting) peace.” This can be done by singing, reading certain promises, or mentally declaring that “the altar sanctifies the gift.” Therefore claim it by faith! The better plan is to get the faith that claims it. If workers could only keep out of the way and let the seeker pray and confess his inward depravity to God until he reaches a point where it will be easy to exercise living faith, then the cleansing of the soul would be assured.
I wonder if this is one reason why the dear Keswick brethren have swung to the other extreme and do not believe in “eradication” and “cleansing from all sin.” They have been sadly disappointed in some who loudly profess entire sanctification and yet are shallow and carnal in heart and life. But this does not prove that there is no such experience. David prayed for it (Psa. 51:10), and the disciples obtained it (Acts 15:8, 9). Personally, when I was a boy preacher, I sought and professed several times. Too bad that I was rushed through to a mere profession; but later, thank God, when I got away from all shallow teachers. He took me through step by step until I realized for myself and not another that my “old man” of sin was actually crucified and put to death. Hallelujah! (Rom. 6:6).
It is unsafe and unscriptural to build a doctrine upon personal experience, good as it may be. Doctrine must be founded upon the Word which abides forever. But even then it is easy to “wrest the Scriptures” to suit a pet theory. This is exactly what is done in a certain book, “Holiness, False and True.” The author pleads for the carnal mind and slams at those who profess heart purity. He bases the bulk of his argument upon his former shallow and unsatisfactory experience while in the Salvation Army. The fact is that he, like the writer, was rushed through to a profession of holiness, without taking time to die out to the bottom.
Seeking holiness is a little like dealing with a bad tooth. If one goes to a dentist and can stand the killing of the nerve at first sitting, very well. But if not, he goes again until the nerve is completely dead, the canal sterilized and the cavity filled with pure gold. The author of above book speaks of his struggles to keep down the stirrings of unholy tempers. When this fails he then swings to the “suppression theory” and tries to get, comfort by keeping old “Agag” in prison. This was Saul’s method. But Samuel carried out the command of God and “utterly” destroyed him (Ex. 17:14), by “hewing him to pieces before the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:33). This, to a superficial leader, might look like needless severity, but to an old warrior, it was God’s method — Death without mercy to the “old man” of sin.
George Fox, founder of the Quaker Church, preached second blessing holiness a hundred years before there were any Methodists. We quote a scrap from his recorded experience: “I knew Jesus, and He was very precious to my soul; but I found something within me that would not keep sweet and patient and kind at all times. I did what I could to keep it down; but it was there. I besought Jesus to do something for me, and when I gave Him my whole will and heart, He came and took out all that would not be kind, and then “He shut the door.” This was God’s route and if it worked back there, it will succeed again. “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” — Matt. 15:13.
After this blessed two weeks’ tarrying at Port Elizabeth many of those missionaries returned to their fields of labor, a flame of fire. Our main text during the convention was, “I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.” (Isa. 1:25.) Brother, do not argue, but submit to the Divine hand and let Him take away all your cheap, tin-pan profession. When He begins to turn His hand upon you and purge away all your dross, He will skim off one ladle after another until you may think you are all going to skimmings. But don’t take hold of His hand, He is purifying a “son of Levi” for your own good. There will be a big pile of dross but a small and valuable pile of gold, Hallelujah!
One of the officials at the Crown Mines, Johannesburg, presented to me a piece of rich ore. I said, “Oh, I see the gold.” “No, you see only the imitation; the gold is hidden.” He told me that it requires one ton of this rich quartz to produce one ounce of gold. “My Lord,” I replied, “is that the ratio? Does it require the crushing and burning of about one ton of self-life to refine one ounce of grace in us?”