THE SEEDS OF FUNDAMENTALISM
In answer to the question left the reader in the preceding chapter, credit (or blame) must be given to Satan for originating this most subtle heresy. No man knows how many times in past ages this opposition to the true workings of the Holy Spirit has surfaced in the doctrines of men. It is certain, however, that each time a proud religious teacher who under the light of the revealed mystery of God realized a question upon his own conversion and inward holiness, that man set about to justify himself by formulating a repentance and faith scheme which left out the mystery of God's supernatural operations upon the soul. Being unconverted himself, he knew nothing of the mortal wounding of his sinful soul by the gospel sword and subsequent Divine healing and comfort of the soul, and so he passed over it as a myth or at the least an unnecessary accompaniment to true conversion and taught others the same. It is unfortunate that such men could not all have possessed the "honest and good heart" as did John Wesley, who perceived himself lost and undone in the thirteenth year of his ministry, and after painfully and diligently seeking God for some time received the genuine regeneration of his own spirit. Notwithstanding Mr. John Wesley's shortcomings, this reversal and the humbling of his pride not only allowed him a place in the Heavens but also enabled him to beget through his gospel many blessed generations of spiritual sons and daughters unto God. However, it will be discovered while reading religious history that there are indeed few who will surrender to God as Mr. Wesley did. Most such religious teachers have chosen rather to wrest the Scriptures to fit their own cases and thus to their own destruction. These were "sons of perdition" who when faced with sound doctrine regarding the nature of true religion found themselves void of it and chose rather to set up a smoke screen than to allow themselves to be shown naked in the light of truth.
We do not know for certain where this fundamental error, as it is now formulated and practiced among so many who proudly wear the description "fundamentalist," originated among men, but we do know what characters were most influential in establishing it in America, drawing away disciples from among the Baptists who would later subvert the bulk of that denomination. When the Baptist denomination was no longer able to present a unified stand as the foremost champions of experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ, all other evangelical Christian forces rapidly fell prey to this deception also.
Having already given an outline with documentation of some of the history of Baptist doctrines and practices in chapter 3, it remains that we should now document the progress of the other doctrine which contains this subtle heresy by quoting the men who sowed it. It will be left to the readers to perceive many of the similarities and differences between the teachers quoted in this work.
This thinking, which tends to elevate the position of the New Testament Scriptures above that of God the Holy Spirit (Himself a Divine Person) as the only Sure Witness confirming the sufficiency of a penitent seeker's faith to their own conscience, may be found in various places in past history. We only attempt here to uncover as much as we are able of the channel that this leaven took to leaven such a great lump as it has today. Again, we must allow the reader to draw some conclusions of his own in the matter.
The Campbellite historian, J. W. Shepherd, in describing some of the forerunners of their "restoration movement" told of "reformers" in Presbyterian Scotland in the early to middle eighteenth century. (page 140-141, CHURCH FALLING AWAY AND RESTORATION, by J. W. Shepherd) One Mr. Glass was one of these early "independent" leaders.
"Mr. Glass was largely eclipsed by Robert Sandeman, whose activity wielded a wide influence. Those who adhered to his teachings were called 'Sandemanians.' Sandeman prominently repudiated that mischievous mysticism which views 'saving faith' as an inspiration directly from the Holy Spirit." That "mischievous mysticism" Mr. Shepherd commended Mr. Sandeman for repudiating is the heart of historical Baptist doctrine regarding conversion to Christ. He continued, summarizing Sandeman's teachings, "'one thing is needful' which he called the sole requisite to justification or acceptance with God. By the sole requisite of justification, he understood the work finished by Christ in his death, proved by his resurrection to be all sufficient to justify the guilty; that the whole benefit of this is conveyed to men only by the apostolic report concerning it; that everyone who understands this report to be true, or is persuaded that the events actually happened, as testified by the apostles, is justified, and finds relief to his guilty conscience; that he is relieved not by finding any favorable symptom about his heart, but by finding their report to be true; that the event itself which is reported, becomes his relief so soon as it stands true in his mind, and accordingly becomes his faith; that all the divine power which operates in the minds of men, either to give the first relief to their consciences, or to influence them in every part of their obedience to the Gospel, is persuasive power, or the forcible conviction of truth. From this we see that he saw with some degree of clearness the nature of faith, but not that faith shall be perfected by surrender to an ordinance of the Lord's own appointment." Mr. Shepherd argued here that Sandeman understood the "nature of faith" to NOT be in some special operation of God The Spirit, but in belief of the New Testament Scriptures. Walter Scott was yet unknown and had not attached "baptism" to such "faith" as a completion or perfection of it. Immersion in water would later be considered necessary to soul-salvation by all descendants of Alexander Campbell's restoration movement, but only after Walter Scott had persuaded an already very Sandemanian Alexander Campbell of its necessity. Sandeman's teachings would have fit well with the doctrines of modern fundamentalists regarding his views on saving faith, which he supposed came through the Holy Scriptures, without distinct conscious supernatural operations by the Holy Spirit. Long before the Campbells came from Scotland to begin their initial efforts to "restore" the primitive church to America and the world, genuine revival had invaded the ranks of the Presbyterians in America. The "new side," who embraced the revival activity, drew no small opposition from the "old side" Presbyterians. The new side was alive with the reality of the Holy Spirit's workings which much of the old side denied as valid or necessary regarding the eternal salvation of men's souls. Of the revival wing of American Presbyterianism it was written, "Their old side opponents, many of whom had recently arrived from Scotland, where doctrinal formalism was much more the order of the day, saw things differently. They cast a suspicious eye on itinerant evangelism, feared that emotionalism was overwhelming Christian stability, and thought that the structures of Presbyterianism should not be set aside in the revivalistic passion of the era." (page 189, THE GOSPEL IN AMERICA, by Woodbridge, Noll, and Hatch) This "new side" of Presbyterianism in colonial America consisted of those Presbyterians who engaged in the revival activity of the first "great awakening." A great division resulted because of the tenets of the "new side" which were described by John Thompson, an "old side" opponent, as "(1) deep and definite convictions which must fill the heart with terror; (2) definite experience of conversion without which one remains 'in a damnable unconverted state;' (3) the ability of a truly converted person to determine whether or not another is converted; (4) that an unconverted minister has not been called by God and cannot be the means of conversion. Thompson examined each one of these 'errors' and in a very able manner attacked them 'as tending to corrupt the great Fundamental Doctrine of Conversion and Regeneration ...' He maintained that the work of grace did not come in successive stages but was a process complete in itself. Therefore conviction, if it came from God was in itself evidence that a person was in a converted state. Not all the other spiritual graces as faith, love, repentance may be apparent, but nevertheless they exist just as breathing may be the only evident sign of life in a body ... inward exercises are not the true criteria of one's spiritual state, as the revivalists maintained, so much as one's future conduct and desires. Thompson pointed to many instances in the Bible to prove that the preparatory convictions so emphasized by the New Lights were entirely unnecessary, and also to the fact that Christ and his Apostles emphasized primarily the 'still Gospel grace'. ... As to the definite assurance of conversion, Thompson believed it to be attainable but also presented reasons why it might not be evidenced by many." (pages 63-64, THE GREAT AWAKENING IN VIRGINIA, 1740-1790, by Wesley M. Gewehr)
Here we can see many arguments, used by Old Side Presbyterians in 1741 to oppose a true spiritual revival, in close harmony with, if not identical to, many arguments now used by modern fundamentalists in opposing the historical doctrine of Baptists. Many of these were perpetuated in similar form during the interim of more than a century by "Disciples" of Alexander Campbell. While Thompson was "'almost fully persuaded' that Whitefield was 'a downright deceiver, or else under a dreadful delusion,'" (page 65, Gewehr) the New Side Presbyterians admired Whitefield, and the Baptists of colonial America recognized the famous Calvinistic Methodist as a man of God.
Simultaneously, the New Side's feelings toward an Old Side preacher, were revealed by John Craig's testimony that the "revivalists" "'freely loaded me with these and such like (appellations), poor, blind, carnal, hypocritical, damned wretch ...'" (page 66, Gewehr)
Although the eighteenth century Regular Baptists were somewhat disturbed by the first of the New Lights who came to them under the name "Separate Baptists," because of some excessive outward emotionalism, there was never any opposition from them toward their doctrines of "inward exercises" associated with the spiritual state and "the definite assurance of conversion" which were condemned by the Old Side Presbyterians. The Baptists had always held to these elements of experimental knowledge of God. Such emphasis was ancient Baptist teaching, but was much strengthened among them by the "great awakening" revival through the influence of the Separate Baptists. They were very soon in close fellowship and cooperation with one another, and toward the end of this first great revival period they were formally united under the name "United Baptists." During this period the Baptists possessed "a heightened commitment to personal conversion." (page 189, Woodbridge, Noll & Hatch) All true Baptists still stress the great importance of this individual conversion experience and contend that any person who lacks such an experience also lacks true saving faith and eternal salvation.
It is evident that there existed among the Presbyterians a tendency to justify the many religious and educated men among them who were void of the evidences of conversion emphasized by the New Side Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. That they soon reverted to this again in spite of the extensive revival influence among them during the great awakening is shown in the following words of Archibald Alexander. Although the Presbyterian denomination had been greatly spiritualized by the Holy Spirit during this great awakening revival, a persistent tendency of that people to resist the actual workings of the Holy Spirit continued to be seen in subsequent history.
Archibald Alexander was "twenty years a pastor and preacher in a revival era, then forty years a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary (commenced in 1812 when he was the sole instructor) ..." (Inside front cover of THOUGHTS ON RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE by Archibald Alexander)
In this book he wrote, "John Wesley was for several years in the ministry and a missionary to America, before he had this joyful sense of the forgiveness of sins, and he seems to intimate that until this time he was an unconverted man; and most of his followers make this joyful sense of pardoned sin the principal evidence of conversion, and one which all must experience. Most serious, intelligent readers, however, will be of the opinion that Wesley was as humble and sincere a penitent before this joyful experience, as afterwards; and that it is a dangerous principle to make a man's opinion of his own state the criterion by which to judge of its safety. Certainly, we should greatly prefer to stand in the place of some broken-hearted contrite ones, who can scarcely be induced to entertain a hope respecting their acceptance, to that of many who boast that they never feel a doubt of their own safety." (page 98, Alexander)
No doubt Mr. Alexander accepted the virtue of deep feelings and emotions in religion, as can be seen from his book, but he obviously sought to justify the many in his denomination who were void of any such evidences as the Baptists (before shown) and John Wesley and his Methodists demanded. As the modern "fundamentalists" labor to console many of their own who have mistaken conviction for conversion, so it was in the former day.
Again he hedged, "But when the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, as described in the last part of this narrative, the distressed soul is made sensible at once of its happy state and is made to rejoice in the smiles of divine favour. Then he can no more doubt that God is reconciled and has lifted upon him the light of his countenance, than that the sun is shining at mid-day. All Christians, however, are not favored with these bright discoveries. Some always walk in a degree of darkness or at best in a mere crepuscular light; yet they fear the Lord and obey the voice of his servants. I have known instances of some persons changing their opinion of the time of their conversion several times and fixing it at different periods of their experience, as their sentiments became more correct and mature; and those converts who shine forth more brightly at first are not always they who appear best after a lapse of years." (page 117, Alexander )
Again Mr. Alexander attempted to justify before God the convicted along with the converted. Certainly here appears to be seeds of modern "fundamentalism."
On pages 309-310 in Chapter nine of this work a detailed account is given of Archibald Alexander's true conversion while he was a school teacher among the Baptists of Spotsylvania County, Virginia. In this account the CONTRAST between typical Presbyterian doctrine and typical Baptist doctrine regarding salvation and its assurances is very obvious.
A look at the doctrine of a Presbyterian preacher from the Northeast who was in prison in Tupelo, Mississippi during the Civil War will reveal more seeds of "fundamentalist" heresy. This autobiography recalls advice the preacher, John H. Aughey, gave to a lost man who was awaiting execution. Jerome B. Poole and Calvin Harbaugh were to be put to death. Harbaugh asked, "What is faith in Jesus Christ?" Aughey answered, "Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel." "But Poole says I must be born again - that I must have a change of heart," Harbaugh replied. "The Bible tells us that whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore if a man be in Christ he is a new creature. He is born again. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life. Whosoever believeth then has eternal life, and whosoever has eternal life surely sees and enters the kingdom of God, so that whosoever believeth is born again. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. God loved and gave, we believe and have, and this is all of it to attain life and experience the new birth," Aughey assured him. Harbaugh responded with "I do believe on Jesus Christ and accept him as my Savior. I have never been baptized. Will you baptize me?" "Yes, I will, gladly," said the preacher. (page 112-113, THE FIGHTING PREACHER, by John H. Aughey)
The "fundamentalists" of today would have been proud of the "soul-winning" tactics of that Civil War era Presbyterian preacher who deceived the soul of a doomed man, as is here narrated.
As proven in an earlier chapter, the whole Baptist denomination held strongly to the fact that true conversion was an inner experience accompanied by emotional feeling and a conscious awareness of the saving operations of the Holy Spirit, until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Often the old writers would use such words as "sense" or "sensible," or "impressions," instead of "feelings" when describing these evidences in the heart. Being much more than mere emotional feeling, this sensibility to eternal realities contains a high degree of intelligence, communicated to the spirit of man by being "impressed" thereon by God's Holy Spirit. In the late nineteenth century, some who were named "Baptist," especially in the northeast United States, began to embrace what is proudly heralded today as "fundamentalism," at least with regard to eternal salvation and soul winning. Since that time, these modern principles, in one form or another, have overturned the faith of most of the churches wearing the Baptist name.
It was from the ranks of the Presbyterians that Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott both came in the early nineteenth century, teaching that same unconscious, emotionless, simple and easy faith of the intellect which "fundamentalists" are promoting today. Both say that there is no scriptural necessity for the deep guilt, shame, sorrow, and fear which produces a broken heart and contrite spirit in man, enabling him to experience a deep and astonishing conversion of heart, followed by the sensation of the abiding Holy Spirit within, who stirs the emotions with unfathomable and inexpressible love, joy, and peace. Some points of early Campbellism similar to the practices of modern "fundamentalists" were listed (among others not similar) by Beaver Association in Pennsylvania in 1829, the first Baptist association to withdraw fellowship from Mahoning Association after it was subverted by Campbell and Scott. Two of those were written as follows: (page 610, Volume 1, HISTORY OF KENTUCKY BAPTISTS by J. H. Spencer)
"2) That Baptism should be administered to all who say that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, without examination on any other point. ...
5) That the Scriptures are the only evidence of interest in Christ."
Modern "fundamentalists" usually modify these two some- what, but not so much as to change the deceptive effect of this heresy upon lost souls. They may ask the seeker of salvation if he believes he is saved, along with his belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and perhaps request of him a brief form of prayer. They may also admit that some men obtain more evidence of personal salvation than the witness of the Bible while still denying that such evidence is important or necessary. When the deceptive nature of the human heart, with its inclination to take the easiest route, is considered, it can be easily seen that any degree of such teaching will usually result in lost people taking the easy way, and therefore the false way, out of their perceived danger.
One of the early Baptist opponents of the Campbell's movement identified it with that Scotch Presbyterian renegade of the previous century, Robert Sandeman, whom J. W. Shepherd admitted was a forerunner of Campbell's restoration movement. Silas M. Noel wrote of the Campbellites in Kentucky in 1829, "... in this war with Pelagians and Sandemanians, called Campbellites, many of them may in like manner desert us." (page 612, Volume 1, Spencer)
There is no doubt that the influences of Sandeman and others inhabited Campbell and Scott before they ever added their own notion that faith was made complete by baptism. Certainly such a faith as Sandeman taught (and likewise Campbell and Scott) needed something more to complete it, but rather a broken heart and crushed spirit, producing "repentance unto remission of sins" and saving faith, than the waters of baptism. It is of interest, however, to note the similarity of views on faith among Sandeman, Campbell, Thompson, Alexander, Aughey, (and no doubt many other protestant teachers unknown to us) and the modern day "fundamentalists," especially in contrast to the spiritual depth of faith always insisted upon by historical Baptists. Although there are likely some unknown connections between the two groups, they are not available to us at present. We will rest content to show some common heritage among the two which occurred by way of the ongoing Protestant reform movement.
Regarding the Baptist denomination's drift toward acceptance of this erring evangelism, we have the following information from another of Campbell's sympathetic biographers.
"He (Alexander Campbell) was, therefore, never a Baptist in a partisan sense but from the time of his baptism a Christian of the apostolic order. But for convenience he became connected with the Redstone Baptist Association and remained so until the agitation following his famous sermon on the law led him to seek a more congenial companionship in the Mahoning Association of Ohio. This memorable discourse was delivered in a grove on the banks of Cross Creek in the picturesque scenery of West Virginia. This 'Sermon on the Law' created such subsequent excitement in the Baptist community that it is commonly regarded as the parting of the roads between Baptists and Disciples. The former have, however, advanced to a point as far as this sermon. The late Dr. Jeffrey of Brooklyn, a leading Baptist, preached the same sermon once before a Baptist association in Philadelphia and at another time to one in Warren, Rhode Island, and at both times it was received with profound attention and admiration. This was a sufficient test that, if the Baptists made that discourse a signal for breaking communion with Disciples in that day, they would not in this." (written in 1892, page 20, REVIEW OF ALEXANDER CAMPBELL'S TOUR OF SCOT-LAND by Thomas Chalmers) Campbell's recollection of that sermon, later printed, shows it to be largely a criticism of the Baptist habit of dividing the Law of God into categories and maintaining that some parts of it are still in effect and working in harmony with the gospel in the condemnation of sin. Mr. Campbell seemed to suppose God's law as given by Moses was defective, such that it was all abolished in favor of a new law as contained in the summary of the teachings of Jesus and his apostles in the New Testament Bible. This new law, when kept, earns the keeper of it eternal life. Thus grace only served to eliminate God's first failed effort in giving out too difficult a law for men to keep. In Jesus, God revised the plan for man's salvation. Thus all Old Testament Scriptures are without purpose in modern teaching except as historical background. Mere acceptance of Christ's teachings is all there is to life and salvation. (pages 191-236, HOME LIFE AND REMINISCENCES OF ALEXANDER CAMPBELL by Selina Huntington Campbell) Campbell's aversion to emotional religion was no doubt an ulterior motive in his desire to eliminate the "terrors of the law" upon the hearts of sinners. While it may be admitted that some of the emphasis of the strongly Calvinistic Baptist preachers of his day was excessive, the gospel message itself carries enough notice of the awful condemnation sinners are already under for having transgressed the righteous law of God as is sufficient to break the heart and crush the spirit in preparation for penitent saving faith and the salvation and peace with God which follows. A contrite condition of the human spirit is necessary to enable gospel repentance, unto saving faith, and the remission of sin. The gospel message alone in the hands of the Holy Spirit can produce these graces when received in the "honest and good heart." What greater indictment of sin and its awfulness could be given than the message that it necessitated the agonizing death of the sinless only-begotten Son of God as our only possible substitute and Savior? "The terror of the Lord" is thus no less to the convicted sinner living during the gospel dispensation than it should have been to one who properly comprehended God's law as dispensed by Moses. Nearing the close of the nineteenth century, many Baptists of the Northeast had already greatly slipped away from a staunch defense of those spiritual and emotional elements of true conversion which Alexander Campbell ridiculed nearly a century earlier. This drift can easily be seen to explain their appreciation for a sermon which had been a signal for war to their Baptist forefathers.
Much has been said in this chapter of the seeds of modern "fundamentalism" which appeared among Presbyterians and some of their offspring in previous centuries. They appear to have edified this movement after it began also, but the chief apostle of "fundamentalism" with respect to their characteristic evangelism appears to have originated outside this group. That apostle was Dwight L. Moody.
Dwight L. Moody was reared a Unitarian, but came under Congregationalist influence in Boston, Massachusetts when he was a young man. A super-salesman in a Boston shoe store, he was at his work place when his Bible teacher spoke a few words to him and there he was converted according to his own account. The Congregational Church subsequently denied him admittance into its membership based upon its judgment that he "did not give sufficient evidence of conversion, and he was advised to get additional spiritual guidance. It was nearly a year before he was actually allowed to join the church. (pages 108-109, THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD; REVIVALISM IN AMERICA by Daniel Cohen) Apparently, Mr. Moody always held to that conversion, initially doubted by the Boston Congregational Church, as his hope for eternity until his death. Mr. Cohen, who seemed critical of Mr. Moody, also wrote on the same pages, "Other religious leaders from St. Augustine to Charles G. Finney have left lengthy and often tortured accounts of their spiritual transformations. If Moody ever had such a mystic experience, he never spoke of it. His conversion seems to have been a fairly simple and unemotional matter. Christianity just made sense to him." One might wonder how that Mr. Cohen could seem to be so critical of Mr. Moody, who is biographed as such a remarkable saint by so many other writers, had Mr. Moody not left plenty of evidence to convict himself of a fundamental error in doctrine in some of his sermons. Sufficient for this purpose is one of his famous sermons entitled "Instant Salvation." His doctrine, and the methods they produced, have had a degrading and destructive effect upon that part of American evangelical religion which has since embraced them. It is from this confession from the "horse's mouth," which seems to contradict some of the doctrine others credit him with having taught, and from the long-term bitterness of the fruits of his life, that Mr. Cohen's critical assessment of D. L. Moody is appreciated as largely correct. Most other biographers write very favorably of the man. The following is a reprint of Mr. Moody's Sermon, "Instant Salvation."
"'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.' - John 3:36
'Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.' - John 5:24
You will find my text most anywhere in the Bible. If you look carefully you can find it written on every page. Now what I want to say is this: every man that wants to be saved can be saved before he leaves this building if he will. No matter how great a sinner you have been, you can trust God. It's His work to save you; you can't do it if you would, but He is able. Some people once tried to trouble an old Scotch woman about this matter of salvation, and asked her how she knew God had saved her. 'Ah!' she said, 'God can't afford to break His word about a poor old Scotch woman like me.' That was it. She was sure.
I know a good many earnest Christian people who can't tell the day or the hour, nor the week or the year, when they became Christians. But, nevertheless, there was a point in their lives when they did accept Jesus, a moment when their names were written in the Lamb's book of life. Now, if there is one or one hundred or five hundred that have come into this assembly determined not to go out until they are saved, they can be saved. I believe that as surely as that I am standing here before you today. I have preached to you a number of times in the past twelve weeks upon sudden conversion. I believe that this truth of sudden conversion has met with more opposition than any other truth that we have preached. I don't think we have been in any city where there has been so much down-right opposition to this doctrine as there has been in Boston.
Now let us look, and if the Word does not teach this, let us give it up; but if it does, then let us cling to it. I want to give you a number of illustrations.
The first illustration is the ark. It was the ark that saved Noah and his family. There was a moment when he and his family were outside the ark; and there was another when he was inside. That is sudden conversion. When God called him into the ark, all he had to do was to come into the ark. It was all ready when God called him. It was finished and the door was wide open. I have not much sympathy for this notion that man is weeping and praying and entreating and knocking for God to let him come in. That is not the doctrine. The Son of God standeth and knocketh, knocketh, knocketh at the door of your heart for you to open it and let Him come in to you. The Son of God wants to save you. He is anxious that you should let him save you, and you are not willing to be saved.
Some of you say that you have tried to understand this, but that you cannot. It is not that. You can understand it. It is your perverse, black, corrupt hearts that will not let you understand this. The striving is with your pride, with your own heart, not with God. The idea that we should have to stand weeping, struggling, knocking for God, the blessed, ever-living, merciful God! He is ready to give you salvation when you are ready to receive it. In Manchester, after one of our meetings, we had a meeting in the gallery, an inquiry meeting, and I had a little company of anxious inquirers around me, and I noticed one gentleman who took his seat upon the outskirts of the group, in the rear. I thought at first that he was a skeptic, and then I saw him weeping earnest tears, and that he was interested and evidently troubled with something. I went up to him and I said, 'Why cannot you receive salvation now?' He said, 'I don't feel as if I could have it here now.' And I went on to tell him that there was no need to wait for feeling; that feeling had nothing to do with it; that if he would just let his feelings alone they would take care of themselves. And I went on to tell him that the word FEELING was not mentioned in the Bible; that there was no command to anyone to feel, from Genesis to Revelation; that feeling is not attached to salvation; that it is something beyond mere feeling. Feeling may change, but the Word of God doesn't. I used one illustration after another, but he said that he 'didn't see how it was.' And finally I thought of this illustration about the ark, and I said, 'Was it Noah's feelings that made him safe, or was it the ark?' Then he cried, 'Why, yes, I see it.' Why, it astonished me, he got it so quick. He said, 'I have to go off now upon the train; I thank you very much, Mr. Moody.' I could hardly believe that he understood it, it was so quick, so sudden.
A few days afterward, as I was coming out of the Free Trade Hall, a man stepped up to me and said, 'Mr. Moody, do you remember me?' And I said, 'Well, no, I don't particularly; I see a good many faces and I cannot remember them all, but yours seems very familiar to me.' And then he said, 'Do you remember the illustration about the ark?' And I said, 'Oh, yes, I shall not forget that very soon.' And then he said, `I am the man.' And I said, 'Well, how is it with you?' And then he said, 'I went right into the ark then; I let the feelings take care of themselves.' And when I left Manchester he was about the last man to say goodbye to me. The Word of God saved him, and if you will just take the Word of God today it will save you and you will find peace and joy.
In the twelfth chapter of Exodus, verses 22 through 24, we are told: 'And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons forever.'
What was it made these people safe? It was the blood upon the doorposts. It was not their prayers, their tears, their weeping that saved them and made them feel secure; it was the blood. 'When I see the blood, that shall be the token for you.' If we are sheltered behind the blood we shall be safe. Now there must have been a moment when the blood was not there. When it was not there, there was a moment when they were exposed to death; but the moment the blood was put there, that moment they were sheltered. They had then security and safety.
There was a legend told about a firstborn child, and it ran, that if the blood was not there she would die that night, and she wanted to know that it was there. She asked her father if the blood was there. He said, 'Oh, yes, it is there. I told the servants to put it there.' But she said, 'Father, are you sure it is there?' And he answered her again, 'I told the servants to put it there and they have, of course, done so.' But she said, 'I wish you would take me to the door and show me if it is there.' And he took her out and lo, and behold, it was not there. But the servants had time enough to kill the lamb and put the blood there, and she saw it and rested quietly in that word of the living God. It is only a legend, but it is an illustration that we can afford to take God at His Word. The blood of Christ is given us in mercy, and if I believe upon God I am safe. It is not my prayers, it is not my tears, it is not my feelings, but the Word of God that saves me. I find a good many people that are substituting feeling in the place of belief. They are substituting before Christ ordinances and forms, instead of taking the Word of God as the word that sets us free, that gives us liberty in Christ.
The next illustration that I want to give you is these six cities of refuge. And the Lord told Moses that there would be six cities of refuge, three upon this side of the Jordan, and three in the land of Canaan, and that their gates should be open day and night; and these cities should be in a conspicuous place; and their leading men, like our selectmen or our officers connected with the government, should keep all the roads in good repair, and the bridges in good order; and signposts in red were set up, pointing the way to these cities.
Now, suppose I have unwittingly killed a man. In those days it was the law that the next relation of the man who had been killed could draw his sword and slay that murderer when he met him. The moment that his nearest relative heard of it he could come upon the murderer and slay him, and the law would not touch him; it would justify the act. So the nearest relative of this man could slay me. But if I once get behind the walls of one of these cities I am safe. If I am innocent, I am tried and am acquitted; but if I am guilty, then I am condemned and put to death.
Look at that in regard to salvation. I am ten miles away. There are ten miles between me and that city. I do not stop to discuss the question. I have only one thing to do, and that is to get there. I have no other hope. I leap into the highway, and I go towards that city just as fast as I can. It isn't long before I hear someone upon my track. He comes closer and closer. I redouble my speed and fly as fast as I can. He comes nearer and nearer. I can hear him breathe. If I do not escape into that city I must perish if he overtakes me. He hounds me down. I am exposed to death - to judgement. I am now within a hundred yards of that city. Notice is given to the citizens. The men rush to the walls to see me. They cry, 'Escape, escape for thy life, he is hard upon thee.' I leap over the highway; I bound along the road. I have not time to discuss; I must escape into that city. I am exposed to that man's sword. Now I am leaping through the walls; one moment I am in danger, in the next I am safe. That is sudden, isn't it? That is a Bible illustration, isn't it?
But a great many people think that they are not condemned yet. But how many should cry out, 'I have broken the law; death is upon my track; I do not know how far off he may be; it may be years; it may be months; it may be days; it may be hours, and he is fast bearing down upon me.' God has provided a city of refuge for you. If you flee there you shall not die. You will not perish. That ought to be the first occupation. 'I cannot tell what will happen to me.' 'Boast not of tomorrow.' 'I must pass to that city.' That is what we should say. Thank God, we have not to go ten miles. We have not to wait ten minutes. All you have to do is to believe, and salvation is yours. Will you have it now? It is yours if you will just take it.
But let me give you another illustration that you will understand better. We will go back to the days before the war. There is a slave in Kentucky. He has heard a good deal about liberty, and he says, 'If I could only get across the Ohio River - if I could only get into the land of liberty, would I not rejoice? Oh, if I were only a free man.' He cannot read, perhaps, but someone has told him about liberty. He knows that all those people upon the other side of the river are free. But he knows that he is not safe there. He knows that there is a fugitive slave law there. 'If I could get there and stay there, my master would come over and take me back again. But if I could swim that river and get through Michigan into Canada I would be safe. I would be a free man, for not a slave can breathe under the English flag. There is not a slave in Queen Victoria's dominions.'
This man wants to be free. This man swims that river, but he knows that he is not safe. He has not been gone but a little time when his master is upon his track. The poor man runs as fast as he can. He hides in the woods in the daytime, and at night all the time he pushes along, avoiding the highways, toward that Canada line. If he crosses that he will be forever a free man. He crosses into Michigan. He says, 'Oh, if I can only get across the Canada line I will be a free man.' Now he is within a few feet of that line. His master is fifty yards behind him. 'If I can make the line now, I am safe; I am a free man.' He is still nearer to it - his master is within a few feet of him. He goes bounding over the line and he is a free man. That is sudden, isn't it?
If you do not see how you can be converted, cross the line. You can stay where you are and be lost, or you can turn your face to him and come to His loving bosom and He will adopt you. You will become the bride of the Lamb, a child of God for all time and eternity. Oh, may God help you to cross that line. But you say, 'I still do not see how it can be done all at once.'
Some of you have looked at Naaman. He was a leper, and he went down into the Jordan as he was told to do. He goes in six times a leper and he washes and comes out a leper, but the seventh time he washed in Jordan and he was made clean. He obeyed and he was made clean. That is what God wants. He wants obedience. He was to be saved by obeying. He goes in six times. There is one moment when Naaman was a leper. But he goes in the seventh time and he comes out in a moment clean.
These are all Bible illustrations. But you still say, 'I don't see how a person can be saved all at once.' You may not be just what you ought to be, but when you trust Christ you will be a child of God. When my little boy was a day old he was just as much my boy as he is now, when he is seven years old. Just as Naaman got rid of his leprosy, so you can get rid of your leprosy of sin today. If you will just obey God, if you will just receive Him today, you can go home from this house justified.
Look at that poor man who was to have been executed a few days ago. The last day had come, the scaffold had been made. I don't know whether it was the same as in another case, for I did not read the papers to see, but I suppose his cell was where he could hear the hammers upon the scaffold driving the nails or bolts. There is that poor condemned man. In a few hours he is to be executed. Then comes a telegram from the governor, and he is reprieved. One moment he was condemned and the next has a reprieve.
I was in a town in England, and there was a man in jail there that was to be hanged upon a Monday. Sunday all the ministers were preaching about him. The flag was over the prison. It was like a funeral in that town. There never was such a day seen there. The next morning he was to be executed. He can hear them at work upon the scaffold at midnight. He could not sleep. His friends had come and taken their last farewell of him, and the next morning he was to be launched into eternity. He hears the footsteps upon the corridor, and he thought it was the officer come to tell him that his time had come. But he came to the poor condemned man, and he told him that he had a pardon for him from the queen. One moment he might be hanged; one moment condemned, another pardoned!
So, my friends, you can be saved, all at once. If God is going to forgive you He isn't going to be six months or six years about it. If your child does wrong, mothers, and is sorry for it, is it six months or six years that you take in which to forgive it? When you forgive it, it is instantaneous, isn't it? If this man who had the pardon from the queen had said he did not want it, he would not take it, he would not have the benefit of what the queen had done.
'Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.' - Isaiah 1:18 Scarlet and red - two fast colors. You could not get the scarlet out of that lady's shawl without spoiling the shawl. 'Yes, but what is the philosophy of it?' Don't you mind the philosophy of it. Pardon is offered you, and you want to inquire into it? You want to know all about it? You want to understand the philosophy of it? Just take the pardon that is offered and thank Him for it. I firmly believe that Christ stands here with a pardon for every soul that wants it. All you have to do is just take it.
I want to call your attention to a verse here in Numbers, chapter 21, verses five through nine:
'And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, For we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.'
'When he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.' Not six weeks after he beheld it. Not because they had been looking at it six months were they saved. AT ONCE they were saved. That was God's remedy. You want to know the philosophy of it? I don't know. I don't know what there was in an old brass serpent to give them life. But I know what he said. Hear his word.
'Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.' (verse 8)
That is enough for me. And now we find men that are looking to Christ, and they get light. It is being fulfilled in Boston at the present day. But some men dislike to believe in it. They say, 'There is no common sense in it. What an idea to tell Moses to make an old brass serpent and set it up upon a pole for people to look at. Now, if He had told him to take the brass and rub it in, there might have been some sense in it. I could understand how that might do, but such foolishness as sticking up a brass serpent upon a pole just for people to look at - why, I couldn't believe that if I wanted to. You don't think that we enlightened Bostonians are going to believe that, do you?' Thank God, a good many people here are believing it, and you don't have to go through a college or a seminary to learn how to look. You can look without being cultured. All you have to do is to look and you can be saved by looking.
'Look unto me ... all ye ends of the earth.' Jesus is the Author of all life, and if you are going to get it, you have to look to Him. It is not looking at the pole; it is looking at the serpent. It is not looking at the minister holding the pole up or at the pole itself. Some people do not like the looks of brass, and they are gilding up the cross of Christ to suit themselves. But it is the brass serpent that we are to look at. Christ says, 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.' All we have to do now is to look. There were some friends of mine that were talking to a poor Scottish lassie, and they gave her some advice that I never would have given to anyone. They told her to go home and read her Bible. They did not know what might happen upon the way. She looked at them and said, 'I canna read, I can only pray Jesus to tak' me as I am.'
My friends, you just say that today and see how quickly He will take you. I don't care if you cannot read or write. I don't care if you never heard of Him before today. 'Whosoever believeth in him should not perish.' The question is, will you take him? Will you take God's gift today?
A lady said to me, 'You tell me just to receive Him; well, I do and I am the same woman. I try to believe and it isn't any different.' Ah! It isn't trying, it is doing. I took her pocketbook, which she carried in her hand, and I said, 'Suppose there are fifty thousand dollars in that pocketbook. If I give it to you, you are the same woman, yet a moment ago you were a beggar and now you are rich. You have a gift. If you get the new birth you get a gift; you get Christ. That makes a difference. You may not realize what you have.'
I got Christ twenty-one years ago, and He was more to me after ten years than He was at first, and He is more to me now than He was ten years ago. I keep growing in Him, and I do not know what I shall be in time. When I was in England this doctrine was talked about a good deal there. One day I was going down a street and I saw a soldier coming toward me. You know they all wear red coats there and you can tell them a good way off. I had heard something about how they enlisted there, but I wanted to be sure and get the whole story from one who knew. So when he came up I said, 'I wish you could answer me a few questions. I am an American, and you know that we Americans - especially when we come from Yankee- dom - are very inquisitive.' He said, 'certainly.' I said, 'I would like to have you tell me how long it took you to become a soldier.' He laughed at me. 'Why, just no time at all,' he told me. I had heard it before. This is the custom when a man enlists. When he says he will enlist, the recruiting officer puts an English shilling into the palm of his hand, and that moment he is a soldier. Before he comes up to the officer, and says, 'I want to enlist,' he is a citizen. He can go wherever he pleases. He can go to Australia, America, Africa, anywhere. Once that shilling is put in his hand he ceases to be a citizen. He is a soldier. He is under the government of Queen Victoria. He is commanded by officers, and he has to go where they order him. He has lost his liberty.
Now do you want to know how you can be a soldier of God? It isn't the English shilling. It is the Savior. You come in here a sinner, and you take Christ, and He is yours, and all you have to do is to trust him. The question is, will you receive Him? I was asking that question, and I thought I would wait for an answer. And a man said, 'I will take Him.' Who will receive him today? Who will enlist today? You can receive Him and live forever; you can reject Him and die. In John's first epistle, the fifth chapter, the ninth through eleventh verses:
'If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.'
He gives us eternal life, and if we get it we have got to get it 'in his Son.' A man ignores Christ and he cannot get it. If you won't receive him you will not get it. You cannot get it independent of Him. 'He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life.' Have you got Him? That's the question. Answer the question today. Have you got Him? If you will take Him, He is yours. Can you say today, 'I have received Him, and He has received me?' You that don't have Him, won't you just take Him today? Won't you just have Him now?
When I was in Glasgow, a lady said to me, 'You are all the time talking about TAKE, TAKE. Do you find it in the Bible?' I told her where I found it, and I wished I had time to speak about one-half the places where it was blessed to me. The word is near the end of Revelation:
'And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.' - Revelation 22:17.
Won't someone take him today? Won't you take this cup that is offered you? If you be Christians, pass it to your next neighbor and ask if she is saved. You ladies, just pass the cup around, and if they do not take it, the blood of their souls will not be required at your hands. Everybody who has taken it, pass the cup to someone else and ask them to take it as a gift."
One needs only to examine this one sermon by Mr. Moody to easily perceive the fundamental error of the Apostle of "fundamental- ism" and his countless modern disciples. Such a doctrine deserves critical examination. That error is clearly revealed in his example of the old Scotch woman in the first paragraph, whose only assurance of salvation was, "God can't afford to break his word about a poor old Scotchwoman like me." Her judgment was that she had complied with the Bible requirements. Therefore, if God does not save her, HE would have to be a liar. No thought is here considered that God, not man, is the judge of man's faith, and where there is no answer by the Holy Spirit directly to the human heart there is no assurance worth having. Her assurance was purely presumption. Moody approved of this and used the example to define his doctrine of the assurance of faith.
Next, Mr. Moody went to the defense of professing "Christians" who have no remembrance of the experience of regeneration, obviously as a counter-argument against the many of his day who demanded a conversion experience as evidence of true faith in Christ. It is doubtful that any group ever demanded a remembrance of the calendar date of anyone's conversion, but many have rightly held that remembrance of the event should be vivid.
Mr. Moody's next point was that he had "not much sympathy for the notion that man is weeping and praying and entreating and knocking for God to let him come in." He continued with, "That is not the doctrine... The Son of God standeth and knocketh, knocketh, knocketh at the door of your heart for you to open it and let him come in." Later he continued, "The idea that we should have to stand weeping, struggling, knocking for God, the blessed, ever-living, merciful God! He is ready to give you salvation when you are ready to receive it." Mr. Moody preferred to take one misinterpreted scripture verse from Revelation 3:20 as the basis of his salvation doctrine in place of many opposing scripture verses. Jesus was knocking at the door of his church members in Revelation 3:20 who had become lukewarm, not at a lost man's heart. Jesus taught, "knock, and it shall be opened unto you," (Matthew 7:7) and "strive to enter in at the strait gate," (Luke 13:24) in the context of salvation. Moody would have us believe that the "strait gate" is the door of our hearts and that Jesus strives continuously to enter but cannot do so until we let him. This idea is the basis of his perverted doctrine.
To any discerning mind the "illustrations" given by Mr. Moody as proof of his "instant salvation," or "sudden conversion" doctrine, tend to prove him wrong when thoroughly considered. He wrote, "there was a moment when he and his family were outside the ark; and there was another when he was inside. That is sudden conversion." This example is very much misapplied according to the New Testament writer who stated, "Noah ... prepared an ark to the saving of his house..."(Hebrews 11:7) The ark was an instrument Noah prepared according to God's instructions in order to save his family and many species of animal life, not something God prepared to save Noah. Noah was already saved, having "found grace in the eyes of the Lord" before this time. He could no more have perished in the flood than Lamech or Methuselah, his father and grandfather, even if God had not ordered an ark. Furthermore, it is folly to use that example as proof of "instant salvation" while altogether ignoring more than one-hundred years of burdensome preparations necessary for the saving of Noah's family from the flood waters.
In his legend regarding the Passover blood, the girl was not satisfied to take her father's word that the blood was on the door. SHE HAD TO SEE IT FOR HERSELF! Yet the blindly obedient disciples of the contradictory Mr. Moody believe him when he continues with "It is only a legend, but it is an illustration that we can afford to take God at His Word." This illustration would serve much better to prove Mr. Moody's doctrine in error. He ignored both the EFFORT it took to get the blood APPLIED, and THE IMPORTANCE OF CERTAINTY THAT IT HAS BEEN APPLIED in the knowledge of the one seeking salvation.
In his example regarding cities of refuge he ignored the importance of the strenuous effort involved in fleeing to the city, and concluded, "Now I am leaping through the walls, one moment I am in danger, in the next I am safe. That is sudden, isn't it? That is a Bible illustration, isn't it." He concluded by contradicting the message of his example with, "Thank God we have not to go ten miles. We have not to wait ten minutes. All you have to do is believe, and salvation is yours. Will you take it now? It is yours if you will just take it." Why the example?
In like manner, he ignored the thousand mile flight of the slave from Kentucky into Canada's freedom to consider only the momentary border crossing as "sudden."
Likewise, he ignored Naaman's long journey, his struggle with his own pride and impatience, and his first six dips in Jordan to consider only the momentary action of the seventh dip. In the cases of his condemned criminal and the snake bitten Israelites, he ignored all the fear and torment felt and the DESPERATE CONDITION of the people involved.
His illustration regarding the Scotch lassie who said, "I canna' read, I can only pray Jesus to tak' me as I am, "conflicts incredibly with his following questions, "Will you take him? Will you take God's gift today?" Who is doing the taking? Again, Mr. Moody's error is brilliantly exposed by his ignorance. He has man always TAKING God at will in order to be saved, whereas the truth of his own examples has salvation contingent upon God accepting man.
The woman who was worried that she was "the same woman," before and after she heard Moody's advice to "receive" Christ, may have been consoled, but also deceived, by his demonstration using her pocketbook in which he pretended to place $50,000.00. He would have her to believe that salvation is only a person's possession of some gift, which is at variance with the truth, that in being saved a person becomes the possession of God. In becoming God's possession he becomes a "new creature" or "new creation" in Christ. He would have her to believe that her will to TAKE Christ and a subsequent resolution in her mind were sufficient assurance that Christ had indeed saved her soul. Her assurance was to rely solely upon her resolution to TAKE him to be her Savior based upon His supposed promise in John 3:16 and other similar verses of scripture. Mr. Moody concluded with this advice to her, "If you get the new birth, you get a gift; you get Christ. You may not realize what you have."
This one confession of Moody in public is enough to convict him of deceiving a poor lost soul before any jury of honest people who know the truth of the Bible about eternal salvation. He advised that poor dissatisfied woman to rest her eternal destiny on a supposed gift she unconsciously received by "TAKING" Christ as her Savior, which possession was as fictitious as the money he had pretended to place in her pocketbook.
The British soldier became a possession of the British crown by the placing of the shilling in his hand by an authorized officer of the crown. He did not take anything as a free gift, but rather had to surrender himself to become a possession of another. This great surrender was required of him in order for him to receive that shilling as a token of his acceptance by his new master. Both the total surrender to God of a contrite penitent, and definite spiritual tokens of his acceptance by God, are consistently denied by Mr. Moody, and all of his modern disciples. They hold them to be no essential part of a true experience of the new birth.
Mr. Moody concluded his famous sermon with 1st John 5:9-11, from which he would have man believe that GOD'S "WITNESS" to man is the written or preached word. As usual, he contradicted his text with his interpretation. The text reads, "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness IN HIMSELF." This inward witness is something Moody and his successors have ever held to be unnecessary as an assurance of salvation.
Revelation 22:17 is the closest that Mr. Moody and his disciples will ever get to a verse seeming to support their doctrine of "accepting Christ as Savior" in the sacred text. Here again, he twisted the scriptures. Moody's doctrine of "taking the water of life freely" is no different than Adam "putting forth his hand and taking of the tree of life," which thing he and his sons were prevented from doing by a flaming sword which turned every way which God placed at the entrance of the garden of Eden. After the fall of man, ease in receiving eternal life was prevented by sin. The sword requires all who receive eternal life to come by "The Way," which is the way of the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. His way is total submission to His Lordship. Such humble surrender is the essence of repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr. Moody's followers have done us a favor by preserving this famous sermon. Many other sermons by this famous "evangelist" which are much less incriminating have had widespread circulation. Many people have read them and praised his name above that which any mortal man ought to be praised. There is no need to discredit Mr. Moody where he did not err. The magnitude of his errors regarding the manner in which salvation must be received and God's witness of its reception, can hardly be exaggerated. Their destructive effect in the hands of his many followers have deceived millions of souls since his decease.
The next greatest promoter of this fundamental error was a man named Billy Sunday. It is easier to find fault with Billy Sunday than with D. L. Moody, because his evangelism was less sprinkled with eternal truths from the Bible, and his behavior was often more radical. However, it is not an objective of this work to unnecessarily discredit the character of Mr. Sunday, or any other man. As was the case with Mr. Moody, those people who truly understand the way of salvation can readily see from the man's own sermon the errors of his doctrine and practice. The following sermon is recorded on pages 181 -189 of BILLY SUNDAY, THE MAN AND HIS MESSAGE, by William T. Ellis.
"THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SUNDAY
WHAT DOES CONVERTED MEAN? In means completely changed. Converted is not synonymous with reformed. Reforms are from without - conversion from within. Conversion is a complete surrender to Jesus. It's a willingness to do what he wants you to do. Unless you have made a complete surrender and are doing His will it will avail you nothing if you've reformed a thousand times and have your name on fifty church records.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart and confess Him with your mouth and you will be saved. God is good. The plan of salvation is presented to you in two parts. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. Many of you here probably do believe. Why don't you confess? Now own up. The truth is that you have a yellow streak. Own up, businessmen, and business women, and all of you others. Isn't it so? Haven't you got a little saffron? Brave old Elijah ran like a scared deer when he heard old Jezebel had said she would have his head. He ran to Beersheba and lay down under a juniper tree and cried to the Lord to let him die. The Lord answered his prayer, but not in the way he expected. If he had let him die he would have died with nothing but the wind moaning through the trees as his funeral dirge. But the Lord had something better for Elijah. He had a chariot of fire and it swooped down and carried him into glory without his ever seeing death.
The Lord says He has something better for you - salvation - if he can get you to see it. You've kept your church membership locked up. You've smiled at a smutty story. When God and the church were scoffed at you never peeped, and when asked to stand up you've sneaked out the back way and beat it. You're afraid and God despises a coward. You cannot be converted by thinking so and sitting still.
Maybe you're a drunkard, an adulterer, a prostitute, a liar; won't admit you are lost; are proud. Maybe you're even proud you're not proud, and Jesus has a time of it.
Jesus said: 'Come to me,' not to the church; to Me, not to a creed; to Me, not to a preacher; to Me, not to an evangelist; to Me, not to a priest; to Me, not to a pope; 'Come to me and I will give you rest.' Faith in Jesus Christ saves you, not faith in the church.
You can join a church, pay your share of the preacher's salary, attend the services, teach Sunday school, return thanks and do everything that would apparently stamp you as a Christian - even pray - but you won't ever be a Christian until you do what God tells you to do.
That's the road, and that's the only one mapped out for you and for me. God treats all alike. He doesn't furnish one plan for the banker and another for the janitor who sweeps out the bank. He has the same plan for one that he has for another. It's the law - you may not approve of it, but that doesn't make any difference.
The first thing to remember about being saved is that salvation is a personal matter. 'Seek ye the Lord' - that means every one must seek for himself. It won't do for the parent to seek for the children; it won't do for the children to seek for the parent. If you were sick, all the medicine I might take wouldn't do you any good. Salvation is a personal matter that no one else can do for you; you must attend to it yourself.
Some persons have lived manly or womanly lives, and they lack but one thing - open confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some men think that they must come to Him in a certain way - that they must be stirred by emotion or something. Some people have a deeper conviction of sin before they are converted than after they are converted. With some it is the other way. Some know when they are converted and others do not.
Some people are emotional. Some are demonstrative. Some will cry easily. Some are cold and can't be moved to emotion. A man jumped up in a meeting and asked whether he could be saved when he hadn't shed a tear in forty years. Even as he spoke he began to shed tears. It's all a matter of how you're constituted. I am vehement, and I serve God with the same vehemence that I served the Devil when I went down the line.
Some of you say that in order to accept Jesus you must have different surroundings. You think you could do it better in some other place. You can be saved where you are as well as any place on earth. I say, 'My watch doesn't run. It needs new surroundings. I'll put it in this other pocket, or I'll put it here, or here on these flowers.' It doesn't need new surroundings. It needs a new mainspring; and that's what the sinner needs. You need a new heart, not a new suit.
What can I do to keep out of Hell? 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.'
The Philippian jailer was converted. He had put the disciples into the stocks when they came to the prison, but after his conversion he stooped down and washed the blood from their stripes.
Now, leave God out of the proposition for a minute. Never mind about the new birth - that's His business. Jesus Christ became a man, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh. He died on the cross for us, so that we might escape the penalty pronounced on us. Now, never mind about anything but our part in salvation. Here it is: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'
You say, 'Mr. Sunday, the church is full of hypocrites.' So's Hell. I say to you if you don't want to go to Hell and live with that bunch forever, come into the church, where you won't have to associate with them very long. There are no hypocrites in Heaven.
You say, 'Mr. Sunday, I can be a Christian and go to Heaven without joining a church.' Yes, and you can go to Europe without getting on board a steamer. The swimming's good - but the sharks are laying for fellows who take that route. I don't believe you. If a man is truly saved he will hunt for a church right away.
You say, 'It's so mysterious. I don't understand.' You'll be surprised to find out how little you know. You plant a seed in the ground; that's your part. You don't understand how it grows. How God makes that seed grow is mysterious to you.
Some people think that they can't be converted unless they go down on their knees in the straw at a camp meeting, unless they pray all hours of the night, and all nights of the week, while some old brother storms Heaven in prayer. Some think a man must lose sleep, must come down the aisle with a haggard look; he must froth at the mouth and dance and shout. Some get it that way, and they don't think that the work I do is genuine unless conversions are made in the same way. I want you to see what God put in black and white; that there can be a sound, thorough conversion in an instant; that man can be converted as quietly as the coming of day and never backslide. I do not find fault with the way other people get religion. What I want and preach is the fact that a man can be converted without any fuss.
If a man wants to shout and clap his hands in joy over his wife's conversion, or if a wife wants to cry when her husband is converted, I am not going to turn the hose on them, or put them in a strait-jacket. When a man turns to God truly in conversion, I don't care what form his conversion takes. I wasn't converted that way, but I do not rush around and say, with gall and bitterness, that you are not saved because you did not get religion the way I did. If we all got it in the same way, the Devil might go to sleep with a regular Rip Van Winkle snooze and still be on the job.
You could never get a man with the temperament of Nicodemus near a camp meeting, to kneel down in the straw, or to shout and sing. He was a quiet, thoughtful, honest, sincere and cautious man. He wanted to know the truth and he was willing to walk in the light when he found it.
Look at the man at the pool of Bethesda. He was a big sinner and was in a lot of trouble which his sins had made for him. He had been in that condition for a long time. It didn't take him three minutes to say 'Yes,' when the Lord spoke to him. See how quietly he was converted: 'And he arose and followed him.'
Matthew stood in the presence of Christ; he realized what it would be to be without Christ, to be without hope, and it brought him to a quick decision. 'And he arose and followed him.'
How long did that conversion take? How long did it take him to accept Christ after he had made up his mind? And you tell me you can't make an instant decision to please God? The decision of Matthew proves that you can. While he was sitting at his desk he was not a disciple. The instant he arose he was. That move changed his attitude toward God. Then he ceased to do evil and commenced to do good. You can be converted just as quickly as Matthew was.
God says: 'Let the wicked forsake his way.' The instant that is done, no matter if the man has been a lifelong sinner, he is safe. There is no need of struggling for hours - or for days - do it now. Who are you struggling with? Not God. God's mind was made up long before the foundations of the earth were laid. The plan of salvation was made long before there was in any sin in the world. Electricity existed long before there was any car wheel for it to drive. 'Let the wicked forsake his way.' When? Within a month, within a week, within a day, within an hour? No! Now! The instant you yield, God's plan of salvation is thrown into gear. You will be saved before you know it, like a child being born.
Rising and following Christ switched Matthew from the broad to the narrow way. He must have counted the cost as he would have balanced his cash book. He put one side against the other. The life he was living led to all chance of gain. On the other side there was Jesus, and Jesus outweighs all else. He saw the balance turn as the tide of battle turns and then it ended with his decision. The sinner died and the disciple was born.
I believe that the reason the story of Matthew was written was to show how a man could be converted quickly and quietly. It didn't take him five or ten years to begin to do something - he got busy right away.
You don't believe in quick conversions? There have been a dozen men of modern times who have been powers for God whose conversions were as quiet as Matthew's. Charles G. Finney never went to a camp meeting. He was out in the woods alone, praying, when he was converted. Sam Jones, a mighty man of God, was converted at the bedside of his dying father. Moody accepted Christ while waiting on a customer at a boot and shoe store. Dr. Chapman was converted as a boy in a Sunday School. All the other boys in the class had accepted Christ, and only Wilbur remained. The teacher turned to him and said, 'And how about you, Wilbur?' He said, 'I will,' and he turned to Christ and has been a most powerful evangelist for many years. Gipsy Smith was converted in his Father's tent. Torrey was an agnostic, and in comparing agnosticism, infidelity and Christianity, he found the scale tipped toward Christ.
Seemingly the men who have moved the world for Christ have been converted in a quiet manner. The way to judge a tree is by its fruit. Judge a tree of quiet conversion in this way.
When conversion compels people to forsake their previous calling, God gives them a better job. Luke said, 'He left all.' Little did he dream that his influence would be world-reaching and eternity- covering. His position as a tax collector seemed like a big job, but it was picking up pins compared to the job God gave him. Some of you may be holding back for fear of being put out of your job. If you do right God will see that you do not suffer. He has given plenty of promises, and if you plant your feet on them you can defy the poorhouse. Trust in the Lord means that God will feed you. Following Christ you may discover a gold mine of ability that you never dreamed of possessing. There was a saloon keeper, converted in a meeting at New Castle, who won hundreds of people to Christ by his testimony and his preaching.
You do not need to be in the church before the voice comes to you; you don't need to be reading the Bible; you don't need to be rich or poor or learned. Wherever Christ comes, follow. You may be converted while engaged in your business. Men cannot put up a wall and keep Jesus away. The still small voice will find you.
Right where the two roads through life diverge God has put Calvary. There He put up a cross, the stumbling block over which the love of God said, 'I'll touch the heart of man with the thought of father and son.' He thought that would win the world to him, but for nineteen hundred years men have climbed the Mount of Calvary and trampled into the earth the tenderest teachings of God.
You are on the devil's side. How are you going to cross over? So you cross the line and God won't issue any extradition papers. Some of you want to cross. If you believe, then say so, and step across. There are hundreds that are on the edge of the line and many are standing straddling it. But that won't save you. You believe in your heart - confess Him with your mouth. With his heart man believes and with his mouth he confesses. Then confess and receive salvation full, free, perfect and eternal. God will not grant any extradition papers. A man isn't a soldier because he wears a uniform, or carries a gun, or carries a canteen. He is a soldier when he makes a definite enlistment. All of the others can be bought without enlisting. When a man becomes a soldier he goes out on muster day and takes an oath to defend his country. It's the oath that makes him a soldier. Going to church doesn't make you Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile, but public definite enlistment for Christ makes you a Christian.
'Oh,' a woman said to me in Iowa, 'Mr. Sunday, I don't think I have to confess with my mouth.' I said: 'You're putting up your thoughts against God's.'
M-o-u-t-h doesn't spell intellect. It spells mouth and you must confess with your mouth. The mouth is the biggest part about most people, anyhow.
What must I do?
Philosophy doesn't answer it. Infidelity doesn't answer it. First, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.' Believe on the Lord. Lord - that's his kingly name. That's the name He reigns under. 'Thou shalt call his name Jesus.' It takes that kind of confession. Give me a Savior with a sympathetic eye to watch me so I shall not slander. Give me a Savior with a strong arm to catch me if I stumble. Give me a Savior that will hear my slightest moan.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Christ is His resurrection name. He is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.
Because of his divinity He understands God's side of it and because of his humanity He understands our side of it. Who is better qualified to be the mediator? He's a Mediator. What is that? A lawyer is a mediator between the jury and the defendant. A retail merchant is a mediator between the wholesale dealer and the consumer. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the Mediator between God and man. Believe on the Lord. He's ruling today. Believe on the Lord Jesus. He died to save us. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He's the Mediator.
Her majesty, Queen Victoria, was traveling in Scotland when a storm came up and she took refuge in a little hut of a Highlander. She stayed there for an hour and when she went the good wife said to her husband, 'We'll tie a ribbon on that chair because her majesty has sat on it and no one else will ever sit on it.' A friend of mine was there later and was going to sit in the chair when the man cried: 'Nae, nae, mon. Dinna sit there. Her majesty spent an hour with us once and she sat on that chair and we tied a ribbon on it and no one else will ever sit on it.' They were honored that her majesty had spent an hour with them. It brought unspeakable joy to them.
It's great that Jesus Christ will sit on the throne of my heart, not for an hour, but to sway His power forever and ever.
In the war there was a band of guerillas, Quantrell's band, that had been ordered to be shot on sight. They had burned a town in Iowa and they had been caught. One long ditch was dug and they were lined up in front of it and blindfolded and tied. Just as the firing squad was ready to present arms a young man dashed through the bushes and cried, 'Stop!' He told the commander of the firing squad that he was as guilty as any of the others. He had escaped and had come of his own free will, and pointing to one man in the line he asked to take his place. 'I'm single,' he said, 'while he has a wife and babies.' The commander of the firing squad was an usher in one of the cities in which I held meetings, and he told me how the young fellow was blindfolded and bound and the guns rang out and he fell dead.
Time went on and one day a man came upon another in a graveyard in Missouri weeping and shaping the grave into form. The first man asked who was buried there and the other said, 'The best friend I ever had.' Then he told how he had not gone far away but had come back and taken the body of his friend after he had been shot. He buried it; so he knew he had the right body. And he had brought a withered bouquet all the way from his home to put on the grave. He was poor then and could not afford anything costly, but he had placed a slab of wood on the pliable earth with these words on it: 'He died for me.'
Major Whittle stood by the grave some time later and saw the monument. The man became rich and today there is a marble monument fifteen feet high and on it this inscription:
'SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF
HE TOOK MY PLACE IN THE LINE
HE DIED FOR ME'
Sacred to the memory of Jesus Christ. He took our place on the cross and gave His life that we might live, and go to Heaven and reign with Him.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, confess Him with your mouth, and you shall be saved and your house.
It is a great salvation that can reach down into the quagmire of filth, pull a young man out and send him out to hunt his mother and fill her days with sunshine. It is a great salvation, for it saves from great sin.
The way to salvation is not Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Vassar or Wellesley. Environment and culture can't put you into Heaven without you accepting Jesus Christ.
It's great. I want to tell you that the way to Heaven is a bloodstained way. No man has and never will reach it without Jesus Christ."
Here are some excerpts from the foregoing sermon, drawn out for closer inspection which clearly show Mr. Sunday's dislike for heartfelt salvation and spiritual experience in conversion.
"Some people think that they can't be converted unless they go down on their knees in the straw at a camp meeting, unless they pray all hours of the night, and all nights of the week, while some old brother storms heaven in prayer. Some think a man must lose sleep, must come down the aisle with a haggard look; he must froth at the mouth and dance and shout. Some get it that way, and they don't think that the work I do is genuine unless conversions are made in the same way."
It is highly doubtful that anyone ever preached the necessity of the above outward acts and experiences in the conversion of anyone. Mr. Sunday's bitter contempt showed through against those who told such accounts containing some similar but unexaggerated elements of their own experiences of salvation, and who probably often voiced doubts for obvious reasons about the superficial converts made in great numbers by Billy Sunday. All proclaimers of the necessity of genuine experimental knowledge have at times been slandered by this same type of false accusations coming from modern proponents of the false evangelism of Billy Sunday. What he ridicules are exaggerations of common outward responses to the convicting and converting influences of God's Holy Spirit.
"I want you to see what God put in black and white; that there can be a sound, thorough conversion in an instant; that a man can be converted as quietly as the coming of day and never backslide. I do not find fault with the way other people get religion. What I want and preach is the fact that a man can be converted without any fuss."
Can anyone who has read Moody's sermon on "Instant Salvation" wonder whence Sunday's doctrine came? He DID find fault with the way he perceived that other people said they got religion. Certainly in every conversion there is a "fuss," a war between good and evil forces, with the convicted soul as the battleground. Although there may be many cases in which little of that conflict showed outwardly, there certainly must be elements of such a struggle in the consciousness and memory of anyone truly converted to Christ by regeneration of their spirit. Regeneration requires death to sin. Death to sin of the human spirit may come quickly, but never easily, and if the struggle does not show in the outward man, such a conversion experience is a rare exception. Billy Sunday seemed to be void of any INTERNAL experience which would equate to the death to sin that is the culmination of repentance unto life. Thus he ridiculed such outward manifestations as normally and naturally accompany genuine conversions, with his exaggerations thereof.
"If a man want's to shout and clap his hands in joy over his wife's conversion, or if a wife wants to cry when her husband is converted, I am not going to turn the hose on them, or put them in a strait jacket. ... I wasn't converted that way, but I do not rush around and say with gall and bitterness that you were not saved because you did not get religion the way I did. If we all got it the same way, the devil might go to sleep with a regular Rip Van Winkle snooze and still be on the job."
Mr. Sunday obviously did not understand that such emotional manifestations as he described in subtle ridicule were not what anyone "wanted" to do, but rather were spontaneous reactions to powerful movings of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of people, revealing to them great victories. His vindictive defense of his own evangelism comforts us with the knowledge that there were indeed in his time many who perceived his deceptive methods. Unfortunately, there were never any successful concerted efforts to expose that deception to the general public such as were mounted against the Campbellite movement nearly a century before.
There is irony in his Rip Van Winkle illustration in the fact that all 300,000 conversions accredited to Billy Sunday were obtained the same way, by people walking the "sawdust trail" to shake his hand, but it is quite ordinary for a participant in spiritual iniquity to accuse his critics of the very error which he practices.
"Some persons have lived manly or womanly lives, but they lack one thing - open confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some men think that they must come to Him a certain way - that they must be stirred by emotion or something."
The first sentence of the preceding paragraph is typical of Billy Sunday's appeal to the pride and flesh of man. His effect was to get proud but unconverted men and women to move down the aisle to shake his hand in token of "open confession of the Lord Jesus Christ." In the preceding sermon he undeniably made his case for the NECESSITY of open confession to eternal salvation. He might as well have followed Alexander Campbell's example in adding water baptism as to have added the outward work of confession before men. His "belief" was no more than the "belief" Campbell taught, not a gift of a gracious God, but a fruit of the carnal mind, which required a physical act for its completion and for the consoling of the "believer." In such a superficial believer's own actions he is assured that he has done all the things necessary to get God to save him. Mr. Sunday's plea against people waiting to be "stirred" to action in this context confirms his intent.
"Some people have a deeper conviction of sin before they are converted than after they are converted. With others it is the other way. Some know when they are converted and others do not."
To those who have experienced relief from the burden of sin at the moment of God's forgiveness, the preceding statement appears ludicrous. It would seem that Mr. Sunday's Presbyterian background is somewhat reflected in this. The reader should remember Archibald Alexander's attempt to count the convicted as converted given earlier in this chapter. All people KNOW WHEN they are converted. They may not all understand at the moment it happens that they have just experienced true conversion, or that God's regeneration is eternal. They do, however, have the capacity to remember that event, and to come to that absolute assurance that it was salvation. When such a time and place cannot be ascertained, it is dangerous and deceptive to console people who have no such remembrance. If God has really saved such a person and Satan has somehow hidden it from them in their confused memory, which sometimes happens, God is powerful enough to remove Satan's confusion and refresh that memory.
"Now leave God out of the proposition for a minute. Never mind about the new birth - that's His business. ... Never mind about anything but our part in salvation. Here it is: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.'"
It would seem puzzling that Jesus exhorted a lost man about the NECESSITY of the new birth when he spoke to Nicodemus if we are to "never mind" this matter. God did NOT do ALL of his part 2000 years ago and leave it in our power NOW to do ours, but such graceless evangelism WAS the doctrine of Billy Sunday. Every salvation experience is a cooperative effort between God and man. While men earnestly seek God for grace and strive to repent from sin and trust Christ with a true faith, God's Holy Spirit simultaneously encourages and enables men to do so. This is why that repentance and faith can be correctly described as both duties of man and graces of God. They are part of the process of the "new birth" which men had better mind, lest they come to judgement void of that which Jesus said we all MUST experience in order to "see" or "enter" the kingdom of God.
"The plan of salvation is presented to you in two parts. Believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. Many of you here probably do believe. Why don't you confess? Now own up."
This following of the steps of A LAW in order to be saved has become known in modern times as 'the Romans Road.' It results not in salvation but deception, and there is no wonder that its followers receive no internal witness of the Holy Spirit to confirm their salvation and must rely for comfort on the presumed LAW and their own memory of their presumed compliance with it. This is often called "taking God at His word" by defenders of such doctrine and practice. Need we argue that Billy Sunday preached a "faith" which was the product of the carnal mind which required no repentance from such a mind?
"You could never get a man with the temperament of Nicodemus near a camp meeting, to kneel down in the straw, or to shout and sing. He was a quiet, thoughtful, honest, sincere, and cautious man. He wanted to know the truth and was willing to walk in the light when he found it."
What possible purpose could Sunday have had in painting this picture of Nicodemus if not to encourage those in his audience who proudly thought of themselves as such a personality to walk the aisle and receive a "conversion" which would allow them to maintain their composure and dignity? Advocates of old-time heartfelt religion have never REQUIRED camp meetings, kneeling on straw, shouting, or singing, or any such like, but rather, an inward experience with the Holy Spirit which relieves feelings of condemnation. This necessity was demanded by Jesus of Nicodemus - the same necessity which Billy Sunday denied. Camp meeting methods and manifestations have often accompanied the "new birth" and that moving of God's Holy Spirit essential to produce it. This accounts for the origin of such outward manifestations, although many of them have been mimicked and misused by hypocrites and enthusiasts. According to Sunday's doctrine, elsewhere in this sermon, Nicodemus must have remained a lost man until the close of the gospel account. He never exercised "open confession," the second step of Sunday's "plan of salvation," before then, if even at that time. How can a man of such serious self-contradiction be taken seriously?
"There is no need of struggling for hours - or for days - do it now. Who are you struggling with? Not God. God's mind was made up long before the foundations of the earth was laid .... No! Now! The instant you yield God's plan of salvation is thrown into gear. You will be saved before you know it, like a child being born."
Jesus' instruction to men to "strive to enter in at the strait gate ..." (Luke 13:24) is flatly contradicted by Sunday's teaching. Who do we struggle with in seeking salvation? Ask Jacob! He wrestled with the Lord and would not cease until he received the blessing he needed. In reward for his victorious struggle he was given a new name, Israel, honoring him for having striven with God and prevailed. Jacob had been wrestling with his own doubts and fears regarding his return to Canaan to face Esau, but he knew that it was only God who could remove the danger and reassure him with the faith that all would be well. God gave him the faith, and the fulfillment of His promise. Jacob was not a lost sinner, but nevertheless a sinner, and as with all sinners, he was a doubter.
Jesus taught the lost sinner to fully "count the cost" of discipleship before commitment, and to "forsake all" in order to become his disciple. Such necessary requirements account for the struggles of many who would willingly accept Christ and be saved in a moment if that were possible without total repentance, which includes giving up one's own desires and trusts. A struggle with God indeed occurred, as many have found, at their arrival at the strait gate which leads to eternal life!
Sunday likened God's plan of salvation to a machine, "thrown into gear," by the simple act of man's assent. Such is the gospel according to Sunday. "You will be saved before you know it ...," he said. You may also never KNOW it, according to Sunday. God does not KNOW of such salvation either.
"Charles G. Finney never went to a camp meeting ... Moody (Dwight L.) accepted Christ while waiting on a customer in a shoe store. Mr. Chapman (Wilbur Chapman - Presbyterian evangelist in whose organization Billy Sunday began his career) was converted as a boy in Sunday School. All the other boys in the class had accepted Christ, and only Wilbur remained. The teacher turned to him and said, `and how about you, Wilbur?' He said, 'I will'... Torrey (R. A. Torrey) was an agnostic, and in comparing agnosticism, infidelity, and Christianity, he found the scale tipped toward Christ. Seemingly the men who have moved the world for Christ have been converted in a quiet manner. The way to judge a tree is by its fruit. Judge a tree of quiet conversion in this way."
Indeed we have judged these "trees," all of the same species, by their bitter fruits. As the scope of this work clearly shows, they are the men and the movement which have done the most to wreck the great latter day revival. Before their time it had revitalized the world. The doctrines and methods of these men have precipitated the greatest falling away from the principles of true religion since the great apostasy which followed the apostles age. We observe the manner of their conversions and we see their fruits in our present society.
We must not neglect Mr. Sunday's account of his own conversion before taking leave of him.
"I am a Christian because God says so, and I did what he told me to do, and I stand on God's word and if the Book goes down I'll go down with it. If God goes down, I'll go with Him, and if there were any other kind of God, except that God, I would have been ship-wrecked long ago. Twenty-seven years ago in Chicago I piled all I had, my reputation, my character, my wife, my children, home; I staked my soul, everything I had, on the God of the Bible, and the Christ of the Bible, and I won." (page 158, Ellis) His experience of acceptance, commitment, and assurance were in accordance with his doctrine. His review of his own successes, and of the apparent blessings of providence twenty-seven years afterward, added to his confidence. If, at the final judgement, he "goes down" he may accuse "the Book" and "God" of misinforming him, but they will NOT go down with him. Only the poor people who have staked their souls on his false doctrine will "go down" with him. It is his interpretation of the Book and his false concept of God which will go down in that day.
So were the errors of Billy Sunday, very much like those of his famous predecessor, D. L. Moody.
In the foregoing sermon, Mr. Sunday labored at great length to make Matthew's experience of being called by Jesus from the tax booth an example of quick and easy conversion. Perhaps he chose Matthew rather than Peter, Andrew, John or others, all of whom other gospel narratives reveal knew Jesus prior to his calling to them to "follow me." This call was not a call to repentance and conversion, but rather their call to follow Him in His special ministry. All of the apostles, except Judas, who never repented or believed unto a true conversion, were truly converted under the preaching of John the Baptist if not before. All of these were baptized by John before they met Jesus in the flesh. (John's baptism required convincing evidence of repentance unto eternal life for a prerequisite.) This fact is proven by the qualifications which Peter set for the election in which Matthias was chosen to replace Judas in the first chapter of Acts.
The classic Billy Sunday is conveyed in the three paragraphs beginning on page 126 with, "Right where the two roads through life diverge God has put Calvary ...," and ending with, "... public definite enlistment for Christ makes you a Christian." Mr. Sunday ended his sermon with an emotion-stirring fable and an appeal in his invitation for mother's happiness. Such appeals, exciting sentimental instead of spiritual emotion, have long since been a feature of invitations given by mass evangelists.
Hopefully, the preceding quotes convey to the reader the essence of Billy Sunday's evangelism.
There were many who became imitators of these two famous evangelists, D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday. By that means the heresies of their teachings became very widely spread. Notable followers of D. L. Moody were R. A. Torrey, F. B. Meyer, Wilbur Chapman, Campbell Morgan, A. J. Gordon, and others. (from MOODY, by J. C. Pollock) Certainly these men propagated the same approach to conversion. Billy Sunday was a disciple of Wilbur Chapman who, in turn, was a disciple of D. L. Moody. Mr. Sunday's doctrine and practice have already been clearly shown.
The following quotes reveal the teaching of F. B. Meyer as found in his book, GOSPEL OF JOHN, pages 84 & 85:
"Our Lord with unerring accuracy detected the weak point of his faith: it needed so many outward signs and encouragements; it must have the assurance of an outstretched hand, the audible voice, the physical presence; it craved the assurance which the outward and physical, the sensuous and emotional, supply. And in the absence of these it was in danger of expiring. But faith like this hardly merits the name, though, alas! it is too common with us all. We are brave at swimming so long as we are in our depth. We are grand soldiers so long as we stay within the castle enclosure. We believe as long as we can see and feel.
But wherever our Lord finds faith he sets himself to mature and foster it. There was a germ of it in this suppliant's heart, capable of expansion into a noble growth; and He beheld it with eager joy, and immediately sought to develop it by the only means through which faith can ever grow - namely by trial. 'Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth.' That was all. No sign, no renewed assurance, no appeal to emotion or sense; just the assurance of those majestic lips, and it was enough. Without another word, and apparently without hesitation, 'the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and went his way.'
Comparing the length of time occupied on his homeward journey with the distance between Cana and Capernaum, the conviction forces itself home to our minds that he made no particular haste back. Why should he? The boy was living, doing well. The home was already astir with glad surprise. He was sure of it, probably had thanked God for it, and could not be more sure though he were to see the bright smile of his darling. And it is quite likely that he stayed for the night at some wayside inn to sleep off, in a long, deep, child-like sleep the effects of long watching, intense anxiety, and the swift journey to Cana. There was nothing extraordinary in this. Faith, when it is as it should be, is as restful and glad for a promise as for some evident deliverance. Could there be a better illustration of the simple faith which believes the promise of God, and acts upon it, reckoning on the accomplished purpose of its prayer? We may apply this in several directions.
(1) For forgiveness - suppose you come, as a penitent, to the great High Priest, conscious of a very heavy load of sin. It may be for the first time or the thousandth. You tell the sad, dark story, not hiding or extenuating aught; not excusing or palliating; not trying to shift the blame on others; not lumping all sins together, but naming each alone, as brought to mind by the Holy Spirit. And when the confession is complete, you naturally look up and ask for forgiveness. But you have a perfect right to go a step further and claim it; yes, and be thankful for it, even though as yet you have not caught a glint of light from his face.
He who said to the nobleman, 'Thy son liveth,' says that 'if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.' Oh that we would believe this word which Jesus speaks, and go our way, restful and satisfied that so it is! Instead of this we try to feel forgiven. Now, suppose that the nobleman had tried to feel that his son lived before he started home. In all probability, he would never have started. But the question of what he felt does not seem to have entered his mind. It was enough for him to have heard the voice of Jesus, and he started with buoyant assurance.
It is a mistake to wait for feelings. Believe the word of God. Will to believe it. Take forgiveness. Thank the Lord for it. Reckon that it is so because He has said it, even if you do not experience a thrill of emotion. And if you dare to step out in faith, you will discover how blessed are they that believe; for there is always a performance of those things spoken by the Lord.
(2) For victory over sin - How many fail because they are always praying for deliverance without claiming and giving thanks for it! They go to the Lord Jesus each night with the same story of defeat, and each morning utter the same almost despairing cry for help - a cry that seems to strike against the irresponsive heaven, for it brings no deliverance. Yet the Lord has promised to save his people from their sins, and to keep them from falling. It is not enough, then, to ask Him to do it. We may, and should, go further, and say, 'Do as thou hast said.'
Claim victory, take victory, thank for victory before even you go into the fight, in the assurance that Jesus will be around you as a wall of fire, an invisible but real defense. There it is waiting for you; appropriate it, and go your way, saying like David as he entered on his conflict with Goliath, 'The Lord saveth, for the battle is the Lord's.'
Mr. Meyer's denial of the necessary work of the Holy Spirit was threefold! He held the modern counterpart of the voice of Jesus to be the Bible instead of the Holy Spirit. He denied the need for the sinner to "feel" the drawing of the Holy Spirit and thus he urged men to "claim" or "take forgiveness" without the Holy Spirit's prompting, enabling, or, assurance after the fact. He held that the sinner could "appropriate" victory to himself based upon the written promise and his own claim on that promise and be assured by his own act that God saved him. It is the Holy Spirit's prerogative alone to appropriate the victory in Jesus to a penitent and believing soul and to assure him of that victory. Like Billy Sunday, F. B. Meyer learned the new evangelistic doctrine of D. L. Moody well. The substance of the "faith" this whole movement preached was no greater than that preached by Alexander Campbell. No radical change of attitude, which is, by definition, "repentance" was necessary in order to perfect that faith. Enabling grace communicated by the Holy Spirit in the conversion experience is altogether omitted or presumed to be locked up in the word. If grace apart from, or in addition to, the gospel message was ever implied in their preaching, it was held to be above the consciousness of the believer. No place for a sinner praying for grace and salvation, mourning over his sinfulness, waiting upon God to save him, or receiving a direct and definite assurance into his heart, is found in such preaching. True grace, true repentance, and thus true faith and true salvation, are bypassed in favor of an easy way which appeals to the sinner and deceives his soul, while making the preacher, his doctrine and his "church" popular.
Much like Moody and Sunday, he used a proof text which to the spiritual mind contradicts this doctrine. When Jesus spoke to that nobleman, His was the very voice of God. Such subjective evidence of a fact is the best species of evidence in the universe when it is real. It is far safer, and more reassuring, than all the objective evidence in the universe. The "feelings" he so depreciated, he obviously did not understand. They are NOT just emotions with no intelligence. In fact, it is the intelligent message in assurance of victory coming directly from God, the sensing of His voice, and comprehension of what He is communicating that creates the Holy emotion or spiritual "feelings" of which Mr. Meyer seemed to be ignorant.
We have the following from G. Campbell Morgan, thanks to one of his students, Mr. Frank E. Gabelein from his book, THE PATTERN OF GOD'S TRUTH, pages 97 & 98.
"Years ago Dr. G. Campbell Morgan said publicly that by no means every Christian can remember the time when he was born again. After the meeting someone challenged his statement. Dr. Morgan said, 'Are you alive?' 'Why, of course I am,' his questioner answered. 'But,' Dr. Morgan went on, 'do you remember when you were born?' And on being answered in the negative, he asked, 'then how do you know you are alive?' 'Because I am living now,' was the reply. 'Exactly,' said Dr. Morgan, 'some Christians may not remember the moment of their new birth, but they are spiritually alive and know it, and that is what counts.'"
Mr. Gabelein took the liberty of continuing as follows.
"But let us always remember that the Bible never requires of believers identity of spiritual experience. Therefore, we have no right to ever set up demands that go beyond the great principle stated by the Lord Jesus when ..." (Gabelein quotes John 3:8 and then continues)..."If the workings of the Spirit of God in the human heart are as various as the blowing of the wind, we must be careful not even by implication to confine him to some special kind of outward response in fashion in the meetings of our day."
May God judge such a man for rendering John 3:8, the most vivid description of the regeneration experience in the Bible, to such a false interpretation! Variety upon the senses of man was certainly not implied in this verse by our Lord, but rather a CONSISTENCY which makes this description a good self-test on one's conversion. Any student of the languages knows that the verse might well have been translated, "The Spirit (not wind) breathes (not blows) where He (not it) wills, and you can hear His voice (not sound), but you cannot tell where it (the voice) is coming from or where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." Such a translation of that verse harmonizes perfectly with John 5:25, "... the dead shall hear the VOICE of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live," showing the life-imparting voice to be that of the Holy Spirit rather than the written word. While the experience certainly eludes the total comprehension of man because it so transcends our finite minds, the voice heard and the message communicated is neither various nor outward. While it may not be understood, it is unlikely that it will be forgotten. Sometimes people's minds are confused regarding its place and importance by false and deceptive doctrines, but the effects of this glorious experience remain nevertheless. The living Holy Spirit will recall this special event to the memory of the truly regenerated soul when he draws near unto God.
Mr. Morgan's silly little "proof" has been used by many to lead simple-minded people astray. It conveniently ignores profound differences between natural and spiritual births. In the occurrence of the natural birth, there is no prior conscious thought to be extended through the experience, to remember and compare the before and after. Neither the unborn fetus nor the newborn infant have the capability of consciously remembering the birth. In regeneration, while the spirit of man is spiritually slain by the word of truth and God begets a new creature which remains the "seed of God" within him, the outward mind of man remains conscious to witness the whole painful and traumatic process, which, happily ends in peace with God and the unspeakable joy thereof. This outward mind remembers much of the before, during, and after of the event. Even while he did not comprehend it all, he was consenting and submitting to God. So was he aware of the process, including both the heavy burden, and the welcome relief of finding rest for his soul, and much that went between. It is difficult to imagine NOT remembering such a profound experience of such great eternal accomplishment, notwithstanding the fact that Satan labors to confuse all who obtain it. We are glad for the evidence that Mr. Gabelein gave us regarding the doctrine of such a learned man as G. Campbell Morgan. It is not as easy to catch in error writers of the caliber of G. Campbell Morgan or R. A. Torrey as it is to expose unscholarly men such as Moody and Sunday.
It appears obvious that this whole camp of religionists were in agreement on their doctrines of "taking" or "claiming" Christ as Savior; denying the NECESSITY of any conscious awareness of conversion; rejecting the value of persistent praying, mourning and seeking after salvation by lost sinners; and denying any NEED of inner feelings or heart impressions from the Holy Spirit as evidence of conversion. Evangelistic methods and accompanying instructions arising from such erring ideas have created the most devastating heresy of the twentieth century. Millions of souls have been deceived thereby into thinking they are saved although they have no memory of such a spiritual experience as Jesus described in John 3:8. Nor do they have the "witness (of God) IN themselves" (John 5:10) from the intelligent voice of the indwelling Holy Spirit, because He does not indwell unregenerated souls. No wonder the primary fruits of the Holy Spirit - peace, joy, and love - and other associated emotions induced by Divine influences are frequently scorned as unreliable. Too many of the teachers themselves do not possess these blessings. If they do not, they are themselves lost souls, and blind leaders of the blind. If they do possess them, they are obviously attempting to console their many converts who do not.
John R. Rice is a widely known advocate of this view in our day. (Mr. Rice has gone to eternity since this manuscript was prepared.) He is regarded by "Independent Fundamentalists," and many others, as one of their spokesmen through his "Sword of the Lord" publication. Even the great realm of modern convention Baptists endorses Rice's views on the subject of salvation. Mr. Rice's two most honored mentors are Dwight L. Moody and Billy Sunday. This can be ascertained from his frequent quotes from their sermons, examples from their lives, and lavish praise he heaps upon them in his writings. Mr. Rice boasts of having met Billy Sunday. So he is, no doubt, a link to the present from the afore mentioned school of religious teachers.
John R. Rice is today a most distinguished spokesman for that group commonly known as "Independent Fundamental Baptists." In chapter fourteen of his book, PRAYER, beginning on page 195 it is written, "The 'praying through' doctrine is certainly out of place when applied to the plan of salvation. Some people teach that a sinner, in order to be saved, needs to wait on God and pray and weep and mourn. The theory is that if he prays long enough and earnestly enough, God will finally hear his prayer and save him. Such people use the term 'getting through to God.' They tell how sinners 'weep their way through,' or how they 'pray through' and finally gain the victory and God saves them. And Christian workers who think in such terms urge sinners to keep on praying until they get saved. And if he makes a bright profession, then they say 'he came through gloriously.' Such good people often have what they call a mourners' bench or an altar where the sinners are asked to kneel and pray ... The idea of sinners praying through for salvation is utterly foreign to the Bible. It is unscriptural and hurtful and wrong. I do not mind having sinners put in words their acceptance of Christ as Savior ... I believe that everywhere the invitation we ought to give to sinners is that they should trust Christ as Savior. And we ought to make it clear, as the Bible does from one end to the other, that the very instant a sinner will turn from his rebellion and trust in Christ, then he is saved already and has everlasting life. I think that inquiry rooms are sometimes useful. It is good for a Christian worker to take the Bible after a sinner trusts Christ to show him the sweet assurances of God's Word that he is already saved, when he has trusted Christ. Certainly it is wise to use the Word of God with unconverted sinners and show them that if they will penitently and honestly trust Christ He will instantly save them. ... But the whole idea of mourning in order to be saved, of long seeking after God before He will hear and forgive, is utterly unscriptural. It dishonors God. It beclouds the plan of salvation. It exalts man and man's feelings and man's experience and man's profession, instead of exalting God's marvelous grace to save any sinner instantly on the first turning of childlike faith." Thus Mr. Rice clearly and simply admits his adherence to a principle unknown to Baptists in history. Prayerless conversions are as far from the doctrine of Baptists prior to the latter part of the nineteenth century as is the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Perhaps some evangelical Christians have overdone the idea of sinners praying by making the method appear more important than the cry of the heart to God. Baptists have never required a person to kneel and pray if God would indeed save him through private and silent prayer. Outward deeds have never been considered essential, but inward prayer and mourning is the way to obtain the grace and faith essential to eternal salvation. God's word and Spirit breaks and bruises the human spirit in preparation for the new life. It is easy to prove that these teachings are inseparably connected with historical Baptist interpretation of the Bible.
Mr. Rice and the most of his "fundamentalist" friends agree that sinners need not pray for salvation, and that there need be no accompanying feelings or impressions from God upon the sinner's heart to give him assurance he has salvation and forgiveness of sins. They consider prayer unnecessary, and therefore a hindrance to "faith," which alone they consider essential. "Praying through" is perhaps a somewhat recent phrase coined to counteract Mr. Rice's doctrine, but it is certainly not without validity when properly explained. The expression simply means that the one praying is consciously aware that God has heard him because God answered his prayer by blessing his heart with knowledge of His forgiveness. Only those converts who have "prayed through" for salvation have such internal and heart-felt Spiritual knowledge of forgiveness. Mr. Rice's converts are told that such evidence in the heart is not necessary. Consequently, such converts are often unaware of the point of their conversion. Often such people become troubled about their lack of remembrance of their supposed new birth, as well they should be. Mr. Rice's advice to such troubled souls is, "So I take my first birth and the details about it on the authority of one who knows. And that is the only sure way to know about the second birth, too. God's word tells me that if I trusted Him, I am saved, forgiven. And that is the sure evidence." (page 197)
The fallacy of this reasoning is obvious and simple. "That which is born of the Spirit IS spirit." "That which is born of the flesh IS flesh." (John 3:6) Since the flesh, the outward man, is not born of the Spirit, but has conscious awareness before, during and after the death and rebirth of his spirit, such a momentous happening as a passing from a state of death unto eternal life, though not fully comprehended, is certainly remembered. This remembrance, told in each convert's own words, was the account of "religious experience" required by Baptist churches of the past before they received anyone as a child of God and a proper candidate for Christian baptism. Mr. Rice's reasoning, "God's word tells me that IF I trusted Him, I am saved, forgiven," is fatally faulty when set forth as the surest evidence of ones own salvation. Why? Because it exalts man to the place of judge of his own faith! God will be the sole judge of every person's faith, whether or not it is sufficiently pure to satisfy him. Mr. Rice's "child-like faith" is not taught in the doctrine of Jesus. The scriptures he and his school of preachers so distort to get this idea really teach child-like HUMBLENESS, NOT faith. Saving faith IS "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) It is NOT simple, but profound. It is never a product of any carnal mind of man, but "by grace are ye saved through faith, and THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-10) God works it into the sinner's heart through conviction, contrition, revelation, etc. just as He also does repentance "unto life" and "unto remission of sins." Thus "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works ..." "If any man be in Christ, he is a NEW CREATURE ..." (2nd Corinthians 5:17) In this process called regeneration, God makes a new spiritual creature within the old man. That is a spiritual experience one cannot easily forget. God-wrought repentance and faith are a part of this process. Repentance and faith unto eternal salvation are graces of God, as well as duties of man, because there is no way any human being can do either one completely enough to please God without seeking and obtaining the immediate assistance of God. "No man is able to come unto me except the Father which sent me draw him." (John 6:44)
Mr. Rice teaches his students that the Bible is the "sure evidence" of conversion. Coupled with my own judgement that I have trusted Christ, the Bible assures me of eternal life: such is the sum total of salvation assurance for the new convert according to Mr. Rice's "fundamentalism." The Bible teaches that the only sure evidence of salvation is the presence and witness of the Holy Spirit within the heart. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself," (1st John 5:10) NOT in the Bible. True believers know that they have believed to God's satisfaction because of the witness of the Holy Spirit within them. Mr. Rice and his fellows teach the reverse of this, that people know that they have the indwelling Spirit because they have believed, themselves being the judge, and have the testimony of the Bible that the Holy Spirit dwells within all believers. "Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit." (1st John 4:13) "... Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us." (1st John 3:24) The Holy Spirit is "the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession," (Ephesians 1:14) and that "earnest of the Spirit" is given "in our hearts," NOT in the Bible. (2nd Corinthians 1:22) "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." (Romans 8:9) "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." (Romans 8:14) "The Spirit itself (Himself) bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; ... "(Romans 8:16&17) Is there a conscious awareness of the operations and subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man? Mr. Rice and his fundamentalists say, "NO!" Baptists and the Bible both say, "YES!" Historical Baptist doctrine regarding this question has clearly been proven elsewhere in this work.
How is the Holy Spirit detected by human senses? The Holy Spirit directly impresses the human heart first with fear, guilt, shame, and sorrow, because of sin. This is the "reproof" which the Holy Spirit was promised to bring to "the world," that is, to lost people. This same Holy Spirit was promised to comfort saved people by encouraging them. This "comforter" (paracletos - literally, another "called to one's side") is an ever present companion and helper dwelling within the hearts of the saints, manifesting His encouragement and leadership to each of them at His will, enabling them to render a more acceptable service unto God. Any person who has experienced the real impressions of the Holy Spirit will normally express them as "feelings," whether he is remembering his impressions of conviction and condemnation, or subsequent impressions of relief and comfort. This is especially true when the person is using strictly his own words, being uneducated in much of the terminology of the Holy Scriptures or language of commentaries. Mr. Rice, in keeping with the whole modern fundamentalist movement, often denied the importance of spiritual impressions by attacking all reliance upon "feelings." He related an experience which verified his position on this subject.
"In November, 1939 at Marquette Manor Baptist Church in Chicago, a young man came to the services and came forward wanting to be saved. He came from Tennessee where they were accustomed to the mourner's bench and to long waiting on God and begging God for salvation. His mother had shouted when she was saved, and he, too, felt he must shout or he would not know he was saved. I told him that he must trust in Christ, and then I asked dear Brother Frank Sherriff, Secretary of the Christian Business Men's Committee, to take the Bible and show the young man how to be saved.
They went together to the inquiry room and spent a good long while there together. After the services were dismissed, this young man came back with Mr. Sherriff. The Bible had done its blessed work. 'Brother Rice, I don't feel like I wanted to feel, but the Bible says I am saved!'
And so he was, you may be sure, if the Bible said he was saved. When he trusted Christ he got everlasting life. And later, if he went on to serve the Lord and win souls, and grow in grace, I am sure that he had all the joy and blessed emotion that he needed. But the emotional crisis is not the sure proof of salvation. Simple trusting in Christ's Word, in His Blood, in His love, in His atonement, is the one, instant, sure way to be saved." (pages 202 & 203, PRAYER)
To be sure that young man was deceived! Mr. Rice went out of his way to deny the lost sinner the privilege of prayer. The asking, seeking, and knocking Jesus recommended to men is reserved for those already saved, according to him. To pray means to beg or plead. The Bible teaches, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."(Romans 10:13) That calling upon God is definitely prayer, with a view to salvation, future. Mr. Rice tried to explain this away:
"But to call, in the sense of that verse, simply means to call once, and it does not mean a prolonged begging and pleading. Nothing like that is taught either in that verse or any other verse in the Bible. The soul that asks Jesus for mercy gets it. The very asking is simple evidence of the faith in the heart, willingness to receive what God has long been offering the sinner. It is not that any certain outward calling is necessary to salvation, for it is not. Rather, one who calls on the Lord simply shows by that and proves that he has trusted." (page 201, PRAYER)
Common sense alone would teach anyone that when asking for something needed, one should continue asking until the need is satisfied. The need is known to be satisfied when the problem is solved. Mr. Rice asks men to believe that if they have asked once, they should subsequently presume that the solution is in effect without further evidence. This logic is akin to that used to defraud the public by professed miracle workers who ask others to believe that they can work miracles because God can, according to the Bible. Such a request is absurd. If a person is truly sick, he believes he is well only when the effects of the disease are gone. Although he might be persuaded he is well by influences totally external to his person, until the change is made within him he is still as sick as ever. He might feel better for a while due to mental power if he is convinced from the outside that he is healed. Mr. Rice does not hesitate to call those who peddle false claims of natural healing deceivers and charlatans. Yet he practices the same deceiving arts with regard to spiritual healing, with infinitely more ill effects upon his victims. All who are truly healed can feel within themselves the miraculous healing power of God. So it was with the woman who had an issue of blood, (Mark 5:29) "And she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague." There is a similar internal "feeling" in the heart when one is healed spiritually of the sickness of sin. Is this not the up-to-date message conveyed to us in the many miracles of Jesus and the apostles, which were not to be repeated beyond the age of the apostles, now nineteen centuries past? The spiritually afflicted may come laboring and heavy laden and find rest for their souls in the manner of this woman. Though they come near to despair in their efforts to reach Him, they still may reach Him through faith if they strive for it! "Strive to enter in at the strait gate," Jesus said! (Luke13:24) Could this "strait gate" possibly be a different one than the strait gate "which leadeth unto life" that few find? (Matthew 7:14) Jesus made it plain that the true believer has already found life, for he "is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24) If one is inside the gate as soon as he truly believes, then surely striving to believe is appropriate effort. Mr. Rice would eliminate the striving and persuade by his erroneous interpretation of God's word all such seekers to presume a safety and a healing based on their own act, and will, and commitment, with no sensibility whatsoever of such salvation beyond that presumption. No doubt the few who will be saved because of the straightness of "the way" will be FEWER because of deceivers such as him!
So rabid against sinners truly praying and seeking God is Mr. Rice that he cannot see what is obviously in the Bible. Observe his contradiction of the Bible. Mr. Rice wrote of Cornelius, "All the weeping and mourning did not do any good for him, and it never did any good for anybody else, as far as getting them saved is concerned." (page 204, PRAYER) Again he wrote, "Poor Cornelius in heathen darkness and ignorance, fasted and prayed and begged God, but it did no good." How marvelously does John R. Rice contradict the Bible! According to the angel whom God sent to Cornelius, who said, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God," (Acts 10:4) that sinner's prayer was at last answered. The Bible must be believed. John R. Rice is in error.
The publican's prayer, (Luke 18:13) brief as it was, came from a head and heart bowed in shame, grief, sorrow and heaviness, from a broken heart and contrite spirit, (Psalm 34:18) and that prayer went THROUGH to God and the man who prayed it "went down to his house JUSTIFIED." We KNOW WHEN we are justified by faith because "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1) There has never been any other justification before God except through faith in Jesus Christ, so that is what the publican received along with the peace in his soul which accompanied it.
The penitent thief "PRAYED THROUGH" to God, who was manifest in the person of Jesus Christ on the cross beside him, and he received the answer from God, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
Mr. Rice's quarrel is with the supernatural workings of the Holy Spirit, whose invisible operations are so powerful that they have outstanding effects upon the outward parts of people affected by Him in both conviction of sin and also in assurance of salvation. In his views on this subject he agrees with several religious teachers of the recent past, but none of them were Baptists. In theory, none of them denied the work of the Holy Spirit, because it is obvious that the Bible teaches it, but in fact and in practice they all denied it. They hated and often ridiculed genuine manifestations of God's presence and work which were often told in the testimonies of regenerated Christians.
No one in this day better represents the modern "fundamentalist" movement than John R. Rice. Those who endorse his methods of evangelism are many and well known, and on those points being contested in this work they must, if they will tell the truth about what they believe, agree with him.
The "independent fundamentalists," of which John R. Rice is a prime specimen, are those whose apostle is Dwight L. Moody. One can hardly believe the extent to which the doctrines and practices of that movement are copied from that one man, until a careful and thorough study has been made. We will allow John R. Rice to speak for the whole of this movement which embraces the methods and teachings of Dwight. L. Moody. Of course there are some small differences, as can always be found among groups of independent churches, but there is almost total consistency among them regarding their methods of leading sinners to conversion and the necessary supporting doctrines. To expose and oppose the errors they teach regarding eternal salvation is within the scope of this book and its primary objective. Thus, little will be mentioned regarding other characteristic doctrines and practices of them.
Contradictory statements often made by leaders of this movement have kept many followers in their camp who might otherwise have departed. For example, John R. Rice wrote, in 1970, "I preached to a great crowd of prisoners in the Dallas County (Texas) jail from the text, 'And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.' How God gripped their hearts! There were many tears, and I believe many were saved as they humbly called on God. The wickedest sinner, when in trouble, should repent and pray for help and deliverance." (pages 139-140, WHEN YOU PRAY, by John R. Rice) The foregoing statement is an obvious and undeniable contradiction of all that Mr. Rice argued on this subject twenty-eight years before. His 1942 publication, a book entitled PRAYER, has already been quoted sufficiently to establish that fact. One might suppose that Mr. Rice had experienced a change of views over the years were it not for so many evidences to the contrary readily available at the present time (1980) in his tracts and "Sword of the Lord" publications. No one man in our time has exerted more energy against the idea of sinners praying for the salvation of their own souls than John R. Rice. Perhaps no one man in our time has exerted more influence against new converts relying upon inner feelings and spiritual impressions as evidence of salvation than this same man. Yet he wrote, "Oh, surely a thousand times I have FELT the sweet influence of the Spirit to go here or there or to stay, and it has seemed that He put in my mouth the very words I should say," (page 12, WHEN YOU PRAY) Again he wrote, "We should not argue against a clear impression God gives. We should not dally when he tells us to speak to some sinner or to go on some holy errand." (page 117, WHEN YOU PRAY)
Mr. Rice is notorious for insisting that people who have simply "accepted Christ" are saved, although they have no feelings or impressions to confirm their acceptance and fellowship with Christ. If truly he has such a fellowship with God that the Holy Spirit has impressed his heart a "thousand times" as he claims, and he "FELT" it, why does he console other poor souls who are void of such impressions and convince them that they need no evidence of conversion beyond the word in the scriptures? In the act of such unscriptural counsel, he deceives many souls into Hell. It seems unlikely that God would allow his child and servant to be a deceiver of countless souls. The evidence is abundant that John R. Rice has not changed his views significantly over the years. Then whence are these contradictory statements? Many politicians are successful because they can sound agreeable to both of two contradictory opinions. The art of sophistry allows them to remain popular with a majority of their constituents, many of whom are too ignorant to see through their double-talk, while they act to please their own thinking. This same kind of sophistry has long been popular in religion. The method of achieving success in this art is simple. Make use of many scripture quotes and always use scriptural expressions. Borrow words and thoughts from reputed preachers of the past in the same manner. Any time your accepted views are successfully refuted by a critic or opposer, study diligently to gracefully avoid that snag again, even to the extent of incorporating your opponent's argument into your presentation, while rigidly maintaining the same doctrine and practice as before. Mimic gestures, vocal expressions, and manners of sermon delivery which seem to be characteristic of Spirit filled men, gleaning ideas from recollections, records, and biographies of noted men of the past reputed to be the ministers of God. When men use such methods in preaching they cannot help but sound like ministers of God. Everything that is visible and audible is Godly in appearance. Such men are accomplished actors playing the role of preachers. This is not to assert that none of them are sincere in their belief that they are truly ministers of God, but their methods of learning and doing are not those of Spirit filled men, who need not to be, or to do, other than what God impresses upon their minds and hearts. Only by a careful analysis of sermon content to discern the essence of the actual message conveyed to the unsaved portion of the audience can the real message be perceived. It must also be remembered that it takes the moving of the Holy Spirit to open a sinner's heart to the gospel. When a clever deceiver preaches, the unsuspecting Christian may hear one message, while the blind and lost sinner hears quite another message in the same sermon. While the unsuspecting Christian says, "he preached the truth," the lost man is led to deception by it. When discerning Christians hear such a sermon, they are immediately aware that something is amiss about the spirit of the messenger, and being made suspicious through their obedience in "trying the spirits" (1st John 4:1), the discerning Christian must then observe how the message is being received by the blind sinner. Is it cutting to his heart? Is it convicting of sin? Is it making his Spirit contrite? Is it discerning the thoughts and intents of his sinful heart? Is it pointing him directly to Christ without interference from the preacher, and causing him to seek the Lord Jesus in expectation of obtaining peace and rest for his soul coming directly from God? On the contrary, is it urging him to MOVE to some mental or physical action which the preacher promises him will satisfy God? Is it urging him NOT to wait for the drawing of the Holy Spirit? Is it implying that answering the formal invitation is one and the same with meeting God's requirements for salvation? Is it preaching "faith" or "belief" at the expense of REPENTANCE unto salvation which is WORKED by godly sorrow? Is it urging the sinner to be satisfied with less than the Holy Spirit's blessing of peace which comes with justification in God's sight? Many such revealing questions are needful in discerning the spirits of prophets, preachers, and teachers, as we are instructed by the apostle John to do. We must not be lazy and careless, but rather, vigilant and circumspect, wise as serpents (devils or demons) while harmless as doves. Our Lord Jesus Christ told us to be so! (Matthew 10:16) Among true Christians it is common to hear it said of some famous and popular evangelist, "he preaches the gospel well, but he tears it down at the end when he gives his invitation to sinners." Many are confused by this apparent contradiction? Have we forgotten how the Serpent deceived our first mother in the garden of Eden with the appeal of partial truth mixed with a lie? Remember, the message is borrowed from the Bible and from sound preachers of olden times, and likewise are many mannerisms copied. It is not difficult for a good actor who has studied the Bible and powerful preachers of the past to preach a convincing message which is not his own. When, however, it comes time to deal with a poor blind sinner seeking salvation, his real theology comes to light in his actions and counsel. THEN we behold the real man! The cleverest of deceivers will cover all of their tell-tale tracks with the words of the Bible at one time or another, and Christians need to be discerning enough not to be fooled by such craftiness. It needs to be added that Satan is the real deceiver in such cases. Never let it be thought that even the arch-deceivers of our time are aware that they are other than the very disciples of Christ. Most of them have a great desire to be right, but that desire is not sufficient to permit enough humiliation for them to admit wrongdoing, even when they are reproved, in order that they might repent and become right in the sight of God. If the Pharisees could have found a way to honorably admit Jesus into their scheme of religion without losing face they would have welcomed him, but Jesus would have none of that! He so repudiated their practices and false doctrines which they had superimposed upon God's doctrine that they were forced to either recognize their error, or strike out against him, thus exposing the serpent's nature in their hearts. In like manner modern deceivers seek continually to incorporate into their religion whatsoever is clearly of God without renouncing their former doctrine and practices. Thus they continue to increase their appearance of righteousness, while they are inwardly unchanged. By this evolution their deceptive abilities are increased. It is difficult to believe that men can engage in such chameleon style hypocrisy without realizing what they are doing, but apparently they do so, and know no better because of the self-deceptive nature of the human heart.
We have reason to be wary of entering the debate arena against the proponents of this subtle error in doctrine concerning soul- salvation. We have learned that whatever points are successfully used to refute their doctrine and practice during such a contest will often be incorporated into their arsenal to be used effectively on lost sinners at a later date. This writer was once engaged in dealing with a certain soul who had been for many years deceived by a form of the "accept Christ" evangelism. Through accurate teaching, testimony, and an abundance of the Holy Spirit, that person became very much convinced of a lost soul and a need for a deeper conversion. A warfare commenced between us and a rival preacher over that soul and others disquieted by our doctrine of a deep inner conversion. Debate followed. Some time later that convicted soul sought counsel from that rival preacher. The advice given that troubled soul was essentially the same as that which we would have offered, and was in accord with the arguments we had offered so strenuously against his arguments. Our conclusion was that such men will stop at nothing to make and keep their proselytes, and will even resort to borrowing from us those thoughts that to their minds sound convincing. Sometimes they may tell a person truth which they neither believe nor normally teach when it is evident to them that there is such depth of conviction in that heart that their usual doctrine will not persuade him.
The principal thrust of this work has been to refute the false doctrine and practice of those commonly called "Independent Fundamentalists," "Fundamental Baptists," "Bible Baptists," or "Bible Churches," only because these seem to be the most energetic and malignant variety of the Moodyite persuasion. However, the warning must not stop there. In the twentieth century, multitudes of other people and churches have embraced this heresy. So extensive has been its penetration of American religion that it has virtually taken over the evangelistic manner of every denomination and religious group in which it has not been openly opposed. Even many of the "holiness," "pentecostal," and "charismatic" sects, who have long emphasized spiritual experience to the point of excess, have reduced their doctrine of salvation and the new birth to a simple "acceptance of Christ as personal Savior." Such deceived souls, when receiving their "second blessing," according to their present preaching, are either really receiving the first spiritual blessing of regeneration, or a second dose of deception, seeing that regeneration is prerequisite to all other conscious spiritual blessings. IF indeed they have received at ANY point ANY blessing of the Holy Spirit at all, and not just an emotional form of deception, it is astonishing that such strong advocates of experimental knowledge have been overtaken by such a doctrine of superficial belief regarding salvation of the soul.
Even within some of the older Protestant sects historically noted for their rigid Calvinism, preachers are found calling upon men to "accept Christ as Savior." Can we even imagine their reaction if ancient Calvinists could hear their successors teaching men to become saints by their acceptance of God rather than by His acceptance of them?
One of the most golden scenes of the gospel age was the Baptist kingdom of the southern United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. From Virginia to Texas the religious scene was dominated by tens of thousands of Baptist churches. At that time most of them were sound in doctrine and practice regarding the salvation of the soul of man. Many churches of like belief and practice had already been established beyond the oceans by these people, and many more of their missionaries were in the process of preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God throughout the world. That period was the golden age of the Baptist denomination. Baptists could travel to almost any location within this realm of the American Southland, and to countless other locations beyond it to the east, north, and west and be assured of finding a church like the one they left back home. Such sound churches could also be found in many other nations as well. Nearly all of them retained the historical Baptist teaching regarding salvation, and their memberships were composed of spiritually regenerated persons. The Southern Baptist Convention was only fifty-five years old, much younger than many of the independent churches which were affiliated with it. American Baptist conventionism, in its entirety, was less than a century old, still younger than many of the cooperating churches. There is no need to debate the assets or liabilities of the conventions' methods of combining the efforts of Baptist churches. It is sufficient to say that in the beginning the convention was proposed as a tool of Baptist churches, and it was well understood that the churches did not "belong to" the "Southern Baptist" or any other Convention. Neither were Southern Baptists a separate denomination. With the passing of time these original concepts were lost to many churches and their members began to feel that they "belonged" to some larger force, often known to them as "Southern Baptists." Liberalism came earlier to the Baptists in the North where the northern convention (now "American Baptist Convention") and churches were much less conservative. Even before the beginning of the century there were many more Baptist churches unworthy of the name in the North than there were in the South. The Moodyite heresy had already gained a strong foothold among some Baptists in the North through the influence of popular Protestant mass-evangelists. It was also beginning to be embraced by some preachers and churches in the South. The Baptists were busily engaged in fighting such liberalism as evolution theory, and denials of the virgin birth and Deity of Jesus, and in promoting legal prohibition of alcoholic beverages. In these interests the Baptists had a common cause with interdenominational fundamentalists, many of whom were the offspring of such men as D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday. While many of the northern Baptists fell to some degree for the liberal ideas of the times, the southern Baptists for the most part escaped this downfall. They were not so fortunate as to escape from the subtle but devastating error in evangelistic methods of their new-found "fundamentalist" allies. It was only a few short years before the methods of Billy Sunday were being adopted throughout the Southland. Thousands of Baptist Churches in which lost sinners had been customarily prayed with until they experienced regeneration by the Holy Spirit, knowing thereby they were saved, began inviting lost sinners to walk down the aisle to shake the preacher's hand in systematic fashion.
In the early years of the 1900's, numbers of churches separated from the conventions, both north and south, in concerted efforts to preserve the "old paths." However, not one of these separations were made primarily in view of the Moody and Sunday heresy, and so all of these groups retained it to their ultimate destruction. In the middle part of this century some churches and associations of churches in various parts of the country withdrew reluctantly from the larger organizations for this reason. Realizing that they would fare no better by joining the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, or such groups as the American Baptist Association or General Association of Regular Baptists, they struggled alone and in small groups for survival in the doctrine and practice of their forefathers. It is an amazing fact that there was never any united or scholarly effort to oppose such a radical change in practice. The churches that changed had previously become careless. In their false sense of security the people were gradually sedated by subtle and clever arguments in favor of change, and they fell asleep and perished without ever knowing the difference. There is evidence that cries of alarm were raised in most localities by a few people, especially across the South, but generally these "alarmists" were intimidated into silence, ignored, of overruled by the majority opinion. The familiarity of convention ties and fear to separate from it outweighed the importance of old methods in the minds of many people. Clever teachers attacked the "methods" as being outdated and unnecessary to the "doctrines" of the faith, but in changing the methods they removed crucial doctrines also. To this day there are still numbers of sound churches in certain secluded regions who are still loosely connected with one of the corrupt national organizations and are afraid to separate themselves. Gradually that corrupt influence is seeping into such local churches, and one by one they will soon forsake the way of salvation. Most have already forsaken it.
The demise of the southern Baptists as a mighty kingdom of God is one of the saddest accounts in history. The Southern Baptists as a separate denomination continued to grow even faster numerically after their general adoption of Billy Sunday methods. It is no wonder that when so great and respectable an organization as the Southern Baptist Convention, with its reputation for Biblical strictness, opened the floodgates of mass evangelism into its ranks, its numbers greatly expanded. Millions walked the aisles of Southern Baptist churches to clasp the preacher's hand, and so to "accept Christ" as they had begun to express it. Very soon, many formerly sound Baptist churches contained more unregenerated members than ones who had been born of the Holy Spirit. The denomination was soon taken over by this new breed of mostly unregenerated "Baptists," who seemed very proud of themselves and starry-eyed over the new emphasis and rapid success of mass evangelism. The most successful mass evangelists were exalted as the leaders and examples of the denomination.
The epitome of this new breed of Southern Baptist preachers is a man named Billy Graham. While he claims to be Southern Baptist, Mr. Graham makes no secret of being after the order of Moody and Sunday. His cleverness and ability make it difficult for anyone to catch him in an error in his theology. In his books as well as his preaching, he sets forth all of the right doctrines in places, and he carefully attempts not to ruffle the feathers of the more conservative reader or listener with his mild heretical statements. At the same time, he is able to command the respect and win the admiration of those who are more liberal than himself. This ability of his on all issues has made him one of the most popular men in the western world. This is hardly an enviable reputation for a supposed disciple of the lowly Jesus, but he lives in an age when such truths are discerned by very few. In this ability he is different from his predecessors, Moody and Sunday, and from such contemporaries in the independent ranks as John R. Rice. These three men often withstood old-fashioned ideas and practices in blunt and offensive terms. Mr. Graham's sermons are like his books, demonstrating few obvious errors in very few places. Yet the real Billy Graham stands up and reveals himself at the end of every sermon in his invitation to lost sinners to make their decision to accept Christ. Even so, many saved people find no fault with his practice. If such people had their spiritual senses "exercised to discern both good and evil," (Hebrews 5:14) they would "try the spirits (of the prophets) whether they are of God," (1st John 4:1) instead of regarding only eloquent words. Then, there would be no further need for their sake of any further exposure of this man.
Mr. Graham's theological statements are so vague on this critical issue and so cloaked with scriptural terminology that is difficult to find an obvious error in them, but these masks make it no less certain that his concepts of "repentance," "faith," and "regeneration" are far removed from the doctrines of historical Baptists. Rather, they are virtually identical to those of D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday. While giving lip service to approval of those conversions obtained in the old-fashioned way (revived and popularized during the great awakenings), Mr. Graham claims that those obtained by the methods of Moody and Sunday are equally as valid. His fundamental error is easier to discern by analyzing his method of inviting lost sinners, and his counsel to those seeking salvation, where he altogether forgets the old-fashioned way and relies wholly upon the modern method, by which he also admittedly "came to Christ."
The following "My Answer" column from a newspaper printed in the late 1960's reveals his counsel to a lost sinner.
(Question) "Somehow I never felt like being saved even though I know I should. I think I should wait until I feel like making the decision."
(Answer) "Feelings can deceive us. Our feelings often are suddenly altered by physical conditions or other circumstances. All through life you will find yourself doing things you know you should do, and you do them whether you have the appropriate feelings or not, just because you know you should. It would seem to me to be very foolish to do business in this way. Besides, what kind of feeling do you consider appropriate for one who is to receive Christ. I would certainly say that you should do the thing you know you should do. Feelings may and will follow, but they are not the essential thing. Take Christ now because you know it is right to do so, and God will literally fill your life with unspeakable joy. The Bible warns, 'Harden not your heart' ... 'Now is the accepted time' ...'Today is the day of salvation.'
Mr. Graham seems not to understand that "no man is able to come" to Jesus "except the Father ... draw him." (John 6:44) With- out the conviction, drawing power, and influence of the Holy Spirit, coming to Christ acceptably is impossible. Yet he frequently refers to the works of the Holy Spirit in his writings and sermons. It appears that he accepts the fact of the Holy Spirit's operations in regeneration with the same evidence that he enjoins upon his hearers, because the Bible tells it, and not at all because he has experienced such wonderful things. It is no wonder that he depreciates any feelings which naturally accompany the drawing power of God, as well as any which naturally accompany the saving power of God. Intense feelings of fear, guilt, shame, and sorrow normally and profitably accompany Holy Spirit conviction. While such feelings are not listed among essential requirements, which are "repentance unto forgiveness and life" and "belief unto righteousness or justification," sinful human nature makes them inseparable from the operations God uses to regenerate the human spirit. What is the reason any preacher would NOT KNOW that the drawing power of God can and must be felt in the heart of the lost sinner in order to bring him to genuine repentance toward God? Could it be that he has never experienced those operations of God? As long as a man confesses that he thinks that a lost sinner could be saved on the terms of the gospel while remaining unconscious of those Divine operations, he should be suspected of never having experienced such great things. His own teaching is the primary witness against acceptance of his authority to speak for God. If anyone should object that we are judging the teacher upon his subjective experience and testimony thereof, the Bible which he praises above all words will be shown to testify in favor of the feelings he denounces. We weave such proofs throughout this work, and prove them to be both Biblical and historical Baptist doctrine. Certainly the feelings which result from the direct contact with God's Holy Spirit are reliable and should be trusted along with the intelligence which excited them. Real communications from God are much more than just feelings; rather whatever intelligence they communicate is the source of the feelings which accompany them. Religious writers of a former age, before experimental knowledge in religious conversions ceased to be a popular concept, often employed the word "sensed" rather than "felt" to describe such essential Divine contacts.
We understand that there are often many emotional feelings which are not reliable, simply because they do not have the eternal truth in the hands of the Holy Spirit as their source. Why does Mr. Graham recommend bypassing or ignoring feelings produced by the Spirit of God, unless he believes that no such emotions are produced by God, or that they being in his opinion "not essential" are therefore cumbersome and detrimental to conversion? Billy Graham's often professed reliance upon the Holy Spirit means little in the face of such advice to lost and helpless sinners.
On pages 167-169 of his book, HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN, he gives his summary of what he thinks one must do to be saved.
"Here are some guidelines from the Bible which will help you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior. You have seen the need, the direction, and the steps in previous chapters, and you may already have reached your own conclusions. Just the same, let me summarize what you must do. First, you must recognize what God did: that He loved you so much He gave His Son to die on the cross. Substitute your own name for 'the world' and 'whoever' in this familiar verse: 'For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life' (John3:16). 'The Son of God ... loved me, and delivered Himself up for me' (Galatians 2:20).
Second, you must repent of your sins. Jesus said, 'Unless you repent, you will ... perish.' (Luke 13:3). He said, 'Repent and believe' (Mark 1:15). It's not enough to be sorry; repentance is that turnabout from sin that is emphasized.
Third, you must receive Christ as Savior and Lord. 'But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those that believe in his name' (John 1:12). This means that you cease trying to save yourself and accept Christ as your only Lord and your only Savior. Trust Him completely, without reservation.
Fourth, you must confess Christ publicly. This confession is a sign that you have been converted. Jesus said, 'Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven' (Matthew 10:32). It is extremely important that when you receive Christ you tell someone else about it just as soon as possible. This gives you strength and courage to witness.
Make it happen NOW. 'Now is the accepted time ... now is the day of salvation.' (2 Corinthians 6:2 KJV) If you are willing to repent of your sins and to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can do it now. At this moment you can either bow your head or get on your knees and say this little prayer which I have used with thousands of persons on every continent:
'O God, I acknowledge that I have sinned against You. I am sorry for my sins. I am willing to turn from my sins. I openly receive and acknowledge Jesus Christ as my Savior. I confess Him as Lord. From this moment on I want to live for Him and serve Him. In Jesus' name. Amen.'
These are the steps and prayer which many years ago, in a book I wrote, were read by people just like yourselves who responded and wrote of their changed lives. If you are willing to make this decision and have received Jesus Christ as your own Lord and Savior, then you have become a child of God in whom Jesus Christ dwells. You do not need to measure the certainty of your salvation by your feelings. Believe God. He keeps His word. You are born again. You are alive!"
In this "little prayer," which is the centerpiece of this ritualistic conversion, we see all the properties of a modern marriage vow, and it is just this man-made concoction which is equally as Biblical and full of grace and as certain to guarantee a happy eternity as the wedding vow is to ensure a happy marriage. At least the couple being wedded understand WHAT they are pledging even if they fail to comprehend the difficulty, whereas the lost sinner attempting to be joined to Christ by Mr. Graham's method has little or no idea of what he is saying in this "little prayer," which is put in his mouth but not in his heart. Surely we know that no words before men are essential either in prayer or in profession as a condition of eternal salvation, but the contrite condition of heart which Mr. Graham so loves to belittle and to bypass is an essential element of gospel repentance without which no man can "believe" unto salvation. The "faith" which Mr. Graham preaches is an impenitent "faith." His "turnabout" repentance is as outward and carnal as his prescribed prayer, not the God-wrought change of attitude of mind and heart which nothing but Godly sorrow can work. There is no grace involved in that which a person can simply read and do!
Anyone who has experienced true conversion cannot help but wonder where the presence of God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit figures into this prescription. Mr. Graham follows his teaching with exhortation which is very typical of all his invitations to the lost. Such urging as "make it happen NOW" and "you can do it NOW" place salvation solely in the hands of the sinner. The "little prayer" he suggests clearly reveals his very shallow concept of both repentance and faith. The last paragraph is absolutely incredible. It defies all common sense to think that one must be told by external assurance, "you are alive!" Life is known by the experience of mere possession of it, as soon as it exists, and the knowledge of it is INTERNAL. One wonders what Mr. Graham would do with 1st John 5:10 which says, "he that believes on the Son of God HAS THE WITNESS IN HIMSELF," and John 3:8, "The (Holy) Spirit breathes (a breathed voice is a whisper) where He desires, and you can hear His voice, but cannot tell where it comes from, or where it goes: SO IS EVERY- ONE WHO IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT," and many other similar verses. What possible need to be told "you are born again" and "you are alive" does anyone have who has experienced true Biblical conversion? Only people who have NOT experienced the work of the Holy Spirit, but are vainly hoping to be saved by their mere acceptance of Christ's atonement need to be discouraged from reliance on feelings and rather assured by flesh and blood misapplying the scriptures that they are "born again" and "alive!" Those who are made alive are also made aware of it by the Holy Spirit's impressions upon their spirit. Their consciousness cannot help but sense in their inner feelings such Divine operations when the "new creation" is made and Christ's Spirit comes in to dwell. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His!" (Romans 8:9) Granted, new converts do not immediately understand all that happens to them in the experience of the new birth, but it is nevertheless impossible for them to lack conscious awareness of this experience, although it transcends comprehension by the natural human mind.
I shudder every time I read the cowardly conditional assurance contingent upon "IF": IF they have "become willing to make this decision" and have "received Jesus" as their own Lord and Savior, THEN they have "become a child of God," or have "Christ indwelling," or they are "born again" and "are alive." Such assurances serve only to convince those who are "dead" in their sins that they "are alive" by external evidence. Because they are spiritually dead, they are also unconscious of the new birth and indwelling Spirit of God, simply because they possess neither. In the midst of these human assurances, Mr. Graham cautions, "don't trust your feelings" and "believe the Bible." By convincing lost sinners that the Bible guarantees them salvation based on its promises, their actions, and external assurances, he is able to deceive many lost souls into thinking they have been saved. In this manner thousands of "dead" sinners have been persuaded that they are "alive" by Billy Graham's interpretation of the Bible. To convince a dead man that he is alive is to surely deceive him into Hell.
Mr. Graham uses great care to try not to offend those people who experienced a great crisis of emotion, or mourned deeply, or experienced a great change of feelings when they were converted, but he emphasizes his belief that such things are not necessary. No wonder! His own conversion experience is lacking in these things. The following appeared in his "My Answer" column in the late 1960's:
(Question) "I know many believers who cannot remember the 'day and hour' they were converted. Most of these have been brought up in Christian homes, have been taught the way of salvation by their parents, and in simple faith have accepted it as children. The question I want to ask is this: If they know they are converted, does it make any difference if they cannot remember the exact date of their conversion?"
(Answer) "A child that cannot remember his birthday is just as much alive as one who can.
My wife, Ruth, who is about the best Christian I know, cannot recall the precise moment of her conversion. But there is no doubt she has been converted.
I am sure many people at a very young age opened their hearts to the Savior, and because their sins were innocent ones, there was not the great impact of emotion which some adults experience when they accept Christ. For example, when I accepted Christ I was not aware of any dynamic change at the time. But, as time progressed, I knew that something wonderful had happened to me. The important thing is not so much the date or the time that it happened, but to know right now that Christ is central in your heart and life. That is the true test of conversion."
Of his own conversion experience he wrote, "when I accepted Christ I was not aware of any dynamic change at the time." He also wrote of his conversion in one of his books, "The night I came to Christ there were several people around me weeping. I had no tears at all and wondered if my act of commitment was genuine. I have learned since that many have had a much quieter conversion, with a shorter time in the process." On the same page he explains, "some, but not all, will face an emotional crisis with symptoms similar to those accompanying mental conflict. They may experience deep feelings and even tears of repentance." (page 165, HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN, by Billy Graham) On this page Mr. Graham sought to approve both types of conversion, the deep-feeling emotional crisis type with tears of repentance, and also the tearless, emotionless, questionable type that he confesses to have experienced. In the above "My Answer" column he also stated that a soul does not need to remember its conversion experience, referring to conversion at a "very young age" as if age should make a difference in ability to remember such a notable event. In his book he also wrote, "I know many people who can point to that time and say with assurance, 'that was my spiritual birthday.' However, I know there are people who today are walking in fellowship with Jesus Christ, but have no memory of an exact time when they deliberately committed them- selves to Him, and cannot remember when they did not love and trust Him. My wife is one of those great Christians in this category." (page 167, HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN) Thus Mr. Graham sought to approve both those who can tell a conversion experience and those who cannot remember having had any such experience. No Baptist of yesteryear, nor any sound Baptist now, demands a recall of the exact date and time of conversion, but the foregoing accounts clearly reveal Mr.Graham's conviction that remembrance of the event is not necessary. O Billy! What would our Baptist fore-fathers think of you?
One last example of Billy Graham's counsel to sinners is the following, taken from his "My Answer" column in 1980:
(question) "I honestly believe that I have repented of my sins and accepted Christ as my Savior. However, down inside of me there seems to be a voice telling me that I need to do more in order to be saved. Is this true?"
(answer) "It may well be that you have a feeling down inside that you ought to do more in order to be forgiven - but that feeling is wrong. The Bible tells us that we can do nothing - absolutely nothing - which will earn our salvation. Christ has done it all by taking our sins upon Himself on the cross ... But if you have trusted Christ for your salvation, don't doubt His promise of salvation any longer. 'He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him.' (Hebrews 7:25)"
Surely the "blood" of that seeking and dissatisfied soul will be required at Billy Graham's hands, IF that "voice" was the lingering conviction of the Holy Spirit indicating insufficient faith to please God. Such lingering uneasiness of heart is a common symptom of souls who have been deceived into thinking they have been saved by simply "accepting Christ as their personal Savior." Mr. Graham jumped to the conclusion that the "voice" "down inside" his enquirer's heart could not have been God's discerning Spirit. He rather presumed it to be merely those "feelings" for which he frequently expresses contempt, which he supposes some of us erringly demand. The testimonies of many who have later escaped from that type of deception and have experienced the faith of a true regenerating experience, all agree that they were often persuaded to dismiss those troubling pangs of heart-felt guilt and fear as mere "doubts" by some well-meaning but also deceived "Christian worker." All souls who are truly saved have "peace with God," (Romans 5:1) a heart-felt inner "peace of God which surpasses all understanding (reasoning ability of the human mind)." (Philippians 4:7) All who are justified by Christ have this "peace." (Romans 5:1) If it surpasses or exceeds all of human ability of mind, how then is it perceived and known when one has it? It is by the impress of the FACT upon the spiritual senses by the Holy Spirit. It is Spirit acting upon spirit. The fact that truly regenerated people do often doubt their conversions because of the subtle temptings of Satan, gives Satan a clever tool with which to continue the deception of souls who have presumed themselves saved without proper evidence of heart. The feelings of the heart are not constant in any human being, whether he is regenerated or unregenerated. Thus there are many times when the regenerated person does not feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and when he may not recall all of the comforts formerly experienced in his conversion. He may then doubt the sufficiency of his own conversion experience until such time as another special comfort comes from the Holy Spirit to his soul, or until the sacred memory of blessings formerly enjoyed enables him to conquer the moment by faith. Such doubting is a far cry from being unable to recollect any of the spiritual blessings which the Prince of Peace delights to bestow upon his people in recognition of their faith in Him. "How gracious did that grace APPEAR the HOUR I first believed!" This is a familiar line from John Newton's hymn, "Amazing Grace". How many people are today singing this verse who cannot remember that hour or that appearance of amazing grace because Billy's words have has comforted them instead of God's COMFORTER?
Despite our antagonism to the deceptive evangelism of Billy Graham, our sincere judgment of the man is, that he is as sincere and as honest as he knows how to be. His admirable character and his obvious earnest sincerity in his efforts to save souls is so disarming to most would-be critics as to silence most of them. It is out of compulsion to shed light upon a subtle error, hoping to prevent future deceptions, that we have no choice but to use him as an example.
[Fast forward to the 21st century to examine the evolution of Billy Graham's teaching since the bulk of this text was composed in the early 1980's. To those who have always doubted his regeneration, because of his denial of the absolute necessity of a component of direct revelation and spiritual experience in Christian conversion, this will come as no surprise. In a May 31, 1997 television interview of Graham by Robert Schuller, he answered Schuller's question, "Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?", with these words:
"Well, Christianity and being a true believer - you know, I think there is the Body of Christ. This comes from all Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think that everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the Body of Christ. And I don't think that we are going to see a great sweeping revival, that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God's purpose for this age is to call out a people for his name. And that is what God is doing today. He is calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come form the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think they are saved, and that they are going to be with us in heaven."
Schuller then asked, "What, what I hear you saying that it's possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they've been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you're saying?
"Yes, it is!" was Graham's response.
Schuller then said, "I'm so glad to hear you say this: There's a wideness in God's mercy."
"There is; there definitely is," Graham answered. (pages 73-74, EVANGELICALISM DIVIDED by Iain Murray, also available on the internet in 2005 by Robert E. Kofahl, Ph.D.; videotape of this interview also exists.)
As expected, Murray's comments seem to at least partly miss the most important message of Graham's doctrinal evolution. Graham has always tended to teach people "who know in their hearts that they need something," as soon as they also seem willing to "accept" what he is telling them for a remedy, that they are already "saved." The only change in his doctrine seems to be a lessening of what he thinks they must know about the historical and Biblical Jesus. He has always tended to mistake conviction for conversion. Conviction of truth is only a means to the end of conversion consisting in genuine regeneration. It is understandable that many of his former fellows in the "fundamentalist" camp of evangelicals, who judge conversion solely on acceptance of Biblical teachings about Jesus may have finally come to doubt him. Indeed this late opinion of his is erroneous, more so than his earlier opinion, but his former message also deceived countless sincere souls into thinking their "decision for Christ" brought them salvation, while they yet lacked the vital and essential spiritual experience of the new birth.
Murray reported on page 76 that his mentor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once offered his support of a Billy Graham enterprise in exchange for the bargain that "liberals and Roman Catholics" be barred from the platform, and that he "drop the invitation system." Graham declined to accept those conditions. Obviously, both Mr. Lloyd-Jones and Mr. Murray had difficulty with the Billy Graham "invitation." Later reference is made in this work to Iain Murray's apparent opinion that all "invitations" made by "evangelists" are equally deceptive, a notion with which we emphatically disagree.]
In the first half of the twentieth century emphasis upon Christian "fundamentalism," or more properly, Bible literalism, was widespread in this country. Instead of strongly holding to a very few simple fundamentals, the literalists who arose insisted on a simplistic and superficially literal interpretation of all passages of scripture. That which could be easily understood by any reader's carnal mind was held to be the Divine intent of any verse under consideration. It was in this manner that "simple faith" or "simple child-like faith" became accepted by many as the only requirement for eternal salvation. To these people the great theological subject of salvation was reduced to a superficial interpretation of John 3:16. All other passages of scripture were either ignored or bent to fit this simple interpretation. Beyond this "simple" and "easy" task of "accepting Christ" lay an infinite maze of exciting Bible study in which every good "Christian" could be daily fascinated and develop his knowledge and pride. In those days radio broadcasting became a popular medium for disseminating the religious views of many Bible teachers who thought themselves to be in some manner called of God. Although the views set forth were often the private interpretations of individual teachers, a non-denominational and non-sectarian emphasis was usually maintained. Such claims made the radio teachers popular with many people who were already discouraged by the confusing aspect of so many differing sects of "Christianity." Three advantages worked in favor of these teachers. They were not restricted by any local church or governing council. The people were not able to discern their private character or manner of life as they could do in the case of local pastors and evangelists. Radio lends itself readily to the deceptive arts of the performer, much more so than traditional preaching. It was as if each teacher believed that his view of the Bible could not be wrong and that his words were all the same as if they were the Lord's from Heaven because he "simply" took them from the Bible. His claim of authority from God to teach the people rested solely upon his performance, and his success depended upon the near idolatry of his listeners who financed his programs often with great sums of money. The expression, radio "churches," was coined and many people took them so seriously as to believe that they were of the providence of God. Many substituted this preacher in their living room for regular church attendance. Many pastors found the sacred doctrines undermined and weakened in the minds of some of their faithful attenders who also heard the radio teacher. Many of the tithes and offerings which could have advanced the local churches went instead to enrich and expand these radio ministries. The local BODY of believers, unified in spirit, love, and basic doctrine and understanding the true nature of the church of Jesus Christ, slowly gave way to the ever-corrupting idea of some far-flung disconnected universal and invisible "mystical body" of Christ. These were many empires built upon popularity and money and sustained by the same, a fact not commendable in the eyes of those who truly understand the example set by Jesus Christ. A wide range of views were thus set forth by this medium. Many formerly unacceptable views found their way into the very center of many congregations where the learning and speaking ability of the radio teacher sometimes far exceeded that of the local pastor. We are not so much concerned in this work with the many radical notions on prophecy, the Holy Ghost, spiritual gifts, etc., which affected sound churches by means of radio. While it is certain that these distractions caused a great deal of mischief and caused some to depart from the faith, the ones so affected were generally a relative few who were of the gullible type. Much more effective and damaging to the cause of God was the unceasing din of smooth flowing words proclaiming an all-merciful, all-loving God in Jesus Christ, and His way of salvation, so simply understood and so easily obtained that many of the listeners were simply overlooking it. So effective was this propaganda of Satan that many theretofore unmoved Christians were induced to wonder, "are we really making the way of salvation too hard?" or "could there be an easier way to Christ than the bitter road of repentance and death to sin?" While the listening lost sinner was wooed with offers of free and easy salvation, the Christian was sweet-talked with offers of an easy and abundant life with tremendous success in winning souls to Christ. Suffering could, in effect, be eliminated if one went about it in the proper Biblical manner. Success would be ensured. Many would march serenely into Heaven! How desirable an offer for one to hear who is toiling along the pilgrim pathway of life in Earths' bog of sin and sorrow! As artillery fire which assaults the enemy unceasingly in support of steadily advancing infantry, so the radio message of these non-sectarian Bible literalists enhanced the steady progress of the Moodyite "accept Christ" doctrine and practice already encroaching upon the sound churches of our nation. How much radio teaching actually had to do with bringing about the amazing transition in the religious scene is impossible to determine, and is therefore largely speculative. Based on the long-standing popularity of these type of radio messengers it must be assumed that their effect was much greater than can ever be calculated. Many of our soundest and most spiritual churches were under the oversight of good, but uneducated and overworked, pastors. These were often men of much native ability, evangelical fervency, and fundamental soundness, but who lacked the knowledge and training of the many false teachers who had gained easy access to every home in America.
One of the most successful broadcasts of this type is called "Back To The Bible." It has now endured for several decades and has had much popularity and success. The program's founder and long-time teacher was Mr. Theodore Epp. His success story appeals to "the American dream." No one could justly accuse Mr. Epp of using fancy words or deceptive twists of words, but his sincerity is apparent, and his gentle down-home conversation, his calm and soothing manner captured the confidence of millions. His evangelistic doctrine is conveniently displayed for us in a small tract entitled "God's Way To Heaven" which has been published and distributed in his name. The closing portion of this tract reads as follows:
"Believe in Jesus as your personal Savior without delaying any longer. No one knows whether he will see tomorrow, so it is important to decide for Christ before it is eternally too late. We encourage you to trust Christ as your Savior now; then sign the following confession and mail it to us. We will send you some helpful literature.
'I realize that I have sinned and that I deserve God's judgment, but I know that Christ died in my place and took the judgment I deserve. I now place my faith in Jesus Christ, and receive Him as my Savior on the basis of the Word of God. I here and now expect Him to forgive my sins and to give me eternal life.' (signature and address requested)"
Since Mr. Epp and his co-workers have been striving for decades to get back to the Bible, we who have never departed from the Bible earnestly wish that they would finally succeed in that goal and stop deceiving the simple-minded with deceptive evangelism.
We understand that Mr. Epp was reared up in the Mennonite sect, apparently without experiencing the new birth, and later left it to found his radio religion on the popular principles of D. L. Moody evangelism and the universal invisible church principle developed among the Protestants to justify their existence apart from the Roman Catholic Church. Judging from his advice to lost sinners, there is great reason to fear that he never experienced true regeneration, for it is evident that he never understood it, notwithstanding his lifetime of studying and handling the Holy Scriptures. His adoption of this same deceptive evangelism and the remarkable success he had in promoting it is just one example among many of how that radio attracted teachers from many denominations who settled upon essentially this same deceptive gospel message. Their astonishing success in indoctrinating people from all sects of Christianity has already been discussed.
Almost all of the radio teachers claiming to be fundamental, Bible-believing, etc., would often end their messages with some simple and easy call to their audience to receive a "free" gift of God's salvation. Such invitations promoted that same misleading heresy which their American apostle, D. L. Moody, successfully advanced against the doctrine of true repentance and faith one-hundred years ago. It is a far cry from the God-exalting salvation doctrine of the Bible, of the apostolic age, of the European reformation, of the great awakening revivals in America, and of every other genuine revival of true Christianity the world has ever known.
All who are familiar with the mainstream "fundamentalist" movement, its shallow mass evangelism, its interdenominational character, its destructiveness to Biblical local church life, its rapid success by means of popular preaching, and the rest, also know of its love of "schools." No sooner does one of their leaders raise his following to prominence by numbers and wealth than he coaxes them to begin a school. Preacher's schools, seminaries, colleges, high schools, elementary schools, one and all in some order of preference, always suggested by the "vision" of the pastor, have all policies dictated by him once established. All these he uses to fill the land with these same shallow religious doctrines. Especially from the seminaries and colleges thus established, come tens-of-thousands of zealous preachers with the same doctrines. Some of their most prominent men have taken up the pen to comment on the glory and successes of the movement, usually their particular part of it, and sometimes to criticize others whom they believe are detracting from that glory and success.
Lewis Sperry Chafer was one of several noted "fundamentalist" teachers who attempted to write a book explaining the differences between what he believed were genuine and, on the other hand, faulty methods of soul-winning. His effort seems to be similar to the efforts of most of the evangelists of his school of preachers and teachers to offer to the public at some time in life a criticism of superficial methods of evangelism popularly employed by some of their own comrades. Chafer seems to have comprehended the FACT that many of their converts are not really regenerated, but his conclusion was based solely on the outward evidence that many who confess Christ as their Savior later backslide into their former ways of life, sometimes even to the degree of openly denying that same faith they once professed. He blamed many cheap methods and false motives for these failures, while he was obviously blinded altogether to the fact that his own DOCTRINE was at fault.
In placing blame he wrote, "A leader with a commanding personality may secure the public action of many when the issue is made one of public merit through some public act. ... If questioned carefully, the basis of assurance of all such converts will be found to be no more than a consciousness that they have acted out the program prescribed for them." (page 15, TRUE EVANGELISM, by Lewis Sperry Chafer) A hearty "Amen" to this correct comment! This is an accurate analysis of common mass deception by mass evangelists.
The scope of Mr. Chafer's book was described by himself to be such as we have already asserted when he commented, "Let it be remembered, however, that this is discussion of the possible evils that may follow the wrong use of methods in which a public action is demanded as a necessary condition to salvation." (page 13) One cannot help but picture in mind the "sawdust trail" of Billy Sunday evangelism with its "going forward" to shake a preacher's hand and "accept Christ," a pattern which has ever since dominated the "evangelical" religious scene. This, or a very similar "invitation" to lost sinners, has deceived millions who thought salvation would be the result of such positive action. We will examine what alternative methods Mr. Chafer has suggested and see that his are little if any more productive of a good result.
Again, Mr. Chafer has written, "... Such acts (public), if urged at all, should be so presented that they should not be thought of as forming a part of the one condition of salvation. To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is the very opposite of doing anything: it is resting in the saving grace and work of another." (page 13)
Although we could certainly agree that care should always be taken to prevent a lost soul from thinking that his own actions determine his salvation, we cannot help but shy away from Mr. Chafer's insistence that there is only ONE condition of salvation and that faith is the opposite of doing anything. Repentance, and the godly sorry necessary to work "repentance to salvation," with whatever accompanying outward manifestations the Holy Spirit chooses to produce for the glory of God, are as much a part of the saving process of God's grace as the desired attitude of heart, properly called "faith (belief) unto righteousness." Such repentance seemed not to be a part of Mr. Chafer's teaching or practice. Truth says that all men, due to our fallen nature, utterly lack any capacity to believe on the Lord to the degree required for soul-salvation. The natural human attitude is totally faithless in the sense of disposition to trust God with all the heart. Other foul attitudes of heart add themselves to this one which, if it stood alone, would be sufficient to deserve condemnation. Only repentance, worked by the Holy Spirit convicting the heart of the eternal truth about one's wretched sinfulness and filling the heart with godly sorrow, and NOTHING LESS, can be that change of attitude which alone can enable that faith through which we must be saved by grace. It appears that Mr. Chafer thought that such capacity to believe is already within the sinner so that when he has heard the gospel he must only simply accept it, and that if he does more than this in pursuit of God and salvation, he is seeking salvation by his own works. If that was his thinking on the matter, we couldn't possibly be more in opposition to his doctrine. We believe that such teaching tends to eliminate such sinners' repentance as is necessary to enable saving faith.
Lest we misjudge him, let us examine the man's words further: "So with the heart, or inner consciousness, man believes unto righteousness, which is the one condition of acceptance before God." (page 12) ... "Lost men are saved when they believe the offer of this salvation. Salvation is not conditioned upon prayer, repentance, reformation, profession or 'seek-the Lord.' Israel sought the Lord while He might be found (Isaiah 55:6), but no Gentile 'seeketh after God.' (Romans 3:11) 'The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.' (Luke 19:10)" (page 50, Chafer) What a shameful misinterpretation of Romans 3:11! It is easy to see what "methods" Mr. Chafer was most against, for he clearly stated that prayer, seeking God, and even repentance are not necessary conditions of salvation. Thus he must have believed that saving faith was possible within the heart of any sinful man who has simply heard the gospel without necessity of a grace-wrought "repentance from sin" and "toward God." Such doctrine would make us wonder WHAT he thought gospel repentance to actually be. It is certain his definition of FAITH was lacking in essential accuracy. Some other revealing quotes gleaned from his book indicate the same: "As they hear, some will believe, and WHEN they believe they will THAT INSTANT be saved by the mighty power of God." (page 22) "... The one necessary step - the acceptance of Christ as Savior - can be performed only in the secret of the heart itself by a personal choice and action of the will." (page 14) "The work of the Spirit, it will thus be seen, is to reveal the cure of sin as already accomplished and to warn against the only possible condemnation that must follow the rejection of the cross." (page 65)
In 1919, when Lewis Chafer wrote TRUE EVANGELISM, Billy Sunday's methods were popular, and so were D. L. Moody's, but there still existed many churches which used the time-honored and well-proven traditions of the altar of prayer, or "mourner's bench." There many lost sinners knelt or sat while praying to God for salvation in the midst of God's praying saints, and expecting directly from God forgiveness of their sins and the evidence from Him thereof. One can easily imagine when considering Mr. Chafer's dislike for outward methods what he might say against the latter practice. His own suggestions reveal much about his thinking in the following passages from his book:
"The real value of public methods may be secured and many evils avoided if, after explaining the way of life and during a season of silent prayer, the unsaved are asked to accept Christ by a conscious act of the will, directed in definite silent prayer to God. Such a decision may then be greatly strengthened by an immediate public confession of Christ." (page 20, Chafer) Same game! Different words! This is remarkably similar to the inquiry room of D. L. Moody. One is stricken by the apparent contradiction in the instructions to accept Christ by a decision or "conscious act of the will" while praying to God. Do we ask and passively receive of his grace, OR actively decide and accept by the act of our own will? It cannot be both!
"... When it is clear that an intelligent decision has been made, constant confession of Christ as a personal Savior should be urged along with the other duties and privileges of the new life." (page 20)
Mr. Chafer relied heavily upon the idea that the blood of Christ is "appropriated" to the individual by an act of the will of that person. A number of passages reflect this thinking:
"A true decision must depend upon the action of the will of the individual as he is moved by his own clear vision of his place in the saving work of Christ, and that vision must be created by the Spirit." (page 18) "It is not a mere arbitrary caprice with God that there must be an intelligent appropriation of the work of Christ as the grounds of redemption." (page 72) The believer, in contrast to the unsaved, has consented to the atonement as the basis of his salvation, and has thus appropriated by faith the propitiation made for him." (page 34) We could hardly disagree more thoroughly regarding the means by which the blood of Christ is "appropriated" to the individual! That it is through FAITH in Christ that we are saved it is certain, but He is the Holy Spirit who appropriates the atoning blood of the Savior to the individual. Here lies the chief error of the fundamentalist school. Furthermore, Mr. Chafer repeatedly insisted that salvation is obtained as a result of a positive act of the will of the individual. Man does not experience regeneration by a positive act of his own will, but RATHER BY A SURRENDER OF HIS OWN WILL into the hands of God. Man does not "accept Christ," but rather "seeks to be justified by Christ." (Galatians 2:17) Man does not appropriate Christ's atonement to himself by a decision of his own, for this appropriation is the work of the Holy Spirit, in behalf of Christ, upon a surrendered, and thus passive, soul. (1st Peter 1:2)
Such frequent expressions as "intelligent appropriation," "intelligent decision," "act of the will," "personal choice," and "acceptance of Christ as Savior," reveal the fatal error of Mr. Chafer's doctrine and the reasons why deceptive forms of evangelism MUST arise from the belief of this error. His idea of the work of the Holy Spirit in the work of redemption seemed to have been that His work ceases at the point of thorough enlightenment as to the true facts of the gospel. At that point an intelligent decision is made by the act of man's will to accept Christ as one's personal Savior and thus to be saved by his own intelligent appropriation unto himself of the atonement provided by the blood of Christ. This he called "faith."
In commenting on the reproving work of the Holy Spirit written of by John in Chapter 16, verses 7-11, Mr. Chafer wrote, "This suggests a much larger meaning to the word than an acute mental agony for sin, though that might follow. The word 'reprove' as here used suggests a process of illumination concerning three distinct facts, rather than the creation of a feeling of remorse for sins that have been committed ... A careful study of, in all, about sixteen passages where the Greek word translated 'reprove' is used will reveal that it is usually descriptive of a condition of mind resulting from implantation of truth, and that this convicting work of the Holy Spirit for the world is always identical with the enlightment by the Spirit already considered." (page 63)
Same doctrine! Fancier words! Thus they are more deceptive than the words of D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday. Hidden in the sophistry of a theologian is found in the doctrine of Lewis Sperry Chafer the same evasion of the pains of true repentance in man, and denial of essential personal dispensing of Divine grace, only in God's time, to each person saved. The work of the Holy Spirit in the act of applying the cleansing blood appears to be totally omitted by Chafer. It seems that, according to him, when the enlightenment of truth has fully convinced the sinner of his need to appropriate the atoning blood to himself, the last move is made by the sinner rather than by God in this great work of regeneration. While he may believe that God completes this great event by the sinner's justification in Heaven, he appears to not believe (in agreement with the fundamentalist school) in the heartfelt aspects of lifting the burden of sin from the sinner's conscience which coincides with the sprinkling of the cleansing blood. All heartfelt aspects of spiritual experience BEFORE, DURING, AND IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the new birth are depreciated in favor of a theory of illumination which produces intelligent action prescribed to secure the benefits of Christ's atonement. Such would be the doing of man, and not of God's grace. Overall, Mr. Chafer's book should be viewed as a lame apology for excessive "methods" used in evangelism which cause deception of the souls of men. His doctrine, suggesting the work of the Spirit in soul-salvation consists entirely of an opening and educating of the intellect, so that a conscious act of the will is made toward receiving Christ as personal Savior, is the real culprit in this modern mass-deception. Thus the Holy Spirit's agency in redemption is made to appear to be totally illumination, thereby excluding His part in the act of cleansing and sanctifying the spirit of man. Repentance as a true concept is totally missing from his doctrine of salvation along with the dynamo of godly sorrow which is necessary to the production of repentance and faith and other accompanying experiences of the heart.
Such explanations as "resting secure in the finished work of Christ" have become the justifying statements of that doctrine which preaches an IMPENITENT FAITH, without necessity of guilt, shame, sorrow, suffering, or intuitive evidence. Many such statements, while sounding on the surface like a worthy praise of a worthy and all-sufficient Savior, convey a false idea which makes Jesus the usurper of the Holy Spirit's agency. Of course, the understanding heart knows that it is the evangelist of such a gospel who is the real usurper of the Spirit's agency, rather than the Lamb of God.
In the salvation of the soul there is more than "one necessary thing." REPENTANCE is essential to salvation because it is essential to belief unto righteousness (or saving faith). Mr. Chafer denied the essential character of true repentance and accompanying experiences of the heart, made faith appear to be an act of the will of a convicted sinner, and confined the redemption work of the Holy Spirit to the preparation work of conviction, which he explained as a mere opening, educating, and enlightening of the intellect with never a mention of contrition. His emphasis on the finished work of Christ seemed to attribute some of the agency of the Holy Spirit to the Son of God. That is, all the Spirit must do is convince with the "word" that one ought to accept Christ's offer of free salvation. From that point of conviction onward, salvation is contingent upon an act of the will of man in accepting Christ. After conviction is accomplished, all else is left to the mind of the sinner, to act to the salvation of his own soul. Deceptive methods of modern evangelism are the natural products of such false doctrine.
One is left with the suspicion that Mr. Chafer and his school of preachers are theorizing what they have experienced, that they have been convicted of the truth of Christ's atonement and have forthwith appropriated it unto themselves on the presumption that such is an act of faith which will be recorded in the court of Heaven to the everlasting credit and salvation of one who willed to be saved.
We hope the readers can see the folly of this system of doctrines, the essence of which is no different than that system advanced by Alexander Campbell more than a century before.
While Lewis Sperry Chafer may not represent all of the "fundamentalist" movement denominationally or in every point of doctrine, he does well represent all of them in the essence of their evangelistic theory. For that reason his book was chosen as a basis for the foregoing critical commentary.
It would appear that the most exalted leaders and noted spokesmen of the modern "fundamentalist" movement are oblivious to the great contradiction between their evangelism and that of the honored evangelism of the great revivals of the past. A case in point of this observation can be found in a book published under the name of Mr. Jerry Falwell, which claimed to present 25 OF THE GREATEST SERMONS EVER PREACHED. The first was a sermon by George Whitefield, the founder of Calvinistic Methodism, whose preaching caused a mighty stir in Britain and America during the early years of the first "great awakening" revival. The twenty-fifth was a sermon by John R. Rice, one of the twentieth century's staunchest disciples of D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday. Rice's evangelistic doctrine was an absolute contradiction of almost every essential point so ably made in Whitefield's sermon. There they stood, side by side, with equal praise from the editors, in profound contradiction! Whitefield's message was a fierce condemnation of those prophets and preachers who say "peace, peace" to the people who "have no peace" from God in their hearts. John R. Rice made a career of scoffing at heartfelt salvation while promising peace to those who did not have it.
Many volumes would be necessary to document the teachings and practices of the many teachers and writers who have promoted this heretical salvation doctrine in the last century. We have tried to select men who epitomize this movement which has overspread our religious scene. There is no personal hurt intended to the men named. It is impossible to avoid using some names in any exposure of this nature.
At this late date when many non-Christian, pseudo-Christian, and unorthodox "Christian" theologies are finding popularity among an increasingly immoral and declining American society, the most popular trends among the so-called orthodox Christians are the "independent" and "fundamentalist" movements. Movement within the great denominations to embrace the "accept Christ" concept of salvation is evident. One can often overhear adherents to almost any of the major denominations expressing these ideas. Meanwhile, "non-denominational" religion is rapidly increasing in popularity among professing Christians. Thousands of conversions in brief time periods are being claimed, but alas, no upgrading of society results! This paradox has been true of the whole twentieth century! In all past great revivals, in which multitudes were converted to God by genuine grace, the face of society was noticeably changed for the better for generations following. Although many claims have been made during the past century of great "revivals" among the easy salvation advocates, neither their great "revivals," nor their continuing movement as a whole, has had any significant or lasting moral uplift upon the society in which it supposedly occurred. Rapid growth of Southern Baptists from the time of their general departure from their historical evangelism until the 1970's did little to improve American society. In the latter part of this period the boast was often heard that the Southern Baptists were the "fastest growing denomination in America." As their growth slowed, a similar burst of popularity and growth was seen for a few decades among the "independents" who embraced the same evangelism. Their "revivals" likewise made no significant or lasting moral uplift upon our society.
Neither did the so-called "charismatic" movement, with its rapid proliferation of "pentecostal" churches improve society, in spite of its rapid growth and its bold claims of divine authority.
Since about the middle 1960's, rapidly increasing popularity of independent "fundamental" churches with their continual claims of multitudes of conversions has coincided with the greatest spiritual and moral decline our nation has ever experienced. These facts are Divine testimony that this twentieth century doctrine of salvation is false. A few wise souls have contended in opposition to its progress since its first appearance in our religious world.
Some general statements regarding the twentieth century religious scene in the United States have been written with shocking effect as follows:
"... By 1960 two-thirds of the population of this country were church members of some sort. This is an astounding figure when one realizes that in 1900 only about one-third of Americans belonged to churches, and that in 1850 at the height of Protestant influence in this country only fifteen percent of the population were church members." (page 179, THE GOSPEL IN AMERICA, by Woodbridge, Noll and Hatch)
"... The late sociologist, Will Herberg, was convinced that the paradox of contemporary America is that although we are growing secular at an unprecedented rate, at the same time we have become much more religious. According to Herberg, 'The secularism that pervades the American consciousness is essentially of this kind: it is thinking and living in terms of a framework of reality remote from the religious beliefs simultaneously professed.' Put in other terms, we could say that religion is so popular today because it makes so few demands." (page 179)
"At Yale in 1800, only one of the students in the graduating class admitted to church membership. On the national scene, church membership dipped to between five and ten percent ..." (page 142)
"For the individual the church can easily become an emotional service station to relieve worry. In the church God pats the individual on the back, assures him that he is important, and sends him back to the world the same as he entered. The religion of the American church is often a 'faith in faith,' a 'religion in general.' It does not generate its own values, but instead sanctifies the values present in the general community."
"We live in a culture dominated by the quest for immediate fulfillment, the pursuit of the 'good life,' and the avoidance of pain at all costs. In the midst of this culture and lacking a deep sense of Christian history, evangelicals have too often structured their churches to stroke rather than to ruffle these cherished assumptions." (page 180, Woodbridge, Noll and Hatch) )
Not all people have been fooled by this trend which has overtaken and made American religion desolate. While there have been no organized unified uprisings against the "accept Christ" heresy, many voices, and a few pens have long been raised against it in various localities. It is unfortunate that so few opponents of this heresy were able and inclined to wage war against it with the printed page. Among the few who did was Elder G. W. Crawford of Clinton, Oklahoma. Little is known to us about this relatively little preacher in the eyes of the world, whose energetic ministry was fulfilled in Oklahoma and Texas during the first half of the 1900's. His simply written little book, THE EXTERNALS AND INTERNALS OF SALVATION, or HEARTFELT SALVATION, written in 1949, contains an excellent exposure of this heresy in layman's terms. It is unfortunate that every Baptist in America could not have read that book the year it was published. Some excerpts from it are as follows:
"The Campbellites from Alexander Campbell till now have mocked prayer, mourning of sinners, the mourner's bench, shouting, made fun of heartfelt religion, a God-called ministry, the operation of the Holy Spirit, weeping, and feeling. In fact, they have mocked and scoffed at all the internals of salvation till it has affected the people up and down the country. We have Baptist preachers mocking them by saying in the Betheny Dialect, (spelling incorrect - supposedly a reference to Alexander Campbell's place of residence - author's note) 'There is nothing in feeling, but deception. Don't feel, just believe.' This idea has filled the churches with sure enough unbelievers." (pages 7 & 8, Crawford)
"We mean to hit hard in this little book for we have too many folk (preachers especially) who are apeing the Campbellites - actually doing and preaching today what they condemned yester- day. What is the difference in a Campbellite telling a poor sinner that there is nothing in feeling, and a Baptist doing the same? The Campbellite beats the Baptist, for he tells the sinner to believe and be baptized. The Baptist tells him to not wait for FEELING - just believe and you are all right. Both are as deceptive as night. No wonder churches are full of sinners." (page 9)
"Then beware of any kind of feeling that leads from Christ and His written word. Beware of believing that has no promptings of the Spirit in it." (page 22)
"Then up comes a modern Baptist preacher who borrowed his ideas from D. L. Moody and Alexander Campbell and his boys. He says, 'Just believe, for there is nothing in feeling. You just imagine that you feel.'" (page 19, Crawford)
It is greatly feared that even in the region where Brother Crawford's influence was most strongly felt, much has been lost of that doctrine for which he so ably contended. It is certain that the blood of those who shall be lost because of this heresy he vehemently opposed shall not be required at his hands.
An earlier chapter briefly mentioned Elder Ben M. Bogard, a man of influence hardly surpassed by any "Baptist" leader in the areas where it appears Mr. Crawford exerted much labor for God. While Mr. Bogard was a champion of the "Landmark Baptist" church view, he also embraced the heretical evangelistic practice of Moody and Sunday. Mr. Bogard admitted as much when, during the Bogard- Hardeman debate, he said, "Instantaneously you can accept Jesus by faith and be saved now ... Suppose I get up and say, 'Now is the time. Will you accept Jesus now? 'A man walks down the aisle and takes me by the hand and says, 'I take it.'" (page 116, BOGARD- HARDEMAN DEBATE) We fear that the vast majority of the Baptists churches in the "landmark movement" Mr. Bogard championed have now followed their noted leader in adopting this deceptive evangelism. However, so far as we have been able to determine, all regular Baptist churches in the United States which HAVE maintained the old-time evangelistic doctrine and methods we defend are also adherents to the "Landmark" Church view. This is not to imply that there are no congregations outside of our ranks of traditional regular Baptist doctrine who preach and practice a tolerable evangelism, such as a few "General Baptists," "Freewill Baptists," and a few others. Although we fear that many of these have been corrupted with this heresy also, we sincerely hope that many remain who have not. Despite their traditional errors in doctrine and practice, IF their evangelism brings their converts to a genuine new birth experience, they are much superior to regular "Baptists" who preach a deceiving "gospel." None of this is intended to declare that there might not exist, unknown to us, regular Baptists with sound evangelistic practices who are NOT strong in the landmark view of the doctrine of the church. It is EVIDENT to us, however, that MANY of the churches today holding the landmark church view and even boasting the "Landmark Baptist" title are little if any closer to practicing sound historical Baptist evangelism than are most convention churches or independent "fundamental Baptists."
Many who once knew better have bowed and surrendered to the onslaught of this heretical movement. No doubt they tried too hard to rationalize the change in order to move with the tide of popular acceptance. When it seems that everyone is readily accepting a new idea, it is difficult for the average humble citizen not to seriously doubt himself when he discovers he is unable to fit it into his own convictions of truth. Among those who have changed their practice to accord with popular evangelism have been seasoned preachers. During these transitions from the old evangelism to the new, some preachers have been known to preach the new way to one church to please the majority of the members, while simultaneously practicing the old way in another church to please that majority. This they did while somehow justifying their hypocrisy in their own minds. Some of them have argued that higher education of intellect among preachers enabled them to better explain the way of salvation, and that a higher level of education among the people enabled easier understanding, so that mourners and weepers and contrite-hearted seekers were happily abolished as obsolete in favor of a sincere change of notion and resulting simple "acceptance" of Christ's offer of "free" salvation. Thus was an evangelism based on IMPENITENT "FAITH" allowed to replace genuine "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."
The following account demonstrates to some degree the alteration of thinking which has occurred in some preachers and other religious men, causing them to accept the modern way of salvation without any opposition to the change.
(as a teenager) "Father and I had gone to church on Saturday. There were just a few present and the preacher did not preach, but conducted a simple prayer service instead. He called upon my father to lead in prayer. Now I had never heard my father pray in public. His voice trembled at first, but then he forgot that others were present and talked to God. He prayed for lost souls. Ice crept into my heart. I was lost. I was one for whom my father was praying. I was miserable, and needed someone to talk to me.
That night I spent in the home of a schoolmate. After we had gone to bed I told him how I felt. It affected him greatly. We talked long into the night. How we needed someone to talk to us about God and salvation, to show us the way to Christ! In those days the unsaved were usually left to stumble through the darkness of conviction and find the light themselves, except for occasional sermons and prayers they heard. We did not find God that night in salvation, but neither of us ever forgot the 'still small voice' in our hearts." (page 33, THE PROPHET OF LITTLE CANE CREEK: A BIOGRAPHY OF A. S. PETREY, by Harold Dye)
(at age 21) "Conviction of sin swept over me like a storm. I did much praying that week in the wooded groves near the church and about my home. On Saturday night before the evening service, while I was on my knees imploring the mercy of God upon me, the load was lifted from my heart. I was saved. I made my public profession of faith that evening. My father shouted with joy. The Holy Spirit that night convicted my grandfather, my brothers, my cousins, and several others about my age. They were later saved." (pages 34 & 35) This account of a conversion experience recalled in later life for a biography well reflects the change in trend which gradually occurred among Baptists, and others, over a period of fifty to one-hundred years. The old man emphasized his need when he was troubled by conviction in the days of his youth for "someone to talk to us about God and salvation, to show us the way to Christ!" At the time, because of prevailing practice, he was left to himself and the 'still small voice' of the Holy Spirit speaking to his heart. Later he was gloriously converted in the old-fashioned way while crying to God on his knees in prayer. His burden was lifted. He KNEW he was saved. His subsequent profession in a public meeting brought shouting from the saints and great conviction upon many other lost people who were later saved because of it. It is amazing that the aged brother would still covet the words of a human counselor in looking back upon his own experience. In the able hands of the Holy Spirit alone, he later gained such a glorious experience so useful to God in the conversion of others. Such is often the pliability of the human mind to the force of subtle heresies. Not having been acquainted with the man here quoted, it is impossible for us to know whether he was indeed swayed in his methods away from the way in which he was saved. The inference in the words of his own recollection leads us to suspect that perhaps he was. Many Christians have been persuaded to accept (or at least to condone) a modernistic practice regarding dealings with seeking sinners that is far different than the one under which they were converted. Human counselors have thought to usurp the authorized work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of souls. In recent times, interference from human counselors has often deceived seeking souls into accepting less than the sure witness of God's Spirit. They have also deprived many onlookers of what might have been their powerful witness of salvation which God alone could have brought forth.
Again we emphasize, in the words of yet another writer who has analyzed the history of American evangelism, the influence of the one man thought to have been most influential in causing this incredible change.
"... Other religious leaders, from St. Augustine to Charles G. Finney have left lengthy and often tortured accounts of their spiritual transformations. If Moody ever had such a mystic experience, he never spoke of it. His conversion seems to have been a fairly simple and unemotional matter. Christianity just made sense to him." (pages 108 & 109, THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD: REVIVALISM IN AMERICA, by Daniel Cohen) It can hardly be emphasized enough that the most evangelical side of "Christianity" has in past centuries always emphasized the great supernatural transformation involved in conversion. The leaders of that side of Christianity, which alone is TRUE Christianity, have ALWAYS told of such experiences in relating to others the accounts of their own conversions. As it was with the Apostles, they felt justified in their ministry on the grounds that God had called and chosen them, and not on the grounds that they had chosen Him. Martin Luther was brought out of superstitious darkness by the supernatural workings of God upon his mind and heart and providentially upon his life. John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace," had a long journey through repentance to saving faith, being finally converted during a state of near delirium caused by a high fever. John Wesley stood in the street listening to a preacher describe the spiritual change in conversion, while his heart yearned for it under a great burden of the Holy Spirit's conviction and power, when suddenly it happened to him. This founder of Arminian Methodism did not originate this doctrine as some would like to credit, or accuse, him. Rather, he had tried to preach the word of God for thirteen years without such a conversion before the GOOD MESSAGE of such an experience of a know-so salvation was preached to him by others. George Whitefield, the founder of Calvinistic Methodism, preached by the Holy Spirit about this emotional and supernatural experience of salvation by grace. He too, was converted to God in this manner subsequent to the beginnings of his Anglican ministry. His message was declared by some to be irresistible. "He never prepared his sermons, and he rarely got through an entire sermon without weeping. 'You blame me for weeping,' he cried, 'but how can I help it when you will not weep for yourselves, though your souls are on the verge of destruction and for aught I know, you are hearing your last sermon.'" (page 38, Cohen)
The famous Jonathan Edwards of New England said, "religion is an inner experience or it is nothing." (page 40, Cohen) A portion of Edwards' famous sermon, "Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God," was spoken as follows:
"Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new and altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God."
Thus it can be seen that in olden times Baptists were not alone in insisting upon deep and supernatural conversion experiences. Throughout the pages of history, whenever revival occurred, many such experiences also occurred and were borne witness to by those who experienced them. A resulting widespread renewal of these principles encouraged and expanded the revival abroad to others. The very soul of such religious sects as the Waldenses and Anabaptists, and other such pre-reformation sects, was this transformation made in the sinner's heart by God's grace. It was held to be essential to becoming a true Christian and a prerequisite to membership in one of their churches. The Particular Baptists in Britain, from whom have sprung the mainstream of Baptists in America and the rest of the world, were Anabaptists within, in soul, cloaked with a new garment of Puritanism. (The fact that some of them protested that they were not "Anabaptists," as often accused, does not change the FACT that they received a spiritual heritage from them.) Shortly down the stream of time, the strength of their Calvinism was considerably lessened while, for a long time, their emphasis upon experimental knowledge and its spiritual experience seemed even to grow more intense. The Mennonites and some of the "Brethren" movements were at least in part the offspring of these same ancient sects, who took an increasingly Arminian, or even free-will, direction in their theology. Moravian Brethren were the schoolmasters involved in the spiritual transformations of John and Charles Wesley, and the principles which they learned from them became the spiritual basis of Arminian Methodism which they founded, and remained so for nearly two centuries.
Methodists began as a revivalistic wing of the Anglican (or Episcopal) Church. Jonathan Edwards and his "New Lights" became the revivalistic wing of the Congregationalists. In eighteenth and nineteenth century America, the revivalistic wing of the Presbyterian denomination differed little in evangelistic spirit from all the rest, insisting upon experimental knowledge and its spiritual experience as NECESSARY INGREDIENTS in true Christianity. Later, the numerous "holiness" sects which generated out of the Methodist movement, in their beginnings, all retained this same emphasis. Truly it can IN FACT be said that this WAS and IS OLD-TIME RELIGION. With equal certainty, that new evangelism which followed such a modern-day apostle as D. L. Moody is a spiritual "modernism." It is manifested to be a falsehood.