Although Elmer Long left us on August 27, 1998, his influence lives on. This article is adapted from a transcript provided by Matthew Canter who was in the service on May 15, 1998, at Fairview Holiness Church in Glouster, Ohio, the last revival Elmer Long ever preached.
Paul is dealing with the Jews, or Israel, who had the law given to them. All the oracles of God were handed to them. Yet with all of this, they had broken it. In fact, those who were supposed to teach others did not keep the law themselves. They themselves had become hypocritical. Jesus himself had to rebuke them for those very things.
However, there were some Gentiles previous to this time who were doing the things that the law commanded without knowing it was a law. The difference was they had it written in their hearts. They were fulfilling the deeds of the law without having that law stuck under their nose.
I believe every church ought to have some kind of standard, but when it is all said and done, if a person is a real Christian, you don’t have to stick a rule book under his nose. The Gentile who did the things that the law required was not a Jew outwardly, but he was one inwardly.
If the heart is right, it will manifest itself outwardly. Jesus said out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speakest. If there is evil in your heart, sooner or later people will find out. It will show itself and they will see it. But you can also have the outward part right and be wrong because you are not right inwardly. God desireth truth in the inward parts. So the heart must be changed. Before you can change the fruit, you must change the tree.
It is a hard job to try to live right before you are made right. I tried it myself, but it wouldn’t work. Sooner or later you will come to some kind of crisis that will prove the fallacy of your belief. You will find out you need something more than that
Inward religion changes our understanding. The Bible very clearly teaches when a person is saved he becomes an heir of Abraham, a seed of Abraham, a spiritual Jew. Jesus gave the parable of the man who planted the vineyard and sent servants to collect his fruit. One was beaten, one was killed, the other man was stoned. So he sent his son and they killed him. In the same way Israel rejected God, so God raised up another people that were not necessarily Jews to prove that he could save men and have his church.
So Paul said every person that is genuinely saved is the seed of Abraham and heirs of the same promise. Everything that God promised Abraham is promised to the Christian. Abraham walked out one night and looked at the stars. He could not count them. God said, “I will make thy seed like the sands of the sea.” We know Israel is not a big nation, but if you take all of those who believe in Jesus there is a great multitude that no man can number.
There are some things about the things of God you don’t understand until you know the Lord. John Fletcher was approached by one of his members who said, “In the four years I have been hearing you preach, you say that man is unregenerated, unrenewed, and his soul depraved. He is in such a condition that his reasoning, his understanding, and his judgment are impaired. Until he is aware of this loss he can neither repent nor believe the Gospel.” Fletcher answered, “That is what I mean to preach.” When you have this inward religion, you have an understanding of the things of God that you did not have before.
Inward religion changes our judgment. The Bible tells us that as many as are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. But how does He lead? God has not given us the spirit of bondage again to fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind. That word “sound mind” means sound judgment. You are able to discern the false from the true.
There were false doctrines in the days when I was converted. Yet the people who were converted were able to see through appearances and see a thing for what it was worth. Everything we saw was not a miracle, although we would have fallen for anything that came along before our conversion.
After it was all over the people were left dry and in bad shape. I went up to the man and put my arms around him. I said, “I am a Christian and I love everyone, but I don’t believe what you are doing.” He said, “You would have had a great revival if I had come up to the church.” I told him I was willing to take the chance of missing his great miracle revival.
I believe when you have inward religion, you have some common sense. Many times the Lord will show you the best judgment about a thing. When a person becomes a real spiritual Jew, who is a real Christian, he has a spirit or a principle within him that governs. As Wesley said in his hymn, a principle within of jealous godly fear. He has a principle that hates sin and loves righteousness.
I have never seen a real convert who did not want to be like Jesus when he was saved. They begin to pray, just a closer walk with Thee. That’s the principle that God puts within people who are really inwardly saved and we need that principle in the soul.
The Holy Spirit dwells within all believers. Since he is holy, he will produce in you some of His nature. You are a habitation of God through the Spirit. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And if He lives in your heart, you will want to be like Him because that principle is there. It is a holy principle, a godly principle, an upright principle.
Inward religion changes our will. When I was first saved, I loved this song by Fanny Crosby. “I am Thine, O Lord. I have heard Thy voice and it told Thy love to me, but I long to rise in the arms of faith, and be closer drawn to Thee. Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, by the power of grace divine. Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope and my will be lost in Thine.”
I remember my older brother working with me out on the field. Neither of us were Christians, but he said, “Elmer, I don’t think I am going to try to get that job at Reynold’s Tobacco Factory because I might get saved sometime and I wouldn’t want to be working there if I was a Christian.”
If your will is lost in God’s will, you want his way— even when you do not understand it. A Cornish miner would tell the miners, “It will work out for good. It is like making cakes. You don’t eat flour by itself. You don’t eat sugar by itself. But when you put all the ingredients together and work them together, you come out with a good tasting cake. God did not say all things are good, but He did say that they will work for good.” They teased the old miner and one day as they were going down to the mine an old dog grabbed his lunch, taking off with it. He tried to catch the dog, but never did. On the way back he felt sure the boys would tease him. Then suddenly he heard an explosion. Every one of those miners was killed in the explosion. If that dog had not come along and stolen his lunch he would have been one of the victims.
Inward religion changes our feelings. Old-time religion is a heartfelt thing. It is not fanaticism. Love does not behave itself unseemly, but it does bring peace. I remember the fear of death and hell that had followed me up the hill that dark afternoon, but when I came back down there was sunshine in my soul. Bring a person whose ears are stopped into a concert and when their ears opened they will recognize the beautiful music. Bring a person who was blinded to some of the mountain overlooks. When their eyes are opened, when they look out and see it all, will they not experience any feeling?
A little girl was born blind. She was taken to an eye doctor who was hopeful that surgery could restore her eyesight. They gave it a try. The day came when the bandages were taken off and she could see. Her mother had told her about the grass and trees, the flowers and the birds for years, but when she saw for herself she said, “It is so wonderful, why didn’t you tell me?” Her mother replied, “I tried to, but you have to see for yourself.” The best knowledge is to see for yourself. Then you can sing, “He stood at my heart’s door mid sunshine and rain and patiently waited an entrance to gain. What shame that so long He entreated in vain, for He is so precious to me.”
I believe in a heartfelt religion. We are way behind in our shouting. They used to call us “shouting Methodists.” And they had a lot to shout about. They didn’t have many earthly goods, but they sang about a city that is fairer than day and by faith they could see it afar. And glory would come on the meeting-house and they would shout. They were feeling their religion. And so can you.
Do you have this inward grace? You don’t need a rule, you need the Ruler. When I found the Ruler I have no trouble with the rules. Loving Heavenly Father, give us more of that loving grace. “More of His saving fullness see, more of His love who died for me.”