Chapter 3 - UNSAVED CHURCH MEMBERS, THE ESSENTIAL ENEMIES OF HER SPIRITUALITY
A wretched backslider, whose darkness had become so deep that he was posing as askeptic was wonderfully saved this summer. His soul was so flooded with glory that he went fromhouse to house, as saved people often used to do, declaring the great things God had done for him.His testimony in the church was so clear and assuring that a number of young people who were inthe church without salvation were being disturbed about their condition, and the pastor becamealarmed about them.
He was the pastor's friend before his conversion, and more so now, since being saved. Thepastor in private made several efforts to dissuade him from testifying, as his bright testimonywould discourage his converts. He could testify with his life, but this strong testimony with his lipswas dangerous to the peace of the church! But the fire kept burning in the young man's soul, andcottage prayer meetings sprang up as the result, and some were saved.
In these meetings the pastor tried to convince his friend of the evil of testifying to his happyexperience from the statements of a whole group of ministers of recent date. These had each said inthe conference love feast, that they had not testified, some of them for months, others for years,because they thought it not best! Such occurrences, it would seem, are sufficient to bring JohnWesley from his grave! Fancy, if you can, such statements in annual conferences of Methodism,with Wesley at their head!
1. Unconverted church members, as a rule, are antagonistic to Christian testimony. Anysoul either outside or within the church who is in earnest, seeking God for pardon, is always gladto listen to Christian testimony. The majority of outside sinners are always moved by the testimonyof God's saints, and a multitude have been saved through hearing it; but every soul who hassubstituted church membership and church work for the new birth is averse to hearing it. Thisstatement seems strong, but we affirm it without hesitation.
(a) All human beings who are in sin are restless and never can be satisfied. Because ofthis, and for selfish purposes, uncounted thousands have drifted into the church. Each one of thesehas sinned against God, and has a depraved heart, which rules him and loves sin. Every humanbeing enlightened by the Holy Spirit who rejects Jesus Christ as a Saviour from sin, loves sin andthe pleasures of sin more than he loves Jesus Christ. It is impossible to be born of God without thecomplete renunciation of sin, up to the light given. No man ever entered the joys of pardoned sinholding on to any one sin of which he was conscious, great or small.
(b) Definite testimony to conscious pardon of all past sins, to the glorious life of Godwithin the soul, to being adopted into God's family and the conscious witness of the Holy Spirit tothis experience, cannot but be alarming to members of the church who are without God. No soultrusting his church membership and his own works to save him can possibly have such anexperience, and such testimony cannot but reveal his emptiness. Being convicted of his need ofsalvation, and unwilling to part with sin, he has to fight the testimony which convicted him, tomaintain his position in the church. This is the philosophy of the bitter opposition which has beenrendered to holiness testimony.
All truly converted people, who hear plain, direct witnessing to the experience of entiresanctification are compelled to see that they have not reached that experience; and each of such asthus convicted will either seek sanctification or make war on the testimony. This, too is whatWesley calls "the Methodist testimony," but Wesley's sons are seeking for it a burial place. Therejection of this testimony and experience [of both salvation and entire sanctification] has made itpossible that uncounted thousands should be reckoned with the people of God, and not bedisturbed in their church relationship. Their aversion to such testimony made it necessary to repealthe law making attendance upon class meeting a condition of membership. Let the reader fancy, ifhe can, over three millions of Methodists shut in with old-time class leaders of the John Wesleytype once each week! This trend to fill the church with worldlings must die or the class meetingmust die as a church institution.
2. All discerning, spiritual pastors will notice that unsaved men in their churches areespecially exacting in their demands. Not infrequently one old sinner with money at his back in thechurch, will have his say against the judgment and wishes of one hundred spiritual members. Thisis preeminently true in the choice of pastors to serve the church. No really spiritual pastor canmeet the wishes of such a man. Jesus Christ would be [to the unregenerate church member] themost of all distasteful to him as a pastor. It was exactly such men who murdered him, because ofhis spirituality.
It is doubtful whether Paul would have ever been seriously persecuted had it not been forthe wicked agency of unsaved church members and ministers. There are a few cases of persecutionwhere there is no mention of Jewish agency, but such ministers and such false professors of thetrue religion followed these holy men from city to city to stir up opposition to their testimony andpreaching and to incite the Gentiles to murder them. Millions of God's true people have metmartyrdom at the hands or by the instigation of unsaved ministers and unsaved church members.Christ Himself could hardly have been crucified by the civil authority of Rome had it not been forthe insistent demand of unsaved ministers of the true religion and the officiary of the Jewishchurch. It was this very power which sawed Isaiah's body in two with a wooden saw, and in laterages fitted up the Spanish armada with weapons of death and instruments of torture and cruelty tosink Christian Protestantism and silence the testimony of its white saints. Had Saul of Tarsus beenan outside sinner, with his magnificent manhood, he never could have incited the murder of God'ssaints, nor could he have held the garments of the Jewish mob while stoning Stephen.
3. Sin and holiness have always been at war. They cannot be friendly on any field nor meetwithout battle. Hence the peril of every truly converted soul till the sinful nature within him isdestroyed. That nature is known by every true Christian by its unremitting antagonism to all thegraces of the Holy Spirit within. It has never been known to favor or help one of these graces.Hence the fearful battle with pride, selfishness, disobedience, unbelief, spiritual darkness, unholyanger, perverted love, the fear of man, unholy ambitions and fleshly lusts, all within the soul.These two lives within -- the old and the new -- the spiritual and the carnal -- constitute the greatbattle ground of every experienced believer till he is wholly sanctified. The flesh lusting againstthe Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary, the one to the other, so that yecannot do the things that ye would (Gal. 5:17).
The new life is always imparted preparatory to the destruction of the "old man," and theone or the other has got to die. Two antagonistic potentates cannot sit together on one throne, and itis only a question of time when the spiritual will expel the carnal or the carnal will expel the lifeof God from within. These two, sin and grace, represent two antagonistic kingdoms, the oneseeking the destruction of the other, and the other of the one.
A soul under grace cannot but be interested supremely in the kingdom of grace. The soulruled by sin cannot but be supremely interested in the things of the other kingdom. "The Church isthe ecclesia, the Lord's called-out ones." Jesus said that such were not of the world, as He was notof the world, and because they were not of the world, the world would hate them. All adult people
are in one of these two classes. This truth threads the Bible of both Testaments, and concerning itwe can hardly be mistaken. All agree that the spiritual body of Christ, the true New Testamentchurch, is made up of those who are born of God, as we have previously shown. Yet it has alwaysbeen difficult, when this body becomes the visible church, for God's ministers and people todistinguish between the saved and the unsaved. Hence, despite the utmost scrutiny, some unsavedpeople have crept into the visible body.
Christ surely sounded this note of warning in His addresses to the Seven Churches, and theepistles concede and bemoan the presence of this evil; but to increase numbers and wealth, theadmission of uncounted thousands of mere worldlings, who have given no evidence of realconviction for sin or repentance, or the new birth, is a crime against God and a calamity to thehuman race.
The Methodist Episcopal Church probably contains a larger number of people who havebeen truly born of God than any other, and these are a part of the true church in the sight of God.She surely has a great body of true ministers, who love her doctrines and discipline and know hercapabilities to evangelize the world. Such are giving their lives at her altars and expect to die inher communion; but her constantly increasing number of unsaved people and unsaved ministers area peril to the church and to Christian Protestantism.
The tastes of the most refined worldlings are worldly, their life is of the world and not ofGod. Being without God, like other worldlings, they must have substitutes for Divine fellowship,and hence the endless clamor for worldly amusements and insistent demand for worldly pleasures."Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God," their heart cravings are back of the demand that theChurch shall take down the bars she has placed between them and the corrupting agencies of thetheater, the lustful dance and the card table. Tens of thousands, if not five hundred thousand, of ourmembership, if compelled to deny themselves of these three corrupting worldly pleasures, wouldsell their church birthright, as Esau sold his birthright, for a mess of pottage. But still it is true aswhen He [Christ] said it, "Straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, andfew there be that find it."
With our greatly increased attention to human learning, there has come fearful decrease ofattention to the perfecting of our moral nature, an unprecedented effort and sacrifice to culture thehead with a painful and God-dishonoring neglect of the heart. Tenfold interest in the refinement ofthe intellect and the culture of the body more than the salvation of the soul. The highest and mostrefined intellectual culture alone has never saved one of Adam's sons or daughters from sin ordepravity of heart and life. Ministers of the highest mental polish, who have never touched the hemof Jesus' garment have furnished living demonstrations of human depravity sufficient to prove thedoctrine, if there were no other evidence of its truthfulness -- not one or two exceptional eases, butin every case of which this writer has knowledge.
The depravities of a cultured mind are rarely so vile or gross as with uncultured people;but a cultured villain is more dangerous to society than any other. Satan's kingdom would soon gointo ashes in civilized countries had he no cultured helpers. Satan himself knows more of humansciences than any son of Adam has ever known, and has doubtless interspersed his scientificteaching with scientific discoveries through the ages, with subtle design to have it contradict the word of God ... Satan, and through some of his inspired servants built a system of falsehood[Evolution] with design to uproot the authority of the Bible and faith in the very existence of apersonal God. But it is amazing to spiritual minds the avidity with which unsaved church membersand unsaved ministers of learning laid hold on that Satanic ruse, and rejoiced that the authority ofthe Scriptures was broken and God retired out of sight.
Such ministers prove beyond the possibility of a doubt that "The carnal mind is enmityagainst God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Their faith is in accordwith the ruling power within, and if the end sought could be accomplished no longer would sinfulpleasures be disturbed by the exactions of God's law or the out-limits of depraved desire curbedby the thunders of awakened conscience. The severity of this judgment may be justified byillustrations in the chapter which is to follow.