(An address from the chairman to the Fundamental Wesleyan Society, given July 18, 1995)
I remember the time when, if Acts 2 was read while I was in the congregation of a revival meeting or camp meeting, it meant that all in attendance were going to be required to endure a harangue aimed at two objectives. The first objective was to show everybody in attendance how false I was and how I had departed from the faith once delivered to the saints, i. e. Dr. Godbey and Uncle Bud Robinson and many other icons that rested so assuredly in their shadows. And who was I to contend with such firepower of the early holiness movement?
The second purpose was to secure enough vehement backing in the hope that I could be "bowled over" and return safely to the fold of the "holiness movement." The sad product of such soliloquies was that they just widened the differences and hastened the death of a movement that was reaping the harvest of years of scholastic negligence and spiritual carelessness. Recently Dr. Keith Drury declared that the holiness movement is dead!
I do not gloat and proudly say "I told you so!" I weep. I'm broken-hearted, for it was at "holiness altars" that I first started my "trek" toward the celestial city. It was "holiness" preachers whose passion and fervor incited within me the high qualities of determination, dedication, and a delicate sensitive inner ear to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. It was "holiness" parents whose holy lifestyle and whole devotion to God pointed me heavenward, whose prevailing prayers and parental hedges kept me from veering too far from the path of the just. Yet God helped me to see that the human need went much deeper than wedding rings, dress standards, or television.
Is it possible that God raised up the Fundamental Wesleyan Society for such a time as this? Years of struggle caused us to grapple with the question of whether such a society was needed. But the fire would not die. This ministry and its bold challenge has cost some of us; yet it was no cost at all. We gladly were counted among those who contended for saving faith as a gift of God; salvation from all sin and victory over all sin as a condition of being termed a Christian; the personal direct witness of the Holy Spirit to our adoption, which is always followed by the indirect witness, and that all Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Our eschatological change came more as a product of our walk with God than as a primary cause.
The first encouraging sign that I see today is a renewed interest in doctrinal purity. Every major move of the Holy Spirit had its basis in a rediscovery of a theological gem that had been neglected and consequently was buried by the organized church.
It was a revelation by the Holy Spirit to the soul and intellect of Martin Luther that gave birth to the reformation. It was not without trembling that he stood before the Diet at Worms and declared, "Here I stand, so help me God, I can do no other."
Likewise the Wesley Brothers had personal earth-shattering revelations by the Holy Spirit. We can all recall Wesley's testimony of his heart being strangely warmed. One only needs to read the sermon he delivered soon after his conversion when he passionately asked the question, "Can there be said to be one Christian in Oxford?" to understand that the fire in his bosom was kindled by the Holy Spirit. No man walks into the arena of spiritual conflict that boldly without a mighty infusion of the Holy Spirit.
For me the climax came as I was standing between the altar rail and the platform in the Bible Methodist Church in Brent, Alabama. Robert Brush was reading to me an introduction to one of Wesley's sermons and I have never been the same, nor do I ever want to be the same! This was the culmination of months of confessing my sins and receiving some assurance that God had heard me. At that point I rediscovered the doctrinal purity that had birthed the Methodist Awakening: If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation, old things pass away and behold all things become new.
Doctrinal pollution always precedes a deterioration of practice. I am fully persuaded that Wesleyan doctrine in its original form is as close to the doctrine of the apostles as any has discovered. If doctrine does not promote victory over all sin then it is very evident that we will not expect it in our followers. My question to those who beg for sin is this, If the blood of Christ can cleanse from one sin, then why cannot He cleanse from all sin? And if the power of the Holy Spirit can make you victorious over one sin, then why cannot he make you victorious over all sin?
In the second place I see encouraging signs in our devotional sincerity. Evident among us is a willingness to be open and honest about our relationship with Christ. Any student of the Wesleyan Revival will clearly see that the class meeting was a major vehicle that promoted the personal spiritual growth and channeled it into the veins of the Methodist societies making them the dominate force both on the frontiers and in the bustling cities.
Personal spiritual growth among a few is always a prerequisite to a major awakening. There must be men who have been there in their quest after God to guide the seekers. "The husbandman that laboreth must first be a partaker of the fruit" (2 Timothy 2:6).
At the heyday of the holiness movement R. G. Flexon is reported to have said that only 10% of the members of the Pilgrim Holiness Church were in the experience of entire sanctification. When you take into consideration that the Manual of the Pilgrim Holiness Church identified this experience as effected by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a clearer reason develops for the death of the holiness movement. Not only was their doctrinal teaching misguided, but many did not live what they professed.
The third area for encouragement is that of our printing ministry. There are platforms and pulpits that are closed to us and we have been dissected without the opportunity for rebuttal. However, "the pen is mightier than the sword." You can disagree with and oppose the printed page, but it always reads the same. Original Wesleyan doctrine is not always suited to the week-end revival or the ten day meeting, but when taken in serious inquiry it always slays its opposition. I am persuaded that there are a host of folk that are where I once was: lots of profession and little possession. They are troubled at their prospects of meeting God face to face. But there is rustling in the mulberry branches and if we cannot preach it to the masses, perhaps we can sent the message by an alternate route. We have a radically diseased generation and it will take radical doctrine, radical preaching, and radical literature to effect a change. May the Lord help us to aim what resources we have to the areas that will make a difference.
In closing, I feel that I would be remiss if I failed to point out some areas that we need to be on guard. First, we must not become too reactive toward the outward distinctives that have marked the holiness movement. We must preserve orthopraxy as well as orthodoxy. While it is easy to point out excesses and some who have gone to seed on outward standards, modesty, the distinction of the sexes, and other practices that marked holy men and women of old must and will accompany an awakening. Christians in a degenerate world will be distinct and marked.
The second danger that may indeed hinder our usefulness is a closed mindedness to those of a different stripe. One of the earmarks of a New Testament Christian is that they are of a teachable spirit. Many men and organizations have painted themselves into a corner because of some controversy and were bypassed by God. A. W. Tozer is reported to have said that he did not fear that there would not be a coming revival, his fear was that the Christian and Missionary Alliance would not be a part of it. H. E. Schmul has voiced the same concern about the conservative holiness movement.
The only effective antidote for this crippling disease is frequent outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon each of us. Alone with God, a new anointing does wonders for the intellect, the will, and the emotions. It clears our vision of how God views the circumstances. I join with Adam Clarke and declare to you, without fear ofvalid opposition, that no life of God can exist in the soul without frequent baptisms of the Holy Spirit. If we, as individuals or as a collective group, desire to be useful in this whitened harvest field, we must stay close to the closet.
It is not enough that we have rediscovered a buried and ignored or forgotten truth, our hearts must be kept ablaze with holy and fervent love resulting from close communion with God. Lord, set our hearts afire, clear our vision, and make us useful agents in the kingdom of Christ.
The third area that we need to be on guard is that we don't limit what God wants to do. Now I am preaching to myself. At times when I do not see clear evidences of God at work, I am prone to lessen my expectations. I am ashamed and have often had to apologize to God for my lack of trust. I quote to myself, "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:5).
I have not had some of the dramatic answers to prayer testified to by others, but I have had enough to keep me on the King's Highway. For it is a way in which the light shineth brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
Little is much when God is in it, Labor not for wealth or fame, There's a crown and you can win it, If you go in Jesus' name. (Kittie Louise Suffield)