Incidents in Travel and Soul Winning – By Elmer & Julia Shelhamer

Chapter 19

Holy Places and Holiness

There is a vast difference! Jerusalem is called “The Holy City” and for ages has been recognized as such, especially by the Jews. We have visited it twice; and for concentrated hate, bigotry and sectarianism this city eclipses them all. It would be amusing if it were not so pathetic to see the various religions vie with one another as to so called sacred places, stones, nails, but tons, whiskers, etc. These things are bowed down to, kissed and worshipped, to such, an extent that they must be protected by wire netting, and glass cases. Of all those who had taken long pilgrimages to get there, I do not recall seeing one happy face. Sacred places do not make one holy.

When we were there the second time I tried to conduct a revival, but it was hard pulling, because of the intense prejudice on every hand. The Moslems sent spies and special police to, if possible, catch us in our words. However, in spite of it, God came in power and one night we had nine different religions represented at the altar. It was surely a mixture of Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Jews, Moslems, Armenians, Coptics. etc., all bowing down to the One Common Redeemer. Praise Him! “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess” to Him in due time.

While we were there, the Anglican Bishop of London came and preached to a vast throng of officials and great men on “Jesus, the Savior of the World.” How wonderful, that in the same city where He was once despised and put to death, now He was honored above angels and all men! At last He was “coming into His own.” We, likewise, must be willing to wait until after death before we and our principles are appreciated.

Some very strange and fanatical things are to be seen in the holy city. One woman went up on the Mount of Olives early each morning to make a cup of tea for Jesus, thinking He might come any day. Throngs of people bow and kiss the stone slab upon which the dead body of Jesus was supposed to have lain. Multitudes of Jews kiss and rub the large stones smooth at the “wailing place” outside of the temple area. They actually weep till their eyes are red and swollen, because they are forbidden by the Moslems to enter the enclosure where Abraham offered up Isaac. Yet all of this utterly fails to make a single one holy.

We saw many bow and worship the star of silver, supposed to be on the identical spot where Christ was born. The Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Coptics, Armenians and several others had their representative priests there burning candles and swinging censers in honor of the Prince of Peace. But the pathetic thing was that just outside of this sacred place stood a Mohammed an soldier with gun and sword and an unsympathetic look. I asked the reason why, and was informed that it was necessary to keep a soldier there, lest these priests stab one another to death. What a poor sample of Christianity! No marvel that the Moslems are taught that they are doing “God’s service” when they “stab an infidel dog” — meaning those who are non-Mohammedans.

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Rome another Example

Here the Catholics come from far and near to kiss the toe of St. Peter, and though it is bronze, it is worn away by kissing. Priests and nuns from all over the world come and climb, on their knees, the “Holy Stair Case” in St. John’s Church. They kiss the twenty-eight steps brought from Jerusalem, that Jesus ascended when He went to Pilate’s Hall. These are the same stairs that Luther climbed, and while he was so doing God spoke to him, saying. “The just shall live by faith.” He arose and henceforth renounced salvation by penance and good works.

I stood at the bottom of the stairs and cried, “The just shall live by faith.” But all in vain; for priests and people turned and looked for a moment, then went on kissing, hoping thus to be made holy. Of course, there is a large collection box at the top to receive the money which is freely given. And why not? A former Pope decreed that to “anyone climbing these stairs in holy contrition, nine years of absolution will be granted.” These words appear in six or more languages at the foot of the stairs. This is a cheap way to wipe out a lot of adultery and deviltry. Just go to Rome and climb those stairs which are now worn smooth and thin. Every climbing cancels nine years of robbery and rottenness — so says the Pope.

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Wesley’s Chapel

Here we wept recently when we stood with head uncovered at Adam Clarke’s grave, next to the monument of the mighty Wesley. I had been there before, but on this occasion a Methodist synod was in session in the adjoining chapel and many ministers in clerical suits were in the yard, smoking and joking as though at a horse race. As I stood in reverence at the dust of two of the greatest scholars, theologians, and soul-winners since the days of the Apostles, and beheld those worldly-minded preachers, I groaned audibly.

Some of them approached me, asking if I were a bishop from America. Others asked if I were Campbell Morgan, because of my height and gray hair, I suppose. `This gave me a chance to preach. I asked in kindness and seriousness what the great founder of Methodism would think and say if he knew what was going on at his grave and in the chapel where he preached. I said, “I fear he would turn over in his coffin.” I told them my experience of conversion, holiness and tobacco, giving them some of our pamphlets and tracts. Like true Englishmen, they received them with dignity. One of them said, “If others reproved me about tobacco with the same spirit you have shown, I do not know but that I might get under conviction myself.” Oh, let us pray for the great Methodist Church and her ministry which has fallen so far away from its original purity, simplicity, and power. Yes, one can stand at Wesley’s grave, or in his pulpit, or pray in his private prayer chamber, as we have done several times, and yet not be holy. Looking at and handling these choice relics of a holy man will not make the doers thereof perfect. The blood of Jesus Christ alone can cleanse from all sin.

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Andrew Murray Church

Here was another great and good man. I have been greatly edified by his many books. We had the privilege of preaching to a large congregation from the same pulpit where he once stood. This church (at Worcester, S. Afr.) has a membership of over two thousand, and they alone raise over $75,000 annually for missions. We prayed at the grave and monument of this great saint. Oh, that the Dutch Reformed ministers might catch the same vision he caught and come out boldly in favor of holiness and healing! But, alas, holy men and holy places do not make us holy.

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Holiness Colleges

Religious schools are great centers from which emanate light and truth. These are fine places to either grow in grace or backslide. I love to work with students and see them develop from raw recruits into polished singers and soul-winners.

But, unless one is determined to keep his eyes on Jesus alone, he can come to one of these schools and see enough inconsistencies, and imagine more, to sour him and send him away a skeptic. Yes, Holiness schools are fine, but they do not make one holy. Holiness of heart and. life is a personal matter, and each one for himself must constantly live under the Cleansing Blood.

“Then learn to scorn the praise of men,

And learn to lose with God,

For Jesus won the world through shame,

And beckoned thee His road.”